It was Alice Cooper who brought down the barriers.
In 1978 at the Sahara Tahoe (now the Hard Rock), Cooper arrived with his pivotal “Welcome to My Nightmare” show and the world of crooners, mild Catskill comedians and rhinestone-studded pianists was never to be the same. It was a night to remember as the crowd surged past the maître d’ and the captains, some climbing over the velvet ropes, rushing into the theater and taking whatever seat they pleased. All attempts at control were given up..
Then the show began. Vincent Price, who had narrated Cooper’s album, took the lectern on the side of the stage and said in his inimitable voice, “Welcome to my nightmare,” and Cooper proceeded to disrobe a giant black widow spider, behead a cyclops and soft-shoe with four skeletons.
The world of Liberace had been breached.
Cooper proved himself to be a consummate showman, spending lavishly on his production and working tirelessly to entertain and never to take himself seriously.
That world is behind us. Maitre d’s and table seating are behind us. Patrons now flow into casino showrooms, finding their own seats according to their tickets. But some things have not changed.
Cooper still puts on a riveting show (by all means, bring earplugs) and, even though audience members may not throw drinks at the end as they did back then, they are happy.
There are two opportunities this week to enjoy Cooper’s latest extravaganza, “A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper,” Wednesday at Jackson Rancheria (8:30; $65-$75; jacksoncasino.com); and Thursday at the Grand Sierra (8 p.m.; $45-66).
And one other thing has changed. The price of admission in 1978 was $15.50.
At Thunder Valley, Joe Koy, another iconoclast who has named his current foray “The Break the Mold World Tour,” proves his immense popularity by occupying the outdoor arena for two nights.
He is already the record-holding comedian in several venues, and has a busy year ahead. He will receive the Comedian of the Year award this fall at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival; be in the live-action “Anastasia” movie in December; co-host with Bobby Flay on the Food Network this fall; and continue to tour. He also just got an animated series, “The Functional Family,” green-lit for a pilot by TruTV. (Friday and Saturday; 8 p.m.; $45.90-$97.95; thundervalleyresort.com)
Cache Creek brings in some powerhouse comedy of its own Saturday, in the person of Jay Pharoah, SNL veteran and performer of spot-on parodies of Obama, Kanye, Jay-Z, and Denzel. (8 p.m.; $35-$49; cachecreek.com)
Harveys Outdoor Lake Tahoe Concert Series has two shows this week, neither one selling quite as briskly as had been hoped; Janet Jackson, who may have been booked a bit too soon after her appearance last year at the Grand Sierra, Friday (7:30 p.m.; $25-$149.50); and “Amy Schumer and Friends” Sunday (8 p.m.; $25-$92; Ticketmaster orapeconcerts.com).