Chronological Information on
Michael Schivo within the History of Las Vegas and Reno Rock and Roll
Michael Schivo was a fortunate child. He and his mother lived in a small run-down apartment behind 5th street, which later became Las Vegas Boulevard South. He was 30 days old when he landed in Las Vegas. His mother Shirlee worked for Bugsy Siegel at the famed Flamingo Hotel. Shirlee was the only woman allowed by Virginia Hill, Bugsy Siegel's hotheaded girlfriend, to serve Bugsy a drink. Shirlee's marriage to Frank Schivo, then General Manager of the newly built Sahara Hotel in 1952 didn't exactly put them on Boardwalk, but did enable Michael, at a very young age, to sit ringside in the Congo Room at the Sahara Hotel for every big named entertainer to grace the Sahara Hotel stage. Starting at an early age, of approximately 6 years old, Schivo saw the likes of George Burns, the Mills Brothers, Victor Borga, Donald O'Connor, Theresa Brewer, Kay Star, and Ray Bolger and many other performers of the day. His babysitters in the afternoon, where he spent a few hours a day in the lounge while his parents went about their work, were Jazz greats Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Numerous hours and multiple times were spent soaking in the culture of early Las Vegas, which ranged from the extremely hip and popular to very funny and melodic. In those days, the showrooms always had 30 piece orchestras that always played standards as well as hot new Jazz style arrangements. Schivo also enjoyed the long legged showgirls with the pasties.
All of this continued to add to Schivo's knowledge of entertainment at a very young age, coupled with the fact that he listened early on, religiously, to the large wood radio receiver that continued to feed him musical information, with the likes of popular styles of music such as very early rock n roll, classical, jazz, country and western, and of course, some of Schivo's fondest early morning hours were spent listening to the infamous voice and radio show host Arthur Godfrey. The years whizzed by and television came on the scene, whereby Schivo was glued to variety shows with appearances of many of the artists Schivo had seen in the Sahara Hotel Congo Room and other casino showrooms. Las Vegas was a rather small town in those days, and all Casino Management families were certainly allowed entrance to see other performers. Schivo snuck numerous times into the back of the Sands Hotel Showroom to watch the Rat Packs antics and to enjoy what made Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr. so dynamic, individually and while they held court. Later in life, one of Schivo's first bookings came when would be hired by Jack Entratter, the Entertainment Director and front man of the Sands Hotel. Entratter handed Schivo $1,000 and said "You are young and hip, make sure you have the hottest band this money will buy for Sammy Davis' birthday party", which was to be held at the Sands Ballroom. Schivo marched into the Pussycat A-Go-Go on the Las Vegas Strip, the hottest nightclub in town, and hired a 11 piece horn band. Sammy Davis Jr. personally gave Schivo a big embrace and kiss, thanking him for making his birthday party "such a gas."
Schivo was still a fledgling but consistent promoter and rock concerts were just making their way on to the Las Vegas scene in 1965. Schivo turned his sights to managing every hot local rock and roll band in Las Vegas, getting them work at every teen center and high school possible. His acts were the ones that opened up some of the first rock concerts in Las Vegas. When Schivo partnered with Dick Kanellis, the former husband of Connie Francis and Entertainment Director of the Aladdin Hotel, his first efforts brought the likes of Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf to the Las Vegas Convention Center Rotunda. Schivo then lit out on his own and brought in with other promoters Jethro Tull and Spirit. Schivo continued to manage his local rock acts and recorded a album with a California act named Terracotta, who had recently moved to Las Vegas. Terracotta quickly became the most popular band of the day.
In his quest for continued knowledge in any facet of entertainment, Schivo would spend hours weekly on the set of the Joe Delaney Show, who was later to claim his place in Las Vegas' history as a distinguished newspaper writer, television producer and event producer. Always looking for the opportunity, Schivo opened up The Community Concert Center on the location of Dusty's Playland an old defunct bowling alley on Las Vegas Blvd.
But Schivo was still growing within his trade, and with others he challenged Gana Productions whose relationship with the management of the Las Vegas Convention Center was trusted to deliver the rock shows to the community on a regular basis. The challenge came in the form of accusations of a monopoly held by Naseef. The board was influenced with the help of continuous newspaper articles both local and national which helped set the playing field straight. Naseef's monopoly was broken and Schivo and others had a way to use the 7000 seat Rotunda for shows. Actually Schivo had produced several rock shows in the Convention Center facilities including the Rotunda.
Now that Schivo broke the monopoly, rock shows would be alternated between three promoters equally. Naseef having the first show and Schivo the second event in the Rotunda. But fate was lurking dark for Schivo as he attended the Naseef backed Rock concert blockbuster with Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and Rory Gallager. Gallager's set astonished Las Vegas and Fleetwood Mac performance did the same. Schivo watched attentively as the stage did not seem to be setting up for the English headliner Deep Purple. Instead all equipment on the stage was being removed quickly, creating an odd and ominous set of circumstances that would follow.
"Las Vegas throat" had affected many singers in Las Vegas over the years, causing them loss of voice due to the dryness of the desert when they had been touring in different climates. But it had never claimed a big rock event. Ian Gillan, lead singer for Deep Purple, was stricken badly and could not sing. Backstage negotiations were trying to be made while the other acts play on, to hold the event the next night in the Rotunda. This apparently was not possible due to some scheduling conflicts. Naseefs front man for the concert Bob Jasper an inexperienced upstart told the capacity crowd of Gillan's dilemma and added that the Management of the Las Vegas Convention Center "would not allow the concert to be re-scheduled", saying such in a tone that over- excited 7000 rock fans who became unruly and rioted inside the Rotunda.
Schivo saw all of his efforts to gain a bigger piece of the action dashed against the rocks as the fans threw chairs everywhere, broke windows, ripped up portions of the sprinkler system on the lawn and over turned a police car.
Las Vegas hit the big time on national television and newspapers across the country and rock concerts were outlawed for a period of time at the Convention Center. A rock concert committee was reformed to study the problem. But only led to the strictest Rock Concert Policy at any concert venue in America. A posting of the entire gross potential in cash or bond amounting to around $75,000 would be necessary to do business before any tickets could be sold for an event at the Convention Center. No bondsman were very interested in writing a bond with the recent history of a riot and dealing with the overall controversy of Rock Concerts generally. In addition 43 off duty Metro Police officers at time and a half, were required at any show no matter how small the attendance. These and other new rules skyrocketed the costs of doing business at the Convention Center. In addition some of these rock rules would also effect the big venue in Reno where there was also a vibrant concert business to be enjoyed by Schivo. That monopoly too would later be broken by Schivo and provided Schivo his solid platform to challenge and compete show to show with all promoters both in Las Vegas and Reno.
After the Deep Purple riot, Schivo left for Los Angeles producing concerts with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and virtually every Texas based Progressive Outlaw Country act out of Texas and Nashville. Schivo put on shows at the 13 year award winning 1000 seat Country-Western night club The Palomino. Booking them the first night at the Palomino Club, then sending them into the Golden Nugget showroom with Steve Wynn the next, also sending them to his new showroom exclusive at The Cal-Neva Lodge on the Nevada side at Lake Tahoe. Residing in Los Angeles he co-promoted in the Hollywood Bowl, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and the Long Beach Auditorium. Schivo also produced shows in San Diego, San Bernardino and Phoenix before relocating in Reno to become the towns leading cutting edge rock promoter in 1977. Schivo saw that concerts were again being produced in Las Vegas and soon began bringing concerts to Las Vegas again.
Michael Schivo moved back to Las Vegas full time in 1980 and began a club operation at The Las Vegas Troubadour a 450 seat nightclub that would prove invaluable for several years to Schivo in producing rock acts on their way up and acts on their way down. It was a major success and augmented Schivo's other big concerts at the Convention Center Rotunda and in Reno. Schivo managed for years and introduced the world famous Denny Dent, a rock and roll speed painter to the America. The Troubadour would also serve to give Schivo an entrance into Jazz in Las Vegas and establish him as a leading producer of Contemporary Jazz. This would eventually lead him to produce Jazz events nationwide and even into other Countries.
Schivo's eyes were always on the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts the now premier venue in Las Vegas, but he would not get his turn for a few more years due to a contract held by an East Coast promoter. Schivo had been put thru the fire of the political types at both ends of the State who tried to curtail the rise of Rock and Roll in Nevada.
To assure his position with the status quo Schivo had acquired at great expense a Rock Promoters License of which he was the only promoter in Las Vegas who could qualify for such a license. Naseef had moved to Los Angeles and was booking corporate entertainment. Schivo now owned an exclusive license required to produce a Rock concert on a Casino property or anywhere in Las Vegas. This made Schivo an automatic partner with any outside national rock tour producer who needed to play Las Vegas. Schivo made excellent use of his position either producing the event himself or partnering with the national tour promoter. Bringing in such notable acts to Las Vegas and Reno such as U-2, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Van Halen, Kiss, Chicago, Hall and Oates, Def Leppard, Luther Vandross, Peter Frampton, Journey, J Geils Band, The B-52's, Aerosmith, Rush, Heart, AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Genesis, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, REO Speedwagon, Little River Band, Electric Light Orchestra, Christopher Cross, Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult and Metallica were among the most notable. This went on for several years and Schivo found himself in an enviable position. Additionally he produced concerts at the Sahara Hotel showroom, The Landmark Hotel, Desert Inn Hotel, The Sands Hotel as well as Ballys Hotel and Casino. In 1992 Schivo also opened up as part of the management team, The Metz Night Club a 2000 capacity state of the art dance and concert venue located on the Las Vegas Strip.
As Las Vegas continued to grow and Thomas and Mack Center was built in the mid 80's and the playing field was once again was being redefined. Now the University of Nevada Las Vegas also held a rock concert license as well every Casino now had the same license and it was every promoter for himself. Schivo produced around 20 various concerts in Thomas and Mack including breaking the Family attendance record for the Teenage Mutant Turtles show drawing near capacity in the 15,000 seater. Additionally Schivo produced famed Gaming Pioneer Benny Binion's 83rd Birthday Party at Thomas and Mack Center. Three thousand of Binion's personal friends were flown in to attended the birthday celebration with 10,000 more Las Vegas fans to see Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson, Reba McIntyre and Eddie Raven. As well Schivo produced for Las Vegas Events for a three years, the National Finals Awards Banquet at Ceasars Palace.
Schivo also found himself in another cutting edge position, partnering with Jim Fiest. They were the first promoters to place the first Pop Stars on 900 telephone numbers marketed via MTV nightly in the United States. Notables such as MC Hammer, Paula Abdul, and many big name Rap and Rock acts as well as boxing entertainment promotions were marketed by Schivo and Fiest.
But something had happened to Schivo when he was a child in that showroom at the Sahara Hotel and while sitting in front of the wood radio listening to Big Band and Jazz...he had tuned into America's true treasure, that being Jazz artists and their connection to the soul of the human being. Rock was stimulating and financially rewarding but always shallow for Schivo to produce. He liked the energy of Rock Concerts but certainly knew that it was just entertainment for kids and young adults. Jazz on the other hand was a life style that when once a fan, you stayed that way listening and attending concert events for a very long time.
Schivo utilized the Troubadour early on for the intimate setting it had to offer the Jazz fan. But in 1980 the Jazz fan was 21 to 45 years old and was big on the contemporary side of Jazz. Schivo quickly moved his Jazz operation to Artemus Ham Concert at UNLV an 1800 seater with the likes of Spyro Gyra, Jean-Luc Ponty, Pat Metheny, Grover Washington, Weather Report, Fourplay and dozens more. There he started evenings of Jazz, Wine and Art, events that culturally gave the patron a wine tasting and a portable and provocative Art Show as well as enjoying hot jazz in a big time, big production concert setting. Las Vegas and Reno at the Pioneer Theater flocked to these events monthly.
Monk Montgomery, brother of Wes Montgomery famed jazz guitarist was the old school jazz promoter in Las Vegas and was responsible for forming the Las Vegas Jazz Society which with Monk at the helm brought in great traditional jazz to the intimate settings of a few Las Vegas Strip Hotels for years. Monks efforts were ever present but eventually the organization became less active due to Monks terminal illness. Monk called Schivo and made him promise to carry on the torch for Jazz in Las Vegas. Schivo was already committed though his successes and the torch was passed.
Schivo moved his Jazz events outdoors in 1986 utilizing Spring Mountain State Park for his Jazz Under the Stars Series. Now the Jazz fan could bring in picnic baskets, chairs, their entire family and enjoy Jazz in a natural majestic setting. It was for 21 years Las Vegas' most cherished concert setting for Jazz. Other parks such as Hills Park Amphitheater was utilized by Schivo for Jazz , Rock and Pop shows giving Las Vegas a viable option to Casino showrooms for current entertainment. But Jazz became Schivo's true forte. Jazz events and Festivals were also packaged by Schivo and sent to Taipei,Taiwan.
In 1994 Schivo created the Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz Festival at Hills Park which received National Television exposure its first year, eighth and 11th year. It later re-located to Desert Breeze Park and in 2009 to Government Amphitheater. The Jazz Festival is attended by thousands for a 10 hour non-stop party that draws tourism and contributes to the Las Vegas economy.
Schivo is celebrating 50 (in 2016) years as the State of Nevada's oldest concert promotion firm. His reputation continues to shine Nationally with mega-corporations selecting Schivo in 1997 to locally assist and produce such interesting events such as The Desert Move. This outdoor Rave was the most successful and costly to date with over 300 European contest winning ravers being flown over on a retro-fitted Airbus from Germany that was remodeled with a custom dance floor. The Desert Move was built on a dry lake bed 26 miles outside Las Vegas. It became a huge Techno Production with the most Famous Disc Jockey Spinners from several countries around the world that transformed the desert floor into a massive electric city for 5000 Party goers from all over the United States. The event was Televised throughout Europe hours after it was shot. That evening the Federal Aviation Agency received 27 inquiries from arriving airplanes wondering what they had just flew over that was so electronically extravagant in the middle of nowhere. As well Schivo was selected to market and line produce for Fox Broadcasting the first Annual Billboard Awards Show with 23 of the biggest stars in Pop Music televised around the world.
Now in his 50th year of continuous entertainment events in Las Vegas and other cities, Michael Schivo shows no signs of retreat. His goal has always remained the same, to make patrons happy and provide service for the Community. His overall contributions to the concert scene starting in the 60's to present date are over 2000 shows in Nevada and other States and Countries.
Michael Schivo was inducted into the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on May 1st, 2011 and in 2012 was inducted as the Hall of Fame's Promoter Emeritus.
Michael Schivo's memories entitled "PROMOTER ! 5 Decades behind the Musical Curtain" will be released in early 2011 on the internet at website concertbook.net. Schivo plans to create a lecture tour remembering to the younger generations what it was like to be a concert promoter for 50 years. The lecture series is scheduled to begin in 2017.
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