The conductor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic asked if I'd be willing to conduct the Washington
Post March at their big fireworks/4th of July concert. I agreed.
I figured one little joke would be worthwhile, so I asked Nate and Zeke to outfit me with a magic
wand that shot fire (get it? fireworks theme).
I "rehearsed" the night before. The wand worked and they all laughed. When the orchestra is all pro
musicians and it's a march, well, they're not too dependent on quality conducting. So I went in,
moved the stick roughly in time to their music, and got through it fine.
The show was held in Hills Park in Summerlin, with a band shell and most people seated on the lawn.
I figured I was mostly just going to be decoration, so I dressed really well: Vested Zegna tuxedo
with black and white bow tie, matching my black and white shoes and checkerboard cufflinks. There was
the usual program: "Superman Suite," "1812 Overture," "America The Beautiful" (rendered by the Bootlegger
Chorale). Then the conductor announced me.
He announced that this was a tribute to George Zambelli, a famous fireworks innovator who died last year;
then the conductor did the obligatory joke of offering me the microphone, then went to hand me the baton.
I declined and pulled out my wand to conduct with. Broad joke; small laugh. Then I fired off the flame.
Big laugh. Then I stepped to the podium.
I was quite revved up. I could feel the blood pulsing in my neck. I felt quite pink. After all,
I was all dressed up and waving a wand at a whole stage full of musicians. We started. Of course,
almost immediately, the fireworks began behind us, so nobody was paying attention to me. But I felt
like the center of the universe. Full speed ahead, full energy, pretending the orchestra was paying
attention. I was happy to see them, and they, when they looked up from their music, seemed happy to see me.
We couldn't see the fireworks for the band shell, but we could hear them.
We finished, and the audience applauded, slightly distracted by the fireworks that continued.
I had the orchestra take a bow, then bounded off the stage and joined my friends behind the stage
to watch the fireworks up close. Of course, being half of Penn and Teller, it never occurred to me
that this was a symphony program and therefore, I was supposed to take too many bows.
So some thirty seconds later, somebody chased me down to tell me to come back up on stage.
I did, by which time the audience had clapped itself out, so I waved and went back to watch the explosions.
I'd never been so close to a huge, intricate, and prolonged fireworks display before. I kept expecting cinders to fall into my eyes.
But it was just loud, loud, loud and dizzying and wonderful. All in all, a fine way to spend an evening.