If you wondered what became of the man who made the phrase “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams” famous, look no further than Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas, Nevada. There, you will find the man who made that saying famous, in the 80s and 90s on his television show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Today, the veteran, celebrity media personality not only makes his home in Las Vegas, but he covers the extensive entertainment scene in that city, with his section in the Las Vegas Sun. He is now with the Las Vegas Review Journal.
We first spoke with Robin back in 2011, covering a variety of topics with him [see here]. Now, five years later, on May 26th, at The Palazzo Las Vegas’s Italian restaurant, Lavo, we caught up with the ever energetic media figure. Speaking with him, we were able to revisit some of the topics we spoke about in 2011 and then some. See my photo with Robin above.
Robin Leach gave us an appraisal of the state of luxury goods in America. He talked about Las Vegas being the number one city to shop for those kinds of goods. He also revisited the past, elaborating on what it was like to meet the Pope, while in Vatican City covering its treasures. And he commented on Donald Trump, as well as a variety of other topics.
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Chris Yandek: Well, to begin, let me ask you, what is life like for Robin Leach now in Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of the World? What is this part of your life like now?
Robin Leach: “Crazy is probably the best word to use to describe it because I’ve never ever in my entire life seen a city so busy with so many different things to cover. You know, I run the Vegas Deluxe website and that really is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And we have more stars going through this city with shows. We have more disc jockeys playing in nightclubs here, we have more parties, more of everything than any other city in the world. So it’s non-stop.”
CY: One of the big things, of course, in the last week was Tony Bennett’s 90th birthday. He was at a gala. Could you tell me a little about the big event from this week?
RL: “Tony Bennett celebrating his 90th birthday in August and I’ve been one of the people involved in Keep Memory Alive for the last nine years. And we started, this was the 20th year, but when I got involved with them, I started adding show business elements to the charity as a way of developing more fundraising, which has been very successful. We started with reuniting Siegfried and Roy to do one farewell performance with the tiger Montecore and that was pretty exceptional. And each year we’ve gone along, we’ve tried to up the ante as it were.
And one year we celebrated Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday and we sold a pair of his boxing gloves for one million dollars at the auction that I help announce. I don’t do the talking like the auctioneers do because I’m not that skilled. But we’ve had everybody from Michael Caine and Quincy Jones’s 80th birthday to this year, as we said, Tony Bennett 90th. So it’s become a very star studded affair with the best chefs in the world doing the dinner for everybody and this year we raised 17.1 million dollars, approximately for the Keep Memory Alive Center, which is The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Brain Center, which does all the research work and care for Alzheimer’s patients and other brain related diseases. And over the course of the 20 years, it’s been 250 odd million dollars that have been raised for this medical facility, all private, all corporate donation, no tax payer’s money, which is pretty extraordinary.”
CY: In 2011, I asked you, what is the state of luxury in America? You said that was the best and toughest question you have ever been asked. Five years later, state of luxury in America, what are your thoughts?
RL: “A little easier to answer this time around because luxury is back. You know, for the last eight years while we’ve had this administration in Washington, luxury has sort of been frowned upon. I think that’s gonna change come November with the White House becoming the gold house maybe. We’ll see what happens. But, no, we’re coming out of the economic doldrums and things are getting better, people are feeling a little more comfortable. There’s still a lot of shortcomings in the economy, jobs will solve that, people having more money to spend on luxury goods. The thing is that the one percent of the market that is never fazed with economic downturns is still alive, still well and very strong.
So, you’re seeing the Rolls-Royces and the Bentley’s still selling for big prices. You’re seeing jewelry still selling, art works at auction. There was a diamond that sold for I think 38 million, 48 million, something like that just a week ago. So prices are back up to their highs, getting stronger and more and more people seem to have more and more money to spend.”
CY: Many now consider Las Vegas to be the luxury good, shopping capital of America passing Manhattan and of course Rodeo Drive. Do you agree?
RL: “In a sense, yes, I do agree. The reason is, is that we have such a concentration of luxury good stores in three miles of the [Las Vegas] Strip. Retail sales have just about equaled to gaming revenues. Gaming revenues have slid down to 39, 40 percent of the revenues of hotels and casinos in this city. So the remaining 60 percent is now made up of shopping, purchases at retail, restaurant business and tourism attractions. So, yes, retail shopping has become far more important to this city and has a bigger bottom line than New York or Los Angeles.”
CY: Back in 2011, you said one of the highlights of Lifestyles and the Rich Famous was seeing the Pope’s treasures at the Vatican, but you never really told me anything about that. Could you tell me what that was like?
RL: “Well, all of it’s hidden, except to the cameras and I always thought it was a great shame that it had never really been seen because some of the things that are down there in the catacombs of the Vatican date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The first bible is down there. The first printed bible is down there. There’s lots of gifts that the Popes have been given over the years, there’s lots of antiques and items of interest that the Roman Catholic Church has collected over the years.
So to be shown it was jaw dropping. I’ll go into the voice of the old days, there was miles and miles of nothing but glitter and gold. And you know, I had, every Friday I had sent a letter to the Vatican, I think for five years asking if we could come and film the treasures of the Vatican. And we never got a reply for five years and I kept on sending the letter every week and finally out of the clear blue sky, they said that they had decided that we could start conversations.
I couldn’t believe it that we’d finally won. But you know, perseverance pays off and we eventually flew to Rome and took the cameras there. We were able to film the Pope going from his very, very modest home into the chapel for morning prayers and then we were given a tour of the treasures of the Vatican by one of the senior Vatican priests. So it was a lesson I learned. Never give up if you really want something, keep plugging away at it and your dreams can come true.”
CY: And your dreams continue to come true. No doubt about that. Speaking of the gold house now, you have profiled Donald Trump obviously. What do you make of all this craziness?
RL: “I love the fact that he’s shaking up the entire system. I mean, it’s a system that had to be shaken up. Whether or not he becomes the President of course is the unknown factor that nobody really can predict. I mean, there’s a movement out there that is angry about the way that the middle class has been forgotten in this country. And of course poverty, you know, for the low income class is a major problem. And it only gets arrested and dealt with, with work. And, you know, monetary compensation for hard work is the reward. That is the reward of hard work.
So, what’s happened in this country in recent years is that hard work has resulted in money being taken away from you to go to food stamps and other welfare things that have just exploded. And the reason it’s exploded is because those people don’t have jobs and it’s been easier to give them handouts than it has been to give them work. And I think that, that’s one of the things that needs to be shaken up. The system is wrong where it rewards the lack of interest in work with money, so you don’t have to work.
I mean, there are some people who get money just because they’ve got large families. So if it pays to make large families and earn more money than you would earn out at work, why not have more families, larger families? That’s wrong. So you can’t reward people who don’t want to work with more money than they would make while they were working. So that system has to be addressed and I think it will be.”
CY: You’re a man of principal I believe. You are somebody who has been to the Vatican, you’ve been to the richest man’s house in the world, the question I have for you more than anything regarding Donald Trump is when you look at the whole sociological situation, do any of his comments about taking out Muslim families or comments about Latin American people give you any cause for pause?
RL: “I’m not a politician. I don’t pretend to be a politician. I’m an independent. I can’t vote in this country ‘cause I’m not a citizen. He certainly resonates, Donald’s message resonates with a large number of people. So does Bernie Sanders. Now I know that those two men are opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to politics, but they’re both saying the same thing that the system is wrong and that the system has to be cleaned up. And what we’ve done is that we’ve lived in the status quo; if we’re gonna elect the same all over again, nothing will change whether it’s for the good or for the bad. You’ve got to have change.
And you know, Donald’s slogan of Make America Great Again, I think it touches a nerve that everybody says, ‘America’s ceased to be great.’ I mean, this is the country that I came to in 1963 and it was the promise land. And I knew that this was a country where hard work and discipline and dedication were rewarded. And I’m convinced that if the same opportunities were made available to everybody, people would want to better their lot in life. And in the end, if that’s what happens, whether it be, you know, the Left’s method of dealing with it or the Right’s method of dealing with it, if we can make America great again and if we can get everybody working and bettering their lot in life, then this becomes the great country that it once was, that it’s ceased to be.”
CY: Finally, Robin, thanks so much for joining me. It’s finally great to meet you, your philosophical and deep thoughts are always greatly appreciated. Love your analysis on things. You’re a substantive celebrity entertainment media personality. We need more of that today, of course. Finally, how often do you think about Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? Is there a thought of the past cross your mind every day or how often now?
RL: “Well, I answer the question by saying that I would never go back to doing the show again. I mean, every day I think about Lifestyles because somebody comes up to me and tells me how much they love the show and I should bring it back, but this is not the time to bring it back. I don’t think it would be as successful today as it once was. Firstly, I don’t have the energy to do what that took to do for 15 years in gallivanting around the world and producing the equivalent of 26 one hour shows a year. I mean, it was a grind for 15 straight years without a break.
It was an inspirational show and you know, yes it had the fluff of me jumping into a Jacuzzi dressed in a tuxedo. Yes, it had the fluff of me drinking large quantities of champagne and partying with the rich and famous and having tuxedo waiters ski down mountains to deliver buckets of caviar to somebody. All those things happened. All of those things were very real. But, woven through the interviews was the message that if you work hard, you will be rewarded if you work hard, if you get off your backside and pull up your socks and you set a goal, set a target, you can achieve it.
And it’s been wonderful, even to yesterday to hear from people who said that the show was an inspiration to them to strive for success and that happens every day of the week to this day. Look, we stopped doing the show in ’92, ’93. I helped start the Food Network, that was very successful and today, I’m still spreading the gospel of hard work pays off.”
CY: In Las Vegas of course. Robin, hang on with me, it was so great to finally meet you.
RL: “Nice to see you.”
Editor’s note: At the time of our conversation, Mr. Leach was with the Las Vegas Sun. On June 24th, it was announced he had left the Las Vegas Sun and is now employed by the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Robin Leach’s Twitter is here
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com
You can follow Chris Yandek on Twitter here.