IRWIN TAKES THE ODDS ON LAS VEGAS GAMBLE
News Source: The Courier-Mail, page 15, Saturday 22nd January, 2005
By: Nick Papps
Steve Irwin is about to follow in the famous footsteps of the Rat Pack, Wayne Newton and Elvis Presley.
The Aussie Crocodile Hunter is set to start wrestling crocs in his own show on the famous Las Vegas Strip.
Negotiations are being held for Irwin to secure land on the Strip to build a zoo where he will perform three shows a day for three months a year.
The zoo will be stocked exclusively with Australian animals including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, koalas, snakes and up to 20 Saltwater Crocodiles brought in from Australia.
“I’m excited,” Irwin said yesterday. “It will happen, it’s just a matter of time. We’re talking to the right people.”
Under the $40 million plan revealed yesterday by Irwin’s manager John Stainton, the zoo would be situated in the heart of the Strip, near some of the world’s largest casinos.
Mr Stainton said the zoo had to be on the Strip to attract the pedestrian traffic which floods the footpaths of Vegas’ main thoroughfare.
“ Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and you have to be on the Strip,” Mr Stainton said.
The zoo would not be linked to a casino and was expected to be operating within 18 months.
Mr Stainton said Irwin would spend the Australian summer at his Australia Zoo in Queensland and three months of the Australian winter in Las Vegas, performing for summer visitors to the gambling mecca.
“It would be three shows a day, three months a year,” Mr Stainton said.
The star attraction of the Australia Zoo in Vegas is expected to be the saltwater crocodiles, which will be flown into the US.
Asked about the difficulties of flying the sometimes grumpy animals to Vegas, Irwin said it would be “a piece of cake”.
“I have shifted them all over the place,” he said. “I had to shift one in Vanuatu. I had to get a crocodile into a plane, virtually unrestrained. I did it.”
Irwin is hugely popular in the US through his television show The Crocodile Hunter and said he caused traffic accidents when he walks around and is also regularly visited by stars who want to meet him “all the time”.
“Yesterday I was with Harry Connick Jr and his daughter,” he said. “You name it. I’m kind of the stars’ star. I’ve been popular over here for a long time.”
Irwin’s trademark short pants, shirts and enthusiastic style has led to several copycats on wildlife channels around the world, but the original said it was all “a sign of success, mate”.
“Mimicking is the sign of success, it really is,” he said.
“Mimics and Steve Irwin look-alikes and wannabes doesn’t faze me one iota.”