Every once in a while, a great innovator comes along with an idea so revolutionary, it not only disrupts an industry, it changes the world: how we get places, how we meet people, and in the case of entrepreneur showman Jeff Beacher, how we get drunk.
“At our performances, we have midgets dressed like Oompa-Loompas who are attached to ziplines -- they fly around dropping bottles of booze on tables,” he says.
Welcome to Beacher's Madhouse, a vaudeville cabaret show where flying vodka-laden Oompa-Loompas are probably the sanest thing you will see. On any given night over the past decade, audience members have seen acts like the world’s oldest stripper shaking what her mama gave her, followed by Mini Kim Kardashian and Mini Kanye West "giving birth" onstage to a tiny bundle of joy, Mini Amanda Bynes.
And laughing their asses off one table over are some of the biggest stars on the planet.
Beacher built his madhouse as an outlet for his creativity and, really, just a way to have some fun. “After I graduated high school, I went to community college for about a month before I dropped out. School wasn’t for me," he tells Entrepreneur. "I was a guy with a high EQ and not the highest IQ. Some people are really good actors and actresses, some are really good accountants. I just happen to be the best in the world at marketing. I just knew it as an instinct. I’m just wired that way. It is something that I love.”
Over the years, his Madhouse has enjoyed residences in The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, at The Hard Rock and MGM casinos in Vegas and has toured the country bringing its unique brand of insanity to a theater near you. As you might imagine, the journey of this weird and wonderful show has been bumpier than, well, the journey of a little person ziplining around a nightclub. After a run at the MGM that Beacher says nearly killed him, he pressed pause on the crazy machine to take some time to regain his health and his sanity.
This September, after over a year-long break, the show is returning to the Hollywood Roosevelt, promising to be bigger and more bizarre than ever. With less than a month to go before the curtain rises, Entrepreneur spoke with the master of the Madhouse about its colorful history and its freaky future.
In the beginning
"I started the show based on the fact that I never went to college. I felt like I missed out -- I never had the frat house parties. So I created this party where you could sit at a table, have drinks and have a really crazy experience. It started on Broadway. We had one midget and some dancers and we did a lot of audience interaction. What I didn’t realize was that I created what everyone calls 'experiential.' I started engaging the audience in everything that was going on."
Famous faces in the crowd
"We’ve had nights with 40 celebrities in the audience in a room that holds 150 people. There’s a lot of networking and follow through to make that happen. But in the end, you have to have a really good product or else no one is going to want to come see it."
Famous faces on the stage (in miniature form)
"Whenever we do a Mini Katy or Mini Miley, the real stars love it. When Kim Tripp, who played Mini Kim Kardashian, passed away a couple of months ago, the real Kim Kardashian tweeted a really sweet message for her."
The (Mini) Kiss off
"The only time I got a legal letter is when we had Tiny Kiss, a midget band who dressed like Kiss. I got a letter from Kiss’s attorney and I called him back myself and told him I’m not backing down. A week later, I get another call: 'Hey, this is Gene Simmons.' I said sure it is, and hung up. And he called back and said, 'No, this is really Gene Simmons.' And I recognized the voice and it was really him. I was like, 'Oh shit.' He said, 'I heard you’ve been spoofing Kiss,' and I was like, 'Yeah, but it is all in good fun.' And he said, 'Is it cool if I come down to the Hard Rock to see it?' So he came down and got on stage and played with them, so it was awesome. It turned into a great relationship and we’re still friends to this day."
Wiring of a madman
"I was adopted, which I think had a lot to do with the way I am wired. My parents died when I was very young, which I didn’t realize at the time gave me insecurity and abandonment issues. I was adopted by an amazing family, and that made me always want to be the best. I wanted to prove to my father that hey, you made the best decision in adopting me."
The price of success
"I became so obsessed with succeeding, with being the coolest person in the room and having the coolest room packed with models and celebrities that I stopped taking care of myself. By 2014, I was 410 pounds. We had a $100 million, 20-year deal with the MGM to open a theater there, but my life was going in the wrong direction. On the outside, it was great -- we were selling out every night. But on the inside, I was an absolute complete disaster. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. So I had to make a change."
Get it together
"I focused on getting my mind and body clear. And I did that. Between 2014 and 2015, I lost 215 pounds. Two of my best friends, Larry Rudolph, who manages Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and Steven Tyler, and his fiancee Jennifer Barnet, who owns XCYCLE, sat me down and got me on an exercise program. One thing I’ve been proud of my entire life is that I don’t do drugs. But the problem was that I thought, well if I’m not doing drugs, I’m healthy! It's OK to eat or gamble, not realizing that those were my drugs. It was just filling voids.
"I made the decision to leave the MGM and went back to L.A. to be happier and healthier. We had a huge financial deal with MGM, but I needed to get out of the Vegas environment. How did people react? Any time you have an idea, there are four people that tell you it is a great idea, four people who tell you that’s the worst idea ever and two people who don’t care. But I did it and a year and a half later, I’m in the best physical, emotional and financial shape I’ve ever been in."
"My original goal was that I wanted to have 30 theaters around the world, to have Beacher’s in every major city. I was obsessed with the live experience and didn’t want to put anything online because people are always copying us. But I realize now that that online is how we can be in every home in America. When we re-open, we’ll also be launching an online portal, a cross of Maxim meets Ripley’s Believe It or Not. There will be gorgeous girls, celebrity content, interviews, a three-headed turtle, the world’s tallest man -- all the craziest oddities in the world from our show. We were stuck in the $7 to $10 million revenue mark for years under the old model. Now I believe with touring, online content, branding and merchandising, we’re putting ourselves in the direction of a billion-dollar company."
The show must go on
"I want to leave something behind that lasts, I want to do something that can live on when I’m gone, similar to Walt Disney. I was a very angry person back in the day, and I’ve learned that a more nurturing, loving environment will bring out the best in people around you. The people around you are the most important asset in your business. You need to make sure that they’re good people who have your best interest at heart and you need to take care of them as well."
"P.T. Barnum is a huge inspiration to me. A lot of people say Donald Trump is like P.T. Barnum. No, I have no aspirations to be president, but I do have a Mini Donald Trump in the show! And a Mini Hillary. They’re getting ready to wrestle."