What do Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, flying midgets, and a 6-foot 7-inch tranny stripper with massive mammaries have in common? On a given night, they can all be seen at Beacher’s Madhouse—a Los Angeles nightspot buried beneath the famed Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel that is a bizarre mélange of sideshow, musical theater, lux lounge, and one helluva good time.
It’s 11:30 p.m. on a warm Wednesday evening and the line outside of Beacher’s Madhouse stretches down a narrow corridor. Pass through a velvet rope—accompanied by a strict doorman—and into a 3,000-square foot red-hued theater replete with 15 oval-shaped tables, a tiny stage, and a bar lining the rear wall. Top-40 music is blaring and the crowd, most of whom are standing, is young, modish, and easy on the eyes. Midgets dressed like Oompa-Loompas are attached to zip lines and fly overhead, delivering bottles of liquor to table dwellers from “The Midget Bar” located next to the stage (one of them almost takes my co-worker’s head off, as a mash-up of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address plays). While the atmosphere is spring break, the pricing is decidedly upscale. Cheapskates need not apply.
Later in the evening, an Auto-Tune band performs several numbers, including Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”; a man covers his entire body in shaving cream, transforming himself into a white ghoul; Mini Bruno Mars performs “Locked Out of Heaven”; hot girls in bodices dance on poles; a remarkably flexible woman rides an oversized My Little Pony; furry Elmo and Cookie Monster make the rounds; David Arquette grinds on a midget; and patrons are sprayed with blasts of air from a dummy fire extinguisher. Every so often, founder Jeff Beacher—a mountain of a man, built like N.J. Gov. Chris Christie—struts across the stage in a tuxedo. Sensory overload is a vast understatement.
The night’s centerpiece performance comes courtesy of Mini Justin Bieber, who runs over a paparazzo onstage with a pink plastic car before violently humping its hood. He’s later joined by Mini Ke$ha, and the two get down to her hit tune, “Heartbeats.” By around 2 a.m., the bawdy fun grinds to a halt, and glassy-eyed pretty things flood out into the streets in search of more mischief.
Beacher’s Madhouse is the brainchild of Jeff Beacher, a 30-something nightlife impresario (“I’ve been 29 for seven or eight years,” he says) from Long Island, N.Y. In recent weeks, the establishment has received loads of publicity since club regular Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber were spotted partying there together—sparking bogus rumors that the two longtime friends were a romantic item—and a stunt in which Mini Kim Kardashian and Mini Kanye West gave “birth” onstage to Mini Amanda Bynes, who was delivered by Kardashian’s real-life pal, Jonathan Cheban.
Beacher’s office is a tiny, three-room studio off the courtyard of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, just a stone’s throw from the pool area where a DJ is blasting techno into the ears of tanned Angelenos. Framed magazine covers featuring the Madhouse—OK!, Us Weekly, People—line the walls, as well as photos of Beacher with everyone from George Clooney to Bill Clinton. Beacher, sporting shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals, ambles around his office slowly (thanks to a particularly late night), and on his desk is a laptop where he’s obsessively regarding the floor plans for Beacher’s upcoming Vegas outpost, which he promises will be “massive” and “a big deal.” Whereas the L.A. version is open for business Wednesdays and Saturdays, and has anywhere from 30-50 performers—including one flying midget—the Vegas edition is will be, he says, “a 10-year deal at the best hotel in Vegas with 45 tables, four flying midgets, hundreds of performers, and a 40-foot stage.” (Rumor has it that Beacher’s Madhouse will be occupying the 17,130-square-foot space at the MGM Grand, which formerly housed the “Crazy Horse Paris” burlesque show—more than five times the size of the L.A. version).
“I’m in the theater business,” says Beacher, a jovial-yet-firm giant, with a chuckle.
Beacher always knew he wanted to be a master of ceremonies. As a child, he loved watching programs like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, taking in stand-up comedy routines and live TV tapings, and Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam.
“I was a kid and thought it was so cool seeing Russell Simmons hosting, waving to his celebrity friends in the audience,” he says.
For a while, Beacher put his theater dreams on hold. He was selling office furniture for his friend’s company, Empire Office, where he says he was making “a ton of money” and had “great perks.” But in his late 20s, his mother became very sick from colon cancer and said to him, “When am I going to see you on TV?”
“She always knew I wanted to be on there,” he says. “So I quit my job and started doing stand-up comedy.”
After struggling as a stand-up comedian, Beacher’s career path shifted when he took in John Leguizamo’s one-man show, Freak.
It’s just one guy, a room, and 1,000 seats at $100 a ticket—that’s an easy $100,000, he thought.
In early 2002, he rented a 200-seat room at The Triad (now Stage 72) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and began hosting a variety show filled with stand-up comedians, midgets, dancers, musical performances, and bizarre contests. Comedians like Steve Byrne, Rob Kelly, and Ken Jeong (from The Hangover films) would perform there. One day, an executive from Madison Square Garden came by, had a ball, and offered to have Beacher host his act at The Paramount. A one-year run at The Supper Club on Broadway followed, but when Beacher’s mother passed away from colon cancer in 2003, he needed a change of scenery.
Beacher’s good pal, Harry Morton—the son of Peter, co-founder of Hard Rock Café and then-owner of the Hard Rock Café & Hotel in Las Vegas—pitched Beacher’s act for his father’s hotel, and before long, Beacher’s Madhouse was in Vegas. It stayed at the Hard Rock Café & Hotel from 2003-2008, and Beacher was such a fixture on the nightlife circuit he had cameos in the straight-to-video film Bachelor Party Vegas, and the MTV series Paris Hilton’s My New BFF. When their Vegas contract was up, he took Beacher’s Madhouse on the road, performing in 81 cities over the next two and a half years.
After “fielding several offers,” Beacher decided to “hang his hat in L.A.,” and opened Beacher’s Madhouse at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in October 2010.
“We took this digusting little corporate convention room and turned it into a mini Taj Mahal,” he says with a grin.
Before long, it was a madhouse—both literally and figuratively.
“In the beginning, it even crazier than it is now,” he says. “At every table, there was a star. It would be Ashton Kutcher at one table, Demi Moore at one table, Courtney Cox at another table.”
According to Beacher, the venue got so popular that gossip rags would send in writers to report on stars’ exploits, and publicists would advise their A-list clientele to stop going. “But now, we’re back in [the publicist’s] good graces,” he says.
The conversation eventually gets to midgets—one of the cornerstones of Beacher’s Madhouse that sets it apart from other venues. Some, of course, could see dressing up a midget in an Oompa-Loompa costume or having midgets perform as mini-celebs as exploitative, but Beacher doesn’t see it that way.
“They’re magical, funny, and you can choreograph pop culture-related acts with them,” he says. “They’re performers and we don’t treat midgets like midgets; we treat them like human beings. We don’t do midget-tossing or any derogatory stuff.”
And, after regaling me with stories of midgets sleeping in bushes outside the hotel, or midgets running around naked and jumping into the Roosevelt’s hotel pool, the talk returns to Vegas. While Beacher’s Madhouse will be renewing their contract with the Roosevelt soon (“We’ll be here for a long time,” he says), Beacher knows that Vegas is a big step up.
“This is our flagship spot here in L.A., but Vegas is the beginning of an empire,” he says. “It will be the most massive, crazy experience.” He pauses. “It will be excess personified.”