Project Specialist, 4Wall Entertainment
A native of Southern California, Jack Valencia was lucky enough to attend California State University at Fresno, where the student union had its own sound and lighting company as well as a 7,000-seat outdoor amphitheatre. Although he started out to major in heavy construction, Valencia was soon tuned in to heavy metal instead, working on the lighting crew for campus shows, as well as some off-campus events including a Frank Sinatra concert. In 1999, his career path brought him to settle in Las Vegas, where he first worked for Mirage Resorts, then Pro Sound, and in July 2002 he joined 4Wall Entertainment as project specialist. Ellen Lampert-Gréaux chats with Valencia about his career, past and present.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux: What was your first job?
Jack Valencia: After college, around 1978, we spun off the sound and lighting company from the student union and became a company called Live Light, which is still going strong in Fresno. Then I went to work for Tasco, a European-based company, and went out on the road with them. I was on the road for eight years, working with bands like Ozzy Osbourne, Deep Purple, Diana Ross, and Sting. I went from crew chief to electrician to lighting director. Tasco had their own moving light, the Starlite, and I was the first American operator for it on the Sting tour in 1988.
ELG: What was your best project to date?
JV: When I came in off the road I called some friends who were working for Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas. I started there in 1999 and stayed for two years, and ended up doing construction. With my lighting background I helped write the specs for renovation and new construction at the various Mirage properties. My favorite project was getting Bellagio open, and going from the road to a design project. It was a lot of fun watching the construction and helping direct the contractors.
ELG: What was your least favorite project?
JV: I'm in the middle of it now. It's the Paris Opera House, a new restaurant and club at the Paris Las Vegas hotel. They are tearing out some office space in the front near the fountain on Las Vegas Boulevard and putting in a new club and restaurant. But it is very budget-challenged.
ELG: Where were you in 1988, the year LDI was founded?
JV: Out on the road with Sting, working with Live Light.
ELG: When did you first attend LDI?
JV: I went to the first LDI in Dallas in 1988. Live Light took us all.
ELG: What makes Vegas a special place to work?
JV: The challenge. It is extremely fast-paced and you want to do the best job you can with all the limitations they throw at you, especially budget constraints. But it is a thrill. No place else even comes close to it. Especially time-wise. Six months may seem like an eternity to a road guy, but it's really short in Vegas.
ELG: What prompted your move to 4Wall Entertainment?
JV: I was working at Pro Sound, and had worked with 4Wall Entertainment on some projects. I really wanted to get back to being 100% lighting and not do the sound and video side as well.
ELG: What haven't you done that you want to do?
JV: Just bigger projects, I guess. The bigger the better. I like the challenge.
ELG: What's the next great trend in Vegas?
JV: That's a good question. You always have to be one step ahead of everyone else and as soon as you do something new everyone is trying to catch up. There seems to be a holding pattern now as everyone waits to see what Steve Wynn does at Le Reve [his new hotel-casino]. He is still the leader out here. Some artists like Celine Dion are building theatres and coming to town with 10-year contracts. I heard that Michael Jackson was talking about doing the same thing. But I don't know how many artists can be successful like that. I wish I knew what was next; then I'd be Steve Wynn.