Few entrances are preceded by such a warm welcome:
“Know the signs of an outbreak,” reads the poster on the wall. “Glazed eyes. Skin rash. Limited motor control. Skin discoloration. Avoid contact.”
Suddenly, there he stands. Actually, there he looms.
Ramrod straight. Stone-faced. Steely-eyed. Exuding military readiness in army fatigues. Toting a make-believe rifle. Projecting warnings of zombie dangers ahead in a voice that portends dread of the walking dead — but with a mischievous twinkle.
It’s the twinkle that sells it.
“When I was hired, I was told I would have a military role because I looked the part,” says 46-year-old Victor Haase. An actor and shift boss at Fremont Street Experience’s year-old, enjoyably creepy Fear the Walking Dead Survival attraction, Haase was named a “Hospitality Hero” by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (which operates Las Vegas Newswire).
“The attraction is based on the last episode of season one (of the AMC series), so I watched the episode, and the military people in it were kind of jerks. So my wife said, ‘Well, you can do that perfectly.’ So, I win the hospitality award for being a jerk! No, I’m kidding.”
As affable outside the attraction as he is authoritative inside it, Haase sets the dynamic at this faux-house of horrors: We’re the scaredy cats. He’s the cool cat.
We’re the ones scurrying through the decontamination chamber (where we’re faked-spritzed with ersatz decontaminant). He’s the one calmly moving it along. We’re the ones getting electronically fake-scanned and wondering why our estimated “threat level” is alarmingly high. He’s the one coolly assessing our demeanor. We’re the ones trying not to topple over in an elevator that suddenly shakes, roils and blacks out. He’s the one emanating steadiness before zombies burst forth.
“Victor is a talented actor,” writes Haase’s supervisor, Matthew Kirk, in a letter nominating him for the Hospitality Hero honor, noting Haase’s protector-in-chief persona. “The attraction can be quite scary at points for some, and our team is sensitive to that, especially Victor. (He) is known for going through the attraction with a scared family because one of the kids feels safer having the ‘military guy’ on their side.”
Occasionally, he even eclipses a child’s usual go-to defender. “One kid shooed his dad away and latched onto my leg,” Haase recalls, chuckling at the memory. “Not to toot my own horn, but that was kind of cool.”
Beyond his attentiveness to the attraction’s visitors, Kirk notes in his letter that Haase is a “mature, natural leader” who goes out of his way to help newer employees with script memorization and acting techniques. “I try to lead by example, I’m not a crack-the-whip kind of guy,” Haase says.
When necessary, he also exerts a smidgen of military-style authority — courteously, of course — when over-lubricated or otherwise overstimulated guests exude a little too much of that Yeah-Vegas-baby! exuberance.
“We’ve had people climb on the chain-link cage in the observation room, and we had a gentleman fire up a joint. Sometimes they’ll get belligerent,” he says. “We tell them, ‘You’re on camera at all times.’ I get firm with them and I have to say, ‘We have kids here, you have to calm down. Nobody paid to see you.’ But you have to love Fremont Street. If you can handle people on Fremont Street, you can handle people anywhere.”
Those moments, however, are infrequent. More frequent are the joys of the job. “I love it,” he says. “When you attract people to your show, you’re trying to pull an emotion out of them. When I was at Marriage Can Be Murder (at the D Las Vegas), I was a plant in the audience, so it was laughter. With this, I’m pulling the emotion of fear out of them. I never get tired of seeing people rear back when the doors open and (other cast members) are screaming at them.”
How much does Victor Haase dig this gig? This much:
“If I could go fishing for a living, that’s probably the only thing that could top this.”
When you’re here, have no fear … Well, no real fear. Just fun fear. That’s why Victor is here.
“Hospitality Heroes” is a program created by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), in conjunction with the U.S. Travel Association’s National Travel and Tourism Week, celebrated annually in May. The LVCVA and its tourism partners honor employees who deliver superior customer service. Since the program began in 2008, more than 500 “Hospitality Heroes” have been recognized in Southern Nevada.