One of the most prolific producers in town, Marklen Kennedy is the perfect chronicler of the seamier side of Las Vegas.
As unreal as Las Vegas can seem, for producer Marklen Kennedy it’s a bottomless well of inspiration for reality TV.
Tall and lanky, with a baseball cap riding low on his head, Marklen Kennedy ambles into a Starbucks in Green Valley. After ordering an iced tea, he carefully cases the joint, always on the lookout for the weird, quirky, and compelling. After all, it’s his job.
As one of Las Vegas’s more prolific producers of reality TV shows—he has built programs around male escorts, a Vegas coroner, and a cooking contest in the Palms parking lot—Kennedy, 47 years old and a native of Texas, never knows where his next great idea will originate. His most successful one so far, for Gigolos, about real-life gigolos in Las Vegas, now gearing up for its sixth season on Showtime, came to him when he was working as a nightclub host at The Bank and a female guest requested a male stripper. His most recent hit, Late Nite Chef Fight, was inspired by an ad he saw for a food-truck cooking competition. And currently on the back burner is Trailer Park Housewives, a Vegas-based antidote to the Bravo franchise’s over-the-top glitz.
Sitting down and sipping his tea, Kennedy explains that Gigolos, which paved his path from the nightclub business to television production, was anything but a slam dunk. “I told my agent what I wanted to do, and he said, ‘That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard,’” Kennedy recalls. “He didn’t say it was the worst idea of the day or the week. He said it was the worst idea ever. I figured if he had that strong a reaction, then it must be a great idea.” Showtime agreed. Executives there green-lighted the show—whose highlights have included a gigolo attempting to satisfy a Renaissance fair fetishist but getting confused and dressing as a centaur—and gave him two weeks to get things rolling.
Kennedy wound up creating a phenomenon whose reach has been much further than even he could have anticipated. “I got a message from a high-up politician in Washington, DC,” he says. “He told me he was in a ‘very bright house’—meaning the White House—and watching Gigolos.”
It’s no surprise that Kennedy finds himself chronicling the more unusual corners of Las Vegas. His father made a handsome living here through the 1960s as a shill for the Rat Pack. Kennedy himself moved to Vegas in 2001 and fell in love with the place, and that passion is at the core of the shows he creates and produces. “Anything that shines a positive light on Vegas is important to me,” he says, estimating that he has 25 or so ideas, maybe half of them set here, circulating through Hollywood. “We have so many great subcultures, and the city itself has so much going for it. Vegas is always another character in any show that I do out here.” The sixth season of Gigolos is now shooting. Check sho.com for airtimes and to watch previous seasons. Late Nite Chef Fight airs on fyi.com