Category Archives: Performances

Dance in the Desert Festival in Las Vegas

The 11th annual Dance in the Desert Festival is coming to Las Vegas.  The roster includes local and visiting dance artists presenting cutting edge choreography and stirring works to delight every dance aficionado.

In 1999 the first annual Las Vegas Dance in the Desert Festival was co-founded and co-directed by Kyla Quintero and Kelly Roth, with the ambition to restore dance to a primary position in the artistic life of the city of Las Vegas. The Festival offers a broad spectrum of choreographic visions and approaches, from expressionism to post-modernism to neo-romanticism, and a diverse selection of genres drawing on traditions from Africa, Europe, and American original and hybrid forms, featuring companies from around the world, across the United States, neighboring states of California and Arizona, as well as Nevada’s own exceptional talent.

Participants tentatively scheduled to appear in this year’s festival include: Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre, Metropolitan Ballet Company, and Moving Arts Dance from California; Desert Dance Theatre, Junk Funk, and Canyon Movement Company from Arizona; Solaris Dance Theater;  Catherine Schaeffer from Georgia; Matthew Farmer from Michigan; Cathy Allen, Freedom Dance Company, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, Kravenko Youth Ballet, Debra Lacey Teresa Martinez, Ballet Mink Colbert, Petrina Olson, Cooper Rust, Westwood and Dancers, Concert Dance Company, CSN Dance Ensemble, and Kelly Roth & Dancers– all from Las Vegas.

The Dance in the Desert Festival is on July 31 at 7:30 p.m. and August 1 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Nicholas J. Horn Theatre, located on the CSN Cheyenne Campus in North Las Vegas.  Prices are $10 for general admission; $8 for seniors/students.

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Shock Rocker Marilyn Manson Craves New Las Vegas Gig

Shock rocker Marilyn Manson may have been out of the spotlight for the past few years but he will take center stage at The Joint next month. Manson, 40, whose real name is Brian Warner, will appear at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on August 21. MarilynManson

The controversial actor-musician, who was once both married to burlesque star Dita Von Teese and engaged to actress Rose McGowan, is best known for his 1996 hit, “Beautiful People,” from his second and controversial major release, “Antichrist Superstar.”

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Burners Circle Mutant Wagons in Las Vegas

As a prelude to the huge Burning Man event in Black Rock City in Nevada on August 31 through September 7, the Southern Nevada burners on the First Friday event on August 7 in Las Vegas will be setting up their wild and crazy mutant vehicles that they’ve designed and built to cruise the dusty and scorching playa during Burning Man. mutantvehicle

They are planning to set up their tricked out cars in a circle on Casino Center between Colorado and California.  Then, in the inner circle, local artists will be hooping and poi spinning. 

Despite a down economy, an estimated 48,000 people are anticipated to participate in this year’s Burning Man.  The annual art event is all about the power of community, and to celebrate shared values of radical self-expression and self-reliance through art activities.   Participants express and relying on themselves to a degree that is not normally encountered in one’s day-to-day life. 

As a by-product, one can only hope that Whirlygig, the First Friday organizer, will get a much needed boost to bolster their sagging revenue.

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Ludacris to Perform Free Show in Las Vegas

In a special promotion with Miller Lite, the Palms Casino Resort and N9NE Group in Las Vega, hip-hop superstar and R&B favorite Ludacris will perform a special concert at the Palms Pool & Bungalows Friday, August 21 at 8 p.m. Complimentary tickets will be given away with specially marked packaging of 18-packs of Miller Lite. Ludacris

Grammy award-winning artist Chris “Ludacris” Bridges remains one of the top visionaries of the hip-hop world. His latest album Theater Of The Mind (2008) continues to push the Atlanta-based entertainer to the top of the charts. His latest venture is a collaboration album with Disturbing Tha Peace member Shawnna called Battle of the Sexes (due out Summer 2009).

In addition to his success as a rapper, Ludacris’ acting career remains strong with appearances on the NBC drama Law and Order SVU, the Oscar-winning big screen film Crash, the independent sensation Hustle & Flow and 2008’s Max Payne and Rocknrolla. 

Beginning Friday, July 24, 2009 through August 20, 2009 or while supplies last concert goers can stop at any Food 4 Less, 7Eleven, Rebel, Green Valley Grocery or wherever you buy beer and look for specially marked 18-packs of Miller Lite to acquire a sticker redeemable for one free ticket to the concert. The consumer will then take the sticker, along with the receipt showing proof of purchase, to The Pearl Box Office between the hours of noon and 7:00 p.m. to receive their tickets. 

For more information, as well as a list of retail locations to purchase specially marked 18-packs of Miller Lite, please visit www.palms.com.

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Michael Jackson’s Music to be Celebrated in Las Vegas ‘Birthday’ Performance

For one performance only, Las Vegas ’ top entertainers will come together for a special performance Las Vegas Celebrates the Music of Michael Jackson on Saturday, August 29, 2009, at 3 p.m. from The Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. 

6W Entertainment in partnership with VegasHappensHere.com will present this multi-artist production celebrating the many hits of The King of Pop, entertainers including cast members of Jersey Boys, Lion King, Peepshow and Phantom:  The Las Vegas Spectacular will perform the hits of the Jackson songbook, all in celebration of what would have been the entertainer’s 51st birthday. This unique show will also include video montages throughout from those who knew Michael or were inspired by his work. The multi-faceted acts will be backed by a 10-piece band comprised of musicians led by Las Vegas ’ own Joey Melotti. Additional performers and event details will be announced in coming weeks. 

This special event will commemorate and celebrate Jackson ’s life while raising funds to help kids across the U.S. and right here in Nevada keep music alive in the schools.  All proceeds from ticket sales of this event will benefit Music Education programming in Clark County Public Schools. 

“I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to the person who inspired me and a whole generation of performers. This event helps keep the music of Michael Jackson alive, while raising money to make sure music education stays alive in schools in our community,” said show host and co-producer Erich Bergen.  

Tickets for Las Vegas Celebrates Michael Jackson go on-sale Saturday, July 25, 2009, at noon. Ticket prices are $29, $54, $79, $104 & $129, plus applicable box office fees.  A VIP package is available for $504 and includes VIP seating, admission to the exclusive after party with the cast, gift bag and limited edition autographed poster. Please visit any Ticketmaster location, call 1-800-745-3000, visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.livenation.com to purchase tickets. The Pearl Box Office is open from noon – 7 p.m. daily. Doors will open at 2 p.m. and show time is 3 p.m. 

For more information about this event, please visit www.vegaslovesmj.com.

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Father & Daughter Tillis Duo Performs in Las Vegas

Pam Tillis, 52, daughter to country music legend Mel Tillis, didn’t always think that country music was cool.  In fact, she went the opposite way, preferring to sing pop rock and R&B with her jazz band in San Francisco in the 1980s.  

As her songwriting career advanced, her country roots were rediscovered.  Now, to her credit, she has sold a few million records and had several No. 1 hits, and won a couple of Grammy’s and a few Country Music Awards. 

Rarely does she perform with her legendary father, but this Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Cannery in North Las Vegas will be one of those memorable gigs. pammeltillis

“Whenever somebody can afford both of us we’ll work together,” Pam Tillis says.  “We enjoy it but it’s a little different front when I’m out on my own and don’t play second banana.  We hit the highlights.  Between us we have 50 years of hits.”

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Blink 182 Kicks Off Reunion Tour in Las Vegas

It’s been four years since Blink 182’s extended hiatus, but now the time is ripe, according to singer and guitarist Tom DeLonge, bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker to breathe new life into Blink 182 and kick off their reunion tour in Las Vegas.Blink182

Possible talks of a new tour occurred at the 51st annual Grammy Awards in February, and now, five months later, Blink 182 is back.  The band has already started a new album and spent three months preparing for a 52-date reunion tour, which kicks off this week with back-to-back nights at The Joint this Thursday and Friday at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas.

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Michael Jackson Breaking News

Feverishly following up on leads, eight Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) vehicles arrived this morning looking for Michael Jackson medical records at the offices Armstrong Medical Clinic in Houston, one of the clinics used by Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, who performed CPR on the pop star just before he died.  Two LAPD detectives also arrived on scene along with uniformed members of the Houston Police Department and 10 members of the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Team. There were another dozen or so DEA agents on hand. 

The law enforcement agents, armed with a search warrant, entered the property and began going through the property.

The LAPD asked the DEA for help in serving the warrant on the Armstrong Medical Clinic in Houston. The warrant is sealed. 

Murray, who has a medical practice in Las Vegas, since closed, is also licensed to practice in California, and is one of the central figures in a widening dragnet of physicians and personnel at medical facilities, based on results being uncovered from Jackson’s autopsy. 

With results from Michael Jackson’s second autopsy now in, the findings are no different from what the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office found, E! News reports. Both procedures revealed needle marks and traces of a potentially lethal amount of Propofol, an anesthetic administered via IV that leaves people in a largely comatose state, in the self-proclaimed King of Pop’s system. 

The private autopsy was performed June 27, two days after Jackson died and the day following the coroner’s examination of the body. 

Meanwhile, it has been learned that Jackson could have a secret fourth child according to reports. It has been alleged that Norwegian dancer Omer Bhatti is seeking a DNA test to see if he is in fact the son of the legendry King of Pop. 

The Sun newspaper has reported that Jackson told friends that Bhatti, looking strikingly similar to Jackson, was born after a one night stand in 1984 and the 25 year old is now said to be seeking whether Jackson is indeed his biological father. 

Katherine Jackson has formally filed a petition with the court to be appointed as administrator of her son Michael Jackson’s estate. She is petitioning under the Independent Administrations Estate Act. 

Court papers surfaced Wednesday and were filed in the matter by both Katherine and Joe Jackson, but only Katherine is requesting to be placed in charge of Michael Jackson’s estate. 

A hearing is set for August 3rd, to determine who will be executor of Jackson’s estate. 

Sony Pictures is also in the midst of finalizing a deal to acquire rehearsal footage from Michael Jackson’s This Is It concert run, with hopes of releasing it in theaters just in time for Halloween, according to Variety magazine. 

Sony is reportedly paying close to $60 million for the 80 hours of rehearsal footage shot at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The footage is currently owned by AEG Entertainment, who were promoting Jackson’s run of 50 shows at London’s O2 Arena. 

Finally, Las Vegas is being mentioned as an option as opposition grows to having Jackson’s Neverland Ranch turned into a Graceland-like memorial.  Bob Field, former Santa Ynez Valley Planning Advisory Committee chairman, is proposing that Neverland Ranch be dismantled and moved to Las Vegas.

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Jubilee! Celebrates 28 Years of Classic Las Vegas Glitz, Glamour & Glitter

JubileeAs one of the longest-running shows on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip, the retro -glam showgirl extravaganza Jubilee! at Bally’s Las Vegas has entertained more than 11 million guests. On July 31 the show celebrates 28 years of gorgeous showgirls, lavish costumes, dazzling scenery, world -renowned specialty acts, dynamic music and graceful pageantry.

Conceived, staged and directed by the legendary Donn Arden, who brought the spectacular French-style revue “Lido de Paris” to Las Vegas, Jubilee! is an elaborate stage production.
 
Critics from the Travel Channel/BBC, New York Times and Las Vegas Review Journal have hailed Jubilee! as the best showgirl show noting that “in an era of high -tech productions the timeless musical of Jubilee! is the last of its kind.” Iconic showgirls from Jubilee! have been seen on “The View,” NBC’s ‘The Today Show,” “Last Comic Standing,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and “The Montel Williams Show.”

To commemorate the anniversary Bally’s Las Vegas is offering a special hotel package. The glamorous getaway includes a minimum two-night hotel stay in a Bally’s deluxe room appointed in an art deco style, two tickets to Jubilee!, 2-for-1 Bally’s Spa entrance and $50 dining credit. Reservations can be made online at http://www.BallysLasVegas.com.

Jubilee! is performed twice nightly, six days a week at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., dark on Fridays. Ticket prices are $52.50, $72.50, $92.50 and $112.50 and can be purchased online at http://www.BallysLasVegas.com or by calling the Bally’s box office at 702-967-4111. In appreciation of local support, residents can purchase $28 tickets with valid Nevada ID during July and August, limit of six tickets per purchase.

A limited-capacity backstage tour is also offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, giving guests a once-in-a-lifetime behind the scenes look at both the historical and technical aspects of the show.

As the only showgirl show standing, Jubilee! embodies the very essence of sexy, classic Las Vegas. Earlier this month the show kicked off a new creative campaign. Tag lines reading “The headdress weighs 35 lbs. but the rest of the costume could fit in a teacup,” and “The grandest entrance in Vegas isn’t at the front of a hotel” remind audiences about the glamour and spectacle of 85 women wearing little more than feathers and rhinestones.

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Need a job with the show? 

To maintain the highest show quality, auditions are held every January and July for dancers and singers.  Auditions are in Orlando, New York and the entertainment capital Las Vegas. Aspiring female and male dancers are required to have strong ballet and jazz technique while singers are required to have range between up-tempo classic Broadway to ballads.

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Kids Free at Blue Man Group in Las Vegas

Las Vegas locals have another reason to hit the Strip for a little summer entertainment.  BlueMan

The Blue Man Group at the Venetian has a locals-only offer – just mention “Kids Free” when buying your full-price ticket and get one children’s ticket free.  This offer is valid for children 3-12 (children under 3 are also free and would sit on the lap of the adult) and is good through December 9, subject to availability.

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Peepshow in Las Vegas in Talks with Aubrey O’Day to Play Peep Diva

Aubrey O’ Day, late of “Danity Kane”, Playboy and Hairspray is now in talks to make her Las Vegas debut in the sexy song and dance extravaganza Peepshow at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, playing the role of Peep Diva. AubreyODay

The axed “Danity Kane” singer is being primed to take over the role of Peep Diva and if it all goes according to plan she will most likely start performing in Peepshow this Fall. 

Former Spice Girl Mel B ended her four-month run as the Peep Diva in Las Vegas’ Peepshow on June 21, the same day her counterpart Kelly Monaco, 33, finished her four-month run.  Holly Madison, 30, replaced Monaco in the role of “Bo Pee”. Broadway and R&B songbird Shoshana Bean is currently headlining as Peep Diva having replaced Brown. 

O’Day fell in love with the stage at age four, performing as Molly in Annie. Numerous musical productions in theatre followed, including: Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz; Carmen in Fame; Sandy in Grease; Liesl in The Sound of Music; Val in A Chorus Line; and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof. Aubrey traveled the world serving international charities, and recently founded an AIDS educational charity, F.A.N. and a clothing line, heartonmysleeveshop.com. She entered an MTV reality show contest, “Making the Band 3,” succeeding in the formation of the platinum selling group, Danity Kane; the first female group in Billboard history to have both their debut and sophomore albums enter the main charts at number-one. She made her Broadway debut in Hairspray in the role of Amber Von Tussle. 

The sexy Peepshow production has also recently launched its new website, www.LasVegasPeepshow.com. You’ll find updated information there, as well as exclusive photos and video.

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Carmen Electra Goes Topless in Las Vegas

When Carmen Electra bared all on the “Crazy Horse Paris” stage in Las Vegas last week, it wasn’t because she was told she had to, and it wasn’t because she had been asked to, either. 

Electra tossed her pasties to the side and went completely topless because she wanted to. 

“It felt so good,” Electra said. “No one was expecting it. It was a completely last-minute decision,” she explained, noting the full reveal was not part of the model-actress’ original plan. CarmenElectra

“I started off with a bra – a big bra – and a larger-sized panty,” Electra said, “(But) once I got here and had a chance to try on some of the costumes and get into some of the numbers, I decided to go with pasties, and then just yesterday right before the show … I was just backstage and they put the pasties on and I thought, no, let’s go without it, and I took them off and decided to just completely go for it.” 

“I thought I would’ve been a little bit more nervous about showing so much,” the 37-year-old former Playmate said, “(But) it was very easy to decide (to do) … I felt really comfortable.” 

Electra said her impulsive action had nothing to do with fellow topless show guest star Holly Madison’s decision to go topless during her stint as a guest star in “Peepshow.” 

Like Electra, Madison’s pasty-free premiere at Planet Hollywood was subject of much will-she-or-won’t-she speculation before her debut last month. Rather than competition, however, Electra views Madison as a fellow entertainer and friend. 

“There’s room for everyone,” the non-competitive and uncatty former Pussycat Doll said. “I’m such a girls’ girl; I support women and I think it’s great that she’s doing a show.”

 Electra said joining the “Crazy Horse” cast has been a thrilling experience. “I’m just having a blast so far doing this,” she said. 

“The dancers are so amazing, they’re so lovely,” the former “Baywatch” babe gushed. “They have the most perfect bodies and attitudes and they’re so much fun to work with.”

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Las Vegan ‘Leverage’ Actress Beth Riesgraf Stars as World’s Best Cat Burglar – & More!

Las Vegas Cimarron-Memorial graduate Beth Riesgraf stars as Parker in TNT’s highly popular “Leverage” TV show, playing a cat burglar with unmatched prowess for stealing priceless works of art, a room full of orphans, and even the Hope Diamond- and putting it back, just because she was bored. BethRiesgraf

She’s back for a second season of “Leverage” that debuts 9 p.m. (PT) this Wednesday, along with her co-stars Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane and Aldis Hodge. 

Born in Minnesota, Riesgraf moved to the Las Vegas Valley while she was in junior high.  Her parents have two construction companies, and once her dad began working in Las Vegas and in California, it only took one visit for her mom to move the rest of the family away from the frigid winters. 

Riesgraf was a member of the Cimarron-Memorial high school class of ’96, with a list of extracurricular activities longer than your arm, including being the student body president, prom queen, and voted the most admired senior. 

She also was involved in photography and sports in high school- pretty much everything but acting.  “Acting I always loved,” she said during a phone interview from Portland, Oregon, the locale for this season’s show, “but I think I was always kind of a character in real life.  I was always goofing off and having fun.” 

Riesgraf is also an accomplished photographer, sponsored by Swedish clothier WeSC, and her work has been exhibited in London, New York and Los Angeles and published in the likes of GQ, Jane and Nylon magazines.  She moved to Los Angeles when she was 20 and took up modeling to learn more about photography from the other side of the camera. 

Eventually, her agents started sending her on commercial auditions, and she found her calling, making the leap to movies and TV. 

She works almost non-stop, taking a brief time out to chat while scrambling for some caffeine to help recover from her 19-hour days. “We’re working hard, working long hours. It’s a lot of work, but it’s awesome. It’s fun.”

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Michael Jackson Benefit Concert & Jackson 5 Show Planned for Las Vegas

A Michael Jackson benefit concert is reportedly being held August 29 at the Palms, on what would have been Jackson’s 51st birthday. 

Talent planned will “run the gamut from cast member of current shows on the Strip to the big guys, along with some bands,” according to Las Vegas “Jersey Boys” star Erich Bergen. 

All proceeds will go to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, with a focus on music education in Nevada public schools. 

The event will be held in The Pearl, the Palms’ 2,500-seat concert venue. 

A Twitter feed has also been set up @VegasLovesMJ for fans who want to keep up with the latest developments. 

Meanwhile, Las Vegas KVBC-TV, Channel 3 entertainment reporter Alicia Jacobs reported Saturday, citing an informed source, that Jackson’s body has been moved out of music producer Berry Gordy’s crypt to an undisclosed location. 

Jacobs also confirmed that Jackson’s brother, Jermaine, could be meeting with Wynn Las Vegas executives this week to discuss a show featuring most of the Jackson 5.

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Las Vegas Street Performers Ready Courtroom Act

It the not too distant past it was a common and welcome sight to see street performers performing their shtick along the Las Vegas Strip, serving as eye and ear candy for weary travelers traversing the Sin City byways in searing heat.  

Now the historic forms of grass roots entertainment have largely diminished, if not totally disappeared from the Las Vegas landscape. 

But the times may be changing. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against police and public officials on behalf of two Las Vegas Strip street performers after one was arrested in March. 

ACLU lawyer Maggie McLetchie says the federal lawsuit was filed last Thursday on behalf of guitarist Suze Banasik and Elvis Presley impersonator Bill Jablonski to support free speech and free expression rights for street performers on the resort-lined Strip. street

The 45-year-old Banasik was jailed for 12 hours on obstructing a sidewalk and operating a business without a license charges before Clark County prosecutors dropped the charges. 

The ACLU has fought and won similar First Amendment battles for handbill distributors, political activists and street preachers on the Strip and at the downtown Fremont Street Experience casino mall. 

“They think each new type of expression they can suppress, and we have to go to court for each of those, and the results are always the same,” Las Vegas ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein said. 

The new lawsuit accuses Las Vegas police of harassing street performers, also known as buskers, on the Strip.  The lawsuit names the Metropolitan Police Department, Sheriff Doug Gillespie and three other Las Vegas police officers, Clark County, District Attorney David Roger and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto as defendants. 

ACLU attorney Maggie McLetchie said her group accepted the case “because street performers have free speech rights and the right to free expression, including on the Strip.” 

“Cases that were litigated have made clear that the sidewalks on the Las Vegas Strip are a public forum,” she said. “Despite this fact, we received a number of complaints from street performers that Metro was telling them they couldn’t perform.” 

Banasik and Jablonski both said they entertain tourists simply for the joy of it. They consider any tips they receive a bonus. 

ACLU attorneys say case law protects the performers’ activities even if they solicit money. 

“Lots of cases make clear that the only thing you could really limit is aggressive panhandling,” McLetchie said. 

Lichtenstein said such harassment has a “chilling effect” that keeps other performers away out of a fear that they will be cited or arrested. 

“For well over a decade, there’s been this attempt to make the sidewalks up and down Las Vegas Boulevard on the Strip the private domain of the hotel-casinos and their interests,” Lichtenstein said. “And the fact that the police continue to think that it’s more important to serve those interests rather than to protect the rights of free speech on those sidewalks as ordered by federal courts is disheartening.”

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Cher Returning to Big Screen

Caesars Palace headliner Cher is returning to the big screen, after a 10-year absence.  She will sing while playing Christina Aguilera’s mother in “Burlesque,” which starts filming in November.

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Pussycat Dolls Creator Announces New Las Vegas Performer Matt Goss

Burlesque Pussycat Doll’s founder and choreographer Robin Antin has a new act coming to Las Vegas.  British singer Matt Goss on September 4 will start performing regularly at the Lounge in the Palms Casino & Hotel. MattGoss

Goss was the lead singer of 1980s pop group Bros, recording and performing many UK chart-topping tunes. In the summer of 2003, Goss did a tour of 13 UK venues, releasing in November his first single in the UK since 1996, “I’m Coming With Ya,” that reached number 22 in the UK charts. 

He also appeared on the TV reality TV show “Hell’s Kitchen;” in March 2005 he released his autobiography, “More Than You Know”. 

“Matt will be having women in the audience just crying, “says Antin, adding, it doesn’t hurt that “he looks like David Beckham.”

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Professional Bull Riders Partner with Hard Rock in Las Vegas

The Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR) announced a new partnership with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The partnership will bring two marquis events to Hard Rock’s brand-new venue, “The Joint,” a 4,000 seat entertainment facility which held its Grand Opening in April 2009. Hard Rock Hotel will also be the official host of PBR’s pre-event VIP Parties during the second weekend of the PBR World Finals. bullriding

As part of the new partnership, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will play host to PBR’s Next Round Drafts on Friday, October 30, and Thursday, November 5, where the top 40 bull riders will select which bull they will take on during the next round of competition. The hotel will also host two Official PBR After-Parties which will immediately follow the drafts. Both the drafts and After-Parties will be held at the “The Joint,” where legendary musical acts such as Santana, Paul McCartney, Kenny Chesney, and others have played.

PBR and Hard Rock will work together to prepare hotel package promotions for World Finals attendees. Premium “access” items such as special lines or seating areas at After-Parties, drink specials, Meet & Greets, autographed merchandise, and other benefits are being planned for those that choose to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel during their World Finals experience. 

The Hard Rock Hotel will also be the official host of VIP Pre-Parties during the second weekend of the World Finals. PBR’s VIP guests will be treated to entertainment and hospitality prior to each night’s performance and then shuttled to and from the hotel. The Hard Rock Hotel is located close to Thomas & Mack arena providing VIP guests with easy access to and from the venue. 

The 2009 Built Ford Tough World Finals will showcase the bull riding athletes on in Las Vegas as they vie for more than $3 million in prize money. For the sixth time in its 16-year history, the PBR World Finals will span two consecutive weekends, Oct. 30-Nov 1 and Nov. 5-8. This marquee event represents the crown jewel of bull riding and culminates the 31-city 2009 BFTS tour.

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All Prostitution Doesn’t Involve Sex in Las Vegas

What do exotic and erotic Strip show performers do when not strutting their stuff in Las Vegas?  Strut some more, of course. 

The 96-seat Onyx Theatre in Las Vegas, housed in the back of a sex show in the Commercial Center, is a fitting space for a new show called “The Art of Prostitution “ artofprostitution

However, “Prostitution,” created by Wassa Coulibaly, a dancer in Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity,” isn’t just about the physical aspects of the oldest profession. 

Coulibaly, raised in a Muslim family in Senegal, says not all prostitution involves sex.  She considers “any love relationship that isn’t unconditional love” to be prostitution. 

“There’s so many type of prostitutes.  Prostitution doesn’t just happen on the street corner, it happens in many forms.  When something is repressed, sexuality come outs in a distorted way,” says Coulibaly. 

The performers for the show come for a variety of other Strip show, with the play beginning after they Monday shows, usually at 1 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Onyx Theatre, inside The Rack, at 953 E. Sahara Ave., Unit 16.  $20 admission.  More info:  www.onyxtheatre.com

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19-Year-Old Las Vegas Jazz Jam Session Still Wails

West Las Vegas was historically a proving ground for many of a young musician. Ray Anthony, Lionel Hampton, Sy Zenter and others picked a spot at one of the six clubs on Jackson Street in Las Vegas on Monday nights and jammed, because most musicians were off on Mondays. HuckDaniels

Those old days still live on in Las Vegas at the Huck Daniels Celebrity Jam at 8 p.m. Saturdays in the Fiesta lounge in the El Cortez.   Usually the sessions are packed and last until 1 or 2 in the morning, with more than a dozen musicians and vocalist usually taking their turn onstage, providing some of the best “hidden” entertainment in Las Vegas at a price that’s hard to beat: a two-drink minimum. 

It has not been easy for the Huck Daniels Celebrity Jam session, which began 19 years ago at the Aladdin, then bounced around to the Maxim, Continental, and the Stratosphere before landing at its present home at the El Cortez. 

“Now it’s a struggle to survive,” says guitarist Huck Daniels, who moved to Las Vegas from Reno in 1962.  “Back in the day, young musicians with a lot of experience could play smaller clubs till they got up on their instrument and stuff.  We don’t have that anymore and as a result you have guys who don’t know how to act on stage. 

“About a third or the people here are singers and musicians, the rest are just fans,” Daniels says.

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Human Nature, Smokey Robinson Take Las Vegas Back to Doo-Wop’n Roots

Human Nature, below, the Australian all male vocal group that formed as a doo-wop band called 4Trax in 1989, while theVBAIMG_1149SMALL four boys were still in high school in Sydney, has now turned into a top chart-smashing Motown group that is wowing sold-out crowds at the Imperial Palace with feel-good music.  Long in talent, they also have the distinction of having the longest show name in Las Vegas:  “Smokey Robinson Presents Australia’s Human Nature – the Ultimate Celebration of Motown.” 

The band already has 17 Top 40 hits and five Top 10 hits in Australia since 1996, when their first album Telling Everybody was released.   Their three follow-up albums all went multi-platinum in Australia.  

The King of Motown, Smokey Robinson, right, their producer along with Adam Steck, is also in talks to perform solo at Imperial Palace on Friday’s, Human Nature’s day off. VBAIMG_0939SMALL

“Very seldom do I get really excited about something musically,” said Robinson when he recently introduced the singers.  “But these guys blew me away.  They are singers’ singers.  In their area of the world they are the Beatles.  They haven’t been exposed in the United States yet, but they’re getting ready to take us by storm.”

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Harmon Lounge & Theater Carve Out Badass Live Music Scene in Las Vegas

The 400-seat Harmon Theater’s lounge, located behind Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile shops near the corner of Harmon and the Strip in Las Vegas, is just starting to get noticed big time by Las Vegas entertainers of all kinds.  The quaint venue is meant to host live bands- yes, live bands, remember those?    The lounge exudes a non-corporate cozy vibe, complete with red-velvet curtains and couches reminiscent of underground clubs in the hippest of the best music cities. 

“This is like New York, Chicago, London and Paris,” says J. Hutchings, bass player in the late-‘90s funk-rock band The Watson Family.   “This is a badass club.  I can imagine a scene forming here.” 

Equally significant, the Harmon Theater’s 1,3000-capacity main room- better known as the gay-themed nightclub Krave- has now been offered up for live acts Sunday through Thursday, which has Las Vegas-based promoter Brandy Provenzano dreaming big.  

“I’m still booking at Wasted Space and Beauty Bar [in Las Vegas],” says Provenzna.  “But I’m gonna start focusing my stuff here.  It reminds me of the Troubadour and the Roxy [in Los Angeles].  This could be one of those rooms bands would seek out to play.” 

The Harmon venues have hosted live music before, but during the bygone era of live music in Las Vegas.  Their resurrection could just mark a new chapter for the stagnant live music scene in Las Vegas.

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Las Vegan Lady Cage Fighter Gina Carano Ready to Rumble

Las Vegas fighter Gina “Conviction” Carano is a 27-year old role model for female mixed martial arts fighters.  She’s a superstar with a perfect fighting record and a penchant for marketing herself, being named to Yahoo’s “Top 10 Most Influential Women” and Maxim’s Hot 100 list. GinaCarano

“One day, I’m going to look on back on it and be so proud because I know that women’s MMA is going to do nothing but get bigger from here on out,” says Carano. 

On August 15 she is having a title fight with Brazilian Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, headlining the Strikeforce tournament. Carano is undefeated (7-0), trying to make history by being Strikeforce’s first-ever 145-pound women’s title holder. 

“Cyborg” is no pushover– her record is 7-1, her first loss coming from her debut fight.  

As beautiful as she is dangerous, Carano, who is also famous for starring in the remake of the American Gladiators as “Crush,” will be in for the biggest test of her fighting life, carrying women’s MMA future on her back.

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Las Vegas Illusionist Criss Angel Plans Revolting Trick

Luxor headliner Criss Angel is up to what many would say is a callous, dirty trick.   Courting controversy once again, this time it’s for a stunt that’s likely to shock, if not offend, many U.S. troops and their families. 

Angel, the star of Cirque du Soleil’s “Criss Angel Believe” playing at the Luxor in Las Vegas, plans to open Season 5 of his “Mindfreak” on A&E television August 12 by walking over numerous improvised explosive devices (IEDs) when filming the episode at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  

IEDs are deployed as roadside bombs in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, responsible for tragically killing thousands of servicemen and civilians. 

Angel says the stunt will be more dangerous than anything he’s ever performed; entailing him to tread gently over not one, but seven levels of the lethal, explosive mines. 

Critics are revolting, not sympathetic with Angel, blasting comments ranging from “just plaint tacky” to saying that if his psychic powers are that great that he’d be more useful in combat zones saving lives.

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Magician Lance Burton to Perform Six More Years in Las Vegas

After breaking his right foot during a show in May [previous Las Vegas Backstage Access article], magician Lance Burton is staying on the Las Vegas Strip for another six years.LanceBurton2

Burton and the Monte Carlo hotel-casino said yesterday that they have agreed to a new contract that will keep him as the resort’s headliner through 2015. 

The 49-year-old illusionist says he plans to return to the stage on Tuesday, July 7. 

Burton began his Las Vegas career 27 years ago with an eight-week trial engagement at “Folies Bergere,” which turned into a nine-year run.

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Kitsch Rules: Live Rock ‘N Roll Music Plays Every Mile Down Las Vegas Strip Marathon

The Las Vegas Marathon has long been a tradition in the Las Vegas Valley, but now the large national and international appealing race, along with the race course, is getting a whole new makeover under new leadership. The Las Vegas Rock N’ Roll Marathon unveiled it plans last week for their inaugural race on December 6 and the big change for runners is that they will be running smack dab on the Strip, not racing down residential streets as in past years. 

But that’s not all.  To provide a truly Las Vegas entertainment overload experience, local and regional live bands, not DJs, will be playing every mile and there will be competitions at the water stations for runners. 

On top of that, many runners will be dressed up in costumes, running for causes, and, yes, even getting married in group ceremonies during the run.

The estimated 20,000 runners and 150,000 spectators this year will hopefully also bring some much needed revenue to the City of Entertainment. If participation in the marathon reaches the numbers expected, organizers believe it will bring in about $40 million to Las Vegas and about $1 million in tax revenues.

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Las Vegas Headliner, Impressionist Fred Travelana Dies

Yet another great entertainer has been sadly taken from us…  

Impressionist Fred Travalena, a headliner in many Las Vegas showrooms and a regular on late-night talk shows with his takes on presidents, crooners and screen stars, has died in Los Angeles. He was 66. FredTravalena

Publicist Roger Neal says Travalena died Sunday at his home in the Encino area after a recurrence of the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that first surfaced in 2002. 

The Bronx native, who started his career in Las Vegas in 1971, was known for the sheer volume of celebrities he imitated, leading to the nicknames “The Man of a Thousand Voices” and “Mr. Everybody.” 

His act included presidents from Kennedy to Obama, musicians from Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen and actors from Marlon Brando to Tom Cruise.

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702.tv Launches in Las Vegas

702.tv recently launched in Las Vegas its new Web and TV product from Greenspun Interactive.  “News never looked so good,” touts the tagline of 702.tv’s promotional ads, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the show’s non-traditional approach to news.

Rob Curley, president and editor of Greenspun Interactive, said the project is part of a challenge laid out to his team by Brian Greenspun, Curley’s boss and Las Vegas media mogul who owns the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly, Greenspun Interactive, Vegas.com and a host of other properties in Sin City.

“If I were to try and tell you that this was built to save democracy, I’d be lying,” Curley said in a phone interview with Poynter. “We’re not trying to reinvent the news, we’re trying to go after an audience that doesn’t care about the news and trying to figure out how can we trick them into learning something. If we can reach that market and help our advertisers have success, we get to fund more journalism.”

To describe 702.tv to journalists (whom he emphatically emphasizes are not the target audience of the program), Curley has used the analogy of a bowl full of Skittles with a handful of vitamins mixed in; the show has a colorful, fun-loving format with a little bit of news that’s good for you.

The 30 minute, twice-weekly show airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. (PT) n VegasTV, a cable station that Greenspun has a major stake in. The show will also be distributed through multiple platforms — the Web, mobile devices and Apple TV.

The 702.tv team plans to go five days a week in the fall, with a potential lead-in from syndicated episodes of “The Office.” A staff of 11 produces the show with much of the content coming from local Web videos created from the company’s entertainment sites, including the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly. Curley said that generally a three-to-four minute package on the Web during the week ends up becoming a 90-second piece in a TV episode.

Curley said the new product will be marketed through ads and content promotion in the Greenspun family of publications, including two daily pages in the Las Vegas Sun devoted to sports and entertainment news, interactive billboards around Las Vegas, semi-monthly promotional parties and appearances on Las Vegas media outlets.

Curley admits 702.tv is in its early stage of development and is going to be constantly evolving. “The whole thing is a work in progress,” he said. “One of the things we learned out of Studio 55 is this sucker better evolve every day — and that means the broadcast piece and the Web piece.” 

The team is experimenting with new revenue models, including the use of “promotional partners” within the production to earn money. 702.tv hasn’t integrated any yet, but Curley said they will be clearly labeled and produced separately by Sun Media Productions (also a Greenspun business).

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Carrot Top Earns Six More Years in Las Vegas

Las Vegas prop comedian has signed a six-year contract extension at the Luxor in Las Vegas.  He has been performing at the Luxor since 2005.

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Michael Jackson Acts in Las Vegas Get Tribute Style Facelifts

Michael Jackson’s death has caused Las Vegas impressionists and comedians to scurry and quickly alter their acts, turning satirical scenes into sincere tributes. TerryFator3

Mirage headliner Terry Fator said he would cut a segment where he dresses up as Jackson and asks a cowboy puppet named Walter for country music lessons, where the cowboy is a little wary of the superstar. 

Golden Nugget headliner Gordie Brown is changing his Jackson impression of the “Billie Jean” song that has a parody of jokes about the singer having body parts fall off after too much plastic surgery. 

“American Superstars,” which features Frederick Henry performing at the Stratosphere, is looking for a way to pay a serious tribute to Jackson. 

Carrot Top’s publicist, Steve Flynn, said the Luxor comedian’s crew has already started editing the show-closing rock sequence which features Jackson’s music.  The comedian has removed all jokes that made fun of Jackson, but kept in a moment where he strikes a Jackson pose in front of an industrial fan, repositioning it as a tribute.

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Michael Jackson’s Ties to Las Vegas

Although Michael Jackson never performed a ticketed show in Las Vegas during his adult career, he had a high profile in the city and was a frequent visitor and sometimes resident in the recent years. MichaelJacksondeath

A teenage Jackson and his brother performed on the Las Vegas Strip as the Jackson 5, starting in April 1974 at the original MGM Grand (now Bally’s).  They performed several times that year. 

The King of Pop was also a guest for long stretches in the poolside villas of The Mirage during the ‘90s, when his friend Steve Wynn was the hotel chairman. 

The closest Jackson came to a ticketed performance in Las Vegas was in February 1994, when “The Jackson Family Honors” was taped in front of a live audience at the MGM Grand Garden arena for an NBC special.   The crowd screamed and cheered so much when Jackson came onstage that it took several minutes for him to be able to continue with his presentation, with his longtime friend and confidante Elizabeth Taylor finally quieting the crowd. 

Jackson started turning up more frequently in Las Vegas beginning in 2002.  He received the key to Las Vegas from Mayor Oscar Goodman in October 2003, and lived in Las Vegas with his children during a six-month stretch in 2007.  

On and off during the past decade he lived in Las Vegas in a Spanish Trails mansion owned by the Prince of Brunei, a home on West Palomino Lane (near Wasden Elementary School), and a rented house just west of Decatur Boulevard near Sahara Avenue. 

It is not immediately known how recently he lived in Las Vegas, but CNN reported he relocated from the Las Vegas to Los Angeles in May. 

During the filming of a controversial British documentary that aired in 2003, journalist Martin Bashir followed Jackson on shopping sprees around Las Vegas. 

Jackson created a media circus on November 20, 2003, when he returned to Las Vegas from Santa Barbara, California after posting his $3 million bail following charges of child molestation.  A slow-speed car chase ensued in the evening as local and national media followed from the air and ground Jackson’s Lincoln Navigator as it wandered the streets of Las Vegas and Henderson. 

Jackson stayed during that period at Green Valley Ranch and the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas before moving back to California to await his trial.   After being exonerated in June 2005, he left the United States for 18 months, spending time between Dubai and Ireland, before flying to Las Vegas on Christmas Eve 2006 with his children. 

He ended his stay in Las Vegas in June 2007, leaving a Summerlin rental home in filthy shambles, with piles of junk left on the curb in his wake. 

During his stay in Las Vegas, Jackson and his children were often spotted at local shows and attractions, fueling reports that Jackson three years ago was pursuing a Celine Dion-type residency on the Strip.  Eventually, Steve Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, had to issue an official denial of any plans to host Jackson in June 2005. 

In December 2008, Jackson was bailed out of the $24.5 million he owned on Neverland Ranch in California when Colony Capital, owned by billionaire Tom Barrack, bought the loan that also owns the Las Vegas Hilton.  That fueled speculation that Jackson would perform in La s Vegas to pay off the debt. 

The Wall Street Journal reported the possible tribute show at the Hilton similar to Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles show “Love” at The Mirage in Las Vegas.   Although talks and dinner meetings ensued with potential promoters, his “This is It” tour ended up planned in London. 

He was rumored to be a possible headliner at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. AEG Live, which books the Colosseum, said only that Jackson’s performance in London there would be judged for viability before discussing plans to bring him to Las Vegas. 

About a year and a half ago, Jackson resided and recorded at the Studio at the Palms Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas for two months, with Akon and RedOne producing.  Some of the material appeared on the 25th anniversary of his “Thriller” album, released last year.  It is not known how much more his work recorded there remains unreleased or the future of it.

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Huge “Ribbon of Life” Theatrical Show Comes to Las Vegas

The annual “Ribbon of Life” is a completely original production show. The largest show of its kind staged in Las Vegas, the production typically involves more than 200 performers from Las Vegas Strip shows and other theatrical organizations in the city. All talent in the show donates their time and talents to the cause, and the Las Vegas Hilton donated the theater space. 

It’s an all-original, all-singing, all-dancing musical throwback to the heydays of Vegas when Las Vegas-based HIV/AIDS charity Golden Rainbow presents its 23rd annual “Ribbon of Life” fundraising production show. The spectacular will be staged June 28 at 1 p.m. in the Hilton Theater at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas. 

The production is a fun dose of old Vegas nostalgia that will have you tappin’ your toes and singing along. Scheduled to appear are George Wallace, Human Nature, MTV’s Top Pop Group Mosaic and performers from Chapquist Entertainment, “Fantasy,” “Jersey Boys,” “Jubilee!,” “Ka,” “La Femme,” “Love,” “O,” “Phantom the Las Vegas Spectacular,” “Rich & Famous,” Searcy Entertainment, “Sin City Bad Girls,” “Voci Vegas” and “Zumanity.” 

The show is staged in three acts, celebrating the fun Vegas entertainment traditions of Rock & Roll (complete with Elvis tribute), Supper Club and Motown. Directing are veteran Las Vegas performers Chris Coaley and Shannon Hardin. 

Tickets are priced at $250, $200, $150, $100 and $50 and are available at www.goldenrainbow.org by calling (702) 384-2899.  All proceeds benefit Golden Rainbow’s mission to provide housing and direct financial assistance to Southern Nevadans living with HIV/AIDS and to support prevention education. Special room rates are available for attendees at the Las Vegas Hilton by calling (800) 732-7117.

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Where are the Las Vegas live entertainers?

Las Vegas was historically synonymous with live musicians playing in all the casinos and clubs.  They were in every nook and crany in Las Vegas.  But, with each passing year, a decreasing number of venues offer the real deal.  So, where have all the live entertainers gone?  While not extinct, but nearly so, the answer is simple: expensive tax laws sourly mixing with club profit goals and our continuing economic challenges.  Lounge

Nevada’s live entertainment law passed in 2003, went into effect on January 1, 2004, and was modified in 2005.  By Nevada Gaming Commission and State gaming Control board guidelines, gaming venues are required to pay – depending on the property’s gaming license (restricted or non-restricted), number of tables and/or slot machines and occupancy – between 5 and 10 percent casino entertainment tax from their gross receipts for hosting live entertainment events. 

The tax kicks in when live performances commence or when a cover is being charged for the host venue, whichever comes earliest. 

Neither you, the physical club nor the DJ counts as live entertainment – thus the meteoric DJ growth in Las Vegas.  Thing that do count:  singers, dancers, magicians, dancers, actors, acrobats, animals, and, yes, even circuses.  Flair bartenders don’t count unless they sing, dance, or perform acrobatics. 

“Unarmed combat,” NASCAR races, and events where all proceeds go to entirely nonprofit organizations are also exempt, as are outdoor concerts at non-gaming venues.  Fashion shows are taxable, but models coincidentally mingling in high-fashion clothes are not.  Karaoke is also exempt unless the leader/host is paid and performs.  

Go-go dancers and troupes can only perform in clubs for short periods- nine minutes at a time and no more than 20 minutes collectively in an hour.  To get around that, many Las Vegas clubs put the women to work as cocktail servers, shot girls or hostesses as their primary on-paper function; those who happen to also dance as their secondary function are exempt from the tax. 

And for all the entertainment the live entertainers provide, the patrons are still tax exempt.  Passing some of the steep tax in whole or part to customers is one way to avoid the problem; that’s how concert venues generally handle it. 

But many Las Vegas venues take the position of having an impromptu performance by a celebrity host (technically therefore a guest or patron who happens just to be a celebrity) – thus the reason that many times you don’t know who exactly is coming to a club.  A billed act or advertised performance is a surefire way to set the tax into motion.  Many just “suck it up” and pay the tax in hopes for bigger offsetting revenue returns. 

As readers of Las Vegas Backstage Access, what’s your recommended solution to get more live music and other entertainment?

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Animal Rights Groups Fighting Mad Over Dolphin Acquisitions at The Mirage in Las Vegas

As reported on by Las Vegas Backstage Access on June 7, the dolphin named Sgt. Pepper died on June 4 at The Mirage from complications from a lung infection. 

Now we learn that two days before the death, two animal rights groups, Born Free USA and The World Society for the Protection of Animals, filed a legal complaint against The Mirage’s petition to request to import two more dolphins for the Las Vegas resort’s habitat. 

On April 15, The Mirage placed an application with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service to import two captive Atlantic bottlenose dolphins form Bermuda for breeding purposes. 

The filed complaint alleges more dolphins shouldn’t be brought in because other dolphins had died in the past at the habitat, which the two groups claim is being used as a money-making enterprise rather than for educational or conservation purposes, as The Mirage contends.

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Controversy Swirls as Circus Comes to Las Vegas

The circus is back in Las Vegas, performing this weekend at the Orleans in Las Vegas.  The Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus arrived Tuesday night for their annual visit, but this year is different. The circus is awaiting a decision by a federal judge about whether it can continue to use endangered elephants in its act. elephant

Animal welfare groups have alleged for many years that what Ringling Brothers does is inherently cruel to elephants. Now, they’re waiting to see if a federal judge agrees with them. They hope this is the end of the line for more than a century of animal cruelty. The Ringling folks are just as confident that the show will go on. 

Animal activist Linda Faso has helped organize protests against every circus to hit Las Vegas for the last two decades, arguing it is inherently cruel to endangered Asian elephants to force them into the life of a traveling carny, and the proof is in the chaining of their feet. 

Some of the most pointed testimony to emerge in a six week federal trial focused on the feet of Ringling elephants. Nearly all of the animals have foot problems to one degree or another, not only because they spend most of their lives in chains, either in rail cars or on asphalt parking lots like the Orleans in Las Vegas, but also because elephants simply aren’t built to perform the kind of tricks they are taught for the circus. 

Former Ringling elephant handler Tom Rider was one of the star witnesses in the federal trial. He told the court there is only one way to get large, intelligent creatures to don funny outfits and perform amusing tricks, and that’s thru the use of pain and fear, as manifested in the use of the infamous bullhook. Ringling has compared the bullhook to a leash for dogs, but video captured around the country shows otherwise. 

The federal trial ended last March. The judge could decide that Ringling can no longer put elephants on the road and in the show. Even if the circus prevails in the case, the groups that sued believe they’ve already made an impact. 

At the Las Vegas unloading, the traditional bullhooks were nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by smaller, less menacing devices. It’s not enough, animal groups say. “I would assume that in various cities there are a lot more people watching now, so they are being more careful, and it’s just behind the scenes. I’m sure the elephants are being chained still, in boxcars which the general public doesn’t get to see,” said Nicole Paquett, attorney for Born Free USA. 

Paquett says the federal judge has scheduled more oral arguments to be held in July, so a decision won’t happen until after those sessions. But can Ringling carry on without its elephants? The animal welfare folks say yes and they point to the success of Cirque De Soleil shows in Las Vegas and throughout the world as an example.

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Las Vegas Celebrates Abolition of Slavery

The Civil War has long since ended and slaves freed, but the spirit of the historic occasion lives on in Las Vegas during the 9th Annual Juneteenth Festival.  slavery

The national celebration of Juneteenth was precipitated after Union soldiers, lead by Maj. Gen. George Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 and made a proclamation that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were free– nearly 2 ½ years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Despite the holiday falling into obscurity at the start of the 20th century, as many blacks migrated north and became separated from the roots of the tradition, and early ordinances forbid the celebration of Juneteenth on public property, the celebration has since rapidly gained steam and become a longtime tradition, especially in the South.  Historically, it was celebrated with fishing outings and barbecues on local church grounds. 

Juneteenth is a family-oriented Las Vegas event, including carnival games, art and craft booths, speakers, plenty of vendors hawking their wares, and, what would this festival be if not plenty of barbecued chicken and fried catfish– but no beer.

Scheduled performers include Grammy award-winning singer Najee, the Australian doo-wop group and Imperial Palace headliners Human Nature, “step” group Molodi, comedian and Flamingo headliner George Wallace and the cast members from Stomp Out Loud, who will join Skip Martin, lead singer of the platinum-selling funk-pop super group Kool & The Gang, as the headlining acts for the annual citywide celebration. 

The Las Vegas Juneteenth Festival will conclude today, Saturday, running from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Sammy Davis, Jr. Plaza in Lorenzi Park, located a few blocks west on Washington Avenue past Rancho Boulevard.  Admission is free.

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Las Vegas First Friday ‘Art Crawl’ Event Takes Nosedive

Selling cultural art opportunities in Las Vegas that are ostensibly designed to benefit residents, and not so much the tourists, is apparently a very difficult sell. 

‘First Friday’ in Las Vegas started in 2002 as an art crawl, or a monthly block party on the first Friday of each month that includes downtown galleries and businesses in the Las Vegas Downtown Arts District.  Art galleries were open.  Musicians would take to the sidewalks next to psychics, poets and other strolling performers.  Crowds grew from a few hundred to as many as 10,000, requiring barricades, police officers and a host of special permits. 

But now all that has changed.  No white familiar tents dotting the landscape.  No stages blasting rock music.  No crowds lining up in large lines at food vendors. 

Funding problems are causing Whirlygig, the nonprofit organization running the event, to scale back considerably.  Founder Cindy Funkhouser has been seeking money, including private donations, but not enough has resulted to keep the festival going. 

Festival costs are in excess of $13,000 a month for barricades, stages, power, lighting and permits.  Las Vegas, which is a large support of the event, contributing $80,000 a year, now concentrates that amount on just six months, when crowds are the largest, rather then the entire year.  It hoped Whirlygig would grow into a self-sustaining organization.  It didn’t. 

Funkhouser says she and her husband, Rick Dominguez, want to get back to presenting the large festival, but says “We’re just kind of winging it.  I’m just kind of at the point where this is what it is.”

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Nevada Films Goose State Revenue

Although Nevada tourism slumped in 2008, producers and directors of film and television projects spent $110 million shooting and finishing shows in Nevada in 2008.  The results surpassed the $103.3 million the Nevada Film Office counted in 2007, when a writers’ strike in November and December brought production to a nationwide halt. 

Among the film projects in Nevada in 2008, were such major movies as “The Race to Witch Mountain,” released in March, and “The Hangover,” a paean to Vegas-based bachelor parties, scheduled to open this month.  

But the real revenue bang accruing from Nevada filming comes from television shows.  Programs including “America’s Next Top Model,” “American Idol,” “My Super Sweet 16,” and “Bridezilla” all were taped in Nevada in 2008.  “The Jerry Springer Show” and primetime dramas including Fox’s “Prison Break,” and CBS’s “CSI:  Las Vegas” were all filmed in Nevada, as well as countless music videos, commercials, student films and other media projects. 

Approximately 95 percent of the Nevada filming has occurred in Las Vegas. 

Since 2000, producers and directors have filmed or taped more than 4,500 projects in Nevada, for an economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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Poker Ace Annie Duke ‘All In’ at World Series of Poker in Las Vegas

Poker ace Annie Duke plays poker like she is running a business, not letting emotions rule her play, thinking quicklyAnnieDuke and accurately, as witnessed in her latest TV show stint.  With CEO-like skills, she is one of the most successful female poker players in the world.  The 43-year-old Duke has been playing in the World Series of Poker since 1994 and has cashed in on 37 events, earning more than $1.13 million through the Rio tournament annually held in Las Vegas. 

Her best finish in the tournament’s $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em Main Event was in 2000 when she placed 10th and won $52,160.  She won her first World Series of Poker champion’s bracelet in 2004 at an Omaha High-Low event. 

“I’ll probably play in about 15 to 20 events at the World Series,” Duke said. “It’s a long haul.” 

Duke drafted a new legion of fans and followers, boosting poker’s image in the process, as a contestant in the television series “The Celebrity Apprentice.”  She was one of 16 personalities trying to raise money for charity while trying not to be fired by the host, billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump.  Duke finished second ahead of a whole slew of sports stars, but it was her acrimonious verbal battles with comedienne Joan Rivers, the show’s eventual winner, that had the audience turning on in record numbers, driving ratings out the roof. 

Rivers said Duke was worse than “Hitler” and compared poker players to members of the Mafia.  Although the comments raised the ire of the poker community and officials at the World Series of Poker, the media boost couldn’t have been better for the game, Duke and Trump– it raised more than $1.5 million for various charities. 

But Duke believes that Rivers still owes poker players and Las Vegas an apology. 

“Poker is a legitimate profession,” said Duke, who is a graduate of Columbia University with degrees in psychology and English.  She also spent five years working toward a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania in cognitive psychology, which she has set aside for now. 

Divorced, Duke is the mother of four children, ranging in age from 7 to 14.  

Her brother is poker standout Howard Lederer, who has two World Series of Poker titles to his credit.  On four occasions she and her bro have ended up at the same table during World Series of Poker play- each time she has knocked him out of the competition, adding “I guess I have bragging rights.” 

Duke is well known for her charitable giving efforts.  Through poker events, she has raised millions of dollars for children’s hospitals and educational foundations. 

In 2007, she and actor Don Cheadle established the Ante Up for Africa event, a $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold ‘em annual Las Vegas event in July that raises funds for the survivors of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.  The event attracts the best Hollywood A-list celebrities and the poker elite, raising $500,000 last year alone for the cause. 

Duke is also an activist on Capitol Hill in trying to change the federal law outlawing the Internet wagering.  She is one of the founding members of the Poker Players Alliance, which supports making online poker once again a legal activity.

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Hockey Pros, Celebrities Skate to First NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas

Team sports businesses haven’t been exactly brimming with kindness to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.   Try as he might – bless his ever-loving, gin-drinking pickled heart – efforts to bring a pro major league team to Las Vegas throughout his tenure have not produced results.   Apparently, for now at least, the long established Las Vegas gambling brand doesn’t mix well with courting pro sports teams in the City of Entertainment. 

The good news, though, is that the National Hockey League will at be having their prestigious 2009 NHL Awards in Las Vegas and the NHL Players’ Association will also hold its annual North American summer meetings here around the awards show. NHLawards

It marks the first time the annual awards show is being held in Las Vegas, an event usually reserved for Toronto,  coinciding shortly after completion of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

For the Las Vegas Wranglers, a minor league hockey farm club of the Calgary Flames of the NHL, it will undoubtedly be a a dream come true to conveniently head down the Strip and perchance rub elbows with the best pro players in the game. 

In the twilight of the Las Vegas mayor’s last term, the biggest names in major league pro hockey will  assemble in Las Vegas on June 18 at 4 p.m. at The Pearl Concert Theater in George Maloof’s Palms Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, opting to briefly trade their rink ice for lots of ice to chill their drinks in the hot box of a town.   

For many Las Vegans, however, the event may be akin to witnessing a UFO experience of a different kind. Las Vegas denizens don’t bet on hockey games, let alone who is going to win the MVP Trophy or Coach of the Year. They have way to many other things to do these days- like worrying about their jobs and paying their mortgages. 

And, if you’re an Ordinary Joe, you’ll need to really dig deep in your tattered wallet to be a part of the history-making hoopla– attending will set you back $504 at least per seat. 

But, from most accounts, for those that are fortunate to attend (or go in hoc trying), it should be a pretty good bash, inasmuch as owner George Maloof knows a thing or two about sports and Las Vegas since he is the owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. 

“We are so thrilled to be the host of the 2009 NHL Awards,” Palms Owner George Maloof said in a statement. “Working with the National Hockey League in bringing this event to Las Vegas is something that will be great for our community.”

At the ceremony the league will announce top performers in a variety of categories including valuable player (Hart Trophy), outstanding goaltender (Vezina Trophy), outstanding defenseman (Norris Trophy), outstanding rookie (Calder Trophy), and best coach (Jack Adams Award).

To sweeten the attendance draw, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Robin Thicke and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Chaka Khan will perform, and Saturday Night Live bandleader Katreese Barnes will head up the NHL Awards house band.

Celebrity hockey-loving fans Snoop Dogg, Michael Buble, William Fichtner, Tricia Helfer, Lauren Holly, Colin Ferguson and others are scheduled to appear alongside such NHL stars as Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers and many more planning to attend.

Past and present NHL stars are also scheduled to participate in the 2009 NHL Awards include Tony Esposito, Sergei Fedorov, Ron Francis, Doug Gilmour, Kelly Hrudey, Pat LaFontaine, Igor Larionov, Brian Leetch, Reggie Lemelin, Mark Messier, Stan Mikita, Andy Moog, Joe Nieuwendyk, Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick.

Athough it’s the inaguaral event for the City of Entertainment, it will be more than a one-night stand for the City of Entertainment.  The NHL and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA) have inked a three-year agreement to continue to bring the NHL awards to the Pearl Concert Theater at the Palms Casino & Hotel.

The awards will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on high definition VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.  NHL.com will provide streaming Internet coverage of the red carpet arrivals.  The Canadian band Arkells will perform.

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“Country Superstars Tribute” Act Temporarily Ends in Las Vegas

CountryStarsTributeThe “Country Superstars Tribute” is wrapping up their performances at Fitzgeralds in Las Vegas on June 28, with the “Marriage Can Be Murder” dinner show moving in the next day. 

The country show with the “Legends’ impersonator format has been growing strong for two years and more than 500 shows.  But the live band and multi-act format proved to be top-heavy for the room, which only seats about 120 people. 

Ron Keel, who originally co-produced and performed as Ronnie Dunn, has been spending more time out of the show, trying to revive his ‘80s rock band, Keel.  Producer Leonard Quenneville hopes to find a Las Vegas venue large enough to support the show’s format. 

“Marriage” will put the audience closer to fellow suspects when the dinner show gives up the Canyon Club at Four Queens for the cozier space at Fitzgeralds.

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Michael Jackson Faces $40 Million Lawsuit When Departing to London Shows This Week

Before heading off to London early this week, pop music icon Michael Jackson has a new $40 million lawsuit to contend with.   According to his attorney Ira Meyerowitz the new breach of contract lawsuit reportedly won’t stop Jackson from going ahead with his plans to perform in the 50-show “This is  It” tour in London. 

Allgood Entertainment reportedly had a signed contract with Michael’s manager to do a reunion concert with members of the Jackson family and produce it as a pay-per-view spectacular. The contract apparently had stipulations in it forbidding the sometimes Las Vegas resident to perform elsewhere beforehand or for 90 days afterward. 

But the London shows violated contract terms even before he’d performed them. Allgood’s managing partner, Patrick Allocco, said, “We’ve given Michael Jackson and his London promoters every opportunity to resolve this, but we have not heard from anyone. … . We want to be compensated for an agreement they entered into or be involved in some way with the London shows.” 

The deal called for him not to perform elsewhere for a certain period of time before the event or for at least three months after it. The lawsuit, now in court in New Jersey, says Jackson, manager Frank DiLeo and event promoter AEG Live/Concerts West broke the contract by signing to do the London series of concerts this summer. 

So far, representatives for Jackson and AEG have made no comment.

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Entertainer “Cuchi-Cuchi” Charo Quits Tribal Tour, Packs Bags for Vegas

It’s been a long time since the Latin flamenco guitar-playing jokster Charo has graced the Las Vegas Strip- 2003 to be to beCharo exact.   With the former burlesque show “An Evening at La Cage” closing at the Riviera, she’s heading to the showroom on July 10, complete with all her side-splitting boobie jokes. 

Charo briefly headlined at the Sevilla nightclub (now the V Theater) at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas before it went bankrupt in April 2003.  Since then the part-time Las Vegan has mostly entertained by touring tribal casinos.

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Magician Rick Thomas Brings White Tiger Act to Sahara in Las Vegas

Magician Rick Thomas and his band of white tigers will open at the Sahara on or about July 1.  Thomas has had a longRick Thomas career on the Las Vegas Strip, performing at the Tropicana and Stardust before his show at The Orleans closed in June 2007.

Thomas will do a mix of afternoon and evening shows in the theater built in 2000 by fellow magician Steve Wyrick.

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NASCAR Racer Kyle Busch: Enough Already!

Having a “Bad Boy” image, whether in sports, games, or Hollywood has become fashionably en vogue now.  Sporting antics and behaviors not of the squeaky-clean kind, if the truth be known, better sell tickets and some say help to develop sports dynasties- well, for awhile, at least.  Just look at the antics of pro footballer Terrell Owens, poker player Phil Hellmuth and, lest we forget, singer and pop princess Britney Spears. 

Las Vegas, not to be left out of the “elite” circle, boasts race car driver Kyle Busch, who just last Saturday smashed theKyleBusch champion’s “trophy” guitar after winning the Federated Auto Parts 300 in Gladeville, Tennessee.  Why you ask?  Reportedly, to share pieces of it with his team.  We kid you not. 

Mind you the guitar wasn’t a cheap knockoff.  Oh no, rather it was a unique, one-of-a-kind custom made Gibson Les Paul electric guitar adorned with artwork by the artist Sam Bass- it was one NASCAR’s most cherished trophies. 

Disrespecting the trophy and the artist is not a smashing good behavior example, definitely not befitting a role model for youth aspiring to be racers- and just plain good citizens. 

And, sadly, this is not the first incident that tarnished Kyle’s image, while also placing a pock mark on the venerable sport of auto racing. 

True, Las Vegan Kyle Busch is one of the world’s best racers right now.  But he’s also one of the most petulant teenagers on the track that’s not a teenager– he’s 24.   Hopefully, Kyle can now see fit to accept some “brotherly love” and ageless wisdom from his older brother, Kurt, who has matured in the past few years into one of the sport’s most eloquent spokesman. 

And the behavior modifications might just translate to a big payout.  While Kyle has won three Cup race to Kurt’s one this year, big bro is fifth in points with Kyle currently in ninth place.

Las Vegas Backstage Access readers, what say you?

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Garth Brooks Roping In New Las Vegas Deal?

As previously reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access, Garth Brooks poo-pooed any plans he had of performing in Las Vegas, supposedly working out a deal with Steve Wynn.  Was it a smokescreen?  GarthBrooks

On Monday at the Wynn Encore he had a surprise concert for 600 to 800 VIP guests.  The guests arrived at the theater to find black hats on their seats.  Out came Brooks, who put on a full concert without a band behind him. 

Some say that Brooks already has a Encore contract in his hands, but the sticking point is ticket prices.   Brooks, like Bruce Springsteen before him, apparently isn’t comfortable with “Vegas” ticket pricing- at least not yet.

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Previously Jailed Celebrity Impersonator Trina-Johnson Finn Returns to Las Vegas Home

Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn arrived back at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening, reunited with her husband and realtor, Raymond Finn, and a throng of well-wishers and fellow Las Vegas celebrity tribute artists that were shouting, waving and offering up balloons and flowers, including Willie Nelson (Roy Hammock), Jimi Hendrix (Jimi Taylor), Elvis (Greg Miller), Celine Dion (Elisa Furr), and Liza Minnelli (Suzanne Goulet).  

The former backup singer for Barbara Streisand and MC Hammer was finally back, united among friends and family, 15 pounds lighter after being jailed for more than 100 days in the South American nation of Suriname, surviving on a diet of mostly rice and fish. She was recently acquitted of all charges as reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access

She was accused of fraud after a South American promoter tried passing her off as the real deal Toni Braxton. She was told she was going to lip-sync five Braxton songs at a birthday party, but instead the “party” turned out to be a full-blown concert with hundreds of people paying more than $50 a ticket.  The crowd ultimately got the ruse, became unruly, verbally abusing and pelting her with bottles before she was arrested. 

“The first thing I’m going to do is sleep.  And maybe have a cocktail,” Finn said upon her return.

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CineVegas Film Festival in Las Vegas Offers Movies Galore- And Much More

Running over six days and one weekend, the 11th annual CineVegas film festival, starting this Wednesday, June 10, at the Brenden Theatres inside the Palms in Las Vegas offers a broader range of movie screening opportunities than ever before, providing something for every discriminating taste and style, from world premieres to sneak previews of independent film features that will be soon playing in theatres around the country.  

If that’s not enough, many seminars, parties, and A-list celebrity awards are also on tap, offering participants the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the best filmmakers in the country. 

Not surprisingly, Las Vegas itself plays a major role in several of the world premiere movie selections. 

Although there are way too many movies and events to list here, Las Vegas Backstage Access has put together our best picks, listed in date chronological order: 

Wednesday, June 10 at 7:30 p.m.

“Saint John of Las Vegas”  Opening night world premiere movie starring Steve Buscemi as a gambling-addicted Albuquerque insurance adjustor, who returns to the scene of his temptation to investigate a fraud case, encountering a variety of offbeat characters, including a wheelchair-bound stripper and a human torch. 

Thursday, June 11 at 3:00 p.m. & Sunday, June 14 at 1:00 p.m. 

“Vegas: Based on  a True Story,” from Iranian director Amir Naderi,  the movie focuses on ex-gamblers trying to keep their family out of trouble- until the temptation of finding cash in the desert proves too irresistible. 

Thursday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, June 12 at 12:30 p.m.

“All In:  The Poker Movie,” is a documentary world premiere movie that was filmed in Las Vegas that focuses on poker as “a way to chase the American dream,” according to director Douglas Tirola.  

Saturday, June 13 at 5:30 p.m.

“Thor at the Bus Stop,” is a U.S. premiere movie all about a Norse god that finds himself in a Southern Nevada suburb trying to save the world. 

Sunday, June 14 at 3 p.m.

Willem Dafoe receives Vanguard Actor Award 

Sunday, June 14 at 5 p.m.

Filmmakers and Honorees Awards Ceremony & Reception at Rain Nightclub inside the Palms.  In addition to awards to Jon Voight, Willem Dafoe and the Kuchar Brothers, Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago will receive the Planet Illogica Award for New Media. 

Sunday, June 14 at midnight:

“Lookin’ to Get Out,” is a totally revamped version of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight’s 1982 made-in Las Vegas comedy movie filmed at the original MGM Grand (now Bally’s), which director Hal Ashby recut and donated to the film archives of the University of California, Los Angeles just before his 1988 death.    Voight will also receive the Marquee Award that accompanies the screening. 

Movie screenings listed here are at the Brenden Theatres at the Palms.  Individual screening tickets are $10, except for Wednesday’s opening movie premiere of “Saint John of Las Vegas,” which is $25.  Festival movie screening passes range form $40 to $500, with Las Vegas, senior, student and military discount packages available.  Tickets may be purchased at the CineVegas box office at the Palms, or online at www.cinevegas.com or by phone 888-883-4278.

Be sure to check out prior January 6,  April 25 and May 29 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles on the CineVegas film festival.

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Dolphin Dies at The Mirage in Las Vegas

Sgt. Pepper, born on June 8, 2008 at The Mirage, one of six dolphins at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas died on June 4 from complications arising from a lung affection.  The dolphin is the 14th to die at the educational attraction since it opened at The Mirage in 1990. 

Animal welfare advocates have long voiced their concerns that dolphins are not suited for such public displays, and that the exhibit’s confines are inadequate when compared to the natural habitat of the ocean.

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Rare World Series of Poker Feat Pulled off by Las Vegan

Las Vegan Thang Luu, a 34-year-old Vietnam native who has been living in the United States for the past 17 years, has won the $1,500 buy-in Omaha High-Low World Series of Poker (WSOP) event for the second year in a row.   Luu also finished second in the same event in 2007. ThangLuu

Luu raked in $263,135 for first place, the largest cash prize ever awarded in an Omaha High-Low tournament.  He defeated a field of 918 players over three days. 

The last time any poker player has finished first, first and second in the same event at WSOP was Johnny Chan’s accumulated record in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event in 1987-1989.  Chan won the titles the fist two years but finished runner-up to poker “bad boy” Phil Hellmuth in 1989.

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Las Vegas Tribute Artist Trina Johnson-Finn Released in Suriname

A judge in Suriname on Friday released Las Vegas entertainer Trina Johnson-Finn who was accused of posing as singer Toni Braxton at a concert there where she was pelted with trash and booed offstage. 

The 20-year professional singer who has augmented her career by impersonating stars as a “tribute artist” is now planning her return to Las Vegas to be with her husband, Raymond Finn, emotionally drained and financially devastated after the ordeal. 

Finn, who had spent three months in jail there, said she would not be present at her formality sentencing hearing on Tuesday. 

Finn has repeatedly said she was not involved in the impersonation scheme cover up that charged up to $53 per ticket for the Feb. 28 concert in Suriname’s capital.  A crowd of 3,000 threw bottles and beer cans at Finn in what has been dubbed the “Phony Toni” concert. 

The promoters Angel Ventura and his girlfriend Signet Sampson, though, remain in custody there and are expected to stand trial in July. 

Please see  April 25 and May 7 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles covering this case.

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Burlesque Queens Flaunt Their Pasties in Las Vegas

The Burlesque Hall of Fame’s annual Exotic World Weekend is running now through Sunday at The Orleans in Las Vegas.   The talent gathering includes retired and active burlesque dancers.  It’s been the fifth venue for the celebration in as many years. ExoticWorldWeekend

Burlesque greats like Tempest Storm, Kitten DeVille, and Candy Caramelo (billed as the “world’s biggest showgirl,” flaunting her 46DDD cups) will be on hand (or in hand?) doing their thang. 

“We’re happy to have our own little world,” executive producer Frederic Apcar says of the 800 vintage-wear enthusiasts that are planned to frolic at the event. 

The “Best of Burlesque” pageant will be on Saturday.  On Sunday their “Closing Gala” will star El Vez, the gay Mexican Elvis Presley.  For information, click on over to www.burlesquehall.com or call The Orleans box office at 702-365-7070.

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Stars of “The Hangover” Hijacked in Las Vegas Orgy-fication

Actress Heather Graham plays a single mom stripper in the new Las Vegas-filmed comedy movie “The Hangover,” which opens today.   During a break in filming, Graham went to see the Cirque du Soleil hot and naked “Zumanity” show in Las Vegas with co-star Bradley Cooper and director Todd (“Old School”) Phillips. Heather Graham

Every night, for the finale, cast members toss unsuspecting audience members onstage for a sexless orgy.  The night they visited, the Zumanity cast slipped Copper into the orgy, took off his shirt and rubbed him all over, according to Graham. 

Bradley CooperCooper was not only unsuspecting, but before the show, Cirque workers assured him, Graham and Phillips they would not be orgy-fied. 

“They were like, ‘We’re not gonna take you guys up onstage,’” Graham says.  “We were like, ‘Oh good’ – and then they grab Bradley, take his shirt off, and he’s like, ‘Ohhh!’ Really freaking out.” 

But it was all apparently in fun as they just laughed the incident off.

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Las Vegas Teen Finishes 11th in National Spelling Bee

It was the best Scripps National Spelling Bee finish since at least 1996 for a Nevadan (when the competition started keeping records) when 13-year-old Tussah Heera of Las Vegas valiantly tried spelling the word “herniorrhaphy”- a surgical procedure used to fix hernias.   The double letters gave her a challenge and instead of spelling it with a double “r” she used one, finishing the contest in 11th place.

Heera, who is home schooled, distinguished herself in March, too, when she beat 36 other students to win the Nevada state title and earned a trip to Washington, D.C., competing against 292 other top spellers. 

Heera does more than spell well.  She plays piano and cello and has been honored in local competitions for both her performance and her composition.  She also writes poetry. 

Las Vegas Backstage Access honors Tussah Heera- she’s our winner!

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Jermanine Dupri Bringing The Rat Pack Back to Las Vegas?

Music producer Jermaine Dupri is reportedly on a quest to bring The Rat Pack era to Las Vegas. JermaineDupri 

Dupri, Janet Jackson’s longtime main squeeze, wants to see Las Vegas return to the time when the coolest dudes in town wore tuxes and suits. 

He has recruited Usher and Nelly into a group Dupri has dubbed “Ocean’s 7,” after the Rat Pack movie, “Ocean’s Eleven.” 

“I want to see Vegas go back to what it was,” says Dupri. 

Dupri, usually seen in public dressed in a white tuxedo with a black tie, and his crew has been the recent talk of the Las Vegas club scene, with their impromptu singing performances mirroring the Rat Pack. 

Others in his elite group include music producer Bryan-Michael Cox, singer/songwriter Trey Songz and four-time Grammy winner Johnta Austin (the Sinatra of the group according to Dupri), and Tyrone Davis, Dupri’s personal assistant. 

The idea came to Dupri earlier this year when he was producing Usher’s new album at the Palms recording studios in Las Vegas.  That mix tape of the group has just come out at www.global14.com 

Dupri has reportedly big plans for “Ocean’s 7” including an album, a movie and “the ultimate show in Vegas.”

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Las Vegas TV Producer Allen Fawcett Plans New Vegas Show

Las Vegas TV producer and resident Allen Fawcett has starred in four Broadway musicals, including New YorkAllen Fawcett productions of “Shenandoah,” “Rex,” “King of Hearts,” and the American premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,”  playing as Joseph for about nine months in the early 1980s. 

From there he went on to host and write 134 episodes of the 1980s comedy lip-sync game show “Puttin on the Hits,” produced by Dick Clark. 

Fans of “General Hospital” will recall him as Swedish heartthrob Lars Hansen.  And he played Kelly McGrath on “The Edge of Night” soap opera TV show. 

Now, Fawcett is reportedly in the process of creating, producing and hosting a Las Vegas-based show titled “Let’s Do Vegas TV,” planned to air mid-summer.

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Michael Jackson Opening a ‘Thriller’ Casino in Las Vegas

The 50-year-old pop icon singer and prior Las Vegas resident is reportedly planning to launch the zombie-themed gambling den in Las Vegas next year. 

He is also believed to be working on a new album, several films and a museum to house iconic items from his career. 

Jackson is even hoping to launch a three-year world tour after his 50-date residency at London’s O2 arena concludes in March 2010. 

The pop superstar claims he is interested in any business endeavour that can help revive his flagging fortune. Jackson is allegedly over £100 million in debt. He has been sued by dozens of former associates and was even forced to sell his beloved Neverland Ranch last year. 

The star is expected to make nearly £100 million from his ‘This Is It’ London residency, which is due to start next month, but fans fear he will not be fit enough to perform. 

Jackson has already postponed the first four concerts and is facing the prospect of delaying more, as he allegedly battles skin cancer.  The singer reportedly had surgery to remove potentially fatal growths from his nose and arm last month, and may have to undergo intense radiotherapy treatment which would leave him unable to perform live.  Although the 50-year-old star insists he is in great health, doctors are apparently worried about a patch of cancerous skin on his chest.

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450-pound Drag Queen Voted Best Joan Rivers Look-Alike in Las Vegas

Cher Impersonator Tiny Bubbles, a 450-pound drag queen, was voted best Joan Rivers look-alike at Annie Duke’s Hard Rock poker benefit in Las Vegas last Wednesday. 

The event featured 20 Rivers impersonators.   Frank Marino, who headlined as Rivers in “An Evening at La Cage” for two decades walked the red carpet with Duke, who finished second in “Celebrity Apprentice” to Rivers. 

Rivers previously labeled poker players as “white trash” and “mafia” during “Apprentice,” as written on  May 27  by Las Vegas Backstage Access.

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The Crazy Girls Show in Las Vegas Struts for U.S. Topless Domination

The Crazy Girls is a topless show showing plenty of bottoms at the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas.  But now they also want to spread their sin, taking their wares in a move across America.  While they are still appearing in their topless show atCrazyGirls the Riviera, a new Crazy Girls Cafe could perhaps be coming to a neighborhood near you. 

Producer-owner Norbert Aleman is preparing to unveil the first Crazy Girls Cafe in the French Quarter in New Orleans.  Then he has ambitious plans set for a string of them from as nearby as Reno to as far away as Atlantic City, N.J. 

Dancers will strut their stuff atop the bar and customer tables at each place, and there’ll be a gorgeous female singer who’ll play mistress to oversee the party hijinx. 

“It’s a fun, wild concept that marries fabulous food with delicious drinks and an outrageous party feel,” Norbert said. “It’s priced right so people will want to shake off the economic blues with a real fun night out without feeling pained when the check arrives.” 

Norbert plans to have 10 venues open over the next 12 months under terms of a deal he has made with a Las Vegas gaming entertainment company.

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Rare One-Night Stand for Larry King in Las Vegas

Emmy Award winning CNN broadcast journalist host Larry King will appear in a rare one-night only show in Las Vegas at the Encore in answer to a dare from Encore developer Steve Wynn. LarryKing

With more than 50 years experience in broadcasting, King will bring a wide range of stories and anecdotes to the stage.  As it is on his talk show “Larry King Live”, no subject will be off limits during the Friday, June 19 performance. 

The opening act will be Shawn King, Larry King’s wife, who recently released a new country album titled “In My Own Backyard.”   Proceeds from the June 19 performance will benefit the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.  The foundation assists uninsured individuals obtain the cardiac care that they would otherwise not be able to afford. 

Tickets range from $59 to $79 and are available at the box office, by phone (702-770-9966).

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Hip Hop Living Legends Award to Toni Basil in Las Vegas

Caesars Palace headliner Bette Midler’s multiple-award-winning choreographer, director, producer and performerToni Basil Toni Basil will receive the 2009 Living Legends of Hip Hop Award at the 8th Annual World Hip Hop Dance Championship at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on August 2. Toni has choreographed and directed commercials, TV shows, movies, music videos and world tours for such entertainment icons as David Byrne, David Bowie and Tina Turner. 

She has served as dance director and choreographer for Midler for more than two decades, including her current hit The Showgirl Must Go On at Caesars Palace and returned for Bette’s new run of shows. Her recording and energetic music video for “Mickey” in a Las Vegas High School cheerleading outfit (her alma mater) have left an indelible mark on pop culture and is placed in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. 

At the World Hip Hop Dance Championship, Toni will become the first woman in the event’s history to receive the Living Legends of Hip Hop Award, taking her place alongside such past recipients as MC Hammer, Boogaloo Sam and Don “Campbellock” Campbell.

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Nickelback Brings Dark Horse Tour to Las Vegas

Nickelback is bringing their Dark Horse tour to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, September 6.  Special guests include Hinder, Papa Roach and Saving Abel. Nickelback

Their 32-city tour kicked off in February and they have been selling out arenas all across the country ever since.  The Nashville Scene succinctly said it best:  “…nobody puts on a better show than Nickelback does.” 

Dark Horse, the 2008 release from Nickelback, is their first album since the best selling All The Right Reasons which came out in 2005.  Nickelback currently has the number one rock song in the country with “Something In Your Mouth” and their latest single “If Today Was Your Last Day” has become a radio and video sensation. 

Tickets can be purchased at http://www.mgmgrand.com/entertainment/grand-garden-arena.aspx .  Tickets range in price from $51.50 to $89.50.

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Liberace’s Legacy Lives On After Death With Monthly Revue

The Liberace Museum has been a part of the Las Vegas Experience since 1979, entertaining tourists and locals while preserving the Liberace star and funding scholarships for more than 2000 students at more than 100 colleges. LiberaceMuseum

“Mr. Showmanship” spent decades entertaining in clubs, theatres and even Carnegie Hall.  While he may be best remembered for his flamboyant style (rumor has it that he introduced Elvis Presley to his first flashy stage costume),  he saw his success as an opportunity to assist others. 

Liberace’s education was funded in large part by scholarships and in his book, ‘The Things I Love’, Liberace wrote, “a lot of good things have happened to me in show business and I want to do what I can to give others just starting out a career boost. I hope The Foundation projects will continue into the future to offer gifted newcomers financial help, and in many cases, artistic exposure as well.” 

As part of the on-going effort to continue the work of the Liberace Foundation and Museum, a new monthly revue will premier at 9p.m. on Wednesday, May 27 at the museum’s theater, 17705 E. Tropicana Avenue. 

“VS. – A Rock Cabaret,” will feature a variety of entertainers and become a regular last Wednesday of the month event in Las Vegas.  The performers on the ticket for this months show include Erich Bergen and Kristofer McNeeley from “Jersey Boys”; and Bobby Black from the Las Vegas Tenors and Melanie Taylor from “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits”. 

Tickets are $20 each.  For more information, 702-798-5595 extension 14 or at http://www.liberace.org/

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It’s No Bull: Bullfighting Comes to Las Vegas!

Las Vegas constantly is reinventing itself as a city.  So it comes with surprise that bullfights are now coming to Las Vegas, starting on September 14-15 at the South Point Arena.  That follows with the second event on September 27-30. The matador lineup includes Mexico’s Eulalio Lopez, known as “El Zotoluco.” Bullfighting

The bill of faire, though, will be made more palatable, featuring bloodless bullfights. 

 It has been more than 40 years since bullfights were held in Las Vegas.

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Want to meet President Obama in Las Vegas?

How does meeting President Obama sound? Have you ever wanted to create a great campaign slogan? Now is your chance to do both. 

On May 26th, President Obama, Rachel Yamagata, Rita Rudner, Sheryl Crow, and Bette Midler will be honoring Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid at a tribute event at the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace.  A limited number of seats are still available for $250, $125, and $50. 

Nevada residents who purchase tickets and submit their idea for a 2010 campaign slogan for Harry Reid by 11:59 PM Saturday, May 23rd (including those who have already purchased tickets) will be automatically eligible to win a pass to a very special backstage reception with President Obama, Senator Reid, and special guests.  Reid’s campaign manager, Brandon Hall, will judge one original campaign slogan submission to receive a pass to the backstage reception. 

Click here to purchase your seats and submit your idea for a 2010 Harry Reid campaign slogan to be automatically entered in the contest for a pass to the special backstage reception. 

To bypass the slogan submission form, and simply purchase tickets to the event, click here.

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Top 10 Las Vegas Entertainment Picks for Memorial Day Weekend

With an estimated 230,000 visitors flocking into Las Vegas over the holiday and entertainment options busting from the seams, here’s our Las Vegas Backstage Access Top 10 best picks for prime time Memorial Day weekend fun faire in Las Vegas: 

May 23 – Whoopi Goldberg at Wynn Encore

May 23 – Jermaine Dupri at Body English in Hard Rock

May 23 – Taylor Swift at Mandalay Bay Events Center

May 23, 24 – Beach Boys at Mandalay Bay Beach

May 23, 24 – Free concerts for The Guess Who (23) and Blood, Sweat & Tears (24) at Lake Las Vegas, ‘Summer of 69’ Tour

May 23, 24 – Dane Cook at the Pearl in the Palms, “Isolated Incident Tour”

May 24 – Allman Brothers Band 40th Anniversary Tour at the Sandbar at Red Rock Casino & Hotel

May 24 – Terrell Owens “Athletes & Angels Takeover” at New York-New York Rok Vegas nightclub

May 24 – Tiesto at the Jet nightclub in the Mirage

May 24 – Joel Madden of Good Charlotte does a DJ set at the Bank in the Bellagio

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Carmen Electra to Star in ‘Topless’ Las Vegas Show

CarmenElectraAmerican TV and film personality Carmen Electra is geared up to star in a new ‘topless’ Vegas show, but she will not be going topless.

Though the topless cabaret show at MGM Grand has signed Electra, she will not baring all for the show.

“She’s not going topless, but she will be wearing very little. She’s going to wear whatever she is comfortable with,” People magazine quoted a source as saying.

Meanwhile, Carmen is thrilled to be part of the much-anticipated forthcoming show.

“It is such an iconic show and I was in awe after seeing it for the first time. The dancers and the performances are so sensual and sexy,” she said.

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Phantom of the Opera Fanatics Invited to “Fans Week” in Las Vegas

Famed Broadway director Harold Prince will give the keynote address and share his experience of putting together The Phantom of the Opera at a “Phantom Fans Week” Sept. 16 through 20 in Las Vegas. PhantomoftheOpera

Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular — Prince’s 95-minute environmental adaptation of the smash by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Venetian Resort — will host the week-long celebration of all things Phantom. 

That week, according to producers, fans will get exclusive access to the show at special ‘Insider Sessions’ and hear from the biggest names in the Phantom world.  With different registration levels available, ranging from $250 to $450 ticket prices, fans can spend a full week or a short weekend. 

All registration levels include admission to all six “Insider Sessions,” including the keynote address by multiple Tony Award-winning director Prince, the chance to attend up to four performances of the 90-minute, uniquely-tailored Vegas Phantom and “exclusive access into a grand Masquerade Ball with the cast of Phantom.” 

A special dinner with executive producer Scott Zeiger at Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio Restaurant or a Farewell Brunch at Bouchon Restaurant are also offered. 

“Insider Sessions” include a Q&A with Tony Award winner Anthony Crivello, who plays The Phantom; meetings with Phantom’s production designer Paul Kelly, associate costume designer Sam Fleming and other personnel who will share their secrets of success. 

Phantom was adapted for the sitdown Vegas run in a venue that re-creates the Paris Opera like no other production of the Lloyd Webber musical. 

“We’re proud to host the first ever Phantom Fans Week and offer this kind of exclusive access,” said Scott Zeiger, co-CEO of BASE Entertainment and executive producer of Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular. “In addition to hosting this extraordinary affair, we’re also thrilled to have Harold Prince, our illustrious director, return to Las Vegas.” 

Packages start at $250 a person with special discounts for those who register early. 

Phantom at The Venetian is produced by The Really Useful Theatre Company Inc. and BASE Entertainment. 

Phantom performs at The Venetian Resort on Monday and Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday at 7  p.m. (dark Sunday). 

For more information or to register for Phantom Fans Week: http://www.phantomvegasoffers.com/newsletters/fansweek/full/index2.html 

For more information on Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular:

http://www.phantomlasvegas.com

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Paris Hilton to Stand Trial for Breach of Contract

Socialite extraordinaire and frequent Las Vegas partier Paris Hilton is like no other.  She just slipped up and didn’t honor a deal to promote herself as part of the film Pledge This!, according to its producers. ParisHilton3

A Miami judge ruled that he will not throw out a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought against the filthy rich ho-tel heiress by the distributors of the 2006 drivel. 

Investors claim Paris’ failure to abide by her contractual obligation to adequately plug the straight-to-DVD sorority flick resulted in a loss of $8.3 million. 

Ironically, she’s now indirectly doing more to promote it – testifying how she has to Google herself daily to remember what she said or did, rather than keep records, and so on – more than marketing managers could have possibly dreamed of. 

Her attorney recently claimed Hilton to be “the single busiest person on the planet,” but still the logic escaped the  judge that didn’t throw out the case, telling her she must stand trial June 8. 

As for her other projects less likely to result in lawsuits, she’s now soaking up the sun in Europe, with beau Doug Reinhardt, promoting the upcoming documentary Paris, Not France appearing this week at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Hilton is also already hyping the forthcoming Season 2 of My New BFF that kicks off on June 2 on MTV, something that seems to hearken back to her Pledge This! days. 

“It was basically Paris’ sorority house,” Hilton tells E! News.  “It’s about sisterhood – there’s pledging, there’s crazy challenges. We had the best time. We started out in Las Vegas, and these kids really were up for anything.”

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Carlos Santana, Ganja & Bogeymen

Carlos Santana under hypnosis must feel he’s died, gone to heaven, then was  lucky enough to have been mysteriously reincarnated smack dab in Sin City.  To be honored and appear in a Las Vegas concert series no less, with ticket prices hovering in the rare ionosphere air, most likely exudes an unsurpassed nirvana feeling for the music icon that’s managed to live out his 1960s in 2009.  CarlosSantanaUSE

“Supernatural Santana: A Trip Through the Hits” is Santana’s new 72-show residency at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas that launches May 27, with 36 concerts planned for this year and 36 in 2010. 

With Santana anything is possible- and usually you can bank on it.  Talking and singing about love, light, and spirituality, you never know quite how to read him. 

What drives this man of superhuman music talent?  Some might arguably say it’s money and really his last stand to go for the gusto, with ticket prices for his new Las Vegas shows ranging from $79 up to $299 — which is a lot of money for many people in this economy. 

But their apparently all wrong; Santana says it hogwash:  “I have no clue about that. I’m more with, ‘This finger goes onto this note and it makes juicy sounds, and I’m going to make people dance and laugh.’  It’s not like I don’t care or I’m ignorant. It’s just that I’m not wired to have that insignificance on me other than what I’m going to get to give back to other people. 

His viewpoint on drugs, on the other hand, is a totally different matter. “I think that the solution to all of this stuff would be to legalize it, decriminalize it, reinvest all that money into teachers in schools.” says Sanatana. 

“If we would teach in schools the incredible sensation of climax that it feels to be of service to other people — like Mother Teresa, or Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama — smoking pot, and drinking tequila, and watching porno or whatever people do, it pales in comparison when you actually wake up to be of service to people.” 

I think we should legalize marijuana. I think Barack Obama should bring the brothers and sisters home — the soldiers. If I was to see him, I would go, ‘Listen to Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and John Coltrane, and bring the boys home from the war now, like we did with Vietnam.’ They’re not going to come here. People in Vietnam did not come here to attack us after we left them alone. So let’s get rid of that fear, that fantasy, that stuff. Let’s get rid of the bogeyman, because the bogeyman is us looking in the mirror of each other.” 

So just maybe his residency in Las Vegas might also be his ticket for euphoric happiness, proving to offer a symbiotic relationship with his favored ganja.  Where Las Vegas is not really Amersterdam where anything does go, it’s somewhat friendly to marijuana smokers.  “Medicinal use” of course. 

After all, Nevada’s voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2000. Patients diagnosed with a “qualifying condition” are allowed to possess small amounts of the drug.  They also are allowed to grow it for their own use. 

They are not allowed to grow it for lots and lots of other people and sell it to them.  But any licensed doctor can prescribe marijuana in Nevada. 

But regardless of Santana’s passion and love for good vibes, cannabis and dislike of bogeyman, his upcoming Las Vegas concert series will surely test the mettle of our local entertainment-based economy in these challenging times.

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George Clooney Films in Las Vegas

Iconic actor George Clooney was reportedly spotted yesterday shooting film scenes and reacting to fans outsideGeorgeClooney Bally’s in Las Vegas for Paramount’s “Up in the Air.”   Later, Clooney shot scenes at a vacant hotel across from Mandalay Bay.  When filming completed, he was seen hugging everyone he worked with.

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Holly Madison to Star on ‘Peepshow’?

Hugh Hefner’s former No. 1 squeeze, who now provides almost daily eye-candy photo ops in Las Vegas, will reportedly co-star opposite former Spice Girl Mel B in the adult cabaret “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas.    TheHollyMadison2 show has recently converted its format and is largely topless.

Madison is replacing Kelly Monaco, who never planned to go beyond her three-month contract. 

Yesterday, Madison lead the pack in the world’s largest bikini parade in Las Vegas – 281 bikini-clad women set a world record, according to a Guiness World Records represenataive, parading on the Strip from the Wynn resort to Fashion Show mall.

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Las Vegas Goes to Hell for Fun of it

Many believe that Las Vegas already provides the best ‘Hell on Earth’- but it’s all good clean Old West fun when the Helldorado Days celebration comes to the middle of downtown Las Vegas this weekend in Las Vegas.

Things come and go in Las Vegas, however, Helldorado Days, sponsored by the Las Vegas Elks Lodge, has been a local tradition and favorite since 1934.   A parade, rodeo, carnival and Whiskerino contest – competitors are judged for the best and largest beards and mustaches – are featured events.

A variety of entertainment will be ongoing today through Sunday at the Fremont Street Experience throughout Helldorado Days.

The PRCA sanctioned professional rodeo, which started in 1944, but has been on hiatus for the last 12 years, will be centerpiece anchor of this year’s event. Local companies donated 2,700 tons of dirt for a temporary rodeo arena that holds 5,300 people.

Hopefully, the rodeo and many other activities will provide paydirt for the Elks Lodge, which uses the proceeds from Helldorado Days to fund local nonprofit organizations. The Elks hope to bugle if they raise their goal of $100,000 to give out college scholarships, support for nonprofits and a summer Santa program for children at Child Haven.

Carnival – 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Carnival tickets cost $, but free with purchase of rodeo ticket.

PRCA Rodeo – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Sunday; 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $6.50 for children 12 and younger.

Whiserkino contest – 4:45 p.m. on Friday at the Third Streeet stage at Fremont Streeet Experience.

Helldorado parade – 7 p.m to 9 p.m. Saturday, travels north on Fourth Street from Charleston Boulevard to Ogden Avenue.

For more info, www.elkshelldorado.com

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No Doubt Headlines Tiger Jam XII This Weekend in Las Vegas

Pop rockers No Doubt will kick off their first tour in five years when they headline Tiger Jam XII presented by AT&T on May 15 and 16 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. NoDoubt

Formed in Anaheim, California, No Doubt reached international success with their 1995 release Tragic Kingdom. That album, including the mega hit “Don’t Speak” among many others, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Their follow up, Return of Saturn, was nominated for the Best Rock Album at the 2001 Grammy Awards and granted a four star review by Rolling Stone Magazine. The band went on to win two Grammy Awards for 2001’s multi-platinum Rock Steady and performed at the Superbowl XXXVII Halftime Show in 2003 alongside Sting. 

After the double platinum success of No Doubt’s Singles Collection, featuring the hit “It’s My Life,” and a subsequent tour with Blink-182, lead singer Gwen Stefani released two successful solo albums in 2004 and 2006 respectively. 

TigerWoods“I’m thrilled No Doubt is kicking off their tour at Tiger Jam XII,” event host and professional golfer Eldrick (Tiger) Woods, 33, said. “They are amazing performers, and I’m honored they are helping raise funds and awareness for the millions of young people my Foundation supports.”

Saturday evening’s highlights will include top-notch epicurean fare and exclusive live and silent auctions featuring one-of-a-kind luxury items. Following the dinner and auctions, the celebration will progress to the Mandalay Bay Events Center stage, where Woods will introduce Grammy Award winners Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young for a rocking concert.

“Playing this show is going to be really fun for all of us.  Tiger’s foundation empowers kids to achieve their dreams and we’re excited to help support that,” No Doubt’s singer Gwen Stefani said.

Paramore and The Sounds will join No Doubt as special guests on the Tiger Jam stage. 

Tiger Jam has garnered a reputation as being one of the premiere fundraising events benefiting children for past 11 years. Each year, the concert event hosted by Tiger Woods raises millions of dollars for the Tiger Woods Foundation and youth-driven charities in Las Vegas, as well as the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and the GRAMMY in the Schools program.

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Britney Spears’ Camp Slams Las Vegas College Kid

It’s never a dull day in ol’ Britneyland– always a circus, concert tour or not.

Jordan Miller, right, a 21-year-old University of Nevada, Las Vegas college student majoring in communicationsJordanMiller launched his breatheheavy.com Web site all about the pop star, literally out of a labor of love and admiration for the star, from his Summerlin, Nevada bedroom while being in high school in 2004. 

Now, his Web site gets a half-million visits a day. 

JamieSpearsMiller’s world started to turn upside down-last fall after he received an angry phone call from the Britney’s dad, Jamie Spears, left, accusing him of copyright infringement.

Miller is fighting back.  “I’m working my ass off to report on this girl,” Miller said from his attorney’s office.  “I just think [Britney] is a really cool artist; I feel inspired by her. It’s a healthy hobby.  It takes a lot of work and dedication, but it’s self-fulfilling.” 

Miller said father Jamie Spears replied, telling him:  “I am going to destroy your ass.” 

“I was really freaking out for a good three, four weeks,” Miller said, adding,  “Lately, I’ve been doing my own thing.  I just kind of want to keep going.” 

Each day, Miller scans the Internet for stories about Britney Spears, posting them on his Webs Site and adds his comments.  He also encourages her fans to send him concert photos and messages about her worldwide “Circus” tour.

Henderson, Nevada attorney Clarke Walton, who represents Miller pro bono, has been battling the Spears legal team tooth and nail. 

Spears’ New-York based attorney Brad Rose says the use of the star’s recordings, images, copyrighted works and trademarks constitutes actionable infringement under the law. 

Miller and Walton are puzzled that Team Spears would leave oodles of other fan sites alone and yet see fit to sic legal hounds on a kid who is simply a huge admirer of the singer.  Miller believes Jamie Spears is “trying to shut me down” simply because of Web site posted comments about the father’s control over his daughter.  Miller believe Jamie is keeping Britney a prisoner. 

And it’s not like Miller has an Internet goldmine- Miller pays $300 a month to keep the site going and receives an average of $100 each month from advertisers.  Miller is also not using images or lyrics for commercial purposes, like selling merchandise. 

“If they want to fight, I’d love this fight,” Walton said. “I feel confident we would win on the merits of this case.”

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Magician Lance Burton ‘Vanishes’ from 19 Las Vegas Shows

Monte Carlo headliner Lance Burton will miss 19 shows after breaking his foot during his May 7 show in Las Vegas.Lance Burton 

Burton is undergoing surgery in Las Vegas on Monday on his right foot, according to his publicist, Wayne Bernath. 

The accident occurred 15 minutes into the show as Burton was preparing to do the floating bird cage act with Elvis the bird.  When Elvis flew into the audience, Burton left the stage and retrieved the bird.  The injury occurred when the entertainer twisted his right foot on the way up the steps.  Burton finished the show despite considerable pain.

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Celebrity Impersonator Frank Marino to Star in Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding in Las Vegas

Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Frank Marino’s, the star of the Riviera’s now-defunct “An Evening at La Cage,” inFrankMarino2 which he hosted the show as a Joan Rivers impersonator for more than 20 years, has packed his bags and on May 8 he’ll be performing in the role of the “special guest” in the dinner and comedy show Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding at the Planet Hollywood Resort Casino in Las Vegas. 

Marino will be bringing all his Bob Mackie gowns, glittering Manolo Blahnik stilettos and makeup bags with him in his role that is planned to run through the end of May. 

Marino is also the local ABC affiliate’s “Dancing With the Stars” correspondent, on which he critiques who was great, who was awful and whose costume sparkled the brightest on the hit program, now in its seventh season.

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Marie Osmond ‘Very Supportive’ of Gay Rights

Las Vegas performer Marie Osmond has come out in favor of gay rights. marieosmond2

In an interview with Los Angeles radio station KOST 103.5, the Flamingo headline said it was “not a sensitive issue” for her.

Osmond said she supports gay couples having civil rights. 

“I think it’s important to look that at the commandment love thy neighbor as thyself,” said Osmond, who has eight children.  Her oldest daughter, Jessica, 21, has been in a gay relationship for three years.

Please see prior Feb. 24 and April 20, 2009 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles.

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Imprisoned Las Vegas Celebrity Trina Johnson-Finn’s Faces Trial in Suriname

Las Vegas celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn has been incarcerated since March in a Suriname jail, location of Finn’s Feb. 28 concert.    

She was denied release on Tuesday and now faces a May 26 trial date on charges of impersonating Las Vegas entertainer Toni Braxton.  

Her attorney had reportedly filed an appeal to have released based on the arrest of the concert promoter, Angel Ventura, last Saturday, who was captured in a harbor bar in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname.  

The judge denied the motion. 

Please see prior April 25 Las Vegas Backstage Access article.

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Improv Theater in Las Vegas Packs ‘Em In

Whether you are a fan of watching improvisational theater or just maybe would like to try your hand at acting, there are some opportunities for you in Las Vegas.    improv

Although, Second City has closed up after eight years at the Flamingo, the Improv Vegas recently debuted their Sunday 7 p.m. show at the Bonkerz Comedy Club inside Palace Station.   For a $9.95 ticket you can have the time of your life. 

Improv Vegas also produces their SET show at the Onyx Theatre, 953 E. Sahara Ave., 702-732-7725, at 8 p.m. on Mondays, $7 a ticket.  The show features improve plus standup comedy, juggling and other disciplines and is a showcase for students at the company’s training center, also at the Onyx. 

Improv Vegas classes are limited to 10 people and last six weeks, with six or seven classes going at any given time.

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Danny Gans’ Autobiography & Music Video Release

Danny Gans, 52, a leading Las Vegas headliner since 1966, both at The Mirage for 8 ½ years and most recently performing at Steve Wynn’s Encore hotel, died unexpectedly early last Friday in his Las Vegas home.   (May 2 Las Vegas Backstage Access article.) 

Now it has been learned that two days before his death he completed his autobiography that was in the works for about a year.  The manuscript, according to this his manager, Chip Lightman, is now being edited and a meeting with the publisher today. 

Gans also had a music video in the works with Hollywood director Brett Ratner, performing “What a Wonderful World” in 10 voices.  It is planned to be a part of a CD that’s being released in a month by Hi-Fi Records.

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Grammy Winner Toni Braxton Sues Lloyd’s of London

Former Flamingo headliner and Las Vegas resident Toni Braxton is suing insurance giant specialist Lloyd’s of Londontonibraxton for refusing to pay her for the months of work she missed entertaining in Las Vegas because of her alleged heart condition. 

The six-time Grammy winner is suing for undisclosed damages, claiming she bought “non-appearance” and “cancellation” insurance which protects entertainers in case of cancellations. 

Published reports indicate Braxton discovered she had pericarditis, an inflammation of the sack surrounding the heart, after the birth of her second son, Diezel, on March 31, 2003. 

However, not long after leaving the Flamingo – still having nine months on her entertainment contract – Braxton competed on ABC TVs “Dancing with the Stars.”

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Boxing Match of the Year Moments Away in Las Vegas

The long-anticipated and sold out boxing match promoted as “The Battle of East and West,” pitting Filipino Mannyhattonpacquiao Pacquiao (48-3-2,  36 KOs) against Brit Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) will start at approximately 8 p.m. (PT) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. 

With the betting line Pacquiao minus 270, over/under 9 ½ rounds and tickets priced at $150 to $1,000, the slugfest royale will undoubtedly be one for the record books.  Hatton’s IBO and The Ring magazine junior welterweight championships will be at stake.  Some contend Hatton is one the best British fighters ever, comparing  him to Ted “Kid” Lewis, who won nine titles in multiple weight divisions after turning pro.  For Pacquiao, at stake is the claim to be boxing’s pound-for-pound title, having already won three major fights in three weight divisions last year. 

Closed-circuit viewing for $50 is available at Mandalay Bay, Mirage, TI, Monte Carlo, Circus Circus, Luxor, and New York-New York.  HBO is offering on Pay-Per-View for $49.95.

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Woodstock Las Vegas

Forty years ago the Woodstock music festival featured tie-dyed bedecked hippies that espoused peace, love, happiness, fused with lots of freebies – speech, sex and pot – and a plethora of equally mind-blowing music.  Now Las Vegas plans to vicariously relive those groovy days and, hopefully, provide a much needed boost to Las Vegas’ sagging economy as well, reeling in more visitors that spend more money on food, entertainment and gambling.  woodstock

That’s the hope. 

And the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas (three miles north of the end of the Las Vegas Strip) is banking on it, spending about $1.7 million on the promotional campaign between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends- $500,000 more than it normally would during the season.   

They’ll be paying tribute to 1969 all summer long with free rock concerts and seasonal themes that feature the likes of yesterday’s music heavy hitters Blood, Sweat and Tears; Three Dog Night; the 5th Dimension; Rare Earth; the Grass Roots and Canned Heat. 

John Van Hamersveld – artist known for his artwork for “The Endless Summer” in 1966 and for making the cover of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album in 1967 – will be painting two buses, one to be used as a stage. 

Special videos shows are being planned for a giant screen hanging over the street that include rolling credits memorial for the 58,000 Americans killed or missing in action from the Vietnam War. 

Each of the 10 casinos on the Fremont Street Experience are also making plans to tie to the 1969 theme.

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Las Vegas Entertainment Icon Danny Gans Dies

The Danny Gans Theatre at the Encore will be silent tonight.  Long-time Las Vegas entertainer, dubbed The Man of Many Voices, Danny Gans has died at the age of 52, silently in his sleep last night. dannygans

Singer, actor and impressionist Danny Gans, named Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year for 11 years in a row, began his Las Vegas career in 1996 at the Stratosphere Hotel before moving to the Rio, the Mirage and, most recently, the Wynn Encore. 

Steve Wynn, chief executive of Wynn Resorts, called Gan’s death “a profoundly tragic event that leaves us all sad and speechless.” 

Danny Gans left behind his wife, Julie and their three children.

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Actress Kelly Monaco Robbed, Hid Under Las Vegas Bed

Actress Kelly Monaco found herself at the centre of a terrifying burglary in Las Vegas after an intruder broke into her hotel room while she was sleeping.kellymonaco

The former General Hospital star is in Sin City performing in the saucy revue Peepshow alongside ex-Spice Girl Mel B (Melanie Brown).

But her stay in the gambling Mecca turned disgustingly sour when she woke up in the early hours last Thursday morning to hear an intruder burst into her penthouse suite at the Planet Hollywood resort. 

Monaco reportedly hid under her bed during the incident, and when she emerged she found the suite’s living room had been burglarized.  The star filed a report with police, and the perp was quickly caught later on Thursday, but detectives have failed to confirm what was stolen, according to TMZ.com.

Monaco has since increased her security by hiring bodyguards to protect her for the rest of her acting stint in Las Vegas.

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Jay Leno Makes Rare Las Vegas, Tonight Show Cancellations

The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas had to cancel the April 24 and 25 performances of late night talk show host Jay Leno.  jay-lenoThe 58-year-old entertainer checked himself into Providence St. Joseph Medical Centre hospital on Thursday with what was diagnosed as possible food poisoning.  Leno was also forced to cancel two live episode tapings of his Tonight Show – a first since he took over the Tonight Show reigns in 1992.  

(May 4 UPDATE:  Reportedly, Leno was not sick or anything, just plain wornout, needing to take the time off.)

Leno will be leaving late night in May for a prime-time show set to debut this September.  Tonight Show hosting duties will be passed to Conan O’Brien. 

No replacement dates have been announced for Leno’s Mirage performances.

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Beyonce Heads for Las Vegas Glitter

Since Las Vegas first grew out of the desert dust, powerful female entertainers have always found a home in the main beyonceshowrooms of Las Vegas casinos and hotels.   In just the past year, Las Vegas marquis have invited tourists to spend an evening with Celine Dion, Cher, Bette Midler,Taylor Swift, Rita Rudner, and coming this July, appearing at the Encore Theatre, in Steve Wynn’s latest and greatest Wynn Las Vegas hotel – Beyonce.   

Beyonce Knowles began her “I am…Sasha Fierce” tour in Edmonton Canada in March 2009.  After several dates in Canada, the tour moved on to Europe in April with stops in Austria, France, Germany and Spain along the way and ending with a series of performances in England. 

On June 21 Knowles’ Sasha tour makes its way stateside to Madison Square Garden in New York and continues across the country until July 30 when her tour arrives for four nights in Las Vegas.  

The title of Beyonce’s current album is a play on the persona she created over the past few years.  One half of the tracks of “I am…” are personal stories and come from the singer’s soul.  The other half of the album, “….Sasha Fierce” is full of the spark and flame that has come from the stage persona of Sasha.  And Beyonce will be bringing her all-female band and this high octane combination to Las Vegas for their joint Encore Theater marquis moment in July. 

Mike Ross of the Edmonton Sun recently gave Beyonce’s performance at Rexall Place 4.5 out of 5 stars rating stating, “Beyonce can sing traditional R&B if she wants. She proved it late last night – wailing on the Etta James classic At Last, which she performed for the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama.”

Tickets will go on sale through Ticketmaster on Saturday, April 25.  And – the good news – Beyonce is making first 2,000 seats available for $20 (plus applicable service charges).

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Las Vegas Embraces Hip-Hop Culture

Las Vegas is finally getting in the groove and embracing the hip-hop culture movement, sort of.  hiphop

On April 25 they’re hosting the “Hip-Hop Culture 2009…The Evolution” event which features Las Vegas DJs, MCs, poets, artists, dancers, fashion designers, and other assorted artsy-fartsy types in an effort to keep its positive, “encouraging youth to stay in school and support good communities, while at the same time discouraging gang participation, violence and drug use.”  

A good cause for Sin City. 

The event will start at 2 p.m. at the Sammy Davis Jr. Plaza at Lorenzi Park, 720 Twin Lakes Drive in Las Vegas. $5, $3 for seniors and children 6-12. 702-229-4800.

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Parrotheads in Las Vegas A-hoy!

Legendary singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett will be returning once again to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for a one night show on May 16.   jimmybuffett

After gaining considerable success in the music business, Buffett opened the Margaritaville restaurants which are now found in 11 locations including 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South on the Las Vegas Strip.  His business empire also includes the Radio Margaritaville station on Sirius Satellite, extensive Margaritaville merchandising and he continues touring in support of his body of music.   

Tickets for the May 16 performance are reportedly still available: http://www.mgmgrand.com/entertainment/grand-garden-arena.aspx or www.vegas.com

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Lindsay Lohan Spotted Shopping for Men in Las Vegas

Lindsay Lohan is apparently putting an end to her lady lovin’ ways and getting back on the straight and narrow. 

The “Mean Girl”- who was in Las Vegas last weekend – was spotted leaving several clubs with an unidentified man in tow only days after allegedly cozying up to Body of Lies megastar Leonardo DiCaprio in Hollywood.   lindsay-lohan

Lindsay also put in an appearance at the opening of Mel B’s new burlesque-style show opening, aptly titled Peep Show, where she reportedly proceeded to eye-up young, unsuspecting male prey. 

The actress told Mel she was “back on men”, after recently calling it a day with her lover of two years, DJ Samantha Ronson.  The couple ended their fiery romance over two weeks ago.

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‘Fearless’ Taylor Swift Makes Tracks Back to Las Vegas

Not many artists have an opportunity to make a concert entrance by descending from the rafters in an elevator and exiting to the showroom floor via a David Copperfield magic illusion, but young country music star sensation Taylor Swift had just that, stealing the moment at the 2009 Academy of County Music Awards at the MGM Grand Las Vegas on April 5.  taylorswift1

Swift will be back in Las Vegas on May 23 as she brings her Fearless Tour 2009 to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.  Opening acts will be American Idol alum Kelli Pickler and country music group Gloriana. 

A few tickets are still available if you want to watch the Nielsen 2008’s top-selling artist perform.

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Marie Osmond Perserves, Stays on Top

Marie Osmond’s life is a blur.  She wouldn’t have it any other way.  And, amid all the hubbub in a topsy turvy and sometimes cruel entertainment industry, she stays on top. marieosmond

Marie, the only Osmond sister, lives in Las Vegas, says she is still a homebody as much as high roller — a mother to eight kids, a woman who struggles with her weight, time management, career choices and choosing a partner. 

“I really don’t think my life is all that interesting,” said Osmond as she boarded a plane to sign her new book, Might as Well Laugh About It Now.  “But I am flattered by the people that have read it and identify with it.”  Her book chronicles various events in her life, from defending her father’s leadership of the family business to extolling her parents’ influence on her value system. 

Recent TV gigs, ranging from her 2007 stint on “Dancing with the Stars” to appearances on “Oprah,” have reintroduced Osmond to a new generation or two who didn’t know her much beyond the squeaky-clean teenager of the 1970s-era “Donny and Marie” variety show. 

Now a doll designer popular on the QVC cable shopping channel, Osmond agrees life in the media fishbowl is a trade-off in privacy, but she uses the attention to benefit others. Osmond and actor John Schneider dreamed up the Children’s Miracle Network in 1983. It’s a charity, Osmond says, that annually helps 17 million children and their families. The charity idea grew out the death of her brother’s infant daughter. 

“We are all in fishbowls,” she said in an interview. “You just have to learn to be OK with yourself.” 

As much as her later career has been separated from her family act, her life is still very much tied to the brothers with whom she traveled the world last year in performances marking the family’s 50 years in show business. 

Her Las Vegas stage show at the Flamingo with brother Donny is on hiatus until April 21, but she has contracted for two more years and a solo syndicated TV talk show is in the works for this fall. 

It’s all just another day for the work in progress Marie Osmond.

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Criss Angel Blasts Perez Hilton in Las Vegas

criss-angelDefinitely no love is lost between “Mindfreak” Las Vegas illusionist Criss Angel and celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton. perez-hilton

As Angel was ending his magic show Friday at the Luxor in Las Vegas, he announced that he had someone special in the audience, asking Perez Hilton to stand up. 

“We have the world’s biggest douchebag asshole in the house!” shouted an agitated Angel. 

Perez Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, smiled broadly and fired back:  “Thanks for the free tickets.” 

The buzz is that Angel berated the blogger after his camp saw Perez Hilton’s Twitter site, which carried real-time comments dissing Angel’s show, including “unbelievably BAD!” and “I would rather be getting a root canal.” 

So what you say? Perez Hilton has reportedly 600,000 “followers” on his Twitter social networking site.   That’s a whole lot of free marketing publicity.

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Miss USA Pageant Plays Musical Chairs

billybushThe Miss USA beauty pageant co-host for tomorrow’s smackdown, oops …showdown will not be “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush.  No, correct that, he’s back into the thick of things now.  Bush previously cited stomach problems when he withdrew and Mark Walberg was asked to pinch hit.  

Bush, first cousin of former President George W. Bush, will co-host with “My Name is Earl” star Nadine Velasquez. 

Pageant judges will by Robert Earl, Shandi Finnessey, Willie Geist, Brian Graden, Shelley Hennig, Perez Hilton, Alicia Jacobs, Claudia Jordan, John Miller, Kelly Monaco, Kenan Thompson, Eric Trump and, last but not least, late entry Holly Madison, the ex-girlfriend of Hugh Hefner and Criss Angel.  Should prove interesting with Madison at odds with fellow judge Alicia Jacobs. 

Try saying all those names in one breath.  Can they really all agree?

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Sold-Out Crowd Rocks new Joint Opening in Las Vegas

The bad economy, $5 beer prices, and long lines didn’t put a damper on the high spirits last night in Las Vegas as The Killers performed to a sold-out crowd during the opening night of The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. killers

Among the celebrities in attendance were tennis great Andre Agassi and wife Steffi Graf, actor Owen Wilson and Stephen Dorff. 

The new Joint is a bigger, shinier version of the old Joint, complet with a better sound and lighting system and overall crowd experience.  It also features balconies and VIP suites designed for high rollers, with food ranging from sushi to burger sliders. 

Tonight’s show is Avenged Sevenfold and on Sunday Paul McCartney takes the stage. 

The looming question that remains is whether the new Joint and the $750 million renovation can help to bring back the good ol’ entertainment days when virtually all major performer performed at the Las Vegas venue.

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Iconic Porn Star Marilyn Chambers is Dead, Las Vegas Memories Live On

Porn star/actress Marilyn Chambers is dead at 56. She was found April 12 in her Southern California home by her 17-year-old daughter, McKenna Marie Taylor.  Chambers is also survived by her brother, Bill Briggs, and her sister, Jann Smith.   marilynchambers1

But, sadly, news of her death barely made a blip on the Las Vegas virtually anything goes  entertainment news radar. 

Las Vegas Backstage Access waited and waited for something to appear, then decided an article was in order on the verge of her birthday.  After all, she is credited for bringing pornographic films into the mainstream and, in so doing, substantially added to Las Vegas’ colorful and alluring mystique. 

Born Marilyn Ann Briggs on April 22, 1952 in Providence, Rhode Island, Chambers was an attractive, effervescent young woman who had begun her career as a mainstream model and actress, finding fame as the smiling blonde cuddling a laughing, nappy-clad baby on Ivory Snow ads, a popular brand of detergent. When she then appeared in an adult film featuring hard-core inter-racial sex, Procter & Gamble, whose products were claimed to be “100% pure,” quickly pulled the boxes from the shelves. 

Though the manufacturer quickly replaced her,  it was later discovered that she also had a small role in the 1970 Barbara Streisand film “The Owl and the Pussycat.” 

Chambers traded her wholesome image as an all-American pin-up girl for notoriety as a porn star, credited with bringing hard-core adult films into the mainstream consciousness when she starred in the explicit very low-budget 1972 movie “Behind the Green Door.” 

Chambers was the first crossover adult movie star. 

Chambers, also known as Marilyn Ann Taylor, and then-husband/manager Chuck Traynor were fairly high-profile Las Vegas residents during the 1980s, when they co-owned a local gun and survival store, The Survival Store, backing operating partner Bob Irwin in the gun store and shooting range at Interstate 15 and Spring Mountain Road in Las Vegas. 

It was Chambers that popularized the “machine gun and bikini” image used to promote the store – a similar ploy used even today by gun stores around the country – for several years before she separated from Traynor, who was controversial for his earlier marriage to porn star Linda Lovelace (Linda Susan Boreman) and her allegations of abuse. 

Chambers and fellow actresses Linda Lovelace and Georgina Spelvin skyrocketed to fame and stardom at this time when both American social mores and the quality of hard-core sex films were changing. 

For the first time, films like “Behind the Green Door” and “Deep Throat” (also released in 1972 and starring Lovelace) had decent acting and legitimate, albeit fairly thin plots. As the audiences for them grew to include couples, they also began to take on higher production values and to be seen in places other than sleazy theaters. 

She followed the “Green Door” film with other hard-core films “Resurrection of Eve,” in 1973 and “Inside Marilyn Chambers” in 1975. Then she announced in 1976 that she was giving up adult films to pursue other interests. She starred in the 1977 horror movie “Rabid” and to put together a song-and-dance show that played Las Vegas and elsewhere.  After this, the rest of her career she spent shuffling between sex and horror flicks. 

In October 1974, Chambers performed in the dinner-theater comedy “Mind With the Dirty Man” at Las Vegas’ Union Plaza (in reference to the Union Pacific railroad station that originally stood at the site now known as the Plaza Hotel and Casino).  It was at this period she was attempting to spin her notoriety into non-porn endeavors, with plaza owners including the likes of prominent Las Vegas businessmen Sam Boyd, Howard Cannon and Jackie Gaughan.  She returned to the Plaza stage in early 1978 for “Last of the Red Hot Lovers.” 

But by 1979, Chambers was back acting in sex films and onstage for a short-lived engagement in the one-woman show “Sex Surrogate” at the Jolly Trolley casino in Las Vegas. The show drew the quick ire of Las Vegas officials because full nudity is banned in casinos with unrestricted gaming. 

In 1981, Chambers became a fulltime Clark County Nevada resident and known well-known enough that a routine summons for jury duty caused a courthouse stir and generated newspaper coverage. She was dismissed after explaining to the judge, “I’m an entertainer and I have to be in Cleveland Wednesday for an engagement.” 

Chambers, married and divorced three times, remained in Las Vegas through the 1980s after her separation from Traynor, who died in 2002. She also dated Bobby D’Apice, who later made headlines as the Crazy Horse Too shift manager in Las Vegas that was sentenced to prison for breaking the neck of a customer. 

In an online chat with AdultDVDtalk.com in 2000, Chambers attempted to explain what caused her to take such a radically different career path after “The Owl and the Pussycat” and her modeling work. 

“Back then in my naive brain I was thinking that something like ‘Behind the Green Door’ had never been done before and the way our sexual revolution was traveling I really thought it was going to be a stepping stone which would further my acting career,” she said. 

She learned afterward, she said, that wasn’t the case. “There will always be a stigma on people who do adult films,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that that’s the way society has made it.” 

She returned to adult films in 1980 in “Insatiable” and through the rest of her career went back and forth between explicit movies and R-rated ones. Hirsch noted that one of the most striking things about Chambers’ career was its longevity in a business where stars quickly fade. She still has a photo gallery on the Web site Adult Video News and the Internet Movie Database credits her as recently completing a film called, “Porndogs: The Adventures of Sadie” with Ron Jeremy. 

Although Chambers was quick to point out in 2000 that she had done more R-rated films that X-rated ones, she made no apologies for the latter:  “I have to say that the adult films have been a total pleasure,” she said. “They were like getting paid to live out my greatest fantasies. The rest of the stuff … sometimes got to be a real grind.” 

Marilyn Chambers was ranked by Playboy magazine as one of the top 100 sex stars of the 20th century and was named among the top 10 adult film stars of all time. 

Her Southern California death currently remains under investigation.

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Miss Nevada’s Gown to Win the Crown?

For decades there’s been a standard beauty pageant look- Aqua net hair, bright red lipstick and that too bright never fading smile.  But in the last 10 years, a new image has emerged.   The padded shoulders and brittle taffeta skirts have slowly been replaced with more current fashion designs including an evening gown created by Project Runway designer Kayne Gillespie. 

This year, Miss Nevada-USA Georgina Vaughan will take the fashion focus all the way to haute couture with a wardrobe of designs by Lana Fuchs of Lana Fuchs Couture. 

A Las Vegas resident since 1995, Lana Fuchs has designed one of a kind clothing worn by celebrities such as Paula lanafuchs1Abdul and Meaghan Martin.  And now she has created a weeks worth of looks for Georgina Vaughan including a fashion forward evening gown that is expected to help set the Las Vegas local apart from the other 50 Miss USA contestants. 

“There’s such a mold of the typical pageant girl,” she says. “Being blond, people prejudge you.”  

Lana Fuchs had a successful runway debut at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles in October 2008.  She’s also been featured in Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, In Touch Weekly and 944. 

The Miss USA Pageant will be televised live from the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Las Vegas on Sunday, April 19th, starting at 7 p.m. on NBC.

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Jessica Simpson: Blond if you do, blond if you don’t

Jessica Simpson, a frequent Las Vegas visitor, is one of those talented types who can’t seem to catch a break.  As a pop singer she was constantly compared to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – too voluptuous to be nice and not jessicasimpsongritty enough to be naughty.   

Her personal life has been the used as the source to create tabloid top sellers with pictures and stories of men who have, and who haven’t, spent time with her.  

And now only months after settling into her single woman skin and stepping up to the country music mic, Simpson appears to be ending her foray into her musical roots.  While she remains part of the Sony Music Group on the Epic label, Simpson is no longer involved with Sony Music Nashville.  Lauren Auslander a former spokesperson for Simpson said, “She (Simpson) was on loan to Sony Nashville for her country album.”   

Many fans believe that Simpson is a favorite target of the media and is often portrayed in a less than favorable light because of petty jealousy.  In a recent interview, Rascal Flatts’ lead singer Gary Levox said Simpson “..is in a spot where whatever she does, they pick her apart. They need to just leave her alone and just let her sing.” 

“She’s a wonderfully gifted singer,” added bassist Jay DeMarcus. “All the other stuff overshadows what she’s really about and it’s unfortunate, because there’s more to her there than just tabloid fodder.” 

It could be Jessica Simpson will spend her time in the spotlight being the blonde everyone loves to hate.  But with her talent, it’s more likely, Las Vegas Backstage Access believes, that she’ll find a way to rebound like blonde archetype Madonna than fall into the archives like Taylor Dayne.

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Ne-Yo has come a long way . . .

While studying at the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies as a performing and visual arts major, Shaffer Smith neyolearned that it’s okay to be different.  Today, 29-year-old Ne-Yo – Shaffer was renamed after Matrix movie character Neo – doesn’t need to be concerned at all about being different.  He appears to be quite comfortable in his role as a three-time Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter, actor and record producer. 

Ne-Yo has accepted his fourth acting gig, being part of the cast of George Lucas “Red Tails” – a film about the World War II Tuskegee pilots.  Yes,  it’s that George Lucas and it’s those Tuskegee pilots.  

This will also be the feature film directorial debut for Anthony Hemingway.  In addition to Ne-Yo, the ensemble cast includes Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker and Method Man.

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All Rise: The King is Back in the Building

For some, death is really not in their cards, it’s just a lifetime spent in purgatory.

Keeping with tradition, Las Vegas will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley this July with one of the largest Elvis conventions in the world. According to John Stuart, a long-time Las Vegas producer and the mastermind behind “Legends in Concert,” an award-winning celebrity impersonation show in Las Vegas, the idea is to bring back to faux life “all major people who were in the original concert 40 years ago.”

Though not an original Elvis band member, Sean Klush, the BBC’s “World’s Greatest Elvis” in 2007 is also planning to make his sparkling appearance. 

Elvis fans will get a a chance to take a special backstage tour and even participate in an Elvis impersonation contest. 

The King’s once-in-a-lifetime revival extravaganza is scheduled for July 15 through 19 at the Las Vegas Hilton.

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Kato who? Uh, is he the homeboy of O.J. Simpson?

O.J. Simpson is cooling his heels in the Big House at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Northern Nevada, eating savory “mystery meat” while serving his nine-to-thirty-three-year term for his memorabilia heist that went terribly wrong at Palace Station.  But his house guest back in 1994 when he was charged with killing his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, was Kato Kaelin. 

Kaelin, now 50, testified at the 1995 murder trial and his life has been inextricably linked to the former football star ever since. 

Kaelin’s transition from real life reality to acting has been seamless.  He has been a Screen Actors Guild card-carrying katokaelinmember for 22 years.  A year before the killings, he had tested, albeit unsuccessfully, for a part in the film “Dumb and Dumber.”  

After the trial Kaelin was launched into faux stardom, going on a speaking tour and appearing in several TV reality shows and films.   For the past five year he has worked for National Lampoon in Los Angeles developing film projects.

Coming full turn, Kaelin now graces the Planet Hollywood stage in Las Vegas as a wedding crasher in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.”   His character plays Tony’s house guest for five years, sleeping, fittingly, on the couch.

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Las Vegas Tribute to Rhythm and Blues Legend Ruth Brown

A tribute to rhythm and blues legend Ruth Brown will be on April 9 at the Bootlegger Bistro in Las Vegas. ruth-brown

The Tony Award-winning Brown, who also won a Grammy, died at age 78 on November 17, 2006 in Henderson, Nevada. 

Her original Bootlegger band and son Ronnie McPhatter will be among the large number of musicians attending,  including Dennis Bono, Regi Brown, Jimmy Castor, Sonny Charles of the Checkmates, Wendy Edmead of The Pointer Sisters, and Earl and Sonny Turner of The Platters. 

A $5 admission donation will be charged, with all proceeds going to The Society of Singers.  The Bootlegger Bistro is located at 7700 Las Vegas Blvd. South, No. 1, in Las Vegas (702-736-4939).

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Criminal Minds Star Morphs into ‘Allllvinnn!’

CBS’s Criminal Minds very popular actor Matthew Gray Gubler is a Las Vegas product born and bred.  Performing as matthewgublerthe three Ph.D. degree-holding Dr. Spencer Reid on the TV series since 2005,  Gubler was raised in a quiet neighborhood near Bob Baskin Park in Las Vegas, later graduating from the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts High School and later attended a four-year class at the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, majoring in drama and graduating in 1998.  

After that “The Gube,” started his “profiling” career by studying at the University of California in Santa Cruz and two year later decided to leave California and move to New York to enroll at  the Tisch School of the Arts, later graduating from that school in 2002.  While in Manhattan he walked the runways for some of the biggest fashion designers including Marc Jacobs, Burrberry, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger and Sisley. 

Gubler, 29, is now taking a brief television break from his “personal voyage of desperation and tragedy,” to voice Simon in the new Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel movie planned for release on December 25th by 20th Century Fox.

 “I welcome the role with open arms because it’s so fun- not that I don’t love looking at bloody fingerprints,” says a confident and beaming Gubler. 

Okay!

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Las Vegas Goes Country, Hollywood Tags Along

When Las Vegas hosts a party, stand back- nothing is ever commonplace in the City of Entertainment.  Last night’s 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Arena proved to be no exception.   The buzz of the award’s evening followed a week of Las Vegas fun, glitz, and glamour as Hollywood stars joined with country music’s best and brightest. 

The three-hour awards show featured award presenters Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jamie Foxx and Matthew McConaughey, but all eyes were on legendary Reba McEntire as she hosted the show for the 11th consecutive year.  

Providing a fitting prelude to the awards, hundreds of frenzied fans greeted their favorite musicians and singers on the red carpet outside of the MGM Grand before the show. 

After Kenny Chesney performed “Out Last Night”, Jennifer Love Hewitt arrived on stage wearing in a long white flowing gown and announced the first award of the night for Song of the Year among award contenders George Strait, Jamey Johnson, Heidi Newfield, Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins. 

Jennifer said she was not only a big fan of country music but also of Vegas. “There’s no place I’d rather be,” she said before announcing, in a surprise win, that Jamey Johnson had won for “In Color.” 

In the competition for Top Vocal Duo award, the very popular Sugarland beat out Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry and Joey + Rory.  Sugarland is playing at live in concert at the Primm Valley Casino Resorts on July 24.  [Las Vegas Backstage Access February 11 article.] 

Las Vegas resident, MGM Grand illusionist and Magician of the Century David Copperfield, a coming-out country music fan that attended the ACM for the first time, donned a black Stetson while he pulled up his sleeves and made Taylor Swift magically appear from an overhead empty suspended box on the stage.  Swift hung around a bit to receive her crystal award for having the most record sales in the year and winning the Album of the Year Award for “Fearless.” 

Hollywood superstar and frequent Las Vegas entertainer Jamie Foxx, raised in Texas, confessed he was also a country music fan and then proceeded to introduce country music legend George Strait, saying he will be a guest singer for his friend at a taping in Las Vegas today for a May 27 CBS special when Strait is honored as Artist of the Decade.   Straight, with a career spanning 25 years, is the most nominated artist in the history of the Academy of Country Music Awards with a total of 78. 

Las Vegas’ hometown product Julianne Hough – she attended Las Vegas Academy and her mother lives here – julieanne1provided a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction moment, though subtle, before gushing and accepting with pride her duo Top New Artist and fan favorite Top New Female Artist awards as her country singer boyfriend Chuck Wicks waited in the wings, cheering her on. 

Julianne and Chuck left this morning from Las Vegas on a flight to be back in Hollywood for tomorrow night’s episode of Dancing With the Stars, where they will partner for a Viennese Waltz to a Rascal Flatts number.   (Rascal Flatts won once again.)

The highlight and culmination of the evening came when Carrie Underwood won the Entertainer of the Year award, carrieunderwoodbeing the lone female among nominees Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban.  Matthew McConaughey made the awards presentation.   (Did she really venture out after the event and check out George Strait’s ‘white boots’ in McConaughey’s car?) 

There was never a dull moment.  Even before it started, Tim McGraw got in a production fracas that ended with him walking out before the show started. 

Sporting his ‘Made In USA’ labeled guitar, John Rich sang to a cheering crowd “Shutting Detroit Down,” a ballad of frustration on corporate greed and workers getting the short end of the proverbial stick. 

Toby Keith took the opportunity to single out a reporter from a Nashville newspaper over the publication of a Rolling Stone story by actor Ethan Hawke. Both Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson denied the story, but the Tennessean published it anyway without reaching out to Toby. He lambasted the reporter with a series of F-bombs, and it seriously looked as if he might leave the media stage and go after the writer — but cooler heads prevailed, and Toby left the room abruptly. 

Behind the scenes, Trace Adkins, who was the runner-up on the first season of Celebrity Apprentice, took a verbal shot at this season’s participant Dennis Rodman. Trace said that if the former bad boy of basketball didn’t change his ways, it would wind up killing him. 

All this action in just one grand and glorious Las Vegas evening.

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Las Vegas Topless Strip Clubs Rain Cash-For-Customers

As former topless cabaret mogul and government informant Michael Galardi walks the Las Vegas Strip schmoozing and looking for a new gig, a high-stakes strip poker match of a different type is agressively being played out at many Las Vegas topless adult entertainment clubs. 

Long a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” accepted business practice, Las Vegas strip clubs handsomely tipped cabbies that delivered lusty patrons to their doorstep.  Fifty bucks was the norm for over a decade.strip-clubs1

Until now.  

As home prices and sales continue to plummet and people try to find jobs or at least hold on to their employment, many Las Vegas topless strip clubs have seen fit to double the cab tip ante to at least $100 per customer.   That new ransom could equates to an average estimated payout of $5 million a year by each participating strip club.  A C-note buy in for participating in the cash-for-customers game is commonly paid by Ricks’ Cabaret Gentlemen’s Club, Treasures, Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, and many more- at least the ones that aren’t secretly looking for new owners or staving off their bankruptcy. 

No end appears in sight for the advancing Taxi Topless War.  Many clubs are trying to recoup rising “acquisition” costs by charging higher cover charges and drink prices.   Rick’s CEO and President Eric Langan mirrors the intentions of many strip club owners, saying he has no intention to be outbid by his Sin City bretheren and is willing to write off the expenses as the cost of marketing. 

As Las Vegas cab and limo drivers rake in record amounts of dough, they’re also arguing more with doormen to cut ever higher deals.   And it’s not uncommon to see cab drivers pass up picking up ladies waiting for a ride on the street in favor of waiting gents that can bring them more revenue.

Casino hosts, too, are also rapidly buying in to the very lucrative cash-for-customers game.   They’re not just referring their clients to the strip clubs, but hosting them inside the caverns of lust.

And, of course, you can bet your last dollar that the IRS will eventually come sniffing around and look for its due.

Recession hitting the Las Vegas topless clubs?  Pshaw!

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Las Vegas Art Scenesters Buckle Up for Bumpy Roller Coaster Ride

The Las Vegas Art Museum shutdown last month.  The Nevada Ballet has cutback on staff and postponed programs.  The Las Vegas Philharmonic is cutting back and holding on.   art

The Nevada Opera Theatre, though feeling the economic impact,  is cushioned somewhat by their pre-recession budgeting. 

“The effect on us has not been as traumatic as on the philharmonic and the ballet because of their much larger agenda and audience participation,” said founder and director Eileen Hayes, whose theatre actually has seen a budget increase from about $225,000 to $300,000. 

“Yes, contributions have been down, especially between the last two years and this year, but we’ve been in the mode of reducing our once big deficit dramatically over the last few years. And our audience attendance is really starting to rebound.” 

Beyond those factors, the company has not tied itself to a set season of performances and the attendant costs. When it does perform, it is at smaller, less expensive venues. Though for the past two years the company has not staged its usual production at UNLV’s large Artemus Ham Hall, Hayes expects that to resume. Tickets have been kept less than $50, and the group has kept close tabs on production budgets. 

“We’re just being very careful what we do,” Hayes said. “We have cut back on guest performers over the last several years. We used to bring in entire sets and costumes, but now we’ve gotten frugal and rent pieces locally and from Southern California. We used to rent entire sets from New York, but those days are gone.” 

At Opera Las Vegas, finances are actually on the upswing. Citing “prudent and creative fundraising,” Hal West, vice president of marketing and public relations, said his company is aiming for a 50 percent budgetary hike, increasing program investments from $50,000 to $75,000. Containing expenditures by staging only two productions this year, they briefly considered doubling the top $40 ticket price but nixed that notion. 

Similarly, the 32-year-old Las Vegas Little Theatre, Las Vegas’ oldest community theater, is functioning fairly well on a nearly $200,000 budget, maintaining six productions in the main stage theater and three in the smaller Black Box. 

“We’re not rolling in money, but we’re no worse than in previous years, paying our rent and electric bills,” said board President Walter Niejadlik, noting that keeping expectations reasonable and avoiding grandiose goals helps steady the balance sheet. “We’re not doing huge productions costing $20,000 a pop that never have a shot at making money back. It’s the undoing of a lot of arts organizations in this town. Everyone’s going to be the next greatest thing, doing art for art’s sake, but with no business sense.” 

Theater audiences traditionally skew older than for other art forms — on average, 65 to 70 years old, Niejadlik said — with more discretionary income to spend on the arts. But that demographic reality has a sad side: the steady attrition of season subscribers. Las Vegas Little Theatre loses about 70 subscribers a year. 

“Without being terribly morbid, they’re dying,” Niejadlik said. “We get a list of subscribers who have passed away. Our big focus is on getting younger folks into the theater.”

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Las Vegas Travel Web Site Upgrades Customer Options

VEGAS.com has revamped its Web site, enabling the creation of custom Las Vegas travel package for their customers with just one visit to the site. 

The improved VEGAS.com allows consumers to move seamlessly through its many offerings , adding items to their virtual shopping carts and checking out in one transaction after all the trip’s components – travel, lodging, shows and other activities – are  in place.  

Shoppers check on ticket availability for shows and other Las Vegas entertainment options before making their hotel and airline reservations at a package rate. 

It also offers flights from 400 airlines – up from one – and supports making flight reservations to Las Vegas from 1,700 cities, up from 90. 

When combined with the thousands of hotel, show, tour, golf, nightclub and restaurant options marketed by the site, VEGAS.com estimates that it will enable consumers to choose from 207 billion possible combinations of Las Vegas tourism offerings.

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Out with Miss America, In with Miss USA

No sooner than Miss America pageant contestants sashayed in and out of Las Vegas, then 51 Miss USA contestants strutted in to take their place at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.  On April 4 at 6 p.m. all the Miss USA contestants will have their first official welcoming ceremony, with the public invited to come out and meet, greet and photograph the bevy of beauties outside the resort on Las Vegas Boulevard plaza, 3667 Las Vegas Boulevard South. 

The iconic Donald Trump-owned Miss USA® Pageant returns for its second year to Las Vegas and the Theatre for the Performing Arts at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

Representing Miss Nevada USA will be Georgina Vaughan, who will have a brief four-mile drive from her home in georgiavaugnSummerlin to the festivities.   The local 20-year-old blonde beauty plans to wear a bikini from Jessica Simpson’s swimsuit line for that part of the competition and promises that she’s also going to take a risk with her evening gown competition as well.

“It’s definitely going to be something spectacular and different. I want to be a trendsetter because that’s what Nevada is all about in the first place. It’s going to have a real sparkle to it, but nobody will see it until the actual moment I walk in it for the competition.”

Rounding out the Las Vegas welcoming committee entourage will be Crystal Stewart, 2008 Miss USA®; Thomas McCartney, president and CEO of Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino; Lawrence Weekly, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board of Director and Clark County Commissioner; and other dignitaries.  KLUC’s Chet Buchanan will be onsite as the local emcee.

If the mass meet and greet is just too bland for you, might want to consider attending the Sunday, April 5 pajama brunch at Simon at Palms Place from noon to 2 p.m.  Twenty-six Miss USA contestants will be in their jammies eating anything yummy.    Then that evening the high metabolism blessed lovelies will pig out on pasta at Buca di Beppo in Las Vegas and be entertained by chef Michael Miyahara.

There is no word on whether Katie Rees, Miss Nevada USA 2007, who was stripped of her title after racy photos emerged of her kissing other women, will show up to kibitz with the new flock of beauties.

Also, no blog postings are being planned about having fun at Guantanamo Bay, as happened when Miss Universe Venezulean beaty queen Dayana Mendoza visited the detainee camp with Miss USA 2008 Crystal Stewart and posted her late-March bombshell entry.  It quickly vanished and was replaced by a statement from embarassed Paula M. Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organization.

The 2009 Miss USA® Pageant will air live on NBC on April 19, 2009.

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Carlos Santana to Headline The Joint in Las Vegas Hard Rock

Iconic guitarist Carlos Santana, 61, and his band, including drummer Dennis Chambers and keyboardist Chester carlossantanaThompson, has just signed a two-year deal through 2010 to do 36 shows a year in the newly refurbished The Joint, which opens on April 17.   Their Supernatural tour starts on May 27 and continues through June 14; they’re scheduled to return in September. 

Santana said he will approach his upcoming The Joint residency “from the point of bringing a spiritual confidence,” philosophically musing “a sunset and sunrise is never the same.  Making love is never the same unless you’re doing something wrong.”

Produced by media production company Frank the Plumber, the group will do four shows a week for three weeks per run.   Tickets go on sale today.

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Nevada Film Industry Weathers Economic Storm with Gusto

While most segments of Nevada’s economy have been shrinking, if not temporarily disappearing all together, there’s one area that not only met budget projections but those projections earned more than $100 million dollars for various Nevada coffers.  witchmountain

The Nevada Film Office (NFO) announced that film related production revenue for 2008 totaled $110,552,900, making it the 9th year that the NFO has met their $100 million benchmark. 

“The figures from the last decade confirm that Nevada is at the forefront of the film industry as a production destination.” said Luis Valera, Commissioner for the Nevada Commission on Economic Development. 

The NFO assists a variety of productions including commercials, television series and student and feature movies.   The movie “21” and CSI: Las Vegas are favorites that come to mind.  But already in 2009 the reality program The Locator, comedy show Howie Do It and the news program ABC Primetime have all completed Las Vegas filming segments. 

In 2008, the current box office smash Race to Witch Mountain spent several weeks filming in downtown Las Vegas- and it didn’t just spend time under the glitzy neon glamour lighting.  As with other productions, non-Strip Las Vegas facilities served as useful and realistic filming locations.   The Fergusons Motel on 10th street was the home of down on his luck hero cabbie Jack Bruno (aka Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson).  The El Cortez Hotel and perennial filming favorite, Planet Hollywood, was featured prominently.  And in addition to filming on the Strip and through Fremont Street, the Race to Witch Mountain crew spent time working at Red Rock Canyon – which once again appears to be the perfect setting for another far, far away and very arid planet. 

With a growing list of Las Vegas film projects already approved and permitted for 2009, this is sure to be another banner year for NFO revenues.  That should translate into more revenue in the bank for hotels, caterers and equipment rental agencies.  And, of course, Las Vegas residents who earn extra bucks playing extras, will continue to bring Nevada to life on plasma TVs around the world.  

With this amount of money spent by film crews each year, Las Vegas won’t even mind if the hero makes a grand exit through the side door of the Tropicana and walks out under the blinking winking lights of the Fremont Street canopy (Angel – Season 4 – The House Always Wins).   

After all, the buck stopped in Las Vegas, right?

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Changing of the Guard for Las Vegas Burlesque Shows

In Las Vegas the only real certainty is uncertainty itself.  Entertainment acts change, shows come and go.  And G-string revues are as much a part of the Las Vegas entertainment fabric as gambling itself.  Some say they harken way back to the days of the Dunes Hotel & Casino where it was fashionable to head out and watch the glamorous shows.  Fast forward to today, even the hugely popular sex goddess and entrepreneur Tera Patrick is contemplating a switch from a steady diet of porn to burlesque in Las Vegas. 

Following the footsteps of “Lido” that closed in 1991 after 32 years, this Saturday, March 28 after 49 years the iconic “Folies Bergere” burlesque revue at the Tropicana in Las Vegas will sadly go dark forever after performing 29,000 shows- along with the feathered showgirls the the style, spirit, and very essence of classic Las Vegas entertainment.  

But, even if you’re not one of the lucky 100 people that got a ticket for the final Folies show or one of the 750 invited guests and alumni, there’s still hope.

You can still watch  sexy cabaret revues like “Fantasy,” “Crazy Girls,” “X Burlesque,’ or the full-blown old-Vegas style revue “Jubilee!,” that’s been going since 1981.   Then there is  the female attraction of  “Men of X at Hooters.”  

But if you are game for a brand new Las Vegas burlesque treat you might want to catch the first previews of “Peepshow” that start on March 30 and run through April 17 at Planet Hollywood.  Billed as a “modern contemporary burlesque” the sexy show features Scary Spice Girl Mel B. (Melanie Brown) and “Dancing With the Stars” champion Kelly Monaco, who also played on “General Hospital” and posed for Playboy- watching them perform alone is worth the price of admission – and a cast of 29 principals, tightly choreographed dancers, and a band of all female musicians.  peepshow

Neither Mel B nor Monaco will be topless, but several of the dancers will be for the cabaret show.  Mel B plays Peep Diva, the mistress of the ceremonies, and Monaco is Bo Peep, who falls asleep in a short movie that starts the show. 

Broadway director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell says, “It really isn’t a musical because there isn’t really a written book and scenes that string the show together in that sense.  It’s a story told through song and dance.  It’s really modern day burlesque.  We’ve taken song and dance and the arte of striptease to tell a story.” 

BASE is producing the Las Vegas show.  Architect David Rockwell (“Phantom, the Las Vegas Spectacular”) designed the lavish set.  And Greg Barnes, who won a Tony Award for “The Drowsy Chaperone,” is creating the costumes. 

The music includes Michael Bubble’s “Feeling Good,” Connie Francis’ “Teddy,” Madonna’s “Hung Up,” and original tunes by Andrew Lippa. 

“We took the bones of what I created in New York and tailored it for the Las Vegas market,” says Mitchell. “We couldn’t do this show in New York City.  This is a Las Vegas show, for sexy adult men and women who want to go out together and have an amazing time.  We’re not trying to pound anything over anyone’s head.”  

Mitchell says he doesn’t want to reveal too much else about the show.  

“I don’t want to be coy, but isn’t that the fun of striptease- what you don’t see as opposed to what you see?” says Mitchell.  “It’s one of the things I think is desperately missing here in Las Vegas and something I’m a huge fan of- the right time to take it off.  It’s about how you take it off.”

Tickets range from $65 to $100 and previews for the tale with a tease start on Monday, March 30 through April 17 at the showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas (702-785-5000).

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Burning Man Turns Up Las Vegas Heat

Tired of the politico-speak, technobabble, and continuous water-drip torture of our choking economy?  Want to try your hand at building art- or a mutant vehicle?  Perhaps your cup of tea is spinning fire with  some poi and java?   If you don’t mind bringing in all your own sustaining necessities and using foot-power to travel, then you may enjoy escaping it all and heading to the Burning Man events in Nevada this year. burningman

Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind. It means different things to different people.  But suffice it to say that every summer 48,000 plus artistic Burning Man participants (aka Burners) meet in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada to create Black Rock City and re-engage with community, and celebrate shared values of radical self-expression and self-reliance.   Expressing and relying on themselves to a degree that is not normally encountered in one’s day-to-day life, they celebrate the power of community, honor the importance of art, and enjoy the immediacy of experience. Then they leave a week later – without a trace of having been there. 

This year the eclectic artsy clan will gather from August 31 through September 7.  Having an “evolution” themed event which promotes the very core of individual survival and philosophies of Charles Darwin and Natural Variation, the event urges participants to question themselves, where they’ve come from, and how they can adapt to our ever-changing world. 

Prior to that, though, Southern Nevada burners have just announced that they are gathering for the Dark Skies Arts Festival 2009, their own annual branded regional Southern Nevada Regional Burn event.  It will be at Mojave Drums in Meadview, AZ (about 100 miles north of Las Vegas) for four days from April 23rd through April 26th.   A limited number of 250 tickets have gone on sale yesterday afternoon, ranging in price from $45 to $75 each.  There will be no gate sales. 

The Las Vegas artist and performer community is small, but mighty and growing – they’ve increased the number of locals attending events every time they do them.  Their community is based on participation and communication, creating a growth outlet for creative people.  The Dark Skies community is planning this year to build an art installation, a mutant vehicle for roaming the playa (you can’t drive your own vehicle within camp), and put on various performances. 

Dark Skies promotes a radically inclusive, participatory, self-reliant, leave-no-trace event existing amid a gifting society environment (no buying and selling of goods and services) where people don’t direct others, but rather do what is necessary (they call it a “DO-Ocracy”).  It’s not a rave or camping trip – it’s a community. 

Dark Skies is accepting applications for either participating in or conducting workshops and special events. Last year they had a hula hoopin’ workshop, past life regression, fire spinning, solar power, creative rope bondage and more.  They also have crazy, zany events like a tightie-whities contest.  Deadline to submit workshop requests is April 17. 

Are we really just a very small piece of a gigantic cosmic puzzle?

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Reality is . . . World’s Strictest Parents?

“Reality” programming.  Design a fish-out-of-water scenario.  Find folks willing to have every moment of their life’s reality-tvexperiences video taped and displayed for what is sure to result in some public ridicule.  Then turn on the cameras and get ready to roll – somewhere there will be a market share willing to watch.  Considering the lower costs to produce shows like Survivor and the Amazing Race and the high advertising revenues those programs can generate, and it’s no wonder that more and more production companies are trying their hand at the “reality” television market. 

Not long after the reality travel shows started to hit the air, a second trend of hometown reality programming began appearing with shows like Super Nanny and It’s Me or The Dog popping up.  In these situation dromedies, dysfunctional family life was placed front and center with outtakes, personal video diaries and complete blog-o-sphere communities dedicated to dissecting each and every episode. 

Enter the latest in the reality genre – The World’s Strictest Parents.  For parents who are “proud of your firm parenting skills” this is a chance to host a teen who is “tired of your parents’ rules.” This import from British television is meant to shine a light on family relations and if it follows the path of the British original, that path will be short and rather one direction.  Unlike other trade-em-up programming such as Wife Swap where the mis-matched mom and family’s both trade out for two weeks or more, The World’s Strictest Parents is a one way flip that lasts on average only 8 days.  Unruly teens who are frustrated by the structure and stricture of their home life are sent to live with parents who are all about structure and stricture. 

If you’re interested in trying out, fill out the online form and head for casting in Las Vegas.  At least 8 episodes of the U.S. version are planned and have been picked up by CMT for an April pairing with Nanny 911.

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Lil Wayne Swaggas into Las Vegas

At 12 years old Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. was performing as the Tin Man at Eleanor McMain Secondary School in lilwayneNew Orleans.  Now 26 and known as Lil Wayne, he’s preparing to perform the major hits from his 13 year career at the Pearl Theatre at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. 

The Saturday, March 28 show comes just weeks before the anticipated debut of Lil Wayne’s seventh album, Rebirth, which is expected to follow in the Grammy nominated footsteps of The Carter III.  Which Rebirth cuts will be the next Swagga Like Us or Lollipop? 

Singer/songwriter Keri Hilson – the reported love squeeze of Lil Wayne – is also scheduled to perform with the rapper.  

Hilson’s own album A Perfect World will be available March 24.   Lil Wayne and Hilson performed together on Turnin’ Me On the third single from Hilson’s album released as a download on November 25, 2008.  Turnin’ Me On hit number two on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and broke the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

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Holly Madison Sets Sights on New Las Vegas Gig?

After being the main love squeeze for Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner for seven years, breaking up, and recently breaking up from Las Vegas illusionist and Luxor headliner Criss Angel following a four-month live-in relationship, Las Vegas resident, actress, and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Holly Madison, 29, says she is has no interest in hollymadisongetting back into another relationship anytime soon. 

But what she is wanting is to stay in the TV reality show business but move into “the production side of things.”  One of the three co-stars of the hit TV reality show “The Girls Next Door,” Madison now has her sights set on a Las Vegas project to be a reality show producer.  The concept reportedly would be a combination of “Girls Next Door,” and “The Hills,” with a little bit of the “Crazy Horse Paris” style topless revue thrown in just for good measure. 

“I want to establish my own brand and my own career and not be mooching off something else,” says Madison, who is now immersed into dance rehearing six hours a day at the Delgado Dance Studio in Summerlin.  Madison had no prior dance background before becoming a last-minute addition to replace the injured Jewel on “Dancing with the Stars” and remains in the competition with her dance partner Dimitry Chaplin.

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Las Vegas Performing Arts Center Plans for Groundbreaking

All is not gloom and doom when it comes to Las Vegas art funding in our recession.  The Smith Center for the lasvegasperformingartsPerforming Arts could break ground in as little as two months, thanks to the City of Las Vegas for being in the midst of finalizing a financing package that supports the construction and takes into account the impact of the economic downturn. 

The total $485 million center is being financed by many seed revenue sources including $105 million in Las Vegas bonds that are being backed by a 2 percent tax on rental cars, which are planned to be sold by the end of this month; $85 million in bonds backed by revenues from the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency (not operating funds); and $150 million or more from the private Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.  

The City of Las Vegas total financial obligation for the center funding is $170 million.  

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts will be the anchor tenant of the 61-acre Union Park development in downtown Las Vegas that is touted to be the “new Las Vegas,” with the center containing a 2,050-seat main theater as well as smaller performance spaces and classrooms, a park and outdoor theater.  It will be the home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet. 

Construction costs make up $245 million of the total $485 million estimated cost, with the rest of the funding pegged for an operation endowment and furniture, fixtures and equipment. 

Construction is expected to generate 1,000 Las Vegas jobs over two years. 

“We are stimulating the economy,” said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.  “We’re stimulating our intellect in the community.”

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The Bard Takes Up Sin City Digs

“A Taste of Shakespeare” – a new venture from the Las Vegas playhouse and Springs Preserve that presents  bite-sized 15-minute versions of the classic plays – is planned for the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas on May 23-25.  shakespeare

The outings will also feature food, wine tastings and performances by the rejuvenated Henderson Symphony Orchestra.

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Junk for some is $900,000 art for others

Two San Francisco artists are suing a Gerlach farm-owner claiming he torched La Contessa, a replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon that often appeared at the annual Burning Man festival.contessa

Simon Cheffins, an artist, and Greg Jones, a mechanical engineer who helped build it, said in their suit that Mike Stewart, owner of Orient Farms, considered their creation “junk” and destroyed it on Dec. 5, 2006.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, claims Stewart violated a federal law that prohibits the destruction of art work and seeks $900,000 in damages and also punitive damages and legal fees.

Although the ship was kept on property that Stewart had later acquired, the “Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990” protects and artist’s work regardless of where it’s housed, said Paul Quade, a Reno lawyer representing Cheffins and Jones.

Stewart, an outspoken opponent of Burning Man, never tried to contact the artists, Quade said, and had the debris left after the burning hauled away for “scrap.”
 
Quaid said that it took about 100 people more than 9,000 hours to build the galleon in 2001 and 2002 using donated funds and grant money.

“Performances of theatre, music and trapeze took place on La Contessa during Burning Man and other festivals,” Quade said. It was also featured as “a significant work of art” in numerous media outlets, he said, including Rolling Stone Magazine, the Discovery Channel, and the San Francisco Guardian.

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Bye-Bye to Jeff Beacher & The Scintas – Good Luck!

Jeff Beacher and his entertaining band of crazy misfit zanies, dubbed “Beacher’s Madhouse,” have long been Las Vegas jeffbeacherentertainment icons, performing at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas and elsewhere.   Beacher partied at Tao nightclub last week and in his farewell he said he will be touring with his entourage throughout Midwestern U.S., playing to smaller and enthusiastic audiences as he earns enough money, hopefully, to supposedly open his own house and show when he later returns to Las Vegas at some unspecified future time.

scintasSimilarly, The Scintas are sadly ending their nine-year run as Las Vegas headliners and taking their show on the road, at least for now. “With the economy where it is and people not traveling as much as before, we’re going to the people,” says Frankie Scinta, who fronts the four-member family group that includes brother Joey, sister Chrissy and longtime member Peter O’Donnell. The group is reportedly not moving out of Las Vegas, is currently working on a sitcom pilot, and they vow to return in April to the Suncoast for their thank-you to their Las Vegas fans.

Las Vegas Backstage Access wishes the best for Jeff Beacher and his entourage and The Scintas.

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U2 Gears Up for Las Vegas Concert

The U2’s “U2360” tour, scheduled only for large stadium settings around the world, will include an October 23 stop at u21Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.  The announcement coincided with word that U2 had scored its seventh No. 1 album on the U.S. pop album chart.  

But even the hugely popular Irish rock group is taking a hit during the recession.  “No Line on the Horizon” sold only 484,000 copies during the week ending March 8, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  That’s well down from the band’s best opening of 840,000 in 2004 with their “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” album.

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Spice Girl Mel B Takes It Off in Las Vegas

Former Spice Girl Mel B, who co-stars with Kelly Monaco, in the upcoming “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood Resort in melbLas Vegas feels less is best.   While the singer was recently fitting her costumes she felt they weren’t suggestive enough and began immediately taking parts of her costumes off and hiking up the hemlines to make them ultra skimpier. 

Is it just something in the rare Sin City air or what that makes people do strange things here? 

The adult show opens for previews on March 30.

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Michael Jackson’s “This Is It!” Tour Sells 20,000 Tickets Per Hour

thisisittourEuropeans apparently still love the 50-year-old ‘Gold’ Gloved Wonder, who inhabited Las Vegas in reclusive style before recently moving to Hollywood.  

And his fans don’t mind paying for Jackson’s concerts in our economic recession.

Following Jackson’s 12-year tour layoff, AEG organizers now have extended his original 10-concert, $1 million per concert, deal at London’s 02 Arena to a total of 50, extending his planned performances out to February 2010.  

Tickets sold like proverbial hotcakes- with plenty of syrup:  360,000 tickets were sold in 18 hours during the presale, equating to 20,000 tickets per hour, and 33 tickets per minute.  

If – IF – Michael Jackson shows up and makes all his concerts, that will mean 1 million fans will have witnessed in person the aura and karma exuding from the self-proclaimed aging King of Pop.

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The Lion King Cast Announced

Casting has been announced for the new Las Vegas production of the Tony-winning The Lion King, which will begin previews at the Mandalay Bay Theatre on May 5 with an official opening May 15. lionking

The cast features performers who have triumphed in productions of Lion King around the world, including stagings in New York, Taipei, South Africa, London, Los Angeles, Australia, Toronto, Shanghai, Paris and Holland.  

Thom Sesma (The Times They Are A-Changin’) will play the evil Scar with Alton F. White (Ragtime) as Mufasa and Los Angeles native Marvette Williams as Sarabi. South African native Buyi Zama will play Rafiki.  The cast will also feature Kissy Simmons (Nala), Clifton Oliver (Simba), Damian Baldet (Timon), Patrick Kerr (Zazu) and Adam Kozlowski (Pumbaa). The three hyenas will be played by Keith Bennett (Banzai), Jacquie Hodges (Shenzi) and Robbie Swift (Ed). Duane Ervin and Elijah Johnson will alternate in the role of Young Simba, and Ruby Crawford and Jade Nelson will alternate in the role of Young Nala. 

Since its Broadway opening on Nov. 13, 1997, The Lion King has been seen by 45 million people worldwide. Directed by Julie Taymor – who became the first woman to ever receive a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical – The Lion King has become an international hit with productions playing all around the globe. The Elton John-Tim Rice musical has won over 30 major awards. Those include six Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical; eight Drama Desk Awards; six Outer Critics Circle Awards; two Sir Laurence Oliviers; the Evening Standard Award for Best Theatrical Event; and three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. 

Tickets will go on sale to the public March 14 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center at (702) 632-7580 or (800) 745-3000 or by visiting www.mandalaybay.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

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Criss Angel Receives Good News: Awarded “Magician of the Decade”

crissangelFor a change, good news showers down on Las Vegas illusionist Criss Angel.  The International Magicians Society has awarded the 41-year-old Angel, whose real name is Christopher Sarantakos, its first-ever Merlin Award for “Magician of the Decade” last Saturday in honor of his magical accomplishments. Angel previously received the organization’s “Magician of the Year” honor in 2001, 204, 2005, 2007 and 2008. 

The famed illusionist appeared humble when accepting the award, telling those attending, “I never set out to win awards, just to push my own envelope and try to create something that’s never been done.”

Criss Angel’s “Believe” illusion show opened at the Luxor in Las Vegas early in January to mixed reviews and almost immediately went dark for a Cirque du Soleil “magical” revamping before reopening later in the month.

To add to Angel’s mishaps, in late February, Angel broke up with his girlfriend, Holly Madison, who previously had been dating Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner until last October.

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Sir Paul McCartney’s Las Vegas April 19 Performance Sells Out In Seconds

Tickets for a one-off gig by Sir Paul McCartney in Las Vegas sold out in seven seconds after going on sale.  Just 4,000 fans will be fortunate to see the former Beatle perform at the grand opening of the New Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on April 19. paulmccartney

Sales opened on February 14, Valentine’s Day, and sold at a rate of almost 600 seats a second, according to promoter Concerts West, saying it would be “a night like Vegas has never seen before.” 

Prior to this, Take That held the record for the fastest sell-out of a music tour when all 600,000 tickets for their Circus tour sold out in four-and-a-half hours last year. 

Organizers claim Sir Paul has beaten that sell-out feat, although this has yet to be verified by the Guinness Book of Records. 

The new $60 million Joint is double the size of its predecessor.  Almost every leading band has performed there at some time, including Oasis, The Killers, Linkin Park and Bon Jovi performed. 

McCartney is also set to headline the opening day of the Coachella music festival in California in April.

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Nevada Ballet Theatre Gouged by Recession

The nonprofit arts group announced on March 10 that it is trimming its company of dancers from 31 to 22, reducing its administrative staff and leaving vacant positions unfilled.  The Nevada Ballet Theatre also has postponed its season finale, “New Work ’09,” which had been set for performance May 15-17.   That performance is now planned to be  incorporated into next season’s schedule. 

Further, season subscribers are being urged to donate their tickets back to the ballet to show support during its economic struggles.  To supplement this revenue, an anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $50,000 in contributions received before June 30. 

Nevada Ballet Theatre has been beset by declining donor contributions and ticket sales and drop in tuition revenue from its academy. 

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas is targeting a 2011 opening, including a theatre that the ballet company has been planning to share with the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

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St Patrick’s Day Celebrations in Henderson, Nevada

The 43rd Annual Sons of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival will be held March 12-15 in Henderson, Nevada.  The daily carnival at the Henderson Events Plaza, 200 Water Street, will have rides and games with a portion of the stpatricksproceeds going to Positively Kids.  Positively Kids offers services and programs to assist medically fragile children in the Las Vegas valley and is the charity benefiting from this year Sons of Erin St. Patrick Day celebration.

So whether you’re interested in a free concert sponsored by Phil Flowers Productions, want to spend an evening at the Irish Pub, enjoy carnival rides, or simply enjoy the spectacle and spectacular of the annual St. Patricks Day parade (scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, March 14), come on down and help turn Water Street green!

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ShoWest Awardees Announced

“Where does one begin when referring to Michael Caine,” said Mitch Neuhauser, ShoWest co-managing director.  “With over five decades of films to his credit, Michael Caine has quietly commanded the screen in well over 100 roles. He simply does it all, and he does it all so incredibly well be it comedy, drama or action. With such films as ‘Alfie,’ michael-caine‘Funeral in Berlin,’ ‘Sleuth,’ ‘The Man Who Would Be King,’ ‘Educating Rita,’ ‘Hannah & Her Sisters,’ ‘The Cider House Rules,’ ‘The Quiet American,’ and of course, ‘The Dark Knight,’ Michael Caine’s diversity has accorded him this incredible ability to draw movie audiences in worldwide throughout his career. We could not be more honored to present this brilliant actor with the ShoWest Lifetime Achievement Award.” 

Michael Caine will receive the ShoWest Lifetime Achievement Award at ShoWest’s Final Night Banquet and Award Ceremony at Bally’s and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 2.  

Also being recognized at the 2009 ShoWest event are Zack Snyder as the ShoWest 2009 Director of the Year Award, Zac Efron – ShoWest 2009 Breakthrough Performer of the Year Award (previous Las Vegas Backstage Access article), Bradley Cooper – ShoWest 2009 Comedy Star of the Year Award, Sienna Miller – ShoWest Supporting Actress of the Year and Chris Pine – ShoWest Male Star of Tomorrow (previous Las Vegas Backstage Access article).  

Kerasotes Showplace Theatres Chairman and CEO Tony Kerasotes and President and Chief Operating Officer Dean Kerasotes, will also be honored as the “ShoWesters of the Year” at the 2009 convention.

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Elvis is Back in the House

There are Elvis impersonators aplenty in Las Vegas, but one of the most popular is Trent Carlini.  Starting this Monday, March 9, Carlini will be officially launching “Elvolution” for seven shows each week in Steve Wryick’s magic theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. trentcarlini

Carlini, who came to Las Vegas in 1990, performing in “Legends in Concert” for six years, then followed for five years in “The Dream Kings” in the Boardwalk, says the “Elvolution” title is about how much Elvis fandom has evolved since Elvis’ death in 1977.  “People are actually appreciating the (tribute) artist’s talent other than enjoying the Elvis music.  People recognize me more as a talent more than someone just hiding behind a mask.”

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Las Vegas World Movie Premier: “Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective” on March 8

Celebrities galore plan to walk the “green carpet” for the world movie premiere of “Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet ace-venturaDetective” on Sunday at Noon (line forms at 10 a.m.) at the Springs Preserve at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. in Las Vegas. 

The event, sponsored by Johnny Brenden (Brenden Theatres at the Palms) and the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, features celebrity hosts Ryan Malgarini (CBS’ Gary Unmarried) and Brittany Curran (Legally Blondes).  And walking the carpet from the film will be Josh Flitter (Nancy Drew, License to Wed), Emma Lockhart (Batman Begins), Austin Rogers (Drillbit Taylor), Reed Alexander (Nickelodeon’s iCarly), Adam Hicks (How to Eat Fried Worms, Shaggy Dog), Hunter Clary (Fuel, The Transporter II, Meet the Spartans) and Dan Curtis Lee (Upcoming Zeke & Luther, Ned’s Classified School Survival Guide). 

Attendees can receive autographs from their favorite celebrities and then all are invited to a special movie showing at the venue. 

The movie follows the Ace Ventura motion picture series made popular by Jim Carrey.  Actor Josh Flitter, 12, plays Ace Jr., the son of the eccentric detective who steps into his father’s shoes after his mother is wrongly arrested for stealing a baby panda.  The movie provides a new generation of family fun and goof-brained comedy panda-monium as Ace Ventura Jr. teams with adventurous girl-next-door Laura (Emma Lockhart) and nerdish gizmo-wiz A-Plus (Austin Rogers) to chase down leads and laughs.

Ready for fun? Allriiiighty-then. Ace – Ace Jr. is on the case!

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Star Power Provides Fundraising Power for ‘Keep Memory Alive’ Lou Ruvo Benefit in Las Vegas

Ka-ching, ka-ching. . . the revenue results have been tabulated for last Saturday’s “Keep Memory Alive” fundraising benefit at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.  In a choking recession, Keep Memory Alive has cleared a cool $10 million for the event, including one $5 million donation, two $1 million donations.  That brings the grand total to more than $75 million raised by the organization since it started 13 years ago. 

The event’s huge success could have been attributed to many reasons: Siegfried & Roy’s supposed final performance, the gala ambiance, the scrumptious food prepared by celebrity chefs galore, or was it the free-flowing Dom Perignon? Maybe it was the auctioned trip to David Copperfield’s Bahamas estate, hosted by the magician, which went for $60,000?  Could the success be attributed to the gaggle of celebrities in attendance including Teri Hatcher, Hilary Duff, Danny DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman, comic actor (and former Riviera entertainment director) Steve Schirripa, Muhammed Ali, Kristin Davis, and Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Ferrell?

Tossing conjectures aside, the gala highlighted Keep Memory Alive’s team coordination and fundraising prowess to bring about an heightened awareness to brain disorder diseases – Alzeimer’s alone afflicts about 5.2 million Americans – and raise money in Las Vegas in a down economy for a great cause.

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‘This is It’ Says Michael Jackson

As reported by Vegas Backstage Access a couple of times in the recent past, there was a strong indication that there would soon be a Michael Jackson tour announced.  Now it’s official:  The self-proclaimed 50-year-old King of Pop announced on Thursday at a London news conference that he will have a series of 10 performances – the ‘This-is- It’ tour – at the 20,000-seat London’s O2 Arena, beginnning July 8.  

After taking a 4 ½ hour physical from concert promoters’ doctors, Jackson was declared fit as a fiddle to perform.  Then he came out and told his fans that this would be his last concert in England, leaving the door open, perhaps, for concerts elsewhere.  

The shows would mark Jackson’s first major performances since 2001 and 2002, when he appeared at a pair of 30th anniversary celebrations and two benefit concerts.  His brief appearance at the World Music Awards in 2006 was booed by some audience members.  Jackson’s last extended performances were for the HIStory tour in 1996-97 that had 82 performances. 

There is still hope for Las Vegas performances, though.  While Jackson has expressed little interest in a long-term Las Vegas deal because of the rigorous demands, he has always thought of Vegas as a last stop for fading stars.  And remember that the Los Angeles-based AEG, which manages and books The 02 and also sets deals with The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.  AEG reportedly has a deal for more than triple the 10 dates that were announced.

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Louis Prima’s Jazz Lives On This Weekend in Las Vegas

lenaprimaIt’s been three decades since the legendary jazzman Louis Prima passed on, but his music still lives on through his daughter, Lena.  louisprima4Lena Prima, 45, will be performing a tribute concert to her late father at the Cannery in Las Vegas at 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday. 

Louis Prima helped spearhead the acceptance of New Orleans jazz in the 1920s and big band in the ’40s.  By the ’50s and through the ’60s, he had a wildly popular lounge act in Las Vegas.  Prima was known as much for his sense of fun as for his excellent skills as a jazzman. 

Younger audiences continue to come to him via “Just a Gigola/I Ain’t got Nobody,” a chart success by David Lee Roth in the ’80s, and “Jump, Jive an’ Wail,” which the Brian Setzer Orchestra featured a decade later.

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Michael Jackson Expected To Announce $10 Million Performance Deal on March 5

Michael Jackson has reportedly returned to London yesterday to launch his comeback.  The 50-year-old debt-ridden King of Pop, who has been living in Las Vegas for the better part of two years while entertaining many performance offers, is scheduled to make a “special announcement” March 5 at The 02 Arena in London.  michael-jacskon2

Jackson will reportedly perform 10 concerts for a reported $10 million.  

The Los Angeles-based AEG Live, who operates The O2, has reportedly booked the deal.  If the shows are well-received and attended, and Jackson can make the commitments, the deal could extend to a total of 20 to 30 performances, at up to $1 million per show. 

AEG also has a strong Las Vegas connection.  Could it be that he will perform here too?

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Atlatl Throwing Anyone?

The Valley of Fire State Park, located about 15 miles north of Las Vegas, is known for its vibrant red sandstone atlatllandscape with a variety of rock formations including natural arches.  But for real special treat on March 27 through 29 The World Atlatl Association is having a atlatl contest there where you can watch serious competitors and amateurs try their hand and muscle with the ancient weapon- a simple stick cleverly designed to hurl a spear with great force – from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Atlatl Rock Picnic Area in the Valley of Fire.  

The park entrance fee is $6 per vehicle.  For more information, call 702-397-2088 or http://parks.nv.gov/vf.htm  Don’t forget your camera.

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Elton John Belts Out Last Beat on April 22 in Las Vegas …241 Performances & 3 Years Later

Sir Elton John started out as a limited run scheduled for just 75 shows over 3 years.  But as the lights went down on elton-johnthe first Elton John Red Piano performance at Caesars Palace on February 14, 2004, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be just a normal Vegas revue gig.  And it wasn’t the David LaChappelle photography, the inflatable banana’s and cherries or the actual red piano center piece that made his Las Vegas performances stand out.  It was the music, performed by Sir Elton John and his band that routinely drew his fans to his sold out show. 

Now, 241 performances later, Sir Elton John will say good-bye to the Coliseum at Caesars Palace on April 22, 2009. 

Sir Elton John’s career began in 1961 as a member of the band Bluesology.  In 1967 he started working with Bernie Taupin and a legendary music industry relationship was born.  After his 1970 self-titled debut album there followed a long string of critical and financial successes.  From 70’s hits like the perpetually popular “Your Song” to “Good-bye Yellow Brick Road” to 80’s favorites “Empty Garden” and “I’m Still Standing,” Sir Elton John and his who’s who cache of co-writers and producers have entertained audiences around the world.  

In 1992 Sir Elton John established the Elton John Aids Foundation to help find a cure for HIV.  To date, this organization has raised more than $150 million and actively works in 55 countries offering support services and treatment options to those living with HIV/AIDS. 

Also in the 1990’s Sir Elton John began another somewhat magical musical relationship when he collaborated with Tim Rice on Disney’s ‘Lion King’ soundtrack.  He earned a Grammy and his first Oscar for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and went on to work with Rice on the Broadway hit ‘Aida.’

While performing at Caesars these last five years in Las Vegas, Sir Elton John has shared the Coliseum Theater with Celine Dion, Cher and Bette Midler.  In late 2008 he took the Red Piano on the road, touring Europe with the show before returning to Las Vegas for the final Caesar’s performances.

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Illusionists Siegfried & Roy – & Career-Ending White Bengal Tiger -Take Final Las Vegas Curtain Call

Future performances from iconic Las Vegas illusionists Siegfried and Roy – and the white Bengal tiger that ended their prior careers – are, sadly, over.  siegfried

For their last hurrah the trio shared the stage on February 28 at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for their haunting final performance for the 13th annual “Power of Love” gala benefit for the Keep Memory Alive organization, proceeds going to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. 

Hosted by Robin Leach, in the audience were Teri Hatcher, Leeza Gibbons, Hilary Duff, Danny DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman, comic actor (and former Riviera entertainment director) Steve Schirripa, Muhammed Ali, Kristin Davis, and Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Ferrell.

The gala began by feasting on mouth-watering cuisine from chef’s Todd English, Wolfgang Puck, David Robins, Martin Heierling, and Jean-Philippe Maury. 

Then the abbreviated charity show saw Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher side by side with Montecore, the massive white tiger that brutally mauled Horn during a 2003 performance.

Horn re-emerged Saturday dressed in a Gothic-style black-and-white robe, his face covered with a skeletal mask. The dark stage was covered in smoke.  Horn limped slowly onstage, often steadying himself on Fischbacher’s shoulder.

The two slowly performed a signature illusion as Fischbacher, dressed in white robes and a mask, stood inside a cage, which was cloaked in drapes.  As Horn removed the curtain seconds later, Fischbacher appeared across stage, a hulking white Bengal tiger in his place- it was Montecore.

As the crowd took to its feet, the men removed their masks and Fischbacher was standing between Montecore and Horn. They waved and blew kisses at the audience, but said nothing.

An announcer left the crowd with this final thought: “Within all of us there is an illusive melody, which when heard and followed will lead you to the fulfillment of your fondest dreams.”

On October 3, 2003, Montecore sank its teeth deep into Horn’s neck, dragging him offstage in front of a horrified audience. The illusionist, now 64, was partially paralyzed, suffering a damaged neck artery and crushed windpipe. 

After 13 years and more than 5,000 performances, the “Siegfried & Roy” show at The Mirage immediately went dark, ending one of the most successful shows in Las Vegas history.

During Horn’s long rehabilitation, though, both men remained devoted to their exotic habitat on the Las Vegas Strip. The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage hotel-casino houses lions, tigers and leopards. Fischbacher, 69, has called it Horn’s “reason to get up in the morning.”

The benefactor for the event, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, will treat brain disorders like those Horn now suffers, is set to open later this year in a building designed by architect Frank Gehry.

An estimated $12 million was raised by the event for the Ruvo center, punctuated by  a $450,000 bid on a Rolls-Royce trimmed with the Keep Memory Alive logo, and a $5 million donation by Chuck Mathewson, CEO emeritus of IGT.   Steve and Elaine Wynn donated another $1 million.

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“Men of X” opens at Las Vegas Hooters on March 13

Joining the Las Vegas list of male G-string Las Vegas revues of “American Storm,” “Thunder from Down Under,” and mensburlesque“Chippendales: The Show” will be “Men of X” which opens at Hooters on March 13.  The six-man revue is produced by Angela and Matt Stabile, who also operate “X Burlesque” at the Flamingo.  The revue replaces comedian Bobby Slayton.

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Is Michael Jackson going to perform in Las Vegas?

Money-hurting music pop star Michael Jackson, on and off again Las Vegas resident, has got rid of his white gloves and is now in talks to mount a concert comeback with up to 30 live shows in either London or Las Vegas later this year.michaeljackson

If it happens, it would be Jackson’s first major performance since his 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges.

London’s O2 arena is said to be competing with a few hotels in Las Vegas to lure the 50-year-old “King of Pop” back to the stage he once ruled.  This effort has been launched in the past, but now it’s in earnest.

Even though his bizarre behavior has wrecked his image, some insiders think the shows could net him $215 million, according to published reports in British newspapers.

“It will be the greatest comeback in the history of pop and there would be no problem selling out the O2 every night,” one source told London’s Daily Mail. “No one is concerned about his reputation and people don’t feel it is a risk. Organizers are confident people will come from all over the world to see him.”

There’s one fact for certain:  Jackson really needs the work.  Once one of the richest entertainers in the world, he’s in severe dire financial straits these days.  Last year he had to fight a $7 million lawsuit by a son of the King of Bahrain over an unpaid debt. In April, he’s auctioning off thousands of his possessions, including the sequined white glove he famously wore in the “Billie Jean” videos.

Jackson has said he is working on a new album, but nothing has materialized.  An adaptation of his video “Thriller” is supposedly headed for Broadway.  Released into 1982, “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time and launched Jackson’s career into the stratosphere.

He’s largely been a mysterious recluse in recent years while his reputation has been battered by sex scandal, strange illnesses, plastic surgeries and other odd and eccentric behavior.

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Criss Angel’s Girlfriend Holly Madison ‘Disappears’

Criss Angel, 41, magician extraordinaire performing at the Luxor in Las Vegas, and his girlfirend Holly Madison, 29, are no longer a couple.    Word is that they broke up when Madison moved back into her parent’s home.   According to Angel’s publicist, Steve Flynn: “They remain very close friends and wish each otherhollymadison the very best.”

Madison is best known for her work on the reality TV show “The Girls Next Door.” She had been dating Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner until last October.

“All she’s doing is following Criss Angel around to all of his magic shows, with no legitimate job to speak of,” a source told USmagazine.com. “She’s still heartbroken and regretful about how things went down with Hef.  Then she ran into the arms of Criss Angel, but then it’s like, ‘This is not everything I thought it would be.'”

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Danny Gans Performs at Wynn’s Encore Theatre

It was first Danny Gans, “The Man of 200 Voices,” performing at the Mirage in Las Vegas in 2000 with Steve Wynn as dannygans1his backer.  And now, not much has changed:  “Danny Gans, the Man of More Than 200 Voices,” is regularly entertaining at the Encore in 2009.  And Steve Wynn is once again watching him from the wings. 

Gans one-man Vegas show began at the Stratosphere in 1996, moved to the Rio in 1998 and then to the custom built Danny Gans Theatre at the Mirage in 2000.   He brings new material and an expanded repertoire to the Encore Theatre which is sure to earn him further recognition in the local entertainment industry.

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Coming up this weekend on Las Vegas Backstage Access

Las Vegas Backstage Access is preparing articles to be published this weekend on Danny Gans, Naomi Arin Art Gallery exhibit, Tiger Jam XII, “Men of X,” and, yes, even Michael Jackson- and more.  Stay tuned.

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Country Music & NASCAR Rev Their Engines in Las Vegas

More than 10,000 NASCAR fans are expected to swarm the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas this weekend.   The sixth annual RaceJam will bring entertainment highlighted by country star Trent Tomlinson and former Lynrd Skynrd drummer Artimus Pyle in Saturday night performances from 9 to 11 p.m.   Also, from 6 to 8 p.m, on Saturday, Southern Stue, Tony Marques, and T.J. Weaver will be performing.  Still not having your music fill?  If so, come back on Sunday from 8 to 11 p.m. to listen to the Highwire Band and Speaks Brothers.

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‘Osmondmania’: Las Vegas Blessing or Curse?

Osmondmania.  It’s everywhere- the Las Vegas equivalent to motherhood and apple pie.donnymarie

The seven Osmonds have been performing in front of world-wide audiences for 50 years.  They were virtually born on stage and continue to make it their home, thrilling many millions of people with their unique brand of barbershop, pop, rock, country, and jazz music

With millions of albums and have several gold and platinum records to their credit, the Osmonds have broken records for sell out performances once held by the Beatles and Elvis, and won numerous awards including the People’s Choice Award.

And choking economy or not, Donny and Marie Osmond continue to perform and shine brightly on the Las Vegas Strip.  Taking the helm when past Flamingo headliner Toni Braxton had to end her show last April due to health concerns, their 90-minute greatest-hits multimedia show at the Flamingo Showroom, which opened September 9, 2008, has an extended run through October 2010.

Now it appears the Osmonds will be Las Vegas for an eternity- and then some.  “The Osmond musical name-and teeth- will live for a long time,” jokes Donny, 51. “Marie and I still are working hard in Vegas because, with dozens of grandkids waiting in the wings and needing jobs one day, we may have to take over every hotel on the Strip.” 

Osmondmania appears here to stay in Las Vegas.

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Boston’s Vinnie Favorito Packs ‘Em In at the Flamingo in Las Vegas

Times are tough, but you wouldn’t know it by watching the insulting Boston comic Vinnie Favorito throw down a torrent of smack and pack ’em in nightly at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.vinniefavorito

Although we’re all perhaps feeling a little down on ourselves right now, Favorito has refined his ethnic humor to fit our blended and ever evolving society.  He has his black jokes and his Mexican jokes, but when he finds a couple in the audience with of each he asks, “When something’s missing, who do you blame?”

Why is Favorito’s style so popular?  It’s hard to know for certain, but maybe there’s an undercurrent of nostalgia for the simpler era of chop-busting.

Or perhaps it’s because we have moved so far past those simple definining lines in the real world, and it’s now just harmlessly ridiculous when Favorito acts mock-astonished that a Mexican couple has no children.

Either way, there is something direct and kinetic about a guy that keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering if you’ll be the next victim.

Vinnie Favorito carries on the Don Rickles torch daily at 8 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.

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Hip-Hop Star Nelly Gambles on New Las Vegas TV Show

Hip-hop star Nelly is pacting with “The Biggest Loser” producer 25/7 Productions to take a stab at the popular variety TV genre.nelly

“Nelly’s Night in Vegas” is currently being pitched to networks as a weekly series that would feature Nelly performing and interacting with celebrities.  25/7’s Dave Broome is set to be the executive producer along with Nelly and “The Daily Show” co-creator Madeleine Smithberg.

“I was thinking about what was missing on TV, and when this idea came about, it made sense for me,” said Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Iral Haynes Jr. “We do have talkshows, but no one’s speaking from the pop culture perspective. Let’s get a little more pop, a little more edge, a little bit younger, and not look like you’re sitting in the principal’s office. As a performer, that’s the type of show you look forward to going on.”

Broome said the producers have reportedly already sealed a deal with Planet Hollywood to film the weekly show at its Las Vegas hotel; 25/7 is also in conversations with other sponsors about potential pacts.

“Nelly’s Night in Vegas” would be a talkshow-variety hybrid, Broome said, with a sidekick and house band, as well as guests and performances. Because it will shoot in LasVegas, there may also be an in-studio gaming element.

Nelly has sold more than 20 million albums throughout his career and has picked up several Grammy Awards. As an actor, Nelly appeared in feature “The Longest Yard” and in a multiepisode arc on CBS’ “CSI: NY.”

Nelly is the latest star to dabble in reviving the variety genre; CBS is working on a variety special starring musician John Mayer, while Fox is set to launch a show this spring starring the Osbournes.

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Munich Symphony Orchestra Takes Las Vegas Center Stage

Hanibal the Cannibal Lechter (Anthony Hopkins) enjoyed listening to their good vibrations as he dined in “The Silence of the Lambs” movie.   Now, safely tucked away in your chair, you too can hear the Munich Symphony Orchestra – they’ve recorded music for more than 500 movies – under the direction of guest conductor and pianist Phillippe Entremont when they perform an all-Beethoven program at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, February 22, at Artemus Ham Hall on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.   $45 to $90 ticket prices. 702-895-2787.

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‘Legends in Concert’ Las Vegas Show Upgraded After 26 Years

legendsTomorrow, February 21, the third longest-running show in Las Vegas, behind only “Follies Bergere” (closing this March) and “Jubilee!” gives its last performance in its longtime home at the Imperial Palace on The Strip.  It reopens on Monday, February 23 at Harrah’s Las Vegas, sharing the main showroom with comedian Rita Rudner (prior Las Vegas Backstage Access blog article).

“Legends in Concert” is marking the move to make some long-delayed upgrades and relaunch their show that’s somewhat become a victim of its own success.

When original producer-director John Stuart introduced the show to the Strip in May 1983, it was quite the in place to go.  Departed Las Vegas greats such as Bobby Darin returned and shared stage time with other ill-fated stars who never made it to the Sands.  Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin were part of the opening-week lineup.

But now, costumed impersonators- or “tribute artists” as they are affectionately called- are so widely accepted and a staple of entertainment, that few blink an eye when a new artist enters the fray.  Tributes to everyone from John Denver to Ozzy Osbourne are a regular staple of off-Strip local casinos, as well as tribal-owned casinos around the country.  And lately, the official versions of classic rock bands such as Journey and Styx have blurred the faux line even more by pulling in singers from the tribute circuit.

With so many look-alike and now sound-alike acts in Las Vegas and around the country, it’s been hard for “Legends” to maintain its authenticity and dominance.  What makes Elvis One better than Elvis Five?

Answering the challenge, the new “Legends” at Harrah’s has been reinvented and will feature a new accompanying video to put each act into the context of its original times.  And the format is trying harder to blend the “modular” approach that allowed acts to easily be swapped in an out and provide a refreshed audience experience over time. 

The show also has grown bolder about exploring its fanciful and alluring premise, letting some of its acts – and their underlying new visual technology – appear together and thus magnify the illusions.  One Christmas themed episode re-created the famous “Little Drummer Boy” duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

Has “Legends in Concert” truly experienced a New Age rebirth?

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“Menopause” Musical at the Las Vegas Hilton Set to Close April 5th

Inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, writer/producer Jeanie Linders created the show as a celebration of women who are on the brink of, in the middle of, or have survived “The Change.” Since its first performance, the show has evolved as a “grassroots” movement of women who deal with life after 40 and all the challenges that result in the mental, physical and spiritual freedom of the post-World War II baby boomer generation.

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