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Lady Antebellum & Miranda Lambert Weekend in Las Vegas

In the fickle music biz, careers many times breeze in and out like the capricious winds. 

Last year the Nashville trio Lady Antebellum, right, – “Lady A” to their fans – didn’t win the one category they were nominated in last year (for Top Vocal Group), but this year it’s a whole new story. They’re the favored front-runner, with seven nominations for Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

Lady Antebellum’s free performance drew a huge crowd to Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas last night.  Some said the show drew upwards to 20,000 people. If so, that would make it the largest non-New Year’s Eve gathering ever on Glitter Gulch and the biggest in the four-year tradition of ACM-related concerts. 

Nominated for seven awards, the group attended last Wednesday’s “American Idol” show and did a post-show taping of their hit “Need You Now.” Their performance will be part of the “Idol Gives Back” show next week. 

Lady Antebellum announced on Friday that their latest, “American Honey,” was the band’s third consecutive No. 1.  Lady Antebellum’s current single, “Need You Now,” is No. 4 on Billboard’s overall Hot 100 song chart, sandwiched between Train and Lady Gaga. 

Miranda Lambert, right, a six-time nominee for Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards show, though, will prove tough competition.  She heads an ACM-filled lineup of free concerts tonight at the Fremont Street Experience. Lambert performs from 10:45 to midnight on the Third Street stage. Kicking off the evening from 7-7:30 p.m. at the First Street stage will be Joey + Rory, the Top Vocal Duo nominee. Gloriana, the Top New Vocal Group nominee, plays from 7:45-8:25 p.m., also at the First Street stage. The Randy Rogers Band, nominated for Top Vocal Group, performs from 8:40-9:25 p.m. on the Third Street stage. Luke Bryan, winner of the Top New Solo vocalist award, precedes Lambert, from 9:40-10:30 p.m., performing on the First Street stage. 

If you’re lucky enough to catch Lambert and others tonigt performing live in Las Vegas, it’s a good deal.  The ceremonies at the MGM Grand Garden are a pricey ticket if you don’t have friends at a record label, topping out at $450 for something you can watch free at home. (The 5 p.m. festivities air on CBS, live on the East Coast and tape-delayed on Las Vegas KLAS-TV, Channel 8, at 8 p.m.) 

Most of the ACM stars will stick around Monday in Las Vegas for “Brooks & Dunn — The Last Rodeo,” an all-star tribute concert that will be taped at the MGM for a separate CBS show airing next month. Tickets are $108 to $208 for the 7:30 p.m. show in which the likes of Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and George Strait will salute the venerable duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn before they hang it up. 

The ACM Awards ride country music’s ever-growing popularity; what once was a niche genre is getting harder to distinguish from any remaining notions of a separate pop world. 

Last year’s ACM broadcast drew 14.8 million total viewers, a 26 percent gain from the year before. “It’s a happy problem,” says Barry Adelman, a producer and writer for the broadcast. “We’re not trying to fix something that’s dipping, we’re trying to keep something that’s going up, going up even higher.” 

And lest we forget…Garth Brooks isn’t performing at Wynn Las Vegas this weekend. But Steve Wynn did buy him that private jet and the pilot surely knows the route by now. And who would want to leave that guy out of a weekend like this one?

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Academy of Country Music Awards Brings Oodles of Celebs to Las Vegas

Brooks & Dunn, Lady Antebellum, Randy Houser, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire and Montgomery Gentry are just some of the many country music stars planning to participate in the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards In Las Vegas starting on April 18. 

Honoring country music’s top talent and the industry’s hottest emerging talent, to be broadcast LIVE from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Sunday, April 18 at 8:00 PM live ET/delayed PT on the CBS Television Network. In addition, the Academy will tape an all-star concert special, ACM Presents: Brooks & Dunn – The Last Rodeo at the same location on Monday, April 19, to air at a later date on the CBS Television Network. Both shows are produced for television by Dick Clark Productions.

The list of events includes the ACM Concerts at Fremont Street Experience, the ACM Chairman’s Ride, a special USO performance, All-Star Jam and more. 

Some details are as follows, with timing information to be released later: 

Friday & Saturday, April 16 & 17

ACM Concerts at Fremont Street Experience – For the 4th year in a row, the Academy of Country Music presents concerts at Fremont Street Experience! Featuring headlining performances by Lady Antebellum on Friday and Miranda Lambert on Saturday, these free and open-to-the-public concerts start at 6:30pm on two stages in downtown Las Vegas.  For the 2nd year in a row, winners in each of the newcomer categories Top New Solo Vocalist, Top New Vocal Group and Top New Vocal Duo will have the chance to perform at Fremont Street Experience during these concerts. 

Saturday, April 17 

ACM Chairman’s Ride – This event has grown from its inception and for the second year will be an invitation-only event for artists and industry VIPs to experience a scenic ride through the gorgeous Nevada landscape. ACM/The Home Depot Humanitarian Award honorees of 2010, Montgomery Gentry, will host the ride for the 6th time this year. The event benefits ACM Lifting Lives. Event details and timing will be made available only to invited, registered participants.

USO Concert in Partnership with ACM Lifting Lives™ – For the first time ever, ACM Lifting Lives (the Academy’s charitable arm) is partnering with the USO to bring a free, private concert to the service men and women of Nellis Air Force Base just outside of Las Vegas, NV. USO tour veterans Montgomery Gentry and Randy Houser are scheduled to perform for the crowd. The event will be open to all military ID holders and media credentialed specifically for this event. 

Sunday, April 18 

45th ANNUAL ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS – Hosted by Reba McEntire for a record 12th time and featuring the hottest performances by today’s superstars of country, the Awards will once again take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. 

ACM All-Star Jam – This raucous, no-holds-barred jam features impromptu performances from the artists who participate in the Awards. Past performers have included Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Kelly Clarkson, Sara Evans, Jack Ingram, Jewel, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Montgomery Gentry, James Otto, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Dwight Yoakam and more. 

Monday, April 19

ACM Presents: Brooks & Dunn – The Last Rodeo – Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, the best-selling duo in the history of country music, will receive the Academy’s Milestone Award in recognition of their 20-year, record-breaking career during this tribute concert special. They will be honored for holding the record for the most wins of any artist in the Academy’s history with 26 awards in total, including three Entertainer of the Year awards. They will also be honored for holding the record for most Top Vocal Duo wins, with 15 awards, eight of which are consecutive from 2000-2007. Artists already scheduled to perform at the taping include superstars Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Details on special elements of the show and more performers that will be added will be announced at a later date. Tickets are still available for this show, which benefits ACM Lifting Lives and will air at a later date on CBS Television Network from the MGM Grand Garden Arena. For information on tickets visit www.Ticketmaster.com

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Las Vegas Chefs Battle for Best Chef of the Year honors at James Beard Awards

Three Las Vegas chefs are battling for the coveted title of Best Chef of the Year Southwest in the 2010 James Beard Awards, and several other Strip chefs are represented in the Oscars of the food industry, as well. 

The finalists were announced last week in New Orleans, and the winners will be announced May 3 at New York’s Lincoln Center. 

The three Best Chefs of the Southwest finalists are the off-Strip Saipan Chutima from Lotus of Siam, Claude Le Tohic from Joël Robuchon at MGM and Rick Moonen from RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay. 

Michael Mina from MGM, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio and Aria is recognized twice in the prestigious awards: His RN74 in San Francisco is nominated for Best New Restaurant, and his self-named restaurant, also in the City by the Bay, is nominated for Outstanding Service, competing against Robuchon’s restaurant at MGM Grand.

Robuchon’s MGM pastry chef Kamel Guechuda is up for the Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year. 

Chef Tom Colicchio, well known to foodies here for his Craft at MGM and as host of Bravo’s Top Chef, is nominated as Outstanding Chef of the Year for his original Craft in Manhattan. 

Two other New York chefs with outposts in Las Vegas will also battle in the Outstanding Restaurant Award category: Mario Batali, who has restaurants at The Venetian and Palazzo, has been nominated for his Babbo in New York City and Daniel Boulud from the Wynn for his Daniel in Manhattan. 

Timothy Hollingsworth, former Venetian chef for Thomas Keller Brasserie and now at Thomas’ French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., has been nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year. 

In other Las Vegas chef news, Todd English from Bellagio and Aria was nominated for Best TV Special for Food Trip With Todd English, as was The Venetian and Palazzo’s Emeril Lagasse who will go head-to-head with English in the TV category for Emeril’s Culinary Adventures: Napa

And architect and designer David Rockwell, who has masterminded numerous Las Vegas restaurants, Crystals at MGM’s CityCenter and the show Peepshow at Planet Hollywood, will be inducted into the Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

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Kendra Wilkinson Slithers on Stripper Pole, Bakes Her Buns this Weekend in Las Vegas

Kendra Wilkinson is going to be one busy celebrity sinner this weekend.  On Sun., March 28, the E! Television reality star of the Girls’ Next Door, will be the guest teacher in V Theater’s Stripper 101 pole dancing class. 

Yep, the svelte star (who’s also a new wife and mother) will join the Stripper 101 instructors for a one day show of her finely honed pole skills and show the lucky ladies in the 1 and 3 p.m. classes how to work the pole, be sexy and stay healthy using her own brand of professional exercise and dance pole- all included in the package price. 

For $249, ladies will get the royal treatment:  enjoy complimentary cocktails (to loosen up, of course), training, souvenir photo, T-shirts, nightclub passes, tickets to American Storm or comedic hypnotist Marc Savard, and – are you ready? – a Kendra Sport Pole of their very own to take home and enjoy for a lifetime of sexy fitness. 

Interested? Space limited.  Please call 702-318-6464. 

But if that’s way too much for you to stomach and you’d much rather just lounge around the pool with Wilkinson, that’s possible too.   On Sat., March 27, she’s going to hosting a huge pool party from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at MGM Grand’s Wet Republic in Las Vegas. 

We really hope that she slathers on the sunscreen thick so she can be in tip-top shape to slide down the pole the next day. 

Tickets for this epoch event are $20 for ladies; $50 for men. Please call 702-891-3086.

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A-List Musicians Join Virtuoso Michael Legrand at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

Michael Legrand is a virtuoso musician with few equals.  The three-time Academy Award winner and five-time Grammy winner started his lifelong dedication to music at the ripe age of 11, where he began his study at the Paris Conservatoire. 

Legrand has composed more than 200 film and television scores for directors, including Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Brooks, Clint Eastwood and Robert Altman, and has recorded more than 100 albums with international music celebrities. 

On March 27 he will be blending his magic for his 50th Anniversary Concert Tribute at 8 p.m. in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. 

Legrand will conduct a 66-piece orchestra and be showcasing the evening’s entertainers:  George Benson, Melissa Manchester, Jerry Lewis, Dionne Warwick, Andy Williams, Patti Page, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Steve Lawrence. 

Actors Jon Voight and Jennifer O’Neill will host the gala, which will air at a later undetermined date as a made-for-TV concert special. 

Perhaps the biggest news is the rumored surprise appearance by Sting.

Tickets range from $62.50 to $150 (plus fees); www.mgmgrand.com or www.ticketmaster.com   For more concert details:  www.MGMLegend.com

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Pacquiao-Cotto Fight in Las Vegas on Saturday to Be One for the Ages

Boxer Manny Pacquiao’s massive punching power is only matched by his massive drawing power, which has grown to overwhelm the traditional boundaries of the often insular realm of boxing, is driving the appeal of Saturday’s megafight with Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas- the boxing capital of the world.PacquiaoCotto

Arguably the most celebrated persona in his native Philippines, Pacquiao’s visage now graces the cover of the Asia edition of Time magazine. A five-page feature story appears in all editions, global and U.S., of the magazine. It delves into Pacquiao’s humble roots and his political ambitions in his homeland. 

“It is a great honor for me to be the face of my people and to let everyone know we are a small but mighty country,” Pacquiao said. “I have great pride for all of the Filipinos living throughout the world and it is these people that I fight for each and every time I step into the ring.” 

As a point of comparison, the most recent boxing covers of Time’s U.S. edition came in 1988 (Mike Tyson), 1978 (Muhammad Ali) and 1971 (Ali and Joe Frazier). 

Officials with Top Rank, the lead promoter of Saturday’s fight, point to a recent Sunday feature on Pacquiao in The New York Times as a manifestation of the media blitz that has accompanied the buildup to the fight. It was important to the promotion because of the worldwide reach of the newspaper’s Sunday edition.

It was also significant, and telling, because the Times typically affords boxing about as much coverage as it does the lumberjack competition. 

In a separate arena, Pacquiao was recognized this year as a Gusi Peace Prize laureate, an honor based in Manila, for humanitarianism. 

Pacquiao’s training sessions at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., leading up to the fight not only generate mob scenes of fans and media members, but also attract the attention of the fire marshal to ensure the scene remains under some degree of control.

With its widespread appeal — “Beyond boxing, beyond sports,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said — the fight promotion has drawn some unconventional corporate partners. For example, the History Channel’s reality series “Pawn Stars,” about a family of Las Vegas pawnbrokers, is a sponsor. Among other branding efforts, the “Pawn Stars” logo will appear on the mat Saturday night.

It’s all expected to add up to pay-per-view sales — the engine that powers the big-time boxing business — for the fight that could approach or exceed record performances. 

The biggest pay-per-view bonanza to date was the 2007 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand, which generated 2.4 million “buys.” This year, Pacquiao’s fight against Ricky Hatton did about 900,000 buys, and Mayweather’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez generated about 1 million. 

“The closed-circuit locations are doing tremendously” in the lead-up to Pacquiao-Cotto, Arum said. “We had the quickest sellout of tickets in years. We base how the pay-per-view is going to do on those indicators. It should do absolutely great.”

Pacquiao stands to earn $20 million for the fight, with Cotto’s total take expected to reach $10 million — the biggest paydays for both fighters. 

The hook (no pun intended) is that Pacquiao, nearly a 3-1 betting favorite, will be pursuing a world title in a seventh weight division. But that’s just the sports-trivia way of wording it. 

In real terms, Pacquiao has done more than any other boxer to obliterate the very notion of weight classes in boxing, along with the fractured and too-often meaningless so-called championships they spawn. He wants to test himself against the best. 

The “catch weight” for Saturday’s fight is 145 pounds, but Pacquiao said if it was up to him personally, he would have gladly agreed to fight at the 147-pound welterweight limit. 

Wisely — and appropriately — everyone associated with the fight has declined to address the next step for the winner, although a potential showdown with Mayweather awaits. 

And for another, Saturday’s fight is a tough one to predict. It has split journalists, fighters and other boxing figures in their forecasts. Let’s say, for instance, it ends with a close decision. A rematch between Pacquiao and Cotto is a real possibility.

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Lily Tomlin Survives Fast Pace of Entertainment – and Prospers – after 70 years

Lily Tomlin is 70 years old.  But don’t tell her that.   Heavens, no!  For the past five decades, since her days performing on the Rowan and Martin sketch comedy TV show Laugh-In, she has been cracking up audiences without missing a beat, winning as an actress and comedian Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award’s galore. LilyTomlin

Starting today and running though November 14, Tomlin will be performing live at the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

The aging funny gal says she’s “a little more flexible now,” adding “I think people got used to me.  I play casinos all over the place, and it’s no different than any other place.” 

Tomlin’s forte is her extended monologue, sticking with a character long enough to really sell it and not worrying about gaps between punch lines. 

Whether she’s costumed as Ernestine, the brassy switchboard operator, pictured, or playing Edith Ann, the little naïve girl that never seems to grow up, her performances are always riveting, as they are entertaining.

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