Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seacrest As Larry King Successor Draws Laughs

I just got in from one of the truly strange nights in the annals of Las Vegas entertainment, the appearance of Larry King and his wife, Shawn, on stage at the Wynn Las Vegas. Many of you Facebook friends -- and Miles, too -- were baffled that I needed to see this, but the 75-year-old CNN host was being billed as planning to do stand-up comedy and his 49-year-old wife, was going to sing and this was all happening on Danny Gans' former stage. The night Gans died, Larry anchored his CNN show from there; Shawn had been slated to sing with Danny sometime that same weekend.

We'll get to that in a second, but first something very interesting occurred. During a Q-and-A session after Larry told some jokes and stories, someone asked him who might replace him on his CNN program when he retires. Larry gave a rambling answer before mentioning the possibility of American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. And then...the audience bust out into uproarious laughter.

It was spontaneous and startling, and it was followed by a second wave of giggles over how spontaneous and startling it was that so many people found Ryan Seacrest as Larry's replacement amusing. For his part, Larry was utterly baffled. "What's so funny?" he asked, bewildered. "Why is that funny?" He quickly pivoted onward to the next inquiry but I wonder if he's going to go back to the producers and say, "The American public thinks Seacrest is a joke." We can only hope, huh?

Now back to a show which was, by every measure, surreal. Shawn King is, at best, a bearable singer. She wore a pink shirt-skirt over black leather pants and very tall, very narrow stiletto black boots and sang a range of standards for about a half-hour that included a very peculiar Motown medley and a duet with a video of Willie Nelson in which the audio was not in synch with Willie's part.

The missus reminded me a little bit of my mom who loves to sing and insists on doing so at all our family weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. If Mom were married to a major TV personality with the ability to get her a gig on a prominent Vegas stage, she, too, would have enjoyed singing a few tunes and soaking up the applause, however obligatory. And the event had the sheen of that sort of amateur hour, especially when she explained that some video that was to go with a song "didn't make it onto the plane." Uh, OK. And later she said something to the effect of, "As you know, I'm the wife of Larry King from Larry King Live and, boy, is he ever." That's good because many people have wondered.

After Mrs. King came the Scarecrow. Except that, believe me or don't, Larry was incredibly charming and totally funny. And yes, to those of you who asked via Facebook, he does have legs. Very thin ones in painted-on black jeans and, of course, suspenders. He explained he was doing the show on a dare from Steve Wynn -- the tickets benefited a King charity but I'm told only about 400 of the seats were sold and the rest were comps -- and I think it was some sort of closure experience for both King and Wynn, both close friends of Danny Gans.

Larry told amusing stories about his youth in Brooklyn, albeit unrealistic and probably false ones despite his insistence that this all was the truth, and some about his career including how Jackie Gleason got him an interview with Frank Sinatra while he was a Florida radio host. It was light, indulgent fare, although the talk-show host had an annoying habit of constantly reaching out to rest his hand on the mike stand even when the mike stand was not next to him. Larry didn't do traditional stand-up; he told jokes when they occurred to him and told stories and answered questions. One joke he told, about a chihuahua guide dog, is actually in Bette Midler's show.

The audience was interesting, too. I didn't realize it until Larry pointed it out, but Warren Buffett was seated a few seats to my right in my row. And Steve Wynn was there with Andrea Hissom, whom he introduced to me as his "lady friend." Elaine Wynn was not in attendance, but Larry King did mention how great "Steve and Elaine" have been to him. I had a perfect view of Wynn and Hissom at that point and there was no reaction at all on her face when Elaine was mentioned.

Wynn did mention he was having Garth Brooks in the showroom for another free concert for invited guests on Tuesday. Brooks was there a few weeks ago for a similar gig. This is sure to fuel more speculation about Brooks coming to Encore for a resident show, but when I asked Wynn he said, "You're a reporter, I'm not answering that." Which means he's learning some restraint with me, which is kind of a bummer.

@Norm_Clarke Tweeted after the show that Wynn wants Larry to come back. Sure he'd say that. But both men must know that as a one-off, it was a fun curiosity, a camp classic. Anything more than that -- particularly if they try to charge paying customers for a for-profit venture -- and they'll embarrass themselves. Especially with the missus in tow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Celine For Sale!

A loyal reader and listener thought he had stumbled upon something when he was browsing for tickets for Cher at the Colosseum on Ticketmaster's website today and he came across this:

Are these three items, he wondered, some sort of placeholder for Celine Dion's long-awaited return to her Vegas throne?

No, but he did stumble upon something even stranger. A good 18 months after Celine left the Colosseum stage, Ticketmaster is still selling her memorabilia. You have three intriguing options:

1. A $149 Piece of the Floor:
"Own a piece of the actual stage that Celine Dion A New Day…was performed on at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. An elegant hand made laser etched custom acrylic shadow box encapsulating a piece of authentic Colosseum flooring. This limited edition piece of music and Las Vegas history is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and a performance photo of A New Day…$149.00. Limited Edition of 4148 pieces. Piece measures 13" x 7". Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. A $17.00 shipping charge per piece will be added."

2. A $149 ticket-and-chip set: "This beautiful framed piece includes a souvenir ticket from the opening night and the final performance of Celine Dion A New Day… a $5.00 souvenir casino chip and a photo of Celine Dion. $149.00 Piece measures 15 ¾ "x 11 ½ " . Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. A $17.00 shipping charge per piece will be added."


3. A $275 chip set: "This limited edition piece includes a ticket from the opening night and final performances of Celine Dion A New Day…plus a collection of each souvenir casino chip that was issued by Caesars Palace positioned on top of a beautiful image of Celine. $275.00 Limited Edition of 100 pieces Piece measures 13" x 19 3/8". Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. A $17.00 shipping charge per piece will be added."

I wonder how these hotcakes are selling. Anyone out there have one? Did anyone even know they were selling this stuff? I've never seen an advertisement for it anywhere. And when do they start selling off props from "The Red Piano"? I bet Lonnie Hammargren would snap up the giant blow-up banana...

R-J Uses AP for Ensign Day 3?

I've laid off on the local media criticism in this space for a while in part because I've learned what it's like to have some half-cocked nutjob misread and distort every little thing that happens and/or that you do. But I did have to make a quick note that the Review-Journal, on only the third day of the John Ensign sex scandal, used the Associated Press' report on its front page and had no staff-generated material on the drama other than a 360-word commentary by columnist John L. Smith.

That is really strange, especially when the Las Vegas Sun obtained the letter sent by Doug Hampton, the cuckolded husband of Ensign's ex-mistress, to Fox News dated several days before Ensign's public revelation of his affair. It's not just that the Sun beat the R-J on this one -- ya win some, ya lose some -- but that the R-J had nothing at all to report today?

I'm also at a loss to understand why Hampton, who explained in the letter that he was sending it to Fox because he didn't want his claims investigated and exploited by what he perceived to a left-wing publication, wouldn't also offer it and the rest of his story to the R-J. The Sun is viewed as a left-wing publication by many; the R-J is viewed as the Vegas print equal to Fox News Channel.

On that front, a Fox News spokesperson tells The Huffington Post that they did not tip off Ensign's camp to the Hampton letter and hadn't gotten to the point of verifying the claim when Ensign broke the news of the affair himself on Tuesday. OK, I'll buy that, especially since my own partner, himself a TV news exec, suggested exactly that scenario this morning when we saw the Sun report.

But that does not explain, however, why Fox News did not reveal the existence of the letter for days AFTER Ensign admitted the affair. How is it Fox didn't post it that day or at least the next day? As most of the media and political worlds were grappling with why Ensign would come out with this at this stage, nearly a year after the affair had ended, how did Fox NOT see themselves as in possession of a major piece of the "why-now" puzzle?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This week's LVW col: A Fine Restraint on Gans

Here's a piece that's sure to make a certain angry, delusional, thoroughly discredited kook out there go NUTS, which I admit I will enjoy immensely and can't wait to see what histrionics result. Don't know what I mean? Ah, well, you're not missing much. But, seriously, I am quite proud that the Vegas press didn't devolve into the gutter universe that could easily have devoured coverage of the Danny Gans story and so I said so. Enjoy. -sf

A Fine Restraint
By not going tabloid on the Danny Gans story, the Vegas media distinguished itself


In New York and Los Angeles, when a major star drops dead of unknown causes, there is a repulsive ritual that takes place. A certain breed of journalist will begin a vigil outside the deceased’s residence, will rifle through their trash, will bribe all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons and will call up anyone and everyone even questionably related to the person for even the most unlikely comment.

In Las Vegas, when left to our own devices, we do things a little differently. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier about that.

Danny Gans’ death provided an intriguing case study of that difference because of his strange status as this massive, mega-wealthy star whose fame essentially ceased to exist beyond the county limits. As I wrote some weeks ago in this space, I was on the front lines of trying to get someone beyond Las Vegas to take interest after Gans’ wife found him unresponsive early on May 1.

The national press noted the death with a minimum of interest and then moved on, even as questions remained in the air about what killed the impressionist following an inconclusive autopsy. Even the tabloid media only dabbled in it vaguely, owing probably to paltry interest;’s few postings on the Gans matter drew just a couple dozen comments, most of them from people wondering who Gans was. A typical Perez post draws hundreds of responses.

This left the Las Vegas media to tackle the matter without the influence of outside forces. And so there was no vigil at the Gans household, nobody got bribed, and his widow and children were left to attend to their grief.

It’s not that journalists here didn’t want to know and report what had happened to Gans. It was that nothing we could report could be concrete, backed up by any data. Reporters were stuck in a holding pattern until the toxicology reports were completed, because absent of an official report by the scientists analyzing Gans’ remains, no amount of speculation could be credible or based in fact.

Oh sure, we could have traded in rumors. That’s undoubtedly what would have happened had Gans been a star whose death became a national obsession. But even then, it wouldn’t have been the legitimate media airing theories and conjecture, it would’ve been unrestrained talking heads on cable TV and some breathless tabloid hacks.

Read the rest HERE

The Show is UP: A Tony Winner and an Oscar

Hey kids! This is a longer episode in part because Miles and I are heading to New England for a family wedding next week so there won't be a proper episode next week but probably an interview-only edition. You know the drill: click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe (it's free!) via this iTunes link or via this Zune link. -sf

June 18: A Tony Winner and an Oscar

This week, on the Strip: We spoke to her nearly two years ago and she was hinting at a comeback she didn’t want to jinx. And, in fact, Broadway legend – and Steve’s gayest obsession – Patti LuPone did have a trick up her sleeve: A few months later, she returned to the Great White Way in the title role of “Gypsy” and walked off with her first Tony award since her 1981 triumph for “Evita.” Lupone is back in Vegas on June 20 and 21 for shows at the Orleans, so Steve got her back on the line to see how her life has changed. Among other things, Lupone went on a bit of a rant about poor Susan Boyle and the nature of celebrity. That’s coming up. Also, we check in with Mayor Oscar Goodman about Obama’s recent visit and gives an update on plans to resettle the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas.

In Banter: Cinevegas, Sheer Madness, a listeners' Wynn visit, how Steve saved $400 on his Connecticut rental car, All-In: The Poker Movie, Charo, Larry King, MGM Grand Egypt and more.

Links to stuff discussed:

The Las Vegas Sun on All-In: The Poker Movie, the Cinevegas documentary champ
VegasHappensHere.Com on Jon Voight’s Roy-tiger tale

The R-J on MGM Grand’s Egypt plans
The AP on on Oscar Goodman’s electoral plans
The Sun on Carolyn and Oscar Goodman’s political ambitions

Tickets for Patti LuPone’s June 20-21 shows at the Orleans
Patti LuPone’s website
Guest host Amy’s show, GritstoGlitz.Com
All about the odd Summer of ’69 thing at Fremont Street
Sheer Madness at Town Square
More on the Lookin’ To Get Out film is here
The R-J’s Mike Weatherford of the R-J on Charo’s coming to Vegas
The Sun on Cheap Trick’s Beatles show
The latest on Sen. John Ensign’s sex scandal

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yeah, That Show Can't Go On...

You might've heard by now the news that Nevada Sen. John Ensign has admitted he had an affair with a staffer's wife who was also a former campaign worker. Here's my report for Agence France-Presse. It's interesting because the Nevada GOP sent out an email blast canceling this now-ironic Republican Renewal Project barbeque... 1:09 p.m. PT...

...which, I'm pretty sure, is BEFORE the news broke on the Washington Post's The Fix blog. Veddy interesting.

This is a very, very odd story. Ensign, 51 and father of three, had an affair that ended a year ago but it's coming out only now after he and his wife have been through therapy and come out, according to both, "stronger than ever." Clearly, he was telling the truth recently when he said he wasn't running for president despite his June 1 speech in Iowa. I didn't think he was anyway because he doesn't even own JohnEnsign.Com.

But clearly this whole revelation has been carefully timed for minimal political damage. It's hard to imagine Nevadans will turn on him -- he is by far the state's most popular politician -- when he's up for re-election in 2012. What his national electability is, only time will tell.

A Cool -- as in FREEZING -- Video

Yes, this is a bit promotional. But it's also pretty fun to watch -- the folks at Minus 5, the frigid bar at Mandalay Bay, have created Lion King ice sculpture. I just got an email that they'll be unveiling an Oscar Goodman ice sculpture, too, next week. I don't know if they keep these sculptures around or what. Is Minus 5 going to become an icy version of Madame Tussaud's?

Also noteworthy is that this video was produced for, a new Vegas video site from the Greenspun Media Group folks that received a load of hype in today's Las Vegas Sun. I haven't had the time to really explore it, but I will do so soon.

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/Lupone + Da Mayor

We now must start at 7:01 p.m. PT sharp -- and be out by 8 p.m. PT -- but we've got Tony winner Patti LuPone on her post-Gypsy life, that coming Phantom sequel and Susan Boyle, and Mayor Oscar Goodman on Obama’s recent visit, whether Robin Leach would make a good mayor and what's going on with plans to resettle the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. Plus, news from Vegas, the trivia question, a new poll and, as always, the Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week.

Obviously, we won't be able to play all of everything on the show tonight but we'll have a lot of fun anyway. Join us at LVRocks.Com for the live audio stream, chat with fellow listeners and watch us on the studio cam.

If you can't make it, just grab the podcast edition when it's posted by Thursday morning at TheStripPodcast.Com. Subscribe (it's free!) in iTunes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


At a Cinevegas screening of the recut version of the 1982 Hal Ashby film "Lookin' To Get Out" an hour ago, actor Jon Voight related a never-before-heard tale of a harrowing incident in which one of Siegfried & Roy's tigers tackled an elderly woman and had to be talked down by a member of the film crew.

In the movie, Voight and Burt Young play pals and gamblers who come to Vegas to try to make back money Voight's character lost in a poker game. The film was made largely at the old MGM Grand (now Bally's) and Ann-Margret plays a woman from Voight's past. The characters played by Voight, Young and Ann-Margret, attend a show in what is probably the Jubilee! Theater and Siegfried & Roy are among the acts shown.

According to Voight, Young was acting in the shot as though the tiger had startled him running about on the stage with Roy. Young was wearing sunglasses, and Voight surmised that the combination of Young's fake startling and the reflection of the lighting on the glasses caused the tiger to get scared and "he ran off the stage and on to a table."

Watch the 3-minute segment on this by clicking on the image below:

It's also on YouTube.

Here's the rest of Voight's tale:

"And the table fell and the tiger wound up sitting on top of an elderly woman. This is the truth! And Roy says, 'Everybody be calm.' And this little post man, he must’ve been about 5' 6", this little fella, he got up and he grabbed the tiger and he said, 'Get off her now, get off her.' And this post man saved the day. Unbelievable hero. Finally, Roy comes in and says 'Very good, everybody stay where you are,' and he calmed this animal down and got it out of there. And we had no injuries, maybe a bruise or two. ...

In crises, people handle themselves nicely. Everybody in that group, nobody was looking at the insurance policy, none of that. That’s a true story."

Uh, wow. Of course, about 21 years later, one of those tigers would maul Roy and end the Siegfried & Roy act. What was strange was how amused everyone was in the audience today as Voight told the story. Watch the video and you'll see; they laugh about the lady being tackled, even knowing what happened later. It would be like someone today giggling at the notion of a prop plane grazing the World Trade Center years before 9/11. Very odd.

Incidentally, the tiger act didn't appear in the film. But, on a totally unrelated note, Angelina Jolie Voight did, playing the daughter of Voight's character. It was her first role. I believe her first lines of her first film were, "Las Vegas, Nevada!"

Related: Jon Voight interview on TheStripPodcast.Com.