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November 26, 2014

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Singing, joking and grooving to the end, Cook E. Jarr closes with a flourish at Harrah’s

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John Katsilometes

Las Vegas lounge legend Cook E. Jarr performs his final show at The Piano Bar in Harrah’s on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

Updated Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 | 5:37 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Las Vegas Lounge legend Cook E. Jarr performs his final show at The Piano Bar at Harrah's on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

Click to enlarge photo

Las Vegas Lounge legend Cook E. Jarr performs his final show at The Piano Bar at Harrah's on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

Click to enlarge photo

Las Vegas lounge legend Cook E. Jarr performs his final show at The Piano Bar in Harrah's on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

Click to enlarge photo

The real Cook E. Jarr, shown in performance in 2003.

Cook E. Jarr is playing right now. He’s playing out the string, playing the fool, playing the music box in the corner, all at The Piano Bar at Harrah’s.

The Jarr is finished here, as of the end of this set, which is to be about 6 p.m. He has performed “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker, “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel and “Bust a Move” by Young MC. He is going out with a flourish, hitting the “woof, woof!” mechanism on his music machine and barking right along with his indefatigable voice.

The hair is still conspicuously dark, but the humor is light. “Hey, when I first had sex, I was by myself! My dad said I’d go blind if I didn’t stop — and I am surprised I don’t need glasses by now!” he shouts, peering from behind oversized glasses.

The Jarr shouts out the window facing The Quad next door and beyond to the Strip. “Hey, girl, you need a buffet!” and “Hey, man, what happened to your wife’s (butt)?!”

He drapes a woman in a wheelchair in the American flag while warbling “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. He passes hats around, with his signature in silver Sharpie, asking for tips and reminding that the money collected goes to the veterans.

What is to become of Cook E. Jarr, whose name brings to mind the heyday of Las Vegas lounge schmaltz? He arrived more than 30 years ago toting the act Cook E. Jarr & The Krums, playing such legendary hotels as El Rancho (after it was rebranded from the Thunderbird), Dunes, Sands and Caesars Palace. He was in the Tap House banquet room for a time, enjoying the fine fare of Fellini’s, which had just opened next door on West Charleston Boulevard.

Jarr moved from there to Carnival Court at Harrah’s, then was delivered inside, sharing The Piano Bar schedule with a series of dueling piano artists and the esteemed Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee. There are about 40 folks in here, grooving, laughing, many unaware that they might be seeing the last performance ever by a man who has been doing it for 45 years in Philly, Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

His attorney, Arnold Weinstock, is seated near the stage. He remembers moving Bob Anderson out of the Top of the Dunes when he got married and bringing in The Jarr and The Krums (his backing band of a guitar and a keyboardist in those days).

“We go way back,” Weinstock says. “I mean, waaaaaay back.”

As for the Jarr's future, likely he'll take a break, first. He’s listening to offers. He’s eating the goodbye cake placed at the front of the music box.

“Slow down, girls!” he calls to the unknowing pedestrians. “I smell hair burning!”

Then he asks, “Who is better than Elvis? Who? Nobody! That’s who.”

He leaps into “Viva Las Vegas!” and, for us, this is how it ends. The beguiling Cook E. Jarr, summoning Elvis with the tune about the city in which they both headlined: “Bright light city gonna set my soul, set my soul on fire …” Keep the flame burning, Cook E. Jarr. We hope to see you again, soon.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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