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July 31, 2014

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Clint Holmes meets the challenge of Ray Charles; a Ruvo birthday party revives the Venetian

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The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Clint Holmes with Kirk Whalum on sax in “Georgia on My Mind: A Tribute to Ray Charles” on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center.

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The entrance to what will be Holly Madison's speakeasy at Mandalay Bay.

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Holly Madison arrives at the 2014 Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, at the Venetian.

The Kats Report Bureau at this moment is the Starbucks at Mandalay Bay. I need to be specific here because there are multiple Starbucks on this property:

The Starbucks that faces the “Michael Jackson One” box office and Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood and RX Boiler Room.

Or the Starbucks that nearly abuts the HollyDome across the way, where Holly Madison’s new burlesque speakeasy performance space is being planned even as we speak. Or, as we speakeasy, in this instance.

Earlier, I tweeted a photo of that space, with the door open just enough to let the light out, describing the project as “much-anticipated.” Madison retweeted, “No pressure.”

I think she’ll be fine. Holly Madison is one smart cookie. An announcement formally revealing the location of Madison’s next Vegas adventure is due early next week, likely Monday. On Tuesday, we dance.

What will not be in that release is that Madison, who has a fervent ferret fascination (alliteration acutely annoying), added a third ferret named Frosty to her collection. The others are Sid and Nancy. Madison has had a vast habitat built at her new house in the Scotch 80s, too. So don’t ever blame me for lacking in Las Vegas celebrity ferret information.

The real reason I’m loitering-slash-typing at Mandalay Bay is that earlier, I visited with Cirque du Soleil artist Mukhtar O.S. Mukhtar (or as I call him, “M-O.S.-Squared”), the creative director of the charity performance of “One Night for One Drop” on March 21 at Michael Jackson One Theater. The event is a benefit for Cirque’s One Drop water conservation and preservation nonprofit foundation. A onetime performer in “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage, who was in that production’s original lineup, Mukhtar is juggling this daunting production while his wife, Sylvia, is pregnant.

With twins.

Yes, the duplicately named M-O.S.-Squared is expecting twin girls, on June 5. One thing to be said for these Cirque artists: They do everything with flair.

Time for some rake-a-rama:

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Clint Holmes with members of Take 6 in “Georgia on My Mind: A Tribute to Ray Charles” on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center.

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Clint Holmes with Nneenna Freelon in “Georgia on My Mind: A Tribute to Ray Charles” on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center.

• One of the performers we love having in Stifler who was not in Stifler this week at the Trop is Clint Holmes.

He couldn’t be there Tuesday, sadly, as he can’t stand us.

Wait. I kid!

Holmes is on a trip to Florida, during which he is performing in a professional capacity. He’s back at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts from April 4-6 for a show titled, “New York Old Friend,” which invokes songs centered on Ames, Iowa. No, rather, New York. Kristen Hertzenberg, who has been to New York(!) and is otherwise a fantastic singer, will be joining Holmes and … singing fantastically.

Holmes left town with a flourish, having performed last Friday night in “Georgia on My Mind: A Tribute to Ray Charles” at Smith Center’s big room, Reynolds Hall. The performance was part of the “Jazz Roots” series produced by Larry Rosen, the “R” of groundbreaking jazz music label GPR Records (the first label to issue all of its music digitally mastered). Fittingly, UNLV jazz studies department director Dave Loeb served as music director, playing the keys alongside Holmes’ usual MD, Jeffrey Neiman.

The performance was bolstered by vocal group Take 6, which has amassed 10 Grammy Awards; richly respected vocalist Nnenna Freelon; and one of the great saxophonists playing anywhere, Kirk Whalum. Holmes, once again, really delivered in the larger space, flooring the crowd with “I Got a Woman,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “What’d I Say” and, of course, “Georgia” and a show-closing “America the Beautiful.” The show was recorded by PBS for an upcoming episode of the ArtScene series, which focuses on Las Vegas artists and performances.

Holmes had earlier talked of the challenges of portraying Charles, whose songs and voice are so distinctive and familiar that it is easy to slip into a full-scale impression of the music legend. But Holmes was able to achieve a heartfelt tribute while using his own readily identifiable voice, not an easy thing to achieve.

This project bears attention because Holmes has performed the show in Atlanta and is again at the front during performances in November in Miami and Orlando. There is some real energy behind this production. Keep an eye on it, eh?

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Angie Ruvo, left, smiles as she and her late husband, Lou, are talked about during a Tuesday press conference announcing the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute's partnership with the Cleveland Clinic at the brain institute in Las Vegas.

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Larry Ruvo with his father, Lou.

• Larry Ruvo’s father, Lou, became a Las Vegas legend as proprietor of Venetian Restaurant on West Sahara Avenue, at the spot where Herbs & Rye stands today. Everybody ate there, including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, the hours adjusted to a late-night schedule to accommodate the straggling entertainers. The Venetian is where Larry honed his personal skills that have been so vital in his own rise to prominence and public service. Today, he is the chief of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada and founded the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, named for his father, who died of Alzheimer’s.

So when Ruvo’s mother, Angie, celebrated her 90th birthday Feb. 1 at Ruvo Clinic’s Keep Memory Alive events center, the space took on a familiar decor.

It was returned to the Venetian.

“It was only fitting that we held her birthday party in the decor of the restaurant that belonged to her and my father that was built in memory of my father,” Larry Ruvo said this afternoon. “It was a really great, old-Vegas night.”

As envisioned by longtime Ruvo friend and Southern Wine & Spirits exec Michael Severino, the space was designed in exactly the same fashion as the restaurant the Ruvos ran for 43 years. The old menu was delivered to every table, the walls were adorned with vintage photos of the family with all of their longtime friends, and even Angie’s neck-bones recipe (which Sinatra enjoyed more than his own family’s) was served.

“One million percent of the credit for this goes to Michael,” Ruvo said. “We had all of our old friends, the customers who used to eat regularly at the Venetian. It was a great Vegas kind of night, and Mom loved it.”

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Claire Sinclair arrives at the 2014 Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, at the Venetian.

• The calendar is flipping, for real, for “Pin Up” at the Stratosphere. The production celebrates its first anniversary March 13. The cast has been working long hours enacting changes to the show, which are reportedly a series of new numbers and a shift in how star Claire Sinclair is used in the show. Expect her to be doing less chitchat with the audience and more dancing and showing off her curves. Lisa Marie Smith is set as the center singer, and the show’s mainstays over the past year have been the band (well, most of the band) led by David Perrico, dance captain Ryan Kelsey (who has missed something like two shows in a year) and Sinclair herself.

• A very belated sighting that is still worth noting: Motown founder and music legend Berry Gordy Jr. at Fiesta Rancho on Feb. 27. Gordy was there to see his daughter Sherry’s weekly production “Share the Stage: An Open-Mic Experience” at Club Tequila, held at 8 p.m. Thursdays. This is said to be a pretty cool little hang. Sometimes you might see Gordy in the crowd, too.

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

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