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September 2, 2014

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It’s still a nutty, and busy, world for Jerry Lewis; ‘Tempest’ spins magic in Cambridge; Frankie (Scinta) goes to headliner

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Christopher DeVargas

Jerry Lewis poses for a portrait in his Las Vegas home Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

Jerry Lewis at Home in Las Vegas

Jerry Lewis poses for a portrait in his Las Vegas home Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Launch slideshow »

You might be asking, “What’s new, Johnny?”

Well, here’s a quick, cool hang for locals who like a late-night music scene: Rock This Town, the classic-rock cover band at Rush Lounge in Golden Nugget. On Tuesday night, Felice Garcia of “Million Dollar Quartet” hung with the band until 2 a.m. The band throws it down and kicks it up from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly, except for Sunday, when they tune up.

Harry Shahoian, one of the city’s best Elvis impersonators (sorry, Elvis Tribute Artists) fronts this band, but not as Elvis. They rock it up to great effect as the sound seeps through the casino floor. Garcia is the latest in a line of great singers (Amanda Avila of “American Idol,” Skye Dee Miles of the Tropicana and 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque, Savannah Smith of BBR and “Vegas! The Show” and Rachel Swindler of “Legends in Concert” at Harrah’s among them).

And on the topic of lounges, the recent Las Vegas Weekly cover story I wrote about Jerry Tiffe and the lounge scene in Vegas has led to TIffe signing copies of the Weekly at his Friday afternoon Arizona Charlie’s gigs. Also, I have heard from readers about the omissions of a couple of significant lounge figures over the years in Las Vegas.

One is Sam Butera, the tenor sax legend and bandleader who took over Louis Prima’s band The Witnesses after Prima’s death. Butera died in 2009, and I never had the chance to see him play, but my old buddy, the late Joe Delaney, used to write a lot about Butera in the days when I was Joe’s editor in the Accent section of the Las Vegas Sun.

The other is Cook E. Jarr, who is not so much a lounge figure as a state of being. He is playing the piano bar at Harrah’s these days, and the last time I saw him was at that hotel’s valet. We were introduced about 15 years ago when the Jarr toted the beat box and smoke machine into the Tap House for his regular gig. That was a time, and one of these days we’ll catch up again with the Jarr.

More raking follows. Stay with me here:

• As a screening of his comedy classic “The Nutty Professor” is set for today at 6 p.m. at UNLV’s Barrick Museum, Jerry Lewis is off to New York for business. Lewis is a busy man, at age 88, as he reinforced during a phone chat Monday by saying, “I’m a busy man.”

The summer-long film festival continues with “Cinderfella” from May 22-28. They all start at 6 p.m. and are free. Click here for the full schedule.

The film series is running in conjunction with the Lewis photo exhibit “Painted Pictures” at the museum through Sept. 27. The photos were taken of landscapes and cityscapes from the 1950s through the 1970s; especially fascinating are the streaky, manipulated images of the Strip from those days.

Something about Lewis: Each time I’ve interviewed him with a photographer in tow, he asks about the shooter’s equipment and technique. He’s also the subject who gives you the best material per moment spent in front of the lens. The series of photos taken by Chris DeVargas that appear with this column took fewer than two minutes to shoot, from the moment Lewis settled into his loveseat to when he said, “That’s good!”

Bang-zoom, and we were outta there. It had to have been one of the more memorable shoots in Chris’ career.

We’ll do our best to catch up with Lewis upon his return from New York. It’s tough keeping up with that man.

‘The Tempest’ Rehearsal at Smith Center

Actors Manelich Minifee and Zach Eisenstat as Caliban rehearse a scene Tuesday, March 11, 2014, from “The Tempest,” which opens next month at the Smith Center in Symphony Park. Launch slideshow »

‘The Tempest’ World Premiere at Smith Center

The world premiere of William Shakespeare's Launch slideshow »
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Teller considers some finer points of co-directing “The Tempest” adapted from the play by William Shakespeare on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

• The Teller- and Aaron Posner-directed production of “The Tempest” is working some magic at the box office in its run at Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, Mass. The venue has just announced that a limited number of standing-room-only tickets for select sold-out shows are to be sold on the day of each performance. They can be picked up only in person, with a limit of one ticket per person. Which is all to indicate the show is performing extremely well ticket-wise.

As for audience response, after the performance Sunday, Teller tweeted, “Tonight at ART in Cambridge, when the TEMPEST curtain call was over, the crowd stood and clapped for 2 mins until the cast came out again.” Two minutes is a long dang time. It’s about the duration of the song “Yellow Submarine.” Just before the duo left for a media tour of London, before Teller’s touchdown in Cambridge, Penn Jillette said, The concept, the directing, the music, the magic ... You know, all the stuff that they put into that is astonishing. I think it’s the best thing Teller’s ever done, and I hope I’m not including Penn & Teller in that.”

The Scintas Grand Opening at The D Hotel

The Scintas' grand opening at The D Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Launch slideshow »
Kats With the Dish

Frankie Scinta's show

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John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to Frankie Scinta and Janien Valentine about their show at the D.

• A couple of weekends ago, my radio co-host and dear friend Tricia McCrone and I checked back in with The Scintas at D Las Vegas. The show still features the now-familiar lineup of Frankie and his hilarious sidekick brother Joe Scinta, sinewy vocalist Janien Valentine and longtime “honorary” Scinta and music director Peter O' Donnell hammering away on the drums. The act continues to be one of the real gems in the city, funny, sharp and really underrated musically. That’s a great band The Scintas have assembled.

The chief difference between the days when the act played Shimmer Cabaret and today’s version at the D is the show’s title: “Frankie Scinta!”

In a subsequent interview on “Kats With the Dish” on KUNV 91.5-FM, Frankie said the decision to break him out as the star of the former Scintas show was a family and business decision.

“Joe (Scinta) is the one who said, ‘This is a great idea.’ I wasn’t going to say OK without my brother’s blessing,” Scinta said in the show, during which we interviewed him and Valentine. “It had to come from him. We built the empire together. (And) our marketing department, along with our owner, VP, COO and entertainment director, thought that it should be branded with one name. They all got together and said that this was the direction they wanted to go.”

The act has never been branded as a solo production and it still is a strong collective effort, but Frankie is the unquestioned frontman.

“I’m still featured the same and Joe (Scinta) is still featured the same,” Valentine said. “It was more about bringing the light to a certain person, and Frankie was the natural choice. ... It was just about branding him and making him the star that he is.”

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The Sunday supper scene at Viva Las Vegas Event Center, a swanky new hang on Las Vegas Boulevard.

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Dana Martin and Ron DeCar sing "A Song That Goes Like This" during the 26th annual Ribbon of Life at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts Sunday, June 24, 2012. Golden Rainbow, an organization dedicated to helping Southern Nevadans affected by HIV and AIDS, presented the annual fundraiser.

• An entertainment venue you will be hearing more about, and soon, is the Viva Las Vegas Event Center.

And soon is: Now.

The recently opened supper club and live-performance showroom sits north of Viva Las Vegas wedding chapel and south of Charleston Boulevard on Las Vegas Boulevard. The business is owned by longtime “Folies Bergere” singer and Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel proprietor Ron Decar, familiar to scores of newlyweds as the Elvis Tribute Artist who performs wedding ceremonies in that character. But at his Event Center, Decar is donned smartly in a tux while seating folks for dinner and a show.

If it sounds like a scene from “Casino,” it nearly is — the venue served as the restaurant setting for that film but has been dormant ever since. Decar and managing partner Jamie Richards have taken over and run through the place in fine fashion, building a beautifully lit, spacious, curtained stage flanked by a pair of big screens. Elegant chandeliers hang overhead, the tables are round and the chairs covered in black fabric.

There is food, yes, as is the case in most reputable supper clubs. Offered on the menu are such appetizers as catfish sliders, black-eyed peas with cornbread, red beans and rice and collard greens egg rolls (the house specialty). The entrees include chicken pasta primavera and creole pan-seared meatloaf with tomato gravy. I was surprised at the high quality of, well, everything at this place. The room can hold a little more than 300 folks, though 250 is about tops for a dinner show.

I was hooked in by Decar on Sunday, expecting to get a look at the room without breaking stride. Instead, I spent 2 ½ hours there enjoying the Swingin’ Sundays jazz and open-mic performance hosted by “Nunsense” cast member Kathryn Arianoff. Impressionist Tom Stevens did a few minutes of Dean Martin, Tom Jones and Neil Diamond; Decar hopped onstage from his role as host to sing a bit.

Tonight it’s “The Soulful Singer” Pam-E Williams. Friday it’s Central Avenue, fronted by Lisa Gay, Tony Drake and The Gentlemen of Thrill Band. Both shows are $10 if you order online in advance; $15 at the door. For $20, you land a seat at a reserved four-top or eight-top bistro table and get a free drink.

Saturday’s show is something special, as Bill Fayne (one of the busiest performers in all of VegasVille) is performing his “Fayne & Friends” show, taking up the piano with a set of guest stars in a full-night show starting at 8. Doors are at 7. Cost is $15, general admission all the way, fees, drinks, dinner not included. Fayne is back again June 14 and 28.

I was, and remain, surprised at how appealing is this room. When people talk of Las Vegas missing the old supper clubs, where the entertainment swings and folks got all gussied up, they are talking about this place. It’s not alone, of course. The Italian American Club has been setting the standard for old-soul dining and entertainment since it reopened a couple of years ago. The more, the merrier, as they say. See you at suppertime.

• From the Only in Vegas bin: There is something known as the 550 Club on the Strip. It’s related to the High Roller. I found this out recently when I was reliably informed that one of the cabins has already been “christened.”

The High Roller reaches 550 feet at its … apex, hence the name of the club.

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

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