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Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Hotel and nightclub owner Sam Nazarian has given the first look inside his planning of the new SLS Sahara hotel that is now under conversion from the former shell of the Sahara at the north end of the Strip. He bought the former playground of Elvis and The Rat Pack for $345 million. He’s spending nearly $500 million to remake it for its fall opening next year.
Appearing on CBS’ TV “This Morning” today, he said: “Instead of exploding an Old Vegas landmark like everybody else does, I am reusing the bones to build something new. I’m making it smaller and more personal, though, so the experience is more manicured. Bigger isn’t better. You can have fun and not have to walk two miles to your room or be a number versus a person.”
Sam is a rags-to-riches story; his family fled the Iran revolution penniless for California. An early investment in Qualcomm turned into a mega-fortune and instead of being barred from entering swank Beverly Hills nightclubs because of his heritage, he is now the gatekeeper of the rope. He also owns all the restaurants and nightclubs at SLS Sahara.
Sam, whose properties include Hyde Bellagio, says he’ll double and triple his existing lineup of hotels, restaurants and nightclubs in the next five years, with plans to open across China starting next year, and then Miami and Seattle right behind.
MANDALAY MAKEOVER: Mandalay Bay executives have made it official that construction of the new Delano hotel that will take the place of its The Hotel at Mandalay Bay tower will start in March for a third-quarter opening.
Design plans for the new look have been finalized, and we should get a peek at them before month’s end. The conversion can’t start any earlier because business at The Hotel is booming, and rooms are booked for the next six months.
NEW COUNTRY HOST: For the fourth consecutive year, Trace Adkins will co-host the fourth-annual America Country Awards at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Dec. 10, but not with newly announced Smith Center for the Performing Arts New Year’s Eve headliner Kristin Chenoweth.
Instead, NASCAR star Danica Patrick will fill her stilettos. The awards on Fox gives fans the opportunity to vote for their favorite country artists for honors that no other awards show has. Performers and presenters are now being booked for the special, which coincides with our annual rodeo events.
“I can’t wait to see if I have what it takes to keep up with this racing superstar,” said Trace. Danica laughed: “I have no doubt he’ll be able to keep up with me. I’ve become a huge fan of country music since I came to NASCAR and have been fortunate to be in videos with Miranda Lambert and Colt Ford. This is going to be a really cool experience, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
‘BRAIN GAMES’: Casting agents for the National Geographic Channel are on the hunt for “enthusiastic actors and extras to participate in fun, short segments and re-creations” for new tapings in the Las Vegas area for its third season of “Brain Games.” Kids, adults, grandparents, entire families and couples who want to take part should send name, age, phone number, email, location and a headshot/recent photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those selected will be compensated.
‘LAST VEGAS’: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline’s new film “Last Vegas” is already being dubbed a senior version of “The Hangover.” It’s out Nov. 1, but fans will get a special advance screening Oct. 18 at Aria.
To take part in the contest, go to Facebook.com/aria. There’s all kinds of prizes, including a hometown screening of the movie, plus, dinners at James Beard Award-winning chef Shawn McClain’s new Five50 Pizza Bar and neighbor Julian Serrano’s Spanish restaurant.
RUNNING OUT: The Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck thriller “Runner, Runner,” which premiered here two weeks ago at Planet Hollywood, had a bad first weekend at the box office. So bad, in fact, “Runner, Runner,” about online poker chicanery, may well fold soon.
It pulled in only $7.6 million versus the record-breaking $56 million that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s 3D “Gravity” soared into space with over the weekend. Justin’s movie cost $30 million to make, and Leonardo DiCaprio put up some of that money. Better to stay playing at our tables?
MORE MILEY SHOCKS: Be warned these are outrageously scandalous and sexy photos of pop princess Miley Cyrus: Fashion photographer Terry Richardson had no problem or qualms about showing Miley in way less than she wore in her last outing for the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival here at MGM Grand, her MTV Video Music Awards controversy, her video for her first No. 1, “Wrecking Ball” (directed by Terry) and now today’s twerking backside flash on NBC’s “Today” with Matt Lauer.
Obviously, the erotic shots are all to promote her new album “Bangerz,” out Tuesday, her fourth studio album, which includes a duet with new Planet Hollywood headliner Britney Spears.
FRANK ‘ROAST’: Yes, I dressed up as legendary chef Julia Child and, yes, my colleague Editor at Large John Katsilometes went in drag, too! It was to raise money at the roast of “Divas Las Vegas” at the Quad star Frank Marino Make-a-Wish Foundation Southern Nevada. charity foundation. Check out Kats’ report and Las Vegas Sun photographer Christopher DeVargas’ photo gallery of the hilarious night laced with off-color humor, raunchy tales and insults galore.
With Planet Hollywood headliner hypnotist Marc Savard as a great MC, Frank took all the roasting like a man (in drag!) from Pia Zadora, Shayma Tash, Louie Anderson, Murray Sawchuck, Mark Shunock, Frank Scinta, Thunder From Down Under’s Marcus Deegan and me in stride. “This was the best night in 28 years of being in Las Vegas show business,” he said. My toque and apron is off to Kats for his Top 10 listing of headlines we’d never read about Frank — certainly not in a family newspaper like the Sun!
ONE DROP WALK: In an effort to raise awareness and pay tribute to the millions of women and children — particularly young girls — worldwide who spend several hours collecting safe water every day, Cirque du Soleil’s charity One Drop hosted its second-annual Walk for Water. UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin and restaurateur Jenna Morton led 500 walkers on a 5.6-mile journey down the Strip for founder Guy Laliberte’s global initiative to develop water access and management projects in rural regions.
TRAVEL PREDICTIONS: Las Vegas welcomed global airline executives for their Direct Routes convention, which is today and Tuesday. Our tourism officials told the corporate leaders of commercial aviation that the Entertainment Capital of the World is now recognized as the world’s leading convention and meetings destination. They predicted that in the next decade, Las Vegas also will establish itself as a top global business center, drawing 30 percent of its predicted 44 million annual visitors from overseas.
They promised that with the $2.4 billion Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport, the transformational $2.5 billion Las Vegas Global Business District and more than $6.6 billion in additional developments on the horizon, Las Vegas will reinvent itself yet again.
The canals at the Venetian are filled with water again, and those romantic gondola rides get underway again after the cleaning and repairs.
“Jersey Boys” at the Paris conductor Philip Fortenberry, who was the pianist double for new Emmy winner Michael Douglas in the HBO Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra,” performs at Cabaret Jazz in Smith Center.
Eddie Ifft and Vanessa Hollingshead headline at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in MGM Grand through Sunday.
We Came As Romans, Slverstein and Chunk, No, Captain Chuck are at Hard Rock Live on the Strip.
Flamingo headliners Donny & Marie Osmond sit for a one-on-one interview to talk about their Las Vegas future and his new album and 50 showbiz years celebration; incredible and fun stories from my night of Italian dining with “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro as he opens Buddy V’s at the Palazzo; plus, the Food & Wine All-Star Weekend.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.