Las Vegas Sun

March 21, 2023

Currently: 53° — Complete forecast

Notes before U2 notes: VinnyFest at N.Y.-N.Y., a fine(d) move by Musicians Union

Vinny vs. Vinny-New York-York

Justin M. Bowen

Vinny Blue Tom Cassell and Vinny Red Jon Paul Raniola participate in the hot dog-eating contest Tuesday during the event at New York-New York to find the hotel and casino’s official spokesman.

Vinny vs. Vinny @New York-New York

Bella King-Raniola looks up at her dad red Vinny, Jon Paul Raniola Tuesday during the event at New York New York to find the Hotel and Casinos official spokesman. Launch slideshow »

A few quick shots before heading off to tail Thomas & Mack Center and Sam Boyd Stadium Director Daren Libonati during tonight’s U2 show at Sam Boyd. I’ll be following him, annoying him and asking inane questions, as he tends to crowd control and traffic enforcement and whatnot. I understand I am to be issued a Taser, so look out:

Vinny squared

*In case you have not been made aware, New York-New York is staging a fun/screwy contest matching a pair of professional actors assuming roles as comically hackneyed Italian characters named “Vinny.” There’s a Vinny Blue and a Vinny Red. These two are squaring off in various competitions, with the winner earning the prize role as hotel spokesman. The two were trotted out for curious, and bemused, media members on Tuesday at the hotel’s faux Brooklyn Bridge.

Wearing blue and red jogging suits, the contestants took part in a Nathan’s-sponsored hot dog-eating contest, won by Vinny Blue, whose real name is Tom Cassell. He might seem familiar because up until a few weeks ago, he was a member of the cast of “The Soprano’s Last Supper” at Tropicana. Originally from Manhattan, Cassell has experience as a professional spokesman, having served as the commercial spokesman for the San Francisco Giants in the mid-1990s, where he helped Giants fans forget “Krazy Krab.”

Vinny Red’s real name is Jon Raniola, originally from Queens. Raniola might also seem familiar, as he was once a member of ... “The Soprano’s Last Supper” at Tropicana. I deduce that “The Soprano’s Las Supper” at Tropicana is your one-stop Vegas shopping center for terrifically stereotypical Italian-American caricatures. Being half-Italian, I’m not sure whether to be 50 percent offended or 50 percent flattered. It’s all in good fun, though. Hotel President Cynthia Kiser Murphey said 15 prospective Vinnys answered a casting call to audition for a character whose characteristics are sort of like Joe Pesci of “My Cousin Vinny” morphed with Joe Pesci of “GoodFellas,” and these two gentlemen beat the field.

In the first competition, after the hot dogs were consumed (and this contest was far more casual than your usual sanctioned eating competition featuring Joey Chesnutt), the two hustled off to the hotel’s walking bridges and shook down tourists for spare cash to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual Boot Drive. Vinny Blue took $298 (and also came away with a pretty good recipe for marinara sauce), while Vinny Red raised $237. The two meet again Monday at 7 p.m. for a Monday Night Football party at ESPN Zone, where they’ll play games and eat wings and keep score. The contest continues Oct. 30 at Nine Fine Irishmen (I thought these guys were Italian!) with a drinking song competition, an Irish jig contest and a stand-up comedy face-off. The competition wraps Nov. 6 with a “Casino Challenge,” which includes a trivia contest and steak-eating competition at Gallagher’s Steak House.

It’s tough to pick a side in this one, though Cassell/Vinny Blue seems to have a bit more spice than Raniola/Vinny Red. When asked how long he’d been in the “Soprano’s” show before leaving, Cassell said, “Eleven months, which is a long time to be in any show, especially that lousy show. You can quote me on that.” Got it. I think the appropriate response would be, “Done deal, ya goombah.”

Click to enlarge photo

Kym Johnson and Donny Osmond.

Wayner! The Musical

The Musicians Union of Las Vegas Local 369 is really, aggressively, unmistakably, making clear its stance on Wayne Newton’s new “Once Before I Go” production at Tropicana. This week, each union member received a letter from Union President Frank Leone stating that if any union member played in Newton’s orchestra, he or she would be fined $50,000. Newton has been using a full 20-piece orchestra (not including his three vocalists), all non-union, for his Trop performances and has for years been on the union's "unfriendly" list. Also from the Newton show: Thursday night, Kym Johnson of “Dancing With the Stars” (playing the role of Donny Osmond’s dance partner at the moment) and her mother, Barbara, were in the audience. Kym went to preschool in Sydney, Australia, with Andrew and Michael Tierney of Human Nature at Imperial Palace. To quote Carson, “I did not know that.”

Frankie! The Musical

One of the more successful lounge acts in town, Frankie Moreno has hit the top of the Billboard Classical and Crossover Classical charts for his contribution to violinist Joshua Bell’s duets CD, “At Home With Friends.” The two team on a powerful cover of “Eleanor Rigby.” Moreno’s band, the touring and studio band for Air Supply, is at Rush Lounge at Golden Nugget this weekend.

Shots for everyone

The United Way is sponsoring a “Shots for Tots” event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow at Lorenzi Park. Children will receive free flu shots and other immunizations during the event, which includes a community fair and a sort of health-themed carnival. Get there if need be. It runs all day.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy