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Who to watch in 2011 includes the mayor (no surprise) and Brody (something of a surprise)

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Justin M. Bowen

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman answer questions Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, at the Las Vegas City Council meeting, when it was officially announced the existing City Hall building would be used as the corporate headquarters for online retailer Zappos.com.

According to my official Las Vegas Events 2010 calendar, the year is about over. The final entry is “America’s Party: Las Vegas New Year December 31.” I won’t be at the fireworks show this New Year’s Eve, though. I’ll be turning the calendar with a Las Vegas headliner, and the name of this person might surprise you.

But that is not for now.

Zappos at City Council (12-1-2010)

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh speaks Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, at the Las Vegas City Council meeting, when it was officially announced the existing City Hall building would be used as the corporate headquarters for online retailer Zappos.com. Launch slideshow »

Instead, let me be among those to “man up” and boot ’10 out the door. It is about time to take the time to look out toward 2011 with a list of those to watch in the coming year.

Mayor Oscar Goodman

Two of his favorite projects -- The Mob Museum and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts -- are developing on or ahead of schedule, and Zappos is ready to overtake the City Hall building and provide an infusion of youth, energy and money to downtown Las Vegas. Fremont East continues to bubble over with new businesses. It would seem the mayor might coast through the final year of his final term, but I’d not bet on that. When Stephen Colbert’s people are still calling, what’s the point? Maybe a reality TV show is in Goodman’s future, or maybe he’s serious about opening a speakeasy downtown. Whatever, the still-Happiest Mayor in the Universe will always serve as a Vegas focal point, whether he’s running the city or a downtown nightclub.

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Emergency Arts houses The Beat coffee shop, as well as the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Fremont East

Emergency Arts, specifically The Beat Coffeehouse, has become such a noteworthy draw for downtown movers/shakers that National Public Radio’s Liane Hansen aired a report from there during her weeklong trip to Vegas in November. The new outcroppings include Maharaja Hookah Cafe, Vanguard Lounge and Azul Tequila, establishments that, collectively, cover most any demographic. El Cortez’s renovation is complete, and no less an authority than Michael Gaughan says the hotel never looked so nice even when it was new.

Michael and Jennifer Cornthwaite (operators of Emergency Arts and Downtown Cocktail Room) would love to see more residential activity in their neighborhood, but Fremont East is almost unrecognizable compared to the moribund district from four or five years ago. With the magnanimous Carlos "Big Daddy" Adley and his scintillating wife, Ava Berman Adley, set to open a mixed-use project that will feature a nightclub, a restaurant, retail business and condos at 601 Fremont St. (Fremont and Sixth streets), the upcoming year will be nothing if not busy.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s official after-fight party at Studio 54 in MGM Grand on May 1, 2010.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

This man is the key to the most lucrative fight in boxing history but simply cannot seem to stay off the ropes in his personal life. Those in Top Rank Boxing have flatly stated that Mayweather just doesn’t want to fight Manny Pacquiao, which is understandable if you have ever seen Pacquiao throw punches in anger, and also is understandable if you saw "Sugar" Shane Mosley nearly take Mayweather out in the second round of their fight in May. Maybe 2011 is the year Mayweather makes more news in the ring than in his run-ins with those who protect-slash-serve.

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Jay Bloom, left, managing partner of Murder Inc., listens to Meyer Lansky II, grandson of organized crime figure Meyer Lansky, during a news conference at The Mob Experience preview center at the Tropicana on Aug. 2, 2010.

Jay Bloom

His own Mob Experience at Tropicana opens later than announced (the Sun is in a cross-promotional relationship with the attraction), in January, and he’s also taken over the Tiffany Theater, bringing Recycled Percussion over from MGM Grand, and plugging The Beatles tribute “Yesterday” and martial arts demo show “Sideswipe” into a theater that was supposed to have been gutted and renovated by now. Bloom is at the center of a lot of activity at the Trop, whose 2011 prognosis depends largely on the success of the well-moneyed Bloom and his many varied ventures.

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Brody Dolyniuk as David Lee Roth during a performance of "RockShow."

Brody Dolyniuk and Frankie Moreno

I link these two artists, as they are two of the more gifted entertainers in the city who could well vault into a higher level of prominence in 2011. The frontman for Yellow Brick Road for more than a decade, Dolyniuk is still working on his one-man comic/impressionist production, “Brody’s World,” his attempt over the past year to partner with Las Vegas producer Chip Lightman having cratered (twice). But Dolyniuk’s show is terrific, even if many in the Vegas entertainment establishment have picked it apart for its hard-edged, classic-rock focus and for not being “warm” enough. But the guy is great in an against-the-grain sort of way. Having gotten to know Dolyniuk over the years, it is wholly understandable to me why he so easily identifies with David Letterman early in Letterman’s career. The early Letterman was a guy who fought to keep his own point-of-view in all of his work, even when it meant going against accepted practice. Dolyniuk’s David Lee Roth costume with the fake bare butt is his Velcro suit.

A terrific singer/songwriter and pianist, Moreno and his four-man Frankie Moreno Band ends a consistently entertaining run at Rush Lounge at Golden Nugget on Jan. 9. The band is working on a new album with its new label, Sony Records, and recording at Odds On studios in Henderson. When not at Rush Lounge, Moreno and the band have recorded and toured with Air Supply, which has allowed them to see the world and play for enormous crowds. Next year might be the time for Moreno to reach that level of acclaim himself.

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UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck puts his hand on his head during the second half of their game against Saturday, October 30, 2010. Fourth-ranked TCU won the game 48-6.

Bobby Hauck

Hauck is fortunate that even the most casual observer of UNLV’s football program does not expect him to turn the Rebels around immediately. The team went 2-11. It will take a monumental effort to make the Rebel program enticing enough for a high volume of Las Vegans to trudge out to Sam Boyd Stadium to watch college football.

A night at Binion's

The Binion's sign facing Fremont Street. Launch slideshow »

Plaza Hotel & Casino: Before Renovations

Symphony Park is under construction with the Plaza Hotel & Casino looming in the background. Launch slideshow »

Binion’s and Plaza

Another fused entry, as both of these hotels should provide an accurate gauge as to the health of the old hotels on Fremont Street. Anyone else notice that Binion’s closing of its valet service, and the resulting loss of 20 or so jobs, coincided with the opening of The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas? Or that the loss of those jobs was almost a year to the day after the closing of the hotel tower, which coincided with the opening of CityCenter? There is no timetable for when those 365 rooms will be reopened, and the closing of the valet did nothing to move the project in that direction.

Plaza, too, has shut down its hotel for long-overdue room renovations. There is no hard date for when the 1,037-room tower will reopen, but the man who manages the Plaza (which will be again named Union Plaza after its $20 million renovation is finished), Anthony F. Santo, has said there will be “12 months of hard times” in the interim. Not good. Fremont Street can’t be considered fully, financially healthy until these two landmark hotels are back in full operation.

The Mirage President Felix Rappaport welcomes The Stars and Stripes Foundation to The Mirage on Nov. 12, 2010.

The Mirage President Felix Rappaport welcomes The Stars and Stripes Foundation to The Mirage on Nov. 12, 2010.

The Mirage

The Mirage has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation over the past five years, and its entertainment lineup is solid and wide appealing, with tireless comic ventriloquist/vocalist Terry Fator and “Love” representing two of the more reliable shows in the city. And into this famed and refurbished resort walks new President Felix Rappaport, who is not famous for simply baby-sitting hotels. He likes to do stuff. Rappaport enacted a similar reface of Luxor during his days at the vaunted pyramid. He talks of upgrading the restaurants, which is a splendid thought that nonetheless seems a bit … limiting, considering Rappaport’s history of making big changes. And there is still chatter about Phil Ruffin making another run at buying The Mirage, a notion that never seems quite dead.

Hard Rock Hotel

Even the spellbinding performances at The Joint by Carlos Santana could not change the reality at the dependably hip resort. Hard Rock Hotel has been hit particularly hard by the recession, and HRH owner Morgans Hotel Group reported in November that it needed a marked improvement in the Las Vegas tourism market to return to steady financial footing. This month, it was announced that the Tru TV reality TV show centering on the hotel’s zany pool party, “Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel,” won't be returning for a fourth season (I know, drag).

When The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas opened this month, I heard the following from a few guests: “This place is the new Hard Rock.” But what of the old Hard Rock, which over the past two years has added two towers, the dazzling Vanity nightclub and opened one of the city’s best live music venues?

We’ll know in 2011.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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