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December 19, 2018

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Weekend in Vegas: Daytime Emmys heat up Hilton, Mencia barks at heckler, Saxe brings dream show to the stage

37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards

Steve Marcus

Illusionist David Copperfield, right, greets show host Regis Philbin during the start of the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Las Vegas Hilton on June 27, 2010.

37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards

Dick Clark receives a standing ovation during the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Las Vegas Hilton on June 27, 2010. His wife Kari Wigton is at right. Launch slideshow »
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A boy and his rig: Tommy Rocker and his 1970 VW bus.

Vegas! The Show: Dress Rehearsal

Dress rehearsal for Vegas! The Show in Saxe Theater at Planet Hollywood on June 25, 2010. Launch slideshow »
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Dress rehearsal for Vegas! The Show in Saxe Theater at Planet Hollywood on June 25, 2010.

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Kristofer McNeeley works it out with pianist Dave Hartel at Liberace Museum.

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Carlos Mencia

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Las Vegas entertainer Stephanie Dianna Sanchez in the Las Vegas Sun studio Monday, February 22, 2010.

A visit to Carlos Mencia's show at Treasure Island, a swing into a PT's to catch up on one of my favorite Las Vegas entertainers, a first look at "Vegas! The Show" at Saxe Theater, another worthwhile spin through Liberace Museum and a trip to Las Vegas Hilton for the Daytime Emmys.

But otherwise, it was a pretty dull weekend. We're never board here. I mean, bored. Tired, maybe, but not bored.

Some of the highlights:

Aunti Emmy! It's a twister!

Some notes cobbled from the late afternoon and early evening at the Las Vegas Hilton for the Daytime Emmys, held for the first time at the Hilton Theater:

• It was pointed out to me as I arrived at the hotel that Vince Neil was enjoying champagne in Tempo Lounge — just walk in and look to the left, and you'd see him there. Yep. And in possibly related news, this morning it was reported that Neil, who operates the Tacos & Tequila nightclub at the Hilton, was arrested for suspicion of DUI and booked into Clark County jail, where bail was set at $2,000.

• During the two-hour production that aired on tape-delay on CBS, Marie Osmond put in a poised performance in the tribute to Dick Clark, for which she was joined in medley form by Chubby Checker and Tony Orlando. Osmond sang a segment of "Paper Roses," looking and sounding dynamite. Entertainers who want to know how a true pro operates should watch Marie, or any of the Osmonds. She has said that every performing Osmond was taught to be an entertainer first and a celebrity second — something Donny Osmond also said in his taped segment during the tribute.

Whether or not you have "Paper Roses," or any other Osmond music, on your iPod, the Osmonds always work feverishly hard, and never will be accused of being famous just for being famous.

• Regis Philbin is my hero. He's 78, and yet, he's 18. Remarkably sprite, during he called out to "All My Children" deity Susan Lucci, "You look great, Susan. Have you picked up a pound?" Very few emcees would have gotten Lucci to laugh at that line, but she laughed at Regis. It's hard not to.

• I had a chance bump-into with Tommy Rocker, prior to the show, in the hotel's north garage. He parked his famous VW bus right across from me. Rocker is playing the Hilton pool parties each weekend, picking up a gig wherever he can to surf out the sluggish economy. He says business at his Tommy Rocker's club on Dean Martin Drive has picked up since he ditched his adult-club format and returned to his old open-mic cantina show. As for that famed red VeeDub buss, it has probably logged 500,000 miles, but it's impossible to know for sure because the odometer only rolls to 99,000 miles. There is not a sixth numerical slot if, by chance, a VW bus makes it to 100,00.

"That's how confident the manufacturers were in this vehicle's lifespan," Rocker joked, before solidly slamming the bus's door.

• The advertorial-like video clip that was to reveal to viewers the groovy features of the Hilton actually began with ... shots of the Bellagio water show. Then it was the Manhattan Express and exterior of New York-New York. Then the Luxor. The Hilton footage was after that, and I love how the Monorail in that segment looked like the Crazy Train was screaming along past the property at about 80 mph. Don't be fooled, folks. The Mono is a creeper.

• Congrats to Sahara magician Rick Thomas for his cameo in the walk-around of the hotel's famous 15,000-square foot penthouse suite once occupied by Elvis. It helps to be one of the very few entertainers working anywhere who still uses a giant white tiger, which Thomas led through the suite on a loose leash.

• Strong endorsement: Wayne Brady said that when he's in town performing at the Venetian, the shows he opts for are any with "Cirque du Soleil" in the credits. With performers from "Ka," and "Lion King" featured as presenters, "Cirque' certainly was well-represented. So was Blue Man Group, also from the Venetian, which appeared in the three-TV routine with current "Jeopardy" and former "High Rollers" host Alex Trebek.

• Spotted leaving the theater: Clint Holmes and Kelly Clinton Holmes, Las Vegas Tenor Bobby Black, Sin City Bad Girls front woman Lorena Peril, and sleight-of-hand artist Steve Dacri. Sin City Bad Girls and Dacri are part of the Hilton's wide-ranging entertainment lineup, which also includes stints by comics Mark Curry and Andrew Dice Clay at Shimmer Cabaret. From July 14-18 it's the "Heart of the King" Elvis fan convention. In October the fanciful "Triumph" production show arrives, a mythic tale pitting Good vs. Evil, and we hope the Hilton Superbook posts numbers on the outcome. The pick here: Good and the under.

• In keeping the Venetian Showroom a crisp 67 degrees Chazz Palminteri explains that a cooler temperature keeps the audience on edge. David Letterman likes the temperature even cooler than that. But the Hilton Theater was really warm, especially in the balcony. Maybe that's why the show did not run over its allotted two-hour time — people were not eager to sit and sweat longer than necessary.

• In the commercial break after his tribute, in which he placed his hand on his forehead and seemed to be crying, 80-year-old "American Bandstand" legend Dick Clark gently was lifted up out of his seat near the stage, placed back down in a wheelchair, and escorted from the theater. The crowd cheered this understated departure, which took place off-camera.

Clark still is suffering from effects of a stroke six years ago, and as a video montage during his tribute reminded, he's forged an inedible legacy on pop culture. Those depicted ranged from Frankie Avalon to Janet Jackson to Bon Jovi. "Bandstand" was a forum that found a spot for the Village People, Madonna, Barry Manilow, anyone who was the artist of the moment. I seriously doubt any broadcaster, including such TV stars of today as Ryan Seacrest, will ever match the influence of Dick Clark.

Mencia at TI

Deep into his stand-up show at Treasure Island, Carlos Mencia embarked on a lengthy bit about President Obama's ethnicity. This is familiar terrain for comics, questioning Obama's "blackness," with Mencia noting that Obama is not a "ghetto" African-American. Mencia offered that most Americans, or at least those who voted for him, felt Obama would "go ghetto" when heckled by Rep. Joe Wilson during the 2009 State of the Union address. "People thought he'd go, 'What'd you just say, (expletive)!?' But he didn't. He just said, 'Not true.'"

During this stretch someone from stage left shouted disapproval at Mencia. Hard to detect exactly who said it, or what was said, but Mencia broke from his act (or, appeared to) and said, "You are the type of people who laugh at the news on TV, but come to see a comic and go, 'Oh I don't like that!'" Mencia said, the crowd applauding. "Hey, don't take me so seriously! I'm a glorified court jester up here!" The crowd applauded again, more robustly, and Mencia returned to action.

Mencia, whose overheated delivery often reminds of vintage Sam Kinison, did keep the audience laughing. He received a standing ovation, and as the crowd filed out I didn't hear anyone remark, "I think I heard that stuff somewhere else." Often accused by other comics of material theft, Mencia just plows ahead with a consistently loud and aggressive performance. He's scheduled to be back at TI in September.

Saxe debuts "Vegas!"

"Vegas! The Show" opened at Saxe Theater on Saturday. The still-in-development show was performed twice, at 7 p.m. and later — much later — at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. was the scheduled start). Producer David Saxe says he is exhausted, mentally and physically, after pulling a series of 20-hour workdays to bring the show to the stage at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. The exhaustion is evident. Saxe looked like he was about to drop from pure fatigue at Saturday's after-party, but he did present the cast with gift certificates for massages. They will need a good rubdown after the manic run-up to this spectacle.

Full-scale reviews will come later, but what can be said is this is one of the more ambitious productions I've covered in Las Vegas. Saxe has poured his heart — and resources — into this dream of a show. It's a sprint — the sets were being painted even up to opening curtain, and the show is not nearly what it will be in a couple of months.

The history-of-Vegas variety production is sprinkled with names familiar on the local entertainment scene. Former Danny Gans bandleader Pat Caddick and Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns front man Jerry Lopez (whom we've covered extensively) are directing the production's 11-piece band. Reva Rice, late of "Menopause The Musical" and who understudied Lady of the Lake in "Monty Python's Spamalot," is a featured vocalist, as is a woman we've I've recently interviewed, Trina Johnson-Finn. Two of the featured dancers are both late of "Peepshow," Tara Palsha and Carolyn Price (Palsha was also for years a member of the "Fantasy" cast at Luxor, and Price was also backing dancer for Brady at the Venetian).

That's just a sampling of the entertainers Saxe has recruited. He's not going on the cheap, that's for sure.

Saxe is a Vegas native whose father, Richard, was once bandleader for the Rat Pack. His mother, Bonnie, danced for "Folies Bergere." As expected, the show borrows from those iconic acts, and from Elvis and Tom Jones and Wayne Newton. He uses Neon Boneyard signs in the set and embraces Vegas in all its grace and even kitsch. It's an obvious, grassroots counter attack against what Saxe says is the over-"Cirque-ification" of Vegas. We'll see how the city, especially those who visit, respond to this sample platter of Vegas history.

Catching up with Steph

In a seemingly boundless effort to perform in every Las Vegas forum available, former Luxor "Fantasy" star Stephanie Dianna Sanchez is now the hot bartender and "karaoke artist" at PT's Pub on Durango just north of Flamingo. She works the day shift and fires up the karaoke machine whenever the mood strikes her, or until she has a chance to set a schedule. She serves a pretty stout black coffee, and is adept at tavern chitchat.

But PT's? For a former star of a Strip show? Hey, no job is off-limits for Sanchez, who has worked so many Vegas entertainment gigs it's hard to keep track. She once appeared in shows on the roof of the since-leveled Westward Ho while pregnant, so this saloon assignment is a relatively comfortable gig. Sanchez also is planning to appear at the Tropicana's Celebrity Lounge with the local cover band The Trust. She's great at any form of drawing income, except collecting unemployment.

Groovin' on Sunday afternoon

Kristofer McNeeley — and family — was the star attraction Sunday afternoon at Liberace Museum. The Museum's cabaret was a fitting spot for an intimate performance by the "Jersey Boys" cast member and, more important, new father. He and his wife, Ali Spuck, are the beaming-yet-bleary parents of Emerson Lila McNeeley, who was born May 16 (five weeks early, beating the rush) an event that forced a cancellation of Spuck's own show at the Museum. Ali and little Emerson were in the audience Sunday for McNeeley's "Holding the Spot" performance.

Joined by pianist Dave Hartel, McNeeley sang and occasionally played guitar to material at once familiar ("Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" by Elton John; "Always a Woman" by Billy Joel) and original (a song about parenting, "Baby Mine.") It was a show far removed from the high production offered in "Jersey Boys," which was evident when McNeeley opened by inviting the audience to fall asleep if they liked. Seems he's experiencing the miracle of sleep depravation.

But it was a very cool showcase, as most shows at Liberace Museum are, and there will be a return to the stage soon for Spuck, too. As someone far wiser than I once said, it's a family affair.

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

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