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May 22, 2019

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A schedule break and an old acquaintance show Donny & Marie the Great White Way

<em>DWTS</em> Champion Donny Osmond

Erik Kabik/Retna/www.erikkabikphoto.com

Donny Osmond and sister Marie Osmond during his return to the Flamingo with his champion’s mirrored disco ball trophy on Nov. 25, 2009, after his win on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars with Kym Johnson on Tuesday night.

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Donny & Marie

Donny Osmond has performed with his siblings for so long and in so many configurations, it’s difficult to remember just when and where he has appeared onstage with his sister, Marie.

So the heartthrob-iest Osmond was surprised to learn that Marie and he had never appeared together on Broadway. More startling was he learned of this gap in the family resume only after he and Marie booked 12 shows at the Marquis Theatre for a show titled “Donny & Marie -- A Broadway Christmas.” The dates are Dec. 9 to Dec. 19 (Dec. 9 is Donny’s 53rd birthday).

Again, the title says it all: Donny, Marie, Broadway, Christmas. But even as Marie has played Anna in “The King and I” and Donny once portrayed Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway, such a sibling union has never happened on the Great White Way.

“I read that, actually, that we’d never shared a stage before on Broadway and that’s the first I’d thought of it,” Donny Osmond says. “But that was not what motivated us to do this. It was really a case of great timing and being able to find an opening to perform in a really valuable piece of real estate.”

That real estate is the Marquis Theatre, which is relatively new by Broadway standards (built in 1986) and sits inside the Marriott Marquis Hotel. There was a late break in the December schedule, and a figure who played a key role in one of the more unfortunate moments of Donny Osmond’s career resurfaced. It was Jimmy Nederlander of the famed Nederlander family. Nederlander for decades has been a theater owner, operator, producer and presenter. Nederlander is president of the Nederlander Organization and the son of its founder, James M. Nederlander.

The Nederlander Organization happens to own the Marquis Theatre, so Jimmy Nederlander is an invaluable contact if you ever have the dream to perform on Broadway. But fatefully, Nederlander also was producer of a show that seems to represent the impossible: a one-night stand for Donny Osmond. The notorious revival of “Little Johnny Jones” was that show. The ill-fated “Little Johnny” opened -- and closed -- on March 21, 1981.

Donny had replaced fellow teen idol David Cassidy in the lead role and had been battered in reviews leading up to the show’s premiere, which also served as its farewell.

“Jimmy Nederlander pulled the plug, and for years ‘Nederlander’ was a hard word for me to hear,” Osmond says. “But as weird as it sounds, it was probably the apex of my career, because it changed everything.”

Osmond survived the experience, reinventing himself as a solo artist -- his appearance with Jeff Beck on Beck’s “Ambitious” was an inspired move. When he returned to Broadway in 2006, for “Beauty and the Beast,” he was at the top of his game and earned far more favorable reviews than as “Little Johnny Jones.”

At that time, Osmond met up with Jimmy Nederlander. They had a lot to discuss, needless to say.

“We met in his office, had a wonderful time and laughed about the whole experience,” Osmond says. “It’s a case where you never know how paths are going to cross, you know?”

Four years later, the Osmonds were at the fore of Nederlander’s plans for a holiday stint at the Marquis. But it had to happen fast.

“He said, ‘We have people waiting in the wings for this space, but I want you,’ ” Osmond says. “‘But you gotta make a decision by tomorrow.’”

That conversation took place about four weeks ago.

“It was put together fast. We had our attorneys and their attorneys burning candles at both ends, all three ends, actually,” Osmond says. “In those few weeks, we had everything put together, the staging, everything.”

This was the first booking made by Donny & Marie since they were sued for breach of contract by their former producer in Las Vegas, Chip Lightman. Producer of the holiday shows is NewSpace Entertainment of Salt Lake City, giving the Osmonds some backing from their home state. As for the still-unsettled lawsuit pitting Lightman against Donny & Marie, Osmond won’t comment directly but does say he wants it to be settled soon. Expect an agreement within the month, maybe two weeks.

The show itself will not be a dressed-up interpretation of the Donny & Marie Flamingo production. “There is some of that element to it, but we’re doing whole new production numbers. The audience wouldn’t appreciate a Vegas show on Broadway,” Osmond says. “It’s the Christmas season, we have elements themed for the holidays that would work. It’s fine-tuned for the season, it’s family entertainment.”

Osmond says he hopes to make the shows an annual tradition in New York, maybe even as a TV special.

“We’re hoping to get it to that point,” he says, understanding that Broadway critics might not be too kind to what a New York Times art writer has called, “One of the quirkiest, kookiest clans in pop culture.”

“You have to remember, my name is Donny Osmond,” Osmond says. “I’m used to that.”

Steer clear of the Hammargren home

This might be a first: A dis-invitation.

Don’t visit Dr. Lonnie Hammargren’s house this weekend.

As John Candy’s security guard character in “National Lampoon's Vacation” would say, “Sorry folks, the park’s closed. The moose out front should have told ya.”

“The Hammargren Home of Nevada History,” Hammargren’s 17,200-square-foot home on Ridgecrest Drive near Sandhill and Flamingo roads, is not open for tours this weekend.

The home and property has long been a popular Nevada Day attraction, and one glance is all you need to see why. For nearly 40 years, Hammargren has collected all variety of memorabilia and artifacts, including cars from the roller-coaster from Stratosphere, the Ferris wheel from the old Boardwalk hotel-casino, dozens of old casino signs and even an Apollo space capsule. Every year on Nevada Day, the good doctor has opened his property to those who want to observe what seems the world’s largest garage sale.

But Hammargren has been in a protracted battle with some of his neighbors who have complained to the Clark County Commission about the mad collector’s efforts to secure zoning changes to increase the height of the wall around his property. They’re worried about the lack of parking in the neighborhood, too.

So Hammargren is closing the show, for now, because, “it just isn’t the right time” to show off the collection.

“Several people came to the door today, trying to get in, and it’ll happen all weekend,” said the 72-year-old Hammargren, one of the city’s truly colorful characters. “I feel bad, because there has to be a way to celebrate Nevada history, but it has to be OK with the neighbors.”

A retired neurosurgeon and former lieutenant governor, Hammargren says he recently passed around a petition in the neighborhood asking those living nearby if they would be OK with him hosting a half-dozen public events per year. “Eighty-five percent said yes,” he said. “But the County Commission listened to a few politically connected people.”

The commission followed by issuing nuisance violations against Hammargren, who says he has complied with orders to clean up the property. He also says he is willing to offer some of his pieces to museums in operation and under construction in Las Vegas. That includes the Wayne Newton project (pending approval from the Clark County Commission), the Neon Boneyard and the Atomic Testing Museum.

“Absolutely!” Hammargren responded when asked about each of those attractions. “That’s part of the fun of collecting. I’ve got a lot of stuff squirreled away.”

Just stay away -- for now.

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Casino owners Jackie Gaughan, left, and his son Michael Gaughan pose together at a luncheon honoring the elder Gaughan on Thursday, May 4, 2000, at The Orleans.

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Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan smiles before a qualifying run for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300 auto race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010.

Tale of the Gaughans

As the son of Michael Gaughan and the grandson of Jackie Gaughan, Brendan Gaughan knows a few stories. He told one Thursday during the 90th birthday party for his grandfather, which also served as the dedication ceremony for the renaming of the walkway leading into El Cortez as Jackie Gaughan Parkway.

In December 2005, Jackie and Michael Gaughan attended the opening of South Coast, which at the time was the newest hotel in the Coast Resorts chain, which Michael Gaughan operated at the time the hotel opened. The morning after the $600 million resort flung open its doors, Jackie and Michael Gaughan ducked into the hotel’s poker room. During one particularly tense hand, Michael Gaughan froze as those around him awaited his next move.

“He told me later that what was going through his mind was whether to call a $3 raise,” Brendan Gaughan said. “He’d just opened a $600 million hotel, and that’s what he was nervous about.”

Podcast frenzy

Set for 4 to 6:30 p.m. today is the third annual “Podcast-A-Palooza” at Flamingo’s Go Pool. Live podcasts of the Las Vegas shows “The Strip,” “Five Hundy by Midnight” and “Vegas Gang” will be staged before a live audience. Harrah’s headliner Rita Rudner and her husband, Martin Bergman, will appear with Steve Friess and Miles Smith on “The Strip.” Tropicana President Tom McCartney is to sit with “Vegas Gang.”

Harrah’s Total Rewards members receive 3X multiplier for player’s card points, all weekend, for attending. With deals like these, how does this place stay open?

And if you’re wondering, “Five Hundy by Midnight” is named for a line from “Swingers,” when Jon Favreau (wrongly) predicts that he and Vince Vaughn will be up “five hundy by midnight” during a night of gambling at an unnamed hotel that is actually the now-razed Stardust. So we have learned something.

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

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