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October 21, 2017

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With ‘Glee’ and Billboard Awards showcases, MGM Resorts reminds us of its arena advantage


Tom Donoghue/

Glee Live! In Concert!” tour at Mandalay Bay on May 21, 2011.

Glee Live! In Concert! at Mandalay Bay

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"Glee Live! In Concert!" tour at Mandalay Bay on May 21, 2011.

2011 Billboard Music Awards: Telecast

Beyonce performs during the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 22, 2011.

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Justin Bieber during the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 22, 2011.

The opening number of the “Glee Live! in Concert!” stage show Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center was a characteristically gleeful cover of Journey's “Don’t Stop Believin.’ ” As the cast spilled across the big stage, showered in lights and with the shrieks of a laden-with-teens audience, I was hit with two thoughts.

One was, having seen the real Journey perform this song live back in the early 1980s (or was it the early 18th century?), I could not believe this was the song that would be the most popular a generation later. Back then, I would have guessed “Stone in Love.” The lyric “In the heat with a blue jean girl, burnin’ love comes once in a lifetime!” seems a message that spans generations at least as effectively as “Hold on to that feeling!”

It also hit me then, as it did a night later at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena, as to why MGM Resorts is so aggressively protecting its position as the city’s dominant arena operator. MGM Resorts has been keeping a keen eye on what is planned for arena development in Las Vegas, fighting against the Caesars Entertainment proposal on the east side of the Strip because it doesn’t feel competing against a facility funded in part by public money is at all fair or (in this financial climate) responsible.

As MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman has said, if Caesars wants to build a 22,000-seat arena in the middle of many of its Strip hotels, fine. Just don’t ask taxpayers to help pay for it. The company has not yet endorsed what is planned by Ed Roski and Craig Cavileer on the UNLV campus, and it will be interesting to see how MGM officials respond to the latest concept backed by Texas developer Chris Milam behind Mandalay Bay as it moves closer to reality. The 51s would play at a new stadium on that site behind the hotel, and Major League Soccer has agreed to move a franchise to Las Vegas if a suitable venue is built. A tax district would need to be approved by the state Legislature to make that project happen, and if that’s the spot for our long-overdue sports and events center, fine.

As the Vegas arena saga unfolds, MGM Resorts has been typically busy by bringing shows into the Grand Garden Arena and Mandalay Bay Events Center that showcase their hotels and, in a larger scope, the city in a most appealing light. “Glee” was the first stop of a national tour that sold out the arena in its 8,570-seat configuration. As noted, the audience was filled with kids who sang and shouted along to production numbers borrowing from all eras of contemporary music -- my favorite was Darren Criss (who plays Blaine in a show I admittedly do not watch), who powered through “Silly Love Songs,” a fitting song for the blossoming spectacle that is “Glee.” It was a wild show, for sure, but also a precision and highly professional showcase that barely paused. May they stay young forever, or for at least three more seasons.

A night later, a national TV audience watching on ABC witnessed the music industry’s biggest stars perform at the Grand Garden Arena, packed with an official audience count of 10,623. It was the Billboard Music Awards' first visit to Las Vegas in five years. Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber shared time and space with U2 and Neil Diamond. Britney Spears performed with Rihanna to energetic response, and not only from the fans -- artists, too, are pulling for Spears to rebuild a career that once seemed bulletproof. Cee Lo Green’s spinning piano wowed the crowd, Beyonce showed up and showed she's worth any award even remotely related to entertainment, and host Ken Jeong of “The Hangover” infamy took a 5-minute video tour of the city that could serve as an LVCVA-endorsed promotional clip for Las Vegas.

It was quite a weekend for the MGM family, and a brightly lit reminder of why the company is so protective of its position as the arena king of Vegas.

The Hangover, Part II Premiere

Justin Bartha, Mason Lee and Jamie Chung at The Hangover Part II Premiere at The Peepshow Theater at Planet Hollywood on May 21, 2011. Launch slideshow »

One night in Bangkok

Though the sequel to “The Hangover” takes place mostly in Bangkok, the film has a strong link to Las Vegas because of its obvious launching point here. The film screened at Planet Hollywood on Saturday afternoon and features countless references to the debauchery that unfolded in the first film. It’s not as consistently funny for its been-there, done-that feel. Drunken buffoonery does have its narrative limits. There are repeated “We don’t want a repeat of Vegas” references, but what carries the film are the great performances from Leong (again as the haplessly dangerous Mr. Chow), Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. Oh, and Mike Tyson.

This is the rare film whose key plot point -- what exactly happened to these guys during a blackout night in Bangkok -- isn’t fully revealed until the hilarious photo slideshow during closing credits. But the great comic acting carries such lines as Galifianakis’ “I wish monkeys could Skype.”

In context, it does make perfect sense. These guys might well become the Marx Brothers for the hangover set, and we have Vegas to thank. Or, blame.

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Musical guest star and MC Jeff Timmons in Chippendales at the Rio on May 12, 2011.

Audio Clip

  • David Cassidy, Jeff Timmons

Jeff! The Musical

Jeff Timmons told me Saturday night that he doesn’t read anything written about him because he’s been written about so negatively over the course of his career.

So this is a good moment to note that Jeff Timmons is a total bonehead.

I kid, of course.

Timmons is the founder of the weather pattern-inspired 98 Degrees and is currently the guest star in Chippendales at the Rio. On Saturday night, post-“Glee,” I followed through on a promise to see him in the show that I made to him during his appearance last month on “Kats With the Dish.” He said during the wild interview that he was going to pull me onstage, too, but that didn’t happen. That honor fell to my dear friend and co-host, Tricia McCrone, who sat in a chair while Timmons sang some sort of lovelorn song. I didn’t take down the title; I was too preoccupied with finding a fan to help Dish cool off.

Sort of unexpectedly, Timmons has become a column and radio show favorite. I had no real appreciation of him or the vocal group before he entered the studio at KUNV and fairly set the place aflame. He’s a great guy, and I must admit, puts on a spirited performance with the guys in Chipps. He’s scheduled to end his stretch June 5, but that schedule might well change. The show is at or near its 360-seat capacity each night, and a (contract) extension to keep Timmons in place through the end of the summer seems a good idea.

I believe the two other guys who saw the show Saturday night would agree. So would the 360 women, upon recovery.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Also, follow "Kats With the Dish" at

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