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October 18, 2017

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Louie Anderson’s new show makes waves at Plaza; ‘The Showbiz Roast’ to revisit skewering


Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Joey Lawrence, Katherine Webb and Louie Anderson on ABC’s “Splash” on Tuesday, April 9, 2013.

You know who just destroyed the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday? Bruno Mars. With all the kinetic energy and stage drama that followed his show-launching performance of “Treasure Live,” that needs to be noted. Mars’ performance evoked the greater moments of Michael Jackson, and his inclusion of a horn section to a tightly choreographed lineup donned in crimson suits showed his sense of style.

Mars is one of the great live performers out there. He can inhabit any music genre. The only times I’ve seen him perform are at these awards shows, but he floors me each time. That is worth noting with all of the news that was made subsequent to his appearance. Mars is back, set to play Grand Garden on Aug. 3 during his “Moonshine Jungle” tour. The show is sold out, which is not a shock, but if you can get in … dude’s legit, as the kids say.

Time for some raking:

Louie Anderson Exits 'Splash'

Joey Lawrence, Katherine Webb and Louie Anderson on ABC's Launch slideshow »

• A post-“Splash” Louie Anderson is back onstage in VegasVille, this time on Fremont Street at the Plaza for his latest headlining gig at that hotel’s star-crossed showroom.

Anderson begins an open-ended engagement in a show conveniently titled "Louie Anderson Live" on July 10. He'll be performing Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $59.95 for general admission; $101.95 for a meet-and-greet (with Louie) after the show.

The Plaza has undergone a change in operators over the past several months, with the hotel taking over the showroom after the departure of Anthony Cools, and has lost a few productions. Most notably, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Bite” and “Grand Olde Vegas Revue” are long gone. But the terrific vocal ensemble The Phat Pack and the new adult production “Centerfolds of Magic” (which at age 13 is how I referred to all centerfolds) are in play.

Anderson is doubtless the most significant booking in the old showroom. The veteran standup previously performed at Excalibur (or as he once called it from the Brad Garrett Comedy Club stage, “the Low-Caliber”) and was most recently the headliner at Palace Station. He left his eponymous theater at Palace as he started training for “Splash,” the ABC celebrity-diving show. I surmise that “Splash” was created to fill the dearth of celebrity-diving competition shows on network TV.

Anderson withdrew from the competition -- twice, the second time after stepping onto the 33-foot-high platform to dive in place of Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Katherine Webb, who was sidelined by a back injury (the upshot is Webb didn’t have to buy a new suit for the show).

Anderson, who turned 60 in March, is said to have lost 40 pounds during the competition, which was won by extreme ski champ Rory Bushfield. Anderson boasts the singular distinction of having been saved from drowning by an Olympic gold medalist (Greg Louganis) and NFL defensive end (Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions) during practice at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, Calif. The two pulled Anderson out of the pool when the comic swallowed water, gagged, flailed and began to sink.

Anderson is drawing some material already from the “Splash” experience. In a release announcing the show, he says, “Diving is a lot like stand-up. You can't go back once you're up there. There's only a shame walk. I gotta dive into the audience or dive into the pool.” I predict big waves at the Plaza, metaphorically speaking, of course.

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A postcard of the old Union Plaza hotel pool.

• That note reminds of this piece of Vegas trivia: The pool at the Plaza was once located on the circular platform overlooking Fremont Street, where Center Stage steak house, Firefly and now Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads is located. I talked with someone who used to swim there as a kid. What was it like? “Sort of weird,” he said.

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Producer Andy Walmsley thanks the packed house at "The Showbiz Roast" at the Stratosphere.

• A viewing party for “The Showbiz Roast” of Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie has been set for 9 p.m. May 29 at the Lounge at the Palms. The 9 p.m. is set aside for the requisite “mingling” and the 10 p.m. airing of the roast held April 23 at Stratosphere. A new Showbiz Roast website is now up, and find some of the night’s highlights here and my own tribute to David Letterman’s Top 10 List here.

Show producer and Emmy Award-winning set designer Andy Walmsley hopes to stage another of these wild tribute shows in July. He is targeting a roastee who is prominent in Vegas, and pretty much everywhere in the country, but not an entertainer. At least, not a professional entertainer. So stay tuned for the outcome of that outreach program.

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Sophia Monica is proposed to, Vegas-style, by her longtime partner, Etienne Carreira, at "Peepshow" in Planet Hollywood. At right, caught up in the moment, is Josh Strickland.

• When she sings the number “Teddy” in “Peepshow,” Sophia Monica is courted by a gigantic stuffed bear. But on Saturday night, she was courted by a guy with a gigantic heart (cue the harpist). Onstage, at show’s end, Monica’s longtime boyfriend Etienne Carreira proposed marriage. He dropped to one knee, and the lady blurted, “Yes!”

Monica is the show’s ensemble performer and swing for Coco Austin in the Bo Peep role. Carreira is the father of the couple’s son and also a trained dancer, but it was Monica — wearing her stage costume and high heels — who did a black flip as he proposed. The crowd is said to have gone crazy, and you have to love Josh Strickland getting all gushy in the background of the photo provided by a show PR rep. Josh looks positively giddy, and he’s not alone. Congrats to these lovebirds.

• The woman who won the Riviera’s national competition to perform at Riviera Comedy Club has locked in her appearance dates. Maria Walsh is performing June 17-23 at the club. Walsh topped a field of 226 would-be Riv headliners across the country who sent in audition clips and appeared live at the club during the competition. Billed as “The Naughty Mommy,” Walsh had never performed on a Vegas stage before the contest. Her prize is to do it a bunch more, but get paid. She is a very funny lady.

• Wayne Newton hit the trifecta of events over the weekend: A fancy gala at a Vegas mansion Saturday night, an arrivals carpet walk and a shout-out from host Tracy Morgan at MGM Grand Garden Arena during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards and an appearance on NBC during the season finale of “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice.”

Newton was first honored at the opulent Anthem Country Club estate of Bruce and Barbara Lee Woolen during an American Humane Association indoor-outdoor fete Saturday night. Also honored during the “Lights of Compassion” weekend, which included an afternoon tea and fashion show at Bellagio and "The Great Gatsby"-themed gala Saturday, were Rep. Joe Heck; “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Lisa Vanderpump; Christine Robinson, executive director of The Animal Foundation; and actress Terry Moore, who is better known as Mrs. Howard Hughes (she has long said that she was secretly married to the legendary billionaire from 1949 until his death in 1976; although there is no existing evidence of that marriage, the Hughes estate paid Moore a settlement in 1984).

With all of that, and the city’s twinkling lights, as backdrop, The Wayner posed for photos for what seemed like forever and accepted his recognition for his years of charity work for animals. A night later, during the Billboards Award telecast, Morgan shouted, “My biological father is here! Wayne Newton!”

Before the show, Newton strode over to me during the show’s blue carpet walk.

In this exchange, Mr. Las Vegas references my attire from the night before:

Wayne: “Where is the tux? I thought you’d still be in your tux!”

Johnny: “I had to change out of it. It’s in the trunk of my car.”

Wayne: “I was hoping to see you still in it! Two nights in a row!”

Johnny: “I wish! That would have been a hell of story!”

As Newton walked off, a reporter covering the show from one of the national music publications turned to me and asked, “What was that all about?”

I replied, “It’s a Vegas thing.”

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