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September 25, 2017

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Now starring on the Strip: Manny Pacquiao?! Plus, Holly Madison, Melody Sweets


Chris Farina - Top Rank

Manny Pacquiao works out at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., during the final day of training camp Monday, April 7, 2014, before heading to Las Vegas for his eagerly anticipated rematch against undefeated WBO World Welterweight champion Timothy Bradley.

Bradley, Pacquiao Media Days in Hollywood

Undefeated WBO World Welterweight champion Timothy Bradley flexes during media day during media day Thursday, April 3, 2014 at Fortune Gym in Hollywood, Calif. for his eagerly-anticipated rematch against superstar Manny Pacquiao. Launch slideshow »

Pacquiao After-Party @Mandalay Bay

Manny Launch slideshow »

The Kats Report Bureau at this writing is the final, formal news conference leading to Saturday’s fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. The fight is for the world welterweight championship of some significant boxing organization, and the bout is dubbed Pacquiao-Bradley 2 and is sponsored in part by Tecate, recognized around the world as the official beer of concussions.

The international boxing press is in the room, which is Hollywood Theater, where David Copperfield is the star and also is the final venue to host a Tom Jones show in Las Vegas. I believe Mr. Jones is finished performing in town, and if you didn’t see his show, too bad. Talk about packing a punch (among other things) — that was Tom Jones in Las Vegas.

Seated in front of me is fight judge Joe Cortez, who is a member of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame and a great basketball trick-shot artist. Cortez has been working on the side with former heavyweight champ and Las Vegas resident Leon Spinks. Brother Leon has had some physical challenges after his fighting career related to the punishment he took in the ring, and Cortez is working with him at the ring at Cortez’s home to keep the old champ sharp.

Spinks is a heavyweight supporter of “Raiding the Rock Vault” at LVH, which honored him last fall for his 60th birthday. He’s a very sweet guy, Leon, a genuine champion and an Olympic gold medalist.

With all of that, it’s rake time, continuing with some boxing-entertainment verbiage:

• This is one of those subjects bound to spark skepticism among boxing devotees, but we’re going there anyway: Would Manny Pacquiao be a credible headliner in a Las Vegas stage show?

Before you say, “You have taken too many punches to the head,” let’s remind that Pacquiao has frequently sung in public; on TV (with Will Ferrell and Jimmy Kimmel); and even in the studio, recording a cover of “Sometimes When We Touch” with the original vocalist, Dan Hill, and releasing the song as a single in April 2011.

Whenever Pacquiao is in town, which he is now to fight Bradley, I reanimate a conversation I’ve had over the past few years with producers in town about the viability of Pacquiao as an entertainer in Las Vegas. The most recent comment from Pacquiao, relayed through Sternberg Communications overlord and PR wizard Fred Sternberg, is: “I love singing, but singing does not love me.”

My thought: Since when would such self-realization prevent anyone from developing a show in Las Vegas?

Aside from his fighting career, Pacquiao is a congressman in his native Philippines and is considering a run for a senate seat next year. He and his wife, Jinke, are expecting their fifth child in a few weeks, a boy to be named Israel.

So whatever ancillary projects — such as dabbling in an entertainment project — would be far off.

But this week, I spoke with SPI Entertainment founder and busy Las Vegas show producer Adam Steck about Pacquiao’s marketability as a stage performer. This is not such a far-fetched concept; Steck is the one who produced and presented Mike Tyson’s “Undisputable Truth” shows at Hollywood Theater a few years ago, an effort that wound up playing Broadway and touring the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

“I think the angle to approach this is Manny just being Manny,” Steck said Tuesday in a phone conversation, invoking a famous saying by then-Los Angeles Dodger Manny Ramirez. “You’d need to pick safe songs, train him on those songs and put a great band behind him. You would need to talk about his history in and out of the ring, how he came to be the king of the Philippines and remind people of just how huge this guy is.”

Understanding Pacquiao’s massive appeal in his home country and through such high-density places as Hong Kong and mainland China, Steck said the approach would be “just like Mike Tyson, where you say, ‘Here he is,’ and milk it as much as possible.”

To make such a show work, at least conceptually, Steck said he would put Pacquiao onstage during a fight weekend at MGM Grand — at Hollywood Theater, specifically — and see how he performs.

“The thing about Las Vegas that did not used to be the case is it has turned into a great launching ground for shows,” Steck said, referring specifically to the Tyson production. “If you build it here, who knows? I’ll tell you, if it could work in Las Vegas, you could bring it to the Philippines and play a stadium there. The guy is really, really popular.”

This point merits a make: Pacquiao does need to keep winning, and at some point a fight — win or lose — with Floyd Mayweather Jr. would keep his name atop the great sports figures of his generation. A knockout in the ring could KO any ideas of putting him onstage.

2013 EDC: Pasquale Rotella Proposes to Holly Madison

Pasquale Rotella and Holly Madison attend the 17th annual Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, June 23, 2013. Launch slideshow »

• The soft opening and formal opening of 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque by Holly Madison at Mandalay Bay are to be a singular opening. The soft opening was to be Friday night, but that’s not possible because of construction delays. Consequently, the speakeasy’s formal throwing open of the doors is set for 9:30 p.m. April 17. But, hey, show up at midnight, and you’ll be fine. That 9:30 p.m. call time is way too easy for most of us bootleggers.

• On the topic of Madison, her husband, Pasquale Rotella, took his first spin on the High Roller at the Linq on Saturday. His cabin mate turned a few heads, as she was (and is) Sharon Osbourne, a longtime friend of Rotella’s. “We hang,” as he said in a text. Rotella also just approved poster designs for the upcoming Electric Daisy Carnival film produced by Focus Features and due to hit theaters in May. He met with officials this week to finalize those poster images, which will likely be all aglow.

‘Absinthe’ Celebrates 1,000 Shows

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• You might be wondering, “Johnny, when is this Melody Sweets performance at ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ going to happen?” April 22 is the rescheduled date, as Sweets, who has portrayed the Green Fairy in “Absinthe” since the show opened in April 2011, will sing the 1956 rockabilly number “My Boy Elvis,” which originally was a Janis Martin hit. Sweets joins Frankie Moreno, Taylor Hicks, Veronic DiCaire, Holly Madison and Pia Zadora as guest stars in “MDQ,” performers who are called up at the end of the show to sing and smile.

• Writing Taylor Hicks’ name again is a bittersweet moment, as his run at Paris Las Vegas, and with all of Caesars Entertainment properties, closed Sunday with his show at Napoleon’s. He’s now back in Nashville working on an album. Hicks swapped shtick last week with Craig Ferguson on Ferguson’s “The Late, Late Show,” reminding of his inescapably appealing personality. His was a great show, a real barnburner that deserved a bigger room and a better fate. I’ll always be a fan, and I’ll say that at high volume so I can be heard above Hicks and his rip-roaring band. I hope to see him back in our haunt soon.

• I’ll tell you the hotel that has it going on for live entertainment is Tuscany Suites on Flamingo Road just east of the Strip. The great jazz vocalist Laura Shaffer and her Nightingale Trio is at Piazza on Mondays from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., a relatively new gig that is frequently spiced by appearances by trumpet-wielding chart writer David Perrico.

Also worth noting, and this is a wide-scale operation, is BBR and its change in schedule at the hotel’s T Spot Lounge. The new dates for the act fronted by Anne Martinez and Savannah Smith are April 15 and 29 and May 13 and 30. This act reaches out and grabs you by the throat powered by Perrico’s nine-piece band and a host of top-level dancers. Show times are 10:45 p.m. (doors at 10), it’s free (remarkably), and there is nothing in this city like it.

• Something detected on the scene this week during a return trip to the revamped “Jubilee” at Bally’s: When the showgirls onstage notice a camera facing the performance, they cover their chests with a single crossed arm. Evidently, this is to prevent images of topless performers from being posted in social media. Or, mass media, for that matter.

Based on Tuesday’s show, in front of one of those audiences that seemed drowsy and impossible to win over, this is a serious issue. Three or four times, ushers and a member of Bally’s security hustled to audience members pointing smart-phone cameras at the stage. One guy seemed to have his phone yanked right out of his hands. This is a major concern at the new show, which is (of course) rampantly topless.

• Something to note from today’s news conference at MGM Grand: Bradley wore sunglasses and had Bose headphones over his ears the entire time. Don’t know what it means, but it is reality.

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