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November 18, 2017

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Hakkasan hoping for some Pure genius; Cast Party casts net for Strickland, Anton … and Osmond


Christopher DeVargas

Neil Moffitt, CEO of Angel Management Group, talks with media during a ceremonial ribbon cutting for Hakkasan Las Vegas on Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Sunday afternoon was punctuated by a text from Carrot Top, which is atypical of most Sundays. We don’t hear from C.T., usually, on a Sunday, but I’d asked him how the Kobalt 400 race was shaping up.

Topper was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Sprint Cup Series event and was summarily swarmed by fans and drivers. The famed prop comic is popular among some key demographics: Race fans, rodeo fans and contestants, and heavy-metal rock stars and their entourages (Paul Shortino and Vinnie Paul have seen Topper dozens of times).

Topper usually makes the big Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and stayed until the end Sunday, watching the suspense unfold on the final lap as Brad Keselowski overtook Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap. Earnhardt had led as the white flag flew but ran out of fuel on the backstretch, allowing Keselowski to roar past.

Just after the race ended, Topper said of Earnhardt Jr., “I feel his pain. I’ve run out of jokes in many shows.”

Who needs props? Though ours, as always, is the rake:

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Ne-Yo hosts and performs at Pure on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Caesars Palace.

• In an interview a few days ago, I asked Hakkasan CEO Neil Moffitt about his company’s acquisition of Angel Management Group, which was announced Feb. 19. The exchange:

Me: “You’ve taken over a couple of familiar clubs on the Strip, Wet Republic at MGM Grand and Pure at Caesars Palace. Do you have any plans to review, rename or rebrand any new venue that you have acquired in this transaction?”

Moffitt: “I will tell you, currently — and I’m sure you can work it out — that there will be a major renovation taking place at one of the aforementioned venues in the very near future. That will be our first move in kind of repositioning those brands. That, we are very excited about.”

Given that Wet Republic has just finished a renovation and is unveiling those upgrades to the media this week, that leaves …

Pure, right? That’s the deduction here. Major upgrades to Pure at Caesars Palace, likely as soon as the summer. As for the renaming of something, my colleague the Ubiquitous Robin Leach has already put forth the plans that Wet Republic will be renamed. It’s going to be a splashy summer for the bulked-up Hakkasan, for real and metaphorically, in Vegas.

Cast Party at Cabaret Jazz

Tara Palsha accompanied by Bill Fayne, sings during a performance of the Broadway-based open mic and variety show Cast Party Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center. Launch slideshow »
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Billy Stritch, on piano, and Jim Caruso host a performance of the Broadway-based open mic and variety show "Cast Party" on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, at Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center.

• Jim Caruso is positively over the moon!

About … everything!

But specifically, the founder of Cast Party is aglow over some complimentary coverage of his most recent event at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room on Friday night. The New York Times wrote up the show, which once more featured Caruso with his amiable sidekick Billy Stritch on piano.

A bubbly and talented comic and vocalist who can perform a better-than-credible impression of Charles Nelson Reilly, Caruso has hosted the Cast Party at Birdland in New York for a decade and is bringing the show back to Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center on Wednesday night at 9:30 (tickets are $20 and $30; go to the Smith Center website for more info).

As for who will or might perform at the next Cast Party, Caruso says, “I have an amazing list of my favorite people!” Among them are Josh Strickland and Tara Palsha of “Vegas! The Show,” Anne Martinez of BBR, Brandon Nix and Mark Shunock of “Rock of Ages,” tap master Jazzin’ Jeannie Brei and possibly Susan Anton.

A veritable cornucopia of performers, in other words. And if there are any Elvis impressionists out there, by gosh, count Caruso interested.

And he’s still hoping to draw Donny Osmond back to the show. Osmond took part in one of the Cast Party shows at Alexis Park a couple of years ago.

“We are always hoping for Donny Osmond,” Caruso says. “We just contact everybody we know and love and turn ’em loose.”

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Murray Sawchuck and Rick Harrison at Terry Fator’s fifth-anniversary celebration Friday, March 7, 2014, at the Mirage.

• On the topic of being turned loose, I am hearing that “Pawn Stars” is back for another 50 episodes, atop the 40 already set for the History Channel. That’s a total of 90 more shows, in the bank, for the series that appears never to ebb in its widespread popularity. The stage show "Pawn Stars Live" is headed to the Strip, to the Riviera specifically. I also am being led to believe that there is a gameshow in the works that centers on the gentlemen from Gold & Silver Pawn, with “Pawnology” as the working (and maybe actual) title. All this project needs is a host. And a room. And maybe me as the amiable sidekick, playing a piano …

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Anne Martinez and Savannah Smith of BBR perform during the showcase for BBR at T Spot in Tuscany Suites on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2013.

• The aforementioned (twice now for that word in this column raking) reference to BBR reminds that the production fronted by Martinez and Savannah Smith has picked up a limited engagement at Tuscany’s T Spot Lounge — at no admission. The dates are April 9, 15, 22 and 29. The lineup, stacked with talent, remains the same, with David Perrico leading the nine-piece band and the two vocalists backed by a quartet of top-flight dancers. The BBR performance in T-Spot is akin to tossing an M-1000 into a mailbox, but it is a show worth checking out. There is to be a different performer inhabiting the “Red Queen” character each time out. This is shaping up as one of the best free shows you’ll ever see here, so see it while it’s still free.

• In a time when most Vegas headliners would not openly criticize their fellow stars on the Strip, Terry Fator happily zeroes in on one of the most famous entertainers performing in town at the moment: Britney Spears.

Sure, it’s in the voice of little Maynard Tompkins (an Elvis impressionist who might well fit into the Cast Party lineup), but Fator ends a burst of Britney jokes with, “I wonder if Britney Spears works with a ventriloquist.” He is talking as the seemingly harmless Maynard, but the joke is pretty devastating. And hilarious.

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