Thursday, March 13, 2014 | 9 p.m.
The Kats Report Bureau found itself holed up in a booth at Peppermill late Wednesday night. A highlight was Cast Party co-founder Jim Caruso plucking foodstuffs from a fruit salad like a kid carefully removing blocks from a Jenga tower.
A grape here, a banana slice there ... watch out for that tiny container of marshmallow sauce!
As tablemate Tricia McCrone accurately observed, the fruit salad at Peppermill looks like Carmen Miranda’s hat, sans Carmen Miranda. This fruity cornucopia can feed a small village, or even The Village People, and Caruso ordered it without even opening the menu. However, he did not anticipate an entire loaf of banana bread to be delivered as a side dish. I mean what in the name of Jenn Michaels is going on with these orders?
Caruso is a Manhattanite who was in town to host the Cast Party at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Caruso loves the Peppermill for its neon-glowing decor, around-the-clock hours and capacity for attracting all ilk of VegasVille personalities. The crew from “Million Dollar Quartet” was at the restaurant as well late Wednesday. Not the whole cast, but Jacob Tolliver (understudy for Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis) and Cole (understudy for Justin Shandor as Elvis and Ben Hale as Johnny Cash). Caruso was so excited to see someone at the Peppermill who, evidently, performs as Elvis in Vegas that he asked Cole to pose with him at the fruit salad.
“I love this city!” Caruso said. Never do I appreciate Las Vegas more than when witnessed by someone who does not live in Las Vegas who is visiting Las Vegas. Caruso is such a person, and he and his piano sidekick Billy Stritch hosted a whopper of a Cast Party at Cabaret Jazz. This show was stacked with some of Las Vegas’ great vocalists (don’t ask me to name-check them because God knows someone will be left out of the list and, invariably, suffer irreparable career paralysis).
Caruso and Stritch will be back with Cast Party in September. Maybe whatever is left of that picked-over fruit salad will be frozen and awaiting their return. Same for Cole, who would not need to be frozen, of course …
Now that we’ve squeezed the pulp out of that topic, let’s rake it up:
• The loudest birthday party possibly ever was Vinnie Paul’s 50th on Tuesday night at Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel. How loud? “Raiding the Rock Vault” singer Paul Shortino, who has fronted two heavy metal bands (Quiet Riot and Rough Cutt) shouted, “This is loud!” Or I think that’s what he shouted. That’s what he mouthed, anyway, as house band Sin City Sinners — who are the city’s go-to band when you need a hard-rock outfit to host a party — cranked Dio and Led Zeppelin and I believe the Scorpions, among others.
Shortino’s fellow “Rock Vault” band and cast members Doug Aldrich, Andrew Freeman and Stephanie Calvert were glimpsed in the throng. “Rock Vault” is selling tickets through November, incidentally, and is in an open-ended agreement with LVH to continue its run indefinitely (pending a sale of the property, of course). Folks on property are exuding confidence about improving ticket sales, and the show is rocking harder than ever with new singers Calvert and Carol-Lyn Liddle (who alternate in the show) taking the place apart every night. And Aldrich is a great fit. He’s just a rock star, that one.
Back to VinnieFest: Frankie Moreno was in the house, as was Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips (the latter of whom sang the Van Halen version of “You Really Got Me” with Paul flailing away on the drums). Las Vegas Wranglers President Billy Johnson and his wife, Erica, turned up. Paris Las Vegas hypnotist Anthony Cools (voting is now closed, BTW) was toasting it up at the bar. Penny Wiggins, the longtime Psychic Tanya in The Amazing Johnathan’s stage show, was wheeling around taking photos. An eclectic group, to be sure.
The cake presented to Paul was something special, too, as created by Christy Horner and Amy Fitzgerald of NicoleMariePatisserie: A bass drum with Paul on the face, sticks raised under his favorite saying, “Hellyeah.” The great drummer plays that saying, and the age of 50, at the highest volume.
• Fright Dome at Circus Circus founder Jason Egan drives what he describes as a “1962 Mercedes Unimog Zombie assault vehicle.” He ordered vanity plates for this beast, which he picked up today from the DMV. They read: ZOMBIE1. Nice pickup.
• Keith Thompson was not at the Cast Party, taking the night off from that show to catch a red-eye back to New York to see his friend and fellow “Jersey Boys” music director Philip Fortenberry open the musical “Rocky,” produced by Sylvester Stallone and playing at Winter Garden Theater. This is the 11th Broadway production for Fortenberry, widely known as the hand and body double for new Emmy winner Michael Douglas in “Behind the Candelabra.” Fortenberry also is one of the city’s most-respected and appreciated artists. Whenever you get a chance to see his one-man show at Cabaret Jazz (nothing on the books, at the moment), take it.
• Eric Jordan Young’s departure from “Vegas! The Show” seems a financial and not artistic move. Young’s contract had timed out and he has left the show, which he opened in the role of Ernie the Janitor back in 2010. His last performance in the production was Wednesday night. Young is a sensational singer and performed all variety of roles in “Vegas!” including Sammy Davis Jr., Louis Prima and even a darker shade of Sonny Bono. He’s now talking of showcasing his own one-man performance at one of the city’s many intimate venues. He’d be a good fit at Cab Jazz. Inspire Theater, downtown, would be a pretty cool environment for him. Just thinking out loud here … but Young talks of his ride in David Saxe’s signature show at Saxe Theater, and his new objectives, on this week’s edition of “Kats With the Dish” at 9 p.m. Friday on KUNV 91.5-FM.
• Brooklyn Bowl co-founder Peter Shapiro is one well-connected hombre. This week, he was on the phone with a business partner when the caller ID flashed. “Oh, hang on,” he said. “Jim Dolan is calling me.”
Jim Dolan owns the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden. Brooklyn Bowl, which has just opened its Las Vegas outpost at The Linq, is in a booking partnership with MSG Entertainment, so that does make sense. But the guy does not bluff about such matters, which is why he is my hero.
• On the topic of heroism, my buddy Felix Rappaport has landed at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Conn. Rappaport resigned from the Mirage in December after spending more than 20 years in Las Vegas in positions with Station Casinos and MGM Resorts. Rappaport started in his position as COO at Foxwoods on Super Bowl weekend in February and has barely left the property.
Not that he feels constricted. Foxwoods covers about 7 million square feet. The casino floor is 140,000 square feet; the resort offers 3,200 suites and features a 4,000-seat theater, a 1,400-seat black box theater and a comedy club. Miley Cyrus, Don Rickles, Trey Songz, Robin Thicke and Jamie Foxx have headlined the big room at the resort during the past few months.
“It’s a very large operation, and in my opinion it needs a little attention,” Rappaport said by phone this week. “As opposed to Las Vegas, which has 40 million visitors a year, we have 9.5 million visitors a year just to this resort and the Mohegan Sun right around the corner. So the reality is we want to keep those people here.”
The biggest difference between his woodsy Northeast enclave, which sits equidistant between Boston and New York City, is the climate.
“We had five major snowstorms in my first 2 ½ weeks,” he said. “So that will take some getting used to.”
• The Sighting of the Week has to be Bob Dylan stopping by Manny Pacquiao’s sparring session at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood on Thursday afternoon. Pacquiao is training for his April 12 rematch with Timothy Bradley at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Dylan was just freewheelin’ in the neighborhood and stopped in for a visit.