Published Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 | 5:46 p.m.
Updated Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 | 12:17 p.m.
John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to The Amazing Johnathan about his life, career and exit from the Las Vegas entertainment scene.
Sometimes you don’t see the busy weeks coming. The week just passed was one of those in VegasVille, a weeklong rollout of parties, performances and events that was almost impossible for even this scribe to chronicle.
Almost. Check my Instagram, Twitter, Periscope and Vine feeds for an in-time account of my movements in the city.
The week kicked off with two charity performances, scheduled simultaneously (and inconveniently) on Monday night. The respective hosts were terrific performers and the causes noble. Neither was on the Strip, not quite, but they drew full houses in each instance.
First was a moment we thought we’d not seen again. The Amazing Johnathan and Psychic Tanya appeared onstage together for the first time since a performance at the Magic Castle in L.A. on July 4, 2014.
This was at a “Shenanigans” performance at Baobab Stage at Town Square as the two co-hosted a benefit for Penny Wiggins, who is A.J.’s longtime sidekick and suffering from serious damage to her right knee and is undergoing knee-replacement surgery this month.
Wiggins says she has been in “incredible pain” for the past six months until the condition had become unbearable. The event started with eight performers and soon grew to 21. That moment coincided with A.J.’s willingness to muscle through another show.
A.J. and Psychic Tanya were a hit act on and off the Strip for more than decade, headlining at the Sahara, Golden Nugget, Harmon Theater and, finally, Bally’s. But by December 2013, A.J.’s heart was deteriorating, and he also said that he was fed up with trying to do business as a performer/producer in Las Vegas.
He publicly announced his retirement in a performance at Andy Walmsley’s “ENTSpeaks” production at Inspire Theater in October 2014, saying his health was so poor he could no longer perform magic tricks onstage.
But on Monday, he was well enough to join his sidekick for what both said would be a final performance. She opened with, “Hey, weren’t you supposed to be dead two years ago?” A.J. took a look at the long list of performers and sniped, “There are 20 acts in this show. At intermission, we’re selling handguns.”
Wiggins rolled out the famous props, including a golf ball and a segment of garden hose, and proudly called to A.J., “Look! I did it!” No explanation forthcoming.
Those taking the stage included dancer and theater proprietor Wassa Coulibaly, Bizzaro Galore, Erica Vanlee and Kristi Taguchi, Troy Tinker, Mon Dre, Steven Lee August and Marie Gara, Veronica Manhattan, Steven Vane, Jhonn Dominguez and Family and their dogs, Les Contortionettes, Castellone, Dave Johnson, Emily England, Banachek, Heidi Thompson and Gene Sironen as Cher and Elton John, Molodi, Pip and Swingshift Sideshow starring Kelvikta Tera and Andrew Stanton.
Luxor headliner Criss Angel and Chloe Crawford, Mike Hammer of Four Queens and Tropicana headliner Jan Rouven were in the audience.
“I hope we raise enough money for you to pay your medical bills,” A.J. said to Wiggins. “We need you back on your knees.” These two kids certainly love each other.
Later that night, “Mondays Dark” again filled Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel, in a night themed for the soundtrack to the movie “Anchorman.” The show-closing number, with event founder Mark Shunock of “Rock of Ages” at new home the Rio joining Mo5aic for “Afternoon Delight,” was priceless. Shunock’s wife, Cheryl Daro, performed “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas, and LouLou D’Vil added a striptease number I don’t quite remember from the movie, but still …
This month’s event was a fundraiser for the Injured Police Officers Foundation and brought in more than $10,000 for the organization. Next month, the show turns its philanthropic focus on the Ronald McDonald House, which happens to be the first charity Shunock contacted about hosting a “Mondays Dark” event. After more than two years, Ronald will be under the spotlight.
The next "Mondays Dark" show is Feb. 15 at Vinyl.
Vinyl, which opened in August 2012, is the intimate live entertainment venue at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, featuring a diversity of genres, including rock 'n' roll, jazz, blues, pop and even country.
The multifunctional room provides an intimate setting that puts the audience within an arm's reach of the performers.
The space, which is just under 7,000 square feet, can accommodate 650 guests. With a speakeasy atmosphere, Vinyl has an industrial look from its Chicago-common brick and cinderblock, distressed wood floors and an exposed, sky-high ceiling.
An elevated VIP section houses leather banquette seating and offers guests their own wait staff and an exclusive bar. The perimeter features a bar where guests can watch all the action. A state-of-the-art entertainment system offers high-definition screens on both sides of the main stage.
Arguably one the coolest joints in town, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino houses some of Vegas' best entertainment, restaurants and nightlife.
At Hard Rock, it's all about the music. From the light fixtures made out of drum cymbals and guitar shaped door handles to stage costumes and tools of the trade of legendary musicians displayed on the walls, the hotel screams rock and roll. The Hard Rock's Joint has hosted some the biggest names in music — from The Who to Bob Dylan to hometown heroes, The Killers.Aside from the music venues, the pool at the Hard Rock is one of its biggest attractions. Spread out over 4.7 acres, the pool area features swim-up blackjack, a bar and grill, private cabanas, a bevy of secluded nooks, a waterfall and an extensive live music venue with a dance floor. During the summer, the pool transforms into the Rehab club on Sunday afternoons.
The resident nightclub Body English fuses European elegance with a rock star bachelor pad and it often a hot spot for visiting celebs and popular DJs. Vintage rock memorabilia lines the walls at Wasted Space, Hard Rock's anti-club.
Restaurants at Hard Rock are just as hip as the rest of the casino. Pink Taco serves up Mexican dishes, as well as a Central American and Caribbean menu. Nobu, one of five worldwide Japanese-specialty restaurants from famed Nobu Matsuhisa, satisfies a different taste. For round-the-clock cuisine, Mr. Lucky's 24/7, is sure to ease your appetite even after a Vegas-all-nighter.