Friday, Sept. 17, 2004 | 9:03 a.m.
For one, it was sold. Earlier this summer Colony Capital LLC, headed by Thomas Barrack Jr., bought the Hilton from Caesars Entertainment Inc. for $280 million.
For another, the Nightclub at the Hilton is no longer the Nightclub. It is now the Shimmer Cabaret, and in the future it could become a hotbed of entertainment.
"Shimmer will be a very active entertainment venue," Hilton spokesman Ira David Sternberg said. "There will be a lot of different offerings."
Another change: David Brenner has been named the resident comedian headliner at Shimmer. His engagement began Sept. 3, after a nine-month run at the Westin Casuarina, which he left at the end of August.
Sternberg says there will be an announcement in the near future about another show that will premiere at Shimmer, scheduled to follow Brenner's 8 p.m. performances.
Meanwhile producer Fernando Quevedo (known for creating "Beats of Passion" a couple of years ago) is adding another change to Shimmer. When the cabaret showroom is being utilized as a lounge (also following Brenner's shows), there will be a bevy of dancer-models in the venue to add some atmosphere.
"We didn't want to go with go-go dancers," said the 34-year-old Quevedo, who heads Q Productions. "We have an amazing group -- diva dancers, ballerinas. We will feature aerial stuff as well as a variety of dancing.
"The idea is that the whole night of entertainment flows -- beginning with David Brenner."
The background dancers will make their debut at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Sternberg says yet another change will be announced soon -- this one about the Hilton Theater showroom, where Elvis impersonator Trent Carlini, the Fab Four and a rotating list of headliners perform regularly.
"It's still up in the air what we are going to do with that room," Sternberg said. "We're looking at options, from a headliner to a production show. We're looking at everything."
According to Sternberg, Carlini and the Beatles impersonators may be out for good when their contracts are up, or they may not. They may return, or they may not. Carlini's run ends Oct. 12 and the Fab Four's on Sunday.
"They're not necessarily going away for good. We're looking at everything," Sternberg said, without making a definitive statement.
Sternberg wouldn't say much about future shows, but he did address the Brenner engagement and why the venue bucked the trend of courting the youth market by hiring a comedian who has been in the business for more than 30 years.
"Brenner has a long, successful history in entertainment," Sternberg said. "He actually transcends generations. He's not limited to any age demographic. He appeals to our customer base. And the room, which seats 300 people, is the perfect size for him."
Sternberg says the Hilton is working hard to help promote Brenner, with billboards, print advertising and other media.
It's a situation Brenner has been pleading for since he came to town four years ago, beginning with a quick HBO special at The Venetian, followed by an extended stay at the Golden Nugget and then moving to a short-lived engagement at the Suncoast and, finally, to the Westin.
Brenner's biggest complaint at each venue, except for The Venetian, has been that he wasn't promoted.
"The Nugget came through up to a point, then they backed off," Brenner, 59, said.
He said when Amazing Johnathan became the second act in the Nugget's showroom, less was spent on promoting Brenner. Brenner said the Westin didn't spend a dime on advertising his shows.
"This town has a history of people who made that mistake," he said. "You can't come into town and not tell anybody you're here. It might work someplace else, but not in New York or Vegas. There has to be splash and flash."
And the Hilton has been busy with both.
"This is what I've been hoping for, working for, arguing for the whole time," Brenner said.
He has a 44-week contract (with a renewal option), and some respect.
"The Hilton is fabulous," Brenner said. "It's a corporation but it reminds me of the way entertainers used to be treated in this town.
"They even went to the trouble to fix up the dressing room. They put in a phone, a TV, some comfortable chairs. They even put a bar in, and stocked it. At the Westin, I was allowed two bottles of water a night."
But the best thing, in his mind, is the promotions.
"They have gone 100 percent to the wall in advertising and marketing me," he said. "That has been the greatest thing. Billboards, cutouts -- they've even put me on the top of 100 taxicabs."