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Round-table brainstorming session revisited as Bette Midler is replaced

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images for AEG Live/Concerts West

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro and Bette Midler perform during the final performance of her show The Showgirl Must Go On in The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Jan. 31, 2010.

The spectacle that was Bette Midler's "The Showgirl Must Go On" culminated its two-year engagement at Caesars Palace on Sunday night. It was a splendid send-off, with a legion of celebs descending on The Colosseum to bid Bette goodbye.

Not to turn this space into a "sightings" screed, but attending the show and Midler's post-show party at The Colosseum were: onetime "Dynasty" hellcat Joan Collins, Elaine Wynn, renowned singer/songwriter Carol Bayer Sager, Tony Basil (Midler's choreographer), a remarkably thin Paula Abdul, Mr. Las Vegas Wayne Newton, "Phantom — Las Vegas Spectacular" driving force Anthony Crivello, Flamingo headliner Rita Rudner, comic and longtime Midler confidant Bruce Vlanich, a beaming Marie Osmond, the legendary Gladys Knight and a puppet-less Terry Fator (there's no logical order of procession for this list).

Knight appeared onstage during Midler's performance to sing, "The Way We Were," to warm response. Osmond showed up, too, having survived Midler's assault of F-bomb-sprinkled material to inform Miss M that the Mormon F-word is "Fifty." Lacking a scripted "walk-off" line, it was good stuff from Osmond.

Also tucked into the show was an appearance by Hawaiian ukulele artist Jake Shimabukuro, who teamed with Midler on a hypnotic version of The Beatles' "In My Life" and soloed on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Matching Shimabukuro's virtuosity is a tall order for the guy who portrays the gifted ukuleleist in "Legends In Concert," if there is such a person.

And speaking of tall orders, there is the matter of replacing Midler as a Caesars headliner. In an entertainment climate that's about as reliable as the gas pedal on a 2005 Toyota Avalon, AEG Live/Concerts West executives for weeks have been hammering out a plan of attack to fill the 4,100-seat showroom with high-caliber entertainment. This strategy includes booking any measure of performer, ranging from nationally known ventriloquist Jeff Dunham to the traveling trio of Remus Choy Yat Kit, Calvin Choy Yat Chi and Edmond So Chi Wai. You probably know these fellows as the spirited singing/dancing act Grasshopper, scheduled to perform at The Colosseum to celebrate Chinese New Year (or, if you will, Valentine's Day) on Feb. 14.

We imagined a meeting of AEG Live/Concerts West executives back in April, as they round-tabled a plan to replace Elton John. We again envision a top-secret meeting of relevant and suited people swapping ideas to replace Midler ...

Executive I: OK, first, a moment of silence for the late Bette Midler ...

Executive II: She's not dead!

Executive I: No, but her last show started 15 minutes behind schedule!

Executive II: Nice.

Executive I Can I get a rim shot!

Executive III: Didn't Pete Barbutti tell a joke like that once? Cross Pete Barbutti off the list.

Executive I: OK. Seriously, folks. Maybe we should be looking at comics, right? Anyone out there?

Executive II: Jay Leno!

Executive III: Oh, sure. He's got more baggage than Bette's opening number.

Executive I: Right, and if I wanted old material I'd call ...

Executive III: Pete Barbutti?

Executive I: Right. And we've already got Jerry Seinfeld. Who else?

Executive II: Chelsea Lately!

Executive III: That's the name of her show. You mean, Chelsea Handler.

Executive I: Chelsea Effing Handler, actually. Talk about a raunchy act. She makes Bette Midler look like Marie Osmond.

Executive II: Well, hey! What about Donny & Marie!

Executive I: Not bad. Their ticket sales at the Flamingo Showroom have been off the hook.

Executive III: "Off the hook?" Sounds like you're channeling Don Marrandino.

Executive II: Guilty. But we're talking about 3,500 more seats at The Colosseum than the Flamingo. I don't know ...

Executive I: We could work in some sort of a promotion. Every ticket holder also gets a signed Marie Osmond doll.

Executive III: You think Marie Osmond is going to commit to signing several thousand dolls a week?

Executive I: I never said anything about Marie signing the dolls.

Executive II: Then who's signing them? Cher?

(Laughter)

Executive I: OK, put Donny & Marie down. Who else?

Executive III: Celine Dion!

Executive I: Working on it, working on it.

Executive III: The box office staff would form a conga line.

Executive II: It wouldn't be the first time.

Executive I: OK, who else?

Executive II: Mariah Carey, no?

Executive I: We'll see how it goes Feb. 27. A real possibility.

Executive III: Right. But am I the only one concerned with that drunken speech she gave at the People's Choice Awards?

Executive I: Yes.

Executive II: I, for one, love her.

Executive III: But what if she shows up onstage in that condition? Ever think of that?

Executive I:No. I mean, what's the worst that could happen?

Executive II: She could do a show drunk, is all. Has that ever happened at Caesars Palace?

Executive I: Let's ask the ghost of Dean Martin.

Executive III: Wow. All right, I'm in. Rack Mariah Carey.

Executive I: Watch how you say that. OK, who else?

Executive III: Celine Dion!

Executive I: She's already on the list!

Executive III: Lest we forget ...

Executive I: OK, who else?

Executive II: Garth Brooks!

Executive I: Oh, that's funny.

Executive II: I told you about Garth Brooks.

Executive III: He did great in those private shows here last year, right?

Executive I: Yes, and if anyone had kicked in with an 11-seat Challenger Jet — new or used — I would have been really happy.

Executive II: Well, 4,000 seats is a lot for just a guy with a guitar.

Executive III: We've got Jerry Seinfeld and he's a guy with no guitar.

Executive I: Point taken, but that horse has left the barn, as it were. Who else?

Executive II: Matt Goss!

Executive I: A Goss-pirational idea! But shouldn't we at least finish renovating Cleopatra's Barge before we put him in the Goss-oleum? I mean, Colosseum?

Executive III: Give him a New Year's Eve show and see what happens.

Executive II: It won't be the Barge, but it'll be sink or swim for Matt Goss!

Executive I: Oooh, that's Gossy-good. Give that to our marketing department.

Executive II: Will do!

Executive I: OK, who else?

Executive III: Celine Dion!

Executive II (adopting a Ricky Ricardo accent): Eeef it's not Celine, we have some 'splainin' to do!

Executive III: Well, we could always call Elton back.

Executive I: Or, Jake Shimabukuro. He's great.

Executive II: He's the Garth Brooks of the ukulele, and he has his own transportation.

Executive I: Amen to that.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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