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September 20, 2017

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Strip Scribbles: Kelly Clarkson tapes Christmas special at Venetian; hat trick for Shirley Chung on ‘Chef’?


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Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, Miranda Lambert, Shania Twain, Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill and Reba McEntire backstage after Twain’s “Still the One” at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Saturday, April 6, 2013.

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Brandon Blackstock and Kelly Clarkson.

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Las Vegas chef Shirley Chung on Season 11 of Bravo's "Top Chef."

Christmas comes a little early this year on the Strip thanks to three-time Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson. Her new — and first —Christmas album, “Wrapped in Red,” was released Tuesday in plenty of time for holiday shopping, but fans will get her first live performances from it tonight when she tapes her holiday special at the Venetian. The show, which will air as an NBC special, will feature several of her hits along with the holiday songs.

After a summer of touring with Maroon 5, she recorded this first Christmas album. Before heading here for tonight’s concert, she wed her boyfriend of two years, music executive Brandon Blackstock. Both are pilots, and inside word is that they flew themselves here. No honeymoon for a while for the happy couple except for this fast Las Vegas trip.

The 31-year-old singer-songwriter won Season 1 of “American Idol” in 2002 and was runner-up in “World Idol” a year later. Since bursting onto the music scene a decade ago, she’s released five studio albums, a greatest-hits album and has had 10 singles in the Top 10 of Billboard Hot Singles. In addition to the Grammys, she’s received four American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, one Country Music Association Award and 12 Billboard Music Awards.

‘TOP CHEF’ NOLA: Can former Cosmopolitan chef Shirley Chung complete a first-ever hat trick on “Top Chef” New Orleans tonight? What will she face this week on the top-rated Bravo show? Will the kitchen queen of our hometown Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and Jose Andres restaurants stay or get kicked off as the tension and eliminations build on the show?

Shirley will work in one of the teams of two apiece to cater a Halloween party for “Glee” singer-actress Lea Michele in the Elimination Challenge. It has to be vegetarian and spook-tacular. In the Quickfire Challenge, the ingredients and tools are wrapped in aluminum foil to add to the mystery and intrigue. None other than Bravo exec Andy Cohen turns up and gets into a conversation with our MGM Grand and Mirage celebrity chef Tom Colicchio about a musical episode. The cheftestants also have to act like our “Ghost Adventures” team and explore a nursing home that’s rumored to be haunted.

Last week, Shirley faced only the Elimination Challenge as the Quickfire segment was eliminated for an episode. She had to cook a three-course Vietnamese meal, one course of which had to feature shrimp, and serve it to local Vietnamese people recruited as surprise judges. Shirley worked on one of the three teams of five chefs each and won with her leadership. She’s Chinese, but the Vietnamese New Orleaners said she was the only chef who humbly asked what they wanted to eat!

Star chef Emeril Lagasse, who is one of the judges on “Top Chef” NOLA, has told me Shirley is one chef to keep our eyes on as the show progresses. Somebody gets booted off tonight and goes home. We’ll cross our fingers that it won’t be Shirley, but can she pull off the third victory in a row?

COLLECTOR CAR: Car collectors everywhere are glued to their computers as Joshua “Chop” Towbin’s auction of a rare 1924 Dodge Brothers vehicle on eBay rolls on. Chop, a philanthropist and leader in the automotive sales industry, is auctioning off the vehicle with all proceeds going to our Three Square food bank. The auction began at $6,500 and will remain open for bidding until Sunday.

The 1924 Dodge Brothers was made shortly after the passing of the original Dodge Brothers, Horace and John, but before the company was eventually sold to Chrysler in 1928. One of the last models to be influenced by the Dodge Brothers, the car was recently appraised for $16,500 when Chop brought the car to our pal Rick Harrison for his History Channel hit “Pawn Stars.”

FIRST CHINESE SHOW ON STRIP: An unprecedented theatrical spectacular, “Panda!,” will have its world premiere at Palazzo in December. It’s the first Chinese-produced show to win a Las Vegas residency, and its director promises to dazzle the senses mixing high-flying acrobatics, kung-fu mastery, music and dance, transporting audiences inside Far Eastern folklore. Tickets go on sale Friday.

“ ‘Panda!’ is a one-of-a-kind production that will leave audiences in awe,” said An Zhao. “We’ve taken two of China’s national treasures, pandas and kung fu, and illuminated them in a visually stunning production that tells an unforgettable and timeless story. Our team couldn’t be happier to bring this experience to the international audiences Las Vegas is known to attract.” His team produced the mind-blowing Opening and Closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The cast features award-winning performers from China National Acrobatic Troupe, Shaolin Monastery Kung Fu Monks Troupe and China Star Dance Troupe.

Boxer Ana Julaton

Las Vegas boxer Ana Julaton. Launch slideshow »

BOXING BEAUTY: After weeks of training here, fighter Ana ‘Hurricane” Julaton leaves today for her Friday night fight in Mexico. She told me that she wrapped her final 10 sparring rounds on Tuesday. We wish her good luck and victory.

STARS IN BRAS: Strip entertainers and Caesars Entertainment execs will dress up in one-of-a-kind designed underwear today to raise funds for breast cancer research. It’s the fourth-annual Battle of the Bras.

Runway models include participants from “Absinthe,” “Jersey Boys,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” Chippendales, Recycled Percussion, “X Burlesque,” “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding,” plus, juggler Jeff Civillico and hypnotic headliner Anthony Cools. Presidents, execs and team members from Caesars Entertainment will join them to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The strutting and preening can be viewed by the public starting at 4 p.m. at Planet Hollywood’s mezzanine.


Criss Angel celebrates the fifth anniversary of his Cirque du Soleil show “Believe” at the Luxor; my interview with the incredible illusionist about what’s ahead was posted today. He’ll party on past midnight at star chef Rick Moonen’s nearby Rx Boiler Room in Mandalay Place.

Kelly Clarkson’s holiday concert is being taped for NBC at the Venetian.

And Flux Pavilion is at Boulevard Pool in the Cosmopolitan.


Las Vegas goes insane with Halloween night, and our intrepid hometown “Ghost Adventures” team led by the always-curious-and-never-spooked Zak Bagans present a two-hour Travel Channel special from Transylvania as they investigate the real-life Count Dracula’s castle.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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