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February 22, 2018

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Strip Scribbles: ‘Georgia on My Mind,’ Mat Franco and ‘Ink Master’


John Katsilometes

Sax great Kirk Whalum, Nnenna Freelon and Clint Holmes rehearse “Georgia on My Mind” at Venetian Theater on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Las Vegas.

‘Georgia on My Mind’ at Venetian

Singers Nnenna Freelon, Clint Holmes and a Take 6 member perform as The Venetian Las Vegas announces the engagement of Launch slideshow »

It’s appropriate that the grand opening of “Georgia on My Mind,” a celebration of the music of Ray Charles, is tonight at the Venetian because it marks the Sept. 23, 1930, birthday of the beloved blind singer-songwriter, composer and pianist known for hits such as “Hit the Road, Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “America, the Beautiful” and “Georgia.”

Guests watching Clint Holmes, Kirk Whalum, Take 6, Nnenna Freelon and our Las Vegas Mass Choir will be joined by Sirius satellite radio listeners worldwide for a broadcast of the performances.

The show was at the Smith Center, where it convinced Venetian executives that it deserved a longer run. It will play in the former Phantom Theater at the Venetian through Oct. 29 and then head to Florida in November. Clint returns to Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center from Dec. 5-7.

Clint said: “We have become a wonderful family performing this show. It’s a wonderful togetherness. Like everyone else in the world who loves music, I love Ray Charles. There was nobody like him. He was a genius — an icon — and definitely one of a kind.”

Military Honors Terry Fator, Taylor Makakoa

Terry Fator and his wife, Taylor Makakoa, are honored by the military Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

MAGICAL SURPRISE: Unbeknownst to the audience that included Season 9 “America’s Got Talent” competitors, winning magician Mat Franco joined Las Vegas headliner and Season 2 winner Terry Fator onstage during Terry’s show at the Mirage on Monday night. Mat used audience participation to perform a quick trick to the delight of the packed house filled with fans who had rooted for him on Season 9 of the hit NBC show.

I talked with Mat this morning while he’s here to headline “AGT Live” at Planet Hollywood this weekend. Mat, who is the first magician to win the talent show, told me: “If you had asked me a week ago if I was coming to Las Vegas to headline the show, I would have said no. I’m still not over the shock, but Terry helped put me at ease. He, too, was a first as a ventriloquist to win, and he went on to become the most successful winner.

“He’s been regularly watching the show, and he told me he’d been rooting for me to win. One of the things I’m considering is moving to Las Vegas for my own show here.” We’ll post my full interview with Mat, who gives credit for his success to his Las Vegas magic professor Jeff McBride, before the weekend “AGT” run.


A mystery behind $82 million real estate purchases? Is Las Vegas nightlife mogul Neil Moffitt of Angel Management Group the new owner of extraordinary real estate in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif. — or the frontman for his Hakkasan partner Abu Dhabi’s ruling Sheikh Mansour Al Nayan?

Real estate insiders in New York and Los Angeles are gossiping that Neil reportedly purchased a $51 million, 6,000-square-foot penthouse in Manhattan’s Chelsea District and a $31 million, 11,200-square-foot, six-bedroom contemporary mansion in Beverly Hills. Realty insiders say the corporate entity that purchased both is a Las Vegas company with the AMG address here.

Early talk has started about a golf nightclub concept from Miami being introduced at MGM Grand.

Third Anniversary of ‘Absinthe’

The Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets of “Absinthe” celebrates its third anniversary Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at Caesars Palace. Launch slideshow »

Fear not The Gazillionaire and assistant Penny Pibbets aren’t about to leave “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace. The casting call for those roles in a Broadway magazine are for an Australian production that our Las Vegas characters will launch and then return here, with the newcomers sent to hold down the Australian show.

“Rock of Ages” at the Venetian has been renewed through December 2015.

“Purple Reign,” moving from The D Las Vegas to Westgate Las Vegas starting Oct. 1, will be trimmed to 75 minutes, down from 90 minutes, but star Jason Tenner will add Prince material.

After three-plus years of work and commuting between New York and Las Vegas, our restaurateur and consultant Elizabeth Blau finally gets to Manhattan this week to open her redesign of the prestigious Rainbow Room restaurant atop Rockefeller Center. “It’s truly stunning,” she told me as she left this morning on her flight.

D Las Vegas owner Derek Stevens, who opened his Las Vegas Events Center over the weekend with Capital Cities, is hinting that some big names are on the horizon.

Men of the Strip at The D

Joel Sajun of Men of the Strip performs at The D Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in downtown Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Actor Lorenzo Lamas is bringing his new model-actress bride Shawna Craig with him to help judge the International Model Search at MGM Grand next month. Also judging: Playboy cover model and Guess Jeans darling Sandra Taylor, Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips and Hawaiian Tropic founder Ron Rice.

The Tropic Beauty Pageant returns to MGM Grand for the Las Vegas Finals on Jan. 18.

TATTOO FIREWORKS: Sparks fly for the contestants on tonight’s Spike TV tattoo reality-TV show “Ink Master” as vendettas have the rival artists at one another’s throats, and that includes our Las Vegas Chrome Gypsy Tattoo owner artist Cleen Rock One. He faces two challenges and in one has to create the symbol of beauty with geishas.

Cleen is fighting for the $100,000 grand prize and the “Ink Master” title. Going into tonight’s show, he is one of 15 remaining. All I can say about the outcome is that “he is one to watch” during the series. I interviewed him today, and we’ll post our Q+A and the results from tonight’s show right here on Wednesday.

STAR SURVEILLANCE Reality-TV star Dirk Vermin of A&E’s “Bad Ink” tapped the keg at the Oktoberfest celebrations at Hofbrauhaus and in a salute to the troops with military members working with the Douglas J. Greene Memorial Foundation was assisted by the lovely ladies of “Fantasy” at the Luxor.

CIRQUE STREET SIGN: Since Cirque du Soleil arrived in Las Vegas in 1992, their now eight resident productions have performed more than 36,000 shows for over 50 million fans. The City of Las Vegas today recognized the achievement and the troupe’s charitable donations by unveiling a street sign outside City Hall downtown.


“Georgia on My Mind” is at the Venetian.

Zowie Bowie premieres his new show “Devil Deluxe” with sexy electric violinist Lydia Ansel at Tuscany.


Is Wall Street making major changes out at Lake Las Vegas? Laugh with comedian Matt Kazam, who compares the funny side of life at 40 with today’s 20-year-olds in his new one-man show at the Riviera. Plus, our interviews with Red Bull Air Race pilot extraordinaire Kirby Chandler and Cleen Rock One, and our first lantern festival with 10,000 people setting them aloft while alight at sunset.

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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