OH BROTHER! AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE MEXICO CITY EARTHQUAKE (Photo: Jeff and Jenny Scheid of Las Vegas were in Mexico City during the deadly earthquake.)

OH BROTHER! AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE MEXICO CITY EARTHQUAKE (Photo: Jeff and Jenny Scheid of Las Vegas were in Mexico City during the deadly earthquake.)

Today was a first: After covering many major disasters — from earthquakes, fires and a hurricane — during my 50-plus years in journalism, I found myself in the unusual position of interviewing my brother, who was in the heart of Mexico City when the 7.1 earthquake hit Tuesday.

Jeff and Jenny Scheid of Las Vegas arrived last there Wednesday for a one-week stay.

One of the biggest shocks of my life came about 1:30 p.m. today when I saw breaking news about the earthquake on TV.

I immediately sent Jeff a text but it bounced back. I frantically started scrolling through Facebook and was relieved to see Jenny had posted a “we’re OK” to a friend.

I called Jeff’s cell phone and was surprised when he answered. They were on their way back to their apartment on what turned out to be an eight-mile walk. It was a 10-second conversation. His telephone battery was almost dead.

Jeff and Jenny were just entering Zocalo, the main square and historic center of Mexico City and one of the largest city squares in the world.

“Suddenly the earthquake alarm went off,” he said. They knew they were earthquake alarms because two hours earlier they were preparing to enter some Aztec ruins when they were turned back because of a major earthquake drill.

They were on their way to have lunch at Pujols, which the Wall Street Journal ranked as the best restaurant in Mexico City and Restaurant Magazine ranked as No. 13 in the world in 2013.

“We rushed into Zocalo to get away from the taller buildings,” Jeff said. They noticed a dust cloud appear over the belltower of the massive Metropolitan Cathedral. “We thought it was coming down. People were screaming and crying. We had been in the tower an hour earlier. I can’t imagine what it was like being up there. It had to be 30 seconds of pure hell,” he said.

I read reports that Zocalo was one of the most damaged areas, but Jeff said they felt that the Condesa area, known for its nightlife, was more heavily damaged.

“Traffic was at a standstill,” he said. “We saw an ambulance that couldn’t move. All the traffic lights were knocked out. We only had about 500 pesos, about $40 in cash, so we decided to take the subway instead of Uber. But the subway was so slow we got off after two stops.

“We had skipped breakfast because we wanted to be hungry for Pujols. Almost everything was closed as we were walking back to our apartment. Finally we found a place that had orange juice.”

Shortly after that they found street food and it was heavenly, he said. He had a tongue taco and Jenny had a cream of cactus taco.

Jeff emphasized that they were so impressed by how organized the response was to the earthquake.

When they finally got back to their two-story apartment they had no power or Internet. “But we had a couple beers,” he said. (Jeff sent me an update saying a condo had collapsed in their neighborhood).

When I checked his Twitter site, @JeffScheid, I noticed he had posted a photo of their boat ride through the floating gardens in Xochimilco, a southern suburb of Mexico City. After retweeting his photo I wondered what kind of thrill ride that turned out to be during the earthquake. I got my answer a couple hours later when one of my 32,000 Twitter followers sent a video of the party boats bobbing in the canals as waves washed from bank to bank.

It was deja vu moment for me. I had my own wild earthquake adventure. I was in the press box at Candlestick Park in 1989 when the deadly World Series quake caused great damage. When I finally got back to the Nikko Hotel in downtown San Francisco, I had to hike about 12-15 stories since the elevators didn’t work. I fantasized about a cold beer when I got there. Exhausted from the long walk to the hotel and the hike up the stairs, I cracked open an Anchor Steam. It was warm, but in that moment, it was the beer ever!

And suddenly the phone rang: It was Jeff, whose call had amazingly gotten through when the phone was dead the rest of the night.

They hope to fly out Wednesday. (Good luck with that). So happy you’re safe. Here’s hoping you can get out on Wednesday.

ON THIS DAY….

September 19, 1957: The U.S. government stages the first underground nuclear test in a tunnel 100 miles north of Las Vegas. There’s no mushroom cloud for tourists to gawk at, as in previous tests, but the seismic waves from the 1.7 kiloton explosion are felt in Vegas and up to 2,000 miles away.

September 20, 2010: Paris Hilton pleads guilty to drug possession a month after she was arrested for having cocaine in her purse. She said it wasn’t hers, but the plea bargain keeps her out of jail. Steve Wynn bans her from his hotels after the arrest, but the decree is lifted a year later.

SIGHTINGS
Magician David Copperfield, taking in “Mike Tyson Undisputed Truth—Round 2” at the MGM Grand on Sunday night.

THE PUNCH LINE
“(Monday), Trump posted a tweet where he referred to Kim Jong Un as ‘Rocket Man.’ Which beats the other nickname he gave him, Lil’ Kim.” – Jimmy Kimmel.

POWER OF THE PATCH!

TO BOOK NORM AS A KEYNOTE SPEAKER OR TO INTERVIEW YOUR GUEST OF HONOR AT YOUR PRIVATE OR CORPORATE EVENT, PLEASE CONTACT JOANNE DOWNEY AT WWW.JOANNELVCELEB@AOL.COM

STRANDED MIAMI TEAM EXPERIENCES LAS VEGAS HOSPITALITY (Concerned Miami Central football team members check their mobile phones for word from home after being stranded in Las Vegas by Hurricane Irma).

STRANDED MIAMI TEAM EXPERIENCES LAS VEGAS HOSPITALITY (Concerned Miami Central football team members check their mobile phones for word from home after being stranded in Las Vegas by Hurricane Irma).

A stranded Miami high school football team got introduced to Las Vegas hospitality after being stranded by Hurricane Irma.

Sixteenth-ranked Miami Central upset three-time defending national champion Bishop Gorman, 24-20, on Friday and could not return to Florida because the superstorm impacted air travel.

An Evel Knievel-themed pizza restaurant, Evel Pie, heard about the team’s plight and picked up the tab for about 100, including parents, during a team dinner on Sunday night at the Fremont Street eatery.

A team mother had stopped in Evel Pie on Saturday with friends and mentioned the situation to bartender Chelsea Lavone.

She contacted owner Branden Powers, who made arrangements to host the team and its entourage. Click here for video: http://on.ktnv.com/2eYwtIM

Powers, a prominent nightlife executive, said it was “our honor” to pitch in and help the Florida group.

“Sure they beat our beloved home team but this is way beyond sports,” he said in a telephone call with Norm.Vegas. “This is humanity helping one another. This is a Thanksgiving.”

And, he said, “pizza is the most communally shared food on the planet. It brings people together and during these tough times when so many people try to separate us it is needed more than ever.”

ABC affiliate KTNV-TV, Channel 13 reported the team planned to fly home on Tuesday. Bishop Gorman has helped defray expenses of Miami Central’s extended stay, the station reported.

UPDATE: It’s get even better. Las Vegas sports writer W. G. Ramirez @williegramirez has posted additional information on his Twitter site. He had an interview with Miami Central athletic director, Harold Barnwell, who said Bishop Gorman has picked up the cost of the Miami Central’s rooms for as long as they are stranded. Gorman AD Grant Rice said they sent a taco truck to the team’s hotel to provide lunch. To stay sharp, Central has been working out in the hotel parking lot. “Gorman has rallied around them to help as best as possible,” said Ramirez, who has done a terrific job of staying on top of this story. Follow him on Twitter.

POWER OF THE PATCH!

TO BOOK NORM AS A KEYNOTE SPEAKER OR TO INTERVIEW YOUR GUEST OF HONOR AT YOUR PRIVATE OR CORPORATE EVENT, PLEASE CONTACT JOANNE DOWNEY AT WWW.JOANNELVCELEB@AOL.COM

SAYING FAREWELL TO AN OLD FRIEND (Photo: Robin McAuley and Paul Shortino from “Raiding the Rock Vault”)

SAYING FAREWELL TO AN OLD FRIEND (Photo: Robin McAuley and Paul Shortino from “Raiding the Rock Vault”)

It’s tough to see an old friend move on so there was sadness mixed with nostalgia over the sudden closure of N9ne Steakhouse at the Palms on Wednesday.

Not that I expected it to rebound to its former glory days as celebrity central; that rarely happens when a “hotspot” loses its sizzle in Las Vegas. But, in this case, I thought the Fertittas’ (Station Casinos) purchase was positive news for executive chef Barry Dakake.

I reached Dakake shortly after the news broke. He was in Los Angeles at the Dodgers’ game against Arizona. It was noisy and hard to hear. But he emphasized “It’s all good,” and he sounded upbeat, like he’s got some options.

According to Al Mancini’s updated report in the Review-Journal, Dakake is sticking around, at least for now, to put out a “best of N9ne” menu at Nove Italiano at the top of the Fantasy Tower.

See Mancini’s stories here: http://bit.ly/2w9hRZx and http://bit.ly/2gQNMMd.

N9ne got its name in Chicago from partners Michael Morton and Scott DeGraff, and chef-partner Michael Kornik, who were nine when they met.

Morton and DeGraff had got a foothold in the nightclub scene when they ran Drink for a few years in the shadow of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, owned by Morton’s brother Peter Morton.

They partnered with Maloof, who was looking for a steakhouse as a magnet for the celebrity crowd.

They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, when A-listers, sports stars and CEOs kept coming back for the big steaks and Hollywood vibe. Britney Spears elevated the buzz even more when she got married while partying during a New Year’s spree in 2004. The good times rolled until the recession hit with full force in 2008.

Even before the crash, there was friction between DeGraff and Maloof. DeGraff was, to put it mildly, a handful. The night the partnership opened the Playboy Club atop the Fantasy Tower, I was in a stairwell, dictating a story when DeGraff got my face. He was so incoherent I wasn’t sure what his beef was. I later learned he was convinced he wasn’t getting enough credit for the success of the Palms.

With revenue collapsing, Maloof and disgruntled investors won a nasty legal battle in 2010 to oust Nine Group from the hotel and retained the restaurant.
DeGraff was found dead in the garage of an Aspen home on Thanksgiving Day 2011. It was ruled a suicide. He was 47.

By June 2011, it was over for Maloof and his family. Hard hit by the financial crash, they had gone from a controlling 85 percent of the Palms to two percent.
An era ended on Wednesday, but the memories won’t.

Some of my favorites stories:

Cloud 9: Not long after the Palms opened, Muhammad Ali called a N9ne busboy over to the champ’s table and asked him his name.

Ali shook the kid’s hand. The busboy walks away on Cloud 9.

Twenty minutes later the busboy walks by the table and Ali motions him over and hands him a folded linen napkin. The busboy thanks him and heads back to the kitchen. I can only imagine the disbelief when the busboy opened the napkin and there was a drawing by Muhammad Ali.

He had drawn a boxing ring with two stick figures wearing boxing gloves. Over one was the busboy’s name. Over the other, two words: The Greatest.

That had to be the greatest tip that kid ever got.

Presidential pardon: One night President Bill Clinton was having dinner in a booth at N9ne.A nervous busboy spilled mashed potatoes on Clinton’s lap.

Clinton whispered to Maloof: “Please don’t fire him.”

Short honeymoon: A little more than 12 hours after Spears got married at dawn at a chapel on the Strip, her annulment dinner was held at N9ne. Her future ex-husband attended.

Don’t feed the animals: A sighting that got the attention of the Clark County health department: Spear, feeding shrimp to her tiny dog on the bar at N9ne. The health department paid a visit after reading the sighting.

Note to self: Weeks after having lunch with Pete Rose and giving him my new book about Las Vegas, he walked by my table at N9ne.

My dinner guest, Matt Drudge, points out Rose.

I called out several times. Rose keeps walking. Finally turns around and gives a weak Pope wave and a forced smile.

Drudge: “I thought you had lunch with him?

Next thing I know, Rose walks up to the table. I stand up to introduce him and w-h-a-c-k! He bitch slaps me and says, “You son of a bitch. You made me the fifth worst tipper in your effin’ book.”

Note to self: The next time I slam somebody in my book, don’t give them a free copy.”

FOR SALE: TUPAC’S CAR
Two decades after rapper Tupac Shakur was fatally shot in Las Vegas, the targeted car is up for sale for $1.5 million.

The shooting happened on Sept. 7, 1996 at a red light at East Flamingo and Koval Lane.

Ryan Hamilton of Celebrity Cars said the car, driven by Death Row Records founder Suge Knight, was originally leased by his company.

Shakur and Knight had just left the MGM Grand where they attended the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight.

Shakur died six days later. He was 25. There were suspicions the murder was linked to a feud among rappers but no arrests were made.

Hamilton said the 1996 BMW 7 Series has been completely restored to the condition it was in before deadly incident and has just received a fresh coat of black paint.

“There is a small indentation where we believe one of the bullet holes was but it is hard to tell,” said Hamilton. “Other than that it is fully restored.”

It has 121,000 miles on it.

THE SCENE AND HEARD
I tweeted earlier today (9-7) that some shocking nightclub news is about to break. My source has never given me bad info…

Two of Las Vegas’ best storytellers will be at the podium next week. Prolific author Jack Sheehan will share “My Most Interesting Interviews” on Tuesday (9-12) at the Bob Maheu luncheon at the Las Vegas Country. A popular public speaker, Sheehan has written and published over 25 books and sold four screenplays, with two more in development. $30 or $35 at door. Contact: Lynn Warren lwarren@kinevada.com

On Wednesday, 9-13, Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes will talk about his favorite stories during Bruce Merrin’s Stirling Club luncheon at Gordon Biersch brew pub. John’s been in Las Vegas more than 20 years and has covered the entertainment scene for most of that time.

Both Jack and John are among the most humorous speakers in town and great guys. $26. Contact: CelebrityspeakersPR@gmail.com

Join me Sept. 24 for my sit-down with Raiding the Rock Vault stars Robin MacAuley (Survivor, among others) and Paul Shortino (Quiet Riot, among others) on “Conversations with Norm” at Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Starts at 2 p.m. Tickets: $25. My announcer is Shawn Tempesta of KTNV-TV, Channel 13. Proceeds benefit the education and outreach programs at the Smith Center. Everyone involved donates their time.

ON THIS DAY…
Sept. 8, 1991: The annual convention of the Tailhook Association, an organization of Navy aviators, begins at the Las Vegas Hilton. Reports of drunken debauchery and sexual assaults spark a scandal that damages senior officers’ careers and results in new safeguards for treatment of women in the military.

MAY I RECOMMEND…
My wife Cara and I had dim sum at Lucky Dragon’s Pearl Ocean on Sunday. I’d rate it a 9. The Singapore noodles, with a generous portion of BBQ pork, plus red and green peppers and onions, were the best I’ve had. The soup-filled dumplings were a big hit as well. Loved the egg custard golden bao. Two other takeaways: They don’t have push carts going by every minute, with the annoying hawking that interrupts table talk. And the service was excellent. We were especially pleased to find out that locals get a nice discount by showing their ID.

CORRECTION OF THE WEEK
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “A story in Friday’s Journal Sentinel on Jerry Kramer being nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame incorrectly named Ringo Starr as a center for the Packers instead of Jim Ringo.”

THE PUNCH LINE
“Today, Dennis Rodman offered to straighten things out between Trump and Kim Jong-Un. People were like, “Can’t believe I’m saying let’s give it a shot!” – Jimmy Fallon

POWER OF THE PATCH!

TO BOOK NORM AS A KEYNOTE SPEAKER OR TO INTERVIEW YOUR GUEST OF HONOR AT YOUR PRIVATE OR CORPORATE EVENT, PLEASE CONTACT JOANNE DOWNEY AT WWW.JOANNELVCELEB@AOL.COM

REMEMBERING JERRY LEWIS (Photo: Vera Goulet)

REMEMBERING JERRY LEWIS (Photo: Vera Goulet)

My favorite local Jerry Lewis story, so far, comes from Dave Cokin, the long-time sports radio host.
Cokin posted it on Facebook earlier this week:

“Happy trails, Jerry Lewis.

I have to relate a quick story from way back when, sometime in the 1980’s, can’t remember the specific year.

I’m eating dinner at Tony Roma’s. Back in those days, the spot on East Sahara was always packed. So every minute or so, voice comes on the loudspeaker, ‘Smith, party of 4,’ whatever.

Anyway, it’s business as usual when all of a sudden, there’s chaos. Announcements are being made in very rapid succession, each in a different ridiculous voice. No one can understand any of the names, of course.

Naturally, everyone wonders what the hell is going on. Jerry Lewis had commandeered the mic and was having some fun. I can’t put into words how hilarious this was, and the whole restaurant was cracking up.

RIP Mr. Lewis.”

Lewis died on Sunday at his home following recent hospitalization. He was 91.

The New York Times described him as “adored by many, disdained by other, but unquestionably a defining figure of American entertainment in the 20th century.”

He had his battles with the media over the years and I was among those he literally called on the carpet – as in summoning me to his home.

This was around 2002, when Sean Hayes was starring as the flamboyant Jack McFarland in “Will & Grace,” the hit NBC sitcom that ran from 1998 to 2006.

I had written two items that set him off. One was about a fan, a lady, who was allowed to present him with a portrait of Lewis backstage after a show at The Orleans. Lewis stared at it and then placed it in a garbage can. The fan was devastated. A spy called me about it.

The other mention of him in my column involved Hayes being cast to play Lewis in a TV show about his years with Dean Martin.

I had read a report that Hayes was concerned his portrayal might offend the comedy giant who was known to have a temperamental side.

He greeted me at the door and led the way to his living room.

He sat down at a big desk and invited me to occupy the chair across from him.

He started by looking up at a painting of Dean Martin across the room.

His demeanor changed as he sort of went into acting mode, like he was talking to Martin.

Lewis said something along the lines of “Why did you have to die, you glorious son of a bitch?” And seemed choked up. I got the impression I was not the only person he had that little Dean “chat” with and later learned it had indeed happened to other journalists.

Then he got down to the reason I was there. He reached over and took a sheet of paper from thick stack of sheet paper.

He read what a big-city critic had written about him and then commented on why the critic had no clue as far as what he was talking about.

This went on for 10 minutes. Lewis reading the clippings to me and repeating the venting process. After reading aloud one of the more caustic reviews, Lewis told me he got the critic’s number and called him at his desk to give him an earful. The critic hung up. Lewis called him again. No answer. He called again. No answer.

“He could dish it out be he didn’t have the guts to talk to me,” said Lewis.

As he reached over to grab another copy of a clipping, and said, dramatically, “And now, we come to a little piss-ant of a paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.”

He read aloud my column about Sean Hayes’ comment then looked me square in the eyes.

“How do you think my 10-year-old daughter felt when she read a word like (temperamental)?”

Trying to be as diplomatic as I could be, I said, “Jerry, you have a bit of a reputation for being difficult.”

He glared at me and said, “You would think a writer who works for the local paper would want to cultivate a good relationship with someone who’s been in this city so long and knows so many people in the business.”

I got his drift. If I played ball, the better chance I had of benefitting from the friendship.

I agreed. When I left I thought we had buried the hatchet.

Some months later, when relations worsened between the U.S. and France over France’s refusal to join President George Bush’s declaration of a “War on Terror” and invasion of Iraq, I thought Lewis might have a strong opinion on the topic, since he was beloved in France.

When I reached him on his yacht near San Diego, he was cordial enough until he heard the question.

“Nice try,” he growled. “I see what you’re trying to do,” he said. The suggestion, I guess, was that I was trying to ignite a firestorm.

I wasn’t. I was asking what I thought was a pertinent question. He had close ties to France. I thought his fans would like to know how he felt about it. I had no agenda.
Had I been working for The Associated Press, I’m certain they would have asked me to get a comment from him on the issue.

It was obviously a short conversation. He called me a couple times in the future to pass along news about his career and I was happy to have it.

But it would be wrong to say we had a relationship.

What I do have is nothing but fond boyhood memories of his films and deep admiration for his genius.

AUGUST FLASHBACKS:

August 23, 2010: Ximena Navarrete of Mexico is crowned Miss Universe at the Mandalay Bay. It is the first time Miss Universe owner Donald Trump returns to Las Vegas since 1996. Navarette is the second Mexican to win the title, and both won their crowns in Las Vegas.

August 24, 2007: The city completes a $5.5 million renovation of the Fremont East District, a seedy three-block area of downtown aiming to lure nightlife and culture. The neon-laden district reminiscent of old Vegas glamour becomes popular among younger visitors.

August 25, 2005: American Idol runner-up Bo Bice is released from Desert Springs Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to remove an intestinal blockage. He was rushed to the hospital after arriving in Las Vegas on tour with his fellow Idols. He recovers and rejoins the tour the following month.

August 26, 1964: One day after a fire causes $1 million in damage, the Sahara Hotel reopens with its giant marquee proclaiming, “Visit the Hottest Casino in Town.” Buddy Hackett and Buddy Greco are the headliners. The Beatles had just ended their fan-besieged stay at the Sahara for their concerts in Las Vegas.

August 27, 1996: Greg Morris, the brainy technician on TV’s Mission Impossible, is found dead at his Las Vegas apartment. The 61-year-old actor, whose son Phil played wacky lawyer Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld, suffered from cancer.

August 28, 1992: Honeymoon in Vegas, a romantic comedy starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker, opens. The dramatic highlight features a jumpsuit-clad Cage skydiving into Las Vegas with the “Flying Elvises” to get his girl back. The film earns $35 million.

August 29, 2009: On what would have been his 51st birthday, Michael Jackson receives a star on the Palms Walk of Fame as fans and his father Joe look on. The honor was to have been bestowed after Jackson “This Is It” shows in London, but he died in June just before launching the tour.

August 30, 1984: Stuntman Dan Koko jumps 326 feet from the top of Vegas World Hotel, ripping his jumpsuit but emerging from the 20-foot-deep airbag unscathed. He earns $1 million in cash from owner Bob Stupak for the record-setting plunge.

August 31, 1989: Moe Dalitz, a prominent Las Vegas casino owner, philanthropist, and frequently accused – but never convicted – mobster, dies at home at 89. Contrary to many predictions over the years, the good friend of Mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky passes away of natural causes.

THE PUNCH LINE:
“In Saudi Arabia, a 14-year-old boy was detained for dancing to the Macarena. You know, I don’t say this often but I’m going to side with the Saudi government on this one.” – Conan O’Brien

POWER OF THE PATCH!

TO BOOK NORM AS A KEYNOTE SPEAKER OR TO INTERVIEW YOUR GUEST OF HONOR AT YOUR PRIVATE OR CORPORATE EVENT, PLEASE CONTACT JOANNE DOWNEY AT WWW.JOANNELVCELEB@AOL.COM