BIG CHANGES COMING ON THE STRIP

BIG CHANGES COMING ON THE STRIP

(CAPTION: INITIAL WORK HAS BEGUN ON STEVE WYNN’S LATEST BIG PROJECT.) PHOTO: NORM CLARKE

Two new major projects will soon reshape the north end of the Strip.

Cranes are already in place at the former Stardust site, where the Chinese-themed Resorts World is going up near Wynn Las Vegas.

That site has seen little activity for nearly a decade, since closing Nov. 1, 2006. It was imploded March 13, 2007 and Boyd Gaming, the owners of the Stardust, began construction on the replacement, Echelon Place. But that was stopped in its track within months by the dramatic economic downturn. The new owners, Gentings Group of Malaysia, hope to have the $4 billion project completed in 2020.

Over at Wynn Las Vegas, initial work is underway on Paradise Park, the $1 billion-plus Disney-style waterpark project/lagoon development. It is replacing the former Desert Inn golf course, long the only golf course on the Strip. Wynn has long touted the golf course as the one of the most valuable underdeveloped land in the country.

NAME CHANGE AT MANDALAY BAY?

For those wondering if Mandalay Bay might be re-named after the country concert mass shooting, I see it happening.

There’s a historical precedent.

After the MGM Grand fire in 1980 claimed more than 80 lives and injured hundreds, the hotel was sold to Bally’s six years later and a new MGM Grand was built a couple miles away at the intersection of Tropicana and Las Vegas Blvd.

That property, the city’s first megaresort and largest hotel in the nation, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in December.

The original, built for a then-staggered $106 million, opened Dec. 5, 1973 with Rat Pack star Dean Martin hosting the VIP gala.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Update: Ageless comedian Marty Allen, 95, said he’s on the road to recovery after breaking his hip on Christmas Day. He posted this update on Facebook on Thursday: “They’re working on me like a horse in rehab, but it looks like I’ll be ready to roll in the weeks to come.” He’s definitely a warhorse. He turns 96 in March and I’d wager he’s celebrating it on stage…

I’m hearing the security chief at Mandalay Bay was in the crowd at the Oct. 1 mass shooting and heroically assisted victims, only to later discover he couldn’t get in the resort until morning due to the lockdown…

Spies tell me the tragedy has taken a physical toll within Mandalay Bay’s management ranks, with many gaunt from stress and long hours.

Attendees at Kristin Chenoweth’s delightful New Year’s Eve concert at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts encountered tightened security. They were requested to open their coats and jackets at the entrances. Theaters around the country have instituted the measures in the wake of the recent mass shootings…

A belated note about the Dec. 16 death of lounge legend Keely Smith. She died in Palm Springs at the age of 89. She and her husband Louis Prima teamed up with bandleader Sam Butera to unleash the lounge era in Las Vegas in the 1950s. Prima and Smith won a Grammy in 1959 for their hit “That Old Black Magic.” In 2000, during the 50th anniversary gala of the Desert Inn, I was seated at a VIP table when someone tapped me on the shoulder. A petite lady with short black hair said, “Thank you for mentioning me in your column today.” It was Smith. I never had the pleasure of meeting any Rat Pack members–the closest I came was a telephone interview with Joey Bishop a few years before his death. I was forewarned he might be cranky and he was, before warming up. Smith was a delight and I was honored to meet true Las Vegas entertainment royalty. R.I.P.

SPORTS SNIPPETS

Bobby Knight disciple Chris Beard is alive and doing well at Texas Tech after spending about three weeks as UNLV’s head basketball coach. That bizarre chapter in UNLV history happened two years ago after Beard guided Arkansas-Little Rock to a 30-5 record and an NCAA berth in his first season, with 12-seeded UALR knocking off fifth-seeded Purdue 85-83 in double overtime. His latest team has impressive wins this year over seventh-ranked West Virginia in overtime and Kansas, 85-73, on Tuesday, the Jayhawks’ worst home loss in 15 years…

While taking a holiday break in Lincoln, Nebraska, the hometown of my wife, Cara, I took in a very competitive Nebraska-Kansas game. KU won, 71-70. I’ve been a fan of the Nebraska basketball program since former Colorado State coach Tim Miles landed there six years ago after building a reputation of having his teams ready for the Mountain West tournament. He’s got one of his better teams this year. Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha-Herald came close to predicting the Huskers will make the NCAA tournament. “The ingredients are there,” Barfkneckt wrote. The Big Ten title “may never be more ‘gettable,’” he wrote. He bases his optimism on a “depth of talent not seen since the Danny Nee era.” Miles took CSU to three post-season berths and four years ago took a Huskers team that was picked to finish last in the Big Ten to the NCAA tourney for the first time in 16 years.

ON THIS DATE

January 3, 2004: Britney Spears marries childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander at 5:30 a.m. at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Amid an international media furor, the marriage is annulled 55 hours later, with her publicist claiming the couple “took a joke too far.”

January 4, 1974: Snow, a rare event in any amount in Las Vegas, starts to fall and continues over two days, resulting in a record-breaking nine inches on the ground.
January 5, 2000: Celine Dion and Rene Angelil renew their marriage vows in a lavish ceremony at Caesars Palace that features a mosque setting with Berber tents, camels and exotic birds, and 200 guests.

January 6, 1997: Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein is shot to death in his Las Vegas home, victim of an apparent mob hit. He was a major figure in the Chicago mob’s Vegas operations, reportedly running loan shark, insurance fraud and burglary rackets. The character Bernie Blue in “Casino” was based on him.

THE PUNCH LINE

“President Trump gave a big speech on National Security. He focused on the three biggest threats to our country—Russia, North Korea, and Omarosa.” – Jimmy Fallon

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

CLEOPATRA’S BARGE HAS A NEW CREW

CLEOPATRA’S BARGE HAS A NEW CREW

(CAPTION: MAREN WADE APPEARING WITH “COCKTAIL CABARET”.) PHOTO: GLENN PINKERTON – LAS VEGAS NEWS BUREAU.

A new afternoon show at Cleopatra’s Barge is catching some wind in its sails.

“The Cocktail Cabaret” launched more than a month ago at the popular Caesars Palace space and the local critics are weighing in with a wave of favorable reviews.

The 70-minute show, which starts at 5 p.m., primarily celebrates Vintage Vegas. It is performed by a talented cast and produced by Broadway veterans Keith Thompson and Philip Fortenberry.

Cast member Maren Wade described it as “the perfect cocktail-hour experience by a group of musicians who inspire me every day.” Joining Wade, who starred in “50 Shades the Parody” for more than a year: Niki Scalera (“Hairspray,” “Tarzan” and “Jake’s Women,” all on Broadway), rising star Daniel Emmet (Josh Groban-esque, says Wade) and the piano artistry of Fortenberry.

Thompson spent years as the musical director of Las Vegas “Jersey Boys.”

The show’s onstage host is Eric Jordan Young, a Broadway veteran who’s local credits include playing Billy Flynn in “Chicago” at Mandalay Bay.

Cleopatra’s Barge opened in 1970, four years after Caesars Palace opened. Oldtimers recall seeing Rat Pack star Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin showing up at the ornate floating barge. Sinatra was known to perform there after his headlining gigs at Caesars.

It runs Wednesday through Saturday. The show is filling the space vacated by British crooner Matt Goss, who had a six-year run.

David Letterman’s longtime bandleader and sidekick, Paul Shaffer and his band, the Shaf-Shifters, wrap up a nine-date run on Saturday night.

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

NEVADA SPCA’S “PET OF THE WEEK”

NEVADA SPCA’S “PET OF THE WEEK”

Help Me Be The Best Dog I Can Be! (male – 3yrs)

How’s it going everyone! My name is Mellow and I’m a playful guy that is looking for my forever home.

I have a lot of energy and I love putting it  to good use by playing fetch and if you’re fond of two steppin’ I make a great dance partner!

I do get a little protective of my toys especially around other “alpha” dogs such as myself so an experienced human would be great because I really do want to work on improving my manners.

I try to communicate the best I can and when I was in foster care I’d let my person know I had to go outside by going to the door and if that doesn’t work I’ll lick you face with great intent.

If you have other doggies it would be IMPERATIVE that you bring them in to meet me in person and any children in the home would be best if older and more mature as I am not a big fan of having lil’ ones hanging on me.

Show me guidance and I’ll show you love!

(male – 3yrs – pit bull terrier)

Nevada SPCA
4800 W Dewey Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89118
702-873-SPCA – shelter

NEVADA SPCA’S “PET OF THE WEEK”

NEVADA SPCA’S “PET OF THE WEEK”

I’m All That And A Bag Of Chips! (male – 8yrs)

Howdy folks! My name is Jasper and you’re totally gonna fall in love with me! It may sound like I’m bragging, but that’s just how confident I am! I mean first off, just look at me! If you can’t see the joy in my eyes you just ain’t lookin’!

I see all this world has to offer and embrace every moment I get to be part of it. AND I’m a total TEDDY BEAR! I strive to be the most sweet and friendly fellow I can as life is too short not to laugh, love and live it to the fullest!

I am expected to do well with kids and I have a history of cohabitating well with other doggies so bring your four legged family members down to meet me in person!

Add some silly smiles to your pack and adopt me today!

(male – 8yrs – german shepherd/chow mix)

Nevada SPCA
4800 W Dewey Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89118
702-873-SPCA – shelter

FRATTO HAS A HISTORY OF BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME

FRATTO HAS A HISTORY OF BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME

(CAPTION: RADIO VETERAN BERNIE FRATTO  HAS BEEN A JOHNNY ON THE SPOT.) PHOTO: NORM CLARKE

In my upcoming book, which covers my career and the most inspirational people and events in that journey, I tweeted one of my top sports memories: The jaw-dropping finish of the 1980 Holiday Bowl in San Diego, where I was the main sports guy for The Associated Press.

BYU quarterback Jim McMahon’s grit was on full display in a 46-45 miracle comeback against SMU, which led 45-25 with just four minutes left. McMahon engineered three TD drives in the last 2:33, including a “Hail Mary” to tight end Clay Brown.

Las Vegas radio veteran and supreme storyteller Bernie Fratto saw the tweet and called me to chat about his memory of that barnburner and an amazing list of major sports happenings he’s witnessed.

Fratto had a personal connection to the “Miracle Bowl.” He was at the game. “I knew Clay personally as I had been recruited by BYU in 1978 to play baseball and took a visit there. He was a class act and treated me well. His catch will go down as one of the great in the annals of college football.

In July 1974 as a teenager, Fratto was at Dodger Stadium for a group event as part of a baseball camp. “Tommy John walked off the mound holding his left arm and the crowd was perplexed.” It was the injury that led to what led to the revolutionary surgery known as Tommy John surgery, which saved many a career.

He was at The Forum in Los Angeles 40 years ago on Dec. 9, 1977 for one of the scariest NBA brawls. The Lakers’ 6-foot-8 Kermit Washington nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets during the wild scene. Washington threw a roundhouse punch as Tomjanovich was arriving to play peacemaker. Fratto said Tomjanovich’s head “hit the floor with an unforgettable sickening sound. It was like a bowling ball being dropped from 10 feet.” Tomjanovich, an All-Star forward, suffered a shattered jaw, broken facial bones and serious head injuries. He made a remarkable comeback and regained All-Star status. But his career was shortened.

Fratto said he was at Caesars Palace’s outdoor arena on November 13, 1982 for the ill-fated world championship fight between Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and South Korea’s Kim Duk-Koo.

The slugfest was stopped in the 14th after Kim was knocked into the ropes and fell head-first onto the canvas. He died four days later. “His mother flies in from Korea to ID the body; she doesn’t do it. Distraught, she later commits suicide. Eerily, on a hotel lamp shade, Kim had scratch the saying in Korean, “Live or Die” – an unbelievable fight, an unthinkable tragedy.

“October 1986, American League Championship Series, Boston at Anaheim. Boston’s Dave Henderson hits an improbable home run off of Donnie Moore.” The Angels were one strike from going to the World Series. Henderson had replaced Tony Armas in centerfield after the latter was injured in the second inning when he slammed into the wall. “Moore, distraught, later commits suicide” (three years later).”

Fratto hasn’t lived down Game One of the 1988 World Series. “Kirk Gibson’s home run off of Dennis Eckersley. Full disclosure, I was leaving the game as it happened. Yes, I have to admit it.” Gibson limped to the plate with injured legs and hit a two-out, two-run walk-off home run to spur the underdog Dodgers to a 5-4 win. Los Angeles won the World Series in five games. The American League champions had won 104 regular season games.

A radio move to Detroit in 1993 added two more to his list – one an epic college football finish and the other a fight that rocked the sports world. This time Fratto was in the house – “The Big House “ — when No. 7 Colorado stunned fourth-ranked Michigan on a Hail Mary pass in front of 106,000 at Michigan Stadium. Michigan led by 12 with 2 ½ minutes left. The game winner came when Kordell Stewart threw the “Hail Mary” 73 yards to the goal line where CU wide receiver Blake Anderson leaped and tipped the ball away from a Michigan defender and back into the end zone where Michael Westbrook caught it before it hit the ground. Fratto remembers the crowd falling silent. “Interestingly Westbrook hailed from Detroit.”

On November 19, 2004, Fratto was on hand for what the AP described as “the most infamous brawl in NBA history” — “The Malice at the Palace.” He was covering the game for CBS radio WKRK 97.1 “and we were doing a remote roadcast from the lobby at the Palace of Auburn Hills.” The ugliness erupted with 45.9 seconds in the game between the Pistons and Indianapolis Pacers. The Pacers’ Ron Artest was at the epicenter of the blowup. After he and Detroit’s Ben Wallace got in a confrontation, Artest laid down on the scoring bench to relax. A fan threw a plastic cup at Artest and chaos ensued between players and fans. Artest lost almost $5 million in salary and missed the Pacers final 86 games. “By the way,” added Fratto, “one of the referees that night? Disgraced referee Tim Donaghy!”

I covered three of ‘em: the “Miracle Bowl” and the legendary home runs by Gibson and Henderson. Watch for more information on the release of my book next summer.

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