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August 31, 2014

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Times are tough, but few feathers ruffled at Flamingo

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Don Marrandino (right), doggie Star and Alicia Jacobs share a moment at the Flamingo restaurant Voga.

The Flamingo is in the red, but just a little bit. Let’s say the Flamingo is appropriately in the pink.

Hotel president Don Marrandino said as much last night at the Italian restaurant Voga during a pre-party for the second-anniversary party for “X Burlesque” at the Flamingo. As Marrandino noted, as the Strip’s resort profits have dipped around by 10.6 percent over a year ago (and, as Cy Ryan’s recent story updating the crisis notes, by 15 percent in the second half of 2008), the Flamingo has held relatively steady. Six percent is the number he tossed out. I’m no accountant (I’m barely a journalist), but six is fair shot lower than 10.6 when we are talking about billions of dollars, and we started talking about why the Flamingo stands relatively stable.

Donny & Marie is one toothy reason. The duo are nearly selling out every performance in the Flamingo Showroom. The hard-wired-to-entertain siblings bring an audience that might not drink much (no shock to know that at least 20 percent of the Osmonds’ fans are Mormon), but eats a lot and plays enough. There are so few walk-outs that Marrandino can’t remember the last time a fan left the show dissatisfied, because if nothing else Donny & Marie deliver exactly what you’d expect, except that they are delivering it while cloaked in a lot of black-leather costumes that make Marie in particular look edgy. Grrrrr! I like that Marie …

Marrandino happily describes business for Donny & Marie as “off the hook.” Marrandino once made the same comment about Toni Braxton, referring of course to her ticket sales and not her general disposition. But unlike the vanquished Braxton, whose strong ticket sales were matched by a proportionate number of headaches around the hotel, Donny & Marie are fan- and property-friendly. They commonly show up for their performances, as scheduled, for instance.

In a nerve-wracking economic climate, the Flamingo has figured out its entertainment lineup, which is Marrandino’s long-held strength dating at least to his days at Station Casinos. Believe this: The Flamingo has not a single show it needs to apologize for. Marrandino has achieved an admirable balance of the adult-targeted “X” and wildly funny improv comic Vinnie Favorito in the few-frills Bugsy’s Cabaret. In the showroom are workhorse comic George Wallace at 10 p.m. and comic-magician Nathan Burton afternoon. Thus, the hotel has the middle and edges covered.

Add such bonuses as the reliably profitable Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville Cafe, and the Flamingo can hold steady. It has that great history, too, as one of the first jewels of the Strip. A friend of mine who has lived in Vegas since the days Caesars Palace opened says he always tells visitors to stay at the Flamingo for its location mid-Strip, it’s rich history and topnotch amenities, and value for the price.

Now, if they can only figure out parking at that place. The garage is awful, and the tourist-congested entry point off the Strip is begging for pedestrian plowage. But no resort is perfect, eh?

Notes astray: Sunset Thomas was in the audience for “X” last night. The star of HBO’s brothel-set “Cathouse” holds the distinction of being the only person I have ever interviewed while totally nude. I mean, she was, not me. She was posing for photos, while positively nude, at the grand re-opening of the Palomino Club in August 2006 under the ownership of powerhouse Vegas attorney Dominic Gentile and his son, Adam. The elder Gentile took over ownership of the club in March of that year, as payment for defending previous owner Luis Hidalgo Jr., who was accused of being a co-conspirator in the murder of Timothy Hay Hadland. Adam, producer of the adult production “Men The Show,” leases the business from Dominic for business purposes and operates the club, which sits across Jerry’s Nugget on Las Vegas Boulevard North. The Palomino, of course, is the only totally nude club in town allowed to sell alcohol, as its business license to sell liquor is “grandfathered” with the county and doesn’t expire until December 2019. Thomas was a spokesmodel for the club for a while, but has no formal ties with the Gentiles today. “We’re still friends, though,” she said. She occasionally joins the “X” dancers onstage. Maybe off-stage, too. … Channel 3’s Alicia Jacobs was there with her dog, Star, in her the now-famous doggie carry bag. … One story making the rounds was how comic Richard Belzer brought his little dog into a Vegas restaurant and fed it at the table. The restaurant: Rao’s at Caesars Palace. Whatever. Belzer is really danged funny. … Quick quiz (answer in the next item): How many minutes expire in “X” before the Warrant song “Cherry Pie” is inevitably unleashed on the audience? … Answer: Five. … During, a number featuring the song, “When You Got It, Flaunt It” from “The Producers,” all I could think of was how great Leigh Zimmerman was as Ulla in the Vegas version of that show. … The Flamingo is in possession of some wonderful old performance shots of icons who have played its famed showroom, including Bobby Darin, Wayne Newton and Sonny & Cher. There is better space to display those photos than near the escalators down behind the valet stand, I would think. Maybe outside the showroom?

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