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July 31, 2014

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Finding our footing with some Old Vegas swagger from Mr. Semenoff

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Tiffany Brown

Sasha Semenoff entertains diners at Maggiano’s in the Fashion Show Mall.

The Violinist

Holocaust survivor Sasha Semenoff, 84, celebrates 50 years of music in Las Vegas this year.

Chris Rock, who will be 45 years old next month, has said, "You don't want to be the old guy in the club!"

But Rock hasn't done the club thing with Sasha Semenoff.

New Year's day night (and I've been workin' like a dog), I swung into Brendan's Irish Pub at The Orleans to see a couple of sets from Killian's Angels, the outstanding all-women Celtic-rock band that has been entertaining its fervently loyal following at Las Vegas pubs, clubs, saloons and like venues for nearly a decade. Over the weekend they were back at Brendan's, and deep into Friday night's show Semenoff strode into the pub. He's a rock star, this man, except that he plays a classic violin instead of a Gibson Flying V.

Semenoff is 85, and even without shaking the audience down for IDs, there was no doubt on this night he was the old guy in the club. Who cares? He walked in wearing his customary deep-blue suit and dark glasses that reminded of Bono's "Fly Shades" he wore during the "Zoo TV" tour back in the early '90s. Except, Semenoff's specs are prescription. He wears his hair in an Elvis-styled pompadour, allowing for the gray, and brother can he chat up the ladies.

Semenoff is a Holocaust survivor (Jerry Fink wrote this moving profile of Sasha in January 2009) who used his music to keep his zeal for life intact. He's a true icon among local musicians, having performed in Las Vegas for more than 50 years. Semenoff has played violin for such superstars as Elvis, Sinatra and Streisand. Semenoff's four-piece band swept through the Dunes in the 1960s, and he was a bit player in "Casino" as the orchestra leader on the "Aces High" TV show. He also played a waiter, fleetingly, in "Honeymoon in Vegas."

Upon noticing Semenoff walk into the Brendan's, Killian's Angels' violinist Lisa Viscuglia made the crowd aware he was in the club, and within minutes Sasha was surrounded by admirers wishing him a Happy New Year (most of these admirers were women, at whom Semenoff beamed). He made his way from table to table, saying hello to fellow entertainers who had happened into the club, including members of the "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" and "Menopause the Musical" casts.

After witnessing an explosive start to 2009 from the roof of the Rio on New Year's Eve, it was good to see Sasha again and start Day One with some Old Vegas dignity. We toasted him, and the new year. Slainte!

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Michael Gaughan

More from the Pub

When South Point owner Michael Gaughan and Boyd Gaming parted ways a few years ago, Gaughan left behind a stained-glass mirror that hung behind the bar at Brendan's with a drinking poem that reads: "In all this world why do I think there are many reasons why we drink. Smooth whiskey, a cold pint — least we be dry, good friends, great times or any other reason why." Gaughan's name appears at the bottom of the glass script. During an interview in 2006, Gaughan said he'd forgotten about the piece and was willing to buy it back. Not necessary. About a year ago, Boyd officials took the mirror down, boxed it and sent it to Gaughan as a gift. It's only right, and we'll say it again: Slainte!

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Jason Giambi and Sean "Diddy" Combs at the grand opening of Vanity nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel on Jan. 2, 2010.

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Vanity in the Hard Rock Hotel opens for business on New Year's Eve 2009.

Vanity, thy name is Johnny

Vanity, Nightlife Group-operated nightclub at the new HRH Tower at Hard Rock Hotel, celebrated its grand opening Saturday night. Here is a brief synopsis of my experience: "Keep it moving Sir. ... We're going to have to ask you to keep moving. ... You can't stand here Sir. ... We're going to have to ask you to keep this area clear Sir. ... We need you to move along Sir."

By the time I figured out where I could actually stand, I was doing just that on the third floor of HRH Tower's new parking garage.

I kid, of course. Vanity is an ornately designed place, 14,000 feet of clubby splendor laden with cut crystal and pearls and antique mirrors. The hotel notes the club's "rubbed brass," which I think is to describe what's happening on the dance floor.

The signature effect at Vanity, of course, is the LED chandelier above that dance floor. It's like a glowing, multicolored Blob. I've made the comparison before that it is similar to the Fremont Street Experience light show if viewed after ingesting a hallucinogen (not that we'd recommend that). Even given that I'm not the clubbiest guy in Vegas, Vanity is impressive in an adult sort of way. I appreciated the fire pit and heat lamps on the patio, too. There, you can stand.

Freakin' Frog

My friend and former colleague at the Sun, entertainment writer Jerry Fink (you might remember him from his appearance earlier in this blog), was treated to a night of appreciation Saturday at Freakin' Frog on South Maryland Parkway. Also appreciated was Louis Prima Jr., whose heritage lends itself to lounge activity (he's the son of Louis Prima, if you hadn't made that connection) and whose band performed for the well-wishers who turned out for Mr. Fink.

Jerry and I worked together at the Sun for nearly 10 years, during which time he launched the column Jerry's Lounge and swiftly plugged into the Las Vegas entertainment scene. Jerry's got a new website focusing on the city's entertainment scene, TheJerryFink.com that's worth checking out. I'm glad to see the longtime host at Jerry's Lounge still doing business.

At a loss

Beginning today, the charity organizations Three Square and Feeding America are partnering with the NBC series "Biggest Loser" (which is not a documentary about Richard Heene, father of Balloon Boy) for the "Pound for Pound Challenge." How it works: for every pound of pledged by Southern Nevadans attempting to lose weight, the "Pound for Pound" partners will donate 14 cents to Three Square, which provides food donations to non-profit organizations throughout the valley. Go to pfpchallenge.com to register.

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Tommy Rocker at Tommy Rocker's.

Tommy, can you hear me?

Tommy Rocker and the Henderson/Green Valley Elks Lodge are hosting Rocker's ninth annual Parrot Head Party at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Elks Lodge at 632 East Lake Mead Parkway in Henderson. One of the Nine Great Things That Happened in Vegas 2009 (the other eight involving Holly Madison or the Osmonds) was that Rocker returned his temporarily topless club on Dean Martin Drive just south of Flamingo Road to its old Jimmy Buffett beachside motif. Rocker's band, Conched Out, will perform (look for KKLZ's Mike O'Brian on bongos).

The event is a fundraiser for Project Safe Haven, Boy Scouts of America, and VH-1's Save the Music Foundation. For ticket and/or donation info, contact the Henderson/Green Valley Elks Lodge at (702) 565-9959 or visit the Lodge in person. The corporate sponsor for the event is Findlay Toyota.

Romance: Out. Level 107: In

Today the Stratosphere announced that Romance Lounge, which is the lounge that sits high atop the tower, will now be called Level 107. The name indicates the up-high location of Romance ... I mean, Level 107. It's still pro-romance up there, though. Just not pro-Romance. As always, canoodling is not only allowed, but encouraged.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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