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July 30, 2014

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Sake Fever? Felix Rappaport has it! Also, O’Neil tribute set; Fayne brings bio show to Starbright

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MGM Resorts International

The Mirage President Felix Rappaport welcomes The Stars and Stripes Foundation to The Mirage on Nov. 12, 2010.

Philadelphia is more famous for drippy cheese steak sandwiches than Japanese cuisine, but that’s the city where Felix Rappaport was living when he discovered that culture’s delectable fare.

2010 Stars and Stripes Foundation at The Mirage

The Mirage President Felix Rappaport welcomes The Stars and Stripes Foundation to The Mirage on Nov. 12, 2010. Launch slideshow »

“It was in my late teens, I think, maybe when I was 18-19-20 years old,” the president of the Mirage recalls of his days as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. “The place was Sigami in Haddonfield, New Jersey, just across the bridge from Philadelphia. That’s the first place I can recall that had the full variety of Japanese cuisine. It was new to me then, and it’s mind-boggling how sophisticated it has become.”

A man interested in cuisine of all varieties, Rappaport is being recognized Friday night as an honoree at Sake Fever during the 37th Annual UNLVino Wine Festival. The three-day imbibe-a-thon begins tonight at 7 with BubbleLicious at Crystals at CityCenter, where Todd English of his eponymous pub at that retail center is the honoree. Friday’s Sake Fever is at Mirage pool. Saturday’s Grand Tasting is at Paris Las Vegas and honors my colleague, the ever-ubiquitous Robin Leach.

All events are scheduled to run from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets for BubbleLicious are $75 in advance and $100 at the door. Tickets for Sake Fever are $50 in advance, $100 at the door. Admission for Saturday’s Grand Tasting is $75 in advance and $100 at the door. Call 739-3267 or go to UNLVino.com for information.

The event is to benefit the William F. Harrah Hotel College at UNLV, a feeding institution for the best and brightest young people seeking a career in the hotel and resort industry.

Having moved from the Luxor to the Mirage in September as part of MGM Resorts' executive shuffle that assigned several presidents to new hotels in the company, Rappaport is focusing on bolstering his property’s restaurant lineup. He already oversees one of the city’s top Japanese restaurants, Japonais, where the sake flows freely for experts and the newly acquainted to the festive beverage.

“It hasn’t been until recently that a lot of people have realized how sophisticated and varied sake can be,” Rappaport says. “Most haven’t gotten to that sophistication yet, but you will see where restaurants literally have a menu for sake, a selection of 20 to 30 sakes. The varieties and sophistication is as great as wine, and you’re seeing more and more a penetration of great Japanese restaurants on the Strip. Japonais is a favorite among celebrities. Every major shopping area in the city seems to have a Japanese restaurant. My family loves sushi.”

But when Rappaport calls for a drink, sake is not always his first choice.

“I like to try it, but I’m not a connoisseur,” he says. “I’m more into beer or wine or mixed drinks.”

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Scotty O'Neil, left, confers with his longtime friend and talk show host Dennis Bono at Sam's Town in 2005.

Remembering Scotty

A celebratory memorial is set for today at 2 p.m. for Scotty O'Neil, longtime radio personality and announcer for “The Dennis Bono Show," at South Point Showroom. The lineup is appropriately filled with entertainers who have graced Vegas stages for decades.

Scheduled to perform: Steve Lawrence, Lena Prima, Clint Holmes, Reva Rice, Art Vargas, Wendy Edmead, Regi Brown, Corrie Sachs and Denise Clemente.

Sachs, who plays Reba McEntire in “Country Superstars Tribute” at the Golden Nugget, was onstage seated next to O’Neil at South Point during a live taping of Bono’s show when the popular radio personality collapsed to the floor. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. O’Neil was 69. He was a former morning DJ at KJUL 104.3-FM and left the station when it changed formats from adult standards to country in 2005. He joined Bono’s syndicated variety show when it launched in 2000 at Sam’s Town.

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Bill Fayne in his natural habitat: at the piano.

Fayne in the forecast

This weekend, one of the city’s best-known music directors, pianists and vocalists is bringing a biographical concert to Starbright Theater at Pinnacle Community Center on 2215 Thomas Ryan Blvd. in Summerlin. Bill Fayne, for years the music director for Clint Holmes’ production at Harrah’s, stars in “Bill Fayne, A Musical Life,” Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Fayne has recently broken from the Las Vegas Tenors, which is now headed by one of that group’s original members, Bobby Black. Fayne, Teddy Davey and Chris Coyne debut in Voices 3 at Suncoast Showroom April 16-17. Black also is moving forward as the owner of the Las Vegas Tenors name, the vocal group that featured Fayne and Davey until the sides parted ways late last year.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow "Kats With the Dish" at twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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