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October 25, 2014

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Sorting out impact of Frankie Moreno’s ‘DWTS’ appearance a delicate dance

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Leila Navidi

Frankie Moreno performs at the Stratosphere on Thursday, April 5, 2012.

Frankie Moreno at the Stratosphere

Frankie Moreno performs at the Stratosphere on Thursday, April 5, 2012. Launch slideshow »

LOS ANGELES -- Last night we spoke of adventure in a restaurant that might not appear so adventurous: Cheesecake Factory.

This was the Cheesecake Factory in the Grove, the retail and entertainment expanse in the city’s historical Farmer’s Market. It’s quite similar to Cheesecake Factory outposts at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace, Boca Park in Summerlin and the District in Green Valley Ranch. Except, at Cheesecake Factory at the Grove, animated water fountains dance near the restaurant’s entrance.

Otherwise, it’s the same Cheesecake Factory you’ve come to know and love. Same 612-page menu, even.

The talk was of television and the power thereof. Millions of Americans watch TV shows every night. Many millions will be watching ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” tonight when Frankie Moreno performs “Tangerine Honey” from his new self-titled album and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Real Wild Child” (the early idea was to close with Lewis’ “Rockin’ My Life Away.”). In Las Vegas, “DWTS” airs from 8 to 10 p.m. on KTNV Channel 13, tape delayed after a live broadcast airs on the East Coast.

Later today, Moreno will perform to the choreographed artistry of pro dancer Lacey Schwimmer and her celebrity partner Kyle Massey.

There are many elements to the performance to give it a significant “wow” factor, such as Moreno’s gymnastics across a new Yamaha piano, a longer and reinforced instrument built by show producers that will be given to Moreno after the broadcast to use in his stage show at the Stratosphere.

So even if the “DWTS” appearance doesn’t work out for Moreno, hey, free piano.

Also, and not at all to be marginalized, is the new Jelly Belly Tangerine Honey bean that is now on the market. This concept has been discussed informally for several weeks and was finalized as Moreno visited the company’s headquarters in Fairfield, Calif. He played a set for charity at a coffee house in neighboring Benicia, with proceeds going to the local Little League organization, when the deal was struck.

It is the first time Jelly Belly has ever developed a bean flavor for an individual -- or a song, for that matter. It’s a good bean, for you citrus and honey fans.

Frankie Moreno's European Songwriting Trip

Strip headliner Frankie Moreno and his brothers travel to Europe in search of songwriting inspiration. Launch slideshow »

Candied beans aside, tonight’s broadcast is easily the most significant moment in the career of Moreno. He had been performing in Las Vegas for a decade, backing such artists as Air Supply and country star Billy Currington, before his career ignited about a year ago as he began a residency at the Stratosphere. Recording “Eleanor Rigby” with violin great Joshua Bell three years ago was the moment Moreno began that climb.

But what does tonight mean in pure numbers? At dinner, the brothers Moreno (including bassist Tony and songwriter/comedic artist Ricky) wondered how many people would watch the show tonight as it enters its double-elimination round.

The answer is likely 9 million to 15 million. “DWTS” is one of two Top 10 shows on ABC’s docket (“Modern Family” being the other). For the week of Oct. 1-7, “DWTS” on Monday night was No. 9 in the Nielsen Ratings with a total viewership of 12.38 million (the Tuesday results show was No. 12 with 12.03 million).

Comparatively, “Saturday Night Live” draws an audience of 5 million to 6 million during a strong week. “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and “The Late Show With David Letterman” draw 4 million to 5 million on a very good night. “The Late Late Show” with Craig Ferguson, “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” usually record audiences of 1 million to 2 million.

As the numbers boomeranged around the table, Frankie said, “Now I am getting nervous.”

I found one of my favorite stats -- the Beatles’ appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, the greatest culture-altering music performance ever.

“You would be more nervous,” I said, “if it was 73 million.”

“What about when Elvis made his first appearance on ‘Ed Sullivan?’ ” Moreno asked.

About 60 million is the answer.

Fast arithmetic was attempted. What if even one percent of the viewing audience purchased a copy of “Tangerine Honey” on iTunes at 99 cents apiece? What would that number be? Or, how many albums would this show move? Twenty thousand? Thirty? How many Twitter followers could Moreno expect by Thursday morning? A hundred thousand? A million? Thirteen?

You can’t quantify any of this, not yet. There is only an unshakable feeling that change is in the offing for Frankie Moreno -- and that tomorrow will be different than today.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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