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October 30, 2014

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Taylor Hicks gives Clint Eastwood credit for ‘entertaining’ RNC; Station Casinos amps up schedule for Lon Bronson

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American Idol” Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks.

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Taylor Hicks at Surrender Nightclub in the Encore on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012.

A rake of the scene, which this week included a trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York and Girls, Girls, Girls Gentlemen’s Club in VegasVille.

And that was just Thursday.

Onward:

• Taylor Hicks came out of his appearance at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., impressed by the scope of the event (15,000 credentialed media members and an arena audience of 18,000 delegates caught his attention) and Clint Eastwood’s decision to take the stage without the use of a TelePrompTer or prepared speech.

In terms of political affiliation, Hicks has described himself as apolitical and also has said that he would have performed for the Democratic National Convention if summoned.

“My job in the program was to give the convention a spark and get everybody excited,” Hicks said in a phone conversation Friday from Reno, where he is appearing at Harrah’s through Monday night. “Never thought I would open for Clint Eastwood and Mitt Romney.”

Backed by the G.E. Smith Band (Smith is the longtime band leader on “Saturday Night Live”) and wearing a charcoal-colored suit, Hicks performed “Takin’ It to the Streets,” covering the Doobie Brothers classic.

Hicks’ performance led to the appearance of Eastwood, whose onstage banter with an empty chair occupied by an invisible Obama played out like a scene from a David Lynch film.

“I talked to him right before he went on,” Hicks said. “He was going without a TelePrompTer, semi off the cuff, so I knew it was going to be really entertaining.”

Really, really entertaining.

Hicks is still not signed to perform again in Las Vegas, which seems only a matter of time and timing. There has been no official word out of Caesars Entertainment about Hicks’ return to Bally’s, where he roared through Indigo over the summer. But I’d wager that he’ll be back, something long-term, and I’d make that wager at the Bally’s sports book.

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Lon Bronson performs at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch.

• Whenever prompted, Lon Bronson bemoans the trend of resort companies pulling high-caliber talent out of lounges or replacing lounges with nightclubs. The venerable bandleader and trumpet player is working against that trend, in partnership with Judy Alberti, Station Casinos' entertainment director and visionary. Starting Friday at 10:30 p.m., the Lon Bronson All-Star Band is performing at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch. There is no admission charge to put the core band of 15 musicians and vocalists onstage.

As Bronson said in the latest episode of “Kats With the Dish,” this is the model that hotel-casinos employed generations ago, when entertainment was used as a “loss leader,” bringing top-flight performers into the lounges to play free of charge. The payoff was those acts lured customers who otherwise would not walk through the casino doors.

“We have two resort chains, we’ll call them Ford and GM, who would not do that,” Bronson said. “Stations is doing it, and I’m just crossing my fingers that they keep with this policy.”

In the arrangement, the hotel keeps the bar take and pays the band a flat fee to appear onstage.

“Stations is the last corporation to be doing this in Vegas,” Bronson said. “This is the way Vegas used to be, and in my opinion the way Vegas should be: Free shows, charge for the alcohol, but give the shows away.”

Bronson’s band has been one of the city’s top acts for more than 20 years since breaking out at Riviera’s Le Bistro Theatre for Monday night performances that drew many of the city’s top artists (and a host of visiting entertainers). Having performed over the years all over town at such hotels as Golden Nugget and M Resort, Bronson’s band had most recently performed alternate Thursdays at Ovation.

“We’re very fortunate,” Bronson said. “It’s like ‘The Three Bears’; this one is just right.”

Holly Madison's Swimwear Portraits

Holly Madison at Bacchus pool in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

Launch slideshow »

• “Peepshow” officials have been seeking a big name to supplant mother-to-be Holly Madison when she leaves the show (no date for her departure has been specified), but it is evident the search has reached performers with significant stage experience. Another name has surfaced this weekend, a person with long-established performance aptitude. It’s too early to disclose just who this is, but at issue is the show’s requirement for the Bo Peep performer to doff her top. If that prerequisite can be properly addressed, more will be … revealed.

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"Gigolos" studs-for-hire Jimmy Dior, Vin Armani, Steven Gantt, Brace Land and Nick Hawk. Dior is not returning in Season 3, which begins Aug. 30, 2012.

• The third season of the Showtime series “Gigolos” formally launched Thursday night at Vince Neil’s Girls, Girls, Girls inside the Déjà Vu Gentlemen’s Club. Scenes that stood out were Steven Gantt being asked to dress as a clown to perform acts not typically associated with the art of clowning, and Brace receiving a spray tan — then getting all tantric with the gal operating the tanning wand. Co-produced by Las Vegan Marklen Kennedy, the show depicts a quintet of gigolos plying their craft around town. From a discriminating point of view, these guys come across as actors playing various roles on various levels. At the end of the day (or night), it’s primarily a piece of entertainment. I’ve never taken it to be a pure documentary, just something of a staged (and adult) circus.

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The view from the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

• A trip through Radio City Music Hall is an onerous experience, at once a lesson in U.S. entertainment history and the practical qualities of a world-famous venue. On Wednesday night, I caught the Cirque du Soleil production “Zarkana,” which is moving into Aria as the show replacing “Viva Elvis,” which closed Friday night. Radio City is a vast, even cavernous theater with a seating capacity of 5,800 for the production — or 4,000 more than the Aria theater. The show has never filled the hall entirely but has drawn upward of 4,000 fans for some shows, and “Zarkana” plays big to reach the upper regions of the venue (a description of the show with interviews with some of the production’s principals is forthcoming).

But the cast and crew are actually talking of the larger space awaiting the show in Vegas — speaking specifically of the larger backstage confines. Radio City opened in 1932 and was not designed for such a large-scale productions as “Zarkana.” The show’s lavish set pieces and extensive collection of costumes requires 88 trucks to haul in the cross-country move. The production’s materials have actually overtaken what would be the green room backstage. The Aria stage itself offers about the same amount of space as Radio City’s, too, and those on the creative team are confident the show’s big sets and high-flying acts will easily fill the theater at Aria — and the venue's nether regions.

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

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