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September 17, 2014

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Lon Bronson and Smith Center finally find the notes; ‘Ugly’ comic Warren Durso plays the Plaza

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Gabe Ginsberg/Vegas Kool

The Lon Bronson All-Star Band performs during the “Our Town for Newtown” benefit concert held Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Railhead at Boulder Station.

Kats With the Dish

Rocking the strings

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John Katsilometes talks to Nina DiGregorio, the founder of Bella Electric Strings.

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Frankie Moreno and Porini Mara Camp guides Geoffrey Risa Ketere and Ripa Olmara prep for a video being set up by Ricky Moreno in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy in southeastern Kenya.

The Kats Report Bureau at the moment is Grand Lux Cafe’s coffee shop at Palazzo. These leafy, stilted, human vines that roam the Carnevale street festival and lope around the hotel lobby seem to be eyeing me suspiciously.

Or maybe I am just imagining.

Nope. One just winked at me. Very strange.

Around the vines, let’s rake:

• Lon Bronson has claimed the winning ticket in the “Smith Center Sweepstakes” among Las Vegas show bands. After several months of talks and speculation about who would be the first among the city’s great horn bands to play Cabaret Jazz, Bronson secured a Sept. 25 date for his revered All-Star Band. The timing coincides with an opening in Bronson’s schedule, as the band is trying to land a new room (preferably one that hasn’t been pulled apart for a bingo enclave) at a Station Casinos resort. Nothing has been locked in, yet, for the All-Star Band at a Las Vegas hotel-casino. But the Cab Jazz gig is a go. Tickets are $20 and available at the Smith Center website.

• Warren Durso is beginning a series of weekly shows at the Plaza Showroom on Sunday, first in the showroom at 9 p.m. this weekend, then as a headliner in the hotel's Bonkerz Comedy Club. Durso was the focus of a nakedly revealing, and pretty lengthy, profile by Mike Sager that appeared in Esquire in April 2012. For the piece, the veteran comic posed totally nude, mocking the Demi Moore pose in Vanity Fair in 1991, when she was not only naked but very pregnant.

The story about Durso was titled “Ugly,” which seems a reference to his physical appearance but is more a metaphorical reference to his hardscrabble life as a standup comic and actor. “I posed naked to show that I wasn’t afraid,” Durso said during a phone interview this week. “I’m an actor, and I’m showing there’s nothing I won’t do. I put myself out there.”

Durso is a tough guy and an improv artist who promises never to deliver the same show twice. What else? He once weighed 285 pounds, is now down to about 180 and next week is starting a P90X program. If that’s ugly, pass it around.

• Two remarkable sightings, on the very same night Thursday: Sen. Harry Reid at “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s and fashion guru Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana at “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas” at the Quad. Only in Vegas, only in Vegas …

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Frankie Moreno and Porini Mara Camp guides Geoffrey Risa Ketere and Ripa Olmara prep for a video being set up by Ricky Moreno in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy in southeastern Kenya.

• Frankie Moreno’s formal unveiling of his signature California sparkling wine is Monday night at STK at Cosmopolitan. The wine is distributed by Moreno BHLV (Beverly Hills/Las Vegas), which is no relation to the Moreno family. Moreno is to perform during the invite-only event, and a mix of his original songs will be uncorked (as it were) from the steakhouse’s DJ booth. More impressively, at least from here, is Moreno has just wrapped recording of his second single with violin great Joshua Bell, set for release on Bell’s holiday album of duets. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is the selection.

• Staying with the string section, firebrand violinist Nina DiGregorio, who is founder of Bella Electric Strings and a member of the previously mentioned Lon Bronson Band, is working with Andy Walmsley on a new production. The show, which has a catchy name I’m not yet reporting, is to be centered on gratuitous violins (hah) and is envisioned as a throwback dance show. If this production finds a suitable room, it will be quite fun. DiGregorio mentioned this project during the latest episode of “Kats With the Dish,” which aired Friday morning on KUNV 91.5-FM.

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Pat and Zoe Thrall in Studio at the Palms, Monday Feb. 4, 2012.

• Guitar sensation and studio trailblazer Pat Thrall joined Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns on Monday night to tear it up for a few minutes. The reason was twofold: Thrall loves to play, and it also was his 60th birthday. In the audience was his wife, Studio at the Palms Manager Zoe Thrall. I believe that was the first time Thrall had joined the guys at the Lounge at the Palms. He's one of the most respected musicians and music minds anywhere.

• Conceived for the very theater it occupied for six weeks, “The D Word” is leaving Shimmer Cabaret at LVH this weekend. There was to be a new Las Vegas-based cast in place next week for the show during the musical’s hoped-for extended run. Show creator Jeanie Linders is a sharp woman and a witty writer, but this show lost me the moment the four women raised their martini glasses to toast their vibrators. I wanted to like the show a lot more than I did. The cast member I most identified with was the bemused, but sadly muted, bartender. He just kept grinning and nodding, washing glasses and keeping his head out of the crossfire. His is a lesson to be embraced.

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

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