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April 23, 2014

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Mamma Pia! Zadora is ringleader of Vintage Vegas hang; ‘MDQ’ is in the house

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Steve Marcus

Pia Zadora speaks during “The Showbiz Roast” of former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman at the Stratosphere Theater Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Fifty percent of the show proceeds benefited Miracle League of Las Vegas.

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Frankie Moreno joins Martin Kaye and Felice Garcia during the Million Dollar Quartet show at Harrah's Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

As the singer at Piero’s took a break on Thursday night, a cluster of dignified gents convened in the middle of the club for a little kibitzing.

Mingling in what could be termed the Piero’s Circle of Legends were Rich Little, Steve Rossi and Vince Falcone. A few feet away, sitting idly and comfortably at the bar, was Piero’s owner Freddie Glusman. Still onstage, tending to his guitar, was Joe Lano.

Little and Rossi are two of the more significant comedy performers over the past half-century, Little as a groundbreaking impressionist and Rossi for his long and storied partnership with Marty Allen (the two famously appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” the same night the Beatles made their national-TV debut in 1964). Falcone served as Frank Sinatra’s pianist and music director for more than a decade. And Lano, who has played for nearly every major artist to headline in Las Vegas (including Sinatra) is positively revered among artists across all demographics in Las Vegas. As he performed behind the star of the evening — the expressly cute and sweet-voiced Pia Zadora — Justin Shandor energetically asked, “Is that Joe Lano on guitar? Wow.”

Shandor plays Elvis in “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s and won the International Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis three years ago. Seated in the same booth was a summarily impressed Rob Lyons, who plays Carl Perkins in “MDQ” but looked more like an excited Buddy Holly with his dark-rimmed glasses and combed-back hair. Lyons is among the coalition trying to get the word “groovy” back in the public lexicon, and accurately noted, “This is really groovy.”

Zadora wound up at the table and quickly the talk leapt to the possibility of Zadora performing a “walk-on” at “Million Dollar Quartet.” So far, we have not encountered the person who would not want that to happen (this is where a double-negative becomes a positive). The night ended with Shandor and Lyons in animated conversation with Zadora and her husband, Michael Jeffries, and PR Plus reps Laura Herlovich and Hillary Smoot.

Who knows if Pia will ever jam with the “MDQ” crew. But this thing that happens at 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays evenings in what is called “Pia’s Place” is a very cool hang.

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ With Frankie Moreno

The cast of Million Dollar Quartet and guest Frankie Moreno thank the audience after their show at Harrah's Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Launch slideshow »

• On the topic of “MDQ,” Zadora’s is not the only big name to surface in the planning of celeb guest appearances in the show. There is another Vegas star in talks to take the stage with the production, though that appearance is not yet finalized. All we can say at the moment is this is a pretty tantalizing idea and individual.

So far, “MDQ” has invited Veronic DiCaire of Bally’s, “American Idol” champ Taylor Hicks of Napoleon’s at Paris Las Vegas, and the Stratosphere’s Frankie Moreno to the stage. The most recent appearance was that of Moreno on Oct. 1, a crackling take on Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Rockin’ My Life Away,” during which Moreno and Martin Kaye (who plays Lewis in the show) simultaneously tore into the piano.

This is known in entertainment marketing as “creating a buzz,” and that ain’t always a bad thing — especially for such a deserving group as that “MDQ” cast.

• On the topic of Moreno, a song he and his brothers Tony and Ricky wrote while on our safari adventure in Kenya this spring is being employed by the United Way of Southern Nevada. The tune is “Hello World,” which Moreno actually debuted at the Oloibormurt Primary School near our camp in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy in the Maasai Mara Reserve. Moreno will perform the song on behalf of the United Way on Oct. 17 at the organization’s Community in Blue Campaign Celebration at Paris Las Vegas. Moreno had wondered how to best use "Hello World" in a charitable context, and found an appropriate organization.

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Mark Shunock sings during a performance of the Broadway-based open mic and variety show Cast Party on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, at Cabaret Jazz in Smith Center.

• On the topic of charitable activity, Mark Shunock of “Rock of Ages” has named the charity for his upcoming “Mondays Dark” talk and variety shows at The Act at Palazzo. The series begins at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 21, in the club, and the first organization to benefit from the shows is Opportunity Village of Las Vegas.

Shunock’s goal is to raise $10,000 per night for different charities through his freewheeling shows at the Act, which are planned for the third Monday of every month and are to feature an “eclectic” and wide-ranging group of guests from all facets of Vegas culture. The music is supplied by the Lon Bronson All-Star Band, and that alone is worth a trip to the Act.

For the premiere show, Shunock is tapping into is L.A. and “Rock of Ages” network of friends and colleagues. The first set of guests confirmed for Oct. 21 include: Dot-Marie Jones, the thrice-Emmy Award nominee from “Glee”; Jai Rodriguez of “Malibu Country” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”; along with cast members from “Rock of Ages.”

Tickets for Shunock’s adventurous charity project are priced at $20 and available at Mondaysdark.com. Shunock also plans to raise donations through the sale of VIP tables at $500, and through a silent auction at each show. At the end of the process, he hopes to have raised more than $100,000 for charity. As that grand master of the 1980s, Jeff Spicoli, once said, “Hey, Bud! Let’s Party!”

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Casino memorabilia collector Steve Cutler

• A head’s up about a massive, fascinating and historically important collection of Las Vegas memorabilia and artifacts: Steve Cutler is making another run at finding the right room and partnership for his Casino Legends Hall of Fame collection.

Cutler has amassed one of the more extensive and mind-blowing collections of any type on the planet: 105,000 items related to casino history and culture are in his possession, including 15,000 casino chips, big binders of letters handwritten by stars dating to the 1930s, casino contracts, original hotel stationery, thousands of swizzle sticks, dice molds, a trumpet once owned by Louis Armstrong. Cutler has been laying low and the collection, a portion of which was displayed more than a decade ago at the Trop, has been latent. But he’s ready to make another push, and is beginning talks with resorts downtown and on the Strip about building what could be an attraction as vast as the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. Unable to resist a gambling-related reference, we say his concept and collection are a solid bet. A parlay, even.

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Sam Thompson

• There is an Elvis connection to the Josh Groban appearance tonight at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Actually, it’s a connection to Elvis’s inner circle, Sam Thompson. Thompson, who lives in Las Vegas, was the music-industry exec who negotiated Groban’s first recording contract while Thompson was vice president of business and legal affairs and part-owner of 143 Records, a joint venture between Warner Music Group ad David Foster. Thompson was a member of Elvis’s security team in the early 1970s and is the brother of Linda Thompson, Elvis’s ex-girlfriend at the time of his death and also the ex-wife of Foster. It was Sam Thompson who helped push Groban to his earliest recording success, and describes himself as “an early proponent of signing him.”

• The first person lopped from the Mix 94.1-FM Mark & Mercedes “DJing With the Las Vegas Stars” has been announced and gosh it was fun playing.

Yep, to the surprise of exactly nobody, I was the first casualty of the second installment of this on-air charity competition. Surviving are “Absinthe’s” Angel Porrino (playing for Safe Nest), Paris Las Vegas comic hypnotist Anthony Cools (Olive Crest) 98 Degrees co-founder and “Men of the Strip” performer and producer Jeff Timmons (Susan G. Komen), Plaza headliner Louie Anderson (Hero-USA), “Thunder From Down Under” emcee Marcus Deegan (Make-A-Wish); and Fox 5 morning anchor Stefanie Jay (National Alliance on Mental Illness). A $5,000 donation to the star’s chosen charity is the award.

The first (and for me, only) contest was Hit the Post, where contestants were required to announce a song pulled from the show’s “Cauldron of Doom” and provide a voice-over intro in a specified amount of time. Deegan scored 28 in this contest and I had a respectable 23, good for second-best, but the fan vote (or, lack thereof) determined the first castoff. No matter. I had a great time visiting with Mark & Mercedes and their producer, JC Fernandez. It’s first-class operation, all the way.

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

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