Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun
Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013 | 1:20 p.m.
The Kats Report bureau at the moment is the William Hill Sports Book at the Fabulous Union Plaza Hotel! Which is how it was once known, decades ago, when KDWN AM-720 broadcast from the second floor.
At night, that signal carried all the way to Pocatello, Idaho. The Union Plaza on No. 1 Main Street was sort of a mythic place. So was the Stardust, home of the Stardust Sports Line, which also was a KDWN aerial fantasy that aired after Dodgers night games.
Right now, the scene is a moderately populated sports book where the Washington Huskies are putting a vise on Boise State, among the dozen football and baseball games being broadcast. I’m here not for sports betting, or observing, but to take in the Dixie Evans “United We Shimmy” tribute show across the casino floor at the vastly underappreciated Plaza Showroom.
I like that room a lot. There is not a more unshakable and authentic Old Vegas feel anywhere in town than when the main room at the Plaza is filled. This should be a pretty special event, honoring the memory of Evans, who passed away Aug. 3 in Las Vegas. Tempest Storm is going to be here, among the many stars of the “new burlesque” around town and elsewhere, so it should be quite a scene.
Until then, it’s rake time:
• In the face of support of vanquished MDA Labor Day Telethon host and organization official Jerry Lewis, Steven M. Derks on Saturday posted his “reflections” of the telethon on the organization’s website. Derks is the new president and CEO of the MDA, and this year’s fundraising “Show of Strength” TV show airs today from 9 to 11 p.m. on ABC (KTNV Channel 13 in Las Vegas; the original version of this column had the incorrect Pacific air time).
Derks specified some of the great gains the MDA has made over the years in the research and treatment of dystrophic diseases. He then heaped praise on Lewis, saying, “Where would MDA and the fight against 43 muscle diseases be without the amazing Jerry Lewis? Certainly, we would not be at this hopeful spot. Forever he will be our greatest “muscle maker,” a true hero in the hearts of millions.” (The entire piece can be read here.)
Lewis is to be mentioned during the show, and his 1976 reunion with Dean Martin is far and away the leader in the fan vote of nine "Telethon Moments" posted on the MDA website, but he is not scheduled to be heard from otherwise during the show.
It would not be a stretch to say the man Derks replaced as head of the MDA, Gerald Weinberg, would never have written such a tribute. He had ample time to tap that out and never did before he followed Lewis out of the organization in late 2011. The feud between Weinberg and Lewis was the chief reason the latter ended his run as host of the telethon and left his post as MDA chairman in 2010.
Also, the MDA is disputing the reporting (here and elsewhere) of what the organization raised in its 2011 telethon. The claim has been $61.5 million, but the MDA’s Form 990 tax filing from that year shows that it actually collected $30 million, less than half the amount pledged. That disclosure has led MDA spokeswoman Roxan Olivas to state that the $30 million figure listed in the “telethon” column was an incomplete figure.
She wrote in an email: “While in the past we had a column in the 990 that was titled telethon, not all the money reported and collected from telethon-related fundraising was in that column. For instance, in 2011, some of the $61.5 million that was reported was also in the special events column.” So the money taken in that year was divided, says the MDA, in separate categories.
It also is worth noting that the MDA stands by its figure of $58.7 million from the 2012 show, though that number is absent from the organization’s tax filing from last year.
“There is not one line or column in any of the 990s that is specific to all the telethon-related income, i.e. you won’t find one specific line that shows the exact $61.5 or $58.7 million figures,” Olivas noted. “It’s just not the way it’s reported. For 2012, telethon-related income was reported in the Special Events column and is included in the overall figure in that column.”
The 2012 990 filing was the first MDA tax return to report income from the telethon in “Special Events,” which makes it impossible for those on the outside to verify what has been pledged and what has been collected without verification from someone inside the MDA.
Nonetheless, the message from the MDA today, is: We do a lot of good. We appreciate Jerry Lewis. Trust us on our numbers.
• Pantera co-founder and percussion hero Vinnie Paul has a short list of favorite movies playing in theaters right now.
The list: 1) “We’re the Millers.”
That’s it. The whole list.
Paul has seen the comedy -- which stars Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Will Porter as a fake family making a drug run to Mexico for Ed Helms — four times. He texts photos of the screen and messages to friends while sitting in the theater (sadly, Paul does not use Twitter). He says he’s returning to the film soon. “I just got back from Cabo, and I can’t wait to go again!” So if you catch the film and in the theater see a bearded guy in a black, embroidered cowboy hat … he might be Vinnie.
• Las Vegas Wranglers President Billy Johnson has released his self-published novel, “If I Die, Tell Steve Martin I Found His Journal." The plot centers on a character not coincidentally named Navin R. Johnson who finds Steve Martin’s personal journal. Johnson is an underachieving but brilliant marketing executive who is reeling from three successive failed relationships. He reads into Martin’s journal and imagines the great comic actor and Renaissance man as his own guardian angel, fighting all of his battles and furnishing all sorts of sage advice.
Johnson is a longtime fan of Martin but hadn’t consciously thought of writing a book invoking his character until taking a trip overseas several years ago.
“I was in Ireland on vacation and had this odd dream where I saw my mother walking hand-in-hand with Steve Martin, and as anyone who has had vivid, crazy dreams, it lingered all day, and I started thinking, ‘What if it were true?’ I started writing it down, and the novel makes very little mention of it at all, but one imagination turned into another and turned into this book.”
• Earth Wind & Fire performed a show at the Venetian Theater that aired live on Home Shopping Network on Friday night, and once again EWF showed it is one of the great live bands of this or any era. During the first hour, the band promoted its new release, “Now, Then & Forever,” and grooved through its classics, “Fantasy,” “Serpentine Fire,” “Boogie Wonderland” among them. A silver-suited David Foster, as always the walking definition of self-confidence, showed up to join in the first hit he co-wrote for the band, “After the Love Has Gone.”
After the TV broadcast ceased, vocalist Philip Bailey yanked the in-ear monitors from his ears and said, “Let’s party.” The band played another 40 minutes, tearing through “September” and playing a song rarely performed live, the cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
Nice work, once more, by renowned set designer Andy Walmsley. The place never looked or sounded better.
In the spirit of Venice, The Venetian is a little piece of romantic Italy right here in Las Vegas. The Venetian is an "all-suite" hotel, with rooms accented with plush linens and Italian marble. The 4,027 suites are divided into two towers: The 36-story Venetian Tower that offers guests a taste of luxurious Las Vegas and the Venezia suites, which guarantee 12 floors of high-end elegance. The top five floors are the hotel's highest level of luxury with its private access, concierge lounge, upgraded features and even a dedicated staff.
The flagship of Venetian nightlife is TAO, an ultra-hip nightclub located inside of TAO Asian Bistro. V Bar is The Venetian's super smooth ultra lounge, made by the owners of New York City's club Lotus and Los Angeles' super swank Sunset Room.
The Venetian features 19 restaurants including Thomas Keller's award-winning French restaurant Bouchon, Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante, Aquaknox for fresh seafood and the 42,000 square foot TAO Asian Bistro. There's also the food court inside the Canal Shoppes for those looking for a quick bite.
Guests can float along The Grand Canal Shops in an authentic Italian gondola ride and pass stores like Burberry and Kenneth Cole along the way. And if you haven't caught a real celeb, on the street in Vegas, you can head over to Madame Tussauds to check out a wax version.
The Plaza, renovated in 2011, has a lobby that features marble and inlaid mosaic tiles, chandeliers and a plush front desk that matches the classic Las Vegas feel with a contemporary look.
The hotel has 1,003 rooms and suites that showcase views of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Amenities include world-class entertainment, a casino floor that offers an array of classic gaming choice, which include 600 slot machines, a 400-seat bingo room, 18 table games and 57,120 square feet of casino space.
Among the dining options is Oscar's Beef * Booze * Broads, a steakhouse opened by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, which is located in the glittery dome enclosure above the hotel's main entrance.
The Plaza sits at the west end of the Fremont Street Experience on the site of the first train depot and auction site in Las Vegas, dating back to the San Pedro-Los Angeles-Salt Lake Railroad in 1905. The railroad was sold to Union Pacific in 1921 and the depot was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Union Plaza Hotel, built in 1971.
The hotel has been featured or is visible in several movies, including the 1971 James Bond film, "Diamonds are Forever;" the 1989 film "Back to the Future Part II;" the 1995 move "Casino," and the 2000 movie "Pay it Forward."