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November 24, 2014

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Jimmy Kimmel still has Rebel pride as Tark enters hoops Hall of Fame; Rick Mazer speaks of famously unsettling moment at Flamingo

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Yasmina Chavez

Jimmy Kimmel of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and Clark High School Principal Jill Pendleton head toward a ceremony area before a ribbon cutting at Clark High School to officially open the Jimmy Kimmel Technology Center on Saturday, May 18, 2013.

The New Jimmy Kimmel Technology Center

Jimmy Kimmel of the show Launch slideshow »

It’s late Sunday night, friends, and the Kats Report Bureau is somewhere very close to Mayweather Boxing Club in Chinatown. But the reason for being here has nothing at all to do with Mayweather, or boxing.

The weekend was something like a fight, and around here we never hit on the break. Protect yourself at all times (especially amid a flurry of boxing metaphors) while we throw punches in bunches:

• During an interview for an upcoming issue of Vegas Magazine, I asked Jimmy Kimmel for his thoughts about Jerry Tarkanian. Kimmel grew up in Las Vegas and attended UNLV before vaulting to a career in radio, then cable TV and finally network TV as the host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC.

“I love Tark, and I think he’s a great character and a really good person, too. I mean, I think if you talk to any of his former players, that’s the conclusion you’d come to,” Kimmel said weeks before Tarkanian was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., over the weekend. “I remember when the Rebels, and I this was right in those years when Sidney Green was playing with the team, made it to No. 1 in the rankings. I remember being in class and somebody saying, ‘You know, the Rebels are ranked No. 1,’ and thinking like, wow, that’s a big deal …

“That was the first time I really felt proud of being from Las Vegas because it gave us something to rally around and be proud of. Our city is there for the amusement of other people, but Tark and the Rebels gave us an identity beyond that, and I think he really deserves a lot of credit for bringing Las Vegas together as a community.”

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Flamingo President Rick Mazer poses with Lady Gaga (Kate Steele) and Britney Spears (Katie Murdock) after a special 30th anniversary performance of Legends in Concert at the Flamingo Showroom Monday, May 6, 2013.

• Rick Mazer sat for a going-away lunch last week at Carlos’n Charlie’s at the Flamingo, almost four years to the day that he took over as president of that hotel, along with Harrah’s, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, Imperial Palace and O’Shea’s. Mazer was replacing exec Don Marrandino, who took over Caesars Entertainment resorts in Atlantic City. Mazer is once more taking a post being vacated by Marrandino (who left the company in January for unspecified reasons), as he is now heading up operations at Bally’s Caesars, Harrah's Resort and Showboat casinos in Atlantic City, along with Harrah's Philadelphia racetrack casino in Chester, Pa.

Mazer also is charged with leading the company’s attempt to build a $1 billion resort casino in East Boston, Mass. He worked in Las Vegas during one of Caesars Entertainment’s most adventurous periods ever on the Strip, with the rebranding and renovation of Imperial Palace to the Quad and the closing of O’Shea’s and also Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall in favor of the under-construction Gansevoort. The Linq entertainment promenade, connecting Flamingo to the new Quad, also was planned and launched when Mazer was running those properties. When he took over in 2009, he said: “The one thing that is consistent is change. We have got to continue to change.”

Brother, he was right about that.

Mazer was in place during one of the most bizarre and unsettling stories in recent memory on the Strip, when three evidently intoxicated (shocker) law students from the University of California, Berkeley, chased down and decapitated an exotic bird — a 14-year-old waterfowl named Turk — in October. Mazer is trained to face the unexpected, but this incident was a total shock and not easy to address even months later.

“It was tragic, and my heart broke for the bird and for our staff,” Mazer said. “They care for these birds as they would for their own children. They are an amenity that people come to see that is rare, and people don’t get a chance to see very often. But we have full-fledged resorts here, with a lot of rooms and a lot of amenities, and a lot of people come here. Sometimes, things that are tragic happen, and you have to deal with it.”

Mazer then paused and said, “I’d much rather remember the joyous and happy times that have happened here. We have more than 1,500 weddings here, each year, just at the Flamingo. Someone is going to get married today and change their lives. We have a lot more of that kind of memorable event happening than anything that’s tragic.”

Good pivot, and a good point, from a man who has a lot of authority. I spent some time with Mazer during his stay in Vegas, including a couple of Super Bowl Sundays at the Flamingo. The full interview runs this week, sometime, but what I know of Mazer as he leaves Vegas: There’s not a lot he hasn’t seen and not much he can’t handle.

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"The Symphonic Rock Show," featuring Brody Dolyniuk, a band and 25 orchestral musicians, at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012.

• Brody Dolyniuk produced another rousing Symphonic Rock Show before a full house at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center on Friday night. He has another date, Feb. 7, nailed down for a return performance. Expect fewer musicians and more of a rock-band feel, which doesn’t mean Dolyniuk is going to skate through without some splashy production in mind. He’s going to find a way to take it over the top. I know this because that is exactly what he said Sunday. It’s always great to see and hear Brody.

• Changes are evident at two of Las Vegas’ enduring institutions: Tiffany’s Cafe at White Cross Market and Cue Club at Commercial Center on East Sahara Avenue.

Tiffany’s, the famed 24-hour diner at White Cross just north of the Stratosphere on Las Vegas Boulevard South, can now accept debit and credit cards. The restaurant was long a cash-only establishment. Also, the renovations at White Cross added restrooms in the diner itself,; before, you were required to cut through the drugstore to find the general restrooms used by all White Cross customers. This is a pretty significant improvement at Tiffany’s, which opened in 1948 and today offers the best hamburger in the city that doesn’t cost $16.

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Patrons have lunch at Tiffany’s Café inside the old White Cross Drugs, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012.

Over at Cue Club, a makeover at that old pool hall — which opened in 1965 — has halved the number of tables. At the peak of its business, Cue Club was home to 39 tables and billed as the city’s largest pool hall. Today, it is scaled back to 22. The renovation cut the size of the space in half, from two connected buildings down to one, and was completed in May. But you can still find a table (and free Wi-Fi) around the clock.

• The memorial service for late percussionist and music director Jim Belk is set for 1 p.m. Sept. 19 at Christ the King Church, 4925 S. Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas 89118. Belk died Friday after suffering from plasma cell leukemia, a rare form of cancer. Those in the Las Vegas entertainment community — and, I mean, to a person — are deeply saddened at the loss of Belk, who was 47 and had most recently performed onstage in “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s. His widow, Megan, has been writing a journal on the website caringbridge.org. Her words, powerful and deeply heartfelt, could be set to music.

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

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