Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 | 4:26 p.m.
The Kats Report Bureau at the moment is Stratosphere Showroom, and not for Frankie or Perrico or “Pin Up.” It’s all gridiron warfare, folks, and a very cool scene to watch Sunday’s games. The massive projection screens ring the room like the Chiefs’ defensive front closing in on the embattled Tony Romo.
Each football season, I check in on different sports books. I particularly like Wynn Las Vegas (where Johnny Avello is the famously well-educated steward), Lagasse’s Stadium at Palazzo, Red Rock Resort, Green Valley Ranch, and I like what Cantor Gaming has done in town, too, at Hard Rock Hotel, M Resort, Palms and Venetian. And LVH, under the steady helmsmanship of incurable Broncos fan Jay Kornegay, is always a great spot for locals. The hotel’s Man Cave is aptly named; even female employees are wary of walking in that testosterone-tinged sporting hovel.
Today’s action has been the Cowboys getting 2.5 at K.C., Giants getting 5 at home against the Broncos, and the Seahawks laying 3 at home against the 49ers. I always bet head and root heart, and that’s what the ’Hawks-Niners wager is all about. Big 49ers fan is the Johnny.
We’ll rake it up while eyeing the array of afternoon games filling all these screens (hashtag-Nirvana):
• Since we’re at the Strat, we’ll start here. The singer who performed in “Pin Up” for four months, Anne Martinez, is now a featured vocalist in the disco spectacular “Dancing Queen” at Planet Hollywood. Martinez was the primary singer in “Pin Up” from April through last Monday. In “D.Q.,” which is apparently a blizzard of a production, Martinez joins a strong lineup of singers Aaron Coulson, Avis Ellis, Jerry Farney and Katch Gray.
Martinez is a highly sought-after singer in town because she can sing, dance, learn a show real quick-like and has earned a reputation for being a total pro. She moved to Vegas last year from Rochester, N.Y., to sing “Bite” at the Strat, which was on its way to its final resting place (the Plaza, where the show’s vampire concept seems forever entombed). She also is founder of the vocal group I've frequently referenced, BBR, joining Savannah Smith in that ensemble. David Perrico is working to fill out an act for those two great singers.
The departure of Martinez obviously created an opening in “Pin Up,” and that show’s new singer is Lisa Marie Smith. She’s out of Las Vegas Academy and Boston Conservatory (so informs her Facebook page), so she would be no slouch as an artist. But Smith is not described as the show’s regular or primary singer, nor is the other Smith singing in the show — Savannah. The Smiths are filling the role until someone is named permanently to sing in “Pin Up,” a show where the music — and the expert performance thereof — is crucial.
• For their appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show” on Thursday night, Penn & Teller brought one of their favorites and a favorite of any fan or student of magic anywhere, the legendarily inspirational illusionist “The Great Tomsoni.” He also is known in his walking-around life as Johnny Thompson, a longtime friend of, and consultant for, Penn & Teller, among many magicians of varying accomplishment.
Thompson helped Teller develop his off-Broadway show “Play Dead,” which runs Nov. 5-Dec. 15 at Geffen Playhouse in L.A. Thompson also is on retainer with Penn & Teller as they continue to update their production at the Rio. As Teller says of Thompson: “He’s worked with everybody. Nobody has a better set of eyes or is a better catalyst for new ideas. … He’s had every job in show business and almost every job outside show business.” Thompson also is a favorite of Hall, who was an aspiring magician as a kid and was all fired up to see Thompson hustle onstage in an unannounced moment. The embedded clip reveals all!
• Nick Hissom has released the video for his single “If I Die Young,” shot this year in Malibu and Death Valley in California. The temperatures climbed to 129 degrees, and the crew realized near the end of the project that they’d been filming next to a nest of black widows. The upshot is Playboy model Alyssa Arce plays Hissom’s romantic interest (and she is indeed interesting, romantically), and the video was produced by Los Angeles cinematographer Brian Michael Henderson, who has shot series for Mark Cuban and Ryan Seacrest’s AXS cable network and has produced videos for The Game, Kendrick Lamar and Christina Grimmie, among others.
A onetime Tommy Hilfiger model (meaning the clothing, not as a Hilfiger impressionist), Hissom is of particular interest as he is the son of Andrea Hissom (now Wynn) and her first husband, Robert Hissom. Hissom turned 21 on July 4 and celebrated that landmark occasion and the release of the new single concurrently at Tryst at Wynn Las Vegas. Hissom is one to watch, for his talent, passion, inter-connectivity and — most important — work ethic. The guy is really sharp and works his tail off.
• The VegasVille club scene was abuzz Sunday about the $250,000 tab amassed by a high roller at Marquee in the Cosmopolitan. One hundred bottles of Cristal were sent to the table, from what I reliably understand. Still working on the “who’ of it all, exactly, but it was not me.
• More clubbin’: Contracted vendors and former employees of the recently closed Gallery at Planet Hollywood are complaining that they have not been fully paid for their shifts and various club-related services. Some rudimentary math puts the total anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000, and it could well get legal if — as my sources contend — club operator Block 16 Hospitality doesn’t start issuing checks, and soon. Positioned upstairs at Planet Hollywood’s mezzanine, Gallery closed, ingloriously and unexpectedly, just before Labor Day Weekend.
• In that mezz neighborhood, the popular and long-running Prince tribute act Purple Reign is moving into Sin City Theater, Thursdays through Sundays at 10:30 p.m. That booking began last week. Fronted by Jason Tenner, the act has ping-ponged in town for nearly two decades; I caught Purple Reign once at Club Utopia, but that was in a blackout, so it does not count. Most recently, Purple Reign has played at the D Hotel and Hooters. Sin City Theater operator John Padon has been hoping for a non-comedy act to fill that room when Sin City Comedy’s rotating lineup of comics is not onstage; Tenner’s act might be it.
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.
It is virtually impossible to be anywhere in Las Vegas and miss the Stratosphere. It towers 1,149 feet above Las Vegas and is the tallest observation tower in the United States. The casino itself is 55,784 square feet and contains 950 slot machines, 120 game tables and 2,427 hotel rooms.
Of the hotel's 2,427 rooms, 909 were recently remodeled into Stratosphere Select rooms.
The Stratosphere is mostly known for its rides at the top of the tower. The Big Shot, located at the 113th floor, torpedoes riders up 160 feet using compressed air. X-Scream is a teeter-totter perched at the top of the observation deck — if that wasn't scary enough, the coaster arm flings the riders out 27 feet over the edge of the tower. Guests looking for something more sedate can just hang around the 107th floor and simply look at the scenery.