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July 26, 2014

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From KMA Power Tables: Estefans set date for ‘On Your Feet’; Steve Schirripa has no plans to visit ‘the old neighborhood’

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Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Honoree Gloria Estefan, Keep Memory Alive founder Larry Ruvo and honoree Emilio Estefan Jr. speak onstage during the 18th annual Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love Gala” benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health honoring the Estefans on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

2014 ‘Power of Love’ Gala

Honoree Emilio Estefan Jr., singer Fantine, singer/songwriter Jon Secada and Keep Memory Alive founder Larry Ruvo appear onstage during the 18th annual Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love Gala” benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health honoring Gloria Estefan and Estefan Jr. on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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We’ve been having a lot of fun lately with the PowerTable hashtag on my Twitter and Instagram social media pages, as in #PowerTable at Bootlegger Bistro: Clint Holmes, Jerry Jones, Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas, Stephanie Calvert and #LiberacesGhost.

This name-check of scenesters and newsmakers of all ilk has evolved to include such power collectives as PowerValet, PowerElevator, PowerParkingGarage (with Deven May, Jeff Leibow and Graham Fenton of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas), PowerParkingLot (with The Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets of “Abinthe” at the Smith Center) and even PowerMonorail (Fox 5’s Rachel Smith and Kidville owner Melissa Weiner were name-checked there Friday night).

The King of All PowerTables, as is customary, is the Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love” gala at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night. Every table is the PowerTable. The most interesting seating assignment of the evening was Top Rank Boxing founder Bob Arum seated next to Venetian/Palazzo and Sands Las Vegas head Sheldon Adelson. Just two tables away were members of the MGM Resorts executive team, including entertainment head Richard Sturm, who was the subject of a public undressing by Arum in the lead-up of this month’s Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley fight at that Grand Garden Arena.

Arum expressed his angst (which seemed palpable and genuine) at all the signs on the property promoting the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana bout coming up Saturday night. In his introduction of Sturm at MGM’s Hollywood Theater during the final pre-fight news conference April 10, Arum said, “It’s a pleasure to introduce the president of hanging posters and decorations for the wrong fight.”

That frustrated sentiment contrasted sharply with Arum’s boundless praise of the Pacquiao-Brandon Rios bout at Adelson’s Venetian Macau in November, when even the media food spread was the subject of lavish praise by Arum, whose organization has hosted four fight cards at Venetian Macau. Arum has known Adelson for years, too. On this night at the MGM Grand, the boxing legend was in the Venetian corner.

More from the show:

• Confirmed by the Estefan camp Saturday night: The date for the premiere of the Broadway musical based on the lives of Saturday’s co-honorees, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, which is to be Nov. 5, 2015. The targeted venue is Marquis Theater. The musical is to be titled “On Your Feet,” which is a nod to Gloria Estefan’s recovery from injuries she suffered in a near-fatal accident in 1990 when her tour bus was hit by a semi-truck on a Pennsylvania highway. Estefan suffered a fractured vertebra, had two titanium rods implanted to stabilize her spine and spent more than a year in a rehab program so painful that she says there were times that she wished she would have passed out. The New York Daily News also has reported that the process of finding the performers to portray Estefan through her early life through adulthood is to be the subject of a reality TV show.

The musical is about four years in the making — for a time it was rumored to be the residence show at the Tropicana — and the book is said to be about 75 percent complete. The executive producer is no stranger to Las Vegas, or to the “Power of Love” event: Bernie Yuman, for decades the manager of Siegfried & Roy (who were in attendance). Yuman is partnering with the Nederlander Organization, a century-old, live-entertainment operation that owns and operates venues in New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Jose, Durham, N.C., and London. The vision for the show is for it to one day tour, with the show to have a run in Las Vegas.

• One of the attendees was onetime “Sopranos” co-star Steve Schirripa, star of “Karma’s a Bitch” on Discovery, who long ago was the entertainment director at the Riviera. Among the acts Schirripa booked at the hotel were a family lineup out of Buffalo, N.Y., called “The Scintas” (their first Vegas performances were at the Riv) and a crack horn player named Lon Bronson, who set up his 25-year run in Las Vegas at the Riv’s Le Bistro Theater. Crowing about his front-row table, Bronson was in attendance with Schirripa on Saturday night.

Schirripa said he has a role in the upcoming “Jersey Boys” film directed by Clint Eastwood and due for release in June. “I play a barber in a scene with Christopher Walken (who plays the group’s “underwriter” Gyp DeCarlo),” Schirripa said. “It’s very small, but Clint Eastwood called me, and you can’t turn Clint down, so I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ” Schirripa also said he’s prepping to shoot a show for the Food Network.

Schirripa’s tenure at the Riv was a subject broached in the current cover story I wrote for Las Vegas Weekly, which invoked the career of throwback lounge performer Jerry Tiffe and delved into the current state of Vegas lounges. “It’s really a shame, a goddamn shame, what has happened to the lounges in Las Vegas,” Schirripa said a few feet off the red carpet before the event. “Where do you go if you’re not 22, you cut out all this live music? I absolutely miss those days at the Riviera.”

But Schirripa has not been back to the Riv in years. “It’s like going back to the old neighborhood, and it’s not what you remember,” he said. “When we started at the Riv, it was still a high-line place, you know. We still had Sinatra and Tony Bennett playing there, and we booked a bunch of acts there, and there was as much or more entertainment there than anywhere.”

Schirripa then dropped a number that is fantasy in today’s entertainment climate in Las Vegas: “We had a $2 million-a-year budget in the lounge alone, in the mid-1990s,” he said. “We had an early act, then two bands at night, every single day. Jazz on Monday nights, we had all kinds of stuff going on during the day, the bands were getting good money, you had music going continuously from 4 in the afternoon until 3 in the morning. Sometimes until 4 or 5 in the morning, but now they are four-walling (leasing out) the lounge. It’s crazy.”

One of the performers booked by Schirripa at the Riv: Jerry Tiffe.

• The performances were superb, with several Las Vegas musicians powering the orchestra and sparking a “posh pit,” which is like a mosh pit but filled with bejeweled, upper-crust revelers. A few highlights: The animated appearance by Rita Moreno, who stripped to a bustier and performed some spot-on vocals and choreography during a medley of “West Side Story” (“I’m feeling old!” shouted Moreno, who is 82); Carole King’s medley, during which Estefan appeared for “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”; Andy Garcia sitting in on percussion with Estefan during her swift medley of hits; and performances by Ricky Martin, Queen Latifah and Jordin Sparks.The Las Vegas Mass Choir and Jon Secada helped close out the show with “Coming Out of the Dark. Quincy Jones (a man who still has “game,” trust me), Christopher Meloni, Dermot Mulroney, Kenneth “Baby Face” Edmonds, Sandra Lee and Siegfried & Roy were all on hand. Roy stood from his chair and walked halfway across the carpet before the program.

By the end of the night, about $10 million had been raised, $3 million from the live auction and another $7 million from donations and ticket sales. That money is being applied to research and treatment programs and operations costs at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in downtown Las Vegas. As Ruvo Center founder Larry Ruvo said from the stage, “This is not my fight anymore. This is our fight.”

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

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