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August 21, 2014

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Florence Henderson splashes color over NBT’s Black & White Ball

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Denise Truscello/WireImage/DeniseTruscello.net

Barry Williams, Florence Henderson and Christopher Knight attend Nevada Ballet Theater’s 30th anniversary Black & White Ball honoring Henderson on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Aria.

2014 NBT Woman of the Year Florence Henderson

Barry Williams, Florence Henderson and Christopher Knight attend Nevada Ballet Theater’s 30th anniversary Black & White Ball honoring Henderson on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Aria. Launch slideshow »

Florence Henderson

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Florence Henderson and Mitzi Gaynor arrive at Nevada Ballet Theater’s 30th anniversary Black & White Ball honoring Henderson as Woman of the Year on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Aria.

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Nevada Ballet Theater’s 30th anniversary Black & White Ball honoring Florence Henderson as Woman of the Year on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Aria.

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Nevada Ballet Theater’s 30th anniversary Black & White Ball honoring Florence Henderson as Woman of the Year on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Aria.

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Claire Sinclair and Florence Henderson arrive at Nevada Ballet Theater’s 30th anniversary Black & White Ball honoring Henderson as Woman of the Year on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Aria.

The Kats Report Bureau at this writing is in the Bunker on Green Valley Parkway and the 215. A repeat of Bruno Mars’ appearance as host of “Saturday Night Live” is playing on the Bunker’s LED screen, or, rather, the 19-inch monitor overhead.

Mars is back at the Chelsea in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas two weeks after he performs during the halftime show of the Super Bowl on Sunday, for which he’ll be joined by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. By the time Mars returns, a spate of announcements will have been released for live performances in Las Vegas.

The live-music scene in the city is embarking on a mini-revitalization, largely due to the opening of the Chelsea and with the new outdoor venue at the Linq and that entertainment/retail district’s anchor tenant, Brooklyn Bowl, which is opening in mid-March. Some serious artists are being discussed and booked for both of those venues.

For those of us who enjoy, promote and support the live-music scene, 2014 is already shaping up as a fertile year in VegasVille. Pay attention over the next few days for the specifics, or as I would call my own band, Johnny & The Specifics.

Meantime, as we focus uniformly on our city’s ballet company, we wield our favorite instrument: the acoustic rake. Let’s jam:

• Florence Henderson unleashed some Shecky on Saturday night at the 30th Anniversary Nevada Ballet Theater Black & White Ball at Aria, which is her right, as she performed with Greene at the old MGM Grand in the late ’70s.

“I’ve never been Woman of the Year, but I have been Woman of the Night a couple of times,” she said. “But that’s another story. Mitzi got there before me.” That was a jab at last year’s Woman of the Year honoree, Mitzi Gaynor, a close friend of Henderson who also introduced the honoree on Saturday.

Henderson added to the list of Viagra jokes that have been told on Vegas stages over the years. This is a little like “The Aristocrats” joke, where the lead-in is always the same, but the payoff is always different.

The Viagra joke always starts with, “If an erection lasts for more than 4 hours, call your doctor.” The late comic Robert Schimmel’s punch line: “I’m not calling a doctor! I’m calling a hooker!” Steve Lawrence’s capper: “I’m not calling a doctor! I’m calling the McGuire Sisters!” Wayne Newton’s rim shot: “I’m not calling a doctor! I’m calling the newspaper! I want this reported!” And now, from Henderson: “On your way to the doctor, stop by my house!”

Henderson, who turns 80 on Valentine’s Day, added that she is the youngest of 10 children, in a household that was “very, very poor,” and her father did not marry until he was almost 50 years old. She was born when her father was almost 70 years old.

“I love to tell this because it is so darned encouraging,” she said. “I can always tell how old the men in the audience are. Those who are around that age kind of perk up! You know, tonight may be the night, Elaine!”

That was a jab at Elaine Wynn, who also caused a stir. Read forward for that info:

• The largest donation of the night, and I mean by several hundred thousand dollars, was by the Elaine P. Wynn and Family Foundation. The figure was an even $1 million, from the charitable organization founded by the NBT’s first Woman of the Year.

The event drew robust support otherwise, too, as about $300,000 came in from the live and silent auction. Roughly $111,000 was from the “paddle raise” segment, and that money is going toward NBT’s live-music program. The donations will help ensure that live music can boost productions such as “The Nutcracker,” which used tracks for many of its shows at Reynolds Hall last season.

The performance bore NBT Artistic Director James Canfield’s distinct imprint, including a pyrotechnic finale, and deserves to be backed by topnotch — and live — musicians. Big ups to auctioneer Christian Kolberg for his work throughout the live auction and to KLUC’s Chet Buchanan, who spearheaded the paddle auction. A pair of aces, those two.

• Henderson referenced her appearance with George Burns at Caesars Palace’s Circus Maximus on Burns’ 98th birthday in January 1994, which turned out to be his final stage appearance (his last-ever show was June of that year at Caesars in Lake Tahoe). She asked him if he still dated at his age, and he said, “Yes, and the only difference is now, when I have an orgasm, dust comes out.”

And that was George Burns.

• The dual appearance of Christopher Knight (who played Peter Brady) and Barry Williams (who portrayed Greg) produced a couple of great moments. The two men are getting up there (Knight is 56; Williams 59) but still hold a deep affection for their TV mother.

“Thank you, Florence, for you your support throughout the years, your kindness, your honest advice, your patience when I haven’t taken it and your unconditional love,” Knight said from the stage. “To some measure, I am what I am today because of your influence, and I’m better for it.”

That comment drew a look of giddy shock from Williams, standing at Knight’s left. “Wow!” Williams said, teasing Knight. “That was very nice, thoughtful and caring. … You said it all! I don’t think I have anything to say!”

But the eldest of the Brady Bunch siblings did share some memories. He recalled auditioning for “Pippin” on Broadway, his first foray into musical theater, and being surprised that Henderson showed up at Imperial Theater “in the heart of Broadway,” as Williams remembered. Just before Williams walked out to face director Bob Fosse, Henderson took the stage and pretended to be a first-time performing actress.

“It brought the house down, they all laughed, it broke the ice,” Williams said. “When it came time for me to do my scenes and sing my version of ‘Corner of the Sky,’ I felt on top of the world. That became my first Broadway credit and changed my professional life forever. And, to this day, I continue to do musical theater.”

• What Williams did not note about his stage career, but what I well remember because he happened to call former Sun reporter Emily Richmond (an avid “Brady Bunch” fan) up onstage for this show, was his performance at the Riviera’s Le Bistro Theater in May 2006. I’d interviewed him to preview this one-man, multimedia, autobiographical showcase, and Emily and I watched the show the following night.

Williams picked out a half-dozen “Honorary Bradys” to dance with him for the famous Bradys number “Sunshine Day.” It was so nerve-wracking, and Henderson didn’t show up to break the ice for that performance. But what a truly unforgettable experience.

• Our NBT gala all-bald triumvirate: Canfield, Buchanan and guitarist Stephen Lee of the event’s house band.

• Our least-favorite moment: Buchanan’s displaying of his Seattle Seahawks cuff links. I believe that he got those ages ago out of a box of Honey Comb.

• Henderson ended the night by announcing, “I want to leave with a little song,” and sang the theme from “A Chorus Line,” dedicating it to the NBT dancers: “One, singular sensation, every little step they take ...”

It was beautiful, performed a cappella and in her own voice. As it should be.

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

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