Thursday, Dec. 6, 2001 | 8:27 a.m.
This week is one of transition, as Las Vegas becomes Nashville West as it hosts the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center, Saturday through Dec. 16 ... More than 120,000 rodeo riders and fans are due in town, guaranteeing good times in Las Vegas ... They fill Thomas & Mack, eat, drink, gamble and have a roaring good time ... Welcome, all.
Can it be nearly 40 years since a very young, very anxious Paul Anka asked me if he was doing the wise thing in opening for Sophie Tucker in the Sahara Congo Room, now the site of Steve Wyrick's show? ... Anka opened the early show and at Tucker's insistence, closed the midnight performance, and was the closing act with co-equal billing the rest of the engagement.
Anka is working more weeks in Las Vegas this year than he has in the last 20, dividing time between concert stints in The Mirage's Siegfried & Roy Theatre and The MGM Grand's Hollywood Theatre ... Anka is at the Mirage through Saturday ... Another choice this weekend: Elton John in concert, Saturday at 8 p.m. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
When you consider that Charo has been away from Las Vegas for the better part of 15 years and has been comparatively quiet except for the one television commercial and, further, that she has opened her show, "Bravo," at The Venetian post-Sept. 11, during an ordinarily quiet time that will become even more quiet in December after the rodeo, the reports have been all positive ... We couldn't be more pleased.
Charo has always presented a first-quality production ... Apparently, this one is particularly strong with comedians, Mario & Daniel, an exciting dance group, and live music ... Similar to Melinda, the First Lady of Magic, Charo will net less for herself than she should based upon her volume of business because of the rent-the-room, pay-for-everything yourself Venetian showroom policy.
It's "Honky Tonk Angels" (Gold Coast); Amazing Johnathan (Golden Nugget); Mac King, afternoons, Clint Holmes evenings (Harrah's); Alabama (LV Hilton); Blue Man Group (Luxor); Carrot Top, plus Rick Springfield starring in "EFX Alive," and Elton John, Saturday (MGM Grand); and Paul Anka and Danny Gans in separate theaters (Mirage) ... There's more.
Plus Richard Jeni (New York-New York); Lorrie Morgan (Orleans); Dwight Yoakam (Paris); Ronn Lucas, afternoons, Scintas evenings, plus Jeff Foxworthy (Rio); Michael Holly afternoons, Steve Wyrick evenings (Sahara); Bill Engvall, plus Ricky & the Redstreaks, separate venues (Stardust).
And even more ... Chad Brock (Stratosphere); Debbie Reynolds (Suncoast); and Melinda at 7 p.m., Charo at 9 p.m. (Venetian) ... New in town and highly recommended is "Cheval," in a special big-top tent on the Strip at Harmon Avenue, a tribute to the horse, delightful all-family entertainment at less than half the ticket price of "O."
Tonight only the Fremont Street Experience offers Katie Kern and Trick Pony and Jamie O'Neill, 6-11 p.m. on the First Street stage, plus Shannon Brown followed by the Honky Tonk Tailgate Party, 6-11 p.m., on another stage ... There will also be a new country-and-western-themed light and sound show on the canopy ... This is the 15th annual Downtown Hoedown.
Marv Koral, Carl Fontana, Ronnie DiFillips, Chris Gordon and friends play, starting at 7:30 p.m. each Thursday this month (Jazzed Cafe); Fridays it's Pogo's, and on Mondays Don Menza & Co. (Riviera) ... "Tenor Madness IX" features Joe Romano, Bob Bashford, Wayne DeSylva and Joe Escriba, 2 p.m. Sunday (Winchester Center Theater).
This will be followed by the annual LV Jazz Society Christmas Party at 4 p.m. at the Castaways Lounge, with the Adelaide Robbins quartet -- Robbins on piano; Romano, sax; Bob Badgley, bass; and Santo Savino, drums ... Dr. Tom Ferguson, piano; Ken Seiffert, bass; and Chris Benham, drums, will accompany the Four Tenors at Winchester Center earlier.
An appreciation: Impresario Norman Granz, 83, left us on Nov. 29 ... Granz did more for the jazz musician than any one ... He took many musicians out of the joints and made most of them concert artists who earned worldwide acclaim ... He did a great deal to integrate music with mixed all-star groups, demanding and receiving first-class accommodations for his artists everywhere...
I was with Decca at the time, the late 1940s, when Granz told me he would take Ella Fitzgerald away from us and make her a concert artist and see that she received the acknowledgement, acclaim and money she so richly deserved ... His Jazz at the Philharmonic groups were mainstays at jazz festivals throughout the world ... See you Friday.