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November 26, 2014

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VegasBeat — Timothy McDarrah: Dennis a menace, Sir Elton tells crowd

Elton John loves Andre Agassi, and he loves Las Vegas.

But Sir Elton absolutely despises Dennis Miller.

The superstar pop music icon -- who earlier in the day confirmed to us our August report that he is going to become a Strip headliner -- attacked Miller from his piano perch at the end of Saturday night's "Grand Slam for Children" benefit hosted by Agassi at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

"Americans are always asking why the rest of the world hates them," John said after singing his first song, "Tiny Dancer." "Well, the reason is Dennis Miller."

"You've all gone mental if you liked that," John said, before looking at the floor and shaking his head in disgust.

Earlier in the show Miller delivered about 20 minutes of his usual act -- biting, sarcastic political humor with a very strong right-of-center slant.

Miller's remarks include bits about not caring about blowing the Baghdad Museum to bits, and his advocating killing caribou and raping Alaska for oil so there would be a lessened dependency on foreign outlets.

The caustic comic was one of a number of superstar performers at the event, including Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Robin Williams, Billy Joel, 14-year-old newcomer Renee Olstead and, after a 13-year hiatus, a reunited Tears for Fears (Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal).

We spoke to Miller after the show and asked him if he had heard John's remarks.

With a smile as tight as a Speedo on a sumo wrestler, Miller said, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion." Then he made a quick exit into a staging area where we weren't allowed to go.

When we caught up to John, he didn't want to talk about Miller, but did lavish praise on Agassi for his charitable work. Sir Elton will make public the details of his 2004-05 Colosseum engagement at an Oct. 21 announcement. He will perform on some of Celine Dion's dark nights.

"I love Las Vegas and I am looking forward to being here more often," he said.

Other than the Dennis dig, the evening was smooth sailing. Lucrative, too. The event raised a record $12.6 million for the various kids' charities the Agassi Foundation supports.

At first, Agassi announced that the concert, dinner and auction had raised $6.3 million. But then Ty Warner, whose toy company created a little thing called Beanie Babies, walked up to Agassi during dessert and said he'd match the $6.3 mil with a personal check.

An excited Agassi jumped onto the stage and made the new announcement.

Agassi was not only excited, he was exhausted, too. He told us before the show that he had been up all Friday night after wife Steffi Graf gave birth to the couple's second child, Jaz Elle Agassi. She came in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces.

Darlene Ensign's favorite song from the concert was any one of Joel's own, and she also loved his opening number, "Viva Las Vegas." Her husband, Sen. John Ensign, said he was "thrilled" to see the Tears for Fears reunion.

Singer Mandy Moore and her boyfriend, U.S. Open tennis champ Andy Roddick, got up and started dancing during John's "The Bitch is Back."

Billie Jean King seemed partial to a duet Crow and McLachlan did early on.

One of our journalism heroes, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly, knew every single word to most of Joel's songs, as did Agassi.

"There is a lot of talent up there tonight, but Joel is my favorite," Agassi told us. "How can anyone not absolutely love that guy?"

The pre-concert auction featured some routinely Vegas fabulous items. Emeril Lagasse was there to auction off a visit from the man himself to your house to cook dinner, and Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong took the stage to auction off a bicycle ride with him near his Texas home.

A round of golf with Agassi and Bill Clinton fetched about half of what Robin Williams was able to coax out of two separate parties for dinner with him and his wife, Marsha. The golf brought in $50,000, while dinner sold for $105,000 -- twice, for a total of $210,000.

We tried to get tablemate and celebrity restaurateur Michael Mina to bid on the Lagasse package, but he wouldn't, uh, bite.

All 2,400 guests -- such as "CSI: Miami" star Emily Procter, singer Josh Groban, Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves, Bellagio lounge favorite Jimmy Hopper and Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt -- had to deal with bomb-sniffing dogs, a metal detector and random bag searches before entering the arena.

Favorite son

Needless to say, the Roy Horn (Siegfried & Roy) tragedy Friday night was huge national news. It was the top story on "The Today Show" on NBC on Saturday morning, where their manager, Bernie Yuman, was interviewed.

It has been at or near the top of the hourly news reports on CNN and Fox News all weekend long, and was featured prominently in every big-city newspaper in the nation that we checked, from the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times.

And while we don't speak German, we went to the website of the largest Munich paper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and saw a photo of Roy and the headline, "Magier Roy von Tiger verlet." The tragedy is one of the biggest news stories in Las Vegas history, ranking with the 1980 MGM Grand fire, which claimed 84 lives, and the Binion murder case.

"Siegfried and Roy are international icons, often presented as the public face of Las Vegas," Mary Hausch, as assistant professor at UNLV's School of Communications, told us Sunday night. "It is a story that will be talked about worldwide -- because people came from all over the world to see their show.

"I think that after seeing the show some people felt like they knew Siegfried and Roy, so for many people this was something happening almost to a friend."

From Sun wires

The brother of Reese Witherspoon has been placed on two years probation after pleading guilty to trespassing and attempted sexual battery.

John Draper Witherspoon, 30, was arrested Oct. 5, 2002, after he entered an unlocked door at a neighbor's home in Nashville, Tenn., and attempted to undress a woman while she slept. The woman said Witherspoon kissed her on the neck and face, but that he left after she woke up.

He was charged with sexual battery and aggravated burglary, both felonies, and pleaded guilty last week to the misdemeanor charges.

Reese Witherspoon is a native Tennessean whose movies include "Legally Blonde" and "Sweet Home Alabama."

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