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Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011 | 9:27 a.m.
Robin Leach's Vegas DeLuxe
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Magicians Penn & Teller have split up, and their theater at the Rio has gone dark. Before going their separate ways, their last performance there was on Saturday. They’ve pulled the ultimate disappearing act after 35 years of outrageous, innovative and Emmy Award-winning illusions.
It’s as big a showbiz split as the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis breakup. My reaction was, “Is it a publicity stunt for their new true-or-false Discovery Channel series Tell a Lie that premiered two Wednesdays ago?” Their other TV show Fool Us is now being produced as far away as Australia, Africa, Latin America, Scandinavia, England and the Ukraine, where the prestidigitation pair try to guess how magicians pull off their tricks. Contestants who fool them win a trip to Las Vegas to perform onstage.
The mystery of Penn and Teller’s vanishing deepened yesterday, however, when Vegas DeLuxe learned that “the silent one” was 6,000 miles away in London, while magic friends in New York confirmed an appearance by “the tall one” performing a fire-eating trick near Times Square in the heart of New York 2,700 miles from his Las Vegas home.
The Rio’s Web site confirms that no new shows for the duo are scheduled until at least Nov. 12, and I’m reliably told from a hotel source that there may be more cancellations through Thanksgiving. Adding to the confusion is that magic’s odd couple renewed their contract there a year ago on their 10th anniversary -- as Vegas DeLuxe first exclusively revealed -- through 2013, with a two-year option to 2015.
Penn Jillette added to the mystery with a weekend Tweet: “I’m disappearing into New York. I won’t be reading or writing tweets. I’m sequestered until maybe Thanksgiving. I won’t be able to post anything.” He has been silent since!
Some investigative reporting, thanks to pals in my old hometown, unearthed the fact that Teller is in England working as a magic consultant on a theatrical version of The Exorcist that’s headed to Broadway next year.
The only official comment I could get on this baffling story was that the 11-year-long Rio partners have tour dates lined up together in Canada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania while the Final Nine Table is played out in their theater for the last three days of the 2011 World Series of Poker starting Nov. 6.
Finally late last night, my contacts in the New York magic fraternity tipped me that when Penn was on 42nd Street, TV cameras filmed his fire-eating stunt that he performed to lure customers into a sandwich shop staffed with other celebrities.
There’s no confirmation or denial from real estate mogul Donald Trump’s office or NBC that Penn is in the new lineup of Celebrity Apprentice. Filming for that new series began Monday in New York. Knowing the show’s production cycle and the code of silence the network lowers around it, I think it’s safe to guess that if Penn isn’t “fired by the Donald,” he could stay on to Thanksgiving weekend’s finale. If he is fired, then Penn & Teller at the Rio could resume as early as Nov. 12.
There have been online gossip reports that the new cast includes supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, mobster John Gotti’s daughter Victoria, rocker Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister, Clay Aiken from American Idol, Star Trek’s George Takei, former Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno, talk show and comedy star Arsenio Hall, Teresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and comedienne Lisa Lampanelli, who regularly appears here at George Maloof’s Pearl in the Palms and co-hosted last year’s AVN Awards there. NBC refuses comment.
The facts all fit together in a magical scenario. I’m certain that Penn has joined the Celebrity Apprentice cast, and win or lose he’ll reunite with Teller at the Rio sometime before the end of next month. The Donald’s long-running show will air next spring, and it’s only when filming is completed that NBC confirms the cast. Until then, everybody is sworn to secrecy, which would explain why Penn is in seclusion for at least five weeks on the East Coast.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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