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September 1, 2014

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Agassi as a politician? He’s not (yet) ready to serve

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Erik Kabik/Retna/www.erikkabikphoto.com

Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi arrive at the 14th annual Andre Agassi Foundation for Education’s Grand Slam for Children benefit at Wynn Las Vegas.

Envy Andre Agassi. Beautiful wife, athletic legacy to last a lifetime, head of a highly regarded, high-powered academic academy with a perfect college-placement record. This is also a man at the point of his life where he comfortably fits in anywhere. Last night at his foundation’s 14th Annual Grand Slam for Children to benefit the newly dubbed Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, one of those spots happened to be a ballroom dining table occupied by Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid. That the two have known each other for years was reflected in Reid’s comment about the work Agassi had performed to organize this year’s event at Wynn Las Vegas.

“If you had hair, it would be gray,” said Reid, who enjoys a full head of hair, much of which is Silver State gray. Agassi responded, “I might have pulled it all out by now.”

Given that we were talking with the current chairman of the Clark County board and possibly the next governor (and, yes, son of the Senate Majority Leader), I asked Agassi if he’d heard from any “Draft Andre” political operatives lately.

“Define ‘lately,’ ” he said, laughing. “In the last five or six hours? No.” Agassi’s name surfaced before the 2008 election cycle as a possible candidate for Congress, running as a Democrat against John Porter. He said running for public office is a possibility, “someday, down the line, but not at this time,” which could pass as a line from an official news release.

Then he jetted off to further work the room, and I asked Reid about how Agassi would perform in such a role. “He’d be great,” Reid said. Agassi’s gift for mobilizing the forces was reinforced by last night’s auction and table sponsorship take: nearly $8 million for Agassi's foundation. Incredible in any year, but beyond even the most optimistic projections of event organizers (last year, the event didn’t even release a tally, as the event was held just as the financial markets buckled and everyone was fairly leery of spending $100,000 for a weekend with Andre and wife Steffi Graf). As Reid also noted, Agassi would be effective in a role that would showcase his qualities as an ambassador of the city. Like, mayor of Las Vegas.

Our own mayor terms out next year. Who knows. When Oscar Goodman first investigated running for mayor in 1998, he was viewed as a long shot at best, akin to a tennis player facing double-match point. Likewise, don’t count Agassi out, in Las Vegas or beyond. Return of service has always been his game.

More from the show:

Whither Morrison?

The event didn’t lack for stars, or variety of such. Soon-to-be Monte Carlo headliner Frank Caliendo, Brian McKnight, Macy Gray (don’t let go of that mic stand, Mace), Daughtry, Dane Cook, teen singing star Charice Pempengco (just “Charice” now), Tim McGraw and Lionel Richie all performed. Also originally committed to the show was Van Morrison, who played Friday at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel. But before he attended any rehearsals, there was a falling out between him and members of the production team. McKnight mentioned that he was a late replacement, and Charice (sporting knee-high leather boots, a black satin outfit and new shake-your-hiney dance moves now that she’s 17) was not on the original list of performers and both were the likely fill-ins for the moving Van.

Bye-bye, Comedy Festival

The Comedy Festival, held annually since 2005 at Caesars Palace, is being tabled for at least a year, a PR rep for the showcase said last night. TBS, which sponsors The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas, also puts on the Chicago Comedy Festival in June, and I’m told it’s not good sense (economically or artistically) to hold those similar events just months apart. The Comedy Festival at Caesars has drawn dozens of top comics -- including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, the reunited Cheech & Chong, Sarah Silverman, D.L. Hughley and many others -- and The Colosseum also has served as the broadcast home of “Comic Relief.” So now there’s a hole in our entertainment schedule for November. Not funny.

Shtick of Dane

Cook, who seems the lost character in “Swingers,” cut loose with some Vegas-specific material. He talked of the strange Vegas resort business practice of putting retail stores like H&M and J Crew in hotel-casino promenades. “You live for a 15-minute break, hit the casino, come back and say, “S---, I need more hours! I lost my mother’s insulin money!” He also referred to the cathedral-like quality of sports books, or “sports pits,” in his own definition. “It’s like church, everyone staring up and saying, ‘God no! Jesus no! Save me!” This is probably one of those too-true-to-be-funny observations, but it’s obvious Cook has spent some time -- maybe 24 hours at a time -- in casinos.

A taste of Frank

When Caliendo is in trouble, he turns to Charles Barkley or John Madden. Or Bill Clinton, George Bush and Al Pacino. He doesn’t have much patience for audiences who aren’t swift on the uptake, and this has been true even during his appearances on talk shows. The other night, he came out of a conversation with Conan O’Brien that was stalling and slipped into Madden, doing the “boom-whap!” thing. Once last night, a bit turned sour, and he used his Barkley, Pacino, Bush and Clinton, finishing with “Where are the ladies?” Caliendo is working, still, on President Obama. “I rely on our great physical similarities,” says Caliendo, who really does look like an adult Cartman.

Quickies

The audience at Wynn Las Vegas was good -- 1,500 -- but I miss the public concert that was once part of the event when it was at MGM Grand. Cook, characteristically, seemed a little uncomfortable with the snappily dressed audience of VIPs, remarking of the tables up front, “This is the posh pit!” … Security follies: Camille Ruvo, wife of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada head and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health founder Larry Ruvo (one of the more influential and important people in the room) was stopped from entering a sectioned-off area to say hello to a few friends. She made a second pass and was let in, but it’s good to know who Camille Ruvo is at these events … On the red carpet, Marie Osmond said she had just listened to a version of her new ode-to-Vegas song, appropriately titled, “Vegas Love,” before the show. Marie was sort of frisky last night, to be honest. … Felix Rappaport was in the audience, a reminder that he’s now president of the Luxor and Excalibur (former Excalibur President Renee West having moved to Mandalay Bay, and Bill Hornbuckle now MGM Mirage’s chief marketing officer). Rappaport says he’s looking to come up with a formula that works at Excalibur. How about ditching the Camelot theme, similar to how he de-emphasized the Egyptian theme at Luxor? … Southern Wine & Sprits exec Mike Severino shaved his mustache a few weeks ago. The day after he shaved it away, he and his wife, Denise, flew to Pebble Beach, Calif., and all during the flight and throughout that day, Severino made hints to his face, “Do I have something in my teeth?” She professed not to notice. … From the red carpet, Matt Goss says everyone should be “Goss-tastic” and says the problem with his suit on opening night at the Palms’ Gossy Room (when he looked like he’d developed a paunch) was that his shirt came untucked. Goss, too bad. … One more from Cook: “I’ve never seen so many beautiful face-lifts!” a line that didn’t get a whole lot of positive response.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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