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October 24, 2014

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Closing no surprise at Plaza; Geoff Emerick eager to return with Pepper

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Tom Donoghue/www.donoghuephotography.com

Cheap Trick’s Sgt. Pepper Live at Paris on June 12, 2010.

From Paris Las Vegas to the Plaza, the note parade starts ... now!

• Inevitably, the "Sgt. Pepper Live" featuring Cheap Trick production has about played out at Paris Las Vegas. The last performance at Paris Theatre is Saturday.

I caught the show over the weekend, on Saturday, and it again was wild fun. I think that was Domenick Allen, once of Foreigner, off stage right, rocking out, and I was seated next to gravely engaging Laura Sussman and Wendy Kraft of Kraft & Sussman Funeral Services.

The motto for the independently owned business: "Who better to care ... Than two mothers?"

Laura apologized in advance of the show for being "on call," and if she were called out, she would have to bolt from our row to provide her company's service. That's how it is when you own your own funeral business — you die, we fly. Fortunately, for us seated nearby and for the general public, neither funeral-home owner had to cut the show short.

After the performance, I leaned into the sound booth and caught up with the great Geoff Emerick, the show's engineer who helped calibrate the sound of every Beatles album from "Revolver" forward, including "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." I asked Emerick, who was dusted with the white paper hearts that descend from the ceiling during the show-ending "All You Need Is Love," about the show returning to Las Vegas next year and he nodded enthusiastically. "They want to! They want to!" he said. Would Emerick be involved? "Absolutely!" I hope he's right, twice-over.

• On Tuesday night I was invited to a birthday party for "Vegas! The Show" dancer Tara Palsha at Firefly. Happily, Tara has finally turned 21. Or maybe she is 16. Whichever, having dined at Firefly at the Plaza three times over the past few months, I wrongly assumed the invitation was for Firefly at the Plaza. Not so. The party was at Firefly on Paradise Road.

Amid the confusion, I did have a chance to hit Firefly at the Plaza just as it closed at 11 p.m. As I moved through the casino, it became starkly evident why the property had to close its hotel this week. There was but meager business in the casino and food court, and it seemed to the educated eye that the few folks roaming the property were not hotel guests. Many were toting personal belongings in plastic bags, a scene not quite worthy of an LVCVA commercial.

So it was not a shock that the Plaza announced Monday that it would be closing its 1,037-room hotel in early November, laying off 400 employees as a result. The plan is for the company that manages the hotel, PlayLV, to invest $20 million in renovations, including improvements to the guest rooms and hallways. By the culmination of that process, which is likely to take at least 12 months, the property will be renamed (or, re-renamed) Union Plaza.

If the hotel-shutdown-for-renovation approach seems familiar, it is. Binion's embarked on the same strategy when closing its hotel in December, and while plans remain for those rooms to be refurbished, there is no timetable (and not enough financing) to start that process.

Meanwhile, Firefly at the Plaza will remain in business. So will the other worthwhile amenity at the hotel, "The Rat Pack is Back," which coincidentally on Monday announced a new three-year deal with the hotel to continue performances at The Copa Room.

• Ray Romano made a surprise appearance Friday night at Brad Garrett's Comedy Club at the Tropicana. The audience was surprised, certainly, as the "Everybody Loves Raymond" star who gave Garrett a shot at a network sitcom took the stage about 10 minutes into Garrett's set.

What is not certain is if this was a surprise to Mirage officials also, as Romano still is committed to performing with Kevin James at the Terry Fator Theater in October and November. But as Garrett said, it was a "great get," and gave him a chance to do his impression of Romano, which is spot-on.

• Seems the only people not to show up during the first week of the NFL season were the Colts, 49ers and Cowboys.

"It was Super Bowl-like. It was crazy," Las Vegas Hilton Superbook director Jay Kornegay said Monday, the day after the hotel's successful opening to the annual Period of Gridiron Warfare. "It was standing-room-only in the theater. It was great to see."

The Hilton Theater is open every weekend at the Hilton. The seating capacity is 1,500.

The Superbook turned a tidy little profit, too, as a result of the Redskins' beating the Cowboys, and thus covering the four-point spread.

"If Dallas had covered, we might have been in the red," Kornegay said, indicating that the bulk of the late money came in on the Cowboys. "Our results came down to the last game, and (Dallas head coach) Wade Phillips is our friend."

The Hilton's entire take for the day was a little higher than last year's opening weekend, and the Week 1 turnout was the Superbook's largest non-Super Bowl NFL crowd, ever.

• There is a reason to be excited for the ticket prices for the Smith Center for Performing Arts' first Broadway touring production.

I think.

"Wicked" is set to park its broom at Reynolds Hall from Aug. 28-Oct. 7, 2012 (the theater is named for Review-Journal founder Donald W. Reynolds, as the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation helped finance the Smith Center).

Reportedly, tickets to this caliber of performance would be in line with similar touring shows in such cities as New York, Seattle and San Francisco. That reported range would be $39-$99.

However, Smith Center President Myron Martin said Monday, "We don't have ticket prices set yet. What I can say is we want our prices to be comparable to peer cities where these tours visit, but the prices are not set."

Still, don't expect unduly high ticket prices for "Wicked," or any other Broadway series shows staged at Smith Center.

"The Smith Center is for those who live here and who want to be able to afford to see something great," Martin said. Those purchasing Broadway series subscriptions would have the first shot at "Wicked" tickets, around mid-2011. In the fall of 2011, group sales will be opened, followed by single-ticket sales roughly six months before the center opens.

• David Letterman had some fun, acerbically, at Las Vegas' expense Thursday night when "Jungle" Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo made one of his recurring appearances on "The Late Show." Check the show link here, with Hanna's appearance beginning at about the 18-minute mark.

Among the exotic animals Hanna brought to the stage was a 10-week-old lion cup. "A cute little cat," as Hanna told Letterman. This gave Letterman, always energized when Hanna escorts porcupines and hawks to the show, an opening to refer to the recent incident at MGM Grand's Lion Habitat, where a trainer was bitten by an overzealous lion as unnerved tourists looked on.

The exchange, as Hanna held the little cat in his lap and fed it milk from a bottle:

Letterman: "They had one of those things in Las Vegas, it was like Siegfried & Roy Jr. were messing around, and a lion went nuts and killed a guy at a casino."

Hanna: "Dave, Dave. They were hurt by a tiger four years ago (at was actually nearly seven years ago, and only Roy Horn was hurt. But no matter)."

Letterman: "Right. But they had another thing happen recently."

Hanna: "A few days ago, yeah. But nobody got killed. He got bitten."

Letterman: (Squints at camera in disdain).

Hanna: "If a lion was going to eat you like you saw on the TV (clip of the incident), it'd be over with in a second. You'd look like feathers flying around."

Letterman: "These are the supreme hunter-killers."

Hanna: "The king of beasts!"

Letterman: (Laughing) "The king of beasts, right. But this is my point: It's like, like ... you're in Las Vegas! And the most entertaining thing you can find to do is watch a couple of high school kids poking lions? No! If you want to do something, go out and get yourself 100,000 acres of wilderness, release the animals there and let 'em be! And you can go take advantage of the buffet! Go eat the shrimp cocktail!"

When Hanna told Letterman that such attractions were the only place many tourists would have a chance to see these wild animals up-close, Letterman spat back, "You're not going to Las Vegas to see the king of beasts; you're going there for gambling and hookers! You don't go to see two guys in MGM Grand T-shirts poking at lions! That's not right! That's not right!"

Then Letterman, in unleashing his entire compliment of shtick, said to Hanna, "And didn't you tell me that you thought Siegfried & Roy had it coming?" "No, no," a confused Hanna said. "Yeah, backstage before the show, you said that," Letterman continued in full mockery.

Funny. Many years ago, in the late-'80s, Letterman taped a week of his NBC show "Late Night With David Letterman" from Bally's. Robert Goulet, Sammy Davis Jr., the Sacca Brothers, among many other Vegas favorites, appeared on during that stretch. One segment was titled, "Elvis, The Drifter, and Me," where Letterman actually found an Elvis impressionist and a person who was drifting through down.

He had fun then, but he didn't hit Siegfried & Roy.

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

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