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July 28, 2014

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Joey Fatone cuts swath through Bally’s as Price Is Right guest host

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Joey Fatone at Blush.

Joey Fatone walks like a guy who knows how to keep two paces ahead of teen girls in hot pursuit.

He's a fast walker, this former 'N Syncer. He walks as fast as anyone you will see who is not actually running. I often use what I call the "Casino Walk," nimbly hotfooting it around plodding tourists and cocktail waitresses who often clog casino floors.

But Fatone's 'N Sync Walk blows the doors off my Casino Walk.

As if instinctively, Fatone scoots like a man under threat whenever he's around a crowd of people, whether or not they recognize him. He doesn't need to walk that way, not today, at least not through Bally's. But still, I almost checked the guy for inline skates as he blew past all human forms after he finished meeting, greeting and posing for photos following his debut Tuesday as host of "The Price is Right Live" at Bally's.

Yep, Joey Fatone is host of a game show in the famed Jubilee Theatre. The guy who filled arenas and stadiums with fellow boy-banders Chris Kirkpatrick, Lance Bass, Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez, is Las Vegas' Lord of PlinkoLand until Sept. 25 (show times are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m.; and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.).

Upon closer review, the 33-year-old Fatone is not such an unlikely choice to host a game show, or host any other sort of show, or appear on any stage of any type in any form of entertainment. His first job out of high school was as a performer at Universal Studios in his hometown of Orlando (or, second hometown, after his family moved to Florida from Brooklyn). Aside from his successful performing and recording career with 'N Sync, he' s appeared on the NBC competition series "Celebrity Circus," on TLC's "The Singing Office" (co-hosting with Melanie "Mel B" Brown), and on another NBC contest show, "The Singing Bee." He's performed in such Broadway musicals as "Little Shop of Horrors," Rent," and "The Producers."

More famously, Fatone and partner Kym Johnson also nearly won "Dancing With the Stars" in 2007, finishing second to Apollo Ohno and Julianne Hough. He's still recording, too. In the spring, Fatone released a solo single, "Radio," available on iTunes, "just to see how it would be received."

And?

"It's good! Hey, nobody yet has told me I suck," he said. "Everything I try seems to go over OK."

Well-suited and graceful while welcoming contestants to the stage, Fatone is clearly comfortable under the lights, even evoking the names of his ex-bandmates. He joked that there was, "a celebrity behind the curtain," prior to unveiling the famous Big Wheel. "Guess who it is!" he said, and as he heard shouts from the audience he chided, "No! It's not Justin Timberlake!"

The show's familiarity makes it relatively easy for the host of the live show, which uses just a half-dozen games that will not change during Fatone's stint (comparatively, the TV version of the show, hosted by Drew Carey, rotates 70 games).

"I don't have to explain too much, because everyone is familiar with 'The Price is Right' " Fatone said. "Most people understand the concept of Plinko."

Oddly, Fatone is the second former boy-bander to host the show over the past two months. Drew Lachey, once of 98 Degrees, and whose stocked entertainment résumé is remarkably similar to Fatone's, hosted in August.

"Drew Lachey? He's got nothin' on me — nothin'!" Fatone said, laughing. "I love Drew, really. It's funny, we've followed the same sort of path. ... But I'm better!"

Maybe it's time for a Showcase Showdown of a different color.

Hiring former boy-banders to host the same show in consecutive months was not planned, says Andrew Felsher of FreemantleMedia, which produces the live and TV versions of the show.

"You know, it was not a specific intent to find singers or that part of the entertainment spectrum to host the show," said Felsher, vice-president of entertainment, games and live events for FreemantleMedia. "I wish I could tell you that there is a strategy there, but it just so happens that both Drew and Joey have that background."

There is no feeling that the show is a sort of testing ground for future employment of any of the hosts. To the contrary, they already have proven themselves to earn the role in Vegas.

"What we're establishing is an ongoing rotation of hosts, with (regular host) Todd Newton, who comes from 'Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck' and E! Entertainment, and not to lock in any one specific host," Felsher said. "We have a lot of repeat guests, and the show needs to be different in every performance."

Fatone is fine with his two-weeks-and-out schedule.

"For me, it's actually a way to keep my hosting chops up, per se," he said. "Two weeks and then out — try to stay fresh. It's like comedians who go to clubs to keep their material fresh. It's the same kind of concept, then I'm on to the next thing, whatever it is."

Spoken like a man in a hurry.

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

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