Monday, June 27, 2011 | 11:58 p.m.
Robin Leach's Vegas DeLuxe
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Shaq at the Palms
The NBA’s gentle giant Shaquille O’Neal began his retirement celebration at the Palms over the weekend with a family-style dinner by Chef Geno Bernardo at his restaurant Nove Italiano. Shaq, an Italian fan, ploughed through Nana’s Meatballs, shrimp, Federal Hill Calamari, Spaghetti Bolognese and Chicken Parmesan. For dessert, Geno served up Nove’s dessert platter and mascarpone cheesecake.
Before leaving to meet the media and privately with a group of high rollers, Shaq signed Geno’s famous shakedown door and posed for photographs. Here’s Scott Monaco’s official Palms video of the visit posted on YouTube:
I received a bear hug and a kiss from Shaq when we were the first to chat on the red carpet and again when he went to play blackjack with high rollers at Mint Lounge. Regret to report he’s way better on the court than at the tables!!! Shaq told me that he’s not retiring without some injuries, bumps and scrapes.
“I’ve got to go in for surgery on my Achilles tendon on my right foot,” he told me. His girlfriend Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander told me she’ll be playing nurse for him while he recovers. Shaq also chatted with me about his restarted entertainment career in Hollywood. “We’ve had all the agent manager meetings. I’m very excited about it, and it’s what I want to do now. We’ve got a lot in the works with movies, television and recording.”
Shaq signed basketballs for Palms guests and then headed to Moon for his retirement party at a VIP table stocked with the new NBA-sanctioned Les Jeux (The Game) French champagne, and I was even presented with a souvenir bottle by the owners who helped sponsor Shaq’s party. Shaq was presented with a magnum!
I have asked via Twitter if the NBA is the first pro league to sanction its own alcohol drink. This one has NBA legend Jerry West on the label along with the NBA insignia. The owners told me that they will be launching it here in Las Vegas with several NBA star player appearances.
Shaq took to the mic for a 30-minute sing-along set with DJ Exodus and the packed crowd with “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” honoring the second anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Shaq also sang “Sweet Home Alabama” and “I Want You Back.” The crowd watched a tribute reel of his career highlights played on screens throughout Moon, and Caked Las Vegas served an amazing Superman-themed cake.
Mindfreak and Believe illusionist Criss Angel and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, direct from dinner at N9NE Steakhouse, stopped by to say hello to Shaq as new resident DJ Pauly D topped off his weekend launch.
While in town, Shaq and Nicole also stopped by Sugar Factory American Brasserie at the Paris. They picked up sour gummy candies, chocolate-covered gummy bears and a few tank tops for her and posed for photographs with Couture Pops and fans. The couple grabbed a private booth at The Chocolate Lounge inside SFAB and ordered milk chocolate and cookies and cream milkshakes and handmade chocolate truffles.
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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