From: Norm Johnson
For: Column for 12-2-2015
It’s started. The celebration of Francis Albert Sinatra’s 100th birthday is on its way. And, a friend of mine, who knew The Man, is not in Las Vegas to help in the many tributes taking place. That’s right gang, Bob Anderson, who spent nearly all of 2015 (minus four weeks) of five nights a week performing his show at the Palazzo was forced to move on. I have known Anderson for more than 40 years. I used to do his publicity. There is not a better singing impressionist in the business, and he should be here! But no, the hotel decided to ask him to close the show last week.
Now, I must be totally up-front with you the reader. I don’t understand how a hotel who for nearly a year collected more than $2,000,000.00 (that figure is my best guess) in rent, could close down a show 15 days before the big day, Dec. 12th? It’s pure stupidity! It would’ve been a sure sell-out and at a premium ticket price too! I could not get a comment from the hotel people, and when I talked to Bob about it he had to tell me, “Norm this has to be off the record.” So, I’m not able to tell the whole story. Of course Anderson’s deal at the hotel was a four-wall situation with financial backing out of New York. There will be a major announcement soon about Bob and New York.
But, I can tell you this factual bit. To the best of his knowledge, and a few others who would know, not one of the hotel’s executives ever took the time to see the show, let alone come back stage and say hello, or “You’re doing a hell of a job for us!” Hey, they didn’t even send a rose backstage! If Bob needed to talk to any executive, he had to make an appointment and go to his office. In the days when we had gaming people running the hotels and casinos (not the number crunchers we have today), they would be in the audience. They would go backstage and talk to the artists, and they definitely knew how to treat the entertainer. Today, the star has to rent the room, pay all the expenses, and hope he or she makes a few bucks. There are a few exceptions to the NEW rule: A few stars are actually guaranteed a salary (like before the four-wall came into play back in the ‘80s). Steve Wynn is one hotel owner who knows the value of a great show and the name Frank Sinatra, and of great entertainment.
Anderson’s show was and is the ultimate tribute to the man who truly helped to create our great city today. The Las Vegas Strip, when I arrived here in 1965, was not what it is today. It was spread out and the wonderful hotel/casinos were built by some great guys who knew how to treat a guest. They also knew that with good entertainment the people would come and gamble. Sure, the properties were supposedly owned by guys who were well known by the FBI and the police in cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit and elsewhere. The one thing I do remember and respected about the men who owned and operated the edifices’ of yore was they kept their word. You didn’t need a contract; the handshake was the deal maker.
I think I will finish with this thought: There would still be a Las Vegas today even if The Chairman of the Board hadn’t worked here. But, I do not believe it would be as congested as it is right now. Sinatra expedited the growth of our village by about 10 years. Who really knows?
But the one thing I do know is that Bob Anderson should still be spending nearly two-hours backstage getting prepared to stun his audience with the voice, appearance and mannerisms of perhaps the greatest entertainer of the modern era, Francis Albert Sinatra on the stage of the Palazzo. The 32 piece orchestra should be warming up. Vince Falcone, who was with Sinatra for more than 10 years as his musical director, and who travelled the world with him, should be standing in front of the orchestra conducting the overture. But some executive with the brain of a gnat decided to close the show, so they could prepare to rent the room to some other production in 2016. They couldn’t wait 15 days? Should that executive like to reveal his reason to me and the public, my column is open to him or her.
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
Here is an example of what is happening at just one of the hotels, etc., in town. On Saturday, Dec.12. In conjunction with the U. S. Marine Corp’s “Toys for Tots” annual benefit, a group of entertainers will come together to present “It’s a Wonderful Vegas Life Concert,” on Sinatra’s birthday at the New Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel. Just like in the old days (as described above) when every star on the Strip would come out to promote a great cause, a group of today’s Las Vegas stars will come out to shine with an All-Star Line Up in the Tropicana Showroom, celebrating the music of Old Blue Eyes with a White Christmas.
One of the world’s greatest impressionists, Rich Little, appearing at the Tropicana Las Vegas, delivers the laughs along with international star of stage and screen, Pia Zadora, who performed with Mr. Sinatra, sings and shares her memories with a diverse and talented cast of amazing vocalists. “The goal is for every kid in Las Vegas to get a new toy on Christmas morning,” Executive Producer, Jonathan Scott, said. “Even the bad kids!” Scott, producer and host of “Vegas Non Stop” talk show on CBS News Radio, who has produced the Toys for Tots benefit concert for the last three years at the Westgate Hotel, jumped at the opportunity to help fellow broadcaster and friend, Chet Buchanan, with his goal to put smiles on children’s faces in Nevada. “I can’t sit on a pole for 12 days like Chet, but I can put on one helluva variety show,” Scott chimes in. The show will presents its version of how wonderful life is in Las Vegas with the help of British singing sensation, Ben Stone, and American Idol star, the pride of Hawaii, Jasmine Trias, hosting the extravaganza joined by Jersey Boys star, Travis Cloer, Rat Pack mash-up band, “Reckless in Vegas,” with Jennifer Joseph Lier, the amazing rising star, Tommy Ward, jazz vocalist, Nieve Malandra, Crooner, Gary Anthony, the “Shades of Sinatra,”, the magic of Tommy Wind and the booming voice of Vegas Non Stop Radio Announcer, Jon Lindquist, all under the musical direction of Chandler Judkins and his 7-piece Grooving High Orchestra. Sponsored in part by Nevada State College and Elemental Research.
Just like in the Holiday Classic Movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,” all of our friends are coming together to make this toy drive the biggest and best toy drive ever! General Admission Tickets are $20 and VIP Preferred Seating Tickets are $50. Active and Retired Military, Police, Fire and First Responders receive Free Admission along with guests who bring a new, unwrapped toy to the Tropicana Las Vegas Show Tickets desk. Limit of two complimentary tickets per person or per toy.
Another tribute night will be held at the Bootlegger Bistro on Saturday, Dec. 12th with an 8:00 p.m. kickoff featuring Lorraine Hunt-Bono & friends, with George Bugatti on keyboards. The show will be dedicated to the music of Frank Sinatra from the 1940's-1980's with guest vocalists singing their interpretations of Frank Sinatra's greatest hits. Lorraine and her husband, Dennis Bono, who will be singing a few of his songs, and perhaps telling a few short stories about his friend, were both very close to my friend, Frank. That’s another story for another day. "The legendary Frank Sinatra was instrumental in launching Las Vegas into the global spotlight of entertainment, and Las Vegas will be celebrating his 100th birthday in "Sinatra Style" all over town," Lorraine Hunt-Bono said. This is one show you should definitely call to make reservations. And what better place to spend it on this particular evening, than a good Old Italian Bistro.
Mike Tyson seems to be everywhere these days. He personally unveiled the world's first Mike Tyson wax figure at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas the other day. The music of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" played as the curtain dropped, revealing Tyson's figure. The figure is modeled after his character as himself in the Warner Bros. Pictures' “The Hangover.” Tyson donated the figure's black slacks, white collared short, crocodile shoes and his "favorite" herringbone and hound’s-tooth jacket. He is now permanently on display inside the attraction's The Hangover Experience and positioned right next to his beloved tiger, forever trapped inside of the bathroom.
Tyson posed for the figure this spring for nearly two hours with a team of 10 artists capturing nearly 300 measurements of his athletic frame. As with all Madame Tussauds' figures, Tyson's figure represents his real-life size and likeness. Approximately 20 artists took nearly six months to create the figure. After Tyson posed, his measurements used for the figure were first sculpted in clay by hand and then covered in a plaster cast. Once the clay was removed from the cast, the wax was poured in and allowed to cool. The figure was fitted with acrylic eyes and teeth, while countless layers of tinted paint were applied to build up skin tones and replicate his iconic face tattoo.
As for where Tyson's figure is positioned, The Hangover Experience is Madame Tussauds' newest themed room, based on the movie, the popular comedy trilogy. Launched on National Hangover Day, Jan. 1, 2015, the experience is complete with the notorious hotel room, a smashed replica of the Las Vegas Metropolitan police car and the wedding chapel as seen in the film. The room also features two additional character figures from “The Hangover” Trilogy, “Alan” (played by Zach Galifianakis) and “Phil” (played by Bradley Cooper). Madame Tussauds began creating The Hangover Experience in July 2014. The 1,100-square-foot room was created in conjunction with Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
Well, gang, that’s about it this week. I’m outa here!