Las Vegas lost a lot in 2009

Jan 5, 2010 5:02 PM


As we welcome 2010 and say farewell to 2009, we’re reminded it was a year filled with both highlights and low lights, a year where tragedies became comedies for some.

Las Vegas certainly had its share of losses with the sudden passing of Danny Gans (pictured), whose name and performance became synonymous with Las Vegas. Losing entertainment icons is almost like losing a family member. We all think they belong to each of us alone.

Chip Lightman was Danny Gans’ manager for more than 15 years and is currently producing the successful "Donny and Marie Osmond show" at the Flamingo. Chip and yours truly recently spoke on the phone and Chip shared some of his insights about Danny.

Danny was not just a singer, not just a comic nor just an impressionist. He was more than a one man show. His talent took him from the Rio to the Danny Gans Theater at the Encore with several stops in between, including Steve Wynn’s Mirage. Chip is taking a well deserved two week vacation but I look forward to his return so we can continue our conversation.

There’s so much more to talk about. For example, not everyone is aware but Chip is the man that brokered the deal between Steve Wynn and Garth Brooks, who recently signed an extended contract to appear at the Encore.

Another loss that was felt around the world was the iconic superstar Michael Jackson. Las Vegas had become Michael’s desert oasis and his shopping sprees and outings with his children were well known. Of course, there were always rumors that he would open a show in Las Vegas. Michael’s film, "This Is It," created by Kenny Ortega, has become a reminder to all of the talent this brilliant man had and what should have been or could have been.

We said good-bye to others, too. Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett and Bea Arthur, who I last saw at the Tropicana, and movie-TV star Ricardo Montalban, who helped open the doors for many Latinos to follow, and Dom DeLuise, everybody’s second banana.

My long time friend Ed McMahon always had a kind word for this columnist and I remember him from my days on the "Tonight Show" when he would always stop by to check on Mr. Rock. These are some of the people I will miss and who touched my life.

As some of the lights have been turned off in Las Vegas, others have appeared. The Sahara has closed some of its hotel towers as did Binion’s downtown but Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock have both just celebrated the openings of their hotel additions, which sound fabulous. Planet Hollywood is touting suites, not just rooms, and the Hard Rock has gone super-tech with their new digs.

The most anticipated opening in the last five years was MGM MIRAGE's (MGM) CityCenter and for fabulous shopping, Crystals. Surprisingly CityCenter is easy to get to and the architecture and beautiful water sculptures are beyond anything in Vegas. It was exciting to be an invited guest for the opening. It was almost like being part of the event. As I wrote earlier, six months down the road will better tell the CityCenter story.

It was disappointing for all of Vegas when the work on the Fontainebleau came to a halt. Reportedly it was 70% complete but the financing went belly up. Rumor has it the project may be saved by Carl Icahn and other investors.

Bette Midler will soon close her show at Caesars Colosseum but rumor has it that she may be headed to Wynn in a different show. Will Celine return to the Colosseum? Rumors say she will, and we hope so. She and The Colosseum are a perfect match.

I was thrilled when Elton John acknowledged yours truly at his final show of The Red Piano at the Colosseum. It was divine and I felt honored. Another rumor around town is that "Peep Show" at Planet Hollywood may close for a couple of months. Maybe there will be some changes if Harrah’s takes over PH.

It is "American Idol" or American Idiot when we think of Adam Lambert? Take a word from someone who knows, put a lid on it kid!

John Stuart is known around town as a true entertainment patriarch. John created "Legends in Concert" that played for 20 years at the Imperial Palace and is now at Harrah’s. He also is producing "Voices" at the Hilton, as well as the "Rick Thomas Magic Show" at the Sahara. We wish continued success to this man who has been so important to the Las Vegas entertainment scene.

Speaking of magic, David Copperfield is back in Vegas and appears at the MGM. I continue to marvel at David who is often underestimated. Forget the scandals, he’s the very best at what he does.

We don’t hear much about Rita Rudner lately but she’s still holding strong at Harrah’s showroom.

What is anger management doing for poor Charlie Sheen? He’s one of the highest paid performers on television but that doesn’t keep him out of trouble. He always seems to manage a speedy recovery though. Latest rumors are that he and his wife will try to iron out their differences and reconcile.

The big surprise for Las Vegas was the appearance of Lady Gaga at the Palms. I understand negotiations are underway in hopes she will become one of The Palms semi-regulars. What do I think of Lady Gaga? To me she’s like a modern day David Bowie.

It was good news to hear Disney’s "The Lion King" at Mandalay Bay has broken all records for Mandalay Bay and generated more than $1,300,000 in ticket sales for a single week in December. "The Lion King" is one of the most successful and popular productions seen around the world. Maybe this is the beginning of a new trend for all the Las Vegas shows. Let’s hope so.

Having just returned from a very successful New Year’s Eve performance in San Francisco, I must say it’s good to be home. My appearances in Atlantic City, San Francisco and New York kept me busy in 2009 but my favorite is right here in Las Vegas being your special columnist for all things show biz and more! It’s good to be home and it’s good to call Las Vegas home.

Here’s wishing a happy and prosperous New Year to all, may your wishes come true and may you have love in your hearts. Dump the negatives, let’s have a positive New Year.

Juicy gossip from Monti Rock III arrives fresh every Tuesday.