In fond memory of Joey Villa

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Classic comedian and longtime
friend, Joey Villa, has left us at age 68. He passed last weekend at a local
hospice. Joey had suffered a stoke in May, and despite rehabilitation, never
fully recovered. He was a classic Las Vegas comic, a mainstay at the Riviera and
an opening act for some of the top headliners ever to play the Strip including
Frank Sinatra.

I first met him in New York and
he always gave me great advice during my many attempts to make it big locally.
He would always say, “Kid, you’d be better off going back to New York,
they’ll never accept you here.” His pal Nelson Sardelli announced the sad
news in an e-mail, saying Villa had gone to “the main room in Heaven,”
where he was booked “for eternity, with options.”

First reported by Monti a few
columns ago, Harrah’s has finally officially announced that Wayne Newton will
continue to be the Flamingo Hotel headliner through April. After that, look for
the veteran performer to remain with the Harrah’s family but at another
property.

In other headliner news, the
Hilton has announced the departures of Delisco and David Brenner from its
Shimmer Cabaret. Brenner, according to sources, ends his run at the end of the
year, while Delisco closes in mid-January.

Our city and Beaulieu Vineyard
Wines (BV Wines) will ring in the New Year in classic Las Vegas style by
attempting to break the Guinness record for the world’s largest toast. Mayor
Oscar Goodman will join more than 12,000 revelers as they lift a glass of BV
wine under the Fremont Street Experience canopy at 11:50 p.m. on Dec. 31 for
this once-in-a-lifetime event. The toast will attempt to outdo the current
record of a 10,079 person toast, which is held by a Japanese sake company.

In order to officially break the
record, all pre-qualified participants must raise their glass in unison and
drink at the same time. A Guinness World Records adjudicator will attend the
event to ensure the record is carried out according to the guidelines provided.
It may take Guinness 12 weeks or longer to determine eligibility and
authentication.

There’s no truth to the rumor
that Oscar Mayer will try to single-handedly break the record himself.

The Lady Luck owners are the
Scrooges of this holiday season. They really stuck it to their loyal employees
with their termination announcement a few days ago. They could have waited until
after the holidays.

What’s happening with the
revamping of downtown? Mayor Oscar keeps saying they are going to make downtown
the jewel of Las Vegas. Think again. It will take 10 years. The revitalization
of the Plaza acreage is at a stand still. What happened to the supposed four
companies bidding for the property? Is the asking price too high?

Speaking of downtown, the only
venue outside of a casino doing good business is Hogs and Heifers, mostly
because of Michelle, the owner.

Conversely, the Celebrity Room
has gone through a lot of changes with lots of owners. It was gay, alternative
and now it is country. Does anybody really care? I don’t like to be negative,
but I don’t think so.

The Luxor is becoming an
entertainment mainstay on The Strip with Felix Rappaport at the helm of the
property. This week we have Dame Edna. The publicity has been extraordinary.
Dame Edna, who is not exactly a female impersonator, but more of an icon of
English Aristocrat with blue hair and crazy glasses who talks like she is
Margaret Thatcher with a Divine alter ego. So at the Luxor we are going to have
“Hairspray” opening in February. We have Anita Mann’s Fantasy which
has been fine tuned and is now a wonderful show, we have the nightclub, Ra,
which has gone to a more adult theme. With the Luxor bringing in Carrot Top,
Dame Edna, Hairspray, Fantasy, it seems to be going in the right direction for
luring big crowds.

With the passing of Richard
Pryor, I lost a good friend from my New York days. Richard Pryor and Monti Rock
go back a long time ago to Cafe AGoGo downtown where I played a straight man to
Pryor’s comedic genius. He will be remembered as one of the great innovative
comics of our time. Tragic, tragic, tragic. Brilliant man. We had kindred souls.
We were on the Merv Griffin television show together. He was always a very
gracious gentleman to me. He will be missed by all the comedians and all the
commentators of this century. May he rest in peace.

I want to say Ho, Ho, Ho. I want
you all to get ready for Christmas. Make your New Year’s Resolutions now.

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