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Publisher’s passing ends an era

Mar 16, 2004 3:11 AM

The passing of our publisher, visionary Chuck Di Rocco, was the end of a special era in the world of Las Vegas gaming. I was especially saddened by the news of his death because he gave me the opportunity, and credibility, to become a respected columnist.

About three years ago, I received a call from Don Usherson, who said he was leaving GamingToday (he did the gossip/entertainment news for the paper for many years) and he felt that I would be the perfect person to take over the column. I had lunch with Phil Hevner, the publisher of Las Vegas Style, and he contacted Chuck recommending that he interview me.

Chuck called me, much to my surprise, and said, "Can I have a column for next week?" With a nervous stomach, I prepared my first column for GamingToday, with the help of editor David Stratton, and I was on my way!

I got into hot water a few times, to say the least, but Chuck always stood behind me and supported my decisions. He believed in me! I learned about my sources, to cover my stories, and what events I should attend. Slowly, I created my persona, with the help of a leopard car ”” and a man who believed in me. Thank you, Mr. Di Rocco. May you rest in peace.

With local concert ticket prices escalating to ridiculous levels, the very talented ”” and hot ”” Christina Aguilera and the Aladdin honchos have earned a tip of the old leopard hat by not trying to shaft her fans by offering a reasonable $89.35 top price for her May 21 performance at the Theatre for the Performing Arts. The ludicrous cost of some visiting and local shows is the reason so many smaller shows have folded and that’s a shame.

The longest-running production show in Las Vegas ”” the Tropicana Hotel’s "Folies Bergere" ”” unveils its newest edition Saturday night with a theme of a starlit night at Club Tropicana, Havana circa 1904. I’m wondering if it will remind me of my days as a kid in a New York Puerto Rican neighborhood.

The Clint Holmes, Sheena Easton and Kelly Clinton "Vegas Live!" television show remains in limbo while awaiting a producer and a home base. The show will air on Fox once all the elements, including contracts for the personalities, are finalized. I’m predicting a mid-June start and want to remind everyone I’m still available.

Building a top-notch film festival is no easy task, but the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival looks like a major player after six short years. President Robin Greenspun has announced that veteran actor Dennis Hopper is the chairman of the festival’s creative advisory board and that the deadline for this year’s submissions is April 9. The festival takes place June 11-19 at the Brenden Theatres at the Palms. I’m entering my audition reel as a life story of comedy/tragedy.

Dennis Bono had a very nice story in the latest edition of the visitor’s pub "What’s On," despite not performing or buying an ad. I hear some hotel PR folks are upset as they’ve always been told editorials only come with advertising. Maybe the fact that Bono is Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt’s main squeeze has something to do with it!

A tradition ended for "Showbiz," the in-room visitor’s guide, last week. For the first time in more than two decades the back page ad was not for Siegfried & Roy or their Secret Garden nor did they have their usual major story inside. The good news is that Roy Horn is doing better though he is still paralyzed on the left side (with the prognosis not very good for improvement) and is having a tough time walking. He is talking and came up with the idea to do his press via Germany where it can be controlled by their German PR representative.

Some of the toughest days of singer Bill Medley’s life are this week when he performs "The Righteous Brothers ”” A Celebration by Bill Medley" at the Orleans. It will be his first major performance since the untimely death of his longtime partner Bobby Hatfield. Mayor Oscar Goodman will present Medley the key to the city in a ceremony at Brendan’s Irish Pub at the Orleans.

Another farewell tour ”” this time it’s the Eagles ”” is coming to the MGM Grand Garden on May 22. Ticket prices range from $75 to $250. Buy a CD and enjoy a nice dinner.

On the heels of receiving the Writer’s Guild 2004 Award for Best Comedy/Variety Series, Penn & Teller celebrate 30 years of performing together when their Showtime television series returns April 1 with eight new episodes. Among the Rio regular’s targets are taboo topics and organizations including PETA, safety hysteria, 12-stepping, death and the fountain of youth. Sounds like a bundle of laughs to me.

Now this is reality. The television team following Golden Nugget duo Tom Breitling and Tim Poster is not as spontaneous as one might think. Shots are being done a number of times, my spies tell me, to follow the script written for the show. I’m hearing that they have even staged events to show some behind-the-scenes action at the hotel.

Speaking of Tom and Tim, The Amazing Jonathan is still trying to meet them after his rather unceremonial departure from the Golden Nugget. "I’m not a bad guy and their people are making me out as a villain," says Jonathan. "I just want a face-to-face with them to discuss what happened."