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October 21, 2020

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Wynn’s empire is never ‘Never’ land; we hit stage with Mr. Las Vegas

Steve Wynn Electronics for Imaging Keynote

Steve Marcus

Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, gives a keynote address during the annual Electronics For Imaging (EFI) users conference at Wynn Las Vegas Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

2016 VUBBA: Outdoor Dinner at Palazzo

Dinner outside the Venetian for Vegas Uncork'd on Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »
The Kats Report Podcast

Wayne Newton

John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone chat with Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton, who has opened his Casa de Shenandoah home as a public museum.

The Kats Report Bureau cut a swath through the Venetian/Palazzo and Wynn Las Vegas over the past two nights. The Palazzo porte-cochere was the unlikely venue for a sit-down dinner of 300 refined scenesters during the Vegas Uncork’d Master Series Dinner on the Strip (or DOTS, to use foodies lingo).

The event was chased under the ornately appointed hotel’s entrance as rain pounded the Strip intermittently over the previous several hours. The decision was made Wednesday; by Thursday, the white-linen tables and white carpeting had been relocated from the neighboring Venetian ballroom.

Presiding over the event was a veritable culinary hall of fame: Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse, Olivier Dubreuil (executive chef of the Venetian and Palazzo), Kim Canteenwalla (chef and restaurateur), David Werly (executive chef of Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas), Adam Rapoport (editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit magazine, Vegas Uncork’d sponsor) and Sebastien Silvestri (vice president of food & beverage at the Venetian and Palazzo).

A three-course dinner, with two dishes per course, was prepared for the hundreds of diners. Impressive work, with the misty Strip looming in the background for a uniquely Las Vegas dining experience.

But Thursday did not end at the dinner on the Strip. It was actually topped by tater tots at Brooklyn Bowl and a great, late night of music at the Linq Promenade’s music hall. More about that in a few.

• We caught up with Steve and Andrea Wynn and family at Encore Theater for the Seth MacFarlane performance — to be shared in an upcoming Kats Report — and later at the opening of Intrigue.

On the red carpet during Friday night’s opening of Intrigue nightclub, I asked Wynn about something he’d told me about plans he had for a resort, retail and convention center build-out over the Wynn Golf Course.

This was in November 2014, and Wynn famously said, “While I’m alive, I will never, ever develop the golf course. It is there to stay.”

Announced just recently were Wynn’s plans to develop the golf course. He unleashed his initiative for Wynn Paradise Park, with a 1,000-room tower, new restaurants, meeting and conventions rooms and a casino (those are still in vogue, yes?), all overlooking a lagoon with an island set in the middle. All of this is to overtake the Wynn Golf Course.

Wynn laughed when I recited his earlier comment and answered in a sing-song voice: “Never say never, right? I’m know what you’re saying, and I’m on it.”

He went on to explain: “We had some changes in China (Macau) that made us confused and insecure while we’re building a $4.2 billion hotel (Wynn Palace). There was a period, a year and a half, two years ago, where I was very confused, and it made me re-examine our latent assets in the company; that’s why we’ve made a strong push for Boston, which has worked out great.

“Then I took a look at this thing behind us (the golf course, specifically, on the east side of the resort property), with its water, and its proximity to more than 5 1/2 million feet of exhibit space between the Sands and Las Vegas Convention Center is perhaps one of the most strategic convention sites on Earth.”

Wynn expects his Paradise Park, set to open in 2020, to appeal to millions of Las Vegas visitors.

As for the golf course, “You know, 80 guys enjoy it a year, it makes $4 1/2 million to $5 million a year, which pays for the real-estate taxes. With (Paradise Park), we’re talking about having 20,000 people a day enjoy it and use less water.”

That logic can never be questioned. Wait. Can we use that word?

Wayne Newton, Shamir at T-Mobile Arena

Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton performs on opening night of T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, on the Las Vegas Strip. Launch slideshow »

• So Wednesday night, I co-headlined with Wayne Newton on the Strip. Is that worth a note?

To clarify: I rode sidesaddle with Mr. Las Vegas during his “Up Close and Personal” show at Windows Showroom at Bally’s. This was Newton’s fourth appearance in the new production — the fourth was with us — with his friend and country star Neal McCoy moderating the show over the first three nights. This is the first time Newton has invited a journalist to share the stage in any of his shows, so I was at once nervous and honored to be up there with him.

The show opens with Newton singing a medley, anchored by “C.C. Rider” and “Viva Las Vegas.” The performance then settles into wondrous storytelling session, with Newton recalling some of the highlights of his life and career. The person joining him onstage navigates the conversation and engages The Wayner in the details of what is being shown, and the loose format means you don’t get the same show twice. It’s impossible.

The great challenge of this production is working in all of Newton’s highlights; you could fill 90 minutes just of stories from the days he toiled with his brother Jerry at Fremont Hotel, or a full show of just his relationships with Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny and Bobby Darin. Or an hour and a half of The Rat Pack memories. Or Elvis — and we didn’t even get to Elvis on Wednesday.

Afterward, one clip stuck with me: It’s of the Newton Brothers performing on TV during the period when they were headlining the Fremont. The song is “Danny Boy,” and Wayne, who remembers he was 16 or 17 when he performed on this show, is shown delivering this song as if he were a grizzled, middle-aged man. His face is glistening with sweat, he winces from the emotion in the lyrics, and he’s obviously inhabiting this song. Just a teenager. Remarkable stuff. The show ended too soon, and that is the measure of a great show, far as I’m concerned.

Click to enlarge photo

The current lineup of Chicago — which was originally called the Chicago Transit Authority — is seen with the Chicago skyline in the backdrop.

• Chicago (the band) has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the broadcast set for tonight at 8 on HBO. Repeat broadcast dates are Thursday at 8 p.m., May 8 at 4:45 p.m., May 11 at 4:10 p.m., May 13 at 5:30 p.m., May 16 at 3:25 p.m., May 26 at 12:15 p.m. and May 20 at 2:40 p.m.

Chicago is scheduled to headline Pearl at the Palms on July 9 (tickets start at $75 and are available at the Pearl Box Office, (702) 944-3200, Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 and Chicago is joined in the Rock Hall by Cheap Trick, Steve Miller, N.W.A. and Deep Purple.

Chicago’s newfound status as Rock and Roll Hall of Famers actually took a long time to achieve. A band or artist is eligible for induction 25 years after the release of its first single, and Chicago has been eligible since 1993. The band has obviously experienced numerous shifts in personnel, though founding member and trombone great Jimmy Pankow remains.

An original member of the band, Danny Seraphine did join the band onstage for the requisite greatest-hits medley. An original member who did not take part, at all, was Peter Cetera.

“Danny is with us for ‘Saturday in the Park,’ one of the songs that is a Chicago anthem, mandatory for us to play,” Pankow said in a recent phone interview. “But Peter, sad to say, is still hard to work with. He had called the production people at the event and tried to engineer his own band onstage with us, changing the keys, doing songs that he wanted to do.”

Pankow paused and chuckled at the reality of modern-day rock iconography.

“He generated an announcement asking the hall to mail his award. He’s a real piece of work,” Pankow said. “It’s an illustration of why he’s not in the band. We cut him loose because he became problematic, 30 years ago, and instead of enjoying the moment, just showing up and toasting old times and our amazing legacy, being in the excitement of the fans, we have this.”

Chicago also is performing “25 or 6 to 4” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is” in the broadcast. Chicago remains a busy, working band, having just wrapped a tour with Earth Wind & Fire. “The band is slamming, playing sold-out venues, working every year,” Pankow said. “There is still a huge demand for this music. Little did we know …”

Click to enlarge photo

Anne Martinez performs during "Monday's Dark" with Mark Shunock, a monthly charitable event, at Body English nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel Monday Dec. 16, 2013. Proceeds from the event benefited local nonprofit Aid for Aids of Nevada (AFAN).

• A happy pairing is the House Seats “Setlist” series, where the Las Vegas ticket brokerage presents tribute shows centered on a specific artist, and Brooklyn Bowl. Thursday it was Amy Winehouse and “Back to Black,” with a few other Winehouse gems performed in the encore. This is yet another showcase of talented Las Vegas entertainers running across such production shows as “Rock of Ages” (Brandon Nix and Paul Johnson), “Alice” (Anne Martinez and Ashely Fuller) and “Vegas! The Show” (Reva Rice).

The full complement of performers — with a nod to our favorite unicorn, Miss Martinez, for furnishing the lineup — also featured Pascale Elia, Amy Guess, Victoria Matlock, Toscha Comeaux, Lisa Marie Smith, Jassen Allen, Renata Micatratto, Stephanie Sanchez (the great singing executive!) and Keith Dotson. Backup vocals came from Francesca Camus and Justin Rodriguez. Making up the band were Vince Verderame, Richard Belgard, Tony Carboney, Mike Clark and Eddie Rich. Fine performances, all, ending about 1 a.m. on a typical weeknight in VegasVille …

• And on that topic, this happened Thursday during the soft opening of Intrigue. I was walking out of the club about 10:55 p.m. to hit Brooklyn Bowl, and I ran into club entertainment chief Mark Shunock and … Donny Osmond.

Yes, Osmond was clubbin’, along with members of the backing band Marie and he perform with at the Flamingo. I hugged him — as one does when encountering Donny Osmond at a Strip nightclub just before 11 p.m. — and said, “I need a deal on a hassock!”

“Done!” he said. “I hope to see you May 7!”

It all makes sense if you know that Osmond is launching his own furniture line with an event at Walker Furniture’s Showroom Atrium on that date. The line is called Donny Osmond Home, though on this uncommon night, he wasn’t …

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