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April 08, 2007

Judy Thorburn - Vegas HappeningsBy Judy Thorburn
Entertainment Reporter/Film Critic
Las Vegas Tribune
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer

Photos by Stephen Thorburn
unless otherwise noted


One of the biggest events in the history of downtown Las Vegas took place on April 6-8 when the area of the city hosted the Vegas Grand Prix and related activities that attracted more than 150,000 upscale spectators and racing fans from around the world. The internationally televised Grand Prix capped an action packed three day festival that included a free street party with several major concerts, and a celebrity poker tournament held on and around Fremont Street plus other satellite events such as a charity Gala at the Bellagio. The race itself was run on a 2.44 mile street course encircling the downtown area that featured 12 winding turns that the drivers felt confident would show off their cars to great advantage.

To get the ball rolling prior to the start of the event, a media lunch took place on Thursday, April 5th at The Ice House located near the heart of downtown to introduce several of the Grand Prix drivers and hear how they felt about their participation in the forthcoming race. A brief question and answer session was held followed by more personal one on one interviews. His honor, the self described “happiest Mayor in the Universe”, newly re-elected Mayor Oscar Goodman, showed up to extol the virtues of his beloved city and to announce that he was thrilled to have the Grand Prix here (in his city) exclaiming it “is very special, electric, as cool as it gets”.

A number of competing drivers from the three racing classes which consist of The Champ Car Word Series, The Champ Car Atlantic Series and the Historic Grand Prix took to the stage. In attendance was Champ Car drivers: 3-in a row defending champ Sabastian Bourdais of France, Graham Rahal, son of three time titlist Bobby Rahal (who was also in the house), Mario Dominguez of Mexico, Las Vegas resident and 2003 Champ Car World Series champ Paul Tracy and another local, seven year Champ Car veteran Alex Tagliani; Champ Atlantic drivers: Miami based, Brazilian born Raphael Matos, Canadian born, Las Vegan James Hinchcliffe, Swiss rookie Simona De Silvestro and actor turned race car driver, Frankie Muniz, former star of the TV series Malcolm in the Middle, Historic Grand Prix legends Arie Luyendyk and Bobby Rahal and other competing racers.

Raphael Matos, James Hinchcliffe, Simona De Silvestro and Frankie Muniz

Vegas Grand Prix owners Bradley Yonover and Dale Jensen

A common thread that ran through all the drivers’ speeches were how excited and filled with energy they were to compete on the Las Vegas course which made them eager to hit the speed capability (180 m.p.h) of their cars. Bobby Rahal, introduced as one of the greatest “open wheel” racers of all time, said that he “drove in 1981-1984 and the difference between circuits then and now is day and night. Having a son (Graham) do what you do is a great thrill. I am more nervous then he is. It is a lot of fun driving these cars and I look forward to the weekend”. Mario Dominguez said “The track looks fantastic. I have a big Hispanic fan base here and will try to deliver a win for Mexico”.

I was able to sit down and talk with both 18 year old pretty blonde Simona De Silvestro who hails from Switzerland and former TV star Frankie Muniz. Simona told me that she had been interested in racing since the age of six starting with go carts. This is her first time in the Atlantic Series and although she is a female competing against a field of men, she is looked at as just another race car driver, who as long as she performs well, gets the same respect as any other competitor.

When I had a chance to chat with 21 year old Frankie Muniz, who entered as a rookie in the Champ Car Atlantic series sponsored by Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, I couldn’t help but ask about his acting career. He stated, “I wouldn’t say I was giving up acting for good, just putting it on hold. But, the further away I get, the further I want to stay. I am having such a great time doing it (racing) and I am so passionate about it. I always loved watching racing and loved the cars. I initially wanted to buy a Nascar team but got hooked wanting to become a driver once I took a test drive. I spent a year training and racing, and in only my thirteenth month I am driving in my first Atlantic. It’s pretty amazing. I am so excited about being at this level and still learning. I hope I can go far.”

Frankie Muniz

When I asked if he could combine his love of racing with acting if he was offered a role as a driver, he said he was presented with a movie where he would play Speed Racer but turned it down. "I didn’t have the time to go away for six months", he said, then emphatically added, "I am enjoying this (new) lifestyle. I don’t dislike being an actor. I just don’t have the same passion for acting that I have from driving race cars”.

What all these competitors have in common is a need for speed (the natural kind, not the drug) and a passion to compete. It’s that love for racing that drives them in and out of the fast lane. The rest of us can enjoy sharing the adrenaline rush and live vicariously through them as spectators on the sidelines.

On the evening of Friday, April 6, I attended the Grand Opening of the one and only, first ever, Bettie Page Las Vegas boutique inside the Desert Passage at the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood. Named after the 50’s pin up legend Bettie Page, the store is unique in that all of the specially made Bettie Page line of clothing for sale in the store, which reflects the legendary icon’s fashion sense and attitude, has been designed by co-owner, Russian born model Tatyana Khomyakova. Twenty percent of the store's merchandise comes from other sources. Tatyana’s husband Jan Glaser, one of the other co-owners (along with Nicole and Steve Byrne) told me. “Although there are other retro lines attempting to copy the vintage look, I went straight to the source, (referring to CMG Worldwide that holds the license for other legends such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Sophia Loren) and did it right.” And that he did, by obtaining the exclusive rights for the Bettie Page fashion line, leading to the debut of this store.

Salesgirl Maria at sales counter in the Bettie Page Las Vegas Boutique

In addition to dresses (many which come with two belts, one thin and one wide at no additional cost) the boutique features an array of products including sexy lingerie, stylish shoes, and accessories in a range of prices for the femme fans wanting to emulate the look of the iconic black haired beauty that is very hot and in right now. Male fans will also be able to find an assortment of club shirts and unisex t shirts with Bettie’s sexy image gracing the front and back, as well as gorgeous calendars by world renowned artist Olivia DeBerardinis.

As a special feature, the owners of the boutique have partnered with Olivia, known for her exquisite pin up renderings of Bettie Page, to display and sell her artwork. Throughout the walls of the store are displays of the largest collection of Olivia’s paintings that depict Bettie Page in her famous cheesecake poses, which, like the similar work of pin up artist Vargas, has become part of nostalgic pop culture.

World renowned artist Olivia DeBerardinis and husband Joel Beren

At the Grand Opening event, the very hip and personable Olivia was on hand (accompanied by photographer husband Joel Beren, who was wearing a denim jacket with Olivia’s painted likeness of Bettie Page on the back) for a meet and greet and to sign copies of her artwork. While I was there several young women sporting black hair with bangs and a fashion sense reminiscent of Bettie’s signature look entered the store, and couldn’t resist making a few purchases that suited their style. Anyone with a keen sense of fashion will be “drawn” to the Bettie Page Las Vegas boutique, which like its namesake, is alluring. For more information call the store at (702) 636-1100.

Kate Fish, Carmen Baca, Olivia, Rachelle Spencer, Deanna Riney and Vanessa Vent

Other recent and upcoming “happenings” in and around Las Vegas include:

Congratulations goes out to Harrrah’s comedian magician Mac King for making it to the White House. No, it isn’t as if he is replacing the President. I just got word that on Monday, April 9 Mac is performing at the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn. This is a great achievement for a guy who is not only talented, but a great individual who contributes his time and energy to worthy causes, especially when children are involved.

Due to an overwhelming demand, Prince has extended his stay at 3121, inside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. His final appearances are as follows: Friday, April 13, Saturday, April 14, Friday, April 20, Saturday, April 21, Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28 Tickets can be purchased at the Rio Box Office by calling (702) 777-7776 and through Ticketmaster at  or (702) 474-4000.

Magician Nathan Burton who currently performs in his own show inside the V Theatre at the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood is developing and producing a television situation comedy entitled “NATHAN!” set in Las Vegas. Much of the show’s material will be drawn from “real life” experiences and people Burton has met during his rapid rise to Las Vegas fame.

Every Friday and Saturday night Circus Circus’ fast and affordable eatery Mexitalia Xpress, serving Mexican and Italian dishes daily from 12PM to 9PM will transform into Luna y Sol, Spanish for moon and sun starting at 11PM. The Latin inspired nights will feature a DJ spinning the latest in Latin music, go-go dancers and a large marble dance floor. Local ladies will receive complimentary admission. Cover charge will be $5 for local men and out-of-state women and $10 for out-of-state men. A fashionable dress code will be strictly enforced.

VIP seating and bottle service will be available upon request.

Paris Las Vegas announced the grand opening of a new high end and upbeat dining experience called Le Burger Brasserie Sports Grill that features the world’s most creative burgers. The truly gourmet menu with French interpretations of the American classic include “Le Boeuf (The Beef), “Le Poulet” (The Chicken), “Le Salmon” (The Salmon), “L’Agneau (The Lamb) and “Le Legumes” (The Veggie) with ingredients inspired from around the world. Unique to Le Burger Brasserie is the $777 Kobe Beef and Maine Lobster Burger made with caramelized onions, imported Brie cheese, crispy prosciutto, 100 year aged Balsamic vinegar and served with a bottle of Rose Dom Perignon champagne. Other offerings to satisfy the palate include an assortment of fresh baked buns, zesty French fries, 15 specialty beers, a specialty cocktail menu and an outstanding dessert menu. With seating for 200 guests the restaurant is open Sunday –Thursday, 11am to -10pm and Friday-Saturday, 11am to 11pm.

Beginning April 14 Comedian Marty Allen, best known as the wild haired half of former comedy team Allen and Rossi, and his wife, singer, songwriter and straightwoman Karon Kate, will be appearing at the Gold Coast showroom. Tickets are $29.95. For further information or to order tickets, please call 702-367-7075.

Stage Door Entertainment is presenting Performances of David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize winning play “Proof” Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm through Sunday, April 22, 2007 at the LVLT Black Box Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive, Las Vegas. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. . Please call (702) 581-5008 or visit  for tickets.

The Silverton Casino Lodge’s entertainment lineup for the next few weeks includes:

Heavy metal band Quiet Riot will be appearing in concert on Friday, April 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets for are $19.99.
90’s alternative rock group, Gin Blossoms, bring their chart-topping hits to the stage on Saturday, April 14 at 8 p.m. Ticket are $19.99

Legendary R&B group the Spinners will be appearing in concert on Saturday, April 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.99. For more information on these concerts please call (702) 914-8557 or 1-866-946-4373.

Las Vegas’ newest – and most edgy – comedian, Bobby Slayton “the Pit Bull of Comedy,” begins his exclusive engagement April 20 at the new Night Owl Showroom at Hooters Casino Hotel. Tickets are $36.95 per person and may be purchased through , 866-80-SHOWS (866-807-4697) or 800-851-1703. Slayton’s show will run Wednesday through Sunday with performance times at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

On April 29 at 3PM, Days of Our Lives star Kevin Spirtas is presenting his one man show at the Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 Brush Street which celebrates his journey from the Broadway stage to musical theatre. Tickets for the evening of song are $10 in advance or $15 day of performance. Call 229-6383 for more information.

A brand new fast food eatery called Sushi etc. offering a fresh and reasonably priced variety of sushi, nigiri, seafood cocktails, salads and desserts has opened at Circus Circus on the promenade level across from Adventuredome. Sushi favorites such as California Cucumber, Spicy Tuna and Smoked Salmon are available starting at $1 per piece. Sushi, Etc. is open from 6 p.m. to midnight, nightly.

Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Mayer will be appearing in concert at Mandalay Bay Events Center Friday, June 8 at 8PM. Tickets (limited to 8 per person) are priced at $85 and $65, not including applicable service charges and taxes, are on sale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center box office and at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call the Mandalay Bay box office at (702) 632-7580 or Ticketmaster at (702) 474-4000. Tickets also are available for purchase at  or .

I’ll be back next time for what’s “happening” in and around Las Vegas.



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