By Judy Thorburn
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Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - Las Vegas Round The Clock
Entertainment Reporter/Film Critic - Las Vegas Tribune
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - The Flick Chicks

Several Miss America Contestants Unveil Miracle Mile Shops' Latest Multi-Million Dollar Water Feature

To celebrate the opening of Miracle Mile Shops' new entertainment feature and the upcoming 2009 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, ten 2009 Miss America Pageant contestants gathered at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood on Friday afternoon January 16 to turn on a multi-million dollar fountain.  Its first show was choreographed to the official Miss America theme song.

As the center’s latest free attraction, it entertains and inspires onlookers by transforming from a tranquil piece of art into an entertainment centerpiece and features lighted water effects and eruptions five stories high, color changing fog, bursts of light and dramatic, original soundtracks broadcast via a state-of-the-art surround sound system.

Russell Joyner (6th L) Exec V.P./GM of Miracle Mile Shops and contestants in the 2009 Miss America Pageant (L-R)Shamika K. Thomas (Miss Virgin Islands), Galen Giaccone (Miss Delaware), Kendria Perry (Miss Pennsylvania), Ashley Christina Glenn (Miss Connecticut), Ellen Carrington (Miss Tennessee), Olivia Myers (Miss Iowa), Ashlen Batson (Miss Arkansas), Ashlee Baracy (Miss Michigan), Erin Brittany Nurss (Miss Arizona) and Adrienne Leigh Watkinson (Miss Maine). Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Celebrities Participate in Vince Neil’s Off The Strip Poker Tournament inside the Poker Lounge at the Hard Rock.

Saturday afternoon Vince Neil’s Off The Strip Poker Tournament commenced inside the Poker Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  Celebrities and Poker Pros  who participated in the 4th Annual No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament along with Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil, included Adam Schoenfeld, Gavin Smith, Evelyn Nguyen, Todd Brunson, Jennifer Harmon and husband Marco Harmon Traniello; adult film stars Randy West, Joanna Angel and Taylor Wayne. Quiet Riot Singer Paul Shortino was also present.

Proceeds from the tournament benefited The Skylar Neil Memorial Fund, an organization which has raised millions to support innovative cancer, leukemia and AIDS research.

Prior to the tournament guests and players enjoyed a cocktail welcome reception and silent auction.  Afterwards, a VIP after-party took place in the evening inside Wasted Space. Celebrity guests who joined the party include: Vince Neil, DJ MELLO, Vinnie Paul, Jason Giambi, Joanna Angel, Taylor Wayne and Sal Masekela.

Vince Neil
Photo credit: Hew Burney

Vinnie Paul and Jason Giambi
Photo credit: Hew Burney

Sal Masekela and DJ Mello
Photo credit: Hew Burney

2009 Miss America Hopefuls Dine at Buca di Beppo.

Diners at the eastside location of Boca de Beppo Restaurant on Flamingo Road in Las Vegas were given a pleasant surprise on Saturday evening when all 52 contestants who are vying for the crown of 2009 Miss America arrived with their escorts to dine at one of the 88 Boca de Beppo locations throughout the U.S. that was recently acquired by Planet Hollywood International, Inc. the parent company of Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, which is host of the upcoming 2009 Miss America Pageant.

miss america room 09 1-17-2009 7-36-07 pm 2576x1932
The 2009 Miss America contestants and their escorts filled the Buca di Beppo  Restaurant on Flamingo Road on Saturday night. Photo credit: Dianne R. Davis

Just days before the pageant will commence the contestants enjoyed a great Italian dinner along with friendship and hospitality that Bucca de Beppo provides to all its patrons. Hey, the girls have to eat, don’t they? Besides, it was all good, since the contestants were able to meet Chef Michael Miyahara and help prepare some of the delicious, healthy alternatives that are on the new menu.

Left to right: Miss Michigan, Ashlee Baracy, Miss Florida, Sierra Minott, Miss New Mexico, Christina Olmi, Chef Michael Miyahara and Miss Indiana, Katie Stam.
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

The contestants created quite a stir in the restaurant during the evening where diners were celebrating an anniversary, bachlorette party, birthday, or just enjoying a delicious Italian meal.  In any case, the reactions were all positive since everyone knew they were in the presence of the 2009 Miss America, although it was anyone’s guess as to who will actually walk away with the title. Oregon residents and Members of Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub’s soccer team let it be known with loud roars of approval that they were delighted to meet Danijela Krstic, their home state’s candidate in the pageant.

Miss California, Jackie Geist and Miss Oklahoma, Kelsey Cartwright.
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

The lovely contestants were gracious and several agreed to pose for photos with admiring guests including a 6 year old girl (and possible future contestant?) visiting from Southern California.

What a special treat is was for 6 year old Sherman Oaks resident Ava Cardinale to have her photo taken with Miss Delaware.  Ava was at the restaurant celebrating her grandparents Judy & Marty Winick’s 25th anniversary.
Photo credit: Dianne R. Davis

The 2009 Miss America Pageant, hosted by Mario Lopez will be held Saturday evening, January 24th at Planet Hollywood and broadcast live on TLC.

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

A rumor has been circulating around Las Vegas that Criss Angel is being replaced by Illusionist David Darkstone in “Believe” at the Luxor.  I recently met Darkstone who was accompanied by his playboy model girlfriend Iliana Fisher at a charity event, and when I questioned him about it, he said it was just that “a rumor”.  I will keep you, my readers, informed if things change.

For the 32nd consecutive year, The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino has earned the Four Diamond Award from the Automobile Association of America (AAA). Only 14 hotel establishments in the United States have earned the revered Four Diamond rating for 32 consecutive years or longer, and the Golden Nugget remains the only Four Diamond award winner on the historic Fremont Street Experience.

The nonprofit organization, Spirit Therapies recently announced it has been accredited through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, Inc (NARHA) as a Premier Accredited Therapeutic Horseback Riding Center for Special Needs Children. Their program is run by donations and volunteers, both of which it is in need of. Visit or call Laurie Willmott, Executive Director, (702)219- 1728 for more information.

After a $2 million renovation, Andre’s Restaurant & Lounge at Monte Carlo has reopened with a new look, new offerings and a new chef de cuisine, Greg Engelhardt, a veteran of the recently closed Andre’s in downtown Las Vegas.

Comedienne/actress/best selling author Rita Rudner, who has enjoyed a successful run at Harrah’s since October 2006, has announced that she will extend her stay as headliner at the casino/resort until January 2012. Tickets to Rudner’s shows are $54 or $90 (plus tax and fees).

“Defending the Caveman,” Broadway’s smash hit about the sexes, starring comedic stage actor, playwright and director, Kevin Burke has settled into its permanent cave at Excalibur Hotel Casino.  Performances are 3 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday at $34.95 plus tax and handling fees and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at $39.95 plus tax and handling fees.  Guests must be 13 years of age or older to attend.

Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is set to air CNN’s coverage of Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration live on the center’s Strip-side video screen Tuesday, Jan. 20 beginning at 8 a.m. PST (11 a.m. EST).  Complete with full sound, Miracle Mile Shops’ airing of CNN’s Presidential Inauguration coverage will be one of the world’s largest, taking place on a record breaking 130’ by 40’ LED video screen at the heart of Las Vegas Boulevard.

The Las Vegas Hilton is inviting the public to witness President-elect Barack Obama’s historic inauguration on a 18’ X 32’ HDTV with state-of-the-art theater sound in the legendary Hilton Theater on Tuesday, January 20 at 8:30 a.m. (PST).   Admission is FREE and doors open at 8 a.m. This will be the first presidential inauguration to be viewed in the Hilton Theater.

On Wednesday, Jan. 21 from 7 – 9 p.m., The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino hosts a property-wide “White House Wednesday,” party to celebrate the beginning of President Elect Obama’s “A New Birth of Freedom” term. Everyone is invited to make a toast to the new beginning, regardless of which way guests voted.  At the Hell’s Belles blackjack pit, guests can witness “Obama’s Mamas,” dealers and dancers wearing red, white and blue.

Renowned solo artist and five-time Grammy-Award winner Michael McDonald will appear in concert 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22 at Buffalo Bill’s in the Star of the Desert Arena.  Buffalo Bill’s is part of Terrible’s Primm Valley Casino Resorts which is located 25 minutes south of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 at the Southern Nevada/California state line, Celebrity Impressionist/ventriloquist/singer and season two winner of America’s Got Talent, Terry Fator is hosting an exclusive book signing of his autobiography “Who’s the Dummy Now?” at the Mirage Shop  inside the Mirage from 2 – 3 p.m. on January 22. The First 100 fans to attend the book signing will receive a special gift.

In celebration of the 3rd anniversary of its Eastern location (9680 S. Eastern, Suite 100) and the 2nd anniversary of its Lake Mead location (7175 W. Lake Mead, Suite 118), The Cupcakery is giving a complimentary Southern Belle or Tickle Me Pink cupcake to everyone who visits either store from 8 am to 8 p.m. on Friday, January 23.

On Friday, January 23rd from 7p.m to 10:30 p.m. Rock ‘n Roll Wine will host their first event of 2009 at LAX Nightclub featuring more than 30 unique wines combined with an incredible evening of live music by up and coming indie rockers, The Tender Box, along with special guests.  A ticket includes all wine tasting and live entertainment as well as a $10 voucher redeemable at local retailers and is priced at $35 in advance and $40 at the door, not including applicable Live Entertainment Tax.  Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (702) 240-3066.  Must be 21 years of age or older to attend. 

On January 23 at 8 p.m., The Fab will perform The Beatles Let It Be album in its entirety at the Club inside the Cannery Casino & Hotel. The show will also feature a special tribute to commemorate the last time The Beatles performed in public together at their legendary rooftop performance.  Admission is $10 at the door.

The following night, at 8 p.m. (l/24), one of the country’s top Neil Diamond tribute artists, Rob Garrett, known as the “King of Diamonds” will perform Diamond’s classic hits at The Club. Admission is $5 at the door.

Art-N-Ink Festival of Las Vegas will take place at the South Point Events Center. The show starts at 5:00 PM Friday the 23rd and again from 11:00 AM Saturday the 24th. The festival will feature a select group of world class artists showcasing a wide variety of original canvas artwork, tattooing and more. The goal is to create a gathering place for artists to get together, display their artwork, and promote exposure in the community, and exchange ideas, methods and techniques. Tickets are $12 for adults, children ages 6-17 are $5 and children 5 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased at the South Point Box Office or by calling (702) 797-8055.

Beginning January 24, CineVegas will host the new CineVegas Green Film Series at the Springs Preserve every other Saturday for four weeks. The screenings, which feature environmentally themed films, will be held at 7:30 pm in the Big Springs Theater. 

"This is the perfect partnership between CineVegas and the Springs Preserve. The new green series allows CineVegas to have a presence in Las Vegas throughout the year, and it also reflects the Springs Preserve's dedication to sustainability," said CineVegas Artistic Director Trevor Groth. "The series will give Las Vegas locals a unique opportunity to come together to watch films about some of the most important issues affecting our environment, and start discussions on resolutions."

The first three films in the series include FLOW: FOR THE LOVE OF WATER on January 24, STILL LIFE on February 7, and MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES on February 21.  The final film to be screened on March 7 has yet to be announced.

CineVegas Film Festival and the Las Vegas Clark County Library District presents CineVegas “From the Vault” screening series which showcases films that CineVegas has either premiered or shown throughout its history. The screenings are FREE and open to the public, and are held at 7 pm at the Clark County Library, located at 1401 E. Flamingo Road.

After taking a break in January, the series will commence on Thursday, February 5 with 4th AND LIFE, which played at the 2003 Festival as part of a special sidebar featuring documentaries that highlight America’s two favorite pastimes: movies and sports. From director Simeon Soffer, 4th AND LIFE is about the championship football game between two of the largest and most dangerous penitentiaries in the South. On Thursday, March 5, the series will feature director Sol Tryon’s THE LIVING WAKE, which world premiered at the 2007 Festival. A dark comedy set in a storybook universe, THE LIVING WAKE chronicles the final day of K. Roth Binew, a quixotic character, who attempts to probe life’s great mysteries before his final hour.

On Thursday, January 29 at 8 p.m. internationally acclaimed classical violinist Joshua Bell at 8 p.m. will perform at The UNLV Performing Arts Center as part of the Charles Vanda Master Series. Bell, who is hailed as “the greatest American violinist active today” by The Boston Herald will be accompanied by with award-winning pianist Jeremy Denk. Tickets to the concert are priced at $45, $60, and $90 and can be purchased at the Performing Arts Center Box Office at 895-ARTS (2787) or by visiting

Rocker, Bret Michaels, known as the front man of rock band Poison for more than 22 years, will perform at the Pearl inside the Palms on Saturday, January 31 at 8 p.m. Ticket prices are $29, $34 and $39, plus any additional service fees.

Legendary comedian/actor/director/writer/producer and Las Vegas resident Jerry Lewis will be honored with the prestigious Jean Hersholdt Award at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony that will be televised live on February 22. Lewis will be presented with the Jean Hersholdt Award for his tireless efforts of philanthropy that have brought credit to the motion picture industry.

Recent and future closings include:

Fab Four Mania has closed at the Riviera.

Also, Polly Esthers Nightclub has closed at the Stratosphere.

Les Folies Bergere, the classic Parisian revue, will end its nearly half-century run at the Tropicana Las Vegas on March 28, 2009.  The show will continue its regular performance schedule for the remainder of the engagement. Tickets for the Folies Bergere begin as low as $35 plus tax and surcharge.

Bobby Slayton, aka The Pitbull of Comedy, who has headlined at the Night Owl Showroom since it opened in spring of 2007, will be ending his rein of biting comedy at Hooters Casino Hotel on March 8, 2009.  This last performance marks Slayton's 500th show in the Night Owl Showroom. Over the next few months, Hooters Casino Hotel will be announcing a new line-up in the Night Owl Showroom.

Celebrity sightings:

Monday night, Jan.12, Brandi Mahon from “Rock of Love” was spotted enjoying dinner at Strip House inside Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

Also enjoying dinner at a separate table was porn star Brittney Starr

Cypress Hill was also seen enjoying dinner that very same night in a private dining room.

Tuesday night at LAVO inside The Palazzo, star choreographer Cris Judd was showing off his moves with friends at a table on the dance floor.

Friday night, Oscar nominated/Golden Globe winning actor Joaquin Phoenix made a special appearance at Lavo inside the Palazzo for the start of his foray into a new music career.  In a drastic departure from his Golden Globe winning portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk The Line, Phoenix sported long hair under a beanie and a full beard as he arrived at LAVO with brother-in-law Casey Affleck and a camera crew in for a documentary Affleck is directing covering Phoenix’s transition from actor to musician.

Upon entering the nightclub Phoenix was swarmed by fans and graciously posed for photos with a few.  The sounds of DJ Five provided the new minted rapper with a nice warm up as he prepared to take the stage.  After a few sips of beer, he jumped up onto the catwalk for the first ever performance in his new career and camera phones appeared to capture the moment.  During his three song performance he stopped only to light a cigarette and take a quick swig of beer.


Phoenix was so excited by the pumped up crowd that as he ended his set he tripped leaving the stage and slid down the banquette.  He celebrated by dancing around and jumping up and down so hard his beanie flew off.

When it came time to make his exit he grabbed the railing next to his VIP table like he was on a jungle gym and went swinging through to the walkway as the camera crew followed.

I will be back next week with more of what’s “happening” in and around Las Vegas.

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