By Patty Fantasia
CASINO ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS PRESENTED DURING G2E EVENT
By Patty Fantasia
For the sixth year running one of the highlights of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) event in Las Vegas was the Casino Entertainment Awards held on October 10th at Vinyl inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Produced by Clinton Ford Billups Jr. and Traci Peel, CBS Radio’s Jonathan Scott acted as Red Carpet Host while entertainer Kelly Clinton served as Master of Ceremonies.
Jeff Grinstein with Casino Entertainer of the year Chubby Checker
Jonathan Scott and Bill Engvall
Presenter Paul Schaffer with his manager Eric Gardner
Jonathan Scoitt, Clinton Ford Billups, Jr presenting an award to Ernesto Lara from VIP Limousines of Nevada
The evening kicked off with an opening number featuring guest artist Stephanie Hibbert before proceeding with the first major presentation of the night for Best Comedian of the Year. Although Piff the Magic Dragon and Sebastian Maniscalco were both nominated, Bill Engvall took home the award, which was presented by Las Vegas Review Journal writer John Katsilometes.
Nightclub Icon Victor Drai received the Casino Entertainment Legend Award which was presented to him by son Dustin, who the honoree referred to as the most important thing in his life. Reviewing Drai’s earlier successes Tryst and XS, a video showed how he wanted to launch a trendy nightclub with live action and a real show. Recalling their start in the basement of the Barbary Coast they recollected how they used to go up on the roof of the old hotel to watch the fireworks before fast forwarding to Memorial weekend in 2014 when they had the pleasure of launching Drais Beach Club on the roof of the new Cromwell Hotel, which was built on the same site.
The Commodores received Casino Musical Artist of the Year honors beating out fellow nominees Pat Benatar & Neil Giralso and John Fogerty. The group will be celebrating 51 years together in January and acknowledged how wonderful it has been to have a great family that has kept them together.
Another high point of the evening was music maestro Paul Schaffer presenting the award for Casino Entertainment Legend Award to Honorees Bill Medley and Bucky Heard, who are otherwise known as The Righteous Brothers. Showing old footage called A Vegas Tale the video celebrated the duo as the 1st rock and roll act to play the strip after being brought to town by Frank Sinatra. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1965, Schaffer met the pair back then as part of that historic ceremony commenting “These gentlemen have a soul.” The pair also has the distinction of having the most played song in radio history according to BMI, which was You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. Original member Bobby Hatfield passed away at age 63 and after performing solo for awhile Bill Medley paired up with Bucky Heard. The current duo brought The Righteous Brothers back to life with their residency at Harrah’s. Accepting the award a grateful and emotional Medley thanked God for Bucky and for Las Vegas.
The prestigious Casino Entertainer of the Year Award was bestowed upon the legendary Chubby Checker by female magician Jen Kramer. The humbled singer said, “God has blessed me through you. It’s the music. It’s being on stage and singing for an audience.” According to the rock and roll legend who made the dance craze The Twist famous, this is the greatest gift. Paul Anka and Donny and Marie Osmond were also nominated for this top honor.
America’s Got Talent Season 5 winner Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. presented the award for Production Show of the Year to 35 year veteran Legends in Concert after joking about being a child of the 70’s and entertaining the crowd with one of his favorite oldies Rapper’s Delight. Legends beat out Magic Mike Live and Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man to take home the prize.
One of Las Vegas’s favorite magicians and reality television star Murray Shawchuck presented UTA’s Seth Shomes with Casino Booking Agent of the Year honors while Monica Reeves from Station Casinos won for Casino Entertainment Executive of the Year, Scott Thomas from Buzz Entertainment took home the Independent Casino Buyer of the Year award, Battery Park-Hard Rock Sioux city won for Casino Arena/Amphitheater of the Year and Hard Rock Live – Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield Park won for Casino Showroom Theater of the Year. Rounding out the list of celebrity presenters were Pia Zadora, Joe Blunt, Joe Coleman, Marcus Collins, and Roger Gros. Among this year’s sponsors were TicketForce, VIP Limousines of Nevada and Infinity Photo.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the evening was an In Memoriam video put together by Peel and Billups that featured Clinton singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow in a tribute to the 1 October victims. There was also a salute to columnist Robin Leach who loved Las Vegas so much and was a true friend of this event. Last year’s festivities took place just a few days after the tragedy and many of the executives and guests were still raw from what had taken place. Leach was also in attendance that evening at what would turn out to be his final Casino Entertainment Awards appearance. The video served as a fitting remembrance to those who are not longer here, but won’t be forgotten.