Celebrity Celebrations: February
Happy Vegas Birthday to you. Happy Vegas Birthday to you. Happy Vegas Birthday dear … Lisa Marie, Tom, Joey, David, Fabian, Natalie, Phyllis, Teller, Sonny, Nancy, Corinna, George, Carrot, Fats and Johnny … Happy Vegas Birthday to you!
Feb. 1: Lisa Marie Presley, the woman who was royalty two times over — the princess/daughter of King of Rock ‘n’ Roll/Vegas demigod Elvis Presley, and (ex) queen/wife of King of Pop Michael Jackson — marks No. 51. Give her some hunka-hunka-burnin‘ birthday wishes.
Feb. 2: Despite his comic protestations to Dickie, his on-stage other half, we’re sure Mom liked Vegas stalwart Tom Smothers — who becomes an 82-year-old — just as much as his bass-pluckin’ bro.
Feb. 3: Remembering standup comic/sitcom star/late-night host Joey Bishop — a Rat Pack immortal as he prowled the casinos of Classic Vegas with Frank, Dino, Sammy and Peter — still brings a smile. He was the last Rat Packer to leave us when he died in 2007 at age 89, but we remember him by blurting out his signature catchphrase: Son-of-a-gun!
Feb. 4: Clever king of observational comedy David Brenner — a pioneer of that form long before Jerry Seinfeld — was a Vegas perennial (he even got hitched on stage at the Venetian at the end of taping his HBO special, Back with a Vengeance!). Brenner took his leave in 2014 at age 78, but not before setting a record for the most appearances ever — 158 of them — on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Feb. 6: He’s far from a teen idol these days, at age 76, but feel free to perpetually idolize Fabian, who was among the earliest crop of singers who triggered teen-girl screams in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Feb. 6: Sweet-toned songbird Natalie Cole, an Orleans Showroom regular, left us in 2015 at age 65. Yet her twin musical milestones — the pop hit “This Will Be” and the studio-engineered duet with her late father on “Unforgettable” — made her unforgettable, too.
Feb. 14: A Valentine’s Day baby — and Vegas legend — Phyllis McGuire, the former one-third of The McGuire Sisters singing group (and an intriguing figure in some colorful Vegas history) turns 88. Consider this day her own personal “Sugartime.” And we mean that “Sincerely.”
Feb. 14: Silently, we wish another Valentine’s Day baby, Penn Jillette’s soundless other half, Teller — full name Raymond Joseph Teller — a joyous 71st birthday. It’s a tossup as to whether he actually uses his vocal cords to say thank you.
Feb. 16: Cher’s original other half, Sonny Bono, was her songwriter, singing partner and comic foil on Vegas showrooms and on their CBS variety show, until their split and his re-emergence as a politician. (Bono was mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., and a United States congressman from California.) He was lost in a skiing accident in 1998. But we’ll always have the memory of you, babe.
Feb. 20: Jazz songstress supreme Nancy Wilson’s legacy of recordings included the milestone Nancy Wilson – Live from Las Vegas, her 1968 performance captured at the iconic Sands Copa Room. We lost her just this past December, at age 81. We also lost what critic John Bush praised as Wilson’s “unimpeachable combination of high sophistication and artistic substance.”
Feb. 20: Wish a playfully sexy (or sexily playful) 47th birthday to ex-Playboy Playmate of the Year (1982) Corinna Harney Jones, who is also owner/operator (and actress) of Alibi Las Vegas, the unique, interactive treasure hunt game in downtown Las Vegas. What is it like? You’ll eat, you’ll drink, you’ll meet strange characters, you’ll hide stolen loot, you’ll prance around Fremont Street with a showgirl, you’ll … well, you’ll see.
Feb. 25: Oh, Sweet Lord, let’s gratefully remember the life and times of mop-topped Beatle George Harrison, the musician extraordinaire whose gently weeping guitar — which he could also turn into a blistering instrument of musical fury — passed from us in 2001 at the way-too-young age of 58. But the image of him alongside John, Paul and Ringo on the stage of the Las Vegas Convention Center in 1964 will live forever in Las Vegas memory.
Feb. 25: Ya know him, ya love him, ya can’t live without his endless bag of outrageous props, equally outrageous lightning-fast punchlines and even more outrageous hairstyle. So give a kooky-crazy 54th birthday shout-out to Carrot Top — a.k.a., Scott Thompson —as he continues to weave his hilariously silly comic magic at the Luxor.
Feb. 26: One of rock ‘n’ roll’s founding fathers, Antoine “Fats” Domino, made his exit in 2017 at age 89 after finding his thrill on “Blueberry Hill” and thrilling our ears with other hits including “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Long Tall Sally.” While Elvis may have been a Vegas king, Domino was king to Elvis, who met Domino when the latter was playing at the Flamingo Hotel and often paid deference to the quiet, humble giant he called “Mr. Blueberry Hill.”
Feb. 26: Personally colorful but sartorially black-clad only, Johnny Cash was a Vegas fave who took his larger-than-life persona to the heavens in 2003 at age 71. Even after his death, the man who could switch from the sobering “Folsom Prison Blues” to the goofy “A Boy Named Sue” stalked the Vegas stage again when he was portrayed in the musical Million Dollar Quartet on the Strip at Harrah’s. You’ll forever walk the line in our hearts, Big John.
— Steve Bornfeld