December celebrity celebrations
Dec. 1: In memory of … Lou Rawls, the man with the mellower-than-mellow pipes who died in 2006 at age 72. We guarantee that if he were still with us, the fellow who never bellowed would be just as mellow.
Dec. 1: Before movie maestro Woody Allen, there was standup comic Woody Allen, who plied his hilarious trade at Caesars Palace in the 1960s. Today, at 84, we bet Allen could still climb onstage and sell one-liners like this one he told way back then: “I’m not a gambler. I went to the racetrack once in my life and I bet on a horse and mine was the only horse in the race with training wheels.”
Dec. 1: Bette Midler— aka The Divine Former Caesars Palace Residency Headliner — turns 74, still smelling like a rose, still spunkier than all the boogie-woogie bugle boys of Company B, C and D through Z, put together.
Dec. 2: Vegas comedy/hocus-pocus prince Mac King magically becomes a 60-year-old. Is there a bakery in town that can create a cake for the Harrah’s performer made out of live goldfish?
Dec. 2: Oops — she’s a year older again. Seems like only yesterday when Britney Spears musically decreed that we wanted a Piece of Me during her Planet Hollywood residency. Now, turning 38, she remains a welcome Vegas presence.
Dec. 3: We still go bats (or at least a bat’s head) for Ozzy Osbourne, who at age 71, is presumably done with biting the heads off creepy flying mammals when he returns to the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 31, 2020.
Dec. 3: In memory of … Andy Williams. He was the first headliner at Caesars Palace in 1966. He introduced the Osmonds to the world on his TV variety show. And, though he left us in 2012 at age 84, the classic crooner’s timeless recordings can caress our ears forevermore.
Dec. 4: Vegas drop-in (and Mr. Beyonce) Jay-Z hits the half-century mark by turning 50. Perhaps the missus will buy him a nice tie for his birthday. Or maybe she’ll buy him a nice island in the Pacific. She can afford either one.
Dec. 5: Good golly! Does Miss Molly know that Vegas stalwart Little Richard is turning 87? We bet he could still rock from the early-early mornin’ to the early-early night.
Dec. 7: In memory of … Louis Prima, the man who defined the entire concept of Las Vegas lounge entertainment with his unforgettable style — brash, playful and larger than life, but built on a foundation of consummate musicianship. We lost this milestone performer in 1978 at age 67. Today, he would probably still humorously describe himself by the title of his biggest hit, which is also inscribed at his gravesite: “Just a Gigolo.”
Dec. 8: Baby, remember his name, as Las Vegan/actor/singer/drama teacher Billy Hufsey who came to fame on TV’s Fame, as well as Days of Our Lives, turns 61.
Dec. 8: In memory of … Jim Morrison, frontman and wild man of The Doors, who made his way-premature exit in 1971 at age 27. Beyond leaving his mark on rock music, he also left it on Vegas when he was infamously arrested here at the Pussycat a’ Go Go theater after provoking a security guard, earning a billy club to the noggin, and adding public drunkenness and disturbing the peace convictions to his list of accomplishments. And yet, his musical legend can still light our fire.
Dec. 8: In memory of … Flip Wilson, a Vegas headliner and TV legend who passed away in 1998 at age 64. Today, he’s likely making them laugh up in the heavens, even if it’s the devil making him do it.
Dec. 8: In memory of … Sammy Davis Jr., the legendary, multitalented Rat Packer and one of the most beloved entertainers of all time, who took his final bow in 1990 at age 64. If he were still with us, Frank and Dino’s little buddy would probably still be itching to perform “I’ve Gotta Be Me.” After all, he always had to be him. And that’s just the way we loved him.
Dec. 9: At age 62, ex-Flamingo superstar (and grandpa) Donny Osmond is a tad past the “Puppy Love” stage. Yet with that ever-youthful glow about him, he can still croon that tuneful evergreen and make us believe “how a young heart really feels.” After the passing of Dick Clark, the title of World’s Oldest Living Teenager clearly belongs to Marie’s other half. We wish you hadn’t left town with the recent end of the 11-year Donny & Marie Flamingo residency, but we wish you the best, Donny O.
Dec. 9: In memory of … Redd Foxx, the funnyman and Vegas regular who died in 1991 at age 68. Known for his risqué material onstage and his cranky lovability onscreen as Fred Sanford in Sanford and Son, the beloved comedian was a ground-breaker, and part of that path he trod blazed through our town.
Dec. 10: A tip of the chef’s chapeau to celebrity kitchen whiz/Mesa Grill (at Caesars Palace) owner Bobby Flay, who flips over to age double-nickel — as in 55 — with all his culinary/cultural cachet very much intact.
Dec. 11: Beloved holder of an EGOT title — what’s known in the biz as having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony — Rita Moreno turns 88. The West Side Story legend — whose Vegas cred dates back to her 1958 Strip debut at El Rancho, opening for Joe E. Lewis —was also feted as Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Woman of the Year for 2019 last January.
Dec. 12: She famously asked us all if we knew the way to San Jose, but Dionne Warwick, celebrating No. 79, always knew the way to Vegas. Now find your way to see her sing her way into your heart once again at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace in multiple dates early next year.
Dec. 12: In memory of … Frank Sinatra. What can you say about the Chairman of the Board? About Ol’ Blue Eyes? About The Voice? About the Head Rat of the Rat Packers? We lost the never-to-be-duplicated talents of Frank Sinatra in 1998 at age 82. But the memory of his time in Vegas always flies us to the moon.
Dec. 14: In memory of … Charlie Rich, a bona fide member of both Vegas and country music royalty, who left us in 1995 at age 62. And the Rich musical legacy is simply that: rich.
Dec. 15: In memory of … Tim Conway, who sadly left us in May 2019 at age 85. Often paired with his partner in comedy, the late Harvey Korman, he broke up Vegas audiences almost as often as he broke up Korman and his other castmates on The Carol Burnett Show. (The dentist sketch, anyone?)
Dec. 18: Drop by The Mirage Dec 6-7 or 13-14 to lay a happy 63rd birthday wish on comedian Ron White. While you’re there, enjoy the funnyman’s signature style. Sample: “People are saying that I’m an alcoholic, and that’s not true, because I only drink when I work, and I’m a workaholic.”
Dec. 18: She’s ageless, but what the heck — wish a happy 39th birthday to that “Genie in a Bottle” belter, Christina Aguilera. And do it face-to-face, fan-to-idol, when she returns to Planet Hollywood, Dec. 28 and 30. Or do it in really grand fashion by spending Dec. 31 — aka, a really rockin’ Vegas New Year’s Eve — with her there as well.
Dec. 19: Conjuring up birthday No. 52, magic maven Criss Angel continues to freak out our minds with his fittingly named Mindfreak production at Planet Hollywood.
Dec. 21: He created the TV series Men of a Certain Age. Now that age for Vegas stalwart Ray Romano is a stellar 62. Does that mean he’s now eligible for the senior discounts at movie theaters when he goes to see the movies he stars in? You, of course, can see him do his comedy thing in person at The Mirage on Dec. 20 and 21 with his stage pal, David Spade.
Dec. 22: In memory of … Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb. We may have lost falsetto-voiced Bee Gee Robin Gibb in 2012 at age 62 and twin brother Maurice back in 2003 at age 53, but we are reminded of their unique sound thanks to the Australian Bee Gees, whose show makes sure their legacy stays alive in Vegas, at the Excalibur.
Dec. 24: After going All In during his residency at the Park Theater, Ricky Martin is still livin’ la vida loca at age 48.
Dec. 24: In memory of … Howard Hughes. He died in 1976 at age 70. He WAS Las Vegas. He STILL IS Las Vegas. And the ol’ Spruce Goose himself ALWAYS WILL BE Las Vegas.
Dec. 25: In memory of … Conrad Hilton, who died in 1979 at age 91. You know his name. You know his hotel empire. You know Las Vegas wouldn’t have been the same without him.
Dec. 26: In memory of … Steve Allen. The brilliant Tonight Show creator/legend/comedian/songwriter, who took his final bow in 2000 at age 78, was also a Strip mainstay with his wife, Jayne Meadows. As he recounted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times for his 1961 stint at the Flamingo — along with vaudevillian Belle Montrose and his TV sidekick, Gabriel Dell— his oddball sense of humor never flagged. The act also included three black caskets. “We broke the act in last week in Fresno,” he told The Times. “About the only problem was transporting three black caskets around. It looks pretty weird when you come up to a motel and instead of suitcases you unload coffins.”
Dec. 26: In memory of … Alan King. The sardonic comic with the staccato delivery (and actor with Casino among his many credits) did observational comedy in Vegas and showrooms around the world long before Jerry Seinfeld mined the same comedy mind-set. One of his classic, hilarious routines? “Survived by Widow” — his collection of obituaries, in which he insists women live longer than men. For the record, here’s something he would certainly appreciate: Alan King died in 2004 at age 76. He was survived by his wife (rim shot!).
Dec. 30: At age 44, Tiger Woods will remain forever young in the memory of Las Vegas, where he won his first PGA Tour in 1996 at age 20, on his way to becoming a golf immortal.
Dec. 31: Spin a birthday wish — his 37th — for DJ Esco, aka William Moore, who spins over to Drai’s at the Cromwell Dec. 6, 15 and 16.
Dec. 31: In memory of … Donna Summer, the undisputed Queen of Disco, who often turned up on the Mandalay Bay stage alongside David Foster. We lost the acclaimed diva in 2012, her last dance coming at age 63. We’ll always love to love ya, baby.
— Steve Bornfeld