*The four-part reality TV series Countdown to the Crown begins airing at 10 p.m. ET/PT this Friday on TLC, and all 52 state titleholders really fight for a chance to win a spot in the Top 15 for the Miss America Pageant. You can watch the preview video HERE. Each one-hour episode hosted by Tyler Harcott finds the contestants living together on the majestic Queen Mary ocean liner in Long Beach, Calif., south of Los Angeles, and follows them as they navigate through a series of tough team and individual competitions that help them prepare for the pageant.
It’s a beauty pageant lead-in the likes you’ve never seen, and it comes complete with the sad and the funny moments, plus a helping of anguish and fear! Every Friday for the next four weeks, viewers will really get to know the girls who will arrive here in Las Vegas in a little more than two weeks time -- on Jan. 18 -- for the pageant at Planet Hollywood. Then come the viewers’ votes for their four favorites to be included with the preliminary judges’ 11 other picks. So when the live pageant broadcasts from the Strip on Jan. 24, there will be 15 final glamour girls immediately in the running!
*Congratulations to Lake Las Vegas resident, former Caesars Palace headliner and Quebec’s famous chanteuse Celine Dion, who was among four Canadians promoted yesterday from Officers to Companions of the Order of Canada, the highest honor ranking in our neighbor north of the border. Celine was honored for her contributions to contemporary music. She plans to spend most of 2009 resting up after her current grueling 14-month global tour and add a new baby to the family. Then all whispers indicate a return to Caesars Palace, rotating with Bette Midler and Cher, who are contracted there through 2011.
*The response to our Opportunity Village Magical Forest of holiday lights and attractions has been so incredible that they are keeping it open past tonight’s original cut-off through Saturday night. On hand this evening will be founding member of the Las Vegas Tenors Mark Giovi with an 18-piece big band orchestra and clowns from Circus Circus.
*Singer Usher and his wife took in Wayne Brady’s show last night at The Venetian. Wayne gave them a stage shout-out and also introduced world-renowned dancer and choreographer Mr. Wiggles to the audience. All met up backstage and then Wayne took them all off to dinner at Sushi Samba in the adjoining Palazzo.
*Cutting-edge Las Vegas headquartered magician Jeff McBride turns up twice this week on MyNetwork TV. He filmed Masters of Illusion in Los Angeles along with Vegas pals Abbi and Jordan Wright that broadcasts tomorrow -- New Year’s Day! -- and again on Jan. 5. Jeff’s marquee appearance in the World Magic Awards also is rebroadcast tomorrow. Spain’s top magician Eduardo Galeano “graduated” from Jeff’s master magic class after making his Las Vegas debut in the magic show The Wonderground at the Palace Station. Now he will represent his birth country, Argentina, in the competition at the World Magic Seminar here in Las Vegas in March! Watch his card routine, and you’ll understand why, HERE!
*Congratulations -- and a tip of the toque -- to the more than 40 top food and beverage executives of Vegas who make up the Epicurean Charitable Foundation for their gift of $100,000 in scholarship funding to our UNLV men’s basketball team. The charity’s president, Shawn Ritchie, who is food and beverage VP at the Paris and Bally’s, turned over the monster check to athletics director Bill Brady.
*It's extravagant and elegant excess Steve Wynn style, as XS nightclub has its official grand opening at the brand new the Encore on the Strip.
Star surveillance: American Idol Season 7 winner David Cook, who also won a Variety Star Award alongside Lauren Conrad of The Hills at the recent Teen Choice Awards, was at the Playboy Club in the Palms. David, who is in town for tonight’s live Robbie Knievel Fox TV special, was in a group of 14 friends that later moved on to the GhostBar ultra lounge, also at the Palms, sipping on Ketel One vodka mixed drinks. … Criss Angel and gal pal Holly Madison brought 10 friends from his Believe show at the Luxor to Moon at the Palms -- and joined world-renowned DJ Tiesto. They arrived at 2:30 a.m. and left shortly before 4 a.m. after enjoying Perrier Jouet champagne and Patron tequila shots. At 3 a.m., Holly was presented with a cake to keep her birthday week going, and the dance floor fans got into such a cheering frenzy that Criss threw several $100 bills into the crowd as a holiday gift! … Tampa Bay Devil Rays third baseman Evan Longoria took Hugh Hefner’s VIP table at the Playboy Club with his eight friends for two hours atop the Palms and enjoyed several games of blackjack in between his dance floor duties with fans. … The late Benny Binion’s grandson, Jack Behnen, celebrated the 10th anniversary of his 21st birthday with a dinner and reception at Piero’s. Binion is credited with the birth of our downtown gaming scene. The party was attended by a slew of Vegas Valley VIPs, including former hoteliers Kitty Rodman, Claudine Williams and Lynn Ruffin, Joan Winchell and Jack’s mother, Becky Behnen. … Hip-hop artist LL Cool J gave a spontaneous performance on the DJ mic when he partied at Body English in the Hard Rock Hotel with Jason Giambi in a private VIP booth.
We close out this final 2008 edition of Strip Scribbles with a close-up look at Ratt’s show last night. Our contributing photographer Scott Harrison was up close for this stunning set of rock star photos at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay.
Even though all the attention is focused on tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, we have to gently remind that, hangovers or not, the entertainment scene rocks on here in Sin City for the remainder of the long weekend -- and true to form, we’ve got all the highlights here, be it old year or new, in what we affectionately call the ROYAL ROBIN RUNDOWN:
Thursday, Jan. 1
*We’ll have a special updated edition of Vegas DeLuxe with full reports of all the stars at play on and off the Strip and the midnight celebrity countdowns. Give us chance for our 10-man team to shake off the hangover cobwebs, and we’ll be posting all morning long the photos and videos you simply won’t see anywhere else.
*Actor-comedian David Spade has signed on with The Venetian to be a monthly regular there, and he starts his 2009 run with 75-minute long performances about his real-life comedy situations tonight through Saturday in Wayne Brady’s showroom.
*Funnyman Gabriel Iglesias, who was the heavyweight on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, starts two back-to-back nights of outrageous laughter at the Monte Carlo.
*Grammy Award-winning artist Benny Benassi entertains and plays house DJ with a special party at Prive in Planet Hollywood.
*It’s the New Year’s Eve pajama brunch at Kerry Simon’s restaurant in the Palms Place -- an all-day affair to let you roll out of bed, pick up traditional hangover cures and roll right back to bed.
Friday, Jan. 2
*Superstar singer Neil Diamond shows just why he’s the jewel on his world tour stop at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
*The eagerly awaited Vegas stop for Stone Temple Pilots and frontman Scott Weiland becomes a reality when the rockers play The Pearl Concert Theater at the Palms.
*Staind lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Aaron Lewis goes solo with his own show at Ovation in the Green Valley Ranch. The three-time Grammy-nominated songwriter will include his hits “ Outside,” “So Far Away” and “Fade.”
*Comedian Mike Epps rings in the New Year with two nights of comedy at The Orleans, while up at the sister Suncoast, Oh What a Night plays tribute with a songfest of Frankie Valli and the Four Season hits.
*It’s a double-header of comedy fun from Pauly Shore and Jamie Kennedy when they do twice the standup at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay.
*Travel back in time to the soft pop hits of yesteryear with the Four Freshmen, who play the South Point through Sunday night.
*Congratulations to Dancing With the Stars host Samantha Harris, who will celebrate her birthday at Blush in the Wynn. Expect any Hollywood celebrities to foxtrot their way down the red carpet with a salsa salute.
Saturday, Jan. 3
*Rap rocker Kid Rock stayed on after his New Year’s Eve gig at The Pearl and Moon in the Palms and does it all over again with a second concert in The Pearl.
*Even if they got razors for Christmas, the trio known as ZZ Top would never shave off those trademark beards. The tres hombres are live in concert with that Texas rock blues sound at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel. Take your cheap sunglasses to match their trademark shades.
*The three rockers who make up Smashmouth sock it to you at the Silverton Casino Lodge.
*Legendary veteran guitarist B.B. King strums the blues beautifully down the I-15 at the Star of the Desert Arena in Primm.
*Aaron Lewis follows up his Friday show with a second concert, but this one is at the new Access Showroom in the newly opened Aliante Station in North Las Vegas. Check out his other hits “It’s Been Awhile,” “Mudshovel” and “For You.”
*Kathleen Madigan is the perfect entertainer to wind down from the frenetic past four days when she performs at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay.
*Hip-hop artist Shwayze joins with Cisco Adler to perform their hit “Buzzin’ ” along with other rap numbers at Prive in Planet Hollywood.
Sunday, Jan. 4
*It’s the first of Iron Chef Kerry Simon’s regular pajama brunches at his Palms Place restaurant, and the hostesses and the waitresses look mighty cute in their traditional and risque outfits!
*The final curtain falls on Mamma Mia! after nearly six years and 2,200 shows singing and dancing to the smash-hit sounds of ABBA to more than 2 million ticket-buyers. The Mandalay Bay show will make way for Disney’s The Lion King spectacular. It’s also closing night for Stomp Out Loud at Planet Hollywood and the finale of Raw Talent Live at the Sahara. I’ve heard that Stomp will move to the Sahara and Raw Talent will divide itself into cabaret acts for a new nightclub opening this spring at the Palazzo.
We’ll be back to normal with our overnight report of the tears and the cheers from the closing night of Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay as we join the cast for their final after-party. Later in the week, it’s our exclusive with porn princess Jenna Haze as she plays tour guide for a sneak peek at the Adult Video Network convention and awards show that she will co-host in an amazing $30,000 wardrobe of next-to-nothing!