The world’s most expensive, valuable and elaborate interactive sports memorabilia museum is headed to the Strip, and the most expensive baseball card at $2.35 million will be just one of its attractions at the Luxor. Luxe Life has learned exclusively that Sports Immortals will take the place of the resort’s current IMAX Theater and will join the newly arriving Bodies and Titanic exhibits taking up 30,000 square feet of mezzanine space under the pyramid. Titanic takes the place of the old King Tut Museum as the Luxor sheds the last vestiges of its old Egyptian theme.
Executives have made a 10-year deal for the three major attractions –- and I’m reliably told that because they will now be “permanent” exhibits as opposed to “traveling shows,” all will be bigger and better than anything seen before in Vegas. Bodies will be the first attraction to move in at the end of July. Expect the others, which are all having incredible audio and visual effects and interactive components being built, to be added early fall.
Sports Immortals will go back to the turn of the 20th century with a rare 1909 baseball card featuring Pittsburgh Pirate Honus Wagner. When it last changed hands, former hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who lives in Phoenix, sold it for more than $2 million to an anonymous California collector. Since the 80’s, the mint-condition tobacco card has been regarded as the most highly sought-after baseball card since they became available. Only 60 were produced before the shortstop objected and had it pulled because he didn’t want to promote smoking. All but a few were destroyed, and now only a handful exists with collectors. One of the rare cards went for $1.27 million on eBay in July 2000.
I’ve also learned that there will be special exhibits of such stars as Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan in the museum. In addition to the cutting-edge technology allowing interaction between guests and the star players retail boutique will offer celebrity merchandise and collectibles.
PHANTOM CELEBRATES 2-YEAR ANNIVERSARY MILESTONE:
As it celebrates its second anniversary tonight in its $40 million Venetian theater, the more than 20-year-old Phantom of the Opera mega-musical is alive and well in its totally incredible and magnificent reincarnation: still spectacular in every sense of the word. Your mouth will still remain open at the sight of the exploding four-part chandelier, which weighs 2,100 pounds and falls at 32 feet per second over an audience that, to me, always looks terrorized, despite the fact it’s a very safe special effect. Even the Phantom himself hangs down from the chandelier dropping from the roof into the theater and the pyrotechnics and fireworks are just two of the jaw-dropping feats. The Phantom’s candle-lit lair in the below-ground waterways beneath the opera house are staggeringly beautiful –- all lit by the most elaborate display of floating candles, and chandeliered candles ever seen anywhere. And the boat that sails in from the back of the monstrous stage will make you want to keep it sailing on the resort hotel’s Grand Canal Shoppes waterways! The entrance of Hannibal the elephant and the masked Masquerade ball are visual stunners, with colorful costumes and an extraordinary sound system. Without doubt the scenery is also stunning and contains the most extraordinary elements of theatrical design ever created in Vegas and the world! The 90-minute, slightly trimmed, mega-production retains every song from the original Phantom but because the theater was specifically built for the show features never before seen special effects.
It’s the most technologically advanced Phantom playing anywhere in the world -- and miles ahead of its London and Broadway parents. Having originally debuted in 1986 in the British capitol and in 1987 on the Great White Way, where both incidentally are still playing to capacity crowds, it is the world’s best-known musical and now at home in the world’s best theater (70,000-plus performances in 110 worldwide cities with a box office take heading towards $4 billion!). Miraculously, Anthony Crivello, who began the Phantom role two years ago here now takes on all eight weekly performances himself without alternating with another star. Brent Barrett, who had also started out here, moved on from the Phantom role a few months ago to a new summer touring company of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s musical had an all-star glittering celebrity turnout for its premiere two years ago tonight: Carol Burnett; Linda Lavin; Siegfried & Roy and their longtime manager, Bernie Yuman; Rita Rudner; Gordie Brown; Clint Holmes; designer David Rockwell; Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, along with rival Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. Other VIPs and celebrities are expected there this evening.
For those of you curious about that onstage chandelier, which has become a talked-about highlight attraction of the “popera:” it was made with 6,000 hand-strung crystals and 116 candle lamps. The Venetian theater cost $45 million to transform from the previous Guggenheim motorcycle museum, and the $35-million cost of staging the Phantom made it with advertising, marketing and promotion into a $100-million production gamble. In my earlier exclusive interview with Lord Webber he told me it was the culmination of a 20-year-dream.
Andrew Lloyd Webber: I have been coming to Vegas for over 35 years. I came here as a guest of RCA records, with Olivia Newton-John and Tim Rice, and we went to see Elvis in 1970. I have always loved Vegas and it was an ambition of mine to get the Phantom here for 20 years.
I don’t know why I’ve got affection for this place. I do like the architecture and entertainment. It is so over-the-top, so preposterous, so ludicrous that there’s something very effective about it. If it didn’t exist you wouldn’t believe that it could exist. People don’t always realize this, but I had the idea of bringing Phantom to Vegas before I had the idea of bringing it to Broadway. Back in 1991 we tried to buy the Aladdin and we had the whole idea of building a hotel here which was going to be called the Fantasy, all the designs were going to be started and I don’t know and can’t tell you why, but it never happened. I think that bringing it here now to this purpose built theater complete with a box of tricks that couldn’t be done anywhere else in the world is exactly the right time. We have remained true to its spirit, but it adds something when it is specifically built for your show other than moving into a theater that is already there.”
Robin Leach: “When was the moment that you realized that this was a classic that would run forever even after you are gone?”
ALW: “I don’t think one ever thinks that way. I knew we had something original with the Phantom quite early on in the London run. It was one of the first on Broadway where no changes happen from the first preview to the opening night. Most have to rewrite bits or move things around, but not with Phantom. We had the most extraordinary rehearsal period where very little was changed in the course of that. But I don’t think anybody had foreseen quite what the Phantom would turn in to, having done many interviews for the movie, I still can’t tell you why. It is high romance. I remember once I was sitting with a group of very beautiful top models and Phantom had just come out, and it was very big, and there was a party given by Elton John and they were all talking and all of them had said that they had something about themselves that they would prefer to alter. I think that we are always sympathizing with the Phantom.
It isn’t just the Broadway show. I am very excited because it is something I have wanted for more than 20 years and I wanted it in a new form here in Vegas. We didn’t want to just present a replica of something that had been done before. I wouldn’t want to do that. This Phantom had not been seen before. Cutting edge theater technology allows all the things that we naughty boys in the theater love when we have the budget to do it. I’ll call it a success and would be very happy if we make the 5-year anniversary.”
RL: “Do you still have inkling about opening a hotel here in Vegas, or another show?”
ALW: “The hotel would have been a wonder. I would have put everything to shame that is here now. But we were ahead of our time. You know one day you might see a wonderful hotel here that is all about musical theater. The Fantasy was a very specific thing, but the idea was to have 3 theaters doing musicals although I would love to do one.
If I came across the right idea I’d create an original title for Vegas. I’m fascinated with the idea of an interactive musical where the audience could determine the story twists and turns and possibly win prizes.”
Luxe Life will be front-row center for tonight’s celebration and we’ll have the overnight photos of the anniversary fun right here tomorrow.
LOVE-MATES JENNA JAMESON & TITO ORTIZ REVEL IN WHIRLWIND PARTY CLUB CRAWL:
Wherever you went in Vegas the past few days you were certain to run into these lovebirds: former porn queen Jenna Jameson and her UFC fight champion hunk hero Tito Ortiz. They were everywhere and miraculously Luxe Life’s spywitnesses tracked them on their whirlwind party club crawl. First they were spotted out at Green Valley Ranch watching Steel Panther, formerly known as Metal Skool. They were at the UFC Ultimate Fighter finale at the Pearl inside the Palms and followed that with fighter Kendall Grove’s after-party at the Blush boutique nightclub inside Steve Wynn’s resort. Drew McFedries, who also won his fight, joined Tito and Jenna to celebrate. The night was young enough for Tito and Jenna to go onto nightclub czar Victor Drai’s after-hours club at Bill’s center-strip Gambling Hall, where they partied as dawn broke with singer Cee-Lo Green from the Gnarls Barkley music group.
WILMER VALDERRAMA WINDS UP AS WEDDING WITNESS DURING WILD WEEKEND ON THE STRIP & CLOTHED FLO RIDA GOES IN THE POOL:
It was a 72-hour party marathon for That 70’s Show star Wilmer Valderrana and he wound up being a surprise wedding witness. It all began when he took over the VIP section at MGM’s legendary Studio 54 nightclub, and got a surprise visit from UFC Octagon Girl Arianny Celeste who will host her own pre-UFC fight bash there on July 4. Next day Wilmer turned up for lunch with a large entourage of friends at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars Then he hit the Ultimate Fighter finale with a host of other stars including UFC fighters Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner. Also there were comedy actor Kevin James, baseball legend Barry Bonds and once again the “on the town” twosome of Jameson and Ortiz. But it was his two-days of back-to-back all-day partying at the new Wet Republic pools at MGM Grand that made news. A local couple decided to get married there as the first ever wedding at the day-club bungalows. The music was turned off and the whole Wet Republic crowd -– including Wilmer -- got involved with the nuptials. Wilmer agreed to be the couple’s witness –- and when the ceremony was sealed with a kiss the entire crowd went crazy with applause and cheers!
Twenty-four hours later he was back for the weekly Daylife party, and St. Louis Rams running back (and Eldorado High School graduate) Steven Jackson joined him at his ultra-pool exclusive bungalow. They watched hip-hop star Flo Rida put on a stunning and phenomenal performance of five songs, including his smash hits “Low” and “Elevator.” He was so into the atmosphere and energy of the crowd at Wet Republic that he left the stage and ran around the whole venue interacting with as many fans as he could. At the end of the show, Flo Rida jumped into the packed main salt- water pool to cool off from his hot concert as the crowd cheered and applauded. He stayed on -– even dripping wet -- to party with both friends and fans at his Dom Perignon champagne-laden table in the open-air lounge until dark!
RED CARPET TREATMENT AT LOVE:
If you want red-carpet VIP treatment at Cirque du Soileil’s Love show at the Mirage, then sign on for the “Tapis Rouge” experience. You’ll feel like a Beatle star yourself with preferred seating at the show, a pre-show party at the Beatles Revolution Lounge with some of the cast, specialty drinks and taste treats, a Love gift bag and a personal escort to the theater! It’s a fun new addition to the Beatles musical, as it gets ready to start Year 3! (It seems like only yesterday Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia were all here to open the spectacular!) Try the “Bungalow Bill” with blueberries and vodka in a martini glass, “Mean Mr. Mustard” with rum and peach flavored vodka in a champagne glass or the “Fab Four” itself with four different vodkas and mixed fruit juices in a shot glass! The perfect buzz to see the psychedelic show!
The Revolution Lounge has become a hideaway for the stars with a laid-back comedy king Kevin James hanging at the bar for beers and Oakland Raiders star Lamont Jordan enjoying Patron tequila shots. Incidentally, for those who don’t “parlez vous francais,” Tapis Rouge simply means “red carpet.”
Wicked Whispers and Racy Rumors: Lawyers monitoring the two nightclubs at the center of an IRS investigation believe most of the federal government’s probe is focused on the front-line cash shakedowns of guests lined up in the casino areas waiting to enter. The practice, known as “line fishing,” encouraged managers and security staff to accept massive cash tips to jump guests to the front of the line for instant admission -- where more tips were encouraged to pass them on to inside managers to obtain access to VIP seating areas! There’s even several inside rumored reports that some $14 million of unreported cash tips was “earned” this way since the clubs’ openings.
However, despite the focus of what went on outside the clubs, lawyers have met with cocktail servers and backup wait-staffs about IRS regulations concerning official Tip Compliance. It’s alleged that, prior to the raids, shared cash tips between all employees, the club and its managers were simply divided up in agreed upon percentages and handled in brown envelopes without backup paperwork -- except for a much smaller Tip Compliance accounting ledger. Now the staffs apparently are being given full Tip Compliance statements for the entire amount.
Club lawyers said they’d have one meeting with each staff member to explain the new reporting methods -– but they were “on your own” if they hadn’t filed the true amounts on previous tax returns. Staffers were told to hire their own legal counsel if the new reporting methods showed major differences between tip income today versus tip income over the past years and was examined by IRS tax agents. Many will face penalties, interest and additional taxes on the unreported portions. “It’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars and involves almost every nightclub employee,” I was told.
Since the IRS raid, at least one Vegas club has been ordered by hotel management to cease the practice of encouraging attractive servers to sit with customers after a work shift to promote further beverage sales and large cash tips. I’m reliably told that “business is drastically off” because of the current economic slowdown and changes in tip procedures: a stunning short-skirted server who could make $20,000 a month in tips is now down to just $2,000 a week working three or four days a week instead of five. Meantime, the servers have been apparently ordered to go to other rival Strip nightclubs on their nights off to “poach” potential customers because “overall business is down so badly.”
Viewed saved: Penn & Teller, our beloved Rio headliners, came to the last-minute rescue of Barbara Walters and her View team broadcasting live yesterday from the front fountains of Caesars Palace. Late-night talk-show comedian Jimmy Kimmell dropped out of Day 1 at the 11th hour due to difficulties with his commute in from Los Angeles -- so the eccentric magicians waved the wand and appeared in his place joining the cast of Entourage and singing sensation Rihanna. Today Barbara does one show live at 8 a.m. and records a second at 10.30 a.m., which will broadcast on Thursday. The first show stars current Mirage entertainer Danny Gans, who will move to Steve Wynn’s new Encore resort after November, the hunks from our Chippendales show at the Rio, and musical performances by American idol dueling contestants David Cook and David Archuleta. The second show stars Venetian headliner Wayne Brady, the Jubilee showgirls from Bally’s, and Hills star Heidi Montag.
Some of The View crew had to set their alarm clocks at 3 a.m. to prepare for the 8 a.m. satellite feed back to New York -- Rihanna was rehearsing by 6:30 a.m. for her sound check. She performed the title track of her new album, Good Girl Gone Bad and closed the first show of the location trip with her hit "Take A Bow." Quizzed by the ladies of The View, Rihanna said she is not dating Chris Brown, who has been romantically linked with her.
Barbara was carried onstage by the Caesars Palace Roman soldiers to kick off the Vegas special week. She also welcomed Entourage stars Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara and Debi Mazur -- and in a case of TV being wound so inextricably with itself, while The View filmed them the cameras from Entourage filmed The View at work with them -- and when Season 5 of Entourage starts Sept. 7 on HBO, we'll all unravel that story line about "down on their luck" in Vegas.
"Our week of Vegas shows and our third return trip back to Caesars is off to a super-exciting start," said Barbara.
Tryst again: Victor Drai’s hot Tryst club inside the Wynn was party central for the stars this weekend. In one sports section there was Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Cleveland Browns linebacker Willie McGinest and Miami Dolphins cornerback Nate Jones. Another Cleveland Browns player, quarterback Brady Quinn showed up with Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk and Atlanta Falcons center Doug Datish. A.J. is married to Quinn’s sister Laura and Doug went to Ohio State with A.J. so now you know their six degrees of separation! Also there was Computer of Oscar winning rap group Three 6 Mafia and newly married British soccer superstar Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United striker originally wanted to get married in a quickie Vegas wedding, but his bride wanted a lavish European castle ceremony- but gave him the Vegas trip as a late honeymoon gift! Joe Jackson, patriarch of the Jackson family and Michael and Janet’s dad took photos with fans both inside and outside Tryst, and he confirmed he’s letting TV reality cameras trail him around Vegas for a new reality series.
Green day: During the 70’s, Lou Ferrigno was known and loved around the world as TV’s Incredible Hulk, and he turned up for three days of meet-and-greet autograph signings at the Gallery of Legends in Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile shops. He spent four hours each day happily chatting with fans and posing for photos with them as our lensman Steve Spatafore captured in his camera. Lou took time out to attend the Juliens celebrity memorabilia auction up in the resort, but didn’t buy anything! The 1.2-mile retail entertainment complex has undergone an amazing transformation since Planet Hollywood took over the Aladdin resort ridding it of the Middle Eastern influences in favor of the sleek modern Hollywood makeover.
Star Surveillance: Pop-superstar George Michael took time off from his MGM concert chores to relax at the LAX nightclub in the Luxor … Robert Duvall was in a large CineVegas group at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, while down the shopping arcade Barbara Walters had lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois restaurant … Freddie Mitchell from the Philadelphia Eagles at CatHouse ultra lounge in the Luxor with friends … Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria insisted on stopping at Rao’s Italian eatery in Caesars Palace before jetting back to Los Angeles … At Strip House inside Planet Hollywood, in separate parties, MTV reality star Kristin Cavallari, Ferrigno and actors Jake Busey and Christopher McDonald. Next night legendary actor Caan turned up, along with “The Incredible Hulk,” returning for the second consecutive dinner …
Just asking: Will yet another new nightclub will be opened in MGM’s new City Center complex at center Strip? Word is that a major Hollywood agency has firmed its slew of stars to invest in the project. I’m told that Vegas lawyers masterminding the deal promise it will be bigger than even the major TAO complex at the Venetian and the giant Pure nightclub at Caesars Palace! It will feature dancing girls inside the chandeliers! The Light Group, which operates JET and The Bank nightclubs at other MGM properties already, has other restaurants, lounges and a nightspot committed for City Center.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist Ani DiFranco is also a feminist icon and women’s rights activist. But its her 19 albums and collaborations with Prince and Maceo Parker that have propelled her career- and she brings Martyn Joseph as her guest to her Hard Rock concert … Rocky LaPorte kicks off his six-night run of fun at the Improv Comedy Club in Harrah’s with Rick Delia and Ron Morey … It’s party time at the Blush boutique nightspot in the Wynn, with its first annual toga bash and a Flashdance-themed celebration at MGM’s Studio 54 … So as not to spoil the surprise I can only tell you one of Vegas’ own hometown multiplatinum heroes will kick off the return of the un-announced “Mic-check Summer Series” at Pure in Caesars Palace tonight and alternating bi-weekly with sister LAX nightclub at the Luxor every other Wednesday.
TOMORROWS TEASE: It’s a hot, sizzling, sexy edition of Luxe Life as we go behind the scenes and get really up-close with the annual nearly-naked Fantasy girls calendar shoot at their Luxor home and those risqué Passion Parties are all the rage with the ladies! Super sports-star Warren Moon imports a host of celebrities led by Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria for his nonstop 48-hour visit to Sin City, and we’ve got all the intimate and candid photos from every moment of their action!