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Exclusive news ahead of Sunday’s 2012 Billboard Music Awards that will be an emotional roller-coaster: There will be tears as the Whitney Houston tribute plays out and daughter Bobbi Kristina and sister-in-law Pat Houston are onstage to accept the Millennium Award posthumously at MGM Grand Garden Arena. John Legend and Jordin Sparks will perform a tribute.
There will be excitement as hometown darling Katy Perry debuts her new song “Wide Awake” from her documentary “Part of Me” to be released July 5.
There will be disappointment that leading nominees Adele and Rihanna won’t be attending, Adele because she’s gone into hiding overwhelmed by her fame and fortune and Rihanna because she’s upset that Chris Brown and Drake have been rapping about her string of “naughty” controversies in the past three weeks. I’m told that she doesn’t want to meet the media mobs hungry for her reaction to their versions of her sexy shenanigans.
Chris has been added to the star lineup along with Lisa Marie Presley, Robin Thicke, Brandy, Monica, Miley Cyrus, Nelly Furtado, Linkin Park and previously announced Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, The Wanted and Usher. “Dancing With the Stars” favorites Julianne Hough and our hometown Empress of Soul Gladys Knight, plus Natasha Bedingfield are presenters.
Stevie Wonder be presented with the Billboard Icon Award during the awards. Our popular odds-maker Johnny Avello at the Wynn sports books predicts that Adele will win Top Artist and Top Female Artist, Justin Bieber Top Male Artist, Lady Antebellum Top Group and Scotty McCreery Top New Artist.
WICKED WHISPERS AND RACY RUMORS
Which top U.S. chef is on the hunt for unique Las Vegas space to open a dinner theater show in which he stars onstage cooking the meal and then serving the audience as they enjoy entertainment? Is it possible that a Las Vegas hotel owner wants to sell the steel of his empty building to China rather than wait for the market to turn here; instead of flipping it to a new owner, he’d take the money and start over? Are two chefs planning to open pop-up restaurants in two shuttered locations as the hotel landlords look for permanent replacements?
Is it possible that a Las Vegas reality TV show will wind up casting one guy with his ex and current girlfriend on the program, which would also feature a bitter boss and his former partner? Is the third edition of “Eating Las Vegas” likely to surprise with Top 10 changes and a focus on off-Strip restaurants? Food critics and authors Al Mancini, John Curtas and Max Jacobson have had their first meeting to work on the rankings, and as usual it was a combative and controversial session.
BUSTED LEG: Superstar Liza Minnelli wrecked her leg tripping over her dog so badly that it took 16 screws, a titanium plate and another metal “something” to hold it together again. Backstage at the LVH after her packed, standing-ovation show Saturday night, Liza told me that when she goes through airport security, “It’s as if I’m the 1 millionth customer at Walmart every time. The bells go off, the lights start flashing, and the only thing missing are balloons!” Actress Sally Kirkland, who stars in the new film “Alice Stands Up,” was among the VIP crowd congratulating Liza after the show. Liza heads to London to continue her six-month tour that also will hit South America.
SHANIA VIDEO: The six-month countdown for Shania Twain’s Dec. 1 residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace starts June 1, and we’ve got a look at her video promotion posted today and edited by my friend Zach Capp and supervising editor Julie Irish of DP Video here. It’s a great peek at the hits she’ll perform and the fashions she’ll wear. Thanks to Caesars Entertainment for the sneak preview.
JOEY AND KIM REUNION: World champion ballroom dancer Kym Johnson will be reunited with her “DWTS” Season 4 partner Joey Fatone at “Dancing With the Stars: Live From Las Vegas” at the Tropicana from May 24-28. She’s able to do “DWTS: Live” now that her run with actor Jaleel White has ended on Season 14.
‘BIZARRE FOODS’ IN VEGAS: It’s the biggest, best, most elaborate and expensive foods of Las Vegas on the 100th episode of Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods America” on the Travel Channel premiere of Season 6. In the 100th episode, as we reported in our previous, on-location interview with Andrew, this is about extremes: $750 cupcakes, $1,000 sundaes and a $5,000 hamburger.
He also tours the Bellagio buffet -- feeding 4,000 people a day, where armies of chefs turn out handcrafted perfection daily in quantity, with more than 16,000 pastries, 4,000 sausages, 400 pounds of prime rib and 2,500 pounds of fish delivered six days a week. Andrew also filmed at our star-studded Muhammad Ali 70th birthday bash to see how chefs serve a world-class dinner to 1,800 guests.
NEW PMOY: Now that the Palms has dropped the Playboy Club, magazine founder Hugh Hefner had to return from the Las Vegas site of the past few years to his Playboy Mansion to name 21-year-old Jaclyn Swedberg as the 2012 Playmate of the Year. Claire Sinclair, our Bettie Page spokesmodel who was 2011 PMOY, passed the Bunny torch to Jaclyn.
Las Vegas blonde bombshell Jessa Hinton and heavily favored Anna Berglund narrowly missed out on the title. Jaclyn, a 5’5” Southern California brunette beauty, was Miss April 2011 and is a calendar girl in a Playboy Key Club/Harley-Davidson promotion.
Las Vegas Fashion Week begins its six-day collections at the Plaza with cocktail parties all over the ever-growing downtown area.
An incredible story from Bellagio and Aria star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s wife, Marja. Her father abandoned her mother when she was seven months’ pregnant. It’s been a lifelong search for “The Kimchi Chronicles” host who was put up for adoption at 3 and reunited with her mom at 19. Marja wants your help! Plus, “My Dinner With Gordon Ramsay”: the “Hell’s Kitchen” star talks about buying a home here, menu highlights at the new Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris and what he eats in his restaurant. Naughty and mischievous, he’s got the perfect dessert for bed!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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