LAX “Surprise” guest no ordinary Joe

It’s late-Wednesday, early Thursday in Vegas, and you know what that means: club night for The Johnny.

Tonight it was the latest event in Pure Management Group’s Summer Surprise Series, and lumbering onstage at LAX at Luxor was hip-hop and Latin rap icon Fat Joe. He’s part-Puerto Rican, part-Cuban, part-tubby and all that. The Summer Surprise shows, a series performances by famous announced-at-showtime artists (hence, “Surprise”) is a big draw for PMG, which this summer splits the shows at Pure at Caesars Palace on select Tuesdays, and LAX on select Wednesdays. Thus far this summer the Killers, Naughty By Nature and Ray J have been the featured artists. Tonight was the LAX service industry night, a no-cover festival to lure local hotel-casino employees, and LAX seemed to be about filled to it’s 1,700-seat capacity. That’s about 100 or so more than fit into the Luxor theater that will stage the Cirque du Soleil-Criss Angel production Believe, a show that is built, in part, to compete for the type of club crowd that fills LAX.

We’ll see if Cirque and Angel can prosper where the award-showered but ill-placed Hairspray fizzled. But impressive tonight was not only the size of the LAX crowd, but its rabid energy. They love Fat Joe, big-time. He performed for 20 minutes, six songs in all, and I’ll confess (and I have checked the iPod to be certain of this) I own no Fat Joe music. But I do know that he was once involved in a rap-ified feud with 50 Cent, who ripped him in the none-too-subtle song “Piggy Bank.” I recognized Fat Joe’s “Make It Rain,” too, still a club staple, and noticed that I was bounding with the crowd for the entire set. An involuntary, but not altogether unwelcome, response to Fat Joe’s infectious cadence. He-ey! Yo-oh!

Providing additional punch, and paunch, was Mike Tyson, who was brought onstage for a thunderous hug from Fat Joe, who opined, “Iron Mike can still get the (m-f’n) crowd fired up!” Mike, smoking a brown cigarette for the one moment in the evening when he was actually standing next to me, is not exactly in fighting condition and shares the same weight class with Fat Joe.

Other athletes on in the house were Jermaine O’Neal of the Indiana Pacers and Al Harrington of the Golden State Warriors. They towered over the crowd, for sure. But the star tonight, the elephant in the room, was Fat Joe. We give him a loud, sweaty salute.

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