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Burton Cohen: A legend and genuine to the core


Burton Cohen was a man of few words when it came to talking about himself.

The day before his 90th birthday in August, I ran into him at Regency Towers at Las Vegas Country Club. We’ve been neighbors for 15 years.

I wished him a happy birthday, and he held a finger to his mouth and said, “Shhhhh.” I wanted to run a blurb on his birthday about his decades as a legendary gaming executive.

“Can I email it?” he said.

Sure enough, the email arrived a short time later, and it was a doozy.

“Testimony to my managerial ability, all except one have been blown up,” he wrote. “I’ve left a sea of destruction.”

An animal lover, he would ask about our dogs, Rumor and Scandal. He always was cordial, but I got the impression he preferred being back in a casino, talking to the people who counted: the employees at Desert Inn, Dunes, Frontier and Thunderbird.

Actor Tony Curtis loved him and always asked about him. Curtis portrayed a character patterned after Cohen in “Vega$,” a hit TV series from 1978-81.

Southern Wine &Spirits’ Larry Ruvo started half of our conversations with “Tell Burton hello.”

When Cohen moved to Las Vegas in the 1960s, his first job was overseeing the construction of the New Frontier. He was a co-owner and general manager.

When it opened, “Larry Ruvo was my night manager, and Steve Wynn was responsible for uncrating the slot machines. He was only 21 at the time,” Cohen said.

In November, I asked where he was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In Miami, practicing law, he said, and a close JFK colleague jumped from the law office where Cohen worked.

Services for Cohen will be at 3:30 p.m. today at King David Memorial Chapel, 2697 E. Eldorado Lane.

BON APPETIT!

French star chef Daniel Boulud had saber honors at Thursday’s kickoff ceremony of the eighth Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit at the Doge’s Palace at The Venetian.

Boulud, who has award-winning restaurants worldwide, sabered the cork of a magnum of Mionetto champange.

Participants included: Adam Rapoport, Bon Appétit Magazine’s editor-in-chief; Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Pierre Gagnaire, Julian Serrano, Shawn McClain, Sirio Maccioni and Craig Schoettler of Aria; Jason Smith, Edmund Wong, Roy Ellamar, Ricardo Murcia and Paul Lee of Bellagio; Guy Savoy, Mary Sue Milliken and Frankie Pellegrino Jr. of Caesars Palace; Joël Robuchon, Michael Mina, Claude Le-Tohic, Ho Chee Boon and Steve Benjamin of MGM Grand; Boulud, Thomas Keller, Buddy Valastro, Justin Quek, Tewtsuya Waakuda, Olivier Dubreuil and Kim Canteenwalla of The Venetian.

Boulud was in town for the ribbon cutting and official opening of db Brasserie at The Venetian. It marks his return to Las Vegas. He operated Daniel at Wynn from 2005 to 2010.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Caesars Palace announced Thursday that Mr Chow will be added to its culinary lineup in early 2015. Long courted by Las Vegas hotels, the Beijing cuisine eatery will move into the second-story space occupied by Empress Court, which will close this spring. It will overlook the Garden of the Gods pool. …

Director Clint Eastwood’s film version of “Jersey Boys,” which co-stars former Las Vegas “Jersey Boys” cast member Erich Bergen, has been selected as the closing night film for the 20th anniversary Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19 at LA Live.

SIGHTINGS

Flamingo headliner Olivia Newton-John, with friends at “Zarkana” (Aria) on Tuesday. … Gloria Trevi, known as the “supreme diva of Mexican pop,” dining at Eiffel Tower Restaurant (Paris) on Tuesday.

THE PUNCH LINE

“The 2015 U.S. Open for Bowling has been canceled due to a lack of interest from sponsors. And spectators. And bowlers.” — Seth Myers

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.