Finalists in town for 'American Idol'


They made it to Hollywood. Next up for the 40 “American Idol” finalists: surviving 20 more cuts this week in Las Vegas.

Taping for Season 12 started Tuesday night at Cirque du Soleil’s Love Theater at The Mirage.

The 20 survivors of the first stage of semifinals will be announced Feb. 28 after Tuesday-Wednesday tapings this week and next.

They return March 5 for the first live show and stay for the second one the next night. On March 7, the first vote and the 10 finalists will be announced live from Los Angeles.

Look for sightings galore of the “Idol” team — judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and host Ryan Seacrest.

One lucky contestant hopes Las Vegas will be the launching pad it was for Taylor Hicks, who flew here on a whim in October 2005 after fleeing Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

When he finally got home to Birmingham, Ala., after a 15-hour cab ride from West Monroe, La., he decided to fly to Las Vegas with the airline voucher he received.

When he landed, he found out the “Idol” auditions were starting here the next day. He decided to give it a shot and became the first male winner.

Last year he was the first “Idol” winner to score a long-term residency in Las Vegas.

EIGHT VIE FOR MRS. NEVADA

A familiar face will be among the eight contestants in Sunday’s Mrs. Nevada pageant at the Suncoast.

Mrs. Red Rock Ruth Gray was known as Ruth Quinn when she and sister Ryan Wahrenbrock reigned as co-winners of the first Palms Girl contest in 2004.

She’s married to former Palms executive Jon Gray, who is heading Caesars Entertainment’s half-billion Linq project.

The other contestants: Dacia Metsker, Mrs. Green Valley; Katie Ladomerszky, Mrs. Las Vegas; Lucy Greger, Mrs. Southern Highlands; Natasha Isom-Stratton, Mrs. Summerlin; Rebecca Crone, Mrs. Henderson; Sephora Louder, Mrs. Seven Hills and Tanice Smith, Mrs. North Las Vegas.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Las Vegas golf coaching legend Butch Harmon, who has 22,000 Twitter followers, tweeted on Monday: “What a great weekend. To spend it with the President and have my son Claude III by my side. It doesn’t get any better then this.” To those who groused about it, Harmon, 69, tweeted on Sunday: “It was an honor to be with the president and if you were asked you would do the same.”

SIGHTINGS

Los Angeles Clippers star guard Chris Paul, having lunch at Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro (Palazzo) on Monday, with a group of friends at one table and his NBA All-Star Game MVP trophy at another table being chaperoned by a lone assistant. Paul hosted Sunday’s evening at Lavo (Palazzo) and celebrated with his brother, C.J., who received a cake for his 30th birthday. ... French star chef Guy Savoy, owner of Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace, with Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner and his wife, Peggy, among a group Sunday at the Nobu restaurant at Caesars. ... Also at the restaurant over the weekend: San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame member Ronnie Lott.

THE PUNCH LINE

“This weekend, President Obama played golf with Tiger Woods. The most valuable golf tip Tiger gave him? Delete your text messages.” — Jay Leno

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, 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.