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Las Vegas emerges as RNC favorite


Amid signs that Las Vegas has surfaced as the surprise player in the 2016 Republican National Convention sweepstakes, top Nevada political and resort executives are in Washington, D.C., this weekend to put together the city’s pitch.

That presentation to the Republican National Committee could happen as early as Monday, I’m told. Representatives from Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts are involved.

Caesars president Tom Jenkin is apparently among the delegation. Fox News Chief White House correspondent Ed Henry on Saturday tweeted a photo of the two, saying Jenkin was in D.C. for “ ‘Vegas’ pitch.”

Two leading political observers reported last week that Las Vegas has jumped out from the pack of eight finalists (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City and Phoenix are the others) announced on Friday by the Republican National Committee.

“Las Vegas appears to be the early front-runner” wrote Reid Wilson of the Washington Post.

Politico’s Roger Simon wrote that he’s hearing the same thing, and he cited why Las Vegas might be gaining momentum.

“Many cities would have trouble accommodating the 50,000 or so poor souls who are forced to go to political conventions,” Simon said. “Vegas does not even blink at that number.”

He noted that Las Vegas does not have any major league sports teams, which is a big plus because the schedules of major league teams often can interfere with the convention schedule.

The gambling stigma no longer holds water, Simon said.

“Las Vegas is no longer the Sin City it was, because all of America now sins in similar ways.”

Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, told The Washington Post last month, “There’s a pretty broad consensus that Las Vegas is the most logical choice.”

‘ALL ABOUT KERRY’

After nearly 15 years of covering the celebrity scene here, my Mount Rushmore of Class Acts has a new addition.

What Bill Murray did for his ailing friend and former pizza parlor sidekick Kerry Simon — coming in to support him — was one thing.

But it was the little things Murray did that set him apart in this age of diva demands. Taking time to pose for photos. Not just accommodating the media but approaching the media during Thursday’s Kerry Simon Says Fight Multiple System Atrophy at the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health.

I was limping around the jammed Keep Memory Alive Event Center on a knee wrapped in a brace.

I put in a request to the PR crew, hoping I could get Simon and Murray together before the R-J’s deadline passed.

Out of the blue, Murray walked up, minus a handler, during the Sin City Sinners’ set, and asked if he could help.

Journalists don’t forget those little favors because they happen on rare occasions.

After all the special requests, Murray could have mailed it in, done the minimum, but he didn’t. A deeply appreciative crowd also sensed it.

Maybe his best line of the night: introducing rocker Sammy Hagar as the “Leonard Cohen of Cabo San Lucas.”

The classiest move?

Leading the sold-out crowd of 500 in a “Happy Birthday” sing-along to Simon, whose birthday isn’t until June 17.

“He reached out like I’ve never seen anybody do,” said George Maloof, one of the event organizers.

“He didn’t ask for anything,” said Maloof, who had praise for the entire team, from chefs to rock stars.

“Nobody got paid,” he said. “Everyone came in with one objective: It was all about Kerry. There were no divas. It was amazing.”

RENE ANGELIL RECOVERING

Celine Dion’s husband and manager Rene Angelil underwent surgery in December for the removal of a cancerous tumor in his throat, it was announced Friday.

The Dec. 23 surgery was a success and he is recovering at his Lake Las Vegas home, he said in a statement released by his publicist.

Angelil, 72, had a bout with throat cancer in 1999. His wife put her career on hold during his recovery. Because they live in Las Vegas, she indicated she plans to keep her commitments at Caesars Palace.

AMAZING Johnathan FOLLOWUP

The Amazing Johnathan’s wedding proposal last week was followed quickly by a sobering announcement.

“Serious” heart issues will prevent him from touring in the near future, he said in a Facebook post, “so I’m going to retire with my beautiful new wife and terrific kid at the end of this year.”

An elite comedy magician who had a 13-year run in Las Vegas, his history of health challenges has been no secret.

He proposed onstage to Anastasia Synn, his girlfriend of three years, in Michigan on Feb. 21.

Known as the “Freddy Kreuger of Comedy,” he promised his June bachelor party will “make my Halloween party look like a Sunday school class ... the most insane event of the decade.”

Amazing Johnathan, whose given name is John Szeles, said he’s going out on top.

“The ad-libbing and the amount of laughs I’m getting make me realize I’ve done what I’ve set out to do. We are now getting standing ovations almost every night, and that’s something we hardly ever received during my 35-year career.”

SIGHTINGS

At the Riviera on Saturday: Rick Harrison of the “Pawn Stars” at the Wicked Vicky tavern. Also there: Pia Zadora, serenading a fan with “Happy Birthday.” ... At Crush (MGM Grand) on Friday: Professional tennis players Sorana Cirstea, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Belinda Bencic, with Andre Agassi’s former strength coach Gil Reyes and ESPN tennis analyst Darren Cahill. Bencic won junior titles at the French Open and Wimbledon last year. ... Doug Aldrich, former guitarist for Whitesnake and now starring in Raiding the Rock Vault, at Blue Man Group (Monte Carlo) with his son on Thursday.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, has the top-selling jersey in the league store. Yeah, that’s great — finally a gay man who’s not afraid to stand up and say ‘I have my own clothing line.’ ” — Conan O’Brien.

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.