A look back at a year that Justin Bieber would rather forget, a wedding of elephantine proportions and the arrival of Britney Spears:
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt provided the sighting of the year – showing up at Bonanza Gifts with their kids for a shopping spree.
Austin “Chumlee” Russell of “Pawn Stars” gave us the best quote – something about “motorboating” – and it has nothing to do with a body of water.
Ceelo Green’s homage to Liberace was less than fabulous and the Biebs’ career appears to be in a freefall, which won’t come as a surprise to the folks over at Vegas Indoor Skydiving.
Can Britney live up to her claim that “this is my town now.” The answer starts tonight.
She’s one of a dozen newsmakers and major events in our year-ender.
Ceelo crashes and burns: When white-hot Ceelo Green made a flaming piano entrance at Planet Hollywood Resort, no one saw a flameout coming. But his late-night show, “Ceelo Green is Loberace,” bombed, a victim of promising more that it delivered. A reported extension never happened.
Taking a gamble: After winning an Emmy for set design during his decade in Las Vegas, Andy Walmsley took a bold step in 2013. Pushing in some big chips, Walmsley turned show producer and created the Showbiz Roast. He put together three of them between April and October, starting with Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips in the hot seat. He followed with former Mayor Oscar Goodman and then drag queen Frank Marino. Walmsley put up his own money to recreate an old Vegas staple. Here’s a toast to hoping he hits the jackpot.
Sighting of the year: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and four of their kids (Zahara, Shiloh, Vivienne and Knox), making a surprise appearance at Bonanza Gifts at Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard South. During their 45-minute shopping spree, they purchased toys, trinkets, snow globes, a monkey backpack, a jewelry box in the shape of the Great Pyramid of Giza and a large pillow in the shape of sushi.
Free-falling star: 2013 was a breathtaking PR disaster for 19-year-old pop idol Justin Bieber. Public urination. Spitting on fans. Brothel shenanigans. Shortened shows. Two lowpoints came in Las Vegas. He was booed at the Billboard Awards in May and stiffed Vegas Indoor Skydiving in June. The latter gave him the option of paying $1,600 for his group of six or post a photo of himself skydiving on his Instagram account. He didn’t do either and walked without tipping the staff.
Ask Vanilla Ice how fast fame can melt away.
Cirque’s saddest day: Emotions flew from one end of the spectrum to the other – from exhilaration to horror – on June 29 for the Cirque du Soleil family.
A triumphant opening night for “Michael Jackson One” and Cirque ended shockingly hours later when a performer for sister show “KA” fell 94 feet to her death at the MGM Grand. Sarah Guillot-Guyard, a mother of two, died during the final battle scene when a wire rope suspending her broke. A four-month investigation by Nevada OSHA cited Cirque with six citations and MGM with three. It was Cirque’s first death during a performance in the company’s 29-year history.
Las Vegas loses an icon: Grammy-winning singer Eydie Gorme died August 10 after brief illness, five days before her 85th birthday. Part-time Las Vegas residents, she and her husband Steve Lawrence were a powerhouse team for nearly 60 years and toured with Frank Sinatra.
Candid quote of the year:
Austin “Chumlee” Russell of the runaway hit series “Pawn Stars” has learned to say no.
“People want me to call their friend on the phone all the time. But at least 1,000 times, no, 100,000 times, a guy will say ‘take a picture with my wife. Now, put your face in her boobies and motorboat ‘em.’ I’m thinking to myself, ‘dude, I’m not going to be setting that kind of an example. And that’s all of the time.”
Incidentally, that “Chum” interview topped my most-read stories list, far outdistancing the runner-up, the Bellagio wedding that featured the groom arriving on an elephant.
Wedding of the Century: Houston businessman Pankaj Malani capped his over-the-top Las Vegas wedding by riding an elephant to the entrance of Bellagio. About 600 attended the poolside nuptials. Parties were held at Hyde Bellagio, Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan and Marquee at The Cosmopolitan, with brunches at Jasmine and Prime steakhouse. Many of the events were buyouts. A few days later, attorneys for Pankaj were on the phone, calling for a retraction of the wedding’s tab, which was provided to the Review-Journal by the wedding planner.
Las Vegas turns up the volume: From the Electric Daisy Carnival to the Music Life is Beautiful festival to the explosion of DJs and electronic dance music, Las Vegas was never more about the music than in 2013.
Sirens silenced: Treasure Island pulled the plug on its free pirate attraction, “Sirens of TI,” on Nov. 22 after a 10-year run. What started as the “Battle of Buccaneer Bay” in 1993 ended without a final farewell. Management put the show in hiatus on Oct. 21, with the plan to resume Christmas Day. Didn’t happen.
Britney’s bold words: Three weeks ago outside Planet Hollywood Resort, Britney Spears she told the welcoming-ceremony crowd, “This is my city right now.” It’s on.
Most inspirational: Faced with unknown health issues for more than four years, chef Kerry Simon forged ahead. Many would have backed off and waited until they had a better idea of what they might be facing. Asked why he continued to go forward, Simon said, “It’s what we do.” Chefs from around the country are gathering in Las Vegas next month for a major fundraiser.
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 702-383-0244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more at normclarke.com. Follow @Norm_Clarke on Twitter. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.