A friendly fund-raising rivalry between a local food critic and a former “Top Chef Masters” competitor is raising a chunk of dough for the St. Baldrick’s drive.
Food critic Al Mancini and Las Vegas chef Rick Moonen will take turns shaving each other’s noggins on Saturday.
That means Mancini’s 15-year-old multi-colored punk rock mohawk is history, with Moonen manning the clippers at Ri Ra Irish Pub at Mandalay Bay. Mancini will help Moonen take on the charity’s name as a bald Rick.
It is one of four head-shaving events for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which was formed by three Irish-Americans in 1999 to fund childhood cancer research through St. Patrick’s Day parties. Others are at McMullen’s Irish Pub and Nine Fine Irishmen at New York-New York, and Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel.
If you can’t make it, donations and more information are available online at www.stbaldricks.org.
The Mancini-Mooney challenge worked like this: Mancini vowed to surrender the ’hawk to Moonen if he hit $2,000 in donations. As of Tuesday, he was at $2,620. His goatee will go as well if he reaches $5,000. Moonen, who operates rm seafood and RX Boiler Room at Mandalay Bay, agreed to become a human cue ball if he raised $3,000. He was at $3,110 on Tuesday.
You can track their duel at the aforementioned website.
Mancini was inspired after serving as a shaver in 2012 and 2013 for his friends at Ri Ra.
“I was incredibly impressed by they people who came up to shave their heads — from young kids to senior citizens to women with hair down to their waists.”
Prior to his decision to go with the Mohawk in 1999, Mancini had not had a haircut in 15 years. He had black hair flowing down his back. But he decided to go bald when his hair started receding.
“So I decided to go bald on my own terms. The rest is a long, fun experiment overseen by a great colorist (Brandon Arthur),” said Mancini, a native of south Jersey. He had moved here in 2001 to cover Las Vegas as a reporter for ABC News radio. He added food writer to his resume a couple years later.
The only bad experience he had as a food critic happened in Summerlin in 2008 at a tiny restaurant. He had called ahead to let the owner’s wife know he would come by to drop off some samples of his work.
His mistake was he failed to let the restaurant know about his tattoos, goatee and Mohawk.
He was quickly shoved out the door by a man muttering “private party” and “you can’t come in here.”
Mancini’s friends called the restaurant and gave the owner an earful. The six-table joint closed a short time later.
“I was only there to give him free publicity,” said Mancini, whose other trademark is matching a Mickey Mouse T-shirt with a well-tailored suit.
By comparison, the well-respected Mancini has been greeted with bear hugs by French superchef Joel Robuchon, who insisted on a photo with Mancini to post on Facebook.
His wild look made it impossible to be an under-the-radar food critic.
“You have to meet chefs to do features, and you work with all the restaurant publicists. In this day of the Internet, people are going to know your face,” he said.
Being easily recognized was a plus during his many years of covering rock ‘n’ roll.
“I’d be on the red carpet at the Grammys. I’d bump into Slash once a year, and he’d know me. Do you think he’d remember me if he’d see me once a year without this look. Probably 50 rock stars recognize me. It’s been good for me.
“I still love punk rock,” he added. “But I’m having fun with this hair until it falls out.”
THE SCENE AND HEARD
Las Vegas’ Clint Holmes is in Atlanta today as a featured entertainer in “Georgia on my Mind: Celebrating Ray Charles.” The Georgia-born Charles recorded his first hit, “I Got a Woman,” in 1954. …
Lavetta Schneider, a Las Vegas hairstylist whose celebrity clientele includes Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears, is the new Mrs. Nevada America. She claimed the title Sunday at Sam’s Town. She works at Michael Boychuck’s Color salon at Caesars Palace. It was Schneider’s first pageant, coming after one of her clients, Mrs. Nevada 2011 Amanda Kouretas, encouraged her to compete. Raised in Phoenix, she and her twin sister moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and went on the Jenny Jones show at age 18. While getting her hair styled by Edward Tricomi, “I fell in love with hair artistry,” she said. …
Correction: The London theater show starring former Las Vegan Leigh Zimmerman is “Relative Values.”
THE PUNCH LINE
“Russia ended up with 33 medals. Only six of those were stolen by (Vladimir) Putin. Speaking of medals, the United States hockey team had no trouble getting through the airport metal detector.” — David Letterman
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at email@example.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.