Forget the hot dogs, apple pie and hand-cranked ice cream. Fourth of July weekend with Kathy Griffin could mean fried Twinkies with Bette Midler at Mermaids.
"I'm telling you, Bette Midler and I have put Mermaids on the map," she says of the trip to the Fremont Street slot joint, documented in this season's first episode of Griffin's Bravo reality show "My Life on the D-List."
"You have no idea how many people have e-mailed ... 'How did you get Bette to go?' " says the comedian, who does her stand-up today at Mandalay Bay. "It did take a little persuasion. This is the type of delicacy you have to eat till you're sick. For some people, that's one bite."
If all went to plan, Griffin was the guest of honor at a Thursday night party to unveil her wax figure at Madame Tussauds at The Venetian.
"D-List" cameras recorded the day the Tussauds craftsmen measured her for the figure, and the unveiling was likewise to be filmed for the show.
Cher opened her big mouth and told Griffin, "I think they put it in storage if you're not hot." Now the comedian worries "that I'm so D-list, the Madame Tussauds people are gonna put me in the storeroom."
Having her very own wax figure is a far cry from the July 4 weekends of Griffin's childhood in Chicago: "A lot of drunken micks sitting around in the yard swearing at each other and starting fights. A lot of knocked over beer bottles.
"My brother John used to get these things called snakes, and they would ruin the sidewalk and my mom and dad would be furious."
This year, she says, "I plan to celebrate in the warmth and comfort of a nice, decadent bay of slots."
Here are some other entertainment highlights of a big tourism weekend on the Strip. For complete time and ticket information, see the Showguide:
• Jeff Dunham: The only ventriloquist who can give Terry Fator a run for his money will be next door for shows today and Saturday at Caesars Palace.
When last in town for The Comedy Festival in November, Dunham said he was content to put off a residency for the time being in favor of touring large venues. "I love Vegas, but right now you gotta dance with who brung you," he said of playing arenas.
"There will be a future when I'm looking forward to coming to Vegas and doing some fun stuff."
For now, it's just this one patriotic weekend with Achmed the Dead Terrorist.
• "Uncle Sam's Comedy Jam": Fresh from a Las Vegas visit in "The Hangover," stoner-ifically silly comedian Mike Epps leads an Orleans Arena roster of stand-up with Arnez J, Earthquake and Leslie Jones on Saturday.
Epps spent at least one working Independence Day on the Strip, back in 2005. "I've grown up a little bit," the 38-year-old comedian said then. "I used to have so much fun out there (in Las Vegas) it was scary."
• Big concerts: Jay-Z may not have been able to make a sports bar work at the Palazzo, but he still can pack an arena. That makes shows today and Saturday at the Palms cozy by comparison.
And Jamie Foxx could pack the Hard Rock Hotel's concert hall for two nights doing either music or comedy. This time it's some of both.
• Casino fireworks: Not too familiar with the Mystic Roots Band, the Sand Diego hyphenate band that blends reggae, dance hall and hip-hop? Buy a ticket anyway, because the Saturday concert comes with the wave pool at Mandalay Beach and ... fireworks!
In the past, casinos always were cagey about their plans for privately financed displays to entertain high rollers. Looky-loos copping a free gawk at the sky just added to security costs. But here, "a massive fireworks display" is promised in the advertising.
Likewise, the M Resort on the southern edge of town is wide open about its free festival that starts at 7 p.m. Saturday with a fireworks display at 9:15 p.m.
• "Death Drop" for Dead band: Las Vegas usually is all about the oldies. But fans of Linkin Park will be excited by an acoustic miniset from Dead By Sunrise, a side project helmed by Linkin frontman Chester Bennington.
The free show is at 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the Steve Wyrick theater at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. The 400 or so tickets will be given away starting at 2 p.m. when Bennington signs autographs at his new Club Tattoo inside the mall.
At 8:30 p.m., Bennington and the band will assist in an outdoor stunt in front of the shops, shackling magician Wyrick into a death trap 80 feet above flaming spikes. Talk about fireworks.
• Return of an Idol: Las Vegans can catch up to hometown girl Mikalah Gordon. Anyone else who wonders what became of "American Idol" finalists Nikki McKibbin, David Hernandez and Jasmine Trias can find out with this packaged show at South Point today through Sunday.
• Away from the Strip: The Las Vegas Philharmonic has a new home this year, moving its "Star Spangled Spectacular" to the Springs Preserve at 8 p.m. Saturday. The desire not to torch the desert preserve means a switch from fireworks to a laser show.
Boulder City still sets off the real stuff at Veterans Memorial Park at 9 p.m. The display caps a small-town celebration that begins with a 9 a.m. parade along the main drag downtown.
For more information on neighborhood celebrations and displays, see the Diversions listings.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.