Las Vegas lost one of its most colorful characters Thursday.
Rao's host Robert "Bubbles" Ubriaco died at Desert Springs Hospital, surrounded by many of his friends. He was hospitalized on Wednesday, after what friends believe was a stroke.
Ubriaco, a 380-pound, old-school New Yorker, had celebrated his 65th birthday two weeks ago in Rao's with friends, including Rao's regular Steve Schirripa of "The Sopranos." Ubriaco grew up around real wiseguys in the same neighborhood as Oscar-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri of "A Bronx Tale" fame.
When Rao's decided to put a replica of its legendary East Harlem eatery in Caesars Palace about five years ago, the Pellegrini family hired Ubriaco, who was connected in more ways than one.
He had spent 12 years as a host at Crazy Horse Too, the infamous topless club, which was closed by the feds after the prosecution of a number of figures associated with the joint. Ubriaco got probation.
Ubriaco was working at Crazy Horse Too when he met George Clooney during filming of an "Ocean's Eleven" scene at the club. Over the years, "Bubbles" took delight in shocking friends and patrons by pulling out a weathered photo Clooney signed with an X-rated salutation.
Imagine the big man's joy when he ended up with a cameo in the wildly popular film "The Hangover," in a scene at a bar with Wayne Newton.
A week ago Thursday, Ubriaco was in his glory while facilitating Cher's farewell party for her cast and crew at Rao's. With Cher running 90 minutes late, "Bubbles" chatted with Roman centurions who were waiting to carry Cher into Rao's, ala Cleopatra.
A friend came by and had "Bubbles" pose for a photo with the centurions.
"Say Chucky Cheese," said Ubriaco, his signature line.
It was one of the last photos of the legendary greeter.
THE SCENE AND HEARD
The star of "The Dr. Oz Show" is giving a lecture Saturday from 8-10 p.m. at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Dr. Mehmet Oz will be joined by Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic and best-selling author. Oz and Roizen also write a syndicated column that appears every other day in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Tickets for the Keep Memory Alive benefit go for $100 per person and include the lecture and the reception. Call 702-263-9797 or gshaw@ keepmemoryalive.com.
MAY I RECOMMEND
Vegas PBS has its 22nd annual Wine & Beer Tasting at the Las Vegas Hilton from 3-7 p.m. Saturday. The event features 65 wineries and breweries, plus a live wine auction, silent auction, jazz quartet and an appearance by chef Hubert Keller. Tickets are $65 in advance; $80 at the door.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and friends at Surrender nightclub (Encore) until 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Water was Tebow's drink of choice.
THE PUNCH LINE
"Lindsay Lohan has been charged with stealing a $2,500 necklace. According to the law for celebrities in Los Angeles, 600 strikes and she's out." -- Jay Leno