MDA telethon leaving Las Vegas


The Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon is returning to Los Angeles after a six-year run in Las Vegas that ended with an uproar over the ousting of Jerry Lewis.

South Point owner Michael Gaughan, who hosted the Labor Day weekend event all six years, said he was informed earlier this year that "they were taking it in-house." After originating in Las Vegas for 28 of the 45 years it has aired, the telethon's new home will be at CBS in Culver City.

"It did not come as a surprise," Gaughan added. "They told me last year they were thinking about it."

The MDA organizers also parted ways with Eddie Foye, the telethon's senior talent booker for almost 40 years.

"It was mutual," Foye said. "I was tired. They were making a lot of changes. There was no brouhaha, no yelling and screaming. It was just time."

Lewis, the telethon's host from 1966 to 2010, when it ran for up to 21½ hours, did not appear on the Las Vegas finale. When the MDA announced in May that he had "completed his run," the carefully worded statement was met with skepticism.

Lewis, a longtime Las Vegas resident, has declined to discuss details of his exit.

The 2011 telethon was cut to six hours, and this year's has been trimmed to three.

Last year's announced donation total of $61.5 million surpassed the previous year's. The strong numbers came as a surprise, given the cutback in air time and the uproar over Lewis' absence.

A tote board was not used for the first time.

LUNCH WITH GARTH

A couple from Washington State hit the jackpot in Las Vegas without risking a penny.

Steve Brown, a United Airlines employee from Washougal, Wash., a Portland, Ore., suburb, and his wife, Stephanie, spent two hours with Wynn headliner Garth Brooks on Saturday at The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas.

Brown's name was drawn from 30,000 entries in a contest that included lunch with Brooks, tickets to his show and VIP treatment at Wynn Las Vegas.

"He walks up (to the table) and starts talking like the neighbor next door," Steve Brown said.

The day was all the more special because it was the 22nd anniversary of when the Browns met in Berkeley, Calif.

Brooks and the Browns discussed everything from raising kids to baking bread.

They were joined during the second hour by Brooks' middle daughter, August, who turns 18 on May 4.

Brooks revealed that he and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, have become vegans and, while ordering, asked the server to bring him Steve Wynn's favorite vegan food.

When the conversation turned to their families, Brooks said he has a deal with his daughters: Each must spend a year as a restaurant server.

"He's someone who impressed you with his music but impresses you even more as a person," Brown said.

Brooks, who is halfway through his five-year deal at the Wynn, will perform at the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in July.

SIGHTINGS

Octavia Spencer, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in "The Help," spotted Wednesday at Palms Place, including a stop at Primp salon. … Ben Flajnik, the Season 16 bachelor in ABC's "The Bachelor," backstage after Criss Angel's show (Luxor) on Wednesday. … Regina King, a regular in the TV series "Southland," touring the Mob Museum on Wednesday. … Oakland A's first baseman Daric Barton, catching Terry Fator's show (Mirage) Wednesday night.

THE PUNCH LINE

"The New York Mets are now offering peanut-free seating for fans with severe allergies. Mets officials said they want to make sure that gagging and choking only occur on the field." -- Jimmy Fallon

Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.

 

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