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A career in Vegas PR: A 66-year-old stripper, Britney’s big comeback and more

In the fall of 2006 I met a man named Bernie Barker at the Rio. Bernie had just been featured on a new show called “America’s Got Talent,” dancing to widespread delight in black-leather chaps and no shirt.

Bernie was 66 years old. He was the World’s Oldest Male Stripper, according to the folks at Guinness. He had just joined the Chippendales at the Rio.

Bernie’s participation in the show had just been formalized when I took a call from a friend and Vegas publicist, who started with, “OK, I’ve got a hot one for ya.”

Alissa Kelly had many hot ones over a 20-year career as a leading Las Vegas PR rep. She has stepped down from her post at PR Plus. About two weeks ago, she started a career in forensic accounting, solving crimes through math. Sept. 18 was her first day with Las Vegas-based Forensic Solutions accounting firm.

When Kelly announced in June she was stepping down, I asked for her favorite memories over her PR career in Las Vegas. I was with her for that entire ride. Kelly’s six-pack wrap, properly ordered, in her words:

6. The infamous “VMA” show: “In 2007, the Palms hosted ‘MTV Video Music Awards’ and I was handling press for The Pearl where the main awards were held. We had a red carpet, which took over the whole casino, we had performances in different suites, it was the night of Britney Spears’ big “comeback” – an iconic evening to say the least! I ended spending a ton of money to buy a pair of flip flops from the gift shop after the red carpet as I could barely walk by the end of the night.”

5. Shake it: “In January 2015, I opened the first Shake Shack location out west at New York-New York! I planned a big block party, and we had the drum line from the Andre Agassi Preparatory School parade through New York-New York, with custom drums with the Shake Shack logo, we had local band Rusty Maples perform Strip-side, and, of course, ShackBurgers galore for everyone – it was such a fun party!”

4. The “O.C’ to L.V.: “In 2004, I oversaw the filming of an episode of “The O.C. at the Hard Rock” (back in the Peter Morton days) and it was the coolest experience. I hadn’t watched the show so the producer sent me VHS tapes to advance the content which got me hooked … And then they sent the script (which I still have!) so we got to find out plot lines that were taking place that no one outside of that team knew about.”

3. Santana in Guadalajara, Mexico. “I was part of a press trip we took to promote the album “Corazón.” To see him play in that huge arena was amazing as I was used to the House of Blues shows which are super intimate! Going to Tequila to visit where Casa Noble was made was incredible – home-cooked meal, gorgeous setting – so surreal.”

2. Kerry Simon’s “Fight MSA” fundraiser: “In February 2014. chefs and rock stars uniting for such a special individual. Kerry was the best and I miss him.”

1. Working the “One Too Many at Midnight” shows in February 2011. “They were at The Lounge at the Palms with my childhood crush Joey McIntyre and Eman Kiriakou. They performed cover songs in this intimate setting with fan girls coming in from around the world – it was insane! Our first conference call to talk about the project, I couldn’t stop smiling. Thank goodness it was before the days of Zoom where people could see you.”

Nowhere is somewhere

We are hearing reliably that the Jennifer Keith Sextet will headline the Nowhere Lounge at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, as the resort launches Dec. 13. Keith specializes in pop, jazz and standards from the 1940s to ’60s. Julie London meets June Christy meets Patsy Cline is the descriptor.

The hideaway club is based on the Staircase to Nowhere at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. We met Keith in her days at The Chandelier at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. She and her band should be a Cool Hang Alert many times over.

Cordell’s quick out

Trumpet great Gary Cordell bolted fast from Ryan Baker’s wonderful “Big Band Crooners” show at the Italian American Club on Sunday night. Those who saw him leave the stage in a hurry wondered if there was an emergency.

Kind of. Cordell hustled to the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, for the ceremony in which Mayor Carolyn Goodman and city communications director David Riggleman read the names of each victim of the Route 91 Harvest festival massacre.

Cordell is co-founder of T.A.P.P.S., the acronym standing for Trumpeters Allied to Perform Patriotic Service. The ensemble was formed eight years ago and has played more than 2,000 funerals for those who have served in our military.

Cordell left the IAC about 9:15 p.m. and made it in time for the 9:30 start of the memorial, receiving a reserved parking spot at the Garden. Cordell has not missed one of these memorials, and he didn’t Sunday. And he also crushed it with Baker’s band on a very full evening.

Cool Hang Alert

Venerable Vegas showman Mark OToole’s variety show moves back to a renovated Freedom Hall Theatre at 3 p.m. Wednesday (doors at 2:30). Fifteen guests are reopening the venue. Tickets are $10; go to sca-hoa.org for intel.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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