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A memorable karaoke night collects $100K at Ellis Island

Updated October 18, 2017 - 8:47 pm

I have newfound appreciation for karaoke.

Tuesday night’s “Sing for Strength” charity karaoke event at Ellis Island Casino and Brewery was a hit. We can quantify that: The night raised $100,000, with Ellis Island owner Gary Ellis pledging $1,000 for every song performed from 7 to 11 p.m. to the Las Vegas Victims Fund for victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip.

The total was boosted by Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White’s matching contribution for every singer. He did not sing, promising after “two more beers” he’d take the stage. He “two-beered” us for four hours.

It was a whole thing, folks. In a four-hour spectacle for which I was master of ceremonies, impromptu performers included Bill Medley and Bucky Heard of the Righteous Brothers at Harrah’s; Rudy Ruettiger, subject of the movie “Rudy”;, the Las Vegas Gene and ChippenPaul from Sin City Kiss and “The World’s Greatest Rock Show” at the Stratosphere; Paul Johnson, also of “Rock Show”; Clint Holmes and Kelly Clinton-Holmes; Jaime Lynch of “Peepshow” and “Fantasy”; the cast of “The Rat Pack is Back” at Tuscany Suites; Chris Phillips and Nieve Malandra of Zowie Bowie; Planet Hollywood Resort magician Murray Sawchuck; Paul Shortino of “Raiding the Rock Vault’’ at Hard Rock Hotel; Frankie Scinta of “The Scintas” at the Plaza; longtime Vegas comic Kathleen Dunbar; singer/songwriter Kaylie Foster (daughter of Hammond master Ronnie Foster); Lindsey Simon of KLAS-TV, Channel 8’s “Las Vegas Now”; Ted Florendo of KLAS-TV, Channel 8’s “8 News Now”; Vegas lounge great Ronnie Rose; Lannie Counts of Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns (who performs his “Cooke” tribute to Sam Cooke at Italian American Club on Oct. 27); ex-“Jubilee” cast member Laurie Caceres; Dick Feeney, producer of “Rock Show” and “The Rat Pack is Back” at Tuscany Suites; Robyn Vincent of Swing City Dolls and the Whip Its of Carnaval Court at Harrah’s; and Geena Mattox, late of “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular.”

Highlights were innumerable. For instance, I had no idea that Buffalo native Scinta was friends with Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley until Scinta dropped that name before singing the Doobie Brothers’ “Taking It to The Streets.”

Heard and Medley wowed the crowd with “You’ve Got that Loving Feeling,” and Clinton-Holmes later joined Medley for “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Shortino, typically a roaring rocker, shifted gears with, “What a Wonderful World” and Mattox came with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” a cappella.

To lead the promenade of nonsingers, Ruettiger chose the Irish tearjerker “Danny Boy.” Sawchuck, called to the stage despite his deafness of tone, needed three backing vocalists (Holmes, Phillips and myself) to muscle through “Summer Loving” from “Grease.” And I was allowed to sing Steve Martin’s “King Tut” in full headdress.

Never has bad singing felt so good.

But the night’s MVP (Most Valuable Performance) went to Lynch. Early in the event an anonymous donor offered her $10,000 to sing “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey.

Lynch spent the next hour or so listening to the song — which she’d never sang — so she could deliver a $10K performance. She flew through the number, to explosive response.

Afterward, Lynch fanned herself and said, “I have never been so nervous in my life.” All for the worthiest of causes.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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