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‘A strip club!’: Bruno Mars ramps up the party at The Pinky Ring

Updated April 29, 2024 - 4:31 pm

Bruno Mars is easy to find but not easy to reach at The Pinky Ring, his Bellagio nightclub.

Mr. “Uptown Funk” and purveyor of the party is typically on house left, back of the venue, behind the velvet ropes and a couple of stout security types.

But Mars ventured to the stage late Saturday night, called out by Kameron Whalum, the rocking trombonist of the Hooligans. The Hooligans are Mars’ torrid backing band, and one of the house bands at The Pinky Ring, toggling with the Diamonds, which is a mix of L.A., New York and Vegas musicians.

Mars navigated through the packed crowd, made his way to the safety of the bongos, and jumped into a 20-minute medley. “At the end of the night, The Pinky Ring turns into a strip club!” Mars announced, a reference to an adult dance club and not the venue’s Strip location.

Mars then swayed through “Pony,” covering Ginuwine’s strip-club staple, to shut down the last of the Hooligans’ four sets. Nobody actually stripped, but this crowd had the choreography down.

The Pink Ring opened Super Bowl eve. Mars performed that night, too. The place is sufficiently loud, tightly packed, tables and dance floor in the lower level in front of the stage and VIP booths ringing the room.

The standing-room section is cut between the lower tables and those booths; the one bar is on house right and getting a drink or just watching the performance is a physical challenge when the place is at capacity.

As expected, the venue is heightened by the music produced therein. Word needs to spill out of this place to explain its appeal. The next step for this hot spot is to reach Mars’ and the Hooligans’ contemporaries so they know to drop in and check out the club.

I was surprised to learn earlier Saturday that members of Mariah Carey’s camp, closing their first run at Dolby Live at nearby Park MGM, had not heard of the Pinky Ring. Um, that void needs to be addressed, immediately.

Saturday was also the night I would finally meet Mars, maybe an hour before his performance, as he was there all night. He stepped down from his regal couch to say hello. I mentioned to him that a few years ago I met his father, the charismatic showman Pete Hernandez.

The veteran entertainer shook my hand and said, “Keep supporting Bruno, so he can keep supporting me!” This was after a doo-wop show at Myron’s at the Smith Center.

During our chat, I told Mars he deserves massive credit for creating a Vegas-fashioned club in his own rollicking image. I also said, “You need to record ‘I Took Your Phones Away.’” It was a reference to Mars’ composition performed only at Dolby Live for an audience whose phones are locked.

“No!” he said. “That’s a cult classic!” Mars had to shout over the scene he created in a club that just rocks, especially when the superstar proprietor in is in the room.

Drai’s at 10

A bonafide Vegas nightclub empire, Drai’s at Cromwell, marked the 10th anniversary of its rooftop, dayclub/nightclub venue over the weekend. Wiz Khalifa played Friday night (or, Saturday morning) inside the nightclub.

A chill hit the pool deck as wind swept though the venue. But the dayclub season heats up with the Lovers & Friends block party on Friday, Rick Ross on Saturday and DJ Franzen on Sunday.

Club operator Dustin Drai, son of company founder and Vegas hospitality icon Victor Drai, said the opening of Drai’s Dallas would likely move to Q1 2025. In non-jargon parlance, that means by the end of next spring.

The permit-approval process, which is usually the reason for such push-backs, has moved the calendar. The new Drai’s is a planned 15,000-square-foot venue in the city’s arts district, with cabaret-style entertainment and French-inspired dining. Dustin Drai is a Southern Methodist University grad, leading to his passion for that location.

New album takes root

There are few Vegas entertainment venues I’ve yet to experience. But I found a new one Friday night, Rooting For You 2380 North Buffalo Drive. This is a wonderful little nursery (just ask for Fern at the door, hah), which hosted Ellie Smith’s first performance of original music.

Smith, a music-dance-theater grad from BYU, is a former Miss Nevada America pageant winner and a polished performer. She has played Sandy in several productions of “Grease,” and has appeared in “Rent” and the CBS series “Blue Bloods.” Her performance of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” captured the talent competition at the Miss America pageant.

Smith is now breaking out as a songwriter, with her album “Playing The Villain” due in August. Prolific songwriter and headliner Frankie Moreno is producing the upcoming release and plays all the instruments. The album is being mixed by studio wizard Pat Thrall.

So Smith is in good hands, music-wise, and is a fine pianist and great singer. She showed off her fabulous voice in her original compositions, including the just-released “Everybody Loves Me” and “Demons,” along with “The Girl Who Ran,” “Sorry, I’m Tied Up,” and “Jack.”

Smith doesn’t shy from adult themes (“Sorry, I’m Tied Up” a shining example). She also ends “Everybody Loves Me” by muttering a profanity. The big one. She called it it out Friday night, with her parents Rick and Geri Smith, seated in front of her. Risque! This pageant queen isn’t afraid to reveal her angst. We’re eager for the August release.

Cool Hang Alert

It’s M3cca and Friends at Easy’s Cocktail Lounge at Aria’s Proper Eats Food Hall on Friday. This is a chance to shine a light on Mecca Martini, who was scheduled to perform this past Friday until Patrick Mahomes rented the space for a private party. M3cca (stage name) is a former “American Idol” contestant, fronting a group that mixes R&B, soul, jazz and pop. The club is open from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Go to Easysvegas.com; drop Mahomes’ name and see what happens.

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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