Lance Burton pulls an elephant ride from his trunk of tricks

Updated October 14, 2017 - 8:36 pm

Pink elephants, pink clouds, pink jeeps … this Kats! transmission has it all:

Burton rides high

Lance Burton, VegasVille’s most famous retired magician, is to arrive on an elephant (that we suspect will be draped in pink or even burgundy) at 3 p.m. Friday to open the 68th annual Zelzah Shrine Circus at Boulevard Mall. The event runs 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 and Oct. 22.

“I’m riding an elephant, or at least that’s the plan. It’s up to the circus; they have the elephant,” Burton said Saturday afternoon. “But I’ll do anything for the Shriners.”

Burton’s late manager, the famed illusionist and hypnotist Peter Reveen, was a Shriner. Also, a dear friend of Burton’s, actor Pat Morita (“Happy Days” and “Karate Kid”), a Las Vegas resident in his later years, had been cared for at a Shriners Hospital in San Francisco after suffering a spinal injury as a child.

“I have been to Shriners Hospitals and performed tricks for the children who are being treated there,” Burton said. “When you do that, and see what the Shriners do, you’re in.”

Burton has restricted his performances to charity events since he retired from the theater named for him at the Monte Carlo in 2010. Burton’s startling decision, amid a reported dispute in funding for his production, ended a 14-year run at the hotel and a three-decade stage career in Las Vegas.

Burton has performed one ticketed show in Las Vegas this year, guest-hosting “Louie Anderson’s The After Show” at The Space in May. He’s also set to appear in “Lance Burton Master Magician & Friends” at the Des Moines (Iowa) Civic Center on Nov. 25-26 — he was invited to play there after screening his movie “Billy Topit” at the 2016 Wild Rose Independent Film Festival.

In this limited engagement, Burton will be joined by master juggler Michael Goudeau and magicians Fielding West and Keith West (who are not related).

But don’t expect Burton to toil full-time onstage again.

“I did that for 30 years. I’m done,” he said. “I had fun, but I’m having fun now, too.”

Jeepers for Johnson

Billy Johnson has packed away his hockey gear and is riding a pink cloud.

“I’m working in a wonderful new company,” Johnson said in a phone chat last week. “I’m in a cultural leadership role to put out a great product that pleases people.”

Specifically, Johnson is now chief revenue officer of Pink Adventure Group, which owns Pink Jeep Tours of Las Vegas.

That post is far removed from Johnson’s old job. For a decade, he was the city’s professional hockey point man as the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers. His wacky promotional campaigns — “Dick Cheney Hunting Vest Night” “The Indoor Winter Classic” and midnight starting times among them.

Since the team ended its run at Orleans Arena in 2013 and folded a year later, Johnson has worked as director of the University Medical Center Foundation and also in the administrative offices of Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah. He started with the Pink Jeep crew on St. Patrick’s Day.

Despite his long history of running a pro team in Las Vegas, and more than 20 years working with franchises across the country, Johnson was never seriously considered for a front-office spot with the Vegas Golden Knights. He had a “casual” meeting with Golden Knights owner Bill Foley two years ago. He says he’s proud that a half-dozen front-office employees from the Wranglers have landed in the National Football League, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

Of his own relationship with the new NHL team, Johnson says, “Anyone with 25 years in sports would like to have had a conversation to see if working for a major-league team was an option, but I know how things go. But we had a supercool staff who worked for the Wranglers in that last year, and they have done some great things. I’m pretty proud of that.”

Jazz action at UNLV

The vaunted UNLV Jazz Ensemble 1 is backing an all-star show at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theater. The show benefits three UNLV scholarship programs that help fund the arts: The Joe Williams, Paul Coladarci and Jacob Garehime funds. Set to perform vocally are Clint Holmes, Ronnie Rose, Naomi Mauro, Eric Jordan Young, JoBelle Yoney, Donald Cunningham, Laura Taylor and Gary Fowler. The comedy star is Pete Barbutti, who doesn’t perform often these days but is still a superb, farcical storyteller.

Cost is just $10 — speaking of farcical — and all proceeds go to the UNLV jazz program.

It’s a whole thing

“Sing for Strength” the charity fundraiser set for Ellis Island Casino & Brewery from 7 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, will feature a performance by a former public servant that is truly breathtaking. The Ellis family is donating $1,000 each time a celeb sings a song, with proceeds going to the victims and families of the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip. Tickets are a $250 donation, including all food and beverage. We’re expecting some Zowie Bowie action, an appearance by at least one Scinta, a Chippendale and many other name-checks. I’m serving as master of ceremonies and will sing (hint: hashtag-Steve Martin). What could possibly go wrong?

‘Evil Dead’ seeks life

A show that opened on a Thursday last month and closed the next night, “Evil Dead,” is again looking for a home. The show is in zombie status since its brief two-night run at Windows Showroom at Bally’s on Sept. 14-15. The production, with its “Splatter Zone” and requisite cult following, did impressive business at Tommy Wind Theater on the Strip before Wind’s lease for the venue expired in August and all shows there closed.

Who Was Where

Members of Human Nature at Sands Showroom at The Venetian, laying a memorial wreath at Las Vegas Healing Garden and Remembrance Wall in the Arts District on Thursday. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Australian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Honorable Steven Ciobo, hosted the event … Janet Jackson in town for her “State of the World” tour stop at Mandalay Bay on Saturday, at “Magic Mike Live” at Hard Rock Hotel on Friday … Actress/model Shauna Sand and her daughters Alexandra, Victoria and Isabella, Friday at Sugar Factory at Fashion Show mall. Sand was celebrating her 46th birthday.

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

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