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Las Vegas Strip exec left Notre Dame 30 minutes before fire

Updated April 17, 2019 - 8:55 pm

Cliff Atkinson oversees a famous Las Vegas landmark, but it is nothing compared to Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Las Vegas Strip resort exec who is president and chief operating officer of Luxor was at Notre Dame less than an hour before fire broke out at the revered, 856-year-old cathedral.

Atkinson and his wife, Mandarin Oriental Vice President Jennifer Atkinson, were actually inside the cathedral about 30 minutes before the fire started. The family, which included the Atkinsons’ children Will (age 11) and Elizabeth (8) waited for hours to enter the public tour of Notre Dame.

“It was packed for Easter week and spring break, a huge line to get in all day,” Cliff Atkinson, who wore his favorite Vegas Golden Knights hat during the day, said in an e-mail. “We had just left and went to an early dinner at a restaurant in Paris, Frenchie, and the chef came in and told everyone Notre Dame was burning.

“You could see the smoke from all of Paris.”

The family continued on to other landmarks Tuesday, including the Eiffel Tower.

“We couldn’t believe we were just there,” Atkinson said. “We’re so lucky to have missed the fire.”

Our Notre Dame experience

On Palm Sunday 2013, I was in Paris on an overseas writing trip with the Moreno brothers — Frankie, Tony, and Ricky — and family friend Peggy Armstrong. We had heard that our friend Scott Thompson (commonly known as Carrot Top) was in London at the time.

When he heard we were near, he and his girlfriend Amanda Hogan took the Eurostar Train and we agreed to all meet at a famous landmark — Notre-Dame de Paris.

We stood in the line for quite a time, and as we entered I found myself next to the man known as Carrot Top, who had his red hair pulled back in a ponytail. The enormity of the structure stropped us as we stopped at the nave, flanked by long double aisles and square chapels.

I turned to Thompson and whispered, “I will never forget walking into Notre Dame with Carrot Top.” He smiled and said, “Right?”

We walked out to the courtyard, and the sketch artists who populate that plaza were all over Thompson, trying to draw him because of his distinctive look — many had no idea who he was. He finally sat for a sketch, which was later lost in a pub somewhere. But the memory of that wonderful day, and the transcendent, aesthetic power of Notre Dame Cathedral, lives on.

More from the pyramid

The new Cirque du Soleil show at Luxor, working title of “Jump,” is to be announced within the next two weeks. Same as all Cirque shows currently in production on the Strip, the new Luxor project will run an open-ended schedule. But it will not feature acrobats. Show is extreme-sports driven, described by Cirque President Daniel Lamarre describes the show as, “Cirque’s first live-action thriller.” Deliver something for the younger crowd, is the charge here. The show is hiring now.

Jazz it up

Column fave Michelle Johnson is offering a double dose of jazz genius on at 8 p.m. Friday in “A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald” at Myron’s Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center. Johnson, known as Las Vegas’ First Lady of Jazz, is showcasing special guest Jane Monheit — among the greatest jazz vocalists internationally. Monheit has previously headlined at Cab Jazz and is among Johnson’s inspirations.

“She is someone I never miss when she’s here, but we’ve never done a gig together before,” Johnson says. “We got to know each other after her shows at the Smith Center. I always try to take a group of fellow female singers to see her because she’s so incredibly empowering.”

Bill Zappia of Terry Fator’s band at the Mirage, is Johnson’s keyboardist/music director. Tickets in the $30 range are still available. Hop to it.

The message pitch

Last Wednesday during The Composers Showcase at Cab Jazz, Vegas singer/songwriter/musician/comic performer Sarah Hester Ross delivered a searing salvo at the show in which she was originally cast, “Ester Goldberg’s Outrageous Brunch” at SLS Las Vegas.

Ross’ new song “Goodbye Song,” was her answer to hotel reps cutting her raunchy-funny song about redheads just before the show opened. Ross subsequently left the production, citing scheduling conflicts. Sample lyrics from her mew number: “Your comedy is just no good unless Karen from marketing laaaaaughs!” and “The entertainment director is also in charge of beveraaaaaages!”

Ross remains a mainstay in The Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar act from 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays at Dick’s Last Resort at Excalibur.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found atreviewjournal.com/podcasts.Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1on Instagram.

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