We will miss James Brown in this Las Vegas Strip strip show.
For 18 years, Sean E. Cooper has portrayed Brown in “Fantasy” at Luxor, blasting into the topless revue like a gold-jacketed cannon ball. The multi-talented Cooper danced and joked and invited nonplussed audience members up for an Elvis number. His “Hips Don’t Lie” number with host and vocalist Lorena Peril was especially inspired, as Cooper ducked low under Peril’s white skirt while calling out, “This is like a car wash!”
Cooper also performed a wild Tina Turner number, looking oddly at home in the frilly dress and high heels.
But the show’s lone male cast member is done performing the comedy set in the middle of the show, as producers announced he is pursuing a solo career. Cooper was away Wednesday, attending to a family matter, not yet available for comment. He left the show Feb. 1.
Producer Anita Mann is now luring guest stars to replace Cooper. Up first in that role is comic magician Murray Sawchuck, who fills in Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Sawchuck’s earlier schedule at Laugh Factory allows him to step into the role at Luxor, just a short ride on the 10 speed from the Trop.
Sawchuck previously filled the middle role in “Crazy Horse Paris” at MGM Grand about a decade ago, and his onstage sidekick, Doug “Lefty” Leferovich has also subbed for Cooper.
“Sean has always wanted to do more, more, more in the show, and there is not a lot of opportunity for him to do more in ‘Fantasy,’ ” Mann said Wednesday. “He is like a son to me, and it’s important that he be happy. Sean has top-line talent and it’s time for him to explore other options outside of this show.”
Outgoing MGM Resorts International Chairman Jim Murren was not a “theme” guy. He said that, over the years, Las Vegas had outgrown its need to name and theme resorts from other locations — and he said this at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Park in April 2016. It was shortly before Monte Carlo would be renamed Park MGM.
“We are not going to name it something from somewhere else. Those days are over,” Murren said that afternoon. “This is Las Vegas; we are at the top of the list of entertainment cities. We are not second to anybody. We’re not going to have a property themed after a city from a far-away place.” He also referred to MGM Grand, which was originally themed for MGM films, including “The Wizard of Oz.”
“MGM Grand is very much a different property,” Murren said that day. “You don’t see Dorothy and Toto in there anymore.” No, they are relegated to the sidewalk in front of Bellagio Fountains …
The nation is live
Top booking exec and amiable scenester Kurt Melien has been named new President of New York City, U.S. Concerts for concert behemoth Live Nation.
Melien has served in that role for the company in Las Vegas since 2015, and was previously a high-ranking entertainment exec at Caesars Palace. Melien was instrumental in landing several Strip residencies, including Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Gwen Stefani at Zappos Theater, and the upcoming Sting series at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Melien begins his new job next week
Sid Greenfeig, formerly a booking official with MGM Resorts International who focused on T-Mobile Arena, steps into Melien’s vacated role with Live Nation. Amanda Moore is now the company’s Senior Vice President of Las Vegas, U.S. Concerts.
Live Nation canvasses Las Vegas with its lineup of superstar headliners, and is the exclusive booking partner for Zappos Theater and the Colosseum.
Brown is served
During a recent episode of “PodKats!” Gordie Brown told me he was going more contemporary with his characters in his new show, “Lasting Impressions.” He wasn’t joking.
Brown performed a segment of Justin Bieber’s new single “Yummy,” in his opening at Golden Nugget Showroom on Tuesday night. Brown also opened with “We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Charlie Puth — learning the lyrics the day of the show — and delved into Green Day, Sam Hunt and Coldplay.
“I have loved doing the research for this show,” Brown said Wednesday. “When you look into Coldplay and Chris Martin, and you get the smooth roughness in his voice, and how much talent he has, it’s really great to perform that.”
Brown said that “Yummy” is so new (and likely outside his demographic’s range) that he uses the lyrics to transition into other characters. He moves quickly from Bieber into the more familiar Fat Bastard and Dr. Evil.
“I’m really happy with where the show is,” said Brown, who has headlined at Golden Nugget twice over the years, most recently a six-year run ending in September 2016. “I want people to know when the come in, it will be a different show every time.” It’s definitely the only Vegas show to feature Bieber and The King.
It’s not every day you receive a selfie of an NFL owner and a Strip headliner at a boutique airport. But there it was, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis with Mirage headliner Matt Goss — fashion plates, both — Friday at JetSuiteX lounge.
Goss, in a chic denim jacket and beige fedora, was heading to L.A. to record with Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Davis, in a stylish white RAIDERS long-sleeved T and signature bowl-cut hair design, was about to fly back to Oakland for work. A buddy movie, waiting to happen.
Sabina to ‘X’
Burlesque artist and popular pin-up Sabina Kelley joins “X Burlesque” at Flamingo as a guest star on Friday and Saturday nights. She’s not going totally topless, but down to pasties and “the tiniest G-string ever” for her stint in the 10 p.m. adult revue.
Kelley, most recently a cast member of “Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch” at Sahara, is a former “Jubilee” dancer and also guest star in “Pin Up” at the Strat. The two-show run is just that, though Kelley says, “I’m not sure what it will lead to, but I’m excited to be on stage again and hope it will lead to something permanent.”
Cool Hang Alert
What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than a roaring version of “Luck Be a Lady” at an off-Strip casino? Michael Shapiro and Reckless in Vegas offer just that, and more, at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Suncoast Showroom. The show is a proven winner for anyone who wants to hearken to the glory days of Vegas entertainment, with songs remixed with a modern-rock vibe. Tickets are $15.95 (not including fees), a mere pittance, available on the Suncoast website.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram