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Piff fires up No. 1,500; Mr. Las Vegas sings to Mr. Piffles

Updated November 18, 2023 - 9:52 am

The Kats! Bureau at this writing is Circa Sports Book. The Lions’ was not the desired result of everyone here (co-owner Derek Stevens reports it was not his team’s day today). But the sheer volume of activity offsets any pall created by one team’s defeat. Unless it’s the 49ers, then I start kicking over tables.

Kidding. That’s Monday night. More magic from this scene, and elsewhere:

He’s on fire

Wayne Newton honoring Piff the Magic Dragon at Flamingo Showroom is entirely appropriate, owing to Las Vegas entertainment history.

Newton was an original lounge act to graduate to a showroom, working it six shows a night, six nights a week at the Fremont Hotel in 1959. In 1963, Mr. Las Vegas ascended to the “big room” at the Flamingo — the same showroom where Piff, Showgirl Jade Simone and Mr. Piffles marked their 1,500th show at the hotel Saturday.

Newton took the stage for a bit of shtick, singing “Happy Birthday to You” to Mr. Piffles, Piff’s canine sidekick who turns 16 in two weeks. In a moment at once surreal and celebratory, Newton called for a standing-O for Mr. Piffles, who has been with Piff’s throughout his Vegas career.

Mr. Piffles also received a key to the Las Vegas Strip and proclamation making from County Commissioner Tick Segerblom. Mr. Piffles is the only animal to receive the honor.

Similar to Newton, Piff has slugged it out in small venues to make it to a Strip showroom. The headliner whose legal name is John van der Put developed his quirky dragon character in the U.K. and Australia before even having a chance to perform as a side act in Las Vegas.

“I started at the bottom. I had to work my way, all the way,” Van der Put said in a phone chat Sunday. “People look at Vegas as a destination, and it was for me, and I had to work my way up from open spots in London, getting booed off the stage and having drinks thrown at me. I had to work my way, all the way.”

Piff appeared on the inaugural season of “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” in 2011. It’s still debated whether he actually fooled the duo with his card-trick segment. But his appearance was unarguably a hit. Four years later Piff was a breakout performer on the 10th season of “America’s Got Talent” in 2015, a finalist on the season ventriloquist Paul Zerdin won the championship.

Piff has long joked about being the “loser” of America’s Got Talent. But he needed a catalyst to expand his magic empire, and “AGT” provided the platform.

Van der Put had been signed by Stabile Productions after his run in “Nocturne” closed. The Piff character was then slotted in the Stabiles’ “X Comedy” show at Bugsy’s Cabaret at Flamingo, rotating with such veteran comics as John Bizarre, Nancy Ryan, Joe Trammel, Dennis Blair and James Bean.

Van der Put recalls a conversation in with a friend as he reviewed his career options. He wanted to grow his act, proving to Vegas audiences he could entertain for longer than 20 minutes at a time. And he wanted a bigger room in which to play.

“I looked at my bank account and said, ‘I think I need to become incredibly famous in the next four months, and make hundreds of thousands of of dollars, to sustain this show,” Vane der Put said. “And she said, ‘That doesn’t sound very likely.’ And I said, “No, it doesn’t, does it? But that’s exactly what happened.”

Van der Put has now issued a new book, “Piff the Magic Book — Vol. 1,” a recounting of his career and a tutorial on some of his favorite trick, some of which are still in his act. David Copperfield, Penn Jillette (who gleefully plays Pops,” Piff’s father, occasionally), and Shin Lim joined Piff’s livestream book-release event last month. “I interviewed Shin Lim how to ask him how to win one of these ‘America’s Got Talent’ shows,” Van der Put said.

The Piff show is under contract at Flamingo Showroom through 2024. Expect an extension of his residency run. “At some point, we’ll sit down and, hopefully do a much longer deal, because we love it,” Van der Put said. “It’s the perfect room for us.”

Christmas on Nevada Day

Barry Manilow, who missed his performance Saturday night because flu season “struck his camp,” is taping a Christmas show on Nov. 1. Manilow’s fan club members have been notified via e-mail of 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. show times. These are free performances.

There has been no clarification as to who in Manilow’s camp had the flu. His next ticketed dates are Nov. 9-10.

JLo says hello

Jennifer Lopez attended Usher on Friday at Dolby Live and Adele on Saturday at the Colosseum. I agree with celeb reporter and proud Las Vegan Perez Hilton that we need another Lopez residency on the Strip. I once attended her show with Jerry Lewis, who fell for Lopez on the NBC drama series “Shades of Blue.” It was one of my favorite nights with J-Lew.

Might We Recommend

A two-fer at Italian American Club Showroom. “Frankie Scinta: The Showman” is back at 6:30 p.m. (dinner) 8 p.m. (show) Friday. Top Tom Jones tribute artist Steve McCoy is in the theater, same times, Oct. 29. Tickets are $65. Go to iacvegas.com for intel.

Cool Hang Alert

Sundays are a thing at Blue Martini at Town Square. Retired Clark County School District Police Department Division Captain Ken Young’s KenFolk The Band has been playing the venue over the past nine years. Favorite Vegas vocalist Kyss Kyss is guest. Show runs 8 p.m.-10 p.m. No cover.

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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