Robin Leach star of ‘Final Episode’ on Las Vegas Strip

Updated September 30, 2018 - 8:37 pm

It was the sort of event where you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

So we did both.

Robin Leach was honored with a final toast Friday night in a celebration of life at Palazzo Theatre. Robin’s sons, Steve, Rick and Gregg, led a host of speakers that included the celebrity journalist’s superstar friends, including those he met during his nearly two decades in Las Vegas.

The poignant speeches were often dotted with humor, as were the video highlights of Robin’s career (we’d forgotten he’d appeared on “The Arsenio Hall Show” and done Del Monte commercials). Those who knew Robin were convinced the man at the center of the tribute would have laughed along.

Characteristic of the event, dubbed “The Final Episode,” was the opening from Robin’s oldest son, Steven, his father’s leading caregiver over the 10 months beginning with Robin’s stroke in November through his Aug. 24 death in Las Vegas.

Adhering to his family tradition that their patriarch be called by his first name rather than “dad” or “grandpa,” Steve said his father was “a reporter, first and foremost.”

“He had an insatiable appetite for the backstory, taking us into kitchens around the world or a midnight long-tailed boat ride into Burma to meet the owner of a jungle hotel who had graduated from UNLV School of Hospitality,” Steve said from the stage. “He had a love of order, beauty, champagne and food, but above all his family came first. He was brutally honest, a fantastic role model and my best friend. I love you, Robin!”

Shifting his tenor abruptly, Steve introduced the show’s unbilled emcee. “Our host is a man my father admired, was inspired by, who he wanted to be!”— and summoned the Gazillionaire from “Absinthe.” It took Gaz less than 60 seconds to fire off his first F-bomb and insult “all of the fat chefs” seated near the stage who were friends of Robin’s.

Gaz also gave a nod to those “who are going to suffer the most at Robin’s passing — it’s Veuve Clicquot, it’s Cristal, it is Mr. Dom Perignon; it is a very sad day for them.”

Robin’s family and close friends who organized the event sought something their father would have appreciated. They asked Ken Henderson, CEO of Best Agency and a close friend of Robin’s, to handle the task. Henderson drew a familiar laugh from the stage with, “He had stories … And some of you are out there.”

In taking the podium, Gregg Leach said simply, “I will be boring and short. This is a celebration of love, of friendship and family, and to memorialize Robin and his legacy.” Gregg appeared onstage with Robin’s grandkids: 22-year-old fraternal twins Jack and Meg and 9-year-old Gianna.

Rick Leach said the family carried great pride in Robin’s effect on pop culture, through “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and how he enhanced this country’s knowledge of the culinary culture through the development of Food Network. He noted his father’s “tireless philanthropic efforts” dedicated to Keep Memory Alive and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Cleveland Clinic.

“But mostly, we are proud of his kindness and love to me, my brothers and our families,” Rick said. “Whenever we had a difficult issue, he was always available to us. There was not a holiday he didn’t share with his family.”

Robin’s multigenerational reach was evident in such speakers as Morgan Fairchild, Joan Severance and Suzanne Somers. Robin met all of them about four decades ago. Robin had put Somers on the cover of Star magazine — for six issues — when he was editor of that pub.

“ABC owes Robin, because that was what helped push ‘Three’s Company’ past ‘Laverne & Shirley’ and ‘Happy Days’ as the No. 1 show on TV,” said Somers, who also recalled Robin’s one-word review of her cabaret show at Westgate: “Perfect.”

The culinary community turned out in force, with 27 chefs lined up onstage in a show of tribute.

Tom Kaplan, senior managing partner for Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, knew Robin since 1982 and was his neighbor in Las Vegas for 10 years. He recalled that his neighbors were concerned about the possibilities of ribald parties in the neighborhood (Robin, instead, was a courteous neighbor). Kaplan also said the smoked salmon/caviar “Jewish pizza,” now a Spago signature item, was Robin’s idea.

Michael Mina talked of the time he worked at a truck stop in Ellensburg, Washington, at age 15. He mailed a letter to Robin in those days and, to his shock, received a response written by the man himself. Mina today is a culinary superstar, inspired by that gesture.

A Robin favorite, magician Lance Burton, remembered Robin visiting his show at Monte Carlo shortly after Robin moved to Vegas in the late 1990s. Burton welcomed Robin to his green room backstage, and as Robin left he bumped into Burton’s guest star, comic juggler Michael Goudeau. Robin called to Goudeau, “Great show! Champagne wishes!”

Goudeau quickly told Burton of the encounter.

“I said to Michael, ‘He did not say that!’” Burton said, recalling his disbelief. “At that point I had been a professional magician in Las Vegas for a decade, but that was the night I felt like I was really in show business.”

Representing the Vegas entertainment community were vocal groups Human Nature of The Venetian’s Sands Showroom and Tenors of Rock from Harrah’s Showroom, and the twin tappers Sean and John Scott of “Absinthe.” Human Nature sang “People Get Ready,” and the Tenors covered Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”

A man who shared Robin’s affection for celebs, Planet Hollywood International CEO Robert Earl, spoke of how he and his kindred spirit from nearly the same place in England would gossip in a Planet Hollywood suite.

“We spent many pleasant evenings chatting away in my suite, with fresh warm chocolate chip cookies and chilled chard at the ready,” Earl said, “and God help me if the temperature of either was wrong.”

Two of Robin’s friends who saw him near the end of his life spoke of their friend’s powerful will and work ethic. Entrepreneur Saville Kellner of Revenue Media Group was distressed to observe Robin losing his famous voice as a result of his stroke, but said, “Robin had the courage the likes of which I haven’t known. It was not about him; it was all about you.”

Michael Severino of Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits and the Ruvo Center, who worked with Robin on every Power of Love gala over the years, said, “Robin was an incredibly hard-working journalist.”

It was left to Clint Holmes to close it out with a warmhearted “Hallelujah,” and a post-show toast of the bubbly at The Venetian’s Waterfall Atrium.

A few guests placed their empty champagne glasses in the attraction’s garden. Like the man who was honored, they were left to rest in peace, after a party we won’t soon forget.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian/Palazzo/Sands Expo & Convention Center.

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

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like