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Sammy Hagar, Rick Springfield floor it in Strat event

Updated January 23, 2020 - 1:47 pm

Rare is the opportunity to talk to the same celebrity about his driving record in conversations a decade apart. But that chance arose Wednesday at the Strat, where the spirits flow freely and the parking is free.

During a chat at the Strat’s View Lounge on Wednesday night, I brought up a long-ago conversation with Sammy Hagar. The renowned Red Rocker told me he’d never been cited for speeding since releasing the hit “I Can’t Drive 55” in 1984.

Usually, the officer who pulls Hagar over recognizes who he is and issues a mere warning. Often, the word “wow” is voiced.

Hagar still scoots free — mostly. “Knock on wood!” he said, laughing. “I never have a ticket!” Hagar then nodded toward his friend Rick Springfield, seated across the table, and said, “We generally get off, don’t we?”

“Me, always,” Springfield confirmed. “That’s one of the only things being a celebrity is good for. Restaurant reservations, and getting out of traffic tickets.”

Well, maybe not in every single instance. Hagar thought it through, and said he was most recently pulled over four years ago in California and got tagged.

“I was going about 70 in a 55, not that bad, and a lady CHP pulls me over,” said Hagar, referring to an officer of the California Highway Patrol. “She immediately wants my license, looks at it and says, ‘Who do you think you are?’ I said, ‘No one! I was just going 72!’ I was in a Ferrari and it could have been worse.”

A sheriff officer then pulled up and recognized the man behind the wheel. “The sheriff says, ‘This is Sammy Hagar! What’s going on here?’ and the CHP says, ‘I’m giving him a (expletive) ticket!’”

For the backdrop of this hang at the Strat, Hagar was among the celebs to formally usher in the renaming of the hotel formerly known as the Stratosphere. Springfield and — as a surprise — star chef Guy Fieri were also on hand.

Fieri, coincidentally, was celebrating his 52nd birthday (that’s one birthday for every card in the deck, folks) at the Strat and later at his eatery at Linq Hotel. The celeb restaurateur with the familiar blond-spiked mane and sizzling disposition was an unbilled pop-in during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the hotel entrance.

Gov. Steve Sisolak was also in this merry band of celebs; the governor was making his second prominent appearance of the afternoon, having helped announce the formally renaming of the Las Vegas Raiders earlier at Allegiant Stadium. If there was a name to be bestowed on Wednesday in VegasVille, our governor was on it.

Also taking part in the opening were ownership company Golden Entertainment Chief Financial Officer Charles Protell, Golden Executive Vice President and COO Steve Arcana, Golden Vice President and General Manager Stephen Thayer, City Council members Olivia Diaz and Cedric Crear, and Rep. Dina Titus.

Nevada Stupak, son of Stratosphere founder Bob Stupak, was also recognized, reminding those assembled of who originally came up with the towering vision. The elder Stupak, a gaming legend, also built Bob Stupak’s Vegas World on the site, and the street leading to the hotel from Las Vegas Boulevard has been named for him.

As founder of the Cabo Wabo Cantina chain (including the silly-busy club at Planet Hollywood), Hagar has generated multiple business partnerships. He and Fieri collaborate on the hard-liquor brands Santo Tequila Blanco, Santo Mezquila and Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. Springfield just became an investor in the Beach Bar Rum brand.

To celebrate this cross-promotion, Hagar, Springfield, Fieri, Carrot Top and guitar great DJ Ashba worked the bar for an hour at the hotel’s Remix Lounge. The Strat is undergoing a $100 million renovation, taking full advantage of its iconic position on the Strip — and execs insist the Strip starts at the Strat — while refining and modernizing the entire property.

Hagar, for one, says he would entertain the idea of entertaining at the Strat, possibly an outdoor venue. The former member of Montrose and Van Halen has never performed a residency in Las Vegas.

“My problem is, I don’t work that much,” Hagar said. “And the rooms here are all in-between, either too small or too big. I don’t want to play 10 nights in a 1,200-seater, and I can’t sell three nights in a 10,000-seater. But we’re working on it. If they were do do an outdoor thing here, that would be fun.”

Until then, the Red Rocker is revving to go.

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 Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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