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Fans flock to Celine Dion

What is something most people bought between the time Celine Dion’s show opened at Caesars Palace in 2003 and the time it is due to reopen Tuesday?

A TV set.

Most of us replaced our hernia-inducing glass tubes with hi-def flat screens, learning the difference between plasma and LCD, 720p and 1080p in the process. Some hard-cores even are carting home 3-D sets now.

Kinda takes the gee-whiz out of the Colosseum’s giant LED screen, so big it’s coupled to the structure of the building.

"It was originally used as set design," says Ken Ehrlich, the veteran TV producer at the helm of the singer’s new showcase, which opens Tuesday.

The new show will use the screen as Cher’s did, "almost as much for (its) functionality, to light the stage."

Why do I bring this up? To show how a lot of things change faster than Celine Dion herself. She no longer has to.

You probably bought that TV or iPhone since you bought her last album, which came out when the first Vegas show ended in 2007.

Doesn’t matter. The singer has transcended pop currency. Dion is more Barbra Streisand than Rihanna now, taking herself out of the radio/top 40 rat race and standing beyond pop culture.

Make no mistake, the singer has rabid fans. About 150 convene here this weekend, to see as many shows as they can and compare notes over meals.

Last time around, "we had about three fans that moved to Vegas just to be near Celine and go to the show," says Jane Claypool, a South African by way of Texas who is organizing the fan gathering.

One fan hired on as a Colosseum usher. Another bought a condo at Lake Las Vegas, where Dion lives. "If I wasn’t married I might just move there and do that myself," says Claypool, who drove from Texas to Chicago to see Dion on Oprah’s show.

Still, "I don’t think there’s anything else but Celine this group has in common," Claypool says. "We’re all so diverse."

"You would be very, very surprised how many young fans she has," Claypool adds. "They still get mocked from their friends at school and all that. It’s not easy for them."

And the men among these die-hards deal with "the common misconception that all the male fans are gay, which is so not true," Claypool says.

These exceptions aside, it seems Dion has entered that "beloved icon" phase that lies somewhere beyond the pop radar and "Saturday Night Live" parodies.

"People don’t say anything bad anymore. I think they realize, in particular, how much she’s done for Las Vegas," Claypool says. "She’s becoming a legend now."

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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