Madonna rumor flatters Las Vegas

One billion dollars.” Where’s Dr. Evil when you need him?

This, of course, is the sum that spread like an Internet forest fire in reports that Madonna would cash that check to take up residence here for five years.

This is sad.

But also kind of cute.

We read the word “billion” so much in terms of government spending we’ve lost any real ability to grasp the number.

And in the unpatrolled frontiers of cyber-journalism, a ground-zero source — in this case, apparently Gordon Smart’s Bizarre column in the British tabloid The Sun — translates into “about 77,000 results” when you Google “Madonna billion dollars Vegas.”

A site called gets curiously specific. The pop icon would sing in “multiple casinos in the city” if she takes the offer from “the Las Vegas gambling authorities who will do everything to attract tourists.”

Pause for the casino industry to savor Steve Wynn, Jim Murren and Sheldon Adelson sharing one entertainer.

Most shows are now staged by third-party producers such as Live Nation, which happens to have Madonna in a $120 million (yes, million) contract for 10 years.

Ask a Live Nation official about the report and you might be told it is “complete asinine stupidity.” Or, as a casino executive put it, “If it doesn’t pencil out on my $1.95 calculator in some reasonable way, then you know it’s a crock.”

(To guarantee Madonna $2.6 million per show to do 75 shows a year in an 8,000-seat arena would set the average ticket price at $333. Unless those desperate casino guys wanted to absorb some of the cost, as Wynn indeed does with Garth Brooks. Add more shows and the average goes down. But put them in a smaller venue and it goes right back up again.)

But you know, it’s still flattering. Rumors don’t spread unless people want to believe them. It’s nice to know people still elevate Las Vegas to a magical city that could do this; not a place where even the worthiest shows are struggling.

And the funniest thing about giving that old broad a billion dollars?

We would if we could.

Madonna is the closest to a sure thing, and the most aesthetically Vegas name — not to mention the perceived greediest — on a pie-in-the-sky list of acts in that price range (U2, a Pink Floyd reunion, etc.).

If I had money, I would pay off my house and do some traveling. If Vegas had money, it would probably throw it at Madonna. Thank you Internet, for keeping our dreams, and our legend, alive.

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

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