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Sinatra’s 100th celebration starting early

The Las Vegas countdown to Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday got uncorked this weekend with a burst of nostalgia.

Comedy legend Jerry Lewis booked a table Saturday to hear British crooner Matt Goss sing Sinatra classics at Caesars Palace. Friday would have been Sinatra’s 99th birthday. Lewis, who turns 89 in March, was reunited with Dean Martin at the Sahara by Sinatra during the 1976 Muscular Dystrophy telethon. Goss performs covers of Sinatra and others among his two-hour weekend shows.

A Sinatra salute highlighted Pia Zadora’s show Friday at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, a Sinatra hangout. Zadora opened Sinatra’s shows during his Riviera engagements in the 1980s. Zadora’s musical director, Vincent Falcone, told stories about his years as Sinatra’s pianist and musical director.

Wayne Newton, an honorary pallbearer at Sinatra’s funeral, will share his memories of Sinatra today at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts as my guest on “Conversations with Norm,” a quarterly interview series.

Next month, veteran vocal impressionist Bob Anderson launches his tribute, “Frank, The Man, the Music” at The Palazzo. For the show, Anderson visually transforms into Sinatra through elaborate makeup. Anderson is backed by a full orchestra under the direction of Falcone. The engagement begins Jan. 27.

Falcone said Sinatra’s 100th birthday is being celebrated “all over the world. I got a call from Holland. They wanted me to conduct a Sinatra program on his birthday for the Dutch Symphony Orchestra.”

There are rumblings of other Las Vegas tributes in the works for the Sinatra celebration, including a major exhibition and marquee nods.

WANTED: BIG BOOTS TO FILL

The search process has quietly begun for Shawn Davis’ replacement as general manager of the National Finals Rodeo, a title he has held for 30 years.

“We haven’t talked a whole lot about it because we don’t want him to leave,” said Michael Gaughan, a board member of the NFR Committee.

“We’re starting to look, but we’re having a hard time,” said Gaughan, who owns the South Point.

Gaughan said four or five names have come up and “we’ve talked to about three.”

He said longtime assistant general manager Bennie Beutler, a stock contractor out of Oklahoma City, is not interested in taking the job. Beutler has been a backup “in case something happened,” Gaughan said.

“What we need is a clone of Shawn,” Gaughan said.

Davis, a three-time world saddle bronco champion from Montana, turned 74 on Dec. 7.

“He’s a dictator over there,” Gaughan said, “but that’s what it takes. He runs that rodeo with an iron fist, and that’s why it does so well.”

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Casey Smith, morning and midday anchor at ABC affiliate KTNV-TV, Channel 13, is out after eight-plus years. He joined KTNV after six years as a morning anchor at CBS affiliate KLAS-TV, Channel 8. KTNV’s parent company, Journal Communications, headquartered in Milwaukee, is involved in a merger with Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. The companies will merge their broadcast properties and spin off their newspapers into a new company. …

One to watch: New UNLV head football coach Tony Sanchez tells me former Fresno State head coach Pat Hill “has been with me every step of the way.” They go back to Sanchez’s early coaching years in Northern California when he took kids to Hill’s coaching camp. Hill, who was UNLV’s offensive coordinator in 1981 and 1982 during the Randall Cunningham era, later guided Fresno State to 11 bowl appearances in 15 seasons.

Tony Cordasco has left Red Bull after 15 years as a marketing executive in this market. Long associated with broadcasting UNLV sports, Cordasco has been doing livestream broadcasts for unlvrebels.com.

SIGHTINGS

Spotted at the NFR last week: Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper, a friend of world roping champion Tuf Cooper. Also: retired Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton, who loves the sport so much he has attended rodeo school. When he retired, the Rockies gave him a horse. … Actress Loni Anderson, at the Palms on Saturday, bidding on Burt Reynolds’ memorabilia during a private auction hosted by Julien’s Auctions. … Baseball legend Pete Rose, dining at Andrea’s (Encore at Wynn) on Friday. … Actress and author Suzanne Somers, with friends at Lavo (Palazzo) on Friday. … Restaurateur/chef Angie Ruvo, 90 years young, with her son, Larry Ruvo, at former Mayor Oscar Goodman’s $250-a-plate “neckbones” dinner at Oscar’s Beef Booze Broads steakhouse at The Plaza on Thursday. Angie and Lou Ruvo ran the Venetian Ristorante on West Sahara Avenue for 45 years, attracting a celebrity crowd that included Sinatra, a big fan of Angie’s neckbones recipe.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Time magazine named their person of the year today. It was not a member of Congress.” — Jimmy Kimmel

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.

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