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Leno thinks globally, acts locally

Jay Leno raised $100,000 for Iowa flood victims Wednesday night at The Mirage. And he’s performing there again tonight to collect more cash for the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

“These are the people that come to Vegas, from Iowa and the Midwest,” Leno says. “So Vegas can give something back to them every once in a while.”

Leno says people ought to help Americans in need.

“We had that earthquake in China, and I see a lot of these celebrities going, ‘Please send your money to China,’ ” he says. That’s fine, but:

“Then we see Iowa washed out, and the Red Cross in Iowa is completely broke. They don’t have a dime. And these people aren’t asking for anything,” he says. “They’re just trying to fix their houses and pick up what’s left. And it seemed like a little common sense to take care of your own.”

In return someday, maybe Iowa tourists will go to The Mirage or watch him on TV. But eventually, there could be a larger pay-it-forward moment, he jokes:

“When California has a big earthquake and falls into the ocean, these people will show up with free corn.”

The show is at 10 p.m. Tickets are $99 (792-7777). Because The Mirage has donated the room and Leno is performing pro bono, 100 percent of gross proceeds go to Iowa.

A CAN’T-MISS CONCERT

On Sunday night, one of the greatest-living concert performers takes the stage at South Point. Many of you merely know Joan Osborne as the woman who sang the line, “What if God was one of us?” But she is more than that old hit. Onstage, few singers wield her impressive vocal prowess and signature style.

She’s versatile as hell. In the past decade, Osborne has released pop-alternative, rock-and-soul, and country songs. She was a featured singer in “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.” Yet, she also took center stage for a post-Grateful Dead tour featuring ex-Dead heads.

“I don’t think I know the entire Dead catalog, but I’d be willing to bet I know 90 percent of it,” she says.

I tell Osborne I can’t imagine how much pot she watched Bob Dylan and Dead people smoke while she toured with them.

“That’s not something that I do,” she says and laughs. “Nor would I ever speak about that. If indeed such a thing happened.”

While in town, Osborne hopes to see “Lance Burton: Master Magician.” They went to the same university in Louisville, Ky., where she saw him perform at a strip club she snuck into at age 18.

“I remember being completely floored and agog at how brilliantly talented he was in this tiny weird little strip club,” she says. “In between the strippers, there was Lance doing this amazing sleight of hand.”

So to speak.

Osborne performs at 8 p.m. poolside at South Point. Tickets cost $25 (797-8055).

Check my blog today for more of my interviews with Leno and Osborne.

Doug Elfman’s column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 702-383-0391 or at delfman@reviewjournal.com. His VegasLand blog is at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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