Mark Davis visited Las Vegas many times with his parents. He recalls as a youngster watching classic Vegas show starring the Rat Pack, Don Rickles, Ann-Margret, Jimmy Durante and the like. He kept a mental image of those nights in such regal showrooms as the Copa Room at the Sands and Circus Maximus at Caesars Palace.
“These were magical evenings,” Davis told the crowd before the event. “What I wanted to do was bring the past of Las Vegas together with the future.”
A few months ago, Davis put those memories down on a cocktail napkin, sketching a showroom where he would host his fellow owners on the eve of the Super Bowl. Those images came to life at the Royal Ballroom at Fontainebleau.
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“The Dinner Show,” where Lady Gaga and Diana Ross were the unbilled superstar headliners, entertained some 500 VIPs on the night before Las Vegas’ first Super Bowl. Jay Leno opened the show. Wanda Sykes, who boldly destroyed with her “Golden Bachelor” material, performed midshow. A full orchestra dotted with Las Vegas musicians played throughout the night.
It was a super experience for Vegas’ first Super Bowl eve. This might have been the richest audience ever for a single dinner show on the Strip.
The 32 invited owners’ booths were marked by their teams’ logos. Around the room, from my own hand-noted unofficial list: Elaine Wynn, Dr. Miriam Adelson of Las Vegas Sands Corp (whose family owns the Review-Journal), Fontainebleau owner Jeffrey Soffer; Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo; former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval; California Gov. Gavin Newsom; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle and his wife, Wendy; NFL legend Tom Brady; Top Rank Boxing founder Bob Arum and his wife, Lovee; Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health co-founders Larry and Camille Ruvo; the D Las Vegas and Circa co-owner Derek Stevens and his wife, Nicole; Siegel Group founder Steve Siegel and his wife, Judi; Caesars Entertainment President and CEO Anthony Carano; Allegiant CEO Maurice Gallagher; LVCVA CEO and President Steve Hill; The Venetian hospitality exec and Voltaire creator Michael Gruber; Westgate President and GM Cami Christensen; broadcast great Jim Gray and his wife, Frann; venerable resort industry financial analyst Jeremy Aguero; Latin Chamber of Commerce President Peter Guzman; Local 872 union leader Tommy White; and Interstate 15 sports-entertainment marketing company partners Jamie Fritz and Jason Gastwirth.
What else … More from the sports arena, ex-Raiders greats Marcus Allen; Charles Woodson, who spent several minutes chatting with fellow Michigan alum Brady (the two were involved in the infamous “Tuck Game” from the 2001 AFC Playoffs); Fred Biletnikoff; Jim Plunkett; Howie Long; and Michael Haynes. Ex-Steeler Rod Woodson joined the former NFL stars.
Entertainers? We were surrounded by such. Wayne Newton and his wife, Kathleen; Shania Twain; Orianthi; and at the Frank Sinatra Dr. table (where ours truly was seated) ZZ Top founder Billy F. Gibbons, ex-Eagle Don Felder, and Mickey Thomas of Starship. On the way out, we ran into Marie Osmond, in the hotel’s lobby. She was there, too and it was that kind of night.
Ross took the stage with some experience in Davis-Raiders’ events. She also headlined the team’s Pro Football Hall of Fame party for Cliff Branch in Canton in 2022. “I’m Coming Out” and “I Will Survive” book-ended Ross’ performance, the superstar donning a bright-orange gown and cape.
Gaga arrived brilliantly in a short, shimmering-silver dress that evoked memories of such Strip favorites of yesteryear Ann-Margret and Lola Falana. “Shallow,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “New York, New York” were in the mix. It was an abridged version of “Jazz + Piano,” which we expect.
The room was decked out in Raiders’ Silver and Black, with booth and table seating, in a classic showroom design. The tables were named for famous Vegas streets, Fremont Street, Las Vegas Boulevard, Wayne Newton Boulevard, Paradise Road and such. Newton was seated at Silver and Black Way. He joked he was going to make off with the Wayne Newton Boulevard sign.
It was an operation befitting the Super Bowl. Between 75-80 trucks were required to haul in the tech and staging, with work beginning Feb. 1. The space took up the hotel’s entire sixth floor and every adjacent conference room.
Afterward I remarked to Davis the venue carried such permanence and style it could stand as a secondary showroom to BleauLive Theater. Try to reconvene for a Super Series of dinner shows, maybe quarterly, with Saturday as a launch. Such an idea might seem impossible, except when you’re talking to the Raiders owner, who made all this magic happen.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.