It's The Norm
January 24-30, 2002 ARCHIVES
"It's The Norm" - Recent Entertainment Events in Las Vegas

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Gladys Knight & Marlene Ricci


by Norm Johnson
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There are two fantastic ladies who previously had to spend most of their time out of town if they wanted to work. Well, those two ladies now have a place to go just about every evening right here in their hometown. Gladys Knight and Marlene Ricci have inked deals to sing their hearts out at two different strip hotels, with the great soul-singer opening in the Flamingo showroom on Feb. 12, and Marlene opening the newly remodeled Le Bistro at the Riviera on Jan 29. Couldn't happen to two nicer people.

I first watched the young Ricci perform at the "Top of the Dunes" during the 80's when she was just a little wisp of a girl. She had that certain charisma that tells you right away, even if she's not singing, that there is a star! And, then, when you hear her belt out a song you know she's a star. The Man himself (Frank Sinatra) discovered her working in the lounge at the old Aladdin Hotel and was so enthralled with her performance he took her on the road as an opening act.

"I was absolutely flabbergasted when he approached me and said he wanted me to be his opening act," Marlene smiled. "And for the next six months I opened for Mr. Sinatra all over the world." What was really neat was when she opened for The Man at Caesars Palace at the end of that first six-month tour. "That was absolutely one of the highlights of my life. Stepping on the stage at Caesars was magical, believe me! There is no way to describe it."

The new Le Bistro lounge will bring the Riviera full circle. By that, I mean I remember when in the 60's such stars as Vic Damone and Shecky Green (among a slew of stars) worked the then named "Blue Room" at the Riviera. It was what they referred to as a mini-showroom (enclosed by a curtain with a Maitre d' and sat about 300 people). You had to either know someone or be a big tipper to get a seat most of the time.

Fortunately, for me, I was a reporter during those days and naturally always got a good seat. I have been told the new room will have a curtain surrounding the room that will be closed during her single 8:30 pm. performance every evening.

More on Ms. Ricci next week and Ms. Knight the following week. Promise! Another nice thing about writing a weekly column about anything I feel like is when one gets invited to a new restaurant opening. The Flemings located at 8721 W Charleston, just east of Rampart, had a media event the other night. Well, let me tell you this was like no other media-tasting event. It was a full five-course meal with beautiful steaks, huge fresh Broccoli (the biggest and greenest I've ever seen) and a desert of Mixed Berry Cobbler that was out of sight. This is a creation (the restaurant) of veterans Paul Fleming and Bill Allen. They launched their first one in Newport Beach, Calif., in 1998 and then went to Sedona in 1999 and now here. I will give you a complete review of this fantastic establishment in a later column. But, honestly, I wanted to be sure and let you, the readers, know there is another great steak house (with over 100 wines being served by the glass... you do not have to buy a bottle) in Las Vegas.

Well, gang, I'm outta here!

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