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THE MOVABLE BUFFET

Ringing in the new clubs and shows

December 31, 2006|Richard Abowitz | Special to The Times

IN this city, apparently, the thing to do tonight is to share the arrival of 2007 with a blond celebrity leading the countdown to midnight at an exclusive nightclub. Take your pick: the big-name blonds include Britney Spears at Pure (Caesars), Pamela Anderson at Tao (Venetian) and Kid Rock at Jet (Mirage).

If you want an example of Vegas excess, the cheapest way to see Ms. Spears is 250 bucks -- and not to see her perform but only do the countdown.

After the hangover, let's consider the coming year for ever-evolving Vegas: 2007 will be a building year. MGM, Wynn and Venetian are all working on expansions. Also, the now-closed Stardust will come down so that Echelon's construction can begin. Though no major resort is scheduled to open in 2007 (Aladdin should finally finish transforming into Planet Hollywood), the new year still offers plenty for Vegas devotees to anticipate.

Though the date has yet to be named, spring will see the opening of the Pearl at the Palms. Able to hold 2,400 people, the Pearl is slightly bigger than the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay and the Hard Rock's Joint. In November, I had a chance to walk the construction site. The Pearl's builders have dug 90 feet to create an acoustic pit that owner George Maloof said will create the best sound of any concert venue in Las Vegas.

What really stood out was that the place is designed with an eye for the VIP. The Pearl has 18 exclusive skyboxes, some with a private lounge. Though there will be a green room fit for a king, performers need not visit it while playing a concert; backstage access will allow performers to get to the Pearl directly from a suite in the Fantasy Tower -- from bed to stage.

Interestingly, the Pearl will also be hard-wired to the Palms recording studio, making for easy live recordings (and, one imagines, lip-syncing). Gossip has focused on Spears for opening night, but no acts have yet been named (though a well-known concert promoter, Andrew Hewitt, has been brought on to book the venue). Meanwhile, 2007 is the final year for Celine Dion's "A New Day" gig, and we can expect to learn who will be replacing her at the Colosseum in 2008.

Las Vegas is a town where it is never too late to jump on a bandwagon, and so 2007 on the Strip offers more Broadway shows. Still, the quick failure of "Hairspray" at Luxor and "Avenue Q" at Wynn has slowed the Broadway-to-Vegas trend. Slowed, but not stopped.

"The Producers" opens Feb. 9 at Paris with the unlikely star power of David Hasselhoff on board to pump up the camp as Roger DeBris. Following the successful approach for "Phantom of the Opera: The Las Vegas Spectacular" at the Venetian, "The Producers" will be trimmed to run only about 90 minutes and intermission-free here. Though fewer details are available, in March, "Spamalot" is due to open at Wynn with hopes that the Monty Python name will prove as powerful as Phantom in drawing customers.

How has Vegas gone so long without upscale bowling? In March, the Rio, beneficiary of a bonanza of Prince-related publicity this year, has a Lucky Strike nightclub opening in the space that was Bikinis. The short-lived club was too large to fit in with the ultra-lounge trend that swept Vegas, so putting bowling alleys in the space makes sense. Operated as a franchise by Pure Management Group, the Vegas Lucky Strike will be a full service restaurant-bar with a 10-lane bowling alley.

Pure Management Group also will be opening in the summer LAX (a nightclub) and an adjacent Aspen 702 (steakhouse) at Luxor. Pure's flagship club at Caesars has been at the forefront of hosting celebrity birthday parties and appearances. So it isn't surprising that LAX and Aspen 702 have both taken on celebrity partners: DJ AM (part owner of LAX Hollywood) and Christina Aguilera are investors in the nightclub and Nick Lachey, Wilmer Valderrama and Nicky Hilton are all partners in the restaurant.

The latest celebrity chef to hit town is David Burke. Early in the new year, Burke will open his Modern American Cuisine at the Venetian. Menu items include roasted California duck breast and seared prawns, and pretzel-crusted crab cakes.

The most anticipated event to hit Las Vegas without a doubt is the 56th NBA All-Star Game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Feb. 18. Mayor Oscar Goodman has treated the game's first appearance here as a cause for major civic pride, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has worked heavily to promote and sponsor a weekend of events connected to the game; for example, Mandalay Bay will turn a convention center into a basketball theme park with 10 basketball courts.

Thus, 2007: If not better or different, more. The nightclubs are franchises already available in L.A., the celebrity chefs made their names elsewhere and the Broadway shows are, well, from Broadway. Clearly innovation is not a New Year's resolution for Las Vegas, but at least we continue to grow.

*

For more on what's happening on and off the Strip, see latimes.com/movablebuffet.

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