Commander Coconut Goes To Vegas
Drugs or medication? It’s Vegas, who cares!
Commander Coconut
June 12, 2009

When I last went to Las Vegas almost four years ago, I made a list of reasons I’d never return: expensive; garish; badly dressed people; horrible traffic; too many ventriloquist, impressionist and magician shows; taxes and service charges on everything (now I know how Orlando tourists feel); the feeling you’re being had.

But when Bette Midler set up shop in Miss Dion’s old stomping grounds at the Caesars Palace Colosseum, I had to go back.

Midler is, after all, the People’s Diva; she says she beat out the Octomom and S. Palin for the coveted title. And she’s the only performer of her kind in America. Cher? Pshaw! Celine? Ha! Miss Ross? Get a grip!

Funny and profane, the dance-sing-act gal’s “The Showgirl Must Go On” revue comes with the 18 Caesars Salad Girls, the three Harlettes and a crack band. You get your hits (“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Wind Beneath My Wings”), your Sophie jokes (wish I could repeat them in a family newspaper, whatever that means) and the Diva’s smart choices in material, arrangements and kitsch.

I was thrilled, for instance, that she still does John Prine‘s masterful song about aging, “Hello in There,” and that there was a number featuring Delores DeLago, the wheelchair-driving maniac.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Midler, and she reminds us that 30 years ago, we were on drugs while now we’re on medications. Even divas age: Bette is 63.

I’m glad I went. I’m glad I also saw the preposterously creative Cirque du Soleil “Love” show, the one featuring Beatles music, and the Liberace Museum (to our guide, everything was “fabulous” or “gorgeous”) — although I wouldn’t recommend another show we saw, “Zumanity,” sort of an embarrassment to the Cirque brand. I wouldn’t recommend staying at Caesars either — it’s too big; the front desk help isn’t, uh, helpful (one young man didn’t even know the hotel had a 24-hour restaurant, and it was right across the lobby from him); and there’s an extra charge for everything (taking all our cash in the slots isn’t enough?).

Favorite Vegas vignette: At the Liberace Museum, a woman asked the guide how many wives the glittery pianist had had. Ha.

Navel grazing
Winter Park Playhouse has a couple of must-see cabaret shows for its upcoming season: one saluting Rosemary Clooney Sept. 11-13 and a tribute to Bette Midler May 21-23.

Saxophonist Sam Butera, who performed with Louis Prima and Keely Smith many a time in Vegas, died at age 81 in Vegas.

Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. Are the commentators in man-love with the guy?

Season finale, Breaking Bad: Bryan Cranston won an Emmy for playing the high school chemistry teacher turned meth maker, and now I’d say his co-star, Aaron Paul, deserves an Emmy this year. The young actor (29) plays a weaselly druggie/dimwit whom you hate and pity at the same time; it really is an impressive acting job. (In a shocking cliffhanger, a grieving air-traffic controller causes planes to collide over Albuquerque, the show’s setting, and Cranston’s wife leaves him.)

When I saw Every Little Step, about A Chorus Line auditions, it reminded me how much thought and detail goes into a good show (or even a bad one). Take the Tony Awards Sunday night; doubtless, a lot of thought went into it, but someone needs to be reminded that Tony show watchers aren’t the same people who watch, say, bachelorette shows. Tony show class act: Angela Lansbury. Tony show classless act: Liza Minnelli.

Free advice to TV advertisers: To the father and daughter car people: Get a scriptwriter. To David Maus: Get a new fashion consultant, a new hairdresser, a new tanning salon.

Weekly trivia question
Name the Mad Men star who played Baby Louise in the 1993 TV version of Gypsy with Bette Midler.

Trivia answer
Elisabeth Moss plays Peggy on Mad Men and was Zoey, the president’s daughter, on The West Wing.

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