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The place had panache: Remembering Mirage’s glory days

Updated May 15, 2024 - 8:48 pm

I met Paul McCartney at The Mirage. Maybe “met” is stretching it. But we did swap greetings in June 2006, as he moved through a party on the pool deck celebrating the opening of “Love.”

McCartney was being led through the masses by my friend and Cirque PR rep Karin Tomcik. This was a happy twist of fate. Tomcik was (and is) a serious McCartney fan. She led Macca to a small opening, where I stepped forward and said, “My name is John, and I cover Las Vegas …”

The legend was lit up with camera flashes, all around.

“Hello, John!” he said. “I need to get out of this flashy area!

“OK,” I said, not bothering to ask for a pic myself. “Thanks for all the music.”

McCartney had been walking the hotel, playing mandolin, as he ventured to Love Theatre. A long line of folks followed, in a Pied Piper-style scene. One was Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, moving along unnoticed.

The next day on a CNN interview from since-closed Revolution Lounge, McCartney told Larry King that he appreciates it when people thank him for his music. “Yes!” I shouted. I had hit Sir Paul’s hand.

These moments had to happen at The Mirage, a place of magic and whimsy, closing July 17 to reopen in spring 2027 as Hard Rock Las Vegas.

The very registration experience was an aquatic spectacle at The Mirage, with its massive exotic-fish tank. The free, only-in-Las Vegas volcano show. A bronze mermaid statue greeting guests at the main entrance. This place had panache.

The Beatles, with “Love,” played The Mirage, in their brilliant collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. I met George Martin and his son, Giles Martin, at the same time at Love Theatre’s studio in June 2011, the show’s fifth anniversary. We were listening back to the show’s soundtrack. We chatted for a dual Q&A, about the band’s music and imagery, and how it was re-imagined for the Las Vegas production.

“I think they’re so damn good they’ll be with us for generations, into the middle of he next century,” the elder Martin said, speaking of the band in present tense. “They’re just great musicians and great writers, like Gershwin or Rodgers and Hammerstein. They’ll be here in 100 years, too.”

But the place that facilitated that great chat, The Mirage, won’t be. This evolution is painful, personally. The Mirage is where I met Siegfried & Roy, on the event of their lifetime contact in February 2001.

The news conference announcing that event could have been its own biopic, with the duo nearly pushing one another out of the way to claim center stage. S&R never played to an empty seat in 13 years. That level of box-office success is nearly a fantasy by today’s Las Vegas standards. (We hope, and expect, Siegfried & Roy Drive to remain the entry to Hard Rock Las Vegas.)

Peerless impressionist Danny Gans was a sensation at The Mirage and so was Terry Fator, an unlikely star as a ventriloquial headliner for 11 years. Shin Lim is caring on the tradition at Mirage Theater, which will remain in place even without Lim, moving across the Strip to The Palazzo.

The Mirage is cutting some 3,300 employees, which will create a buyers’ market for industry professionals. The Mirage will become headquarters for suitors in Vegas seeking experienced resort professionals. Opportunity knocks for casinos across the country, especially in the Hard Rock International collective, that need craps, blackjack or roulette dealers.

The Mirage is laying out $80 million in severance pay to those employees, including 140 from the resort’s first day. It works out to $2,000 per year, so first-day employees are to receive about $68,o00. That might sound like a lot. But I say with too much education on the topic, that figure won’t totally allay the loss of a career at the famous resort..

The Mirage closing reminds of when I moved to Las Vegas in 1996, a few months before the Sands was imploded. People cried that night as the building collapsed. I thought, “Really? Tears for a casino?” But I get it now. My buddy Scott Thompson (Carrot Top, in his stage persona) texted a line Monday, a joke from his show. “I walked down to the Mirage … And it wasn’t there.” By July, that will be the sad reality.

May We Recommend …

“Dead Forever Experience,” which opened Wednesday at The Venetian. This celebratory hub is where fans celebrate, shop and view exclusive Dead & Company and Grateful Dead content as D&C kicks off its residency at the Sphere. The entrance is adjacent to the Waterfall Atrium.

Among the attractions: The Wall of Sound re-creation of the stacked sound system for Grateful Dead’s 1974 shows. Get into it. Fans can access for free. Go to deadforeverexperience.com for intel.

Cool Hang Alert

My man Franky Perez & The All Nighters open their “Hot August Nights” residency at Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort on June 7, continuing July 12, Aug. 9, Sept. 13 and Oct. 18. Consider yourself forewarned. This band blazes. No cover.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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