A Little Bit of Soul, the Super Bowl and A Whole Lotta Love: Finding a New Normal in Las Vegas

drew brees

Super Bowl champ Drew Brees submits his father of the year photo

Some of my “job” requirements as an entertainer and entrepreneur are to perform in places like Las Vegas, to eat in restaurants like Carnevino, to listen to guys like Don Piper and to attend shows like Cirque Du Soleli‘s, Love.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world. Well, maybe it’s a tie with this guy.

Mike, Jason and I landed in Vegas on Superbowl Sunday.  Normally, you wouldn’t find me watching football for three hours in a row; but when the underdog team actually has a chance to win and you find out how cool the quarterback is,  count me in.  Even though the game was awesome and the commercials were funny, my favorite part was when Drew Brees held his son up at the end.  Unless you’ve gone to the dark side and become completely cynical and devoid of all human emotions, it was a goosebump-inducing Kodak moment.

Some of you may remember the hit show, Soul Train. “A groove that will make you move real smooth.”  Don Cornelius and the Soul Train Gang used to bring “peace, love, soul” and some great music into America’s living rooms every week.  John Rozz, from Sound Spectrum Entertainment, produced a Soul Train tribute event at the top of the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas to commemorate the show’s 40th anniversary. I was chosen to be one of the performance Emcees.  The event featured classic videos, retro costumes, Text Live, and two of the biggest disco balls I’ve ever seen.   Good times!

Special thanks to my good friends, Beau Kramer, from California, and Ron Brown, from Kansas, for sharing this photo and the encore gallery for today’s entry.

Marcello Pedalino performs at the Soul Train 40th Annivesary Tribute

Marcello performs at the Soul Train 40th Annivesary Tribute

While in Vegas for the show, I attended several business and entertainment-related workshops to indulge MMP’s infinite commitment to continuing education. Topics included; decor lighting design, enhanced customer service techniques for brides and grooms, fresh ideas for Bar Mitzvah interactives, enhanced technology applications for improved social media relationships and advanced production concepts for the new decade. Culinary & hospitality highlights for some of these presentations took place at the Sterling Club, the Capital Grill and Carnevino.

**Editors Note: I didn’t realize that chef Mario Batali’s highly sought-after 7 course “meat tasting” menu at Carnevino was served a bit on the rare side (seared).  The staff was very accommodating and offered those of us who are used to eating our steak at The Outback-…a NY strip that was out-of-this-world in exchange without laughing out loud.  At least, not right in front of us.

p.s. The staff plugs Mario’s iPod directly into the restaurant’s sound system and just lets her rip at random- at a high volume.   Luckily, my group and I were fans of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

The highlight of the week was the presentation given by Don Piper, the author of the best selling book,  90 Minutes in Heaven. Bonnie Traylor’s review of the his book on Amazon will bring you up to speed on the messenger and the message…

Don's Piper's book, 90 Minutes In Heaven

90 Minutes In Heaven, Revell Publishing, 2004

“Written in straight-forward, simple style without a lot of “religionese,” Don Piper has told the story of his devastating accident, his brief time in heaven and his return to a life full of pain and questions. I read it cover-to-cover in two hours and then loaned out my copy. I would recommend this book to just about anybody — to those with questions about faith, questions about prayer, questions about life and death and pain which we all face to some extent.

His descriptions of heaven are human ones — simple, not overly poetic or grandiose, just those of someone who experienced the indescribable and then tried to describe it. I loved the descriptions of the incredible heavenly music and I get the feeling that vast choirs and heightened senses await us there. And despite the incredible experience, Piper found it too personal, too private, and too intimate to share with anyone for over a year after his accident. I’m so glad he found the courage to do so.

I also love the honesty with which he describes his pain and depression and the inevitable questions that we must face when we have close encounters with the Almighty. The God we meet is often not the one we expected, and while we can’t understand why God does what he does, we can no longer deny this God we don’t understand. And while we hold these two things together, our lives are changed and grace is showered down amid the ruins of what we thought was important to us.”

Cirque Du Soleil's interpretation of the Beatles music library, Love

Cirque Du Soleil's interpretation of the Beatles music library, Love

I found Don’s speaking style to be very similar to his writing style.  He masterfully connects with his audience and effortlessly delivers his messages.  The one sentiment that has stuck with me since that day was, “find a new normal.”  No matter what happens, regardless of the circumstances- find a new normal… embrace it, and move on. I know many of the readers of this blog can appreciate the change in dynamic that occurs within a lifetime.  Not only am I finding a new normal, I’m learning that “normal” is an extremely subjective frame of mind.

I liked how Don never sugar-coated how difficult life can be and never pretended that life was always fair.   Most of all, I loved how Don proved beyond a shadow of a doubt how important it is to have faith in someone and to have something to believe in.

Speaking of love, the icing on the cake of a great week in Vegas was seeing Cirque Du Soleli’s interpretation of the Beatle’s, Love show.   Even if you’re not a big fan of the Beatles and only know their popular recordings like me, you’ll still be amazed, wow’d and blown away by the dancing, the acrobatics and the theatrical spectacle that Cirque shows are famously known for. From the opening number of Get Back to the grand finale mega-mix of Hey Jude, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonley Heart’s Club Band and of course, All You Need Is Love, you couldn’t help but to smile and say to yourself, “life is good.”

The Fountain show at the Bellagio

The Fountain Show at the Bellagio

(Honorable mention for the icing on the cake award was sitting outside at the Paris casino’s cafe, Mon Ami Gabi, eating Bananas Foster while watching Bellagio’s Fountain Show across the street. I had the chance to catch up with my good friends, Scott Faver, from Arizona, and Chuck Lehnhard, from Hawaii.)

What a week!

On the flight home, the words of Steve Wynn came to mind… “Las Vegas is sort of like how God would do it if he had money.”

Encore Gallery:

breakdancer (Large)john rozz 2 (Large)costume winners (Large)marcello 4 (Large)guests 2 (Large)guests 4 (Large)guests 5 (Large)mike walter 2 (Large)sean big daddy (Large)soul train dancers (Large)soul train gang (Large)ray mar 2 (Large)

I Got A Feeling: Isabella & Jay Get Married at The Manor

isabella-and-jay-2If you are looking for “the perfect place to get married,” the New York Times will point you in the direction of West Orange, NJ.  One of their top recommendations is The Manor, a picturesque estate that boasts formal gardens, timeless decor and classic elegance.

Without dating myself too harshly, my senior prom was held there when the Father of the Bride movie premiered on VHS.   If you haven’t seen it yet and need a sanity break from planning your wedding reception and a few laughs, rent it asap  (on DVD or On-demand of course).

Isabella and Jay had a gorgeous fall day for their wedding.  The grounds of the Manor looked exquisite as the guests arrived for the ceremony.  We worked with Reverend Mitchell, whose humor and polish created personalized and entertaining nuptials for everyone in attendance.  As always, we provided professional audio support including lapel microphones so the guests who were  seated more than two rows back could enjoy all of the special vows, musical selections and heart-warming moments.

the-manor2After an impressive cocktail hour in the Manor’s atrium, family and friends entered the ballroom to await Isabella and Jay’s grand entrance.  They were tapping their toes and snapping their fingers to the sounds of Michael Buble, Spiral Staircase, Michael McDonald, The Beatles, Michael Franti and Stevie Wonder.   After the bridal party was introduced with customized audio clips and pre-programmed lighting effects, Isabella and Jay came into a personalized edit of Paradise City, by Guns and Roses, which brought the energy of the room up to the next level.

Isabella and Jay chose Stuck on You by Lionel Ritchie for their wedding song, Daughter by Loudon Wainwright for the father-daughter dance and Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd for the mother-son dance.    One of the dance floor highlights was watching Isabella’s family doing a seven minute Hora before the main course was served.  I felt like I was doing a Bat Mitzvah; the guests were loving it.

After the cake cutting, which Isabella chose the 2nd verse of Your In My Heart by Rod Stewart to be played in the background, family and friends returned to the atrium to enjoy the Manor’s Viennese stations.

isabella-jay-13For the last dance, we played a crowd favorite to get all of the remaining guests back onto the dance floor.  It was I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas. Isabella and Jay sang and danced along with their family and friends to end the night with everyone cheering for the brand-new Mr. and Mrs. McMahon.

It’s always a pleasure collaborating with the Manor.   Marwan Jurri, the maitre d’ and Jim Levinsky, the banquet manager, extended their hospitality throughout the evening and were instrumental in orchestrating a smooth reception.

Special thanks to Rich Janniello, from Ciro Photography, who shared his fantastic photos for this blog entry.  This was the first time we had the opportunity to team up.  Based on his professionalism, I hope we get to collaborate again soon.  Rich was always in the right place at the right time in an un-obtrusive manner.  We also had nice chat before the ceremony about why he always had three different cameras ready to go.  Rich explained why the right lens for the right moment is crucial and why having back-up equipment is paramount.   That’s the kind of event professional a bride and groom want to work with if they value peace of mind.

Encore Gallery:

isabella-and-jay-horaisabella-and-jay-the-ringsisabella-jay-l-o-v-e

Josh’s Tribute to the Beatles at the Mountain Lakes Club

Mountain Lakes ClubThe stars aligned for Josh’s Bar Mitzvah.  There was a beautiful venue, an all-star team of industry professionals, a gracious host family and an awesome guest of honor.

Josh is a big fan of the Beatles. He had the unique idea of doing a personalized candlelighting by choosing an appropriate Beatles track to honor his friends and family when they came up to light their candle.  All of the guests loved it!

As you can see from the video, Josh loves to dance and is full of positive energy.  If I could bottle up Josh and pour some out at every event that we do, I would. He and his adorable  little sister, Julia, are apples that don’t fall far from the tree.  Their parents, Wendy and Abram, know how to not only be the perfect hosts, but how to enjoy their event as much as their guests.

Josh’s simcha wrapped up with one of the best Beatles songs ever, Hey Jude.  Everyone had their arms around each other in a circle and sang their hearts out, especially during the Na, Na, Na’s at the end.   It was another… “I’ve got the best job in the world” moment.  🙂

The Kirschenbaum’s chose the Mountain Lakes Club for Josh’s event.  In addition to the gorgeous lakefront view, this venue boast’s one of the best Special Event Directors in the business, Pam Bayvel.  Pam and I have produced several Bar and Bat Mitzvahs over the years, she understands the importance of hospitality, timing and an overall collaborative effort.

The Kirchenbaum’s chose our friends at D-Vision to handle the videography services.  Bonnie, Mike and Rich make an excellent multimedia team and never miss a special moment of the celebration. They provided the Vimeo highlight reel for this entry.

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