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New hotel brings H’w’d magic to Vegas

GOOD MORNING from Las Vegas, where hotel billboards lining the highway from the airport to the Strip formerly would ballyhoo star attractions like –“Frank”–“Sammy”–“Dean”–“Jerry”–“Judy”–“Liza”–“Marlene.” Now, the new star in Vegas is — YOU … At least that’s the attractive lure at the Luxor, Circus Circus Entertainment’s new $ 375 million pyramid (literally) hotel. The upcoming MGM Grand will be the next to try to lure the public into its attractions. Who made the public the star at the Luxor? Of course the hotel chain’s gambling geniuses — and, they admit, showbiz’s creative genius Douglas Trumbull, who has brought audience participation down from the screen into theater seats. His three shows, “Present,””Past” and “Future”– at $ 4 a ticket each, every 15 minutes — make for another slot machinelike payoff — a jackpot for the Luxor … And how is the public responding? The festivities for the bow of the Luxor started Thursday p.m. with close to 2,000 black-tie’d VIPs attending from Vegas and all points, including, of course, Hollywood. When the hotel opened officially (that means the gambling permits were in force) at 4 ayem Friday, a crowd estimated at 10,000 piled into the plush palace that would have made King Tut blush … Several years ago, I visited the real Cairo Sphinx and pyramids and the real city of Luxor’s historical tourist sites. The Luxor hotel artisans have duplicated much of this — including a boat ride in their “Nile” running through the hotel, with a “guide” pointing out the historical reproductions. Shades of the jungle river boat ride in Disneyland — but this ride’s inside a hotel atrium that, they boast, can hold nine 747s — a strange comparison. Outside, at the apex, a beam of light spikes into the sky reportedly visible 250 miles away. The switch, lighting the beam for the first time, was turned on at Thursday’s VIParty by Bill Bennett, chairman of Circus Circus. He’s got a good sense of humor — as he hit the switch, Bennett noted, “I think this blows up the Tropicana” (the hotel across the street). While thanking all those responsible for the most unusual gambling palace, he also warned the crowd, “Don’t ever try to build a pyramid in Las Vegas — you’ll have a lot of trouble with the county!” Despite the “trouble,” they got the place built in record time and with only a few, usual first-night glitches, such as restrictions placed on use of some of the special effects in the Trumbull theaters. Bennett called Trumbull “a genius.” Nevada Gov. Robert Miller thanked the Circus titans “for creating an oasis of entertainment.” Clyde Turner, Circus Circus president, and Bill Paulos, VP and general manager of the Luxor, foretold future entertainment outings like the Trumbull theaters in Circus Circus openings in Reno and Sydney, Australia.

“I’LL NEVER DO A FEATURE movie in Hollywood again,” Doug Trumbull told me at the Luxor’s opening festivities. He continues to see the future of creative film in his audience participatory movies. He first gave us a taste in “Close Encounters” and topped with his spectacular “Back to the Future” ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. He’s now expanding on the “Back to the Future” theme with his three shows at the Luxor. We made our way up winding ramps to take a seat in the highly banked theater to view his “future” minimovie screened on a seven-story-high screen. The system is amazingly clear and the 3-D feeling intense … If guests haven’t had enough showbiz participation via Trumbull’s shows, Sega Virtualand has an entertainment center in the Luxor where you can ride all kinds of simulators and test your skill on interactive games with big screens and monitors chronicling skills … At the VIParty, dozens of Luxor’s scantily clad women of the Nile served champagne while appropriate Egyptian music serenaded. At the conclusion of ceremonies, a laser show played on the dancing waters alongside a giant Sphinx. This, too, was reminiscent of a Disneyland show. Guests then proceeded into the hotel for a foodfeast that would have delighted Cleopatra.

SWEET CHARITY ALSO benefited from the Luxor opening, which contributed $ 50,000 to the Starlight Foundation for critically ill children. A special 21 contest in the pre-opening festivities also benefited the charity. Among those on hand for the Luxor and Starlight were Teri Garr and fiance John O’Neill — they were talking about getting married over the weekend but may wait till December and wed in Cabo San Lucas … Also at the Luxor, Paul Verhoeven, who will direct his “Showgirls” in Vegas starting next March with pre-production starting today. Also there, Bonnie and Larry Sugar. Bonnie will shoot a feature about the Starlight Foundation at the Luxor hotel for MTM’s Family Channel. Larry Sugar’s readying a feature docu “Cry of the Snow Lion” on Chinese atrocities in Tibet, starring Harrison Ford and Kathleen Turner. Songs by top stars will form an album to benefit the “Free Tibet” charity. Among other stars expected to participate in the docu are Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Dennis Quaid, Ali MacGraw, etc. It will preem at Cannes next year.