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Morning Call: La Cage calls it quits after 23 years at the Riviera

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Frank Marino and his Aston Martin, in front of the Riviera sign on the Strip.
Frank Marino

It might be the first direct Strip casualty of the economic downturn. Last night, the cast and crew of the female impersonator show Evening at La Cage at the Riviera were notified by owner Norbert Aleman that he regrettably was being forced to shut down the long-running production.

Headliner Frank Marino and his fellow female impersonators received the news as the show ended at 9 p.m. yesterday. One insider there told me: “We’d always hoped to make it to the magic 25 years number. But we only got as far as our 23rd anniversary. Another 18 months and we’d have hit 25. It’s all very sad, and there’s a lot of tears.”

I’ve learned that there were weeklong negotiations with Riviera executives and the show’s producers, but because of falling ticket sales and no sign of an immediate recovery for hotel bookings for maybe as long as a year, it was decided to close the show.

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Frank Marino in front of the Riv.

Frank, who played the show’s colorful Mistress of Ceremonies as Joan Rivers, held the title of Las Vegas’ longest-running headliner. He was presented with a key to the city on “Frank Marino Day” on Feb. 1, 2006.

The pink slips came nine days after the third anniversary of that presentation by Mayor Oscar Goodman. Additionally, Frank has a star on the Strip’s Walk of Stars and Frank Marino Drive in honor of him.

The show began as a three-month run in 1985 when it started at the Riviera but ran more than 20 years with female impersonators duplicating Cher, Britney Spears, Madonna, Bette Midler and even Michael Jackson.

Frank, who appeared in Miss Congeniality 2, which was filmed here, authored the book His Majesty the Queen.

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Frank Marino in his famed Joan Rivers impression.

Norbert, who also produces the sexy topless adult cabaret revue Crazy Girls at the Riviera, says that revue will continue.

Frank said he was expecting the closure because of falling audience numbers. After a monthlong vacation, Frank says he’ll start work on his “ultimate drag show” he’s been working on for several months.

In my confusion in reporting this story on breaking news deadline last night, I made the honest mistake of stating that Crazy Girls was closing. I apologize for my misunderstanding! Crazy Girls has been on extended hiatus since Christmas, and that lineup of eight topless beauties will reopen tomorrow.

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A promotional shot of Frank Marino.

Also let go last night were actors Lane Lassiter, who played Michael Jackson; Steven Wayne, who played Cher and was at the superstar singer’s premiere last year at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace at her invitation; Ryan Zink, who performed as Reba McEntire; Brent Allen as Bette Midler; and Crystal Woods as Diana Ross, along with Frank’s understudy James Henderson.

News of La Cage closing follows the announcement that Folies Bergere, the topless revue at the Tropicana, will close in March after a 49-year run.

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Frank takes to the chair.

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