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Here's Johnny

Vegas came to Liverpool at the weekend - but it was all a bit of a blur

Published on December 11th 2007.

Here's Johnny

Michael Pennington is game for a laugh. It is fight night, and there are plenty of games and plenty of laughs to be found. As Johnny Vegas, he is opening Liverpool's biggest casino, Circus. There are dancing girls, fire eaters and people on stilts.

Rent-a-crowd takes the night off from the champagne and canapes on Saturdays. Not Liverpool Confidential, and not Frank McKenna, either, it seems, who appears late on, with cohorts.

The Downtown Liverpool chairman (of the board) uses the word “Jane” a lot when doing the introductions. We are puzzled. We have no idea who “Jane” might be, but as the sharp-suited one speaks, with a faraway glint in his eye, of meeting Michael “Tarzan” Heseltine in Liverpool the night before, we wait and wonder if he is about to confer a whole new meaning to the term “swinging through the jungle”.

Meanwhile, Johnny Vegas has already cut the ceremonial ribbon at the Queen Square casino, owned by Stanley Leisure. The Supremes cover band is playing, Kev Seed is hosting Wheel of Fortune, people are winning Caribbean cruises.

It is the eve of the Ricky Hatton fight. What to do? We ask ourselves if we have Johnny's staying power for the endless rounds (of Guinness). We square up to the Thatto Heath kid and look him in the bleary eye: Who will beat who into submission?

Tracey, the tarot reader, in her own little booth, can answer none of our questions, and hides.

Johnny is taking no prisoners when he poses for our main picture at 10pm. His Shining hour.

By 1am, we have all been taken prisoner, on the ambient smoking deck, by “Miss A” and “Miss B”. They work in an Old Swan shop that we shall call pharmacy L.

He's a good sport, is Mr Vegas, just the kind of person you want opening your casino, and in between delivering, on demand, long, loud and unreal monologues to “Michelle”, Miss B's mate, at the other end of the Nokia, he tells Confidential of his jaded palate for the meeja game, his love of being a dad, and his great excitement at being chosen to appear in a new radio version of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist.

It is late. Very late. Vast crowds keep the gambling tables and the £4,000 slot machines busy, and the Brasserie 110 tables, too, with the open plan kitchen enjoying a brisk service.

On the smoking deck, things are taking a dream-like turn. Michelle is on the line again. At 4am all eyes are on Vegas. We toss a coin and leave our destiny to Lady Luck.

The moment to go has come. It's 'bout time too.

Circus Casino, Queen Square, Liverpool. 0151 702 7610

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