Las Vegas Backstage Talk

LV Backstage Talk column

March Las Vegas Backstage Talk column in Casino Player Magazine and Gaming Today.

By Michele LaFong

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Fellow artists, musicians and industry insiders were among the crowd that packed The Gordie Brown Showroom inside the Golden Nugget. They had all turned out for 80’s hit-master Eddie Money on Feb. 13.

Back in the 80’s, it seemed every time I watched MTV or turned on the radio another Eddie Money hit was playing. Hearing those chart-topping tunes in back to back concert, took me back in time. I was awed at how many great tunes Eddie had cranked out.

“Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Shakin’,” “Think I’m in Love,” “Take Me Home Tonight,” “I Wanna Go Back,” were just a few I remembered and some I didn’t – like “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” which I enjoyed.

When Eddie wasn’t singing he was wailing on the saxophone or harmonica. I got a huge kick watching him work the crowd. “The Money Man” hasn’t lost any of his charisma or showmanship; at age 65 he can still rock the house, keeping the audience on its feet.

A true entertainer, Money is comedic, fun to watch and a crowd-pleaser. It was obvious he doesn’t take himself too seriously. His main objective is to make sure everyone has a great time. He even signed tee shirts for a long line of fans with 100% of the proceeds donated to our troops.

I could tell from my interview with Money that he is extremely down to earth, one of the most genuine people I’ve ever run into in show business!

Solid Gold

After interviewing 5th Dimension stars Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., I was invited to check out their show “Up, Up and Away – The Music & Memories” at The Orleans on Valentine’s Day weekend.

I’m so glad I did. The sold-out performance was one of the classiest, well-paced, entertaining shows I’ve seen. The talented back-up singers and musicians, choreography, and attention to detail told us no corners were cut in this production.

Married and performing together for over 45 years, the chemistry between Marilyn and Billy was magical. Even the scripted shtick between them was endearing, well-timed, and masterfully performed. The pair took the audience on a journey through Memory Lane.

In between singing their biggest hits – “Up Up and Away,” “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show),” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” and more – they entertained with everything from The Beatles to Blues to Broadway, complete with costume changes and stellar solos from each.

Both voices were shockingly as strong, crisp and impressive as ever, which explains why they received several standing ovations and two curtain calls! This show could be a mainstay on the Strip, like Smokey Robinson’s Human Nature.

Got talent?

NBC’s “America’s Got Talent!” wrapped up all live auditions nationwide, and will soon inform those who made it to the next round, which will most likely be televised in New York in front of judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B.

The turnout for the one day open call auditions in Las Vegas for season 10 of the show was enormous. I bumped into every kind of performer I knew, and many I never want to know!

It was a sight to behold. That’s the wonderful thing about this show. It is the only television venue open to any age and any talent – nothing is off limits.

If you win, you receive $1 million. But you don’t have to win the show for it to change your life. Throughout the years, many acts have gone on to launch careers. 2014 winner Mat Franco just headlined in a Las Vegas show with fellow finalists.

Forte, the powerhouse operatic trio that made it to the finals this past season, landed a recording contract with Columbia Records and a special New Year’s residency in Las Vegas!

Kenichi Ebina, The KriStef Brothers, Collins Key, Cami Bradley, Jimmy Rose, Taylor Williamson and Tone The Chiefrocca all went on an AGT live tour around the country.

Among AGT’s success stories are Terry Fator, Recycled Percussion, Nathan Burton, and Jabbawockeez. All perform regularly on the Strip. Comedians Taylor Williamson and Tom Cotter sell out venues across the country and iLuminate is lighting up the Broadway stage.

Dice special

Andrew Dice Clay has a special airing on Showtime in March. The “Blue Show,” with some of his favorite blue comics, features Eleanor Kerrigan, Steve Wilson, Erik Myers, Jason Rouse, Michael Wheels Paris, Colin Kane and The Smash Brothers; Cory & Chad.

My Picks

Wayne Brady, Mirage, Feb.27; Roseanne Barr, Tommy James and the Shondells, Golden Nugget, Feb. 27; Jay Leno, Mirage, Feb. 28;

Bill Engvall, Treasure Island, March 6, Bill Medley and McKenna Medley, South Point, March 6-8; John Mulaney, Mirage, March 6; Tim Allen, Mirage, March 7;

Dana Carvey, Orleans, March 13-14; Jim Breuer, South Point, March 13-14; Whitney Cummings, Venetian, March 13-14; Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Palms, March 15; Elton John, Caesars Palace, March 18-April 14;

Bobby Vinton, Golden Nugget, March 20; Jo Koy, Treasure Island, March 20; The Lettermen, South Point, March 20-22; Ron White, Mirage, March 20-21; Bill Maher, Palms, March 21-22; Garfunkel & Oates, Venetian, March 21;

Charlie Murphy, South Point, March 27-29; Daniel Tosh, Mirage, March 27-28; Caroline Rhea and Elaine Boosler, Venetian, March 28; Shaq’s next All-Star comedy jam, Aliante, March 28.

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Debbie Reynolds, Shang Forbes

Feb. 26 & 28, 2015 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & Web

Audio of interviews are posted below

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Debbie Reynolds guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong.  Debbie gave me my first running-show at The Debbie Reynolds H&C on the Las Vegas Strip in 1994.

For over six decades, our lives have been enriched by the talents of a singer, dancer and actress we know as Debbie Reynolds. With a rich life in talent and skills, she is a must see at The South Point Showroom whenever she comes to Las Vegas.

Debbie Reynolds gave me her first running-show in LV- “Vegas Live” starring Comedian Michele LaFong at The Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino on The LV Strip.

Debbie will soon be featured in Comedian Michele LaFong’s Monthly Syndicated “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” column in Casino Player Magazine, as well as LaFong’s Syndicated “Getting Personal with the Stars” column in Gaming Today.

Too much to list about the life and history of Debbie Reynolds here. For more about Debbie, click HERE.

Comedian Shang Forbes

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Comedian Shang Forbes guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong.

The charismatic comic has proven his premiere stand-up skills with appearances nationwide and abroad with one of the most memorable performances of 1995 on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” & won Two half-hour Comedy specials on BET’s “Comic View Grand Stand.

Shang has cemented his position as one  of the brightest funnymen in the business & his political and explosive humor has been showcased on HBO’s Aspen Comedy Festival Special “Best of the Fest”. Other appearances include “Politically Incorrect,”& the BBC’s Funny Business,Mun2’s Loco Comedy Jam, NBC’S Comedy Showcase, MTV’s Choose or Lose,  National Lampoon’s New Faces, Comedy Central’s Jamie Foxx-presents “Laffapalooza”& was a Co-Host on Russell Simmon’s “One World Music Beat.

Shang also is a Co-producer & host of BET’S Access Granted & is a regular on Bet’s Comic View, which airs weeknights at 10pm. (Incidentally, BET reaches 80 million cable households according to Nielsen Media Research). In addition, he has displayed impressive comedic acting & writing ability as a series regular on the late-night laugh-fest ”The Newz” & a contributing writer for George Magazine.

Now Shang has been making headway into the acting field with recent guest starring roles on episodes of On CBS’s “NCIS”, ABC’s “Zack & Cody”, NBC’s “Passions,” WB’s The Jamie Foxx Show & just finished shooting a pilot for FOX TV Called “FACELESS” written & directed by hot new directorJoe Carmahan (“Narc” & Smoking Aces) & Produced by Tony Krantz ( “24″ THe PJ’s & Sports Night).

The debut of Shang’s first major release CD entitled “SHANGRY!!”, on Uproar Records is in stores now & has one of the most played Comedy Specials on XM Radio called “Live on Broadway” taped at the world famous Caroline’s on Broadway In NY. In addition, he will be featured in several Upcoming international televised shows in Japan, Ireland, London and Amsterdam. Shang will continue to rise to the top of the comedy ranks with high-profile acting & televised stand up & personal appearances.

His new comedy special is called Shang is…”SHANGRY!” and will be out next month on Showtime.

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Neil Sedaka, Gloria Loring

Feb. 19 & 21, 2015 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & Web

Audio of interviews are posted below

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Legendary singer, performer, producer and songwriter Neil Sedaka guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong to promote his upcoming shows at The Orleans Showroom on February 21 and 22.

Sedaka is recognized as one of rock and pop music’s legendary pioneers, with songs that continue to stand the test of time. Starting in high school, Sedaka formed a vocal group, The Tokens, which recorded two hit singles. Later Sedaka was introduced to Howard Greenfield and together they began a successful songwriting partnership in the late 1950s, selling more than 25 million records during their 30-year collaboration.

In 1958, at the age of 18, Sedaka was catapulted into stardom after Connie Francis performed his song, “Stupid Cupid.” Francis then sang the theme song Sedaka and Greenfield had written for the 1960 MGM spring break movie classic, “Where The Boys Are,” which would end up becoming her biggest hit. Sedaka parlayed these hits into a contract with RCA as a writer and performer, and began recording his own material.

Sedaka’s chart-toppers included “The Diary,” “Oh, Carol,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Calendar Girl” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” In addition, Sedaka continued writing for other performers, including Tom Jones’ album “Puppet Man,” The Fifth Dimension’s album “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing” and The Monkees’ album “When Love Comes Knocking at Your Door.”

Sedaka has been recognized for his musical contributions by numerous prestigious organizations including receiving recognition by the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, a street named after him in his hometown of Brooklyn and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2013, Sedaka released “The Real Neil,” which includes new material, along with a few classics. A documentary entitled “Neil Sedaka: King of Song,” which tells the story of Sedaka’s life and career, made its world premiere on BBCFour in 2014.

Gloria Loring

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Days of our Lives’ soap star, Singer/Songwriter, Keynote Speaker author Gloria Loring guests on LVBST with Comedian Michele LaFong.  In April, Gloria will be in Las Vegas filming Robin Jay’s movie The Secrets of the Keys, starring Gloria Loring, Brian Tracy, John Assaraf, Rev. Michael B. Beckwith, Dannion Brinkley, don Miguel Ruiz. The original film was The Keeper of the Keys.Our listeners can view the original film for free this month only!  Www.TheKeyMovies.com/freeview

Gloria Loring is a singer, songwriter, actress, author and keynote speaker; the recording artist of the #1 hit song Friends and Lovers; co-composer of television theme songs Diff’rent Strokes and Facts Of Life; an audience favorite as “Liz Chandler” on Days Of Our Lives; has sung on the Emmy Awards, the American Music Awards, the Golden Globes, and is one of the few artists to sing two nominated songs on the Academy Awards. Recently she has also become famous as the mother of singing sensation Robin Thicke.

Gloria is the author of six books benefitting people with diabetes and writes a monthly column for Soap Opera Digest. Her newest book, Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous, details a series of extraordinary coincidences that transformed her life and offers prescriptive insight into how each of us can use coincidence for our own good and the good of those we love.

Gloria is a certified yoga instructor and an articulate champion of bio-medical research. After her son Brennan was diagnosed with diabetes at age four, she created and self-published two volumes of the Days Of Our Lives Celebrity Cookbook that raised more than $1 million for diabetes research.

She has shared the stage with Bill Cobsy, Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, the Pointer Sisters and Tony Bennett. She has hosted events for His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Siddha Yoga, Michael Beckwith’s Agape International Spiritual Center, and appeared with esteemed spiritual teachers Dannion Brinkley, Dr. David Hawkins, Mary Manin Morrissey and Eric Pearl.

Gloria is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who of American Women. She has been honored the Woman of Achievement Award from the Miss America Organization, an honor she shares with past recipients Barbara Bush, Roslyn Carter, and Hillary Clinton.

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Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr., Eddie Money

Feb. 12 & 15, 2015 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & Web

Audio of interviews are posted below

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5th Dimention stars Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. guest on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong to promote their upcoming appearance in “Up, Up and Away – The Music & Memories” at The Orleans Showroom February 14-15.

In recognition of 47 years in the entertainment business, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., the original stars and lead singers of the legendary group The 5th Dimension, will bring their hits to The Orleans Showroom on February 14 and 15.

McCoo and Davis have experienced success through the years as recording artists, performers and authors. Throughout their careers, McCoo and Davis have received seven Grammy awards, earned 15 gold and three platinum records, and starred in roles on both television and stage.

As part of The 5th Dimension, the group released numerous champagne and soul classics, including hits “Up, Up and Away,” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Worst That Could Happen,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Sweet Blindness,” “Wedding Bell Blues” and “One Less Bell to Answer.”

After a decade with The 5th Dimension, McCoo and Davis decided to leave the group and establish themselves as a duo. They had immediate success with the single, “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show).” The song became a #1 hit and earned them a Grammy for “Best R&B Vocal Performance By a Duo or Group.” Additionally, Davis devoted his efforts to a successful gospel music career and McCoo served as host of television’s “Solid Gold.”

Eddie Money

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Eddie Money guests on LVBST radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong to promote his upcoming appearance at The Golden Nugget on Feb. 13.

After signing a recording contract with Columbia Records, Money burst onto the scene with his eponymous debut album in 1977. Fans immediately fell in love with Money’s sound, and the album, which went double platinum, featured hits like “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise.” Money followed the success of his debut album with a stream of Top 40 hits, as well as some of the era’s most creative videos for songs like “Think I’m in Love” and “Shakin.” In 1986, Money released Can’t Hold Back, which featured the classic, Grammy-Nominated duet with Ronnie Spector, “Take Me Home Tonight.” The song reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album went platinum and also featured the hit “I Wanna Go Back.”
These days, Money continues to delight new and old fans alike at venues throughout the country. Having opened the summer concert season at the famous DTE Energy Music Theatre in Detroit for nearly 20 years, Money draws fans from all over who are eager to see the legendary musician. Ask any concert attendee and they’ll tell you he retains his signature style and performs with the same passion today as he did more than 30 years ago.
In addition to maintaining a busy touring schedule, Money has featured on hit television shows like “The King of Queens,” where he performed for his good friend Kevin James, and “The Drew Carey Show,” where he played Mimi’s ex-husband.
In recent years, Eddie has been joined on tour by his daughter, Jesse Money. Jesse, who was on MTV’s “Rock The Cradle,” is a talented and charismatic vocalist who has chosen to follow in her father’s footsteps. While on tour with Eddie, Jesse sings back-up vocals and adds an exciting twist to the duet “Take Me Home Tonight.” Eddie and his wife Laurie also have four sons – Zachary, Joseph, Desmond, and Julian.
Along with having sold more than 28 million records, Money’s songs have appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, and have recently been included in hit video games like “Grand Theft Auto” and “Guitar Hero.”

For more go to http://www.eddiemoney.com

 

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Feb. Las Vegas Backstage Talk Column

By Michele LaFong

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Feb. Las Vegas Backstage Talk in Casino Player Magazine and Gaming Today.

Last month, Robin Meade, longtime Host of HLN’s Morning Express, guested on LV Backstage Talk to promote her Special Guest Star appearance in “Christmas, Motown and More,” an 11 day limited-engagement with Smokey Robinson’s Human Nature at The Venetian. After watching Robin as a news television personality at 3AM for many years I was one of the many viewers unaware that Robin is also a very respected singer-songwriter with a pair of albums charting on the Billboard Country Albums chart in 2011’s Brand New Day and 2013’s Count On Me. Her impressive resume doesn’t end there. She has also belted out the National Anthem at many packed stadiums, and has performed with Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney, Richard Marx, David Foster and John Rich. Did I mention that Robin is also a former Miss Ohio and a NYT best- selling author that overcame crippling panic attacks and now does speaking engagements as well, sharing her story? Her credits go on and on…I wondered if there was anything left that Robin would not be fearless of trying and I soon found out there is. It’s stand-up comedy. If that isn’t the best reason for Robin to push the envelope and break out of her comfort zone I don’t know what is! Robin’s a dynamic entertainer with plenty of charm and quick wit. Regardless of what she’s performing, if you ever have the opportunity to catch her live…treat yourself you’ll be happy you did. I’m also a huge fan of Smokey Robinson Presents Human Nature: The Motown Show, which is on 5 nights a week at The Venetian.
The long awaited ‘FRANK – THE MAN. THE MUSIC.’ starring Bob Anderson will make its debut at The Palazzo® Las Vegas on Saturday, Jan. 24. The show honoring the life and music of Frank Sinatra will feature a 32-piece orchestra under the musical direction of Vincent Falcone. Anderson is transformed into Sinatra with the help of Oscar®-nominated makeup artist Kazu Tsuji, who aged Brad Pitt in the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” The musical journey through the legend’s timeless hits highlights three distinct areas of Sinatra’s career: the recording studio, television specials, and personal appearances. With a magical $100,000 stage set-up, the 90-minute production opens at The Palazzo Theatre in the year that celebrates the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth. It was obvious from my two in-studio interviews with Anderson that he is the ultimate perfectionist, and being that he is one of the most realistic singing impressionists of our time this show promises to be spectacular!
I finally landed an interview with Award-winning Rock & Blues Great Kenny Wayne Shepherd, one of my favorite artists of all time. He guested on LVBST to promote his return to The Orleans Showroom on Feb. 7 & 8. When I let Kenny know that I never miss an opportunity to catch his show I was taken back but pleasantly surprised when he said “I always perform two separate set lists on both nights for my loyal, die-heart fans so that they can return and enjoy both shows nights.” There are not too many artists that I’ve seen or interviewed that go to that kind of trouble to please their audience or themselves and have enough A-list material and chart-topping hits to successfully pull that off even if they wanted to. His show continues to evolve. Last year I noticed that Lead Singer Noah Hunt was playing some instruments, not just the tambourine, as he did in past shows, and Kenny sang a lot more. This added a lot more interest on-stage, both visually, and otherwise. There was much more interaction between Kenny and Noah which made for an even more dynamic stage performance.
Kenny, a self- taught guitarist that doesn’t read a lick of music started playing at age 6, and received his first record deal at age 13. He has since been listed among the top blues guitarists of all time by Guitar World magazine, along with legends B.B. King and Eric Clapton. Shepherd has also shared the stage with an impressive list of other music icons including The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, and The Eagles.
When I asked Kenny if he recollected any crazy backstage stories with any of those artists or others, he admitted that although there were probably plenty of stories… he thinks he will keep them to himself!

Shepherd has sold millions of albums worldwide and received five GRAMMY®nominations and two Billboard Music Awards, as well as a pair of Orville H. Gibson awards, the Blues Foundation’s Keeping The Blues Alive award and two Blues Music awards. He’s had six #1 blues albums and a string of #1 mainstream rock singles, and his acclaimed CD/documentary project 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads was the top-selling blues album of 2007.
His latest CD, Goin’ Home is nominated for Blues Rock Album of the year for 2015 Blues Music Awards. Also lending their talents on Goin’ Home are several talented friends including fellow guitar icons Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb’ Mo’ and Robert Randolph, longtime friend Ringo Starr, Fabulous Thunderbirds front man Kim Wilson, the Rebirth Brass Band and co-producer Blade’s father, Pastor Brady Blade Sr.
When researching Kenny before the interview I was surprised to learn that he is married to actor Mel Gibson’s eldest daughter, Hannah, and they have three children, which he said he often takes on the road with them on their tour bus. Since LVBST is the only show that really gets “Personal with the Stars,” I couldn’t help but ask what it was like having Mel Gibson for a father in-law? Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s response to that question and more can be heard on Feb. 5, at 6pm PST on 1230AM in Las Vegas and streaming live.
February picks: Ron White, Mirage, February 6-14, Kenny Wayne Shepherd band, the Orleans, February 7, 8, Seether & Papa Roach, Hard Rock, February 7, Loni Love, the Venetian, February 14, Marilyn Manson, Mandalay Bay, February 14, Engelbert Humperdinck, Smith Ctr., February 15th, the Diamonds, South Point, February 20-22, Ray Romano & David Spade, Mirage, February 20, 21, Billy Idol, the Cosmopolitan, February 21, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Mandalay Bay, 21, Jennifer Coolidge, Venetian, February 21, Rascal Flatts, Hard Rock, February 25 – March 14, Wayne Brady, The Mirage, February 27, Jay Leno, the Mirage, February 28, Roseann Barr, the Venetian, February 28.

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Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Feb. 5 & 7, 2015 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & Web

Audio of interviews are posted below

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Award-winning blues musician Kenny Wayne Shepherd guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong.  They will bring their chart-topping hits to The Orleans Showroom February 7 and 8.

Bandleader Kenny Wayne Shepherd began his career at a young age, sharing the stage with New Orleans legend Bryan Lee at 13 years old. Shepherd has since been listed among the top blues guitarists of all time by Guitar World magazine, along with legends B.B. King and Eric Clapton.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band debuted in 1995 with “Ledbetter Heights” and the album quickly rose to the top of the Billboard blues chart. The band followed up with “Trouble Is…”, which also reached the top of the blues charts and featured “Blue on Black,” a single that spent 17 consecutive weeks at #1 on the rock charts.

In total, the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band has released eight albums, including the 2014 release “Goin’ Home,” which was just nominated for “Blues Rock Album of the Year” for this year’s Blues Music Awards.

During his career, Shepherd has received five Grammy nominations, two Billboard Music Awards, a pair of Orville H. Gibson awards, the Blues Foundation’s Keeping The Blues Alive award and two Blues Music awards. He’s had released six #1 blues albums and a string of #1 mainstream rock singles. His acclaimed CD/documentary project “10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads” was the top-selling blues album of 2007.

Completing The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band are: Noah Hunt, lead vocals; Chris Layton, drums; Tony Franklin, bass guitar; and Riley Osbourn, B-3 and keyboards.

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