Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
She's a little bit naughty. She’s a little bit nice.  
She calls ‘em like she sees (and hears) ‘em.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from August 25, 2006
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - August 25, 2006

For those that think of Las Vegas as a city without a heart, Cousin Claire is here to tell you that there is much more to our community than neon, feathers, video poker, Cirque and buffets. When there is a need, the troops come together to help. That is probably most evident in the world of entertainment. In addition to major annual fundraisers such as Golden Rainbow, where every June, hundreds of Strip performers get together in a main theater in one of the hotels to put on an incredible variety show - there are many smaller displays of love and generosity. In the case of Golden Rainbow, the monies raised go to provide housing and other services for people in Southern Nevada affected by HIV and AIDS. Over the 20 years of its existence, that organization has raised millions. As for the "smaller" events, one of them took place a few weeks ago at Krave Nightclub on Harmon.

At midnight on July 24, friends and fans of the multi-talented Michael Darrin gathered to put on a show and raise money to send ailing Michael to the Sierra Integrated Medical Center in Reno. It is hoped that the facility (represented at the benefit by company CEO Sandra Guth), which uses Eastern medicine and alternative forms of treatment, will be able to help Darrin overcome a fast-spreading infection that is ravaging his body. Great archival film clips of Darrin's decades-long body of work, lovingly put together by his brother, the creative Bob Lentini, and Jeanne Quinn, drew applause from the late night/early morning audience. Among the performers who donated their time and talent to aid the stricken 61-year-young Emmy Award-winning choreographer and costume designer, were musicians Diane Ellis, Dolly Coulter, Steve Dimond, Denise Clemente, Jon C. Halbur, Dione Grillo and Michelle Johnson and The Desert Angels. Former Darrin dancers, Janie McDonall, Sherry Bragg and Robin Soli showed that, even decades later, they still had what it took to be a part of a Michael Darrin production. Magician Arian Black, The Great Tomsoni & Co. and comics Tony & Lloyd rounded out the night's entertainment. Comic/impersonator Kenny Kerr, always available to MC a worthwhile event, did a formidable job as "mistress" of ceremonies. A silent auction of original MD costume drawings and the sale of donated items, plus a jar that quickly filled with cash and checks, resulted in the organizers more than surpassing their goal of $20,000. It is things like this, when the entertainment community comes together to help a fellow member, that shows the heart that is Las Vegas.

* * * * * * * *

As Labor Day weekend approaches, one thing is on everyone’s mind. No, not school zones back in operation after a long, hot summer, but Jerry Lewis’ return to television in his self-named telethon. Not in good enough shape to fulfill his performance dates at The Orleans, Lewis still plans to helm his annual Labor Day fundraiser. Although the purpose of the decades long celebrity marathon is to raise money for the cure and treatment of numerous muscular diseases, the two day money marathon is now called the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Does anyone, beside Cousin Claire (who remembers EVERYTHING), recall when it was known as the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon? (Do we see a little ego here?). This year, the money-raising event will take place at the eight-month-old South Coast Hotel & Casino on the extreme south end (where else would one expect the South Coast to be located?) of Las Vegas Boulevard, more commonly known as The Strip. Of course we wish Jerry much success in surpassing last years’ take...not only for the good it will do the victims of these diseases, but because we hate to see an 80-year-old man cry.

And speaking of Jerry Lewis, a large number of Southern Nevada residents could decide that having the nuclear dumpsite in our state may not be such a bad thing if Lewis is a man of his word. It was reported that the Nutty Professor was threatening to move to San Diego if the nation’s garbage should wind up at Yucca Mountain.

* * * * * * * *

Will the Stardust still be up and running at the end of October when Steve Lawrence and his bride Eydie Gorme are scheduled to close the showroom there? Things seem to be winding down more quickly than anticipated for the 48-year-old property. Perhaps the powers that be (whoever they are) will decide to lock the doors before the end of November? For those that don’t keep track of these things, it was Mr. And Mrs. Lawrence who turned out the lights on the history-making Circus Maximus showroom at Caesars Palace. Of course, Caesars is now the home of Queens Celine and Elton, with occasional visits from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and a few others.

* * * * * * * *

It wasn’t all that long ago when Kenny Kerr’s name was prominently featured on a hotel marquee in Las Vegas. For many years, his female impersonator revue, Boy-lesque, was a must-see show at the now-just-a-memory Silver Slipper. After the demise of the Slipper (now a parking lot adjacent to the New Frontier), Boy-lesque was featured at the Sahara, Debbie Reynolds place (now the Greek Isles), the Stardust, downtown Plaza and, ironically, even at the Frontier. These nights, at 8:30 on Fridays and Saturdays, Kerr can be seen and heard at Suede, an alternative restaurant/lounge located at 4640 Paradise Road, in the famed Vegas “Fruit Loop.” The act is called “Kenny Kerr & Loretta Lieberman: A One Woman Show.” No lip-syncing here. The vocals are all Kenny. It’s billed as “An evening of good food, great friends, singing and comedy.” Go, have dinner and prepare to be entertained. Just like in the old days, Kerr, in or out of a dress, offers up some of the sharpest, wittiest, funniest lines around. Beginning September 2, a second Saturday show will be added, with performances at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.

On a sad note…Entertainer Howard Benway passed away on June 29 following a long illness. Better known to friends and fans as "Little Lil," for many years - at the Silver Slipper, Sahara and Plaza - the plus-size comic/impersonator was a favorite in Kenny Kerr's Boy-lesque. His pantomime routines to Timi Yuro's "Hurt," "My Boy Lollipop" and "Little George Got the Hiccups" were always showstoppers. In the mid-1990s, Benway starred in his own revue, “Guys Will Be Dolls,” at the Hotel Continental (now Terrible's). Howard "Little Lil" Benway was 64. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

* * * * * * * *

And another one bites the dust. With little fanfare or warning, “Headlights & Tailpipes,“ the Jeff Kutash production, is history. The story is that on a recent Monday afternoon, Mr. Kutash notified the Stardust that the production had performed its last show the night before. Most people at the hotel - including the showroom staff - were caught totally off guard. Just a few years ago, a similar thing happened with another Kutash venture, this one called “The Main Event.” The Steven Triffitt/Bob Anderson-starring Sinatra tribute revue closed after only a short run in the jinxed nightclub turned showroom at The Venetian. Prior to that, there was “Showstoppers” at the Desert Inn. With Kutash’s “Splash” still running more than 20 years after its opening at the Riviera, we can’t call Jeff a failure, but in Las Vegas, he might become best known as a one-hit-wonder.

* * * * * * * *

After more than a few failed entertainment attempts at Sheldon Adelson’s spectacular Strip property - “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” a Stevie Wonder tribute show; Melinda, The First Lady of Magic; Robert Goulet in Concert (that received excellent reviews) - they seem to have come up with a winner in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular. That’s not all that’s going on at The Venetian, entertainment-wise. And “wise” (as well as Grease) is the word. Look for the super-talented Gordie Brown to open in his own theater at the Venice-inspired casino. Cousin Claire predicts good things for comedy impressionist Gordie Brown, scheduled to debut there in a few weeks.

* * * * * * * *

For those who may have wondered what became of the Magical Melinda, she and her husband and two children now make their home in Arizona. These days, she spends her time making soiled disposable diapers disappear. As for singing impressionist Bob Anderson, a longtime Vegas resident, he now makes his home in Branson. He performs there, mostly at the Mickey Gilley Theater, as well as in other parts of the country. If tradition follows, Cousin Claire predicts that, eventually, they will both return to Las Vegas. They almost always come back. Once you have lived here, with the 24-hour lifestyle and all the excitement and amenities, it’s hard to readjust to living anywhere else.

* * * * * * * *

Anytime a show closes after a short run, the reason may not always be because it wasn’t a good and entertaining one. The general public may not know that many of these efforts are “four-wall” deals. What that means is that the act or the producer essentially rents the theater to put on their show. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this can be very, very expensive. Not only do they pay rent, most of the time the producer or whoever also pays for their own advertising as well as the stage crew, servers and room staff. In order to have any chance for success with these types of deals, lots of money and lots of patience is required. More often than not, one or the other runs out before the show can establish itself. And so, another dream is history.

Have a question about Las Vegas? Want to make a comment (be nice, now)?
If so, drop an e-mail and ask. Click Here
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.
You can find Past Columns HERE

     Like to be notified when Claire Voyant's next column is available?
Then join Claire Voyant's announcement mailing list!
Enter your email address below, then click the 'Join List' button:

Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye