Cousin Claire doesn’t like to take swipes at other writers…unless they deserve it. In the case of Laura Deni, she of online Broadway to Vegas fame, we’re afraid she deserves it. In her October 22 effort, she delivered a lot of misinformation regarding the Hello, Jerry! revue, celebrating the music and lyrics of Tony-winning composer Jerry Herman, that played UNLV on the 21st. Beginning with her headline, Jerry Herman Is a No Show, Deni made it sound like Mr. Herman chose to vacation in Hawaii rather than be present for this UNLV event.
Perhaps Ms. Deni should have read Herman’s 1996 bio, Showtune: A Memoir, before tackling a subject she apparently knows little about. If she had bothered to do a little homework, she would have learned that 75-year-old Mr. Herman has been HIV-positive for more than 20 years. In 1995, his doctor suggested an experimental regimen involving protease inhibitors designed to build up the immune system. Thanks to these kinds of medications, the composer of Mame, Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles and Mack & Mabel, has been in relatively good health. Days before his scheduled visit to Las Vegas, Herman developed a very painful case of shingles. Although Jerry was never advertised as being the STAR of the show, he had planned to sing two songs and accompany the real stars of Hello, Jerry!, Jason Graae (pronounced Graah, as in Coupe de Graae, the name of his cabaret act, not Graw as you indicated), Karen Morrow, Paige O’Hara and Donald Pippin, during a small portion of the concert. Everyone, especially the man of the hour, was very disappointed that he could not be here, but the main concern was, and should have been, Jerry’s health.
The fact that Mr. Herman would not be able to be in Las Vegas for the seminar, Master Classes and Saturday night performance, was announced on Thursday, October 19th’s KNPR radio interview between Herman and host Dave Berns, and again in Ken White’s story on Jerry Herman in the Neon section of the Friday, October 20th Review-Journal. At the request of ASCAP’s Michael Kerker, no announcement about Herman’s absence was made from the stage prior to the night’s entertainment.
As for Deni writing that the show ran less than 80 minutes, that is almost true, but what is wrong with that? The program started a few minutes after 8 p.m., with Director of Artistic Programming & Production Larry Henley, Glenn Casale, head of the university’s graduate directing program, and Kerker welcoming the audience and announcing the names of three Theater Department scholarship recipients. The show began immediately afterwards and ran without an intermission, ending a little after 9:30.
As for the Free seminar to be held in Tempe, Arizona, in conjunction with the group’s October 28th performance, and Ms. Deni’s suggestion that Las Vegas should have offered the same thing but didn’t,” sorry Laura, you have your facts wrong…again. On Thursday, October 19th, a FREE and Open To The Public seminar was held in the Recital Hall of the Bean Music Center. About 150 people attended, including us. As a journalist/reporter, Deni should have known about this.
And, by the way, Ms. Deni, actor/singer Joel spells his last name Grey, not Gray, and Mr. Herman is 75 years old, not 73 (born July 10, 1931). Thanks to libraries and the Internet, this information is available to anyone...if they bother to check
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Recently, entertainer Gordie Brown took the big leap from a 425-seat showroom at the downtown Golden Nugget, to a brand new 740-seat theater at The Venetian on the Strip. Was the big leap a big gamble? We don’t think so. Gordie is ready for Strip stardom. Comparisons between Gordie and Danny Gans, who now headlines at The Mirage right across the boulevard, are inevitable. The two men, both entertainers and both impressionists, are about as much alike as magicians Steve Wyrick and Lance Burton.
Cousin Claire remembers, not that many years ago, when Gans was the headliner at the transformed from Vegas World-to-Stratosphere hotel/casino. (We also remember Gans from years earlier, when he was part of a downtown Steve Rossi produced revue at the then-International, now Main Street Station. He also played the Palace, Nevada Palace, that is, the soon-to-become Cannery East on Boulder Highway at Tropicana.) In the early Stratosphere days, the price to see a Gans show was about $25. A longtime Vegas media personality was outraged! How could they charge that much for “an unknown”? Mr. Outraged had not seen Mr. Gans perform. Cousin Claire had, and she didn‘t feel the price of admission was too high.
The Stratosphere did not take off with a bang. It was more like a dull thud. The neighborhood leaves much to be desired, the machines were tight, food was too costly for the area, and the place was struggling. Within weeks, a practically tear-stained full-page letter appeared in the daily newspapers. In essence, the hotel’s president, Richard Schuetz, was BEGGING locals to come in for the first time and urging those that had already been there and weren’t blown away, to return and give the place another chance. Machines were looser and prices throughout the hotel had been lowered, the readers were promised. That may have been the case for some sections of the place, but not in the showroom. On the contrary, tickets to see Danny Gans had been raised $5 a person! Cousin Claire, not one to avoid such issues, called Mr. Schuetz to ask “why” the increase. We were told it was because Gans was doing good business. Hmmm. Makes sense to us. Anyone who has been around these parts knows about the next chapters in the career evolution of Gans - a jump from the Stratosphere to the Rio and, of course, a jump in prices. Another jump, this time from the Rio to The Mirage, and, of course…well, you know. We expect to see equally good things in the future of Gordie Brown.
Gordie‘s official VIP/media opening took place on Tuesday night. The brand new Venetian Theater was jumping. Among the familiar faces we spotted in the crowd, Joe Esposito, longtime friend and road manager for Elvis Presley and author of the recently released 468-page book, Remember Elvis (Esposito, a Clive Davis look-alike, is currently a casino host at Wynn Las Vegas); Robert Goulet and wife Vera, looking like they may have discovered the Fountain of Youth in their neighborhood; the talkative, bigger-than-life magician Penn Jillette and his silent partner Teller (Cousin Claire knows his entire name but, like Teller, we aren‘t talking); Joe Leone, the Golden Nugget’s VP of Entertainment and the man responsible for bringing Gordie back to Las Vegas (thanks, Joe); Robin Leach; nice guy Rob Powers, formerly with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and now Communications Director for the prestigious Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation; the adorable and talented newly blonde Kelly Clinton (see more on Kelly elsewhere in this column) with her man, singer/songwriter Clint Holmes; and local daily news reps, Jerry Fink from the Las Vegas Sun, and Norm! Clarke (don’t you dare forget that exclamation point!!!) and Mike Weatherford from the Review-Journal. We couldn‘t see everyone in the large crowd, so we are sure that we are omitting people that should be mentioned. Sorry about that.
Enhanced by an exceptional quintet of musicians - Jeff Neiman, Keith Nelson, Adam Shendal, Rocco Barbato and Steven Swinford - the amazingly quick-witted, very funny, enormously talented Gordie Brown worked up a real sweat presenting more than 60 actors and singers (we weren’t fast enough to write down all the names) in a fast-paced show. For those who believe that James Brown is “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” they obviously have never seen his “brother” Gordie capture a room.
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When the death of Gladys Berosini was reported here a couple of weeks ago, we promised (or threatened, depending on your thinking) more information on her brother-in-law, Bobby Berosini. Here it is, in a nutshell.
In 1989, while performing with his orangutans in the Lido de Paris at the Stardust, Bobby was videotaped abusing his animals. He claimed these taped were illegally made by disgruntled performers and denied the charges, saying the tapes had been edited to show him in a bad light. A number of dancers involved in the filming were terminated, along with other cast and crew members that sided against Berosini.
During a trial the following year, certain pieces of “evidence” were not allowed to be admitted into court. Any questionable Berosini behavior that took place in other hotels (and there was some) was not allowed to be mentioned. Testimony from primate experts such as Roger Fouts and Jane Goodall went unused, as did information on primates from the much-respected Virginia veterinarian Dr. Sue Pressman. Celebrity animal activists were also not permitted to testify on behalf of the long-suffering orangutans.
All the things that did and didn’t happen in the courtroom seemed to favor Berosini. In spite of all the negative national publicity, Bobby Berosini was allowed to keep his job at the Stardust. He was even held over after the Lido ended its long run, becoming a featured act in the show that took its place, Enter the Night. By this time, the Monkey Man was very much disliked by just about everyone in the show. Cousin Claire was in the Stardust showroom for both closing night of the Lido and opening night for Enter the Night. Interestingly, the same thing happened on both of those nights - when Berosini’s entrance music started, there was a mass audience exodus out of the theater. It was payback time. Former Lido cast members could now openly express their feelings toward this man without fear of losing their jobs.
After the joke that was his trial, Berosini was declared the winner. It appeared he was going to collect a large sum of money from the people who had wronged and defamed him. His joy and self-righteousness didn’t last for long. The original decision was overturned and the pompous onetime headliner was ordered to pay millions, much of it in court costs and attorney fees. Because he now lives out of the country, very little of the judgment has ever been collected.
There was a brief Berosini sighting in a revue at the no-longer-here Dunes hotel/casino, where he appeared with magician Kirby Van Burch in something called Wild Things (that same show was later performed in Branson). The relationship between the Berosinis and the Van Burchs soon soured and the friend of the primates returned to Las Vegas. An attempt to headline in his own show at the downtown Plaza hotel was thwarted when animal rights folks began picketing outside the casino. Deciding they didn’t want to deal with the baggage that came with Berosini, the Plaza wisely changed their mind about having him work their joint. There was a short period when the animals were being used in photo ops - posing with the public for a fee - in a hallway at the Tropicana hotel.
These days, the Berosini’s former southeast Las Vegas estate sits in disrepair. We have been told that Bobby and wife Joan are now living in Costa Rica. Although PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) offered to rescue the now useless-to-the-Berosinis wildlife (PETA would have incurred all expenses to retrieve the creatures and place them in sanctuaries where they could live out their lives in peace and comfort), the Berosinis refused the offer. Instead, the orangutans were donated to another animal trainer where, sadly, they are once again being used for entertainment purposes. We have more than likely seen the last of the Berosinis in Las Vegas. In Cousin Claire’s opinion, it’s no loss to the community. This is one of those rare cases where you actually get to see “what goes around, come around.” It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
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If you haven’t made it over to the Hawaiian Luau at the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino this summer, you only have one day left to do so (if you are reading this on Friday). The popular annual event ends its season on Saturday, October 28. Put away your hula skirts, flowered shirts and leis until 2007. Opening date for next year’s festivities will be announced in the spring.
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Entertainer Skye Miles, currently performing in the Las Vegas Hilton’s Menopause the Musical, will showcase her exceptional talent at the Bootlegger Bistro on Sunday night when she shows her stuff at Kelly Clinton’s Celebrity Spotlight. Skye, who was a seven-year cast-member of San Francisco’s must-see musical comedy, Beach Blanket Babylon, is one of the first professionals to participate in the newly launched professional entertainers showcase. Accompanied by musicians Scot Rammer, Ron George, Tom Steele and Harold Webb, in her act called One Night with Skye, the multi-talented entertainer will present jazz, blues, standards and more during her night in the spotlight. Audience members can expect to see some of Skye’s Menopause cast members join her on stage for a number or two. Have some lasagna with a little vino first, and then stay for the 8 p.m. show.
Over the last few weeks, some of the revues and acts participating in the Celebrity Spotlight have included Shades of Sinatra, a loving celebration of the music of the Sinatras, featuring Carmine Manzia, Larry Liso, Ryan Baker, and Ms. Clinton herself in a tribute to Nancy Sinatra; vocalist Gayle Thompson-Steele (sister of Clint Holmes and a real talent in her own right), accompanied by Bill Fayne on piano and her husband Tommy Steele on saxophone; and singer Corrie Sachs, along with Bobby Rozario on piano, Corrie’s husband Bob Sachs on bass, and Mike Mechem playing drums.
Upcoming acts include Las Vegas Tenors members, Ted Davey and Mark Giovi, in separate showcases, as well as vocal harmony group Fifth Avenue, Menopause the Musical star Sandra Benton, and Carlo Driggs, former lead singer for Paul Revere and The Raiders.
As for Kelly Clinton, Cousin Claire has known the personable lady since she was a teenager with her own lounge act. She has done herself proud and today, in addition to the Sunday Celebrity Spotlight at the Bootlegger, she also hosts their Monday night Karaoke with Kelly Clinton (we can’t be positive, but we think they named these things AFTER they got Kelly to run them). She handles the entertainment for Turnberry’s private Stirling (and that’s how they spell it) Club, where she and her band also perform a couple of nights a week. Check back here for more dish on Ms. Clinton and what else she might have up her fashionable sleeve, as well as upcoming Celebrity Spotlight acts.
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November 17th could present a field day for Las Vegas memorabilia collectors. That’s the day when the Stardust (closing for business on November 1st) will sell off the contents of the building. All kinds of things will be sold via auction, live and on the Internet. Start saving your pennies. Also, look for some details on Steve and Eydie’s “lights out” performance taking place at the Stardust tomorrow night (October 28). We will be there.
If so, drop an e-mail and ask.
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.