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.  
She’s...

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from November 03, 2006
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - November 3, 2006

Ahhhh. Stardust memories light the corners of our mind. By the time you are reading this, the popular hotel will be closed for business. Lots of Las Vegas history will be lost when the wrecking ball and explosives attack the property early next year. Some folks will be able to preserve some tangible memories of the hotel by purchasing contents of the place, thanks to auctions (live and online) that begin on the 17th. For those who are wondering, the very identifiable neon sign that stands in front of the casino, will not meet the same fate as the buildings. At onetime, the colorful star-covered creation was the tallest freestanding sign in the country. It will find a permanent home, along with many others from fallen or renamed hotels, at the downtown Neon Museum. Here’s a bit of trivia about Boyd Gaming Corporation’s Strip resort - when it opened in 1958, at today’s unimaginable cost of $10 million, the Stardust was the largest resort in the world. With 1,065 rooms and a mammoth casino and swimming pool, a resort the size of the Stardust was unheard of almost a half century ago. In 2010, the $4 billion Echelon Place will offer 5,300 rooms on the same piece of prime real estate where the Stardust still stands proudly.

The hotel was well-known for its large race and sports book and reasonably priced food bargains. But, it was probably most well-known for the variety of entertainment that took place both inside and outside its walls (pool parties took place during the summer nights).

In addition to the famed Lido de Paris (featuring specialty acts such as the Jolly Jovers, Siegfried & Roy and Bobby Berosini‘s Orangutans over the decades), which ran for 33 years; Enter the Night (that showcased ice princess Dorothy Hamill and Vladimir the Man Who Flis among others), that played for eight years; Havana Night Club, presented by Siegfried & Roy, that entertained audiences for two years, and a very short-lived Headlights & Tailpipes (Ed Sullivan even broadcast his popular variety show from the hotel in the early ‘60s), many well- known stars performed on the Stardust showroom stage. Illusionist Rick Thomas, and Gerry McCambridge also known as "The Mentalist," were recent stars in the almost 900-seat theater. Among the other names that graced the property’s marquee over the years (listed alphabetically to be Politically Correct, which we always strive to be), Ann-Margret, Roseanne Barr, Blood, Swear & Tears, George Carlin, Chicago, Chi-Lites, Andrew "Dice" Clay, Tim Conway, Anthony Cools, Delfonics, Louise DuArt, the Four Tops, Shawn King, Julius LaRosa, Lorna Luft, Manhattan Transfer, Peggy March, Jackie Mason, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, Neville Brothers, Bob Newhart, O’Jays, Debbie Reynolds, Don Rickles, the Stylistics and Temptations, to name some (but not all).

The Stardust Lounge and the convention area at the hotel also offered plenty of entertainment. Some of those acts that performed in other rooms throughout the property include Brendan Bowyer’s Irish Showband, Rip Taylor, Bare Touch of Vegas, the Kim Sisters, Don Cornell, Frankie Carr, Spiral Starecase, Denise Clemente, Henry Shed, Freddie Bell, Tommy Deering, Dancin’ Machine, Joey Gian, Bob Anderson, Kenny Kerr, Michelle van Ree, Terry Stokes, Michael Johns and Thunder From Down Under. There were also a number of Big Bands featured, for both dancing and listening pleasure. One of them, the annual Lamont Patterson Big Band Dance (conducted by a number of different musicians over the years) took place at the Stardust for many years. FYI...For 15 years, Lamont Patterson was a Las Vegas-based jazz and entertainment columnist. Prior to his death in 1997, Patterson established a trust fund to be used for a music scholarship at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition, he arranged for and left funds for an annual free big band dance. He wanted the music to go on and be enjoyed by the masses after he was gone. He would be pleased to know that the tradition continues.

Wayne Newton, who had a contract to perform for as long as 10 years at the Stardust, vocally struggled through five of those years. During that time, it was not uncommon for 10% of the audience to leave the theater (called the Wayne Newton Theatre during his reign) within a short time after the show started and ask for their money back. The complaints ranged from that "Newton spent more time shmoozing and kibbutzing with the audience than he did singing," "his band and backup singers were doing as much work as he was," to "his voice was shot." It’s true. Newton, 57 when his deal with Boyd Gaming began, had done too many long shows during his prime years and had worn out his equipment. Oh sure, the Wayniacs will always support him, no matter how bad he sounds. In fairness to the unsuspecting, Mr. Newton should consider a career change. Acting in film, TV or in commercials could be an option. The man who has been called The Midnight Idol for many years, should now be The Midnight Idle (as in not working).

Then, of course, there was one of the city’s most popular and enduring stage duos, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. A regular rotating act at the Stardust for the past few years, this musical couple have always been crowd pleasers. Cousin Claire is very lucky to have been one of 800+ people, including Frankie Avalon, Shecky Greene, Marty Allen, producer/director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon, Family Man, etc.) and a lot of local VIPs (with last names like Arum, Hammergren, Houssels, Jacobs and Molasky), media-types (with names like Clarke, Fink and Weatherford) and dignitaries (like everybody else), who watched the talented twosome close out the end of a Las Vegas era on Saturday, October 28. For two hours (a portion of that devoted to a nostalgic video intro, showing a hint of entertainment history that these two have been a part of), a full house was treated to the best of show business. A 28-piece orchestra, led by Vincent Falcone, accompanied Steve and Eydie as they presented about 60 songs, including those written by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Sammy Cahn and other great American composers. A Frank Sinatra tribute was also a part of the very special evening. Two songs, written by Mr. Lawrence himself, a very clever We’re Still Here and an Ode to the Stardust, sung to the tune of Thanks For the Memories, were highlights. For regular Claire Voyant reader and Stardust fan Pensacola Pete, Cousin Claire has five words for him..."You should have been there!"

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Happy 54th birthday to Roseanne Barr. The Emmy-winning entertainer celebrated her natal week by appearing all over the tube. On All Hallows Eve, Roseanne, costumed in designer witches garb, shared the dais with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. On Wednesday, it was Roseanne and Ellen DeGeneres swapping stories on Ellen’s daytime talk show. Thursday had her doing a guest spot on NBC’s popular sitcom, My Name Is Earl, and later that same night, Roseanne hung out with Jimmy Kimmel on his ABC Live! Show. On her actual birthday, November 3rd, she was a guest on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. All of this TV exposure was done in conjunction with Ms. Barr’s first HBO special in 14 years. Roseanne Barr: Blonde and Bitchin begins airing on November 4th. For the "younger generation," who know Roseanne primarily as the star of her own self-named hit sitcom that ran from 1988 to 1997, this special may be their first time seeing the former (and maybe current) "Domestic Goddess" doing standup and flying without a net. Roseanne’s last Las Vegas appearance was in February when she did her act at the above mentioned Stardust. For regular reader and Stardust fan, Pensacola Pete, Cousin Claire again has five words for him..."You should have been there!"

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We are here to set a couple of rumors straight. Yes, it’s true that Prince Roger Nelson, better known these days as Prince, will become the headline attraction at the Rio. In addition to performing in the main showroom (former home of the Scintas and Ronn Lucas, among others), the purple one will also oversee a nightclub at the resort. When the artist, formerly known as a symbol, is busy with something else or not up to singing for his supper (like Michael Jackson, Prince is getting precariously close to 50 - both of these younger-than-springtime gentlemen were born in 1958), other acts will take to the Rio stage.

For those that were beginning to doubt that The Producers, would ever show up at Paris Las Vegas, a big step has been taken toward that end. One cast member has finally been announced. It’s Snapper Foster from the daytime soap The Young and the Restless, also known as Michael Knight of Knight Rider fame, also known as Baywatch’s Mitch Bucannon, Germany’s heartthrob and occasional lead in a couple of other Broadway-based musicals, Jekyll & Hyde and Chicago. Hoff has most recently known as a compassionate judge on TV’s America’s Got Talent. Yes, folks, David Hasselhoff will play the very flamboyant, over-the-top Roger Debris (created on the stage and in film by award-winning Gary Beach) in the Las Vegas version of the Mel Brooks inspired musical. No word yet on who will play the two lead male roles, done on Broadway and in the movie by Nathan Lane (as Max Bialystock) and Matthew Broderick (as Leo Bloom). The Producers (the other Las Vegas Spectacular) is expected to open early in 2007...vit a bang, vit a bing, vit a bing, bang, bing, bang, boom!

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For Clint Holmes fans, the entertainer who recently closed up shop at Harrah’s after six plus years in his own showroom there, you can still enjoy listening to him, thanks to a couple of relatively new CDs. On A Night to Remember, among the 19 tracks, you can hear a mix of familiar as well as original songs, including Take It Uptown, Change the World, What Kind of Fool Am I, Banana Boat Song (Day-O), Playground In My Mind (Clint’s 1973 hit), America Was Waiting, Summertime and At the Rendezvous. The second CD, called If Not Now When, contains the title track as well as Mountain, Who Will Stand and Little Drummer Boy among others. You can order these through Clint’s Web site at www.clintholmes.com.

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Here’s some news for fans of Jimmy Hopper, the androgynous entertainer who developed a faithful following during the years he performed around these parts. After launching his Las Vegas career at the Voodoo Lounge atop the Rio, the singer spent more than three years at Bellagio’s Fontana Room. If you weren’t there at least a half-hour before his first show, you probably wouldn’t get a seat that night. People staked claim on their prime real estate tables and often stayed for all three shows. Hopper, who sings everything from Sting and Harry Chapin to Andrea Bocelli, left here to seek bigger venues and a ticketed showroom. A couple of months ago, as a favor to one of the suits at the property, Jimmy played a very brief engagement in one of the lounges at Mandalay Bay. Hopes of securing a new room to perform in here (the new Red Rock was mentioned as a possibility) didn’t materialize quickly enough, so Hopper headed for Southern California. The results are that he has found himself a stage at The Island Hotel in Newport Beach where he currently entertains Wednesdays through Saturdays. Hopper is sure to accumulate a loyal fan base in California, so, unless someone makes him an offer he can’t refuse (and someone should), it may be a while before we see him back on a Las Vegas stage. To verify his dates and show times in Newport Beach, call (949) 759-0808.

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If you are a little short on cash, your credit card is maxed out, and the folks from Publisher’s Clearing House haven’t shown up at your residence with a great big check, Barbra Streisand and Il Divo’s November 18th concert at the MGM Grand Arena may be out of the question. Is it just us, or do the ticket prices at $100, $200, $350, $750 and $1000 seem a bit excessive? If so, here’s an idea! Skip the trip to the MGM and head for the Riviera instead. There, in an intimate setting without the need for binoculars, you can see "Almost" Barbra and, in lieu of Il Divo, you will get something close to Old Blue Eyes. For less than $50, it’s Sharon Owens as Babs, and Sebastian Anzaldo portraying Frank Sinatra in The Concert That Never Was. You’re welcome.

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Don’t forget to check out the 3rd annual MINDvention to be held at the Palace Station, November 5 through 7. The MINDvention is the collaboration between two well known magicians, Robert Allen and Danny Archer. You never know who might be in attendance at this year’s event. One thing you DO know, because Cousin Claire is telling you, is who will be among the guest lecturers and demonstrators. Those scheduled include Francis Menotti who will be back with a late night Off-Color Mentalism show that should be something else, and Docc Hilford, a fantastic performer with a unique and unmatched style, whose lecture and show will be a real treat for all. Then there is Dennis Laub, who was a performing mentalist for a number of years in the late ‘70s and ‘80s with an act called Mind Mirage. He is back with some great new books and some of his classics as well. Rick Maue’s last year performances and lecture were convention highlights for many. Rick has a deep pool of material and he will be sure to have some great information to share with all. Anton Zellmann, one of the highest paid corporate mentalists ever, will discuss the ins and outs of working and succeeding in the business world. An extra special guest is actor Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame. He will present his full show that made for record-setting attendance at the Magic Castle earlier this year. In addition, Jason will talk about mixing magic and mentalism, presentation, and his own personal journey that led him to his act. For further information, check the Web site at www.MINDVENTION.com, or e-mail to [email protected]. Of course you knew that already, didn’t you?

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Movie star Nicolas Cage has made an inordinate number of films relating to Las Vegas. Let’s see...there was Honeymoon In Vegas, Con Air and Leaving Las Vegas for which he won a Best Actor Academy Award. Nic will also star in a motion picture based on the life of professional poker player Amarillo Slim. Rumor has it that Cage is house hunting here. If so, we suggest his next movie might be called Living Las Vegas. Okay. Feel free to groan in unison.



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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye