For the last two weeks, Cousin Claire has been flying without a net...the InterNET, that is. Some of the things we had planned to write about are locked away in an out-of-commission hard drive. As if that isn't enough of a handicap, we have no access to online reference material. Who else, besides you-know-who, thinks we have gotten way too dependent on these electronic devices that are supposed to make our lives easier? Hopefully, the computer guru who is working on the problem will be able to have us up-and-running normally by next week's column. In the meantime, please bear with us and know that we are not ignoring your e-mails...we just can't get to them.
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If the scuttlebutt we heard a couple of days ago proves to be true, we might see a real pre-Christmas miracle. On Sunday, December 10, the second annual New Las Vegas Marathon will take place. Finishing participants will cover a little more than 26 miles, beginning and ending at Mandalay Bay on the south end of the Strip. Around 20,000 runners, from all over the world, are expected to be at the starting line. Members of the entertainment community, including some of the Blue Men and Cirque du Soleil performers, are expected to join in the activities. Here's the miracle part. Magician Roy Horn, who was nearly killed during an onstage mauling by one of his white tigers at The Mirage in October of 2003, will be an entrant in the marathon. For many weeks after the terrible accident, there were questions about Roy's chances for survival. Once it was determined he would live, his ability to ever walk again was in doubt. He has come a long way. Just a little more than three years, and plenty of hard work, later, Horn is ready for the race. He may not be "running," but he is determined to take part in the event and cover as much territory as he can. His partner, Siegfried Fischbacher, will be present to cheer Roy on. Start time is a very early (and probably very cold) 6 a.m. Runners must register in advance. Entry fees are $105 for the 26-mile sprint and $95 for the easier-on-the-Nikes half-marathon jaunt. Numerous cash prizes, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, will be awarded to the first to cross the finish lines. For more information on this event, check out www.lvmarathon.com.
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Since Las Vegas is a gambling kind of town, it might be a good Bette that when Celine Dion departs the Caesars Palace Colosseum, probably sometime next summer, the theater will be taken over and Chered by two other famous singing divas - Ms. Bette Midler and Ms. Cherilyn "Cher" Sarkisian La Piere Bono Allman. The rumors have been circulating for months and we are always happy to help spread them. And, in case you are wondering, both Sir Elton John and funnyman Jerry Seinfeld will continue to perform at the Colosseum, even after Queen Celine has left the building.
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Years ago, in 1958 to be exact, there was a movie starring Dorothy Malone called Too Much Too Soon. That film was based on the life of Diana Barrymore, daughter of the famed actor John Barrymore. Too Much Too Soon might be a good way to describe the careers of some performers who bit off a little more than they could chew. When you take to the stage in Las Vegas, you better be ready for the critical slings and arrows aimed in your direction. Two people who should have realized that are young crooners Matt Dusk and Brian Evans. Evans got to Las Vegas first, appearing at the Desert Inn's Starlight Lounge at the same time Bellagio was opening. Cousin Claire chose to be at the DI that night, the reason being that there was a mob scene at the place down the street...AND because we weren't invited to Mr. Wynn's opening (although we did watch the fireworks display from the couth parking lot of the Desert Inn). At the time, we felt that Mr. Evans needed more stage time in his hometown before attempting to take Vegas by storm. After his engagement at the Desert Inn ended, we lost track of Mr. Evans...until this year. In the spring, he was scheduled to perform in the Stardust Theater. With very few advance reservations made, Evans wisely canceled the show. When the new Red Rock casino opened, we spotted Brian Evans' name again, this time as a performer in the lounge. He came and went rather quickly, replaced by The Steven Lee Group (now part of the Sunset Strip Band playing the late shift, after Menopause the Musical, in the Las Vegas Hilton's Shimmer Cabaret).
As for Matt Dusk, if you missed the FOX TV series The Casino that aired in the summer of 2004, you missed Dusk's introduction to the world. This embarrassing attempt at a reality show, built around the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino and its new owners, Tim Poster and Tom Breitling, was created by Emmy-winning Mark Burnett, the brains behind a number of successful TV programs such as Survivor, The Apprentice and Rock Star. (Hey, they can't ALL be winners!) The attempt, supposedly, was to try to show the once Grande Dame of Downtown as a classy and elegant property. With The Casino, that effort failed miserably. One of the ridiculous (non) plotlines involved Las Vegas newbie, Mr. Dusk. As the series opened, our Matt was singing for his supper in one of the Golden Nugget's casino level restaurant/lounges. He was not happy being in that small, intimate space. His goal was to make it to the hotel's upstairs showroom. Over the years, that room had played host to stars from Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers to Tony Bennett and Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. If memory serves us correctly, Matt might have had a shot or two on the history-making stage, playing to rather small crowds. Fast-forward a few months. For a number of weeks, the name Matt Dusk was emblazoned on the big Paradise Road sign in front of the Las Vegas Hilton and, lo and behold, he was now the headliner in the theater that many years ago was home to Elvis and Barbra Streisand and, in more recent days, Barry Manilow, Reba McEntire, Johnny Mathis and a fast-rising new, young crooner by the name of Michael Buble who IS ready for a room like the Hilton theater. We suspect this Dusk deal was what we call a four-wall (or two-wall) arrangement. That means the room was "rented" and paid for by someone with a few bucks to spare so that Matt would have a place to sing. We were there for the media opening. No one had a problem finding an empty seat in that very large theater. Things went downhill from there. We can't blame either Matt or Brian for these debacles. Someone who thought they were better than they were, or was trying to impress the young fellows, put them in situations that they weren't ready for. Since that Hilton gig, although we believe he planned to make Las Vegas his home-base, little has been heard from Matt Dusk around these parts. We haven't seen any sign of Mr. Evans either.
We are not suggesting that either of these two gentlemen are without talent. We ARE suggesting they are not ready for a decent room (large or small) in Las Vegas. Both of them need a well-produced act and some intelligent patter to use between a selection of well-chosen songs. For those seeking fame and fortune, whether auditioning for a show like American Idol or seeking a big city venue to display your talents, a wise bit of advice is "You only get one chance to make a good first impression" (sorry, we don't know who to give credit to for those pearls of wisdom). Cousin Claire suggests that you don't waste that chance.
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It has been announced that local memorial services will be held for entertainer Ruth Brown at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 17th, at the First Church of Religious Science. Brown, a Las Vegas resident for many years, died at a Southern Nevada hospital on November 17 at the age of 78. For two years, until a couple of months before her death, the rock 'n' roll/rhythm and blues legend had been a regular weekly performer at the Bootlegger Bistro. A funeral service and interment was held in Brown's hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia, last month. Ruth's longtime friend, blues-rock singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt, eulogized the late Tony Award-winner at the funeral. Raitt, like Brown, was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. The Las Vegas services are being coordinated by Ed Foster and Jillean Williams, the widow of jazz great Joe Williams. Open to anyone who would like to pay homage to Miss Rhythm, the memorial is also expected to attract a number of well-known musicians including Billy Eckstine's son Freddie Eckstine, Vincent Falcone, Bill Fayne, Clint Holmes, Marlena Shaw, Earl Turner and Sonny Turner. Who knows, maybe Raitt will make an appearance. She recently was the opening act for The Rolling Stones during their engagement at the MGM Grand.
And speaking of Joe Williams, the annual scholarship concert named in his honor will take place at The Orleans on Sunday, May 20. This is always a real treat for music lovers (of which Cousin Claire is one). Over the years, comics like Pete Barbutti and Cork Proctor have served as emcees, and performers such as Bill Acosta, Bob Anderson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Clint Holmes, Robert Goulet, Buddy Greco and Jack Jones, have contributed their talents to the worthy fundraiser. When the concerts started in 1989, they were held in the Nicholas Horn Theater at the Community College of Southern Nevada. The interest in the program soon outgrew the college theater and, in 1999, a few months after Joe's death, the show was moved to larger venues in more convenient locations. The Blue Note (now Krave at the Aladdin), Harrah's and The Orleans has been the site of the more recent productions. In case you are too young to remember Joe Williams (and we hope you aren't), as a singer, with the famed Count Basie Band, he had hits like Alright, Okay, You Win, followed by Every Day I Have the Blues and Here's To Life. As an actor, Williams portrayed grandpa Al on The Cosby Show.
Since 2002, a regular concert participant/contributor has been arranger/songwriter, Artie Butler. If his name isn't familiar, we are sure you will be MORE than familiar with some of the songs Mr. Butler has arranged and for whom. Here are just a handful of Mr. Butler's creations - What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong), Copacabana and Even Now (Barry Manilow), Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye and Midnight Train to Georgia (Gladys Knight & The Pips), I'll Never Love This Way Again (Dionne Warwick), Laughter In the Rain (Neil Sedaka), You and Me Against the World (Helen Reddy), Solitary Man (Neil Diamond), Midnight At the Oasis (Maria Muldaur) and Society's Child (Janis Ian). And then, there was Butler's beautiful song, Here's To Life, recorded by both Joe Williams and Shirley Horn among others. In addition, for many years, Artie worked with Suzanne Somers, traveling with her as her pianist/musical director. As a tribute to Mr. Williams, Butler performs his Here's To Life composition in his segment of the show. If Artie Butler doesn't have a shelf full of Grammys, there is no justice in the award system. Look for more information on the Joe Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund Concert (whew!) in upcoming months.
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And speaking of artists, many actors, comics, singers and authors are visual artists as well as performing artists. Among the talented painters and sculptors who spend or spent much of their time on stages in front of audiences, computers, microphones and cameras, are the Tonys (Tony Bennett, Tony Curtis and Anthony "Tony" Quinn), Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, Peter Falk, Elke Sommer and Red Skelton, along with local columnist and author Norm Johnson, come immediately to mind. Even fashion guru Bob Mackie has produced and sold limited edition serigraphs of his artworks. Two of our very favorite painters are the late Henry Fonda and actress Claire Trevor (with The High and the Mighty, Marjorie Morningstar and 1939's Stagecoach among her film credits). Either one of these fine actors could have probably made a decent living with a paintbrush in their hands instead of a script, although we would have hated to miss their films. Impressionist Rich Little is another entertainer of multiple talents. An exhibition of the Las Vegas residents' interpretations of well-known personalities can currently be seen at the Gallery at Summerlin, located at West Sahara and Fort Apache. Among the familiar and famous faces the impressionist/impressionist has tackled are Jack Benny, Humphrey Bogart, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan and John Wayne. There are also some presidential portraits in the collection. As for Mr. Johnson, author of the History of Off-Road Racing and Magellans of the Sky, his award-winning sculptures have been exhibited at the Widman Gallery in Las Vegas and the City Lights Gallery in Henderson. Many of Norm's lost-wax bronze pieces, devoted mostly to sea life, horses and Wild West subjects, can also be viewed at www.raart.org.
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In case you didn't read or hear it elsewhere, the simple little black dress worn by the lovely Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany's, was sold at a Christy's auction in London this week for $870,000. There is a lesson to be learned here...think very carefully before you sell any 46-year-old garments in your garage sale. You're welcome.
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