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Note: This is a past column from December 29, 2006
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - December 29, 2006
Can't believe that we have come to the end of another year. It doesn't seem possible that, at this time seven years ago, everyone was in a panic anticipating what was going to go wrong, what might stop working, and that the computer world as we know it would go into a tailspin...all because of the new millennium. Did you take your life savings out of the bank because you feared you would not have access to your money? That was SEVEN years ago!!! Where does the time go?
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I don't know of any other place in the universe where New year's Eve is celebrated with the kind of fanfare that takes place in this city. On December 31st, about a half-dozen of the major hotels along the famed Las Vegas Strip will put on a synchronized fireworks display that has to be seen AND heard (the fireworks are choreographed to music aired by local radio stations) to be believed. If you love crowds, and want to be out among them, why would you choose to spend the last night of the year anyplace other than this city. Room rates are way up there, but folks seem more than willing to spend the money, as long as they can party like it's 1999.
As far as the entertainment lineup for New Year's Eve in Las Vegas goes, in addition to the ongoing shows, there are a wealth (and that is a key word for some of the offerings) of special bookings for the weekend, among them (in no particular order) Susan Anton at the Suncoast; David Brenner at The Orleans; Hootie & The Blowfish at Silverton; David Copperfield at MGM (who will magically make 2006 disappear at midnight); The Beach Boys at the Luxor; Marty Allen and wife Karon Kate Blackwell at the Gold Coast; Lionel Richie at the Venetian; His Purple Holiness, Prince, at the Rio; Bill Medley at South Point and Barry Williams, aka TV's Greg Brady, hosting Bay City Rollers, The Cowsills, Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods and bad boy, Leif Garrett. There are nightclub parties with "celebrity" hosts and more. Expect many of the better restaurants, both inside and outside the hotels, to be booked solid. If you don't already have reservations, don't despair, there's always In-N-Out Burger…if they're open.
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Call it good or bad timing. In last week's column (December 22), Cousin Claire mentioned onetime Las Vegas Sun gossip columnist, Tim McDarrah. We, along with others who know the story, were wondering what had become of Tim since his "problem" became public knowledge in November of last year. Lo and behold, this week an update appeared in a number of newspapers around the country. This is "Hot Stuff," folks, and it's not pretty, so hide the ugly story from the little ones. Here, hot off the press, is an AP wire story…
Ex - Gossip Editor Convicted on Sex Charge
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 28, 2006
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Former Us Weekly gossip columnist Timothy McDarrah, arrested in New York last year by undercover federal agents, has been found guilty of charges related to soliciting sex with a minor.
McDarrah, a former reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, was arrested after being charged with trying to seduce an undercover federal agent posing on the Internet as a 13-year-old girl.
He was charged with one count of using a computer and the Internet ''to attempt to entice, induce, coerce and persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity,'' according to an indictment handed up in November 2005. He was convicted Dec. 20 after an eight-day jury trial in New York, and faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, according to court documents.
McDarrah, 44, responded in June 2005 to a posting on the craigslist.com Web site offering introductions to the ''freshest, youngest'' girls in New York, an FBI affidavit said. The gossip writer told an undercover FBI agent, who had posted the advertisement to lure pedophiles, that he would pay $200 for sex with a 13-year-old girl, the affidavit said.
After his arrest, McDarrah was suspended without pay from his post as the editor of Us Weekly's ''Hot Stuff'' column. From 2002 to 2004, he worked as a gossip columnist at the Las Vegas Sun.
And from the New York Post comes this blurb…
December 21, 2006 -- A perverted gossip writer nabbed in an FBI sting trying to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex is facing between five and 30 years behind bars after a Manhattan federal jury convicted him yesterday.
Timothy McDarrah, 44, a former columnist for Us Weekly, fell into the feds' trap after he responded to an Internet ad about young girls in 2005 - writing he wanted to "have sex with a young hottie."
What Cousin Claire finds most interesting is, that in the New York Post's very abbreviated story on this subject, they forgot to mention that Mr. McDarrah was a onetime reporter for Page 6, the popular entertainment portion of that newspaper.
We warned you it was ugly!
FROM NEW YORK POST
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It's amazing how readers come through for Cousin Claire when she needs them. In response to last weeks' mention about Dondino, we got the following information, straight from the horse's, er, entertainers, mouth. For those who remember Dondino from here, and may have been curious (especially the North Dakota reader who e-mailed to ask his whereabouts), the onetime Las Vegas lounge performer is presently entertaining throughout the Midwest area, mainly in and around Des Moines, Iowa. Dondino has also established a children's bilingual (Spanish/English) picture book publishing company, also located in Des Moines. Each book is accompanied by a narrated CD in English and Spanish, as well as a book theme song. Dondino's first book, The Cookie Story, was featured on the Martha Stewart show. His second book, My Sunshine Friend, is being sold from the Hy-Vee Stores throughout Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. A third book, Is Santa Claus Color Blind?, will be released next Christmas and will include a special video taping of Dondino and Santa cooking with Ms. Claus from their home in Alaska's North Pole. Santa even wrote a forward for the book. As far as his singing career goes, Dondino will be performing for the Variety Children's Charity Telethon in Des Moines, March 3-5. Brandon Routh, the new Superman in the Superman Returns movie, will perform with Dondino at the Telethon. Dondino will be performing at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel and the Prairie Meadows Casino throughout 2007. If you happen to be in the neighborhood…
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We love Ellen DeGeneres' TV commercials for American Express, especially the one with all the animals.
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So now it's Michael Jackson who wants to make his home in Las Vegas. Let's see a raise of hands from the longtime locals who would welcome the King of Whatever into our community. Mike Tyson, John Wayne Bobbitt, the late Jack Gordon (Michael's onetime brother-in-law and a man with a very questionable background), and even Mohammed Atta, one of the terrorists involved with 9/11 tragedy, are among those who decided that Las Vegas was a good place to "blend in." Lots of new and unfamiliar faces around these parts, although not many of them are wearing a surgical mask in public. Sure, Michael, come join the crowd. No one will notice. One local thinks The Gloved One could portray sister LaToya in American Superstars at the Stratosphere or the Imperial Palace's Legends in Concert. If the LaToya look-alike idea doesn't work out, maybe Mr. Jackson can become a Little League coach or a towel boy at the YMCA. If, in fact, some casino mogul does decide to give him a Las Vegas stage to perform on, would the public turn out to see him? Even without his questionable behavior involving children, could the masses deal with what's left of his face? Michael Jackson used to be a handsome young man with an incredible amount of talent. Today, at 48, we think he has become a rather pitiful paradox. As far as Cousin Claire's opinion on whether Mr. Jackson should take up residence in Las Vegas? Her suggestion is that he "beat it!"
And speaking of LaToya (and we were, weren't we) have you seen the previews of Michael's big sister's up and coming, or not, new TV series? It's a "reality" show called Armed & Famous. The CBS cop-type program will also feature former CHIPS star, Erik Estrada. Any wagers on how many weeks this one will run? Can you say, The Michael Richards Show?
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Some locals (like Cousin Claire) try to avoid the New Year's Eve Strip chaos by celebrating with an early outing a few days prior to the night of December 31 and then staying in, watching all of the revelry and festivities on television. That would explain a trip to the Luxor on December 27 just to catch the music emanating from the cozy bar outside the hotel/casinos' Steakhouse. At the mic, and on the piano and piano bench, the singing star of the Luxor's adult late night revue, Fantasy, is Stephanie Jordan. Playing piano, and also handling solo and backup vocals, Dolly Coulter, a longtime Vegas entertainer. It's amazing that Dolly can find the time, as well as the stamina, to add this gig to her current repertoire. Ms. Coulter is part of Killian's Angels performing in Brendan's Pub at The Orleans. For that job, in addition to singing and handling keyboards, Dolly also plays guitar. The other singing/instrument playing ladies who make up the All Girl Band are Nan Fortier, Ginger Bruner, Beth Mullaney and Lisa Viscuglia. As if that doesn't keep her busy enough, multi-talented Dolly is also a cast member of Tony 'n Tina's Wedding at the Rio. Joining Stephanie and Dolly in an impromptu song or two the other night, were Sandy Kastel and Diane Ellis. Diane, a well-respected entertainer around these parts for almost three decades, will be doing the vocals at the same piano bar on New Year's Eve. She will be accompanied by Eddie McKeta.
As for Sandy Kastel, the 1975 Miss Las Vegas and 1976 Miss Nevada is a singer/ performer in her own right. From 1977 to 1979, she was one of the entertainers in Jerry Jackson's Pinups at the Movies. Pinups, which ran in the Sahara's Casbar Lounge, was one of the most successful variety revues to ever play on a Vegas lounge stage. Today, Sandy frequently sings in front of a Big Band. She is currently finishing up a music CD featuring songs performed by Las Vegas legends during their glory years in this city. Watch for more details when the recording is ready for marketing. By the way, Sandy's father, Dick Kastel, was a well-known professional musician. A onetime saxophone player with the Harry James Band, Dick was also a longtime member of the Frontier Hotel's showroom orchestra. It's that genetic thing again.
Artist Terry Ritter was also among the audience members enjoying the music adjacent to the Luxor Steakhouse. Terry, like Sandy, is a former Las Vegas performer and onetime dancer/singer in Pinups at the Sahara. As a holiday gift, Ritter presented Kastel with a wonderful painting of a group of cast mates from the revue. Cousin Claire knows art ,and Terry Ritter is one terrific painter. You can see her work at the Casino Royale Shop in the Monte Carlo, and on her Web site at www.terryritterart.com.
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Almost as synonymous as Father Time and the New Year Baby, when it comes to the ending of one year and the beginning of another, is the perennial teenager, Dick Clark. According to a fairly reliable source, Clark will be at his Times Square post on the night of December 31, just as he had been for more than 30 years before a stroke felled him in 2004. With American Idol's Ryan Seacrest at his side, 77-year-old Clarke will preside over the New Year's Rockin' Eve where he will play host to entertainers Christina Aguilera, Rascal Flatts and the stars of Broadway's Jersey Boys. The televised program will air on ABC.
In an interesting note, in spite of the great success of Jersey Boys, the inspiration for the tale, Frankie Valli, has had no luck in securing a long-term Las Vegas engagement. Valli, the front man for the Four Seasons, had pending deals with both the Luxor and Flamingo hotels but neither one of them materialized. We have heard some rumors of Mr. Valli being "difficult." Maybe the REAL reason for the "thanks, but no thanks" response to a Valli headlining engagement here is because Frankie can no longer hit those falsetto high notes he became so famous for. The story is, Mr. Valli has not been singing those notes for years. In live performances, he turns away from the audience when one of them is due, and it is really one of his supporting singers who provides the audio.
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On December 27th, audiences at Dirk Arthur's 4:00 p.m. Xtreme Magic show, were treated to a bonus. On the stage of the Tropicana Resort & Casinos' Tiffany Theatre, 22-year-old Jimmy King proposed to his girlfriend of 18 months, 21-year-old Chandra Calder. Needless to say (but we're saying it anyway), magician Arthur was in on the surprise. Unbeknownst to the unsuspecting Chandra, Jimmy and Dirk had arranged for Chandra to be chosen from the audience to assist Arthur with his "Houdini" trick. Following the illusion, Dirk called Jimmy up on stage where he got down on one knee and asked Chandra to marry him. Fortunately, she said "yes." If not, this would not have been a romantic holiday story. Several family members of both Jimmy and Chandra were in the audience to witness the public proposal. The two young people met while attending college at Ohio State University. When asked why he chose Xtreme Magic as the place to "pop the question," Jimmy responded, "I'm known for doing everything over-the-top and I thought this would be a perfect magical setting." He was right.
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HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY NEW YEAR. SEE YOU BACK HERE IN 2007.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye