Something ugly is going on in the Las Vegas entertainment world... and Cousin Claire is not talking about the cast members of Jeff Beacherís shows. A war is brewing that involves Dick Feeney, Sandy Hackett and Lisa Dawn Miller. Feeney is the producer of Viva Las Vegas at the Stratosphere and co-producer (with Sandy Hackett) of The Rat Pack Tribute Show and Worldís Greatest Magic Show, both at the Greek Isles. Lisa is Mrs. Sandy Hackett and the mother of Sandyís only child, seven-month-old Ashleigh.
There are lots of e-mails being sent to media-types and entertainers, with a lot of nasty name-calling involved. Most of these electronic messages are being sent by Mr. Feeney. Much of what Feeney is saying is of a personal, not business, nature and borders on cruelty. Here are some portions of Feeneyís e-mails. "Lisa Dawn Miller is an amateur with what many including myself view as having marginal talent. Many of her performing credits listed on her website were favors or unpaid gigs such as the one day in my show Viva Las Vegas at the Stratosphere that was a favor to my partner Sandy. Her upcoming performance calendar on her website lists NOTHING. I for one am curious to find out how many copies of 'Her much anticipated debut CD Fly Away' actually sold." Feeney goes on to say, "Her ranking at LML records, an online record company rates her number 323,826, thatís right number three hundred and twenty-three thousand eight hundred and twenty-sixth in sales. Lisa Dawn Millerís claim to fame is the fact that daddy (Ron Miller) wrote several hit songs. Her other connection to the entertainment business is the fact that after two previously failed marriages, she recently married Sandy Hackett. You will find out the only thing entertaining about this true outsider wannabe is the arrogant and egotistical belief her amateur opinion matters to anyone." Another missive told of Lisa Dawn Miller-Hackett being banned from the Greek Isles Star Theater. OUCH!
Since calls to the Hacketts have gone unanswered, the only person Cousin Claire has spoken to about this is the above mentioned Feeney. If what he is saying is true, it would answer the questions of why Sandy Hackett has not stepped forward to defend his defamed wife. According to Feeney, Mrs. Hackett is trying to play producer with the tribute show, where she is neither welcome nor appreciated. All kinds of backstage problems have resulted. Sandy (the son of the late Buddy Hackett), has requested that Lisa stay out of his business dealings with Feeney which, until now, seemed to be working out well. Apparently, she has not complied with that request, causing even more dissention in their already shaky marriage as well as in the Feeney-Hackett partnership. From what Dick says, the Hackett-Feeney partnership will endure. The Hackett marriage wonít.
Cousin Claire, never one to hesitate sharing her opinions (even when unsolicited), feels that Mr. Feeney has gone about this all wrong. The hitting-below-the-low-slung-designer-belt accomplishes nothing, and airing dirty laundry has resulted in people taking sides. It will take more than Lysol and Clorox to clean up this mess. We think it would have been better if all of this had been done in private as opposed to in the court of public scrutiny. That old saying about "getting more with honey than vinegar" comes to mind. By the way (sorry Mr. Feeney), Cousin Claire happens to like Lisa Dawn Millerís debut CD.
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On the 'Letís Kiss and Make Up" scene, we have good news regarding two of the grandest ladies in Las Vegas... Kenny Kerr and Frank Marino. Up until recently, they would not have wanted to be mentioned in the same breath, let alone the same sentence. For the uninitiated, Kerr and Marino are well-known female impersonators with a long-running show business history around these parts. Kenny has headlined in Las Vegas revues since the late 1970s, while Frank has been the star of the Rivieraís An Evening at La Cage for 20 years. For most of those 20 years, the "girls" have been at odds. Outside forces have probably had a lot to do with the decades long feud. Troublemakers spreading rumors (and you all know how we hate rumors) had made it almost impossible for the two entertainers to attend the same functions at the same time. Now, it seems, all is forgiven and the gentlemen are even friendly enough to go bowling together. Cousin Claire is pleased with this news, as we like these talented fellows very much. Besides, there are more than enough gorgeous wigs and false eyelashes for both of them.
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Her name is Liz Renay. B-movie fans know her from films such as John Watersí Desperate Living and Ted V. Mikelsí Dimensions In Fear. As bizarre as most of her films roles have been, they pale in comparison to the buxom blondeís real life. Among the highlights: a sprint down Hollywood Blvd., sans clothes, hanging out with the famous and infamous including hoods like Albert Anastasia, and a 27 month stint at Terminal Island for perjury. Liz, who has called Las Vegas home for 30 years, is also a published author. Her first book, My Face For the World to See, is considered a cult classic. Her second, My First 2000 Men (can a sequel be far behind?), gives accounts of her relationships with a plethora of men. Leave it up to our Liz to rate these famous fellows on a scale of one to 10. Among those first 2000 personalities, count mobster Mickey Cohen, George Raft, Burt Lancaster (who Liz calls "one of the most exciting men she ever met," and "scores" a 10 rating), Jerry Lewis (who only got a one), Regis Philbin, comic Jack Carter (the cheapest man she ever met) and Glenn Ford, who passed away recently at the age of 90.
Renay and Fordís romance lasted about a year-and-a-half. When the love affair ended, the friendship remained, lasting until shortly before Glennís August 30th death. The now 80-year-old onetime Marilyn Monroe look-alike (Liz and Marilyn were born in the same year) states that (in addition to the obvious) cooking and gardening were two of the things that she and Ford enjoyed doing together. The actor, who attended a gourmet cooking school in Europe, was also a "gentleman farmer" who raised chickens and cultivated an organic garden on his city estate. The chicken thing may have been acceptable in some neighborhoods, but not on Oxford Way where multimillion dollar homes were the norm. Beverly Hills residents are not accustomed to being woken up by the sound of roosters. Complaints were not uncommon. Ford had a little rhyming comeback for the unhappy folks. "You can grow your carrots, they donít crow. But those dad-blamed chickens have got to go." You can read more about Liz Renay in a recent issue of MAO magazine.
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When it comes to Gerald Gordon, Southern Californiaís loss is Las Vegasí gain. A well respected producer and director in Los Angeles, Gordon has been a Las Vegan for almost 10 years. While in California, the onetime actor served as managing artistic director at the Hollywood Center Theater for 14 years, and resident artistic director for the Santa Monica-based Mayfair Music Hall. Gordonís production of The Fantasticks still holds the record as the longest-running musical in L.A. theater history - almost five years.
Since moving here, the Ithaca, New York-native has become a much in demand drama coach. With an impressive list of former students - Adrien Brody, who won a Leading Man Oscar in 2003 for his role in The Pianist; Kari Lizer, a onetime regular on TVís Matlock, and co-executive producer/writer for Will & Grace, writer for Boston Common and the inspiration/creator, writer and executive producer of the new award-winning series, The New Adventures of Old Christine; Andy Lauer, currently seen on reruns of Caroline in the City; Bruce McGill, of Silkwood, Animal House, Shallow Hal and My Cousin Vinnie fame; Joe Flanigan, currently on Stargate: Atlantis; Christopher Titus, stand-up comic and star of his own TV series; Paul LeMat, remembered for leading roles in American Graffiti and Melvin and Howard, and Marcia Lewis, the Tony-nominated co-star of the Broadway hit, Chicago, to name only a handful - itís no wonder that prospective thespians are clamoring for Gordonís advice and guidance.
Some of those who have been lucky enough to make the cut locally include, Lysander Abadia, a talented young actor whose face lights up the stage and screen and who currently can be seen in a local commercial for the Valley Auto Mall (Lysander is up for a role in Nip/Tuck); Adam Croft, who recently signed a personal management contract with Gordon for 100 years (yes, you read that right); Katrina Loncaric, who recently left Las Vegas and her role in Donn Ardenís Jubilee! heading for Broadway and the production of The Producers where she will cover the role of Ulla (played in the movie by Uma Thurman) and become a member of the ensemble. A feature story on the Cornell University graduate has been written and will appear in an upcoming edition of The View section of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. For more information on Gordon, check out his Web site at www.geraldgordon.com. As a bonus, the former child prodigy will play a little Chopin for you as you read more about him.
On a personal note, during Gordonís most recent Actorís Showcase, up and coming actor Nathan Ferrier performed a "special number," primarily for Cousin Claire's benefit. Our "sophisticated theater critic" had questioned Mr. Gordon about his requirements to get into his acting classes. She suggested that prospective students had to "get naked, both physically and emotionally" to qualify. We wonít go into ALL the details; letís just say Mr. Ferrierís solo performance involved the removal of some items of his clothing and resulted in a very happy gossip columnist and an enthusiastic response from the rest of the VIP audience members. Weíre not sure if this number confirmed our suspicions. We ARE sure that we liked what we saw. Bravo, Nathan!
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In case you didnít know this, Roseanne Barr has a DVD called "Rockiní with Roseanne: Calling All Kids!" available. The DVD contains a dozen songs, including a number of originals written by musician John Argent. Argent was formerly part of a group called My Generation that played in Las Vegas at the Hotel Continental (now Terribleís) and Silver Slipper (now a parking lot adjacent to the Frontier) in the 1980s. Why would Roseanne make a DVD for children? Maybe because she is a "professional mother." As Roseanne Conners, on her award-winning TV series, Barr played mother to three offspring. In real life, she is the mother of five (including 11-year-old Buck) and grandmother of two, giving her plenty of insight into children. Watch for Roseanne, whose last Las Vegas engagement was at the Stardust in February, on an upcoming episode of the popular NBC series, My Name is Earl.
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If so, drop an e-mail and ask.
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.