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.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from September 15, 2006
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - September 15, 2006

In the "Whatever happened to"... category, we have had some inquiries regarding Las Vegas entertainers who seem to have disappeared from our midst. Where is Matt Dusk, the young crooner showcased on a Golden Nugget-based hardly-reality TV show a couple of years ago? (Another question is, what could the then new owners, Tim Poster and Tom Breitling, have been thinking when they agreed to participate in that TV series?) But, we digress. Mr. Dusk had an album, featuring Bono’s Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad (written for, but never recorded by Frank Sinatra) as the title track (it was also the "theme song" for The Casino series), and a onetime engagement in the main showroom at the Las Vegas Hilton. At the time of the Hilton run, Matt, a Canadian, told Cousin Claire that he had bought a house in Vegas, evidence that he planned to hang around for a while. So where is he? Anyone?

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On the Wednesday, September 20, song and dance man Kevin Spirtas (see more info on Kevin’s upcoming appearances under Local Events/Charleston Heights Arts Center on this site) will perform his well reviewed one-man-show at the Starbright Theater in Sun City Summerlin. Although those Sun City residents like keeping many of their social activities to themselves, sometimes, when something really special is going on out there, word gets out. Such is the case with Spirtas who performed in the Broadway Curtain Calls revue at the same theater a couple of months ago. Spirtas played Corny Collins in Hairspray at the Luxor, and had a long-running role on NBC’s daytime drama, Days of Our Lives. Not everything entertaining that takes place in Las Vegas occurs in a hotel/casino. Michael Chapman, of Chapquist Entertainment, is responsible for many of the innovative programs taking place at the Starbright. Bravo, Michael, bravo.

Cousin Claire has one request of the folks waaaay out there in Summerlin, Utah. Please make it possible for people to order and charge tickets over the phone. It would mean lots to both the hard-working entertainers and those of us who don’t live in the Sun City part of the world but would love to attend some of the performances

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Has the tourist magazine, What’s On in Las Vegas, been sold? The decades old publication was started by Murray Hertz as a local television guide. Currently run by his offspring, today What’s On (which now has a couple of smaller monthly neighborhood versions - Green Valley and Summerlin - under their banner) has grown to almost 200 pages twice a month, too big, we think, to be really read and used by tourists while visiting Las Vegas. WO has some talented employees on its payroll, but the person in charge (that would be the Editor In Chief) should thank God every night that her father was born first. In Cousin Claire’s opinion, a change in What’s On management could be a real blessing and only improve what daddy Hertz started.

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On September 8th, Michael Feinstein and Linda Eder graced the city with fine performances at the MonteLago in the Lake Las Vegas enclave (Celine Dion and family have a home there). Some attendees, sitting closer to the floating stage than Cousin Claire and her companions, suggested that Ms. Eder, who announced she had been in the pool prior to dressing for the show, should have come ashore a little sooner. A bit more Estee Lauder and a hairdresser might have helped pretty Linda look like she had prepared for the occasion. As for Cousin Claire, she has only two criticisms regarding the evening. No. 1... we would have liked to see and hear some more individual performances with fewer duets, and, No. 2, and more important, they need much better directional signage within the confines of Lake Las Vegas. If not for the kindness of strangers, in this case a cab driver who drove slowly enough for us to follow him to Lake Mead Parkway, we might still be looking for a way home.

A note: Although it wasn’t mentioned that night, Michael Feinstein had turned 50 the day before. Happy a-little-bit-late birthday, Michael.

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Jackie Brett, who has been writing magazine articles about Nevada for eons, takes the next step with a real book. Jackie provides the text and Larry Hanna the photographs for Fabulous Las Vegas, a behind-the-scenes look at Southern Nevada. The lady is Director of Advertising and Public Relations at the Imperial Palace, home of Legends in Concrete, er, make that Legends in Concert. You can forget that "what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas" stuff. Now, thanks to Brett and Hanna, everyone can have a bit of this exciting part of the world at home, no matter where home happens to be.

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Cousin Claire attended the Cast and Crew Reunion at the Stardust on Sunday, September 10. It would be impossible to mention all of the people who were there (almost 700), but it was definitely a Who’s Who of Las Vegas entertainment. Produced by Lou Anne Harrison Chessik with assistance by Stardust Hotel & Casino Production Stage Manager Terry Lovern, Five Decades of Entertainment - 1958-68, 1968-78, 1978-88, 1988-98 and 1998-2006 was memorialized in song, dance and people sharing memories. From Enter the Night, the program opened with This Joint is Jumping, and the joint was definitely jumping. The high fashion parade, accompanied by the music, Notorious, featured former legendary showgirls from Lido de Paris and Enter the Night. The crowd cheered. The "boy singers... - Austin Ray, Carl Lindstrom and Doug Gardner - showed they still have the right stuff. The Volantes, a comedy/unicycle act with Scott Beldin and Don Thompson, displayed some of their old gimmicks, and Kenny Kerr (whose Boy-lesque played the Stardust in the 1990s), along with the Showgirl for the 21st Century, blonde and still beautiful Aki, who is now a wife, mother and attorney, also contributed to the evening’s entertainment. There were also appearances, speeches and performances by "Little" Peggy March (of I Will Follow Him fame), Jennifer Page, Jim Hodge, Wayne Albritton (now a cast member of the fabulous Palm Springs Follies), Heather Victorson, Shirley Allen, Donna Browning, Barbara Beverly, Dawnie Gulbranson Sachs, Gordon Cornish and Chairman of Boyd Gaming Corp, William "Bill" Boyd. The real showstopper of the evening, though, was Kenny Mazlow who earned a standing ovation following his parody of Cole Porter’s Night & Day, where he portrays men and women auditioning for a position as a production show singer. While living in Las Vegas, Mazlow, a native of Winnipeg, was the principal singer in Ice Fantasy at the Hacienda (now buried somewhere under Mandalay Bay), a singer/dancer in the Lido and a lead actor in the Las Vegas version of Beach Blanket Babylon at the Sands. These days, Mazlow serves as Artistic Director for the late Steve Silver’s pride and joy, and San Francisco favorite, Beach Blanket Babylon.

Some of those taking in the festivities included Robin Leach (who must not have heard that cocktail or evening attire was requested, and looked like he would rather be having root canal), Jim and Jan Seagrave (he’s VP of Marketing & Advertising at the Stardust), Howard Jochsberger (former VP of Marketing for Boyd Gaming’s downtown Fremont Hotel & Casino), Ronald LaBarbera, Boyd Gaming Entertainment Director Terry Jenkins, famed fashion/costume designer Stephen Yearick, and Lani DeJesus (Stardust Marketing Assistant). At the Ice Skaters table and scattered at other tables around the Stardust Ballroom, were old and new friends including Lindsay Fitzpatrick Warkmeister, Patti Haley-Sarena, Denise McDonald, Mindy Hall, Linda Crossley-Meads, Jane Valle Tacker, Susan Meinhold Sobel, Susie Lease Fajardo, Suzanne Speich and Nancy Lee Parker Andrews.

Some of the other faces we spotted that night belonged to Ray Jarvis, Jerry Ritholz-Jarvis, Diana Saunders Bellomo, Maureen "Hoppy" Hopkins Little, George and Gerty Verbiwski, B.J. Allen, John Momot, Bill Sewers, Terry and Gisela Head, Robbie Colvin, Fernando Quevedo, Clem Zeleski, Michelle Shensky-Silva (proud mother of nine-month-old Gracie), Blair Farrington, Bill Moore, Rene DeHaven, Garold Gardner, Michael Ashton, Lon Hall, Jack Campbell and John Wertz. We were told that Wilfred and Fe Halliwell, better known as The Jolly Jovers, were there. We never saw them that night, but wish we had. They were one of Cousin Claire’s favorite comedy acts in days of yore and she would have loved to let them know that.

We missed seeing some folks we thought would be there but either weren’t or we didn’t find them - Lucy Lucille Shropshire, Doug Breniser, Berri Lee, Babe Pier, Gail Donaldson Lucas, Sarasue Essenpreis, Gail Parlette Brumbaugh, Jacqueline Douguet, Siegfried Fischbacher, Roy Horn, Wayne Newton, Billy Chapel, Peter Gordon and Toni Andrews. Also missing, but not missed, the Berosinis and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal. Maybe they were having dinner together at the Tony Roma’s on East Sahara.

It was a very sad reminder to see the list of those that are no longer with us, except in spirit and our memories. In addition to many that Cousin Claire didn’t know personally, there were too many friends of years ago who should have been at this event and weren’t, through no fault of their own - Jack Townzen, Jerry Grasse, Forrest Duke, Ricky Reed, Jeb Stuart, Bill Willard, Jerry Norman, Barclay Shaw, Bart Carroll, Joey Skilbred, Trisha Boswell, Pepper Davis, Joe Delaney, Mark Tan and Robin Timm. The lyrics to Michael Jackson’s beautiful Gone Too Soon come to mind, "Like a comet blazing 'cross the evening sky, gone too soon. Like a rainbow fading in the twinkling of an eye, gone too soon. Shiny and sparkly and splendidly bright, here one day, gone one night. Like the loss of sunlight on a cloudy afternoon, gone too soon. Like a castle built upon a sandy beach, gone too soon. Like a perfect flower that is just beyond your reach, gone too soon. Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight, here one day, gone one night. Like a sunset dying with the rising of the moon, gone too soon. Gone too soon."

Ahhh, pleasant and not so pleasant Stardust Memories. (Forgive any and many missed names.)

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Don’t look for this season’s So You Think You Can Dance winner, Benji Schwimmer, to show up in Celine Dion’s A New Day at Caesars Palace. Although a one-year contract in that production was one of Benji’s prizes (along with a new SUV and $100,000 in cash), he will be too busy doing other things to take FOX Broadcasting and Celine up on their offer. Beginning the 12th of this month, the 22-year-old Southern California-native is off on a National Tour with the other nine So You Think You Can Dance finalists (tickets for the New York show sold out in 11 minutes). Rumor has it that Benji will portray one of his dance idols, Fred Astaire, in an upcoming film. So far, no word on whether the 35-city tour will make a stop in Las Vegas. Oh yes, in case you were wondering Benji and David Schwimmer, who played "Ross" on the TV series Friends, are cousins.

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Elvis is leaving the building, again. This time, though, it isn’t the International/Las Vegas Hilton where Elvis Presley performed from July 31, 1969, to December 12, 1976. The Elvis-A-Rama Experience, located on Industrial behind the Fashion Show Mall, will close the first of October after almost seven years in business. (An interesting note: The Elvis wannabes have been performing on Industrial Road, longer than the real McCoy played the Hilton.) The Experience consists of shows utilizing Elvis impersonators to entertain, a museum with lots of memorabilia, and a gift store where you can purchase mementos related to The King. A new museum is planned in a Strip location. Stay tuned for more information on this as it develops.

For Elvis fans who would like to know a bit more about his entertainment history in Las Vegas, here goes"During the six-and-a-half years that Presley performed at the Paradise Road property, there were 837 sold-out shows, with two-and-a-half million enthralled audience members watching and listening to the boy from Mississippi. You never know when this information might come in handy. (Thank you, Julie Crozier, in the Hilton entertainment department.)

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Ventriloquist Ronn Lucas, who closed out his almost five year run at the Rio recently, has not been idle during his hiatus. On Wednesday, September 20, Lucas, who is probably the most technically skilled vent around, will appear on the Late Show with David Letterman during "Ventriloquist Week." Ronn has also authored two books, due to hit stores over the next year. Look for Better Living Through Ventriloquism, a book written for adults, that will be out in December (just in time for holiday gift-giving). The second book, available in the spring, is called Talk to the Hand and is geared to youngsters. In November, the very clever Mr. Lucas, along with his cast of puppets, will open at the Steve Wyrick Theatre in the Desert Passage at the Aladdin. Also scheduled to share theater space with Wyrick and Lucas, international singing star Martin Nievera.

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Jim Semmelman, who spent a number of years living and working in Las Vegas, now calls New York home. While residing here, Jim was involved both in front of and behind the curtain with a number of well-reviewed productions - Stud Terkel’s Working (at both Community College of Southern Nevada and Spring Mountain Ranch), Jesus Christ Superstar and Two at UNLV, among others. Since departing Vegas, Jim has performed on Broadway in Meet Me In St. Louis, and stage-managed Carol Channing’s last Hello, Dolly! tour and Christopher Plummer in Barrymore. These days, Semmelman is stage manager of NBC’s popular Today show. He took the time to let Cousin Claire know that his Big Apple condo is the location scene for the "gory murder" taking place during the season premiere of Law & Order Criminal Intent, airing on Tuesday, September 19, on NBC.

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Sometime during the next couple of weeks, Cousin Claire will be attending Gerry McCambridge’s show at the Stardust with a fairly large group of friends. Billing himself as "The Mentalist," Gerry’s act is described as a combination of "mind reading and comedy." It is said that, in addition to reading minds, McCambridge can influence thoughts. Okay, smarty, figure out who is going to show up and when. Then, Mr. Mentalist, try and influence us out of coming. Watch for our comments in an upcoming column.

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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye