Oprah Winfrey. How does she connect to a Las Vegas-based column? Well, if you are an OW (Oprah Watcher), you should certainly remember her show filmed at Caesars Palace at the time of Celine Dion's Colosseum opening. This was perfect casting... two totally self-absorbed, spoiled divas fawning over each other in a rather embarrassing manner. Madam O even shed tears during Celine's performance (us too, but for different reasons). Fast-forward to Monday, September 18, and Oprah's (21st) season premiere show. Believe it or not, our gal Oprah and her best friend, Gayle King, are off on a "road trip," just like real people. No celebrity treatment for them. Who are they kidding? If these two are even speaking to each other at the end of their 3,500 mile, California to New York, journey, it will be a miracle. And her producers think this is entertaining? Or informative?? Or inspiring???
First stop for the girls? Las Vegas. With no advance warning, these two "real people" (with camera crew in tow) try to check in at Wynn Las Vegas, with Lady O complaining about how long it's taking. Then there was their visit to "The World's Largest Buffet" (we think it may have been the Rio, although no free plug, or even a mention, was given for the place) - again unannounced and again with a team of cameramen tagging along. When security stopped the group, which is what they are paid to do in a situation like this, Miss I-Want-to-Be-Treated-Like-Everyone-Else, displayed a little temper, saying more than once, "Let's just leave!" That would have been a great idea, but cooler heads at the hotel prevailed and the girls stayed. Then on to an annual Impersonators Convention at the Imperial Palace, with low-key, I'm-Every-Woman Oprah wearing a very large red hat that might have been classified by a myopic as an Unidentified Flying Object. Imperial Palace officials scurried around to accommodate the, once again, unexpected group and maybe get a photo of the Daytime Diva on their premises. As quickly as they arrived, the girls and their crew were gone. No Kodak moment for IP publicity folks. Not even any thanks. To add insult to injury, when the program aired on Monday, there was never a mention of what hotel they had disrupted, and hardly any time was spent on the impersonators themselves. As usual, with this talk show hostess, it was all about Oprah. The hard-working gang at the IP are calling their property "the Rodney Dangerfield of hotel-casinos." Rodney didn't get any respect either.
For those that will counter by saying how generous Oprah is and how much good she has done for the world, what with giving scholarships, building schools, supplying cars and extravagant gifts to audience members, etc., we acknowledge that, yes, the woman (one of the wealthiest in the world) IS generous. She probably needs the write-off, but here's our big beef with Oprah's generosity...almost all of it is done in front of a camera. The entertainment community is made up of a lot of giving people. There are sports figures and actors and singers and producers who also contribute large sums to help the less fortunate. Many of them do so QUIETLY. Frank Sinatra, for example, paid hospital bills for people in need and did many other kind things. The big difference between his generosity and the Big O's, is that he did his good deeds...in secret. Not our Op!
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Entrepreneur Robert Allen celebrated his 60th birthday with a party in his lovely Southeast Las Vegas home (formerly owned and occupied by singer Jerry Vale). It was a "magical evening," with Jac Hayden, Arian Black, Peter Reveen and Adam Flowers enjoying the friendly atmosphere. Among the others helping to gently guide Allen into his 60s were his parents, wife Deborah Danielson, daughter Heather Campbell, musician brother Al Robinson, producer Dick Feeney and George Levine (longtime Sands Hotel, now The Venetian, maitre d' and proud father of Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley). Robert Allen has been a Las Vegan for decades. As an entertainer, he has done a little bit of everything - from performing as a musician, comic, magician and hypnotist, to producing shows like the nationally publicized Shock! at the old Bourbon Street. He also is the brains behind the Haunted Vegas and Mob Tours. Robert plays host to a number of unique national conventions here. The next one, The Las Vegas Paranormal Conference, takes place at Palace Station Hotel & Casino on October 1st and 2nd. In this, the second annual TLVPC, there will be a cocktail party, ghost stories and a ghost hunt, a midnight séance and lectures by guest speakers, including Tim Cridland, Chris Fleming, Janice Oberding, Leslie Rule, Richard Salva and Allen himself. There may even be a trip to a haunted mine on the agenda. You can e-mail [email protected] for more details.
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Las Vegan Vincent Falcone, who conducted for Frank Sinatra for almost 10 years, is now sharing some of his experiences with Old' Blue Eyes in a self-penned book. Entitled, Frankly - Just Between Us: My Life Conducting Frank Sinatra Music, Vinnie used the help of longtime friend and writer, Bob Popyk, to assist with this project. Although his work with Sinatra is certainly impressive enough, Falcone has also been associated with a few other up-and-comers. He has been playing piano and leading the orchestra for Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme for about five years, and has worked with Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Diahann Carroll, Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis Jr., Connie Francis, Robert Goulet, Jack Jones, the McGuire Sisters, Joe Piscopo and Andy Williams (Cousin Claire just loves to name-drop). Syracuse, New York-born Vince is also a frequent accompanist for Bill Acosta, Bob Anderson and Steve Lippia. Vincent's son, trumpet player Danny Falcone, has inherited his father's musical genes and is creating his own buzz. Danny has worked with Paul Anka and Jack Jones and is currently playing for Toni Braxton at the Flamingo. He also performs with the popular and well-respected Las Vegas-based band, Santa Fe. Jeff Falcone, Vincent's other son, lives in Southern California where he has a "real" job in promotional and marketing material. Jeff (who also possesses musical talent), and his wife Sophie, just presented Vincent with the gift of a lifetime, his very first grandchild, Jeffrey Marc Falcone, Jr., born on September 13. Do we detect another working musician named Falcone in about 20 years?
And speaking of Steve and Eydie, the twosome are scheduled to be the last act to perform at the Stardust (have we mentioned the Stardust previously?) before the hotel closes on November 1. This is getting to be a habit for Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. In 2000, they were the final act to perform in the Circus Maximus theater at Caesars. If the rumors are true, tickets for all three nights featuring Steve and Eydie (October 26, 27 and 28) are gone. Just goes to prove, he (or she) who hesitates misses out on these milestone events.
And speaking of the Stardust (which we will continue to do, at least until the place is a pile of rubble and/or a forgotten piece of Las Vegas history), Cousin Claire got some feedback from folks who attended the recent Cast and Crew Reunion event. There were other people that they missed seeing at the big party who should have been mentioned. Here are some of them. Where was Dorothy Hamill, who guest starred in Enter the Night for a period of time during its run? And what about Sharon Holmes Mandel, Nicky Powers, Nino Frediani, Jan Wood Lovelady, Kim Reale, Teresa Foy and Susan Anton (she was the principal girl singer in Ice Fantasy at the Hacienda)? They should have been there.
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Who says there are no entertainment bargains in Las Vegas? (Certainly not Cousin Claire.) On Wednesday and Friday, September 27 and 29, Herb Rawlings Jr., who played the part of James Thunder Early in the Broadway hit musical, Dreamgirls, and performed the role in the national and international tours of the show in Europe and Japan, will take center stage at the Riviera's open-air casino venue, located right off the Strip. Rawlings received the Fred Astaire Award for best male dancer in a Broadway musical and a Drama Desk nomination for his performance. Las Vegas audiences have seen Rawlings as James Brown in the Imperial Palace's long-running Legends In Concert. Locally and nationally Herb is lead vocalist for The Platters. Rawlings' shows, running from 12:30 to 5 p.m., are free and open to the public.
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Some folks who claim to be related to famous people bear investigating. One example is Athena "Kiki" Marcus, who attended the recent Cast and Crew Reunion. For years, she has stated that she is the daughter of the late actor, handsome Rory Calhoun (How To Marry a Millionaire and River of No Return, both with Marilyn Monroe). The name Athena Marcus, or Athena Anybody, turns up nowhere in any of Calhoun's bios. The Internet Movie Database (found online at www.IMDb.com) makes no mention of Ms. Marcus, who now hosts a one-hour weekly radio show on KLAV, although other offspring of Mr. Calhoun's are listed.
And while we're on the subject, May 18th of this year, the Las Vegas Review-Journal carried a death notice for a 49-year-old woman named Maria Jean Folkerts. Among the survivors listed in her obituary, were "her father Fernando Lamas who preceded her in death," and "her stepbrother, Lorenzo Lamas." When Lorenzo was a guest star in Headlights & Tailpipes at the Stardust on media night, May 30th, Cousin Claire offered sympathy to the actor on the recent death of his sister, Maria. He had no idea who Ms. Folkerts was. Makes you want to go, "hmmmm."
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Author Gary Don Rhodes (Horror at the Drive-In: Essays in Popular Americana; Lugosi: His Life in Films, On Stage, and In the Hearts of Horror Lovers; and White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film, among them) is seeking information about a onetime burlesque dancer named Teri Sheehan (we are not sure of the spelling). Rhodes, who makes his home in Ireland, is trying to locate her or anyone who knew her. In the 1950s, Ms. Sheehan, possibly in a large champagne glass, appeared with Bela Lugosi when he was featured in a small Las Vegas revue at, we think, the Silver Slipper. We have asked a number of people who may or may not have had some connection to Bela at some time or another - Ed Wood's favorite actress, Dolores Fuller (a Las Vegan), portrayed in the 1994 Tim Burton film by Sarah Jessica Parker; the erstwhile star of B-movies and author/artist, Liz Renay (also a Las Vegan), and Doris "Bambi Sr." Kotzan (onetime burlesque performer and recent author). They had no knowledge about Teri Sheehan. Many folks, including Cousin Claire, are surprised to learn that, towards the end of his life, Lugosi was financially forced to appear in relatively low budget films and revues, including at least one right here in Vegas. If any readers know anything about Sheehan, please let us know.
The above mentioned Doris Kotzan is the mother of Bambi Jr., former Las Vegas entertainer and star of a very popular UNLV Rebel‘s poster of years ago. Bambi Jr. is really Grace Morley who was once married to talk show host Montel Williams. Grace is remarried and just had her third child (her first two are the children of she and Williams). They all live in Connecticut now and Dori (as her friends call her) is the author of a recent book called My Journey Burlesque: The Way It Was.
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Humble Clint Holmes ends his more than six-and-a-half-year run at Harrah's on the 30th of this month. Story is that the modest, low-profile entertainer, who in 1973 had a hit song called Playground in My Mind, will head for London or New York in hopes of getting one of his two musicals - Comfortable Shoes and/or Breathe - on a stage somewhere. Comfortable Shoes, co-written by musician Nelson Kole (onetime musical director for Don Rickles), tells the now familiar story of Clint's heritage. Is there anyone who has seen his show or read anything about him or heard him interviewed, that doesn't know he is the son of a black jazz singing father and white opera singer mother? Cousin Claire thinks not. Comfortable Shoes played at New Jersey's famed Paper Mill Playhouse in 1996, and in 2003 had a six-week run in Chicago. Since then, the show has apparently been lying dormant. Breathe is yet another treatment of Clint's life and musical journey. This one is being put together by Holmes, his Musical Director Bill Fayne, and the multi-talented singer/actor/teacher/director Larry Moss. Expect Clint's girlfriend, the adorable and talented Kelly Clinton, to leave Las Vegas with him. Kelly has been performing here since she was a kid. She had her own lounge act (her big number was called PMS Blues), was a regular cast member of a local interactive dinner show, and recently has handled the talent at the private Stirling Club at Turnberry Place, as well as emceed the popular weekly Celebrity karaoke night at The Bootlegger Bistro on Monday nights.
We think it would be fair to assume that the Clint Holmes Theater at Harrah's will be quickly renamed. Comedienne Rita Rudner, who recently ended a long run at New York - New York, is expected to move into the room in early October. Beginning in late November, she will share the showroom with Wayne Newton. Has anyone, beside Cousin Claire, suggested that maybe it's time Mr. Newton gave up what's left of his singing career? After decades of doing too many long shows a year, the Wayners' overused, physically abused voice has had it. Cousin Claire suggests that there's always movies, television, commercials and, of course, those USO tours, to keep Newton busy and in front of an audience.
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If one of the regular cast members on CBS's new sitcom The Class looks familiar, it could be because you're old enough to remember the original Star Search and its first big winner in the Male Singer category. Yes, folks, it's Sam Harris! For those who think Harris disappeared after his Star Search success, or became one of those "Whatever happened to..." folks, he didn't. Sam made a number of albums (Cousin Claire's personal favorites are Standard Time and Different Stages). Harris has done a number of Broadway shows, including The Life for which he received both a 1997 Tony-nomination and a Drama Desk Award-nomination as Best Featured Actor in a Musical. His role in the revival of Grease! netted him the 1994 Drama Desk Award-nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical. Harris took over Roger Bart‘s role as the flamboyant Carmen Ghia in Mel Brooks' The Producers. His almost six months in the Tony-winning show earned Harris excellent reviews. Incidentally, for those that don't know already, early next year, The Producers is scheduled to open for an indefinite run at Paris Las Vegas. At this time, no cast members have been announced.
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Michael Cagle's e-mail address doesn't use the name "BalladBelter" for no reason. This guy has a set of pipes. Over the past few years, Cagle, who describes himself as a combination of Nathan Lane and Patti LaBelle, has been featured in the Neon Knights revue at Boulder Station and in Spotlight (with Will Roya) at the now closed and demolished Bourbon Street. Cagle also hosted and performed in the Ronnie Cammisa produced talent showcase at a local restaurant. These nights, on Fridays and Saturdays anyway, Michael can be found singing, and hosting other entertainers, at HB's Restaurant and Bar, 6820 W. Flamingo at Rainbow. If you fancy yourself a singer (no American Idol rejects need apply), bring your own tracks with you and show up at HB's between 8:30 and 10:30. Last week, (Harry) Allen Fawcett, who played the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway in 1982-83 (David Cassidy and the late Andy Gibb also played Joseph at different times during the show's run), and in the mid-1980s hosted Dick Clark's syndicated TV show, Puttin' On the Hits, stopped in. You never know who you might see and hear.
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On Sunday, September 24th, the Henderson Pavilion will play host to the Las Vegas Philharmonic (this is the same group that opened this years' Jerry Lewis Telethon) as the 75-piece orchestra performs a tribute to Broadway. Called Pops at the Pavilion, the Philharmonic, conducted by Harold Weller, will be joined by three vocalists with extensive musical theater backgrounds to perform songs from Cabaret, Chicago, Evita, Les Miserables, West Side Story and more. The two-hour concert starts at 7:00 p.m., with tickets costing $10, $20 and $30.
And while we are in a Broadway mode, Cousin Claire would like to recommend entertainer Kevin Spirtas for your consideration. Spirtas, who played Dr. Craig Wesley on Days of Our Lives for seven years, was standby for Hugh Jackman in the Tony-winning Boy From Oz, and recently performed as Corny Collins in Hairspray at the Luxor, did an hour of his one-man tour de force show, Night and Days, at Sun City Summerlin's Starbright Theater on Wednesday night. The talented John Boswell gets credit as musical director and accompanies Spirtas on piano. Thanks go out to producers Michael Chapman and Paul Holmquist of ChapQuist Entertainment for this enjoyable evening. Spirtas will return to Las Vegas on April 29 to perform the complete version at the Charleston Heights Arts Center. If you missed Sun City, and you like cabaret and musical theater, do yourselves a great big favor and buy tickets for the April show. If you make your reservations ahead, the cost is only $10 (call 229-6383 in Las Vegas). Would Cousin Claire steer you wrong?
And still hanging out on Broadway, we have to take issue with the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Anthony Del Valle on the poor rating he gave Mandy Patinkin for Patinkin's recent concert performance at UNLV. Theater critic Del Valle, known for being pretty tough, got it wrong this time. Everyone who has ever seen Patinkin on stage knows that the Tony-winner (for Evita) is intense. Maybe he even "chews the scenery" at times, but that's what many actors do, especially in musical theater. The audience loved Mandy, giving him more than one standing ovation. Heck, he even got the seniors up out of their seats to do the Hokey Pokey! Hokey? Maybe. Pokey? No way. These folks were movin'! With only a piano (played by the excellent Paul Ford) to accompany him, and no intermission, Patinkin worked his butt off for an hour and 45 minutes. It was more than good enough for the enthusiastic audience. Too bad it wasn't good enough for Tony D.
If so, drop an e-mail and ask.
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.