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 October 13, 2006
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - October 13, 2006

If you plan to be in Las Vegas next weekend, and you love musical theater, you are in luck! On Saturday, October 21, UNLV's New York Stage & Beyond will celebrate the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman. Who is Jerry Herman you ask? Well, he's only the Tony-award winning genius responsible for the scores of a few Broadway shows you may have heard of - Mame, La Cage Aux Folles, Hello, Dolly!, and Cousin Claire's (and Jerry's) personal favorite, Mack & Mabel. In the case of most successful musicals, one person writes the music and another the lyrics, i.e. George & Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, Richard Maltby Jr. & David Shire, Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe, Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields, John Kander & Fred Ebb, Marvin Hamlisch & Carole Bayer Sager, Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice, Alan Menken & Howard Ashman, Jule Styne & Bob Merrill and Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley (the list goes on and on, and so does Cousin Claire). In the case of Mr. Herman, he does BOTH the music and the lyrics!

Performing that incredible music on the stage of the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall for this event will be the very talented Jason Graae, Karen Morrow and Paige O'Hara, with Jerry's longtime conductor, Don Pippin at the helm. Oh yes, also participating in this presentation will be the 75-year-young Herman himself! Audience members will be treated to some of the tunes from Jerry Herman's newest and as yet unproduced Las Vegas-inspired show, Miss Spectacular. Call (702) 895-ARTS (2787) for reservations or additional information.

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There were questions about whether Liza Minnelli would even show up for her October 12-14 dates at the Luxor. Ms. Minnelli has not been very dependable in recent years and her professional reputation has suffered for it. In the "old days," when Liza was Liza, there was nobody better. Cousin Claire remembers fondly the days when Ms. Minnelli would do a third show at 2 in the morning, just so the working production singers and dancers could attend. Over the years, Liza has gone through many changes. We recall a night at Bally's (it was Media Night, when members of the press are invited to see a show), with Liza making an apology early in her performance, explaining she was a little under the weather (or maybe a little under the influence). In spite of that, she put on a good, not great, show. The press had gathered for a promised backstage meet and greet. After waiting for about a half hour, embarrassed Bally's PR people announced that Liza would not be joining the group, as "she wasn't feeling well." Okay, those things happen. The real story is that poor, too-sick-to meet-the-media, Liza was well enough to head downtown to Jackie Gaughan's Plaza (that's what it was called 10 years ago) to visit with her old friend, choreographer Ron Lewis. Ms. Minnelli didn't trek down to Main Street on just the one night. She was healthy enough to be there every night after her shows, delighting cast members of David Wright's Xposed with her fascinating show business stories. Back to the present. Apparently interest in Liza at the Luxor has been very good. So good, in fact, that even before a review has been written, Ms. Minnelli has been booked back next month, from November 23rd through the 25th.

And then, there's Judy Garland's OTHER daughter. Some of these second or third generation show business kids, and/or younger or older siblings of the famous and successful, frequently get the short end of the stick. A few that come immediately to mind are Roslyn Kind (Barbra Streisand's younger sister), Frank Sinatra Jr. (son of you-know-who), Lucie Arnaz (daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) and Lorna Luft (daughter of Judy Garland and Sid Luft). As for Lorna, although we have been disappointed with her as an opening act on more than one occasion, her one-woman Songs My Mother Taught Me, performed here at the Desert Inn, in the summer of 1999, and at the Suncoast in June of 2003, is one of Cousin Claire's favorites. And speaking of favorites, Lorna is a favorite of the above-mentioned Jerry Herman. She has toured with him, and her Take It All Off number (from Jerry's Girls) and Time Heals Everything (from Mack & Mabel) were highlights of Jerry Herman's Broadway, a tribute to the composer done live at the Hollywood Bowl and now available on DVD. Herman has practically handed Luft the beautiful Mack & Mabel ballad. As a matter of fact, that is the only song in Lorna's tribute to her mother that wasn't sung by Judy Garland or specifically written for the show. Lorna stays busy, appearing in shows such as Grease, Promises Promises, Snoopy, The Boy Friend, Mame, They're Playing Our Song, Gypsy, Little Shop of Horrors, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Extremities, on Broadway, off-Broadway and in national tours. It was her mother who stated that Lorna had the real talent in the family. See her if you get the chance.

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Something magical and interesting may be happening on West Tropicana very soon. A little birdie told Cousin Claire that when magician Rick Thomas leaves the weeks-away-from-closing Stardust after his October 25th show, his new home will become the nice theater-style showroom at The Orleans. Rick has done very well for himself at the Stardust. So well, in fact, that when Headlights & Tailpipes abandoned ship at Boyd’s Strip property a couple of months ago, Thomas went from two afternoon shows, at 2 and 4 p.m., to three shows, adding a 7 p.m. performance to his already busy schedule. If they stick with a reasonably priced ticket, we think this could be a good move for Rick. Remember, you read it here first.

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To celebrate its Silver Anniversary month, Donn Arden's Jubilee! is offering tickets to the lavish spectacular for the bargain price of $25 through the rest of October. Tickets for the popular Bally's production normally sell for $65 and up, so if you want to see the kind of show that helped make Las Vegas The Entertainment Capital of the World, and save a few bucks to boot, call (702) 967-4567 or (877) 374-7469.

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Just writing about Grant Philipo's Hallow Erotic Ball in last week's column gave Cousin Claire a case of the vapors. (Is it hot in here, or is it just us?). As a result, the old gal messed up a bit on the evenings' schedule of events. Here is the corrected information.

Doors open at 10:00 p.m. Between 10 and 11p.m., as the arriving guests mix and mingle, the Masked Nude Models (yep, we said NUDE) will be posed with the mannequins that inhabit the Haunted Mansion. Did we mention the party-house has a few resident ghosts? At midnight, the "tamer" of the two scheduled shows, hosted by female impersonator/comic Rudalenska, will take place. At 1:00 a.m., the incomparable Kenny Kerr hosts the Costumed/Un-Costumed Ball (with Kerr's new best friend, Frank Marino, as one of the judges), and at 2:00 a.m., it's the very adult, somewhat naughty Caligula's Follies revue. Leave you inhibitions at home for this one! For additional information, contact Philipo at [email protected]

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Maybe it's because she looks like she knows everything, or maybe it's because readers are aware that Cousin Claire has lived here for decades. Whichever it is, she is frequently asked "Who are your favorite Las Vegas performers?" and which ones are, well, you know. Writing about entertainment doesn't pay all that well, but there are some great fringe benefits. First of all, you get to meet some interesting people. We didn't say "nice," we said "interesting." On occasion, it's a privilege and a pleasure. Other times, it isn't. Then there are the REAL perks. We get to see lots of shows.

Anyway, here are some of Cousin Claire's favorites, as well as a couple of, well, you know. At the top of the list, in no particular order: Steve and Eydie, Anthony Newley, Mac Davis, Barry Manilow (in the 1980s and 90s), Ann Jillian, Peter Allen (with and without Bernadette Peters), Liza with a Z (also in the old days); Frank, Sammy and Dean, individually and collectively; Frankie Laine, still amazing when he played The Orleans at the age of 85). We will mention some others in a future column. Then there are those who just didn't live up to their potential: Dionne Warwick, who was cold as ice on stage and even 15 years ago, was singing her hits in new "safe" arrangements; Frankie Valli, who has been fooling the audience for years by not singing those falsetto notes he is so famous for (one of the Four Seasons hits the high ones for him) - see the Broadway show, Jersey Boys, instead; Crystal Gayle, who spent much of her stage time drinking water with her back to the audience and looking at her Timex. Maybe she was hoping her show was almost over, just like we were; Donna Summer, who apparently has never heard that old "the show must go on" expression, stopping her performance numerous times because she was hearing some feedback on stage; and poor Lynda Carter, who, although dressed in Bob Mackie gowns, singing well enough, and tripping the light fantastic with some good looking boy dancers, just couldn't win over the audience. No matter how hard she tried (and she did try), on a Las Vegas stage, Lynda was no Wonder Woman. And so it goes.

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Andre Agassi may have retired from professional tennis, but he certainly hasn't retired from life! Agassi has proven himself to be one of the most generous and philanthropic people anywhere. As a native Las Vegan, and a lover of children (he and his wife, fellow tennis ace Steffi Graf, have two of their own), much of his good work is visible around our city. The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation's annual Grand Slam for Children Concert is a much-anticipated fundraising event, by both the community ready to support the cause, and the stars anxious to donate their services to make the Slam a success. This year's entertainment blockbuster took place in the MGM Grand Arena last Saturday, October 7. Among the performers lending their talent were Michael Buble, Phil Collins, Counting Crows, Ellen DeGeneres, John Mayer, Sarah McLachlan and Ben Stiller. Grammy-winning David Foster acted as Musical Director for the 11th consecutive year. With the participation of stars such as Sheryl Crow, Celine Dion, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Gloria Estefan, Mick Fleetwood, Josh Groban, Don Henley, Faith Hill, India.Arie, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Jay Leno, Tim McGraw, Brian McKnight, Martina McBride, Dennis Miller, Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, LeAnn Rimes, Ray Romano, Carlos Santana, Seal, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Tears for Fears, Usher, Luther Vandross, Robin Williams and Stevie Wonder, it isn't too surprising that, from the first concert in 1995 to the most recent one, Agassi and friends have raised more than $60 million. Some of the charities that benefit from the AACF event include the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a model charter school in West Las Vegas; Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club; Assistance League of Las Vegas' Operation School Bell; Boys Hope/Girls Hope of Nevada; Child Haven; Class! Publications; Cynthia Bunker and Joy McClenahan Memorial Scholarship Fund; I Have A Dream Foundation; Las Vegas Inner-City Games; Las Vegas Philharmonic's Youth Concert Series; Las Vegas Sun Summer Camp; and YMCA of Southern Nevada. No doubt about it, Andre Agassi is a champion, both on and off the court.

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Condolences go out to Otto Berosini on the recent death of his wife of 40 years, Gladys. Gladys was Otto's business partner and performed with on stage with him. For many years, she and their daughter Bridget had a very good act using trained dogs. The family starred in their own show at Vacation Village Hotel & Casino (now gone), where Bridget was accidentally attacked by one of their tigers. A memorial service was held for Gladys on October 10th at Our Lady Of Las Vegas Catholic Church, which was Gladys' favorite.

If the name Berosini is familiar, it's probably because you remember the story of Otto's bother, Bobby Berosini. Neither Bobby or his wife, Joan, attended the memorial service for Gladys. We will write more about Bobby in next week's column.

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Se hablas espanol? Cousin Claire's friend, Gloria, who does hablas espanol, informs that the word "Malo" translates to "bad." In the case of Raul Malo, and specifically the former lead singer with The Mavericks' new album, we say if means "good." Released in July, You're Only Lonely is a musical departure for Malo. The recording contains some dandy cover songs, including At Last (a big hit for Etta James), Run To Me (made famous by the Bee Gees), the Everly Brothers' So Sad, Remember (we love Harry Nilsson's version of that one), and Feels Like Home (recorded by Tucson's own Linda Ronstadt among others). Raul Malo will be performing in the Railhead at Boulder Station on Friday, November 10th, for one show only. Tickets are only $9.99 plus taxes and are sure to go fast. If you want a seat for this one, call (702) 739-3267. De nada.

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And speaking of fine singers, and we were, a trip to Casa di Amore on East Tropicana for dinner the other night, offered a nice surprise with dessert...crooner George Bugatti.

Bugatti, in case you don't know, opened the beautiful Fontana Room at Bellagio in 1998. He entertained there for two years, alternating with the likes of Michael Feinstein and John Pizzarelli before leaving to pursue other venues, including an engagement at Carnegie Hall. Ask a New Yorker how you get to Carnegie Hall. The answer is practice, practice, practice. With three albums (Live on the Strip, Oh, What a Night for Love: The Steve Allen Songbook and A Night for Romance) to his credit, and a fourth one, featuring the songs of Harold Arlen, in the works, Bugatti has had plenty of practice. Piano player/vocalist George entertains at Casa di Amore three of four nights a week, depending on his schedule. Call (702) 433-4967 for dates and times. Oh, and we highly recommend the yummy Chicken Di Sarrono, available 24/7.

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Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino has a brand new restaurant in its midst. If Michael Mina's StripSteak can keep up the excitement and food quality of their opening might party, they will be around for a long time. Located in the space previously occupied by the 3950 Steak House, the beautiful-looking StripSteak greeted invited guests with scantily-clad young women in swings high above the entrance to the establishment, as well as an even more scantily-clad female being used as a canvas for a body-painting artiste. There was a disc jockey playing up-tempo music and high-energy female dancers (again in barely-there short-shorts and midriff-baring tank-tops) that never stopped moving. Oh yes, and there was food! Cousin Claire has never tasted crab legs like the ones served at the Thursday night soiree. Cold and cubed Maine lobster, presented in the shell, peeled jumbo, jumbo (the largest shrimp we have ever seen, and caviar were also available. And let's not forget food for the carnivores. Carving stations were serving Angus and American Kobe beef in all forms. It was just delightful. Among those enjoying the festivities, we spotted Robin "never misses a party" Leach, the Las Vegas Review-Journals' Norm Clarke (probably coming from seeing Liza next door at the Luxor) and lots of TV news personalities including Channel 13's Ron Futrell and 3's Gerard Ramalho. The place was packed and the joint was jumping so we didn't see everybody. If you want to check the place out for yourself, the lounge opens at 4 p.m. and the restaurant at 5:30. Bon appetit!

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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye