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 January 19, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - January 19, 2007

If you think there are no real entertainment bargains in Las Vegas these days, think again. We are not talking about smaller, mid-range priced revues or acts playing in older, decaying venues. On the contrary. We are talking about headliners (contemporary or nostalgic) who still have a fan base, drawing power and do not show up in Las Vegas three or four times a year. Where will these acts appear and how much will it cost you to see them? How about at one of Boyd Gaming Corporation's newer acquisitions...the Suncoast? And how about tickets prices of just $19.95 plus tax? And what about stars such as Air Supply and Gino Vannelli, for starters? Boyd has not wasted much time in implementing new marketing strategies since November, when many of their former Stardust key employees moved into offices at The Orleans, Gold Coast and Suncoast. We suspect with fresh new ideas, the Suncoast could become a hangout for both locals (from all around the city) and tourists (from all around the country). Spend a few dollars on gas or a taxi and save a bunch of dollars on show tickets. Drive a little, save a lot. New show prices will start in early March.

And speaking of the Suncoast, we have it on good authority that the Uptown/Downtown Petula Clark's three day engagement (February 9th through 11th) is just about sold out. In addition to Pet's recording career, and films such as Goodbye Mr. Chips and Finian's Rainbow, the award-winning star also toured the country as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Don't know why we are even bothering to expand on Ms. Clark's show business resume because, if you haven't already made your reservations to see her, you are probably out of least for this engagement. He (or she) who hesitates ...can always sit at home in their pajamas and listen to some of Petula's many albums.

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When you think of New Year's Eve (and we just did a couple of weeks ago), confetti might come to mind. When you think of confetti, Rip Taylor might come to mind. Taylor, who just turned 73 on the 13th of this month, reports getting a birthday greeting from Donald Trump stating that "Everything is coming up Rosie," that, of course, being a subtle reference to the Trumpsters' ongoing feud with the anything-but-subtle Rosie O'Donnell. Although an AARP member for more than a decade, the Master of Mayhem doesn't seem to be slowing down much. Among his more recent projects, a role in the Johnny Knoxville-starring Jackass Number Two. Rippy reports seeing Camelot, starring Michael York and directed by award-winning Las Vegas resident and UNLV‘s Department of Theatre faculty member, Glenn Casale. (Casale directed the 1999 Tony-nominated, Emmy-winning version of Peter Pan, starring Cathy Rigby.) Playing at Southern California's La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts through January 28th, the Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical is headed for a national tour. The Ripmeister, who did his own one-man-show, It Ain't All Confetti at UNLV in March of 2004, describes the Casale production as "Brilliant!" Hey! Here‘s an idea. How about Twinkle Toes Taylor as a competitor on the next season of TV's Dancing With the Stars?

Rip Taylor Ruth Brown

And speaking of birthdays, here's an odd bit of serendipity. Cousin Claire recently ordered a book from a popular Internet site. She was not too happy when the book did not arrive at her estate in a timely manner and had planned to notify Mr. Bay (as in eBay), when the book finally showed up on January 12th. January 12th would have been the 79th birthday of Ruth Brown. The delinquent book? Miss Rhythm, the autobiography of the rhythm and blues legend.

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In the next few weeks, something magical will be taking place at the Palace Station. Do those of you who can predict the future know what that might be? If you, dear readers, have any exceptional mental powers and can see into the future, you may have already got the vibes about this. The REAL Mentalist, Gerry McCambridge, will be turning up in the showroom at the West Sahara hotel-casino, beginning on February 5th. McCambridge was one of the last acts to perform in the main room at the Stardust before it closed two-and-a-half months ago to make way for the much anticipated Echelon Place. (It was Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme who actually were the final performers to grace the Stardust Theater stage. The duo was also the last act to play the Circus Maximus showroom at Caesars Palace in 2000.) In his new home, The Mentalist will be doing his shows at a user-friendly 9 p.m. time, while, starting on February 8th, pretty blonde magician Arian Black, along with Luna Shimada and Joan Dukore, will fill the 7 p.m. family-hour spot in the same room, with her new revue, Enchanted - Ladies of Illusion. The locals-friendly property has plans to change the previously mostly-music Sound Trax (Earl Turner just closed there) to more of a SHOW room. No one asked us, but we feel this new entertainment policy will attract additional visitors (locals and travelers), to the Palace Station. A third, late night, show is also in the works. So, whether you prefer magic of the mind or sleight-of-hand magic, you can get both at the Palace, beginning early next month.

Arian Black Adrien Brody

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Time to mention Gerald Gordon once again (we haven't done so for at least a month!). Last week, the much-respected acting coach presented his latest group of potential Oscar-winners (Adrien Brody, who won an Academy Award for The Pianist, is a former Gordon student). With casting agents, media-types, other actor/performers and family and friends as audience members, this team of talented people displayed the skills they had developed in just six weeks of intensive instruction (we hear that Mr. Gordon keeps a well-worn whip at his side). The results were truly impressive. It is hard to believe, that some of these students had never performed on stage in front of a live audience. The actors participating in the most recent showcase included (in alphabetical order) Paula Allen, Mike Cardella, Cara Dace, Nathan Ferrier, Jarek Jarczok, Anne Otto, Rebecca Prescott, Rocky Self and Grant Zabielski, while David Wold provided piano accompaniment. The nine men and women acted scenes from a number of well-known plays, including Lovers and Other Strangers, Enter Laughing, Summer and Smoke and Frankie and Johnny In the Clair De Lune, as well as an original piece called In the Greenroom. There were even two musical numbers, I Don't Remember Christmas from Starting Here, Starting Now, and Class from Chicago. Paula is currently a principal dancer in Bally's Jubilee! Mike, who aspires to do stand-up comedy like his mother, Pudgy!, was first runner up in the Review-Journal's recent model search. Cara has played lead roles in community theater productions of Diary of Anne Frank, Agnes of God and This Property Is Condemned. Nathan has had film and television roles, done TV commercials' portrayed Caesar at the Palace named after him, and studied comedy improvisation with Second City. Jarek also has movie (including Ocean's 13 as a stand in for Brad Pitt) and TV credits and has done some modeling. Anne has an impressive dance background, including with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, and is also in Jubilee! Rebecca appeared in both the Miss Congeniality 2 and Rocky VI movies, as well as lead roles in productions of Chapter Two, Relatively Speaking and The Reunion of Survivors. This showcase was Rocky's first experience as a performer, but we feel it won't be his last. Grant has a strong dance background and has appeared in company's of Hair, Sweet Charity, Grease, A Chorus Line, West Side Story, The Laramie Project, and can currently be seen in Shag With a Twist at the Plaza in Las Vegas. Because of limited seating space at the Gordon Theater, these showcases are By Invitation Only. If you are fortunate enough to get an invite, we suggest you take advantage of the opportunity. Are you listening (reading), Mr. Katsilometes?

And, as long as we are on the subject of Mr. Gordon and his subjects, a couple of his alumni have gotten some press recently. Katrina Loncaric, a former Gordon student, returns to Las Vegas from New York (Katrina is a former principal in Bally's Jubilee!) where she was the understudy in the role of Ulla in the Broadway production of The Producers) to join the Vegas cast of the Mel Brooks Tony-winning show). Another former student, Jared Rogers, has just released Heart & Soul, his CD on the Diamond Dawg Records label. The Athens, Georgia-native gains his inspiration from the likes of Kenny Rogers, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. Studying drama with Gordon has helped the young singer to act, as well as sing, his self-penned songs.

Katrina Loncaric Lisa Donovan

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Lisa Donovan, who most recently appeared here at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin, is the first performer chosen to inaugurate the new Cabaret/Dinner Series at Josette's Bistro, located at 4983 W. Flamingo. It was announced by Jeanne Bavaro, producer of the series, that shows will be held at the up-scale French restaurant once a month. Donovan, who now makes her home in Las Vegas, has shared main room stages with some of the biggest names in show business, including Don Rickles, Rich Little and George Burns. A real crowd pleaser, the multi-talented Donovan will launch the series on Friday, January 26. Priced at $50 per person, the all-inclusive evening includes dinner and a show with seating at 7 p.m. and the performance starting at 8:30. Reservations are suggested and may be made by calling Josette's Bistro at (702) 227-4575.

And speaking of the Starbright, Michael Chapman of ChapQuist Entertainment is at it again. (It was Chapman who brought Ms. Donovan into the Starbright last November.) On Saturday, January 27th, the impresario is presenting the legendary comedy-writer/producer/director/actor Chris Bearde at the Starbright. Born in England, Bearde is one of America's premiere television producers and writers. Over the years, he has won an Emmy, Golden Globe and a Writer's Guild Award. Among Bearde's creative contributions to the world of television are Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Elvis Presley's 1968 Comeback Special, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and The Gong Show. He helped develop the careers of some of the biggest names in comedy, including Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, David Letterman, Terri Garr, Goldie Hawn, John Candy and recently Kathy Griffin. For this rare and special performance in Las Vegas, Chris Bearde will share his personal experiences, using video clips of some of his hit shows along with never-before-seen photos of his behind-the-scenes work with some famous TV and movie stars. Showtime for A Bearde's Eye View is at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $13 for Sun City Summerlin residents and $15 for the rest of us. All ticket sales are check or exact change cash. No credit cards accepted. For additional information, call the Starbright Theatre at (702) 240-1301.

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Condolences to longtime performer, Mitzi Gaynor, on the death of her husband of 52 years, talent agent/producer Jack Bean. Bean passed away last month at the age of 84. Mitzi, who is now 75, starred in films such as South Pacific, There's No Business Like Show Business, Anything Goes and The Joker is Wild, where she joined Frank Sinatra in the story of veteran Vegas headliner, Joe E. Lewis. Her show-stopping song and dance number in conjunction with the Academy Award-nominated song for 1966, Georgy Girl, remains a highlight, even 40 years later. Gaynor was also a Las Vegas star during the 1960s and 1970s, working the stages of the Riviera, Tropicana and Flamingo hotels, among others.

Sympathies also go out to Kathleen Turner Knight on the loss of her mother, Flora White Turner. Kathleen is the wife of Merald "Bubba" Knight, the brother of songstress Gladys Knight, who, along with cousins William Guest and Edward Patten, was one of his sister's backup trio known as The Pips. Flora, who died on January 4th at the age of 89, is also survived by her husband of 65 years, William "Bill" Turner. Services were held in Las Vegas on the 13th.

And yet another recent passing...Albert Perry, father of onetime Vegas entertainer and Nevada's former Lt. Governor, Lorraine Hunt Bono, died on January 14th, just three days short of his 93rd birthday. Albert is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mary Perry. Local services will be held this weekend.

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Robert Allen would like it known that NOBODY has bought out his Haunted Vegas Tour and Show or his Vegas Mob Tour, and they are NOT going out of business. Haunted Vegas Tour and Show and the Vegas Mob Tour are still owned and operated by Allen's company, Explorers Entertainment, LLC. Robert Allen has been a Las Vegas resident, entertainer and businessman since 1975, and states firmly, "I have no intention of selling or closing my tours now or anytime in the near future." Nite Tours International has been contacting ticket brokers and hotels in Las Vegas and making false statements about Explorers Entertainment. Cousin Claire suggests every one on the planet disregard any statements made by Nite Tours regarding Allen's company. This an attempt to confuse buyers and promote their own copycat versions of an already established and successful tour business.

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Now, about our last week's reveal on Freddie House, also known as "Freddie Eckstine." This story did more than open up a can of worms, it opened up a can of snakes! We have received a lot of attention on this one, including from the National Enquirer. Alleging to be the son of singing legend Billy Eckstine, if the REAL Eckstine children have their way, and we think they will, we have a feeling that this fellow might better be known in the future as "Freddie Ex-Stine." Among our reams of paperwork gathered in the past 10 days, we have a copy of Mr. House's birth certificate in our possession. It shows, not only Freddie's true age (we could forgive that lie), but belies ONE of his tales claiming that he was raised by a man named Louis House who, according to Freddie's direct quote in an article from the January 12th edition of Atlantic City Weekly, "raised me as his own son." Perhaps Louis House raised Freddie as his own son because he IS his least that's what Freddie's birth certificate states. According to his County of Cook State of Illinois Certificate of Birth, Frederick Bruce House is the son of Jane Elizabeth Miner and Louis House. (Don't count on Mr. House agreeing to take the suggested DNA test to prove otherwise.) If he was going to build a web of lies about his history, House should have at least told the same stories to everyone, especially news reporters. There are too many living people who know more truth than fiction about Freddie and there are so many versions of how and when he discovered that "Billy Eckstine was his real father." None of them are the same. There are plenty of these articles available on the Internet - most of them picked up from publications in Southern Nevada and Atlantic City. It's interesting that, if we are to believe Freddie's story, Billy Eckstine was a deadbeat dad - portraying him as a man who abandoned his son and provided no financial or emotional support. We have now learned that Freddie owes thousands of dollars in back child support. As a result, he is unable to secure a passport, thus eliminating the possibility of taking any work outside of the country. (We hear that a high paying job in Finland was lost for this very reason.) With such a vivid imagination, maybe House should consider becoming a novelist or playwright. If he could remember his lines, an acting career might also be an option. Scott Cronick's review of House's Sentimental Journey at Resorts (Atlantic City Press, January 12, 2007) was less than enthusiastic (the ran through yesterday, January 18th). Not sure how all the negative publicity will affect House's earlier scheduled dates at the Stirling Club and Cannery. We have been told that his mid-February engagement at the Sahara has been canceled. The Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott probably said it best, "Oh! what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!" Freddie House should have done a whole lot more practicing.

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Cousin Claire has a request for you dear readers. YOU know who you are, but she doesn't. She would like to know. Are you a Las Vegan? A regular Las Vegas visitor? Or, are you just someone interested in knowing what is going on in this city? Do you live in the United States? Another country? We would be very interested in knowing who reads this column and who checks these sites and would very much appreciate your taking a few minutes from your busy lives to let us know. You can respond via the Link at the bottom of this column. Thank you.

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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye