Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column



Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
She's a little bit naughty. Shes a little bit nice.  
She calls em like she sees (and hears) em.  
Shes...

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from January 26, 2007
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - January 26, 2007

The venerable Liz Renay passed away in a Las Vegas hospital on Monday (January 22). A script writer could not have dreamt up a more unique character than the one Liz created for herself. Born Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins in Mesa, Arizona, as Liz Renay this lady led a sometimes troubled life - the death of her daughter, a number of marriages, a prison sentence for false testimony during a trial involving Mickey Cohen (it was Bobby Kennedy who caught Liz in her attempts to protect the mobster) - yet she always managed to keep her sense of humor. Less than two weeks ago, the actress/former stripper/ painter/author/poet/songwriter called Cousin Claire to tell her about the "movie star handsome" physical therapist that was coming to her house to try and help get her back in shape following a fall, hospitalization and a few months in a rehabilitation facility. At almost 81, Liz still had an eye for a good looking man. Two of her successful books, My Face For The World To See and My First 2,000 Men (she also authored Staying Young), revealed many of her sexual escapades. Liz didnt hesitate to name names and many of those names were very familiar. Not only did she name the fellows, she rated them on their ability (or inability) in the sack. Some of the recognizable personalities (in no particular order) included Jerry Lewis, Regis Philbin, Glenn Ford, George Peppard, Marlon Brando, comic Jack Carter, Ray Danton, Desi Arnaz, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Joe DiMaggio, Cary Grant and both Sylvester and Frank Stallone. Details of the encounters are not left out (this should beef up Amazon.com book sales). Although many of her conquests were still living when My First 2,000 Men came out in 1992, not one of the gents denied involvement with Liz or protested being mentioned in the book. Cousin Claire knows the names of some of her more recent Las Vegas lovers, but she ain't talking (dont know if the boys would be flattered or embarrassed at being identified). We have to say, in Liz's case, what happened in the boudoir did not necessarily stay in the boudoir. Even in her golden years, and in declining health, Liz Renay still had work to do. An exhibit of her paintings, a trip to New York to visit her friend, movie director John Waters (Liz made a number of cult films with Waters, including Desperate Living) and completing two books (My Second 2,000 Men, perhaps?) were on her agenda. We wouldn't be surprised if Ms. Renay and her late publisher/friend (and onetime lover), Lyle Stuart, were already working on a new book deal. We also wouldn't be surprised if someone decides to make a movie based on Liz's very colorful life.

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About a year after he assumed the position, Ari Levin is out as Entertainment Director at the Tropicana. We aren't sure what got him his job there in the first place, but we were surprised at the news when he was hired. Was it his stint with Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton that earned him his position at the Trop? It certainly wasn't because of his long and successful run at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin. In that case, after announcing a Broadway-inspired series would play there, only one production ever made it to the boards. Scrooge, which ran in December of 2003, starred Davis Gaines who performed the lead role in Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times in the Broadway production. Gaines was terrific. The speeches made by Ari Levin and his daddy Sherman Levin from the stage before the productions were not and screamed "junior high cafeteria play." The promised Showboat, Drood and a full production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (that was to star the younger Levin), never materialized. (Can we say Meadows Playhouse and Georgia Neu's Actor's Repertory Theatre, or a number of other ego-driven community theater companies?) Levin's planned series collapse sounds vaguely familiar, reminding us a bit of the failed Broadway Theatre Company fiasco of 2001. With personable Christopher Tompkins at the helm, a series of musicals was supposed to take place at The Orleans during 2001 and 2002. Well-known personalities (some from the past) were announced as stars of Mame (Anne Jeffreys), Dreamgirls (Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.) and Damn Yankees (with 50s heartthrob Tab Hunter in the role of the devil). At least, in the case of Mr. Levin, one of his productions did have performances and audiences. The Broadway Theatre Company never got that far. The folks that bought season tickets were out of luck, as were the folks that purchased tickets for Giocomo's Classic Dinner Playhouse's promised season in 2003. The Giocomos opened with seven cast members in Hits of Broadway which received good reviews. We suspected something was amiss when the second production, I Do, I Do, starred only two people, the theater owners, Gary and Jenny Giocomo. The N. Decatur operation shut down, without notice, very early in the run of Fiddler On the Roof, less than six months after opening. And so it goes.

It is interesting to note that at a property with a long-running production show (Les Folies Bergere), and only a small lounge to deal with, Mr. Levin would not venture out to actually see a potential lounge act, choosing instead to make his decisions via video tapes or DVDs. Oh yes, we forgot, he was also very busy with those occasional headliners - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Craig Ferguson, Brett Butler - that played the Trop's showroom a few times a year. On a personal note, Cousin Claire found Ari Levin to be rude, pompous and very full of himself in her one-and-only encounter with him. Hopefully Levin's Tropicana replacement will take a more active interest in the job.

Liz Renay Terry Lovern Steve Schirripa

Due to Levin's Tropicana termination, plans for the Celebration of Life honoring the former Stardust stage production manager, Terry Lovern, have been changed. (Levin is married to the Stardust's former Enter the Night principal and Showgirl for the 21st Century, Aki, thus the connection.) The gathering of friends is now scheduled to take place in the showroom at The Orleans on Sunday, February 11th, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. More details will be provided closer to the date.

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Our former Lt. Governor, Dr. Lonnie Hammargren, is going to hold his own funeral on March 31st. He claims he wants to be able to conduct and attend the services. He plans to be buried in an underground crypt on the night of the 31st and, as he put it, "hopefully, resurrect from the dead on April 1st""...April Fool's Day! Based on the eccentric neurosurgeons' history, this really isn't too surprising.

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Sometimes accurate Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist, Norm! Clarke has his "facts" wrong once again. This time it involved his reporting that Palms casino owner George Maloof tossed a $1,000 chip to Sunset Strip Band member Lorena Peril while watching their show in the Shimmer Cabaret at the Hilton. The fact is that the chip was given to the group, not just pretty Lorena. Maloof, accompanied by a colony of Playboy Bunnies, was so impressed with the eight-piece show band, he stayed for two sets and hung around to compliment them. And, as long as we're dissing Norm!, actress Michelle Pfieffer's husband, the much honored writer/producer of Doogie Howser MD, Chicago Hope, LA Law, Picket Fences, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and a few other TV shows no one has ever heard of, is David E. Kelley, not David Kelly, as our esteemed "journalist" indicated in a recent column. These things are really easy to check, Mr. Clarke, if you would only take the time.

Lorena recently left the Sunset Strip Band to take on the role of Christina Aguilera in Mark Callas and Donny Moore's impersonator show at the Stratosphere, American Superstars.

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For those that don't know this already, Steve Schirripa, one of the stars of HBO's popular Sopranos series, got his start in show business in Las Vegas. Before becoming Entertainment Director at the Riviera, Steve was the maitre d' in a number of showrooms at the property, including the hotel's Comedy Club. He worked his way up to entertainment director and went from booking comics to being one. That resulted in close relationships with a number of the funny folks who played the Riviera's Comedy Club, which in turn led to a cameo spot in a TV special starring Drew Carey. Steve has managed to expand his 15 minutes of fame into a bit longer. In addition to his recurring role as Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri on the Sopranos, he also made/makes regular appearances on Hollywood Squares, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and has done the rounds on numerous talk shows. Steve is also the author of four books - A Goomba's Guide to Life (with Charles Fleming), The Goomba's Book of Love (also with Fleming), The Goomba Diet and the children's book (Schirripa and his wife Laura are the parents of two daughters), Nicky Deuce: Welcome to the Family. The Riviera even issued a $5 casino chip bearing the likeness (actually two likenesses - one on the front and one on the back) of the Bensonhurst, Brooklyn-native. Although his Sopranos' character has survived mob hits, murder and mayhem, Schirripa himself may have a harder time surviving the talk show wars. According to a recent National Enquirer story (January 1, 2007), audience members at the taping of his upcoming late night FOX-TV pilot were not amused. Schirripa was described as "Not funny." They also stated that he came across as "offensive and mean."

This TV talk show business is not as easy as it looks. The number of people who have failed in this role (whether quickly or after a decent run) far surpass the number who have succeeded. Among the casualties over the years (in no particular order), Rolanda Watts, Magic Johnson, Jenny Jones, Phil Donahue, Bertice Berry, Arsenio Hall, Sally Jessy Raphael, Geraldo Rivera, Joan Lunden, Morton Downey Jr., Rosie O'Donnell, Tony Danza, Florence Henderson, Bob Costas, Joan Rivers, Dennis Miller, Ricki Lake, Ryan Seacrest, Vicki Lawrence (on stage at the Suncoast January 26th through 28th), John McEnroe, Caroline Rhea (appearing in Primm on January 27th), Les Brown, Sharon Osbourne, Howard Stern, Ananda Lewis, Chevy Chase, Carnie Wilson, Tom Snyder, Cybill Shepard, Christina Ferrare and Richard Simmons. We're sure we have forgotten someone but you get the idea. The latest victim of poor ratings, resulting in a canceled show, is former Will & Grace star, Megan Mullally. As Karen Walker, Mullally was a winner. As a talk show host, well... One can take comfort in the fact that Montel Williams, Jerry Springer and Maury Povich (although his recent show with his wife, Connie Chung, failed) are, surprisingly, still on the air. How? We don't know, but, like that Energizer Bunny, they seem to keep on going. Good luck, Steve.

Megan Mullally Olivia Newton-John Sullivan & Nadler

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How about the rumors that American Idol may replace ditzy judge Paula Abdul with Olivia Newton-John. They need a female on the panel, but Paula has created a lot of negative buzz in recent years - a claim by Idol competitor Corey Clark that he and Paula had a sexual relationship, an incident at the Las Vegas Silverton (where Abdul was supposed to be involved with the hotel/casinos entertainment department) that resulted in the firing of a couple of the casino's employees, odd behavior during the first episode of the sixth season (was she under the influence of something or just "tired" as she claimed?), etc. Maybe the time has come to let the former Lakers Girl know that she is going home and will not make it to Hollywood's Kodak Theater for the finals.

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It may seem a bit premature to be alerting you to a show not scheduled to be here until mid-April but, based on previous interest in this talented twosome, if you don't act now, you will be out of luck. Based on the response to Mark Nadler and KT Sullivan's earlier appearances at the Charleston Heights Arts Center in Las Vegas, returning audience members, along with those that read the rave reviews after the fact, should have the 300 plus seats gobbled up months before their April 15th engagement. Whether it's the talented twosome together, or Mr. Nadler's one-man-show, Mark Nadler In a Nutshell, done here a year ago, you can expect any revue or concert featuring Nadler and Sullivan to be a sell-out, especially at these ridiculously low-priced tickets ($10 and $15 per person). If you enjoy the standards performed by talented performers, there is no reason not to make your reservations immediately. When you decide in March that you want to see Nadler and Sullivan's Always: The Love Story of Irving Berlin offering, and tickets are already sold out, don't say we didn't give you plenty of notice. To quote the famous philosopher, Jovan, "He (or she) who hesitates misses out on a bunch of good stuff." For reservations, call (702) 229-6383.

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Want to feel REALLY old? Neither do we, but we will share this frightening information with you anyway. Today, January 26, 2007, Paul Newman turns 82!

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Mario Lopez (the dancing doll with the dimples) will be the host of the 86th Miss America Pageant. Lopez joins the list of former hosts that include Bert Parks (for 25 years), Gary Collins, Donny and Marie Osmond, Ron Ely, Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, Tony Danza and last years' host, James Denton of Desperate Housewives fame. Following regular spots on television's A.K.A. Pablo (starring comic Paul Rodriguez), Saved By the Bell, and the all-boys version of The View, The Other Half, where he co-hosted with Dick Clark and Danny Bonaduce, Lopez's biggest media impact may have been with his TV foray as one of the contestants on last season's Dancing With the Stars. Over the past few years, there have been a number of major changes in the Miss America Pageant. In addition to the changing hosts and the fact it takes place in Las Vegas instead of on the East Coast, the final portion is now broadcast on cable's CMT (Country Music Television) instead of on network TV. Emanating from the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, the week-long competition will wind up on January 29th. We hope that Lopez will have a longer run as the pageant host than he did as the husband of model/actress and 1996's Miss USA, Ali Landry. His 2004 marriage to the Doritos girl lasted less than one month.

Mario Lopez Steve Wynn

Here's a bit of pageant trivia. It was Johnny Desmond, not Bert Parks, who first introduced the famous There She Is Miss America in 1955. The once-a-year song was written by the late Bernie Wayne (who Cousin Claire had the pleasure of meeting about 25 years ago). Mr. Wayne also penned Blue Velvet, a big hit for Bobby Vinton in 1963.

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And speaking of Pablo...How much is a hole in a painting worth? We guess it would depend on WHAT painting you're talking about. The Last Supper or Elvis on velvet might be replaceable (would we want to do that?), while other masterpieces are not. In THIS case, we are talking about Pablo Picasso's Le Reve, currently owned by casino mogul Steve Wynn. Wynn accidentally poked his elbow through the $139 million Picasso he had just sold. He cancelled the sale and had the painting repaired at the cost of $90,000. Now he is fighting with the specialized, high-risk insurance company, Lloyd's of London, over the lost value of the painting. Steve claims that the painting is now worth only $85 million, a loss of $54 million. Lloyd's has offered to pay the $90,000 repair cost, the $21,000 consultant's fee for the restoration, and the increased security needed during the painting's repair. Wynn filed a lawsuit against the well-known insurance company on January 11, 2007, and, a day later, they started negotiating. Over the years, Mr. Wynn has managed to get a downtown Las Vegas street closed off so he could expand his Golden Nugget hotel, and to change the rules regarding noise pollution on the Strip for his Mirage volcano and Treasure Island (TI) pirate show in front of the property. The question remains...Who will come out the Wynner in the fight with Lloyd's of London?

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Songstress Etta James, who had a big hit with her version of At Last, canceled her engagement at The Orleans for this weekend due to illness. A large number of tickets had already been sold. It has not yet been announced if her dates will be rescheduled.

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The Hilton's Shimmer Cabaret, with their ever changing entertainment offerings in the lounge/mini-theater, is adding a somewhat surprising personality to the mix. The current home of Menopause the Musical and the Sunset Strip Band, and former home of the Aussie Angels, Dragapella, Sheena Easton, the Scintas and Hitzville: The Show, among others, we now have former Saturday Night Live comic, Joe Piscopo joining the lineup. Since Piscopo will be using Vince Falcone to play piano for him, we are going to assume that since Falcone spent a number of years accompanying Frank Sinatra, Joe will be recreating his impersonations of Old Blue Eyes as a part of his revue. Scoobie doobie doo.

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Last minute item...According to a report, January 25th, on KVBC Channel 3 news in Las Vegas, the Artist Formerly Known as That Symbol may be leaving the Rio within the next couple of months. The all suites hotel/casino has renamed a club on their property for his royal highness, so a departure within a few months of his "long term" connection is somewhat surprising. Will Vegas really be saying, goodnight sweet Prince? We plan to look into this during the next week.

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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