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 February 09, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - February 9, 2007

On Tuesday, February 6th, American Idol opened their, taped months ago, audition show from San Antonio, Texas, with the well-known theme song from the 1959-1966, Clint Eastwood-starring TV series, Rawhide. The "herd" of excited wannabe Idols joined in on the chorus. Even young people are familiar with the melody and the words, "Rollin' rollin' rollin.' Keep those doggies movin.' Rawhide!" Cousin Claire wonders, though, how many of the millions of Idol competitors and television viewers knew that the man who made that song famous, Frankie Laine, had passed away on the morning of the 6th. Irony? We think not. Laine had an unprecedented Las Vegas history. He had the unique distinction of performing in Las Vegas for every decade, from the 1940s (El Rancho Vegas) through 2000 (Suncoast). It was a 1949 photo of the Chicago-born song stylist on stage here, distributed via the AP wire service, that let the world know there was something more to this sleepy little desert community than just gambling. Between the years 1947 and 1969, Frankie Laine racked up 21 Gold Records, among them That's My Desire, Mule Train, High Noon, I Believe, Jezebel, Moonlight Gambler, That Lucky Old Sun and A Woman In Love. Selling a million records in those days was much different than selling a million records today. In the ‘40s, ‘50s and even ‘60s, an artist could have a No. 1 recording that never reached a million in sales. The genial gentleman hardly let age slow him down. "Old Leather Lungs," as he was fondly called by some, performed in the Palm Springs Follies during that show's 2000 season. In fact, the cast, crew and audience sang Happy Birthday to Frankie as he celebrated number 87 while headlining in the popular "senior-starring" song and dance revue. He had been scheduled to guest in the Branson Follies from September 1st through December 10th of last year, but the show closed prior to those dates. At the age of 92, Frankie Laine performed That's My Desire for a PBS music special aired during pledge drives. As mentioned in this column some weeks ago, it was Frankie Laine, aka "Mr. Rhythm" who bestowed the name "Miss Rhythm" on Ruth Brown, the award-winning musical legend and Las Vegas resident who passed away here in November. We would like to think that today, like Frankie Laine sang in one of his many hits, "That lucky old sun (son), has nothing to do, but roll around heaven all day." Rest well, Mr. Laine.

Frankie Laine, circa 1950s Frankie Laine at 90 Mentalist, Gerry McCambridge

Cousin Claire received this message from 87-year-young Ervin Drake, the songwriter responsible for Good Morning Heartache, It Was a Very Good Year, and one of Laine's million sellers, I Believe...Drake wrote, "Frankie Laine was one of the few stars who never gave anyone Star-Heartburn. He was a proud man but a gentle and wise one. It was a pleasure to work with him which I did on a CBS TV Summer Replacement series in 1957. We kept in touch over the years and I was getting ready to phone him again on his birthday, as he did on mine every year. Unfortunately that's over."

Survivors include Frankie's second wife, Marcia Kline (his wife of 40 years, Nan Grey, died in 1993), a brother, two step-daughters, business associates/friends Mary-Jo Coombs, Jimmy Marino and Benny Hollman, and thousands of fans from around the world. A public viewing will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 11th, at El Camino Mortuary, 4710 Cass Street, in Pacific Beach. A memorial Mass is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, February 12th, at the Immaculata, 5998 Alcala Park on the University of San Diego campus.

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Rumor has it that The Venetian's Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular is cutting its number of shows down from 10 a week to five. At deadline time, we were unable to confirm this information. From the very beginning, there was always a problem filling the theater for the 10 p.m. performances, so some scheduling changes wouldn‘t come as a surprise. And at Wynn Las Vegas, the theater housing Le Reve is also doing some cutting. They will close the theater for about a month while they eliminate seats in the room. Purportedly those missing seats will turn up in the showroom that will house Spamalot when it opens.

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In his Las Vegas Review-Journal column on February 1, we were disappointed that entertainment reporter Mike Weatherford didn't do his homework before criticizing the Las Vegas Seat Fillers service...and a "service" is exactly what it is. The brainchild of entertainer/entrepreneur Gerry McCambridge, also known as The Mentalist, a Web site connects performers, producers, publicists or entertainment directors with the show-going public, via an Internet database. The result is that folks with a fairly flexible schedule (sometimes you only have a few hours notice to get yourself dolled up and out the door), and a limited budget, have the opportunity to see some very good shows around the city...for FREE. There is no catch to this. Mr. Weatherford complains that in his two weeks as a member, he had been offered just three shows to see, for FREE. Perhaps, Mike should have joined the program a little sooner, or waited a bit longer before rushing to judgment. In the three months they have had the service up and running, we have seen at least a dozen shows providing FREE tickets for the general public. In addition to Larry G. Jones, The Man of 1,002 Voices, at Fitzgeralds; the Scintas at the Sahara, and Hypnosis Gone Wild at the Harmon Theatre at Krave, V - The Ultimate Variety Show and comedy/magician Nathan Burton both at the Aladdin, comics David Brenner and Craig Ferguson at The Orleans, Fashionistas and the Sopranos Last Supper, when both were at the Harmon Theatre (the Sopranos Last Supper and Hypnosis Gone Wild are now either already at the Empire Ballroom or on their way), have all been seat contributors. Since this is a win win proposition for all concerned, we would think that Mr. Weatherford would endorse rather that criticize the concept. If you would like to be added to the database, go to You have absolutely nothing to lose, but you might gain a more active and more affordable social life.

And speaking of Gerry McCambridge, with very little notice, the Palace Station has chucked plans for their new entertainment policy in the Sound Trax room. Following Earl Turner's departure on the 28th of January, McCambridge's Mind Magic and magician Arian Black‘s Enchanted - Ladies of Illusion, were expected to alternate through that show space, beginning on the 5th of this month. For whatever reason, the plans were scrapped "for now." According to a hotel spokesperson, the room will be empty for the time being. Our guess is that if anything shows up in the space, it will be more local bands. We were looking forward to something new and different at the Palace. It may have given us a reason to go there.

Entertainment "problems" at Palace Station are nothing new to Cousin Claire. Almost 25 years ago, while she was working for "Nevada's Largest Daily Newspaper," there were a number of unprofessional incidents, pertaining to entertainment, that took place at the property. We would hope that their practices had changed since 1982 but, apparently, they haven't. Although we doubt that the same people are making decisions at the West Sahara establishment these days, it seems that, unfortunately, some things haven't improved.

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Singer/actress Barbara McNair died in a Los Angeles hospital on Sunday, February 4th,

following a battle with cancer. She was 72. McNair, an Arthur Godfrey discovery, gained fame in the 1960s as a singer. In addition to her career as a performing and recording artist, she co-starred in a number of movies, including 1969's Change of Habit with Elvis Presley and Mary Tyler Moore, and 1970's They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!, with Sidney Poitier. Ms. McNair appeared on Broadway with Richard Kiley and toured with Howard Keel in No Strings, taking over the starring role when Diahann Carroll departed the show. She co-starred on the Great White Way with Hal Linden in the Pajama Game. Ms. McNair also hosted her own television variety show. Tragically, her husband, Rick Manzie, was shot to death. Barbara McNair, who lived in Las Vegas for many years, also performed here frequently. At the time of her death, she still owned a home in this city.

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Vocalist Parris Lane will perform at the Bootlegger Bistro on Sunday, February 11th. Relatively new on the Vegas scene, Parris was once dubbed "Annapolis' best kept secret." Blessed with a four-octave range that lends itself to many different styles of music, the accomplished singer and recording artist has performed for audiences around the world, from Carnegie Hall to London, Paris, Geneva and Rome. Her voice lends itself to diverse styles, from Gospel, Jazz, R&B and Pop, to Classical and Show tunes. Her latest album is called Songs From the Heart. The show starts at 8 p.m. The Bootlegger is located at 7700 Las Vegas Blvd. So. Call 736-4936 for reservations.

Barbara McNair Parris Lane Sammy Davis, Jr.

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The legendary entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr., will be honored by the Las Vegas Walk of Stars on Thursday, February 15, 2007, at 11:00 am. The site of the ceremony will be in the Le Bistro Room in the Riviera Hotel. Davis, considered to be one of the most talented, hard-working performers, ever, was a Vegas headliner and staple for many years. Whether performing with his Rat Pack buddies - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and, sometimes, Peter Lawford and Shirley MacLaine - or on his own, Davis could do it all, dance, sing, impressions and act, playing both dramatic and comedic roles. Most people with any interest in show business, know of Sammy's rise to fame. Born in Harlem in 1925, his father and mother, both dancers in vaudeville, took little Sammy on tour with them when he was only three. He was soon one third of the Will Mastin Trio. In 1954, he was seriously injured in an auto accident that cost him his left eye. Davis appeared in his first Broadway show, Mr. Wonderful, in 1956. His acting career included The Benny Goodman Story, Porgy & Bess and the original Ocean's Eleven, to name a few. The "ultimate entertainer" had many recording hits such as Candy Man, Mr. Bojangles, I've Gotta Be Me, Something's Gotta Give, and What Kind of Fool Am I. Sammy Davis died in Beverly Hills, California, on May 16, 1990, of complications from throat cancer at the age of 64. His widow, Altovise Davis, will be at the Riviera to accept the honor on Sammy's behalf.

Cousin Claire has expressed her feelings regarding these Walk of Stars "honors" in earlier columns. To us it isn't an honor if you have to pay $15,000 to get your name embedded in a sidewalk, whether it's in Hollywood, Palm Springs, Las Vegas or anywhere else on the planet. (We have been told that in the case of Sammy‘s star, there was no payment involved. Hopefully, this is true. We have yet to learn exactly WHERE the star will be placed.) No one deserves a star on a Las Vegas sidewalk more than Sammy, unless it's the other members of the Rat Pack, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, the Mary Kaye Trio, Treniers, and the above mentioned Frankie Laine.

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And what's going on at Krave? Or the Harmon Theatre...or whatever they are calling the nightclub adjacent to the Aladdin's Desert Passage mall these days and nights? Shag With a Twist left months ago, relocating at the downtown Plaza. The Sopranos Last Supper abandoned the place recently, taking their cast and show to the Empire Ballroom just down the boulevard. Now Fashionistas and Hypnosis Gone Wild, with Terry Stokes and Michael Johns, are also doing the same thing. We don't know if the choice to go was made by the property or by the productions. What we do know is that serious money was spent on the theater half of establishment. As we come to this week's deadline, no new tenants for that room have been announced. We're hot on this story.

And speaking of shows disappearing from theaters, Bottoms Up, the 40-something-year-old burlesque revue that has played all over Las Vegas since 1964, quietly closed up shop at downtown's Fitzgeralds. We never saw any advertising for the show and, without some kind of promotion, we feel this was doomed from the get-go. Call it poor timing, but the October media opening at Fitzgeralds for Bottoms Up took place on the very same night as Gordie Brown's media event at The Venetian. If you, dear reader, had the opportunity to attend one or the other, where would you have been on that night? You can still see Larry G. Jones, the Man of 1002 Voices, and Elvis tribute artist Steve Connolly, performing in the Fitzgeralds upstairs showroom.

In another revolving door move, Lucky Cheng's, located in the Gold Key strip mall across from the shuttered, soon to be imploded Stardust, will vacate their current location to move into Krave. Yep. Everything...the dining establishment, with food and drinks served by drag queens in outrageous garb, and the cabaret club, will be up and running in their new home in about one week. The second Lucky Cheng's (the original Manhattan's East Village location opened in 1993) launched their Las Vegas branch on New Year's Eve of 2005. We hear the Pan Asian cuisine is very good. If you haven't checked out this fun spot, it might be an interesting place to hold grandma's 80th birthday party.

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And speaking of birthdays...Birthday greetings to longtime Las Vegas resident Maurice Hines, Sr., who celebrates his natal day today, February 9th. The father of Maurice Hines Jr. and the late Gregory Hines, Maurice Sr. accompanied his young tap-dancing sons on drums when the trio performed together many years ago under the name Hines, Hines & Dad. As an adult, son Gregory went on to star on Broadway (Eubie!, Jelly's Last Jam (for which he won a Tony Award) and Sophisticated Ladies), in films (Wolfen, Cotton Club, Eubie! White Nights, Tap and Waiting To Exhale) and television (The Gregory Hines Show and Will & Grace). Maurice Jr. also was in The Cotton Club, Uptown...It's Hot, Guys and Dolls and the TV version of Eubie! He was featured, along with the world famous Rockettes, in The Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular that played at the Flamingo a number of years ago.

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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