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 March 09, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - March 9, 2007

Sylvester Stallone by Chris Morris Roseanne Barr Jay White

Congratulations to the Las Vegas Sun's uber-talented art director, Chris Morris, who recently won an award from the prestigious Society for News Design. The SND is an international organization made up of more than 25,000 members from more than 50 countries. Now in its 28th year, the competition went through almost 14,000 entries before selecting a handful of winners. Texas-native Morris, a welcome newcomer to Southern Nevada, won his award for an illustration of The Killers rock band that got its start in Las Vegas. A 1987 graduate of East Texas State University in Commerce, before joining the Sun, Morris was a staff artist for the Dallas Times-Herald for two years, and for the San Francisco Examiner for five years before going to work for the Dallas Morning News in 1994 as a staff artist/designer. Morris left his position as presentation director at the Morning News, where he managed the graphics, illustration and design departments, to join the Sun. As the Sun‘s art director, Chris Morris is responsible for lots of graphics, charts and illustrations, including wonderful clever caricatures of numerous celebrities such as Tony Bennett, Petula Clark, Vince Gill, David Hasselhoff, Jerry Herman, Jerry Lewis, Barry Manilow, Liza Minnelli, Wayne Newton, John O'Hurley, Rita Rudner, Sylvester Stallone (see attached photo), and Brian Wilson. The Las Vegas Sun is fortunate to have this gentleman on their staff.

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Roseanne Barr opens her six-week engagement in New York-New York's Cabaret Theatre (the former home of another female comic, Rita Rudner) on Thursday, the 15th. Calling her show All You Can Eat Comedy, the Blonde and Bitching Roseanne will feature several special guests during her Vegas run. One of the folks sharing the stage with her will be well-known New York drag queen, Jackie Beat. Hope this doesn't result in a cat fight in the NY-NY parking lot between Beat and Zumanity star and divo, Joey Arias. Show times for Roseanne and company are 8 p.m., Thursdays through Tuesdays, with an added 10 p.m. show on Saturdays. Tickets are $49.95 plus tax and fees. For reservations, call (702) 740-6815 or (866) 606-7111.

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Many Las Vegas entertainment ventures come and go, so when a small show in a non-mega resort manages to survive for five years, that warrants a mention. Jay White, in his tribute to Neil Diamond, has kept the crowds coming into the Riviera's intimate Le Bistro Theatre since 2002. Backed by a live band, the singing guitar-playing White regularly earns standing ovations from his audiences. TV's Entertainment Tonight described Jay's concert-style performance as "Truly amazing." Jay Leno and even Diamond's own mother have also heaped verbal accolades on Jay White. Neil Diamond himself was quoted as saying, "Jay's tribute is my favorite." When he is in Las Vegas (where he makes his home), Diamond's longtime (about 30 years) percussionist, King Errisson, can frequently be found sitting/standing in with the rest of Jay's band. Quite a compliment, we think. Show times at the Riviera are at 7:00 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. Tickets are $49.95 plus tax and fee. For reservations, call (702) 794-9433.

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Cousin Claire tries to confine her ramblings to subjects involving entertainment, entertainers and the arts (after all, she can't be an expert on EVERYTHING). Why, then, would she want to share information about an off-Strip Las Vegas restaurant? The place doesn't offer live music or roaming sleight-of-hand table magicians, yet it is one of the most entertaining dining establishments we have encountered. The name of the place is Hash House a Go Go, described as Farm Food With a Twist. With a name like Hash House a Go Go, one would be hard pressed to anticipate what delights await within the walls of the 6,300 square foot building on West Sahara. The first Hash House, a 2,900 square foot onetime Vietnamese restaurant, was opened in the Hillcrest section of San Diego in June of 2000. Initially, it offered only breakfast and lunch, but, within a couple of months, a dinner menu and dinner hours were added. Hash House owners Craig "Andy" Beardslee and Johnny Rivera were restaurant co-workers, Johnny as General Manager and Andy as Executive Chef, when they decided to pool their talents and ideas and create their own place. How did the twosome come up with the unusual name for their venture? The term "hash house" is often used to describe a "cheap restaurant or diner" (Mr. Webster's definition). The "go go" part indicates the "twist" in the Farm Food With a Twist description. (It was Andy's Indiana background that inspired the "farm food" angle.) Hash House portions defy description. They are so large, the china (dinner plates the size of trays) to accommodate the culinary delights has to be imported. Fear not. The restaurant does not forego quality in lieu of quantity. On the contrary. Beautifully and artistically presented, everything - from appetizers to desserts - that we have tried has been delicious. Hash House a Go Go does no advertising, depending only on word of mouth and restaurant reviewers to spread the news about this establishment (we are doing our part). The Las Vegas restaurant is owned by former San Diego resident and longtime Hash House customer, Jim Rees. Rees, who relocated to Southern Nevada two-and-a-half years ago, along with partners Bill Underhill and Jim Nyberg (doing business as RUN Restaurants), have plans to grow the brand. In June, the trio will launch a third Hash House a Go Go in Kansas City, with a Dallas eatery scheduled to open in August of 2008. The Las Vegas restaurant is located at 6800 W. Sahara, east of Rainbow. Check out the place with a group of friends. (Both Dr. Phil and Martha Stewart have patronized the Vegas Hash House.) We do have two important suggestions before you Go Go. Go Go hungry, and clear a space in the fridge for the leftovers (there WILL be leftovers). Tell them Claire Voyant sent you. It won't get you a special table or a free dessert but we love to have our name bandied about in high class establishments. Call (702) 804-4646 for reservations.

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All good things must come to an end, at least for a while. After two long runs, first at the Flamingo and then at the Gold Coast, Forever Plaid will end its engagement in Las Vegas on April 1st (no fooling). Don't count these fellows out, though. If they can return from the dead for one last concert (the show's plot line), they can return for another go-round somewhere in the city. In the meantime, catch this nostalgic musical revue at 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, with a 3 p.m. matinee added on Sundays. Call (702) 251-3574 for reservations.

Forever Plaid Brent Barrett Vocal Forte

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Brent Barrett, who alternates with Anthony Crivello in the lead role of The Venetian's Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, recently celebrated his half-century birthday with a party in the private Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay. The talented Mr. Barrett has a couple of good solo CDs available. Cousin Claire's favorite is The Kander and Ebb Album. Check out both Brent's recordings and his interpretation as the Phabulous Phantom.

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Following a 38-year-long Las Vegas tradition, for the past three years, it has been the city of Henderson playing host to Southern Nevada's St. Patrick's Day festivities. This year promises to be the biggest, most successful ever. The events, lasting through the weekend, will begin on Thursday, the 15th, with Utah's Davis Amusement Cascadia starting at 4:00 p.m. and lasting until midnight. Geared to family fun, the carnival will be located at the Henderson Event Center & Amphitheater, on Water Street, between the City Hall and Convention Center. Henderson's Fiesta Hotel & Casino will host a St. Patrick's Day Dinner Dance. Doors open at 6 p.m. Entertainment will include Phil Flowers, DJ Curtain & Irish Affair and the Bandstand Revue. There will also be a Beer Garden, great door prizes, a raffle and silent auction. Seating is limited to 200 people. On Friday, from 5:00 to midnight, a festival - offering food vendors (with Irish, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, French, Hawaiian and American selections), arts and crafts, glassblowing demonstrations, face painting and entertainment - will take place. The 120-entry St. Paddy's Day parade will take place from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday. With Luxor-star Carrot Top as Grand Marshall, the two-hour parade will include politicians, entertainers, horses, clowns, marching bands, Red Hat Ladies, bagpipers, floats, Shriners and more. The Grand Opening ceremonies will start at 12:30 p.m., with entertainer Jimmy Hopper welcoming the attendees. Hopper will perform three songs. Free entertainment will take place throughout the weekend with acts such as Vocal Forte, featuring Michael Cagle, Shiela Wright and Michael James: The Las Vegas Tenors, with Bill Fayne, Mark Giovi, Bobby Black and Teddy Davey; the Frankie Moreno Band; The Phil Flowers Show; Fifth Avenue; George Dare; Gym Kats; Henderson's Basic High School's 80-member choral ensemble; John Windsor; a number of Irish dance groups performing. Sunday, the festival will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. John Stuart is producing. Presented by The Sons of Erin, and sponsored by Coldwell Banker Wardley and FOX 5 News, proceeds from the events will benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Southern Nevada. For additional information, call Festival Director Bob Feeney at (702) 897-2283.

And speaking of John Stuart, the creator of Legends in Concert (at the Imperial Palace for more than 20 years) has a couple of new entertainment projects up his sleeve. Stuart is currently in negotiations with a Las Vegas property to bring in Dick Clark's American Bandstand. The production is based on the popular television dance show started in Philadelphia in the 1950s. Stuart's version will feature Frankie Avalon as host and present music stars of the era as guests. In addition, expect to see his Show Bus of the Stars traveling on the Strip and around downtown. You should have no trouble recognizing the vehicle as it's a double-decker, red, London-style bus. The mode of transportation isn't the only unique thing about Stuart's new effort. In addition to its paying customers, Elvis, Marilyn, Liberace, the Blues Brothers, Madonna and other look-alikes will travel and perform on this "rolling stage" as it travels around the city. Stay tuned for more details on both of these "events."

And speaking of Jimmy Hopper, if you want to see and hear more of this talented entertainer, on May 12th and 13th, he will be performing in concert at the Suncoast showroom. Tickets may be ordered by calling (702) 636-7075.

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Nino Frediani performs as the comedy juggler in the world famous Crazy Girls revue at the Riviera Hotel & Casino. At 67, Frediani still has the reflexes of a champion athlete even though he is considered legally blind. Because he speaks seven languages, Nino is able to converse with Japanese audience members adding something extra special to the Riviera‘s long running show. "The Japanese love Crazy Girls and love it even more when I speak their language," says Frediani. Kinuko, Nino's wife of almost 10 years, taught him how to speak Japanese and the couple regularly converse in the language. In addition to Japanese, Frediani speaks Italian, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Greek and English. He learned most of the languages as a child while traveling the circus circuit with his family. Nino is an 11th generation juggler. The Frediani family started their show business careers in the 12th century in Florence, Italy. "I was born in dressing room No. 10 at the circus in Lisbon, Portugal," Nino laughs. "It was circuses and fairgrounds in Europe in those days. Variety acts started in Rome, Vienna, Paris and London. A part of the family took that route. My cousins finally ended up in the Lido de Paris at the Stardust in the ‘50s." Nino came to work in Bill Moore and George Arnold‘s City Lites at the Flamingo in May of 1980. "My son Romano is now a 12th generation juggler performing in Japan where they love juggling and magic," Nino states. "I love working in Crazy Girls because it's erotic but it's not dirty. There isn't anything offensive like some of the shows. I feel comfortable taking my wife to see this show. It's clean and the dancers are beautiful. It's perfect for couples and all adults." Show times for Crazy Girls are 9:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Mondays. For more information and reservations, call the Riviera Box Office at (702) 794-9433 or (800) 634-3420.

Nino Frediani Keely Smith

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In late December, former Las Vegas Sun entertainment columnist Timothy McDarrah was convicted of soliciting sex with a minor. McDarrah left the Sun to go to work for US Weekly magazine in New York where he wrote a column called Hot Stuff. In a setup similar to NBC's Dateline: To Catch a Predator, the 45-year-old was caught after months of internet and phone communication with a federal agent posing as a 13-year-old girl. McDarrah had responded to a posting on the Web site offering introductions to the "freshest, youngest" girls in New York, an FBI affidavit said. The gossip writer told an undercover agent, who had posted the advertisement to lure pedophiles, that he would pay $200 for sex with a 13-year-old girl. When McDarrah finally agreed to meet the "girl," he encountered federal agents instead. Needless to say, McDarrah was terminated from his job with the magazine. Since news reports of his conviction three months ago, things have been quiet. We don't know if he has been sentenced yet or where he might be. Readers?

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Singer Keely Smith turns 75 today (March 9th). The Vegas lounge legend who, along with her onetime husband Louis Prima and sax player Sam Butera, kept the city rocking into the wee small hours of the morning during the 1950s and 1960s, will be the headliner for the Joe Williams Music Scholarship Fundraiser concert to be held at The Orleans on May 20th. Singer/impressionist Bill Acosta and comic Pete Barbutti will be among the other stars performing at the 2:00 p.m. show. Tickets are $35.

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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye