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.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from March 23, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - March 23, 2007

Sinbad Anna Nicole Smith Frankie Valli

Is it the times we live in? Is it people's quest for fame...even 15 minutes worth? Is it greed? Who knows, but why the recent spate of published blatant lies about celebrities?

Last week, just days after the tragic death of 49-year-old comic Richard Jeni, we spent much of Thursday (March 15th) trying to get details on the reported death of yet another in-his-prime comedian. According to what we thought to be legitimate sources (Wikipedia, for one), we were informed that 50-year-old Sinbad (real name David Adkins) had died the day before as the result of a massive heart attack. This is scary stuff. Two young entertainers, dead before their time. But wait. It turns out that the stories of Sinbad's death were greatly exaggerated and, fortunately, for a lot of people (especially Sinbad), the comic is alive and well. This was very good news for Boyd Gaming, as the comic who gained his initial recognition as a Star Search competitor, is scheduled to play at The Orleans this weekend. We are sure he will have plenty to say about this cruel scam.

Wikipedia, the world's leading online encyclopedia, has come under fire for this false entry. Surprisingly, it turns out that anyone with computer access can add, eliminate or change information on Wikipedia sites. That makes no sense to Cousin Claire. In the case of the Internet Movie Database (IMBD), for example, if anyone wants to contribute anything to that site, they have to indicate exactly where the information came from and how it can be verified as true. It then takes seven to 10 days for IMBD to check and verify the facts before any changes are made on their site. Too bad that Wikipedia doesn't/didn't take the same precautions. There is a lesson to be learned here. Although the Internet offers a wealth of information, it isn't all accurate or even true. As a victim of this kind of shenanigans, Sinbad told the Associated Press, "It's gonna be more commonplace as the Internet opens up more and more." Consider yourselves warned.

As if this wasn't enough "media mayhem and manipulation," a story in the Phoenix New Times, claimed that the late Anna Nicole Smith had given birth to a baby boy about two years ago. This time, though, the possible father was not Howard K. Stern, Larry Birkhead, or even the current husband of 90-year-old Zsa Zsa Gabor, Prince Frederic von Anhalt. Isn't "Prince" a common name for a dog? We think that son-of-a-you-know-what, von Anhalt, qualifies. After all, he does determine his age by counting in dog years.

But we digress. Does Anna Nicole Smith Have a Love Child on the Reservation? That is the question that was posed in the Phoenix New Times paper. Charles Tatum reports on Johnny Soto, a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, who claims he had a passionate affair with Smith in 2001 and she bore a son (after hiding the pregnancy). The Native American baby was named Marshall (after Anna's late husband, J. Howard Marshall). Soto claims he has the birth certificate and other documents to prove it. The article goes on to quote Soto..."But the romance had a sordid side. Sometimes I felt like I was being used, and it left a bad taste in my mouth," he says. "But I was just as guilty as she was. The only whites I'd ever had sex with were prostitutes, and I couldn't get enough of Anna Nicole. I fell under her spell. I did whatever she asked." But later, Smith's use of drugs and careless disrespect cooled Soto's ardor. According to Soto (Anna) kept saying she wanted me to use my 'bow and arrow' on her 'ax wound.' I told her that was no ax wound, it was the Grand Canyon!" If Soto prevails in court, he's promised half to the Tohono O'odham Nation which would become the richest Indian nation in the southwestern United States. Awww, come on. Was the date on this "news" paper April 1st? Who are they trying to fool?

The first clue that all was not as reported was the name of the "reporter" of this preposterous tale. Charles Tatum. Hmmm. That name sounds familiar. Where have we heard it before? Oh yes, now we remember. Charles Tatum was the name of a character portrayed by actor Kirk Douglas in the 1951 Billy Wilder film, Ace In the Hole (later given the title of The Big Carnival). The plot? Charles Tatum, a down-on-his-luck reporter, takes a job with a small New Mexico newspaper. The job is pretty boring until he finds a man trapped in a mine. He jumps at the chance to make a name for himself by taking over and prolonging the rescue effort, and feeding stories to major newspapers. He creates a national media sensation and milks it for all it is worth.

A bit of trivia (like much of the stuff in these columns)...Although she was just a youngster, Cousin Claire still vividly recalls how, in 1949, people gathered around their radios to listen for news of the rescue attempts to save three-year-old Kathy Fiscus who had fallen into an abandoned well in San Marino, California, Tragically, the child was dead when she was extracted from the well 57 hours later. We are NOT, however, old enough to remember when, in 1925, Floyd Collins was trapped in a Kentucky cave after a large rock fell on his foot. In an attempt to keep the interest and profits going in this community, much like in the Kathy Fiscus case, the rescue efforts were delayed. In the case of Floyd Collins, not only were there books written about this tragedy, there was even a musical done regarding the story. Maybe that is the results the Charles Tatum of 2007 is hoping for.

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Expect to see the Jersey Boys become the Nevada Boys when the Tony-winning Broadway musical comes to The Venetian. Based on the lives and careers of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the buzz on this one has been positive. Cousin Claire loves musical theater, but two questions come immediately to mind regarding this booking. Do Las Vegans or Las Vegas visitors really care about Frankie Valli anymore? In the last couple of years, two attempts by Mr. Valli to secure his own Vegas showroom, ala Celine Dion, Elton John, Rita Rudner, Toni Braxton, George Wallace and Barry Manilow, failed to materialize. For whatever reason, deals with both the Luxor and the Flamingo fell through. These days, based on its success in New York, the show about the singing group seems more popular than the actual singers themselves. Maybe one of the reasons is because the actor portraying Frankie Valli is really hitting those famous high, falsetto notes. Mr. Valli hasn't been singing those parts for years. It's one of the other singers on the stage (a Season or otherwise) who does that. Also, we have to wonder, will it hurt the ticket sales in Las Vegas if Jersey Boys comes here after touring around the country? Right now, the show is playing in San Francisco at the Curran Theater. Before it gets to our neighborhood, it is also scheduled to play in Los Angeles, Chicago, Tempe, San Diego, Costa Mesa, Seattle, Houston, Tampa, Minneapolis and Cleveland. Doesn't seem like a great idea from where we sit.

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According to Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Mike Weatherford, Matsuri will go into the Sahara showroom when the Scintas leave on May 12. We think this will be just what the Sahara needs to get folks down to the north end of the Strip. When Cousin Claire saw Matsuri last April, during its limited run at the Riviera, we loved the show. We were surprised when the Riv didn't bring the high-energy Japanese production in to take the place of the old and tired Splash. We were even more surprised when the Golden Nugget's former Vice President of Entertainment, Joe Leone (who we sat with while he checked it out), didn't choose Matsuri as one of the shows to play in the newly expanded theater at the downtown property. Perhaps if he had brought the "muscle show" in, instead of Cover Girls (that only lasted a few weeks), both Leone and Matsuri would still be ensconced at the Nugget.

And speaking of the Scintas, from April 2nd through May 12th (their closing), locals will be able to see the show at the Sahara for the bargain price of $25. Show times are Mondays through Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. Call (702) 737-2515 for reservations. For discounted tickets, don't forget your valid Nevada ID. Following their closing here, from May 15th through the 27th, the Scintas will be back in their old neighborhood when they perform at Harrah's in Atlantic City.

And speaking of entertainment bargains, Cirque du Soleil's Ka, at the MGM Grand, is also offering Las Vegans discounted tickets. From now through the 14th of April, with proof of residency, locals can purchase tickets for half price. Show times are at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. For additional details and reservations, call (702) 891-7777.

Gerry McCambridge Mac King Mimi Hines

And, if you are reading this in time, the weekend's BEST entertainment bargain will take place tomorrow night (Saturday the 24th) in the main showroom at Harrah's. At the request of hotel bigwigs, Mentalist Gerry McCambridge will present a special performance at 10:00 p.m. Currently winding up his second engagement at the Rampart (Gerry's first gig at the northwest hotel/casino was scheduled to last for three weeks...he stayed for 47 weeks), McCambridge, who entertained theater audiences during the last year of the Stardust's life, refers to his amazing show as Mind Magic. It certainly is. Oh, and about the weekend's best entertainment bargain? The cost to see McCambridge at Harrah's on Saturday night is in zero, nada and all those other words that mean it costs you nothing! This is offered on a first come, first served basis. No phone calls. No reservations. Just show up and enjoy.

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On Thursday, the 29th, our favorite local punk band, Infested, makes their second appearance at the new, all-ages University Theatre. This time, Infested will be opening for Exploited. Where do these young folks come up with these band names? Whenever we mention, or even think about, Infested, we feel the urge to scratch. The theater is at 4737 Maryland Parkway, just south of UNLV. Call (702) 898-5500 for show times and ticket prices.

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On Monday (March 26th), at 4:00 p.m., good guy Mac King will host a Reading Party at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza, 6500 W. Sahara Avenue between Torrey Pines and Rainbow. To promote the importance of reading, the Harrah's headliner will read to a group of local children and also perform some of his comedy magic. This event is open to the public. Complimentary pizza and soda will be served to the youngsters. Through March 31st, Mac King's Book Drive promotion encourages Sammy's Woodfired Pizza customers to bring in a new or gently used book, appropriate for ages 4-12. In exchange for a donated book, the restaurant will provide a free Messy Sundae certificate to customers. If you want to see more of Mac, check out his terrific show, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. The Mac King Comedy Magic Show is appropriate for children five and older. Tickets are $19.95 plus tax. Call (702) 369-5111 for reservations.

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In a better late than never move, Cousin Claire, and a much younger friend, FINALLY found the time to see Forever Plaid. Now in its countdown at the Gold Coast, this clever show has had a long run in Las Vegas, first at the Flamingo and then at the Gold Coast. With a storyline that has a singing quartet wiped out in an automobile accident while on their way to perform, the fellows return to earth for one last concert. It's fun and fast (especially their take on the Ed Sullivan Show, including commercials) with four very talented singer/actors playing the roles of the Plaids - Smudge, Jinx, Sparky and Frankie. Nostalgia reigns supreme with Douglas Frank, Kevin McMahon, Rodney Peck and Mark Perkins' great four-part harmonies as they sing songs of the era ('50s and '60s) such as Three Coins In the Fountain, Moments to Remember, No Not Much, Perfidia, Sixteen Tons, Shangri-La, Rags To Riches, Heart and Soul and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing. There's a Perry Como tribute a calypso segment and plenty more to keep the audience entertained. A special mention should be given to "the band," Fred Watstein on bass and David Kancsar on piano, who also serves as Musical Director for Plaid. (During a trip to the Liberace Museum in 1980, a 10-year-young David had the opportunity to play a piano owned and used by Mr. Showmanship, in front of museum visitors.) If you haven't seen Forever Plaid yet, there are a few more days for you to do so. This incarnation ends on April 1st (no foolin'). This "heavenly musical," much like the Plaids themselves, deserves another life in Las Vegas. We hope they get it. Call (702) 251-3574.

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It isn't polite to ask a lady's age but if that information is volunteered, we can talk about it publicly. Therefore we guess it's okay to let you know that the Tropicana Hotel & Casino is celebrating its 50th on the 31st. Call it a birthday, an anniversary, whatever, a big celebration is in the works for that day. We will be there and report on the festivities after they occur.

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Mimi Hines, who along with her then partner and husband, the late Phil Ford (Phil died in 2005 at the age of 85), was a staple on all of the major TV variety/talk shows - Jack Paar, Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson among them - during the late 1950s and into the '60s. As one half of Ford & Hines, the zany, rubber-faced singer/actress/comedienne with the toothy grin (remember her "chipmunk" routine?) could change from a comic to a chanteuse with an opening note of a torch ballad. In 1965, it was Mimi who took over Barbra Streisand's role as Fannie Brice in Broadway's Funny Girl, a part Mimi made her own for a year-and-a-half. Mimi and Phil divorced in 1972 after an 18 year marriage. Hines continued on and off-Broadway, appearing in Sugar Babies, Pippin, Hello, Dolly! and Nunsense among others. Mimi recently did her cabaret act at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, receiving excellent reviews. Today, at 73, the longtime Las Vegas resident is headlining in The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. You can catch Mimi Hines in the Follies through May 20th.

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In the vein of American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Last Comic Standing, Dancing With the Stars, America's Got Talent, Nashville Star, American Inventor look for yet another reality competition this summer. Asking the question, "Who Is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator?," the latest entry in the competition is ABC's The Next Best Thing. Earlier this month, auditions were held in Los Angeles, New York and Orlando, but it was the Las Vegas auditions on March 11th and 12th that attracted the Access Hollywood TV cameras to the Rain nightclub at the Palms. Why not? Is there any other city on the planet that attracts more working (and non working) celebrity impersonators? Apparently the popular television show realized that as well. On Wednesday, Access aired the segment they shot here a couple of weeks ago, focusing on the large turnout of look-alikes. Among the folks who would like to win the big prize (and the big money), Access featured look-alikes of Liberace, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, George Burns, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Shania Twain, John Wayne, the Blues Brothers, James Brown, Ozzy Osbourne, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Oprah, Dolly Parton, Johnny Carson, Johnny Depp (an Edward Scissorhands version as well as the Jack Sparrow character from Pirates of the Caribbean), Fran Drescher, Sylvester Stallone, Willie Nelson and Jerry Lewis as the Nutty Professor. Some of the faces we (barely) recognized underneath well-done makeup, great wigs and terrific costumes, were Will "The Liberace Kid" Collins, Sebastian Anzaldo, John Wain (yep, that's his name), Cookie Watkins, Paul Casey, Marcel Forestieri, Jay White, Sharon Owens, Donny Edwards, Sherrie Rae Parker and Stacey Whitton, but the character who managed to get the most "face time" during the coverage, was our friend, Larry "Hot Chocolate" Edwards. In his Tina Turner garb, and dancing up a storm, Proud Larry (who has been a featured act in both Kenny Kerr's Boy-lesque and with Frank Marino in the Riviera's long running La Cage) was the one who was briefly interviewed for the segment. A two-hour intro of The Next Best Thing is scheduled to debut on May 30th. One hour shows will then air on Wednesday nights at 8:00 over an eight week period.

Larry Edwards Marcel Forestieri Criss Angel

And speaking of Larry Edwards, look for this busy fellow to appear in an upcoming episode of Criss Angel's popular Mindfreak, seen on cable's A&E channel. In a not-so-surprise announcement, on Thursday, the Luxor made it official. Handsome, with rock star looks, Angel will be the star of an upcoming Cirque du Soleil production at the property. The new show, scheduled to open in the summer of next year, will be No. 6 in Las Vegas for the Cirque brand of entertainment. And they ain't done yet. The mega-community, City Center, rising out of Strip land south of Bellagio (where Cirque's O is housed), is also anticipated to be the home of yet another Cirque effort. Isn't this kind of business practice called a monopoly?

And speaking of Frank Marino, he will be appearing on NBC's Identity tonight. If you haven't seen TV's newest game show before, contestants have to match a group of strangers to their jobs or claims to fame. The "mystery guest" might be an alligator wrestler, model, belly dancer, athlete or corporate banker. Or maybe even a female impersonator? If players are able to match all 12 correctly, they can win $500,000.

The game show is hosted by Penn Jillette, the tall and more talkative half of Penn & Teller (who never has much to say), currently at the Rio. Identity airs at 8:00 p.m. in Las Vegas (check your TV Guides elsewhere) and, this week, will be followed by the Miss USA Pageant. Frank says, "If you get a chance to watch it (Identity), you'll love it. It's a great show!" Tune in tonight.

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Although Cousin Claire has made numerous attempts to get in touch with the right person or persons at the Bootlegger Bistro, in regards to an entertainer named Sam Riddle who has been performing on Tuesdays at the eatery, she has been unsuccessful. No one has responded to any of the messages left. We have pretty much been ignored and, like the Glenn Close psycho character in Fatal Attraction, we don't like to be ignored. Did the messages we left get to the "right people" (Ron Mancuso or Mr. Riddle, himself)? We have no idea, but we will no longer be the initiator in the pursuit of accurate (or ANY) information regarding the Bootlegger. Apparently they don't need to promote what is going on at the place. How nice for them.

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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye