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 April 06, 2007
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - April 6, 2007

Babe Pier Kenny Mazlow David Pomeranz

He claims to be the only act making a comeback who never had a career. It might get a laugh, but it's not the case. What may be partially true, though, is that Babe Pier started out in the main rooms in Las Vegas and worked his way down to the lounges. The comic/impressionist first came here in 1955, as a member of The Vagabonds and later joined the Happy Jesters. Those comedy acts, among the pioneers of that genre, played the Sahara, Desert Inn and Stardust showrooms many times during the history-making years of this city's development. Babe (along with Vegas lounge mainstays such as the Treniers, Mary Kaye Trio, Tommy Deering, Gus Mancuso, Fay McKay, Sonny King, Carme Pitrello, Peter Anthony, Freddie Bell, Blackie Hunt, Joe Mayer and Sonny King) is included in the Tim Onosko/Beth Abrohams documentary, Lost Vegas: The Lounge Era. Babe Pier has never stopped working. At an age where he is eligible for AARP membership and senior discounts at Denny's, this guy has not slowed down at all. After the Vagabonds and Jesters disbanded, Pier continued to perform, working with saxophone virtuosos Jay Orlando in lounges around Las Vegas and as a specialty act in production shows such as Ice Fantasy at the Hacienda (now Mandalay Bay). The rubber-faced funnyman has opened or co-headlined with the likes of Pete Barbutti, Chuck Berry, Foster Brooks, Cris Connors, Dick Contino, Bill Cosby, John Davidson, Freddie Fender, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, Al Martino, Lou Rawls and Bobby Rydell. Pier just completed an engagement with Frankie Avalon in Sun City Palm Desert where stars such as Glen Campbell, Crystal Gayle and Jason Graae (here at UNLV last October in Hello, Jerry!, a tribute to the music of Jerry Herman) and Liz Callaway regularly perform. While "in the neighborhood," Babe did a turn at former Las Vegans' Buddy Greco and Lezlie Anders' Cathedral City dinner club. In November, Pier will head back to the Southern California desert. This time, it's to the famed, Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. On November 3rd (yep, they booked him that far ahead), Babe returns to join the cast of mature singers, dancers and headliners. He will be there through May. If you can't wait the seven months, you can catch Babe Pier, along with his closing act, Frankie Avalon, as they once again combine their talents on stage, April 13th through the 15th, at the Suncoast. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are from $19.95 plus tax. Call (702) 636-7075 to make reservations. Go, Babe!

* * * * * *

Sympathies go out to entertainer Kenny Mazlow on the loss, March 30th, of his father, Sam Maslowsky, in Winnipeg. Canadian-born Mazlow, a onetime principal singer in Ice Fantasy (1978) at the Hacienda, a singer/dancer in the Stardust's Lido de Paris and a lead performer in Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon that played at the Sands in Las Vegas in 1988, has been the Artistic Director for the original BBB in San Francisco since the death of Steve Silver in 1995. For those not familiar with Beach Blanket Babylon, the San Francisco institution is the longest-running musical revue in theater history. The clever comedy premiered at North Beach's Savoy Tivoli in June of 1974 before moving to the Club Fugazi a few years later. BBB attracts the cr�me de la cr�me to Club Fugazi. Heck, the cast has even entertained visiting royalty, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles, The Duchess of Cornwall. A tip of the great big hat to Mazlow and the rest of the Beach Blanket Babylon team.

* * * * * *

On April 10th, the Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia, will be the site of the World Premiere of a brand new musical, Saving Aimee. Starring Tony-nominated Carolee Carmello (City of Angels, Falsettos, Parade, Scarlet Pimpernel, 1776, Kiss Me Kate, Lestat), Saving Aimee is the story of Evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson. The book and lyrics were written by Kathie Lee Gifford (yes, THAT Kathie Lee Gifford), with music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman (Listen To My Heart, Help Is On the Way, As Long As I Can Sing and many other Nancy LaMott tunes). Never heard of Aimee? Here is how the promo for the production describes her. "Long before Gloria Steinem, there was a feminist who stood up against a male-dominated religious society. Long before O.J. Simpson, there was a famous defendant in the trial of the century. Long before Madonna, there was a free spirit who ignored the sexual mores of her day and married three times. And long before Marilyn Monroe, there was a beloved American treasure who mysteriously died from an overdose of barbiturates. Saving Aimee is the story of one woman's life from her humble upbringing in a Salvation Army family to her ascension as the charismatic founder of the Four Square Gospel Church. She changed the face of the pulpit, but was she a true woman of God or just one hell of a woman?" Directed by Eric Schaeffer, Saving Aimee will play at he Signature Theatre through May 13th. Never heard of Pomeranz? The multi-talented David Pomeranz, who performed here at the private Stirling Club for an invited crowd in November, is the songwriter responsible for Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again and The Old Songs, both No. 1 hits for Barry Manilow - although you haven't heard Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again, until you have heard Pomeranz sing it. David has lots of other musical credits, including his Little Tramp, The Musical. Based on the life of Charlie Chaplin, Little Tramp contains some beautiful songs. The show played in London a few yeas ago, and in 1993, an almost-impossible-to-find recording of the score was done, featuring Mel Brooks, Petula Clark, Tim Curry, Peter Duncan, Richard Harris, Lea Salonga, Treat Williams and Pomeranz himself. Good luck trying to find a copy! Remember Pomeranz's name. If you ever see it on a marquee, or get wind that he is performing somewhere near you, do yourself a big favor. Buy a ticket. Don't miss the opportunity to see and hear this extremely talented and versatile songwriter/singer/ musician (he plays both piano and guitar). I guarantee, you are in for a real treat.

* * * * * *

A couple of loyal friends and supporters of Tony Sacca have stepped up to speak out on behalf of the longtime Las Vegan (by way of South Philadelphia). To say that these two (and there were only two) were "unhappy" with Cousin Claire's March 30th column, would be an understatement. "Livid" or "enraged" would be better words to describe their reaction...especially by the readers. We have no problem with anyone not agreeing with us, or even being unhappy with something we said. What we do have a bit of a problem with is something hate-filled and sounding like it was written by an illiterate and bratty juvenile. We received an e-mail like that. What was most surprising is that the ugly correspondence came from an employee (with a title, no less) of a Strip hotel/casino and was sent from his workplace computer. Among the accusations, of sorts, from this wacko hothead (we won�t divulge his name), is that Cousin Claire is on drugs and was high when she wrote last week's column. That's quite amusing. Anyone who knows her at all (which this imbecile does not) is very well aware that Cousin Claire takes nothing stronger than an occasional Tylenol and drinks nothing stronger than Pepsi. We have to wonder how this jerk's boss would feel if he were to see how one of their "finest" responds to an opinion expressed by a longtime member of the local media. (You DO know what they say about opinions, don't you?) We may have been a little hard on Mr. Sacca and, for that we apologize. He is a decent fellow. As for the letter writer, that's another story. It's more than likely that, when the new owners take over in a few months, this guy will be standing in an unemployment line. Ooops. Did we just give a clue to the creep's identity?

* * * * * *

Last Saturday night, the Tropicana celebrated its 50 year anniversary. Actually, the opening date for the hotel in 1957, was April 4th. They just couldn't wait till the 4th to throw their party, so the Trop moved the festivities up a few days. There was quite a turnout, we must say, especially when one considers that this wasn't the only big event going on that night. Down the boulevard, Wynn Las Vegas was having their own shindig. In their case, it was to introduce Spamalot to VIPs and media members. Although we wouldn't Reve (as in Le Reve, which means The Dream in French) of telling Mr. Wynn how to run his business, but we really HOPE he is going to do a better job of marketing this Tony-winning musical than he did with Avenue Q (or, for that matter, Michael Feinstein at Bellagio). As for the Avenue Q "marketing campaign," local taxi cabs covered in orange shag carpeting just doesn't cut it. But, as often happens, we digress. The joint, on the corner of Trop and the Strip, was jumping as they entered their 51st year. An eclectic turnout of local movers and shakers and an interesting assortment of celebrities were in attendance. Among the dignitaries, former child-star Margaret O'Brien (now 70); Rose Marie from the old Dick Van Dyke Show; Starsky & Hutch's "Huggy Bear," Antonio Fargas; comic, and Pauly Shore's daddy, Sammy Shore; the Wizard of Oz's Lollipop Munchkin, Jerry Maren; the amazingly youthful looking onetime burlesque queen, Tempest Storm; Sonny Charles and Sweet Louie of The Checkmates; the Mary Kaye Trio's Norman Kaye and wife Barbara Kaye; the outrageous Monti Rock III; Folies Bergere choreographer Jerry Jackson; Vegas music legend Mafalda; ice show producer Bill Moore; veteran dancer/ choreographer Rene DeHaven; lounge pioneer Nelson Sardelli; actor Allen Fawcett; Nevada Ballet Theater's Nancy Houssels and husband J.K Houssels; longtime Las Vegan Carole Hassell and her sister Laura Freeman Blackburn, here from Seattle, and friend Veronica "Roni" Worth, visiting from Hawaii (both Laura and Roni were Folies Bergere cast members in the 1970s). Among those representing the media were Jack Bulavsky and wife Marilyn Bulavsky, Jackie Brett (Happy Birthday, Jackie!) and Mel Carter, Norm Johnson and Nancy Barr, Elliot Krane and Charlette Krane, Frank H. Lieberman and Barbara Nosek. There were many, many more folks that probably should be mentioned. Either we didn't see them, we didn't recognize them, or we chose to ignore them. Sorry for any/many important omissions. The Tropicana's Lisa Keim Carr and the rest of the crew did a dandy job in putting this event together and keeping it running smoothly. We look forward to celebrating the hotel's 100th.

Margaret O'Brien Melinda Saxe Sam Harris

* * * * * *

What show can a grandma take a 13-year-old boy to see that will be enjoyed by both generations? We scored points with this particular young man by spending an evening in the brand new Aladdin/Planet Hollywood theater, where we saw Stomp Out Loud. The setting, a great 1,500 tiered-seat showplace and fun, creatively designed lobby, hints at what is to come. In case you don't know the concept of Stomp Out Loud and its predecessor, Stomp, there is no dialog, which means everyone can understand and enjoy it. Using everyday objects to create rhythmic sounds and melodies, audience members may never look at their plastic trash bags, brooms and even newspapers, the same way again. After the show, the teenager and his grandmother toured the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood's Desert Passage/Miracle Mile Mall. Lots of interesting dining spots (about 15 of them) and shops (170 stores) in the arcade. One place that especially attracted the eye of the young man was Houdini's Magic Shop. A visit . Two very nice gentlemen, Glenn Husted and Jim Seaver, were holding down the fort and went above and beyond the call of duty (we think) to amuse and entertain the kid. They demonstrated some magic for the grandson (the whippersnapper figured out how one of them was achieved) and made an already dandy evening even more special. Needless to say, he went home with a Bag O' Tricks. The chain of magic shops (there are 10 locations in Southern Nevada and California) are owned by longtime Las Vegan Geno Munari. You can find his Houdini's stores located at Buffalo Bill's in Primm (25 miles south of Vegas), in the Caesars Palace Forum Shops, Circus Circus, MGM Grand, New York-New York, The Venetian, Pier 39 in San Francisco and the most recent outlet, Disneyland in Buena Park, as well as the one at the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood. The Factory Store, and Geno himself, can be found at 6455 S. Industrial in Las Vegas.

Munari definitely has the magic touch. It was he, who in the late 1980s, introduced Melinda - The First Lady of Magic to the public. Launching her act at the now demolished Bourbon Street, the pretty blonde would eventually go on to play showrooms at the Landmark, Sands, Lady Luck and Venetian (she also starred in her own CBS television special in 1997), before retiring from show business to raise a family. Munari has been a Las Vegan since 1964. His early career was spent in the gaming industry, where he worked his way from a dealer at the old California Club, to a floor man at the Dunes, to Vice President and Casino Director at Bourbon Street and finally to the San Remo's (now Hooter's) Director of Casino Operations, before opening his chain of successful magic shops. We don't see him vanishing from the Las Vegas scene anytime soon.

* * * * * *

For any of you "more mature" (over the age of 45) Southern Californians, or former residents of that part of the world, the name Sam Riddle may be familiar. Sam was a well-known radio personality/disc jockey, primarily in the 1970s and '80s, before launching a little television show that helped kick start the careers of a number of entertainers, including Sawyer Brown (coming to Boulder Station on April 27th), Joey Gian, Sam Harris, Rosie O' Donnell, Phil Vassar (coming to Boulder Station on May 11th), Sinbad, Britney Spears, Ray Romano AND Brad Garrett (who both went on to star in Everybody Loves Raymond), Linda Eder, Dennis Miller, LeAnn Rimes, Justin Timberlake, Mara Getz, Steve Mittleman, Bill Engvall, Jenny Jones, Martin Lawrence and Christina Aguilera, among them. The name of the show, in case you hadn't guessed, was Star Search. Many of the Star Search (the show ran from 1983 to 1995) competitors were found right here in Las Vegas, among them dancers Ludo Vika (who now does standup comedy) and Bill Spinning, Joseph Williams, son of five time Oscar-winning conductor/composer (Jaws, Star Wars, ET, etc.) John Williams (Joseph went on to become lead singer for the group Toto, coming to Boulder Station on May 26th) and Monica Pege (both cast members in the musical Dream Street), along with Paul Christopher. There were lots more but, at this minute, their names escape us. Well, surprise, surprise. Sam Riddle is now making his home in Las Vegas...except it isn't THAT Sam Riddle. The relatively-new-to-Las Vegas Sam Riddle isn't even related to the radio/TV man. This fellow, who is barely old enough to work in a casino, comes here, not from California but from New York, Montana and Omaha. In a little more than a year, the young piano player/ singer has had no trouble finding work in this competitive market. Mr. Riddle's busy schedule has him working just about every day of the week. On Sundays and Mondays, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., he can be found at Ferraro's at Flamingo and Jones; Tuesdays, between 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., Riddle is playing for clientele at the Bootlegger Bistro; on Wednesdays and Thursdays you can find him at Becker's Lakeside Restaurant & Lounge (formerly Charlie�s Lakeside), located at Sahara and Durango, from 7 p.m. to midnight; and Saturdays and Sundays, Riddle entertains visitors at the above mentioned Desert Passage/ Miracle Mile mall - near the Coffee Bean and Theater For the Performing Arts area. Throughout the afternoon, Riddle plays and sings a wide variety of music, from Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart, to Elton John, The Eagles, Billy Joel and John Legend. Stop by his piano at any of his gigs and give a listen.

If and when you visit the Bootlegger, be sure to say a special hello to personable host, Sean Grady. Grady, an asset to the South Strip Italian eatery, has a long history in the hospitality industry. Between the years 1966 and 2006, except for a couple of spells when he operated his own nightclubs in Philadelphia and Atlantic City and spent about four years at Newport Beach's Magic Island, Grady's career was devoted primarily to the Del Webb and Summa Corporation. For 40 years, from the downtown Top of the Mint (now Binion's) to the Sahara in Las Vegas to the High Sierra Theater at the Sahara Tahoe to the Frontier in Vegas, Grady served as maitre d' and manager of those properties showrooms, nightclubs and fine restaurants, where he made many friends along the way. These days (and nights) he is greeting old friends and making new ones at the Bootlegger. Top o' the mornin' (and afternoon and evenin') to you, Sean Grady.

* * * * * *

It takes one to know one. It also could take one to PAINT one. Terry Ritter has carved out a niche in the art world by painting, primarily, the Las Vegas showgirl. It is a subject she is very familiar with as she herself is a former member of that profession. As a singer dancer, Terry performed at the Sahara in Pinups At The Movies and with Rich Little in Copy Cats (comic/impressionist Gordie Brown also starred in the revue). She also was in Rocky Sennes' Keep Smilin' America at the Holiday Casino (now Harrah's Las Vegas) and portrayed Reba McEntire in Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace. Ritter began her serious art career by doing portraits of both cast members and their pets backstage between shows. She is a member of the Las Vegas Watercolor Society and the Boulder City Art Guild. Prints of her showgirl subjects, along with note cards, are for sale in the Casino Royale Gift Shop at the Monte Carlo. Original Terry Ritter works range in price from $2,000 to $15,000 and commission work is available. You can get a look at a major project that Terry is working on if you happen to find yourself in the International Baggage Area at Las Vegas' McCarran Airport. The 50 foot mural, called Folies In Flight, interprets a showgirl scene from the Tropicana's Folies Bergere. If you don't have any travel plans, it's almost worth a special trip to McCarran, just to see the work. You can see more of the artists' creations by going to her Web site at Terryritterart.com.

Terry Ritter Sylk, Satin & Lace

* * * * * *

From April 10th through the 15th, the Sahara Hotel will present Sylk, Satin & Lace in its Casbar Theatre Lounge. Calling the act "The Sahara's Very Own Dreamgirls," international impresario and producer Eric Floyd, describes Sylk, Satin & Lace as "displaying an equal passion for fashion and a dazzling repertoire that encompasses funk, rock, pop, R&B and dance." Presented by his company, Goddess Empire Entertainment, Floyd states that "this triad of soul kittens presents a high energy array and display of tight harmonies, breathtaking costumes, kick ass choreography and enough raw unbridled sex appeal to short circuit Hugh Hefner's pacemaker." He goes on to say, "Sylk, Satin & Lace offers the high class appeal of The Supremes, the vocal power of En Vogue, the girl power of The Spice Girls, the harmonic blend of Destiny's Child and the eroticism of The Pussycat Dolls." It was the group's lead singer, Sylk, who sought out fellow Las Vegans Satin and Lace and put together this full-scale revue. Under the musical direction and vocal coaching of Mr. T.C. Chandler, expect Sylk, Satin & Lace to create a lot of heat and a lot of buzz as they debut this brand new club act. Show times are at 9 and 11 p.m. Oh yes...don't tell anyone because it's supposed to be a surprise, but multi-platinum recording artist, international pop/dance diva, Wanda Dee, will be celebrating her birthday with SS&L on Thursday, April 12th. See you at the Sahara.



Have a question about Las Vegas? Want to make a comment (be nice, now)?
If so, drop an e-mail and ask. Click Here
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.
You can find Past Columns HERE


     Like to be notified when Claire Voyant's next column is available?
Then join Claire Voyant's announcement mailing list!
Enter your email address below, then click the 'Join List' button:
   

Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye