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 April 13, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - April 13, 2007

Michael Orland Mikalah Gordon Kevin Spirtas

As you may suspect, Cousin Claire just loves to name drop. One of the reasons is because she knows that readers scan gossip and social columns to see if they can find a familiar bold-typed personality (maybe even theirs) among the litter. Surely, in this tale, there will be at least one or two folks that you may have heard of before. Name number one...Michael Orland. Now there's a name that everyone knows. What? You don't know who Michael Orland is? Sure you do. Have you ever watched American Idol? If you have, then you have seen the talented Mr. Orland sitting at the piano, during rehearsal time, when music pros such as Barry Manilow, Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Diana Ross, Gwen Stefani, Tony Bennett, Jennifer Lopez, Lulu, Herman's Hermit's Peter Noone, Grammy-winning songwriter Diane Warren (if you think you don't know her, see below) and, soon, Martina McBride, are mentoring and advising the young competitors on how to present their material on that week's show. Michael has been with the FOX-TV hit since the first season's finale (remember Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini?). How do you wind up as the Associate Musical Director of the hottest TV show in the country? The same way that you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice. Practice. Practice. The Massachusetts-born Mr. Orland moved to New York when he was only 19 and, almost immediately got himself a job in a piano bar. When he was 25, he became musical director for the late comic/ventriloquist Wayland Flowers, and foil for Wayland's outrageous puppet, Madam. In the 20 years since, Orland has also served as MD/arranger and/or pianist for many performers, among them Lucie Arnaz, Kaye Ballard, the late Nell Carter, Deborah Gibson, Shecky Greene, Sam Harris, Lainie Kazan, Sally Kellerman, Roslyn Kind (Michael produced and arranged her Come What May CD) and Chita Rivera, among others. He has also written special material for Kaye Ballard and Louise DuArt as well as for the comedy series The Nanny (on which he also performed). Mr. Busy was also accompanist for versions the musicals, Forbidden Broadway, When Pigs Fly and Ruthless!, as well as for touring companies of the famed Radio City Christmas Specials. Before Idol, he had made appearances on Entertainment Tonight and television shows hosted by Rosie O'Donnell, Leeza Gibbons, Oprah, Maury Povich, Geraldo Rivera and Wayne Brady (currently performing in his own show at The Venetian in Las Vegas). Since Michael's association with AI, he has done the TV Guide Channel's Idol Tonight, Idol Extra on the FOX News network (where he appears with former Idol competitor, Mikalah Gordon) and is a weekly visitor on Ellen DeGeneres' show and Access Hollywood (usually on Mondays) where he accompanies the latest Idol castoff in another song. Even though he spends much of his time in the same zip code as Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, Michael still finds time for other music-related projects. He is currently helping put together shows for both Lynda Carter and Leslie Ann Warren. The entertainment community is fortunate that this talented man never became an accountant (the career he was heading to), switching his interest and direction to music instead. It is pretty obvious, Michael Orland has never been "idol." (The lovely accompanying photo of Mr. O was taken by the equally lovely Lisa Sullivan.)

And speaking of American Idol, Fantasia Barrino, the show's big winner two seasons ago, made her Broadway debut last week as the star of Oprah Winfrey's The Color Purple. Also, onetime Idol competitor and finalist Mikalah Gordon (who was raised in Las Vegas and whose parents live here) recently appeared as one of the "strangers" on the new network TV game show, Identity. The contestant, a big Idol fan, recognized Mikalah immediately and identified her first, earning a quick $1,000. Hosted by Vegas magician Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller fame), the show where contestants have to match up a dozen "strangers" with their claim to fame/profession, has also given a little face time to the Riviera's La Cage star Frank Marino, and Monte Carlo magic man, Lance Burton.

Now, about Diane Warren (and a few more bold-typed names). This lady may be the most commercially successful songwriter you never heard of. Her contributions to music include songs such as Because You Loved Me (she won a Grammy for that one), How Do I Live, If I Could Turn Back Time, Love Will Lead You Back, I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, Unbreak My Heart and Time, Love & Tenderness. Among the artists who have had hits with her tunes, Barbra Streisand, LeAnn Rimes, Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Cher, Taylor Dayne, Johnny Mathis, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, the late Laura Branigan, Air Supply, Faith Hill, Gloria Estefan, Chicago, Patti LaBelle, Meat Loaf, Cyndi Lauper, Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Tina Turner, Natalie Cole, the Pussycat Dolls, and American Idol-winners Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino and Carrie Underwood. See, you DO know who Diane Warren is. (We warned you we were going to name drop!)

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Boy, oh boy, do we have a real cool scoop for you...well, actually, it's a real COLD scoop and it's courtesy of Ben & Jerry, the ice cream mavens. On Tuesday, April 17th, from noon until 8 p.m., participating Ben & Jerry's scoop shops around the world will be hosting Ben & Jerry's 29th Annual Free Cone Day. In Southern Nevada, the participating B & J's will be serving free small ice cream cones at their Galleria Mall at Sunset location (that's in Henderson, of course). These events are held to raise money for local organizations. In this case, proceeds from the day's event will benefit the Lied Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas. It is hoped that in addition to the tasty sample, patrons will be inspired to make a purchase and/or donation. Those that make a donation will receive one certificate for a complimentary treat from the popular Cupcakery. Local personalities will be rolling up their sleeves and working to help raise money for the Lied Museum. Among the ice cream scoopers will be radio's Mark and Mercedes from Mix 94.1, Norm! Clarke from the Review Journal, the Sahara's Scintas and Amazing Johnathan with his assistant Penny, and Mosaic, the a cappella six-pack who share the stage with comic George Wallace at the Flamingo. In 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield launched their first store in Vermont. They started Free Cone Day that very year to thank the community for their loyalty to their business and to congratulate their staff. It was such a huge success it is now an annual tradition. It is expected that the participating Ben & Jerry's around the country will give away more than one million free ice cream cones on Tuesday. Stop by for a taste and to contribute to a worthy cause. For more information, you can contact Ben & Jerry's at (702) 435-0330.

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On Sunday, April 29th, at a 3 p.m. matinee, the Charleston Heights Arts Center (one of our favorite cultural hangouts) will present the talented Kevin Spirtas in his one-man show, Night and Days. If the face (in the accompanying photo) or the name is familiar, chances are you watch daytime television dramas or B-type cult horror movies. Kevin Spirtas is probably best known and recognized for his recurring role on the long-running soap, Days of Our Lives. In the summer of 1997, he was cast as Salem's resident bad boy doctor, Craig Wesley. He performed on the daytime drama for seven-and-a-half years. Although Kevin was an integral part of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, The Boy From Oz, the good news/bad news is that, as the star's standby, Spirtas never once had the chance to fill in for the amazingly healthy Hugh Jackman. During the almost one year run of the musical, Hugh, portraying flamboyant Australian singer/songwriter, Peter Allen, never missed a performance. Kevin actually did get to play the part of Corny Collins (with Tony-winners Harvey Fierstein and Dick Latessa) when the Broadway hit, Hairspray, had its abbreviated run at the Luxor in Las Vegas. In Night and Days, Kevin croons ballads and sings and dances his way through some standards, including, not surprisingly, Cole Porter's Night and Day. As a young man in New York, Spirtas was cast as a replacement in the Broadway production of A Chorus Line. This leads him into his lively rendition of that musical's I Can Do That, and in this one-man tour de force, Kevin proves that he indeed can do that...and lots more. He covers favorites from the movies and Broadway and, in this production, he finally gets to perform the numbers from The Boy From Oz that he never got to do in New York. In one segment of this revue, Spirtas earns points and laughs by mocking both his roles in slasher films and his DOOL television character, a doctor with a ridiculously complicated personal life. This is cleverly done with special lyrics set, to a melody "borrowed" from Les Miserables, for a parody called Les Days (of Our Lives), written for Kevin by the talented Kirby Tepper. It's a hoot! One critic wrote of Spirtas' act, "Here's a guy who's big on charm and cheer...(with a voice that's) bright and clear, and he can belt and croon. Kevin is very much an entertainer who sounds super-happy to be performing and sharing his chattery patter about his career path. He's especially upbeat and down to earth in a show bizzy kind of way." Sound like a fun way to spend an afternoon? Order your bargain-priced tickets ($10 in advance and $15 at the door) by calling (702) 229-6383.

As a reminder, this Sunday, the 15th, it's Mark Nadler and KT Sullivan performing their musical tribute to Irving Berlin. Actually, we don't know why we are even mentioning this, as the tickets for this talented twosome have been sold out for weeks. There's a lesson to be learned here. Next time one or both of these performers show up in Las Vegas, buy your tickets early!

Steve Wyrick Bobby Slayton Pudgy!

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It was confusing enough when both Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead were professing to be the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter, Dannielynn. Then 90-year-old Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband stepped in, stating that he and Anna Nicole had a long running affair and it was possible that he was the father. Hugh Hefner also made some recent statements indicating that he had had a recent relationship with Playboy's onetime centerfold, and that he could possibly be Dannielynn's daddy. There were even rumors, heaven forbid, that Anna Nicole's late son, Danny, could have fathered his own sister! Fortunately, on Tuesday, the paternity of the baby was confirmed via DNA testing. Mr. Birkhead is indeed Dannielynn's parent. Not too surprising based on the resemblance between Dannielynn and Larry. Unfortunately, rumors still continue to surround the blonde, onetime Guess model. The latest, and maybe most bizarre of all, reared its ugly head this week and is all over the internet and apparently in one of the weekly supermarket tabloids. Locally-based magician Steve Wyrick is now alleging that he and infamous party girl had multiple sexual encounters in over a two-week period in 2005. Perhaps he thinks this is the way to promote his new theater and try to recoup his (or somebody else's) $35 million investment in the beautiful Steve Wyrick Entertainment Complex located in the Planet Hollywood's Desert Passage mall. According to reports, Wyrick claims that he had a passionate relationship with Smith after she attended his show at the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood) where he used Anna Nicole in a levitation trick. After the show, it is alleged that Smith joined Wyrick backstage to perform an oral act on him before joining him in his hotel suite several hours later, and that's where things got rough. "She wanted me to choke her with my hands while we made love," said Wyrick, before adding, "I wouldn't do it." The report continues that during their time together, Smith repeatedly asked Wyrick to "pop me" and that when he wouldn't choke her, she proceeded to choke him, "I have to admit it was very arousing," Wyrick told a reporter before adding, "She always wanted to play rough." Could we make this story up? Why would we? Does cousin Claire buy this concoction? Not even if there were photos of the deed. After all, Mr. Wyrick calls himself a magician. We can't confirm this story but we can confirm is, this fellow is no gentleman.

And here's even more sleaze...From the April 11th Las Vegas Review-Journal story on Predators, this was listed under (local) High-Profile Cases...Timothy McDarrah, a former columnist with the Las Vegas Sun, was arrested in New York for soliciting sex from a federal agent posing as a 13-year-girl on the Internet. McDarrah, who was working for Us Weekly magazine at the time, was arrested after showing up at the girl's fake address. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 20. We will stay on this one.

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Described as "The Pitbull of Comedy," funnyman Bobby Slayton opens the brand new Night Owl Showroom at Hooters Casino Hotel's on April 20th. Las Vegas' newest - and most edgy - headlining comedian opens on April 20th. Described as a "comic's comic," Slayton has been a guest on the Tonight Show, Politically Incorrect and HBO's Comic Relief, Mind of a Married Man and in his own special. He also played Joey Bishop in the critically acclaimed film, The Rat Pack. His distinctive voice has been heard on the animated Dr. Katz and Family Guy, and he has had roles in the popular movies, Get Shorty, Ed Wood and Dreamgirls. Slayton, who has been performing on the comedy club circuit for more than 20 years, recently released his latest CD, Built For Destruction, recorded live at the Washington DC Improv. In this hilarious 80-minute show at Hooters, Slayton will take on every stereotype under the sun with his quick-witted, acid-tongued style. From the state of marriage to the state of the union, Slayton dissects it all with his signature politically incorrect manner that has sold out comedy clubs all across the country. The show also will feature a rotating roster of special guest performers. Audience members must be 21 or older. Tickets are $36.95 per person and may be purchased by calling (866) 80-SHOWS (866-807-4697) or (800) 851-1703. Slayton's shows will run Wednesdays through Sundays, with performance times at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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Burlesque has come back in a big way and "X" marks the spot. The success of the Pussycat Dolls Lounge at Caesars Palace and Forty-Deuce at Mandalay Bay is one indication that burlesque is not a dying art but is alive and well, especially in Las Vegas. Continuing the trend is X Burlesque, in the Cabaret Theatre at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino. The adults only, topless revue combines both traditional and modern burlesque in an intimate setting. X features a cast of beautiful and talented international performers in and out of sexy costumes, contemporary music, dance numbers and...the incomparable Pudgy! The "Queen of Tease" (and we don't mean striptease) offers up comedy relief in the way that only she can. The Chicago native, and onetime class clown, has been a Las Vegas force to be reckoned with for more than 20 years, performing at Catch a Rising Star, in the Funny Business revue and as a featured act in a number of production shows. Pudgy! is also an Atlantic City and Northern Nevada favorite. She has been seen on HBO's Showtime as well as on Regis & Kathie Lee, Hollywood Squares and the Rosie O'Donnell Show, and played the role of Mother Superior in a production of the musical-comedy, Nunsense. During her time in Los Angeles, this illegitimate child of Don Rickles and Phyllis Diller was the longest running act to play Studio One's famed Backlot showroom. When she sings We're Gonna Have a Party, Pudgy! means it. After you watch this energetic funny lady work a room, using her sharp-witted comedy and music skills, it is easy to see why an explanation mark has become a part of her name. X Burlesque, produced by the husband and wife team of Matt Stabile and Angela Sampras Stabile, performs Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 8 and 10 p.m., and Saturday at midnight. Ticket prices are $44.95 plus taxes for general admission and $55.95 taxes for VIP seating. Call (702) 733-3333 for reservations.

Anthony Newley Mac Davis

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As someone who has had a love affair with Las Vegas since the 1950s, and lived here since the '70s, Cousin Claire is frequently asked who her favorite Las Vegas headliners are/were. The late Anthony Newley, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Shirley MacLaine, Ann Jillian, Johnny Mathis, the members of the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. (collectively or individually) and Mac Davis come immediately to mind. Newley died in 1999; the Rat pack members, except for Joey Bishop, are all gone; no additional places or dates have been announced for Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, who were the final act to play the Stardust before the hotel/casino closed in November; MacLaine and Jillian both seem to have retired from live performances; Mathis still performs in Vegas a few times a year, leaving only Mac Davis as a possibility for a return to The Entertainment Capital of the World after too many years away. In 1965, the 23-year-old Lubbock, Texas-born Davis began composing songs for recording artists such as Glen Campbell (Everything a Man Could Ever Need), Bobby Goldsboro (Watching Scotty Grow), Lou Rawls (You're Good For Me), and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (Something's Burning). Elvis Presley would have had a few less hit singles, if not for Mac Davis. In The Ghetto, Memories, Don't Cry Daddy and A Little Less Conversation (the theme song for the popular NBC series Las Vegas), were all written by Davis. Mac also arranged the music for Presley's first television special before signing his own recording contract in 1970. In that year, he released his first chart single, Whoever Finds This, I Love You, from his debut album, Song Painter. In 1972, Davis scored a number one pop hit with Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me, which also reached the country Top 20. His success continued throughout the decade, with singles like 1974's Stop and Smell the Roses, 1975's Burnin' Thing, and the following year's Forever Lovers. The entertainer had his own NBC TV variety show from 1974 to 1976. Davis's success continued into the early '80s. It's Hard to Be Humble, the title track of his 1980 album, was the first of Mac's four consecutive Top 10 country hits, culminating with his biggest country single, Hooked on Music, the next year. In 1990, Davis co-authored Dolly Parton's hit White Limozeen. Mac is not a country singer/ songwriter...he is a singer/songwriter. He is also an actor, starring in films like North Dallas Forty, Cheaper To Keep Her, Sting II and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In 1990, Davis took over the title role in the hit Broadway musical, The Will Rogers Follies. In the year 2000, Davis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and in last year, he was similarly honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1994, his first recording in nearly a decade, Will Write Songs for Food, was released. So the big question is, when will some smart entertainment buyer bring Mac back? We anxiously await the answer.

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