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.
Note: This is a past column from May 04, 2007
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - May 4, 2007
Here's one we hadn't heard before. A group of four friends went to see entertainer Wayne Brady's 9:30 p.m. show at The Venetian last Friday. The production, improv in nature, is called Making %@it Up (and that‘s exactly how the print ads read). One would think that, based just on the show title and show time alone, any adult with an ounce of intelligence would know that this is NOT a family show. And if there is still a question in anyone's mind, it states right on the tickets, Must be at least 16 years of age or older. Yet, on this particular night, there were at least five children, under the age of 12 (some that were little more than toddlers), in the theater. As a result, the show, which normally contains language unsuitable for youngsters, was cleaned up ("No cursing tonight," declared Brady) to accommodate kids who shouldn't have been in the theater in the first place. After asking the showroom manager about this incident, we were told that the group of people with the children were Brady family members and it was Mr. Brady, himself, who authorized them being in an adult situation. Bad move on his part. Although the audience was well entertained by the talented Mr. Brady, he cheated his audience members just to accommodate folks who didn't pay anything at all to sit in that theater. The adults at Friday night's show did not see what they paid for or anticipated. With the lowest priced ticket selling for more than $80 (and the highest priced at more than $100), we cry FOUL (and we don't mean the language expected by patrons of Making %@it Up ).
Because it's our job, we checked to see how some other hotel/casino showrooms would have handled a similar situation. The answers we got from the people we talked to indicated that this would not have been allowed to happen. If the rules are Must be at least 16 years or older to attend the show, we don't think that means…unless you are a friend or family member of the showroom headliner, whoever that might be. We say, shame on you Wayne Brady, and shame on the powers-that-be at The Venetian for allowing this to happen. We dearly love children, but we wouldn't want to be sitting next to a group of them on a grownups night out. Who is in charge here anyway? Is it the hotel or is it Mr. Brady?
In the "old days," would kids have been welcome in showrooms where comics like Buddy Hackett, Redd Foxx, George Carlin and Andrew "Dice" Clay were performing? And if, by some slim chance there was an underage audience member within earshot of adult material, would the comics have changed their routines so as not to offend the little darlings? Hell, no!
Addendum...It turns out that what occurred on Friday night during Wayne Brady's show at The Venetian, is/was not an isolated incident. As fate would have it, on Sunday night, while seeing Roseanne Barr at New York-New York (no children were present in that room), we were sitting behind a couple of tourists who had attended Brady's show on Saturday night and, guess what? Same scenario as the night before. Children in the house. This twosome also got the watered-down, family version of Wayne's supposedly adult improv show. We understand that Brady did well at The Venetian and will be coming back in a couple of weeks for what he hopes turns into a long engagement at the property. We hope that when he does return, the former talk show host will acknowledge that his young and very young family members should be watching Barney videos or sleeping in their little beds during Uncle Wayne's show times. As a professional, Wayne Brady should have more respect for his ticket-buying audience members and give them the show they paid for and the show they deserve. Another alternative might be to change the show time to 1p.m., call it Making Poo Poo Up and turn it into a family affair.
* * * * * *
The couple we met at Roseanne Barr's show on Sunday got the hoped for "f bombs" they missed at The Brady Family Hour the night before. Both Barr and her opening act that night, Pat Candaras, delivered enough of those adult-aimed missiles to keep the NY-NY crowd laughing and happy. Candaras is one of the semi-finalists on Nick at Night's reality series, Funniest Mom in America 3, hosted by Roseanne. At an age when most women would be counting the days to retirement (from both raising children and working outside the home, Pat Candaras is in the relatively early stages of her career as a standup comic. Although she always knew she was funny (she had to be, as one of 17 children), Pat didn't start performing until she was in her 50s. As for being from an exceptionally large family, Candaras says, "As soon as I showed up, I thought, oh dear, oh my, this place is crowded." Of her parents, she states, "People producing children at that rate should be called in for questioning." During her Brooklyn upbringing, Pat developed a distrust of authority and a caustic sense of humor. "Whether it's the President of the United States or the fella with the key to the bathroom, they have to be watched," she says. Pat spent 23 years in corporate America. In 1994, her second husband suffered a fatal heart attack and two years later her job ended, thanks to union politics. "I was without a husband, and without a job," she said. "I was lost and I was shopping too much." Pat signed up for classes at the Comic Strip and Stand-Up New York clubs in Manhattan. After just one live performance and a little positive feedback, she was hooked. "I went on the road," Candaras said. "I would drive just about anyplace to get stage time." Pat fine-tuned her act in clubs and festivals before performing her solo show, called Grandmotherf***er, around the country. For the second time, Pat tried out for Funniest Mom in America. For her initial effort, she didn't made it past the first round. This time, to her surprise and delight, she made it to the semi-finals where she and 12 other hopefuls compete for laughs, hoping to win $50,000 and the opportunity to host an evening of programming on Nick at Night. Funniest Mom in America 3 is seen on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. The winner will be announced during the final show, running at 9 p.m. on Mother's Day, Sunday May 13th. In the meantime, Pat Candaras will be performing at Stand-Up New York, 236 West 78th Street on May 8th and 9th at 7 p.m. On May 12th, at 4 p.m., she is also scheduled to perform as part of Mamapalooza, at Joe Franklin Comedy Club, 761 7th Avenue in Manhattan. If you missed her in Las Vegas, and you happen to be in the New York area, check out this funny lady in her part of the country.
* * * * * *
Joe Piscopo, currently a regular in the Las Vegas Hilton's Shimmer Cabaret, was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman on Thursday night. Piscopo was number four in Impressionist Week 2, joining the lineup of Rob Magnotti (Monday), John Byner (Tuesday), Mike MacRae (Wednesday) and Reggie Reg who will perform tonight.
* * * * * *
Marty Allen, who along with his very talented wife of 23 years, Karon Kate (Blackwell), entertained a mostly invited roomful of guests last week (including Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine, and recording artist Don Cherry), received a belated birthday gift from the Las Vegas Sun's entertainment writer, Jerry Fink, in the way of a glowing review and a five star rating for Hello Dere!, the Allen's show currently at the Gold Coast. The icing on the cake was artist Chris Morris' caricature of Marty that accompanied recent Meatball Award-winner Fink's terrific review. This is a family-friendly show, with tickets a reasonable $29.95 plus tax. Show times are 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. For reservations, call the Gold Coast at (702) 251-3574.
Ernest Borgnine & Marty Allen
Ernie Borgnine, Karon Kate, Marty Allen & Don Cherry
Karon Kate & Marty Allen
* * * * * *
Whenever something like Rosie O'Donnell's last week announcement that she is leaving The View occurs, there is always a rehearsed-sounding, spin-doctors' explanation as to why. Just like when Star Jones left the daytime gabfest. It all sounds so civil, i.e. not agreeing on business details (salary, length of contract, wanting to spend more time with the family, whatever) when the departing celeb is making their farewell to the troops speech. Do we believe Rosie's tale of why she is leaving ABC after less than a year? Not for a minute. The whole setup seemed odd from the beginning. Why does the newest kid on the block get to take control, sitting in the chair formerly occupied by Meredith Vieira (we bet the current co-host of NBC‘s Today show is happy not to be a passenger on The View‘s sinking ship)? Instead of Rosie "joining" The View, she took over The View. Was it really Rosie's choice to end her relationship with the ladies? Doubtful. In spite of the fact that viewer numbers were supposedly up since Ms. O'Donnell joined the show last September, we suspect that there was a bit too much controversy with her Big Mouth on just about every subject. The big question now is, who will be added to the panel? As for Rosie, it is apparent that she can't be part of an ensemble cast. Rosie has to be in control. Rosie has to be the star. Hopefully, she has put away enough money to pay for college for her four children... just in case she doesn't get another job for a while. The good news is, our Rosie will now have more time to see Broadway shows, she can cut all her hair off again (one of the clauses in her contract with The View was that she had to make a small attempt to look like a female), and go back to shopping at the mall without being bothered by crazed fans. Hey, maybe Ms. O'Donnell should audition for Donald Trump's next Apprentice show. Now THAT would bump up ratings! By the way, it is being suggested that Roseanne Barr might make the ideal replacement for Rosie O'Donnell on The View.
* * * * * *
Get out your erasers, folks. There have been a few changes regarding this year's Joe Williams Music Scholarship Fundraiser. First of all, the date has been changed from Sunday, May 20th, to Sunday, June 3rd. The location for the event will not be at The Orleans as originally announced, but will, instead, be held at the South Point Hotel & Casino. Also, this year's headliner will not be Keely Smith as advertised a few weeks ago, it will be Bob Anderson. Tickets are now $34.95, way down from the previously announced $35. The one thing that will remain the same is the 2 p.m. show time. We will have more about this event, including a list of performers and a phone number for reservations, next week.
The accompanying Joe Williams portrait is by talented Southern California artist, Merryl Jaye. The original, as well as reproductions, are available for sale through Ms. Jaye. Check out her Web site at www.merryljaye.com.
* * * * * *
It's San Gennaro time again. This spring's Feast opened at the Grand Canyon Shopping Center, located at West Flamingo and the 215, on May 2nd and will run until 11 p.m. on Sunday. The annual event offers plenty of Italian eats, vendors, carnival rides and games, arts & crafts, a beer garden, fireworks, and a slew of entertainers scheduled to perform throughout the five day festival. Among those anticipated to take to the stage, (from A to Z) American Superstars, Linda Angeline, Larry Atello, Freddie Bell, Denise Clemente, Kelly Clinton, Teddy Davey, Dian Diaz, Vinnie Favorito, Mark Giovi, John Kaye, The Las Vegas Tenors, Legends in Concert cast members, Steve Lippia, Jerry Lopez, Ronn Lucas, Frank Marino, Martin Nievera, Babe Pier, Lena Prima (yes, she's Louie Prima's daughter), Society of Seven, Steven Sorrentino, Jerry Tiffe and Zowie Bowie. Anthony Palmisano, CEO and President of the Society of San Gennaro Feast, announces there will a second feast taking place in September this year.
* * * * * *
We are in the countdown until "Hopper Hits Vegas." Of course we mean Jimmy Hopper who, accompanied by his six-piece band, plays the Suncoast showroom on Mother's Day weekend, May 12th and 13th. We have mentioned this entertainer before as he is one of our favorites. Before taking to the road, Jimmy was a Vegas mainstay, first at the Rio's Voodoo Lounge and then at Bellagio's beautiful Fontana Room. We are hoping his weekend return means that he misses Las Vegas and will, once again, have a room to call his own. Since we can't guarantee that will happen (at least not right away), Cousin Claire suggests making reservations to see him at the Suncoast. If you haven't experienced a Hopper performance, we think you should do yourselves a favor and check him out. If you have seen him before, no sales pitch is necessary. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $!9.95 plus tax. Call (702) 636-7075 for reservations. Oh yes...do bring mom along!
* * * * * *
Whenever a show fails (be it Broadway, TV, Vegas production, whatever) it is sad because a lot of households lose their income...at least for a while. Sometimes, though, when you see something fall apart, the big question is not why it wasn't successful but why it ever made it to a stage in the first place. The problem is rarely caused by the lack of talent (performers have to work just as hard, or harder, on a mediocre show than they do on a really good one), but more because of a weak concept. Another problem is no, or poor, advertising. With all of the shows to choose from in Las Vegas, for example, that "build it and they will come" theory does not apply. A good example, we feel, is Avenue Q. We feel that the very clever and entertaining, Broadway Tony-winner, if marketed properly, could have still been running at Wynn Las Vegas. Covering taxi cabs in orange shag carpet is no way to promote a show. Then there‘s Shag With a Twist. This revue, first at the Krave nightclub at the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood) and then at the downtown Plaza, has finally thrown in the towel. Inspired by the art of Josh "Shag" Agle, in our opinion, this project probably worked better on paper (or canvas) than it did on the boards. With a very thin, difficult to understand "plot," even a talented, hard-working cast couldn't help save this one. The most interesting things about Shag With a Twist were the costumes and wigs. The fact that this show managed to last as long as it did, was not because of its universal appeal but, probably, because Mr. Agle had deep pockets and was able to support his dream longer than some of the other hopeful entertainment risk-takers who have tried and failed. Then there's television. What may have been the worst idea for a reality/game show ever (and there have been some stinkers) was the Donny Osmond-hosted The Great American Dream Vote. You say you missed it? We are sure that Osmond wished that he had too. After only two episodes, ABC mercifully pulled the plug on this disaster. Who saw a pilot of this and said, "What a great idea for a show"? We imagine whoever it was is now a greeter at Wal-Mart. As for Mr. Osmond, by the time the dates for his next engagement at The Orleans roll around (that would be June 21st through the 24th), it might be safe for him to show his face in public again. (We‘re just joking, Donny.) Grandpa Osmond (he really is a first-time grandfather) will also be at The Orleans August 23rd through 26th.
* * * * * *
Today the world of song and dance isn't shining quite as bright, due to the recent deaths of Zola Taylor and Henry LeTang. Zola Taylor was the pretty member of the famed R&B vocal/recording group, The Platters. She was the group's first female member. If you are too young to remember, The Platters had many hits between 1955's Only You, and 1967's With This Ring. In the years between, The Great Pretender, The Magic Touch, My Prayer, Twilight Time, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Harbor Lights, all made it to the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Taylor, who left the group in 1965, was 69 years old when she died on April 30th. The Harlem-born LeTang, a Tony-winning choreographer (for 1989's Black and Blue, which also garnered a Tony for the late Ruth Brown) and a Las Vegas resident since the early ‘90s, died in a local hospital on April 26th at the age of 91. Henry, a Tap Master, taught many performers the art of the dance. Among his many students were Debbie Allen, Hinton Battle, Harry Belafonte, Milton Berle, Lola Falana, Savion Glover, Joey Heatherton, Gregory Hines and brother Maurice Hines, Jr., Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Betty Hutton, Bette Midler, Chita Rivera, Ben Vereen and Flip Wilson. Henry also worked on Broadway's Sophisticated Ladies and Eubie! as well as the films The Cotton Club and Tap. Although he closed his Vegas dance studio a few years ago, LeTang continued to do private teaching until recently. Henry's third wife, Ellie, passed away in 2002. A bit of trivia - Ellie LeTang and Gregory Hines both celebrated their birthdays on Valentine's Day.
* * * * * *
Last minute news...It's official. Caesars Palace has signed Bette Midler to headline their Colosseum when Celine Dion departs at the end of this year. Beginning February 20th, Bette will do 100 dates a year in Las Vegas. Bette's schedule will still leave plenty of time for both Elton John and Jerry Seinfeld to continue performing in the theater. Would you believe that even though the Divine Miss M doesn't open for nine months, tickets are already on sale? At the Flamingo, after a sold-out engagement at the Suncoast, singer Gino Vannelli (I Just Wanna Stop and Living Inside Myself) will join Toni Braxton (Breathe Again and Un-Break My Heart) and George Wallace as regular performers at the mid-Strip property. And just down the Strip, the yet-to-open Palazzo (adjacent to The Venetian) will become the Las Vegas home to the Broadway hit, Jersey Boys. It is interesting to note that, although Frankie Valli (who turned 70 yesterday) seems unable to find a Vegas room to perform in, a musical about his life with the Four Seasons is a red hot commodity. That's show biz, folks.
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
Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye