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 May 18, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - May 18, 2007

Freddie Whoever Don Rickles Frank Sinatra Jr.

And the saga continues. It seems that entertainer Freddie What's-His-Name is having second thoughts about having a DNA test to prove or disprove his paternity (want to take bets on how this turns out?). The former Freddie House, who had his name legally changed to Freddie Eckstine a few months ago, is still trying to convince the public - booking agents, journalists, audience members, and even the REAL Eckstine family - that he is the son of the late romantic balladeer, Billy Eckstine. Until now, Freddie has avoided taking a test that could clear up this mess, once and for all. For months and months, he has come up with plenty of excuses for not doing a DNA test but has now decided he must step up to the plate and do this. As we go to press, a date of May 25th has been set for Freddie and Billy's daughter, Gina Eckstine, to both be tested in Van Nuys, California. It will take five to 10 days to get the results back. When that happens, depending on the outcome, the Eckstine family (there are seven legal offspring of Mr. B) will either welcome Freddie into the family and support him in his career, OR insist that he stop all the claims of any blood relationship between he and their father. (If the DNA doesn't match up, Freddie will more than likely throw his own mother under the train and blame her for his making this claim in the first place.) Call us skeptics, but by early June, we have a feeling that Freddie House Eckstine may be singing a different tune, I Apologize would be a good start, to his seven purported siblings...and, hopefully, to his mother.

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On Tuesday night, just one week past his 81st birthday, Don Rickles was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. In talking about Old Vegas, and specifically Rickles, friendship with Frank Sinatra, the caustic comic spoke of the 1963 kidnapping of 19-year-old Frank Sinatra Jr. Don told Dave that the reason the kidnappers released Sinatra Jr. is because "they heard him humming in the trunk." (Truth be told, Sinatra Sr. paid a ransom to get his son back. The kidnappers were eventually caught.) Veteran Vegas entertainer, Rickles, who has a new book out (his autobiography is imaginatively called Rickles' Book), will return to the Golden Nugget stage May 25th through the 28th. For reservations, call (702) 385-7111 or (866) 946-5336.

And speaking of the Golden Nugget, Simply Ballroom will end its run at the end of the month. Moving into the 600-seat showroom will be Defending the Caveman, a show that was originally scheduled to play at the Steve Wyrick Entertainment Complex. We will talk more about the Caveman in coming weeks. And, no, we don't think this piece of theater has anything to do with the Geico Insurance commercials.

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The public will soon have an opportunity to see what has been keeping Clint Holmes busy since September when he departed the Harrah's showroom where he had spent the last six years entertaining thousands of music lovers. The musical JAM, an acronym for Just Another Man that tells the story of Clint's life, will have its world premiere right here in Southern Nevada when it debuts in UNLV's Judy Bayley Theatre on June 1st. There will be 22 performances, running through June 24th. The book for the show was written by Holmes, acting coach Larry Moss and Bill Fayne. Fayne, who has been Clint's musical director for many years, and Holmes also wrote the music, and lyrics are by Holmes. Presented by the Nevada Conservatory Theatre, JAM features Reva Rice (Fosse, Chicago and Starlight Express), Earl Turner, Gayle Steele (Clint‘s talented sister), Tezz Yancey (Starlight Express and with Tony Perry, Soul Desire), Kyla Grogan, Celeste Lero, Bill Fayne (one of the Las Vegas Tenors). Regie Brown, Karole Foreman (Mamma Mia!), Tina Walsh (the original Donna Sheridan in Mandalay Bay's Mamma Mia!) and, of course, Homes himself. To purchase tickets, call (702) 895-ARTS. Here's a bit of trivia (and you know how we love trivia)...In 2003, Comfortable Shoes, an earlier version of Clint's life story, written by Holmes and Nelson Cole, played for six weeks at Chicago‘s Royal George Theatre. The show received decent reviews but then seemed to disappear. Maybe this go-round will prove more successful and longer lasting for Holmes and company.

As for Nelson Cole, the New York-born composer/arranger/pianist has some Las Vegas history as keyboard player and/or musical director for headliners including Dionne Warwick, Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, Ann Jillian, Lorna Luft, and Ben Vereen. His CD, Nelson Kole, produced the hit single Tattoo. Kole was co-composer/arranger on Comedy Central's highly rated series Prime Time Glick starring Martin Short, and he also collaborated with Billy Crystal writing "out take" songs for Crystal's character, the One-Eyed Monster, in the Disney/Pixar animated feature, Monsters, Inc. Nelson's first foray as a writer for theater began with Dennis the Musical, an adaptation of the popular Dennis the Menace comic strip character. The show starred the late Tom Poston as Mr. Wilson.

Clint Holmes Martin Nievera Jimmy Hopper

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We are sorry to report that, for now anyway, there is no place in Las Vegas where fans of Martin Nievera can see him perform. He may or may not return to the Steve Wyrick Entertainment Complex in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood sometime in June. Personally, we would like to see the very talented and personable Filipino singing star in another venue - one that is easier to find and has closer, more convenient parking. The Wyrick complex has had a cloud hanging over it for months and months. Construction delays put the anticipated opening way off schedule, causing at least one potential tenant (the acts rent the theater) to bow out. As mentioned above, Defending the Caveman, at one time expected to do their thing at the Wyrick Complex, will instead move into the Golden Nugget showroom, following the departure of Simply Ballroom at the end of this month. We can't say enough about Martin Nievera. This man is too good not to have a permanent home in Las Vegas. Some smart entertainment director could make Martin the next Vegas headliner, ala Gordie Brown, Lance Burton, Danny Gans, Mac King, et al. Is anybody listening?

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We are declaring last weekend's Jimmy Hopper shows at the Suncoast a hit. Saturday night saw the west Las Vegas hotel/casino's theater just about completely filled. The room seats about 500 at maximum capacity and there were about 460 music lovers in attendance. Hopper, who plays both guitar and piano, was enhanced by five extremely talented musicians - the lovely Mira Khomik on violin, Gregory Davis on guitar, Jon Pruitt on keyboard, Bob Fowler on bass and Matt Curran on drums. We are not sure if the majority of the people who were in the audience because they were already fans of this talented Hopper or because they were curious. Whatever the reason, we doubt that anyone left disappointed (well, maybe one person, but that‘s another story and we‘re not going there). It almost doesn't matter what your music preferences are, Hopper will magically hit the right notes, whether it's a Cole Porter tune (a unique take on Night and Day); Harry Chapin's Cat's In The Cradle; the Kansas hit, Dust In The Wind; a West Side Story segment; Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed; Toto's Rosanna; Jimmy Webb's 1968 hit MacArthur Park (sung by Richard Harris) or Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars (a group and song Cousin Claire was not familiar with but liked very much), you are bound to hear something, or a lot of somethings, that you like. Sunday's head count was a little lighter, but we feel there is a logical explanation for that. Sunday, a tough night to begin with, was Mother's Day. With the Hopper show starting at 7:30, it was a bit rushed to take mom out to dinner (and we KNOW mom doesn't want to cook on her special day) and then be in line for a 7:30 curtain. In spite of that, there were approximately 320 people, many who had been there the night before. This was a test for Mr. Hopper. Could this androgynous looking, opera/pop/Broadway singing entertainer, who in his previous presentations in Las Vegas (primarily the Rio's Voodoo Lounge and Bellagio's Fontana Room) could be enjoyed for the price of a couple of drinks, draw a ticket-buying crowd (prices ranged from $22 to $44 a person) to a showroom? The answer, based on the two nights at the Suncoast, seems to be "yes."

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Call it ironic, call it sad, call it a waste, whatever. As we approach the opening of another round of CineVegas, we have just learned of the passing of journalist and filmmaker, Tim Onosko. Following a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer, Tim died at his home in Madison, Wisconsin, on March 6th. He was only 60 years old. If the name isn't familiar, it's probably because you weren't among the few hundred moviegoers who were lucky enough to see Lost Vegas: The Lounge Era when it premiered at the Palm's Brenden Theaters during the CineVeags film festival in 2005. With his wife of 20 years, Beth Abrohams, Onosko made this documentary, chronicling the world of Las Vegas lounge performers that began in the 1950s. Magician/actor Ricky Jay narrates the film. "It was like finding a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk," Onosko said of the film's subject. "I couldn't believe their stories hadn't been told." It was Tim's dream to tell them. His initial inspiration for this project was the late Sonny King. King was among the Strip pioneers who were interviewed and filmed by Onosko as a part of the history of the smaller, open rooms where fun and music would go on into the wee small hours of the morning. It wasn't at all unusual for major headliners, like Johnny Carson and Bill Cosby to join the lounge stars on their stages. Filmmaking was yet another career in Onosko‘s impressive history. After his death, Valerie J. Nelson of the L.A. Times wrote of him, "Within the Disney empire, Tim Onosko was known as the go-to guy for the future. By often accurately forecasting how technology would alter the entertainment landscape, he developed a reputation as a high-tech soothsayer. At Disney, he helped refine the newly opened Epcot in Florida in the 1980s by steering the theme park's designers toward cutting-edge gadgets. He also played a more ethereal role: By celebrating what technology could do, according to company executives, Onosko helped the engineers and designers known as Imagineers lose their fear of stepping into the future." Before joining Walt Disney, Onosko was a journalist who covered technology and pop culture. In 1978 he had published a book on amusement parks called Funland U.S.A. In 1979, he published Wasn't the Future Wonderful? The book, drawn from Popular Mechanics and other science magazines from the 1930s, was filled with often dead-on predictions of such things as superhighways, moon rockets and backyard bomb shelters. Onosko wrote about Epcot (in an article titled Tomorrow Lands) for Omni magazine in 1982. The magazine piece led to Onosko being hired at Disney. He served as a consultant at Walt Disney World and played an important role in the shaping of EPCOT. Onosko was identified as a "'future' historian" in an appearance on The MacNeil/Lehrer Report where he anticipated the advent of the Internet community that would start forming in the 1990s. "New technologies are giving us new fields, new areas of expression, new tools for expression," he said on the show. "Machines are in fact opening up a remarkable world for people who...are finding brand new avenues of expression." In 2003, he moved to Universal Studios to help develop new ways for consumers to view content. Onosko commuted from his home in Madison to work in Los Angeles but after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he did not want to fly as much and turned to filmmaking. After seeing Lost Vegas two years ago, Cousin Claire was so enthused, she contacted our esteemed mayor, Oscar Goodman, to see if he would get behind efforts to bring the film back here for a wider audience to see. We are sorry to report that our good mayor never acknowledged or responded to our request for his assistance. Even though Tim Onosko is no longer here to see his hard work pay off, we are going to get back on the bandwagon and see if we can help fulfill his dream. Stay tuned.

Tim Onosko & Beth Abrohams Genevieve Jerry Mathers

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Genevieve (she just uses the one name) keeps a busy schedule. The talented vocalist will be at the Bootlegger Bistro next Friday night (May 25th) from 10:00 until 12:30 a.m. On Thursday, the 31st, she will be one of the guests in the Suncoast's afternoon revue, Hit Parade. If you have a Coast Club Players Card (and it costs nothing but a few minutes of your time to get one), you can see the 2 p.m. Hit Parade shows (running through the summer) for free. Genevieve will also perform with Millard Jackson twice in June, first on Friday the 8th from 7 to 10 p.m., poolside at The Orleans, and again on Father's Day Sunday (June 16th) at Gordon Biersch, from noon to 3 p.m.

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On June 5th, Jerry Mathers will make his Broadway debut when he takes on the role of Wilbur Turnblad in the Tony-winning musical, Hairspray. Mathers is probably best known for his role as little Beaver Cleaver of the TV series, Leave It To Beaver. Now 58 (how could that be?), Mathers is scheduled to play the role in New York for three months. Dick Letessa won a Tony Award portraying Wilbur on Broadway before coming to Las Vegas to recreate the role in the Luxor's short-lived version of Hairspray. In the original 1988 John Waters film, starring Divine and Ricki Lake, Wilbur Turnblad was played by another Jerry, Jerry Stiller. In the soon-to-be-released film (look for it in July), John Travolta (in a dress) will play Edna Turnblad (portrayed by Harvey Fierstein on Broadway, and for a short time in Las Vegas) and Christopher Walken takes on the role of Wilbur. With Michelle Pfeifer, Queen Latifah and the rest of the star-studded cast, maybe the new movie will do better than the live production did in our fair city.

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If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area during the next week, we highly recommend the uber-talented Jason Graae in his newest one man show, Graae's Anatomy (his first one man presentation, Coup de Graae!, earned Jason last year‘s New York NIGHTLIFE Award for Best Musical Comedy). With musical director Alex Rybeck at the piano and direction by Heather Lee, you can see Graae's Anatomy at the famed El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood tomorrow (Saturday, the 19th) at 1 p.m., Sunday at 8 p.m. and on the 23rd and 26th at 8 p.m. On Monday and Tuesday (the 21st and 22nd) at 8 p.m., you can also catch Jason as a guest star in the Los Angeles Opera's Merry Widow at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. Call (213) 972-8001 for reservations. The New York Times said of the multi-talented entertainer, "Jason Graae is a frisky clown with a real tenor," while Variety declared him "A superb comic...with extraordinary range and versatility." Jason was one of the participants in last October's tribute to Jerry Herman at UNLV. With Donald Pippin on piano, and Karen Morrow and Paige O'Hara joining Jason in song, Hello, Jerry! was one of the highlights of last season's New York Stage & Beyond series at our university. If you have the opportunity to see this man anywhere, on his own or as part of an ensemble cast, jump at the chance. We guarantee, you won't be sorry.

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