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 25, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - May 25, 2007

Gordie Brown Wayne Brady Monti Rock III

Spent an interesting Thursday evening at The Venetian. At 7:30 last night, we attended award-winning entertainer Gordie Brown's show in the Venetian Showroom. This guy is a riot. He does terrific vocal impressions, both singing and talking (Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Neil Young, Barenaked Ladies, Garth Brooks, Eminem, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Julio Iglesias, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christopher Walken, Louie Armstrong, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ozzy Osbourne, Larry King, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, to mention just a handful), but Gordie's even stronger suit is his quick wit and skill as a comic. With his expressive, malleable face, and a few simple props, not only do you get the sound of the performers, you also get an uncanny physical resemblance with many of his characterizations, but it's Gordie's material, as much as his delivery, that captures the audience. His team of backup musicians - Jeff Neiman on keyboards, Keith Nelson on bass, Adam Shendal on drums, Steven Swinford on guitar and Rocco Barbato on saxophone - are unsung heroes (although they may sing in the shower) and more than deserve a big round of applause. It is not unusual for Gordie to throw in something unexpected. These guys have to be prepared for that, and they are. We have seen the Canadian-born Gordie Brown a number of times. Prior to his current engagement at The Venetian, he spent some time as the headliner at the Golden Nugget (where he was known as Downtown Gordie Brown). As a matter of fact, the Nugget's Director of Entertainment, Ron O'Neal, and Dana Stern, the hotel/casino's Entertainment Manager, were both at Thursday night's show. We don't know of a harder working entertainer in this city than good guy Gordie (and the fan in the front row who got the "Elvis scarf," couldn't agree more). He deserves his well-earned success.

Following Gordie's performance, we saw Wayne Brady's 9:30 show in the same theater. After a "test run" at The Venetian that ran from April 5th through May 3rd, Brady returns for another engagement , this time through July 1st. He obviously did well enough to come back for round two. Our guess is, if all goes well, Brady could become a permanent/semi-permanent fixture around these parts. If you are a regular reader, you know that we were not too happy with the fact that, in spite of the show's being called Making %@it Up, it's 9:30 time slot, and tickets and signage at the box office stating a minimum age of 16 to attend Brady's (and Gordie's) performances, on more than one occasion, children considerably younger than 16 have been in Brady's audience. We feel this changes the mood in the room, and the rules that apply to some should apply to all...even if they are family members, which in Brady's case, they were. So, here's the good news. We really enjoyed Mr. Brady's show. He is very talented, as a singer and dancer, and is very fast on those dancing feet when it comes to comedy improvisation. His comedy-cohort, Jonathon Mangum, does more than his fair share to assist and enhance Brady's fun-filled shtick, and deserves more credit than he receives. You may know Wayne as one of the stars of ABC TV's Whose Line Is It Anyway? (for which he earned an Emmy), a onetime talk-show host (for which he won some Daytime Emmys), and as host of FOX's Celebrity Duets. It may surprise you to know, though, that the Florida-born Brady also played the role of conniving lawyer (is there any other kind?) Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of the musical, Chicago. This man makes a nice addition to the Vegas scene. He also seems to be a very real, nice gentleman. We can honestly recommend this unique and entertaining variety show to the masses but, please Wayne, stick to the rules so that your audience can enjoy an adult evening out without the kids - theirs or anybody else's. Now, having said that, call (702) 414-9000 or (866) 641-7469 and make your reservations. Shows are at 9:30 p.m. (as mentioned above), Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are $69 and $89 plus tax and handling fees. A bit of trivia...Wayne Brady will turn 35 on June 2nd. Happy birthday, and welcome to Las Vegas.

There was only one low point in last night's outing. We witnessed an ugly scene featuring a local used-to-be semi-celebrity behaving extremely badly. This fool rudely burst into a conversation between two local media types, and when the person who had been speaking said "excuse me," to try and get this ill-mannered buffoon to wait until she had finished her conversation, the great pretender turned to her, snarling, swearing and calling her filthy names in front of a number of people. No one who knows this character considers him to be "normal," but this was inexcusable behavior...even for him. It may help explain why, in his almost 10 years living in Las Vegas, this loose cannon has yet to be taken seriously or given the kind of respect and attention that he, and only he, feels he deserves. I am sure you want to know who the bad guy is. We are happy to tell you. It is the one and only (thank God there is only one) Sir Monti Rock III. Who, you ask, is Monti Rock? Our point exactly. If you ask him, the soon-to-be 68-year-old will tell you, or anybody who will listen, that he was a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson approximately 70 times (although in a 2003 Las Vegas Review-Journal interview, he was much more specific, claiming it was 84 times). He must be counting in dog years. According to the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB), between 1970 and 1973, Rock was a Carson guest 18 times. He did have a couple of recordings decades ago. One of them, Get Dancin', that he did under the name of Disco Tex & The Sex-o-Lettes, was fairly successful. Also he did have a minor role in the movie Saturday Night Fever. The one thing Monti IS honest about is his own, often repeated, statement that he has no act. He's right about that. He also has no manners, common sense or boundaries. Here's a frightening bit of information...this guy is now a Reverend and allowed to perform marriage ceremonies! "This town needs me," said the delusional Reverend Rock in a published story of a couple of years ago. No, Monti, it doesn't.

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Nathan Burton suffered a major meltdown on Monday. The comic-magician, who currently can be seen in the V Theater in Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops, was scheduled for a much publicized stunt at the beginning of the week. Burton was to be encased in ice for a period of 24 hours. If this had been done inside the mall, instead of outdoors in front of the hotel/casino, the media-seeking performer may have lasted for more than the not quite eight hours he was able to hang in for. It seems that the ice was magically disappearing, thanks to the bright Las Vegas sunshine. Interestingly, this was an anticipated problem. Not to worry. The planners behind the gimmick stated that the nine-ton M-shaped (for Miracle Mile) block of ice could withstand temperatures of up to 100-degrees for as long as three days. Back to the drawing board, folks. The temps never got to 100, but sensing that Nathan could be at risk, the plug (although there was no plug) was pulled mid-afternoon. Burton will survive this bump in his career road. He has had, and will continue to have, more than his fair share of exposure. Not only was he part of the Wayne Newton-hosted cable talent competition, The Entertainer on the E! Channel, he also appeared on the first season of NBC's America's Got Talent. (Burton wound up in the finals but was beat out be a very talented kid singer named Bianca Ryan. We hear Nathan will return to America's Got Talent as a guest during its new season. Look for the show's two-hour premiere on June 5th. You can see Nathan Burton's Comedy Magic at the V Theater. Call (702) 932-1818 for reservations.

Nathan Burton David Pomeranz The Friends of Distinction

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We just got word that the scheduled Joe Williams concert has been cancelled, at least for anytime soon. The annual event, started by Mr. Williams in 1989, continued on after his death in 1999. Many entertainers have taken part in the concerts over the years, among them Bill Acosta, Pete Barbutti, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ruth Brown, Artie Butler, Robert Goulet, Buddy Greco, Clint Holmes, Jack Jones, Cork Proctor and Marlena Shaw. This year's headliner was originally expected to be Keely Smith, a good choice as Ms. Smith hasn't been seen around these parts for some time (she has been kept busy performing around the country, including her well-reviewed turn at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York). When the date for the event was changed from May 20th to June 3rd, and the location was changed from the showroom at The Orleans to the South Point, it was announced that the headliner was also changing. Now, instead of Keely, it was going to be singing impressionist Bob Anderson in the star spot. At any rate, you can now plan something else to do on June 3rd. We will keep you apprised of any upcoming information about this worthwhile and entertaining event.

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Matsuri, the "Muscle Musical" from Japan, could be the shot in the arm that the Sahara needs. For the most part, in recent years, there has been very little reason to go to the Sahara. Steve Wyrick? What can we say about the humble Mr. Wyrick that he hasn't already said about himself? The Scintas? Although they are a talented family group, this was their third location in Las Vegas. The four person revue opened in a lounge at the Hilton and then, thanks to the creativity and faith of Blair Farrington, expanded the little show that could and moved it into the theater at the Rio. Trent Carlini? Trent is a very talented Elvis Presley tribute artist, maybe even the best, but fans of The King can see Elvis impersonators in any number of hotels in the city (Stratosphere, Imperial Palace, The Orleans and/or Suncoast, and, at some point in the not too distant future, at the new City Center Cirque du Elvis). Tropical Passions? The problem plagued revue had to (try to) compete with Siegfried and Roy's Latin-themed Havana Night Club at the Stardust. No contest. David Saxe's Buck Wild? More people went to see Greg Thompson's Bareback, another country-flavored dance show, at Harrah's. Why? Maybe because it was at Harrah's as opposed to the Sahara. Saturday Night Fever (the musical)? No name stars. A "B" production and not enough people that cared to see it. And so goes the recent history of the Sahara Theater. Now there's Matsuri. We saw the revue during its seven week run at the Riviera a year ago. We thought it was one of the best new production shows we had seen here in a long, long time. We were quite surprised that, when the old and tired Splash closed at the Riv, the hotel didn't bring Matsuri back to take its place in the main showroom.

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The extremely talented David Pomeranz will perform two shows at the Steve Wyrick Entertainment Complex, both on Friday, June 1st. Times are at 7 and 9 p.m. We have mentioned the multi-platinum award-winning Pomeranz, before, but in case you are a new reader or missed it earlier, here's a bit more about this fellow. David Pomeranz may not be a household name (yet), but chances are you are familiar with at least two of the songs he has written. Barry Manilow owes David a great big thank you for a couple of his hits, Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again and The Old Songs, both written by Pomeranz. David has also written a terrific show based on the life of Charlie Chaplin. In 1992, his Little Tramp The Musical was recorded in Europe. The hard-to-find CD features a few names you may have heard, or heard of, before. Among the voices involved in this project are Mel Brooks, Petula Clark, Tim Curry, Richard Harris, Lea Salonga, Treat Williams and Pomeranz himself. It's a great score. Last month, Saving Aimee, with book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford, premiered at the Signature Theatre in Virginia. Music for the show, starring Carolee Carmello and based on the life of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, was written by Mr. Pomeranz and David Friedman. There is much more to this man, though, than his songwriting skills. He is also a consummate performer, singing and playing piano and guitar - all very well. Up until now, David, a New Yorker who now makes his home in Florida, has only been seen in Las Vegas by a select few. He was invited to do a number or two at the Bootlegger Bistro or with Clint Holmes at Harrah's. He has also done a few private events here and did a one night performance at the exclusive (i.e., private) Stirling Club last November. Next Friday's booking at the Wyrick theater will be the first chance for the masses in this neck of the woods to really see and hear this man. We urge you to do so.

And speaking of Barry Manilow (and we were), one of the backup singers for his current Las Vegas Hilton engagement is Monica Pege. Pege has a long and impressive resume. She is much more than just a backup singer to Mr. Manilow. In addition to being one of the early (and big) winners on Star Search in the 1980s, Pege has appeared on TV in episodes of Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere and on Broadway in Smokey Joe's Café (1995-2000). Pege has been with Mr. Copacabana for many years. His other vocal cohorts are Maryann Towne, Keely Vasquez, Kye Brackett and Melanie Taylor.

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Tomorrow (Saturday, May 26th), it's Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Gary Lewis & The Playboys and The Friends of Distinction who will be entertaining the Club Crowd at The Cannery. In 1969, the Los Angeles-based Friends had two top hits on the Billboard charts, Grazing In The Grass (that one got to No. 3) and Going In Circles (No. 15). The following year, Love Or Let Me Be Lonely reached No. 6. Today, founding member Harry Elston (who makes his home in Las Vegas), Wendy Smith-Bruné , Geno Henderson and Berlando Drake make up the R&B group. They still perform around the country but this is an all too rare booking in our city. This concert, which begins at 4 p.m., is sponsored by radio station KJUL, and admission is free. For additional information, call (702) 617-5585 or toll free at (866) 287-4643. The Cannery Casino & Hotel is located at 2121 E. Craig Road (corner of Losee) in North Las Vegas.

Also tomorrow night (May 26th), Boulder Station will present Toto in the Railhead __

In case you were sleeping through the late 1970s and '80s, this group is responsible for hits such as Africa, Rosanna, Hold The Line, I Won't Hold You Back and I'll Be over You. There is an interesting (at least we think it's interesting) connection between the Los Angeles-based pop-rock group and Las Vegas. In early 1986, after landing a spot in the semi-finals on TV's Star Search (the American Idol of the '80s), Joseph Williams joined the talented six-piece Toto as their lead vocalist. Joseph, the son of multi-Oscar-winner John Williams (composer of some of the most recognizable movie music ever - ET, Jaws, Star Wars, Valley of the Dolls, Poseidon Adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Towering Inferno, Superman and Schindler's List, to name a few) and the late actress, Barbara Ruick, was one of the principals in Dream Street, a talent-filled (with Monica Pege, mentioned above, and Darcus among them) production that played both the Dunes and the Desert Inn. Showtime for Toto is at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $27.50 plus tax. Call (702) 547-5300 for reservations and for additional information regarding Toto.

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As mentioned in last Friday's column, the multi-talented Jason Graae has been busy in Southern California for the last few weeks. Although it's too late to see him in the Los Angeles Opera's version of The Merry Widow (his run at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion has ended), you still can catch him on May 23rd and 26th at the El Portal Theater in Hollywood where he is performing in his one man show, Graae's Anatomy. Check out this fellow. You will be glad that you did.

Jason Graae Kenny Harlow Barry Minniefield

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Get out your bidding paddles and your checkbooks, folks. On May 30th and 31st, in spite of his attempts to stop it, the Hard Rock Hotel will be the site of an auction of personal items belonging to Wacko Jacko, that's Michael Joseph Jackson if you're nasty, and other members of the occasionally tarnished musical family. Among the thousands of things scheduled to be sold are drawings by Michael, tour memorabilia and more. Guernsey's Auctions out of New York is handling the sale. If you have no interest in owning anything that once belonged to a Jackson, but are curious to know what is being offered for sale, a catalog is available for $25 plus shipping. For more information, call ( 212) 794-2280, or go to

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And speaking of money...Forget those occasional MegaBucks winners you read about. The big winners are the fellows who run some of the local gaming empires. According to Monday's Las Vegas Review-Journal, with his salary, stock and other perks, Terry Lanni, Chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage, leads the pack earning a whopping $15,687,121 annually (no gamble there). Following Lanni (in descending order) are Gary Loverman, Chairman and CEO of Harrah's Entertainment, with $14,239,845; Frank Fertitta III, Chairman and CEO of Station Casinos, at $11,992,113; and "poor" Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts Ltd., at a paltry $9,962,915. Continuing, in dwindling down order, the list includes TJ Matthews, Chairman and CEO of International Gaming Technology (IGT makes gaming equipment) at $8,643,713; Edward Herbst, Chairman and CEO of Herbst Gaming, making $8,412,500; William S. Boyd, Chairman and CEO of Boyd Gaming Corp., $7,683,242; Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., $5,844,770; Daniel Lee, Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment at $2,764,455; Richard Haddrill, CEO of Bally Technologies, $2,625,959; and the lowly William Westerman, Chairman and CEO of Riviera Holdings Corp., who earns only $1,244,363. Who says gambling doesn't pay off? Surely not us.

And speaking of gambling...How about comic Andrew Dice Clay going into the Steve Wyrick Entertainment Complex for the Memorial Day weekend? Clay last foray into Vegas entertainment took place at the Luxor. In his black leather jacket, Bad Boy Clay is best known for stirring up controversy. In addition to his on-stage comedy acts such as Dice Rules, Face Down, Ass Up and Dice, Clay has also been featured in films, such as The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, No Contest and Pretty In Pink, and in the TV sitcom Bless This House. Controversial misogynous comedian, Andrew Dice Clay, will perform Friday, Saturday and Sunday (May 25th, 26th and 27th) with shows at 10:45 p.m. Ticket prices range from $70 for general admission to $169 for VIP preferred seating located in the first four rows. The VIP package also includes back stage passes, drinks for two and a private photo opportunity. All taxes and service fees are included. Leave the kiddies at home for this one.

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Gerald Gordon is up to his usual tricks. He calls himself an acting coach. We call him a magician. This man manages to take people with very little, if any, acting experience and magically turn them into actors. Some of these folks have backgrounds in dance and/or singing but have never acted before. Last Sunday, we attended another one of Gordon's infamous Actor's Showcases. This group of thespians included Paula Allen, Rolando Barone, Mike Cardella Jr. (who aspires to do standup comedy like his mother, Pudgy!), Cara Dace, Dawn Davidson, Nathan Ferrier, Kenny Harlow (who currently spends his nights as a dancer in the Toni Braxton show at the Flamingo), James Lake, Rocky Self and Grant Zabielski (recently one of the stars of Shag With a Twist). There were a number of standout performances, but the ones that stay in our minds were done by Barone, Cardella and Harlow. As he has stated before, Gordon swears this was his last (he's tired after having taught since 1957, both in Los Angeles and Las Vegas) class/showcase. We doubt that. He usually caves in to the requests of hopeful Academy Award-winners (Adrien Brody, Oscar-winner for his tour de force role in The Pianist, is a former Gordon student). You will be hearing more about Gordon and his former (and future) students, mark our words.

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We have been hearing good things about blues singer, Barry Minniefield, who is currently one of the alternating opening acts for Roseanne Barr at New York-New York. We wish we had more info on Mr. Minniefield. We promise to share anything more that we learn about him in next week's column. Roseanne and special guests are scheduled to play at NY-NY until mid-June. Shows are at 8 p.m., Fridays through Tuesdays. Call (702) 740-6815 for reservations.

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Peter Max will make an in-person appearance at his Art of Peter Max Gallery, located on the Terrace Level of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace this weekend. You can meet the pop artist on Saturday, from 6 to 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The gallery is located on the Terrace Level at the Forum Shops. And you thought we had no culture.

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