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.  
She’s...

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from June 01, 2007
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - June 1, 2007

Michael Darrin Juliet Prowse John O'Hurley

It's hard to keep a good man down...unless it's Down Under, in Australia. In case you've been wondering how Emmy-winning choreographer/costume designer Michael Darrin has been doing, the word that comes to mind is "amazing." Darrin has been battling a debilitating illness for a couple of years and, although he now spends much of his time in a wheel chair and needs help doing many of the things most of us take for granted, this fighter has just returned from seven weeks in Australia. No, he wasn't there to undergo some new medical treatment, he was there to put together a new production show. He claims he did it via "mental telepathy" (and a couple of skilled assistants). This illness is not the first major medical challenge Darrin has faced during his lifetime. In 1980, his career and life almost ended when he was struck by a hit and run driver while crossing a street about a mile from the Strip. His skull was split open, he suffered broken ribs, a broken shoulder and his right leg was mutilated. When doctors suggested the leg might have to be amputated, Darrin threatened legal action. He didn't care what condition his leg was in, he wanted it to remain attached to his body. Needless to say, this native of South Philadelphia got his way. The accident ended the dancing portion of Michael's career (he had worked with both Juliet Prowse and Cyd Charisse), but didn't knock him out of the game. When he recovered, he turned his energies to choreography. Much like Bob Fosse, Darrin's work is instantly recognizable, conveying a style that is all his own. His latest project, Zingara (it's the name of a Gypsy Queen), had a lavish opening at the Gold Coast's Conrad Jupiter Hotel & Casino on May 14th and is expected to run for at least a year. The production features 14 female dancers, eight Cossack dancers, singer Alissi, female magician Galina, comic/trampoline artist Dubon Nicloe, a five-man Globe of Death act from France and Stefon La Statue from Paris among the large cast. (As we have no way of verifying the spelling of these names, we are hoping they are accurate.) Michael's reputation as a tough taskmaster preceded him. The dancers he worked with expected to have to deal with a diva (we can‘t imagine why). That didn't happen. Hard to say who was more surprised, the choreographer himself or the cast members. Michael Darrin brings a very impressive resume to Zingara. The Emmy-winner (for the 17th annual American Music Awards show) has a resume as long as a shapely leg on one of his skilled dancers. Award-winning revues including Sassy Class, Les Vamps, Zoom, Rage, Passion, Magic Magic, Wild Things, Night Beat, X-Treme, Aireus, Pazazz, Bottoms Up and Paula Abdul's Cold-Hearted Snake, all bare the stamp of Darrin's creativity. Described as "A shadow of a smile, a whisper of a promise, a glimpse into a world unlike any you have seen before. This is the world of Zingara. The beautiful Gypsy Queen will transport you through the crystal ball to the bohemian Europe of old in Conrad Jupiters' most spectacular stage show extravaganza yet. Prepare yourself for a fantasy journey like no other, filled with music, dance, illusion, acrobatics and death-defying stunts and be seduced by the spell of Zingara. Combine an awe-inspiring journey into a world filled with music, dance, illusion, acrobats and death-defying stunts in the world of our latest stage spectacular, Zingara. "

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It's that time of year again. Golden Rainbow, the city's oldest and most successful AIDS fundraising event, will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 23rd and 24th, in the Jubilee Theater at Bally's. This is year number 21 for the annual Ribbon of Life production, and the theme for 2007 is the Glamour of Hollywood. Last year's two shows generated about $250,000 in revenue. Needless to say, much like Jerry Lewis' annual telethons, Golden Rainbow anticipates topping that number this year. The King of Wynn Las Vegas' Spamalot, John O'Hurley, will be a special guest. It's always about the music - whether dancing, singing or both - and it's always performed primarily by the often taken-for-granted production folks, known as "gypsies." There have been main room headliners who have participated on occasion - Charo, Sheena Easton, Loretta Holloway, Clint Holmes, Jimmy Hopper, Kenny Kerr, Phyllis McGuire, Liza Minnelli, Dana Rogers, Lucy (Lucille) Shropshire, Billy Stritch, Rip Taylor, George Wallace, Tina Walsh and Weathergirl Martha Wash among them - but the majority of the talent consists of the hundreds of cast members of American Superstars, Asian Pacific Performing Arts Alliance, Chippendales, Celine Dion's A New Day, Crazy Horse Paris, Fantasy, Folies Bergere, Jubilee!, Ka, Le Reve, Mamma Mia!, MGM Grand Productions, Missy Cochran Entertainment, O, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, The Producers, Pussycat Dolls Lounge, Rat Pack, Rio Bevertainment, Searcy Entertainment Inc., Sirens of TI, Spamalot, Studio 54, Tangerine, Toni Braxton Revealed and The World's Greatest Magic Show. In addition to the performers, there are many, many volunteers taking care of selling ads for programs, handling seating arrangements and, of course, selling tickets. The events always take place in the afternoon when the hard-working performers are not working in their own productions. Show times are at 1 p.m. and ticket prices are $50, $75, $100, $200 and $250 a person. There probably isn't a better entertainment bargain all year long and the money raised goes for housing and to assist locals dealing with AIDS and HIV. Seating for this event is limited. For information and/or reservations, call (702) 384-2899

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We can't be right 100% of the time. If we had been asked to make a wager regarding the likelihood of Freddie House Eckstine showing up for a scheduled DNA test in the San Fernando Valley on May 25th, we would have bet money that wouldn't happen. Surprise! The claimed heir apparent to the gene pool of the legendary Billy Eckstine actually did make the trip to California for the test. This resulted in Freddie's first encounter with Billy's daughter, Gina Eckstine, who also provided her DNA for testing purposes. If you don't know the story, a few years ago, performer Freddie House, who had been singing with a vocal group called Spectrum for more than three years, decided he wanted to be called Freddie Eckstine after being told he resembled the late singer. Freddie even went so far as to have his last name legally changed from House to Eckstine. According to REAL Eckstine family members, if he was doing it to have the name of his purported father, the name would have been changed to Eckstein, not Eckstine. The actual spelling of the family name was, and still is, Eckstein. The reason for the Eckstine spelling, used by a couple of family members for performance and business purposes only, was not because the original name sounded too Jewish as purported (it's actually German), but so others would pronounce it correctly. In a very strange reaction at a request by Gina to take his photo, Freddie bolted from the room. One would think he would have been more accommodating to a young lady who might turn out to be his sister. The results of the DNA should be available by next Friday.

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On Sunday, June 3rd, beginning at 10:30 a.m., Hogs & Heifers Saloon is hosting a bi-coastal ride to benefit Tom Urbanski, the nightclub bouncer paralyzed during the NBA All-Star weekend. A former professional wrestler, Urbanski was shot after an incident inside the club. The attack left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. A Las Vegan, he worked as a real estate agent by day, a security guard at Hogs & Heifers Saloon by night, and most recently a management position at Minxx Gentleman's Club. Currently, Urbanski is receiving rehabilitation in a Colorado treatment facility. Donations, in an effort to reduce medical costs and remodel Tom's home to accommodate his wheelchair, are greatly appreciated and are accepted at www.TommyUrbanksiFund.org, Silver State Bank and at Hogs & Heifers Saloons. Two rides, one originating at the Hogs & Heifers Saloon New York, and the other from the Third Street outpost in downtown Las Vegas, will each donate proceeds collected from registration fees, raffle tickets and a portion of the day's sales to The Tommy Urbanski Fund. More than 200 riders will travel en masse, roundtrip from the downtown Las Vegas establishment to the Pioneer Saloon in Good Springs, Nevada. Urbanski's father will send off the riders, while his sister and brother-in-law will ride his motorcycle during the benefit run. Upon return, riders and Urbanski supporters will commemorate the day with a barbecue, live entertainment courtesy of Southern Stüe and a 50/50 raffle starting at 2 p.m. Registration will take place at the saloon, located at 201 N. Third Street, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. A complimentary breakfast will be provided. Registration fees are $20 per rider and $10 for each additional rider due at check-in.

Gina Eckstein/Eckstine The Osmond Brothers Marie Osmond

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After more than four years and a thousand performances at Fitzgeralds, Steve Connolly has announced that he will end his Spirit of the King run at the downtown hotel/casino on June 18th. We are wondering if another Elvis Presley tribute artist, Trent Carlini and his Musical History of the King, might also be leaving the building - this one being the Sahara - once the hotel's new show, Matsuri, is up and running. It's hard to believe, but come August 19th, it will have been 30 years since the death of the man these entertainers pay homage to. Elvis may be gone, but his spirit, and the people who pay homage to his memory, will never die.

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On August 13th and 14th, all seven Osmond siblings - brothers Alan, Wayne, Jay, Merrill, Donny, Jimmy and sister Marie - will celebrate a half-century in show business by performing at The Orleans in Las Vegas. The show, produced by Jimmy, will be filmed for a television special to be aired on PBS in March of next year. Tickets range from $75 to $125, but put you wallets away. You're too late. We understand that the tickets were completely sold out within minutes after going on sale. Obviously, America wants to see the family back on stage. If you missed out on the live performances, you can see it all in nine months in the comfort of your own home.

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Tonight (Friday), we will be at the Wyrick Entertainment Complex in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood to see the very talented songwriter/entertainer David Pomeranz. Pomeranz, who wrote Tryin' To Get the Feeling Again and The Old Songs, two chart-toppers for Barry Manilow, will use this venue to present his one-man-show to the masses. Prior to this, his performances in Las Vegas have been limited to private events and at the members-only Stirling Club. The two shows tonight will take place at 7 and 9 p.m. The next night (Saturday), we will be back at Planet Hollywood where we will see ventriloquist extraordinaire, Ronn Lucas, at 3 p.m., Filipino star Martin Nievera at 5 p.m. (both at the Wyrick Complex) and magician Hans Klok with co-star/assistant Pamela Anderson at 7:30 p.m. The media preview for Klok and Anderson's The Beauty of Magic will take place at the Theatre for the Performing Arts and is expected to attract an eclectic mix of celebrities and other VIPs. For Klok tickets, call (702) 474-4000. For Pomeranz, Lucas or Nievera at the Wyrick Complex, call (702) 777-9974.

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Gerry McCambridge knows what's on your mind...and beginning tomorrow (June 2nd), he's going to share it with the crowd in the Night Owl Showroom at Hooters. Known as The Mentalist, Gerry McCambridge is described as having the "Most Mind Boggling Show in Las Vegas." He not only makes you laugh, he also amazes audience members by reading their minds! For years, Gerry has been known as the "Mentalist to the Stars." He has performed at private celebrity A-list parties and at comedy clubs around the country. In his 70-minute show, McCambridge will perform audience favorites from his NBC primetime special as well as some never before seen amazing mind-bending mentalism routines. For tickets, call the box office at (800) 235-5987.

Pamela Anderson Gerry McCambridge Sharon Owens

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Once a popular hangout for both visual and performing artists, this city's onetime favorite bookstore, Albion, has closed. A multi-winner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Best of Las Vegas readers poll when it came to places to buy, sell, trade and browse through the tomes, Albion seems to have met its fate, thanks to bad management. Located at Desert Inn and Eastern, Albion had been around for many years. Its demise is a loss for book lovers.

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A number of longtime Liza Minnelli fans have expressed disappointment over her Memorial Day weekend performances at the Luxor. This was Ms. Minnelli's fourth appearance in Vegas since September of last year. Some folks praised the added choreography by Liza's longtime friend, Ron Lewis (Las Vegas‘ Viva Les Girls and Bare Touch), and noted that the performer had lost about 30 pounds in the last few months. Although she may not have been in top form vocally, she is still a trouper and, as she did in November, put on a late-night show just for the city's entertainment community. For many of the local show folk, one of these special performances is the only way they can be in the audience as opposed to on the stage, as they are usually all working at the same time. It's great that one of the city's entertainment legends is keeping an old tradition alive.

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Broadway's long-running solo show, Defending the Caveman, is set to open at 8 p.m. tonight (June 1st) in the Golden Nugget's newly renovated and expanded showroom. According to the press release, Caveman has won the hearts of millions in more than 30 countries and has been translated into 15 languages. This insightful show about the ongoing misunderstandings between men and women have both sexes roaring with laughter and recognition. With hysterical looks into contemporary feminism, masculine sensitivity and the erogenous zone, Defending the Caveman mines the common themes in relationships that go straight to the funny bone." Comedian Rob Becker wrote the show during a three-year period where he made an informal study of anthropology, prehistory, psychology, sociology and mythology. Comedian Kevin Burke will star. A seasoned comedic stage actor, playwright and director, Burke has starred in the Broadway tour of Defending the Caveman since 2003. "As I've performed shows all over the world, I see couples laughing and nudging each other, then walking out of the theater arm-in-arm. I'm thrilled to bring that to Las Vegas," said Burke. "I can't guarantee that couples will never argue again after seeing Defending the Caveman, but I do guarantee their arguments will be a lot funnier." We haven't seen the Nugget's new offering yet, but from the description, we can't help but think of Robert Dubac's clever one man show, The Male Intellect: an Oxymoron, that we saw here at the Charleston Heights Arts Center in March. The personable and talented Dubac spends much of his time on the road, sharing what he has learned about the sexes with others. He will be performing his show in Denver from August 2nd through the 26th. Tickets for Defending the Caveman can be purchased at the Golden Nugget Ticket Office, or call (866) 946-5336. Show times are Wednesday through Monday at 8 p.m. with additional matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. VIP tickets will be available for $54.95 and $49.95, plus tax and service charges. Dinner and show packages are also available.

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We're not sure why, but ABC's new reality series, The Next Best Thing, scheduled for a two-hour premier last Wednesday, was aired for only one hour. We anticipated seeing a number of Las Vegas celebrity look-alikes but, apparently, we will have to wait for another week or two. We did recognize some familiar faces in previews, including Sharon Owens, the Barbra Streisand copycat who performs with Sebastian Anzaldo as Frank Sinatra in Barbra & Frank: The Concert That Never Was, doing good business at the Riviera. Stay tuned for more on The Next Best Thing.

And speaking of look-alikes, Tina Turner/Patti LaBelle impersonator Larry Edwards got some more local face time when he appeared on one of the Vegas news programs in conjunction with the well-publicized auction of memorabilia that once belonged to Michael Jackson and other Jackson family members. Edwards reports there was much to see and many memories going up on the auction block at the Hard Rock.

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We are putting this at the bottom of the column because, like newspaper in a birdcage or scum in a barrel, that's where any reference to a low-class, bottom-feeder like Monti Rock belongs. We wouldn't even waste space or time mentioning this arrogant peacock, but we are still so angered and appalled by his behavior at Wayne Brady's May 24th media gathering at The Venetian. Last week's item on this troublemaker generated a number of interesting comments. Here are some samples. "WOW on the Monti Rock piece...now how do you REALLY feel about him???," asks J.L. from Las Vegas. And, from H.G. in California, "You handled Monti's bad deeds with tact...you could have said he's a washed up spineless bitch!" An Arizona reader wrote, "Glad you slammed Monti! He is a jerk, and one wonders how he pays his bills?" Maybe the next time this character, who suffers from major delusions of grandeur, sends out his birthday or holiday Wish List, in addition to clothes (specific sizes stated), jewels, ties, phone cards and other things, he should also ask for a copy of Dale Carnegie's best-selling 1936 book, How To Win Friends And Influence People (and, yes, Mr. Rock, it is still available). Oh, never mind. Although he has a byline on a number of columns in local publications (go figure), not only can't this genius write, he can't read either.



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