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 June 15, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - June 15, 2007

Clint Holmes Brian Stokes Mitchell Jill Paice


On June 11th, reader John C. Amgwert from Bullhead City, Arizona, sent the following message to Cousin Claire...Attended two wonderful Count Basie Orchestra concerts at The Cannery Friday & Saturday nights (June 8th & 9th). During the second intermission I met a man who had been sitting at one of the tables reserved for friends of the band. He introduced himself as "I'm Freddie Eckstine; Billy Eckstine was my father." The resemblance was remarkable. Was I talking to an imposter?

Until this morning (June 15th), we could only speculate on the answer to this question. Now, without a shadow of a doubt, we can say with 88.94% accuracy, "YES, Mr. Amgwert, you were talking to an imposter." (For a "sibling to sibling" DNA test, the 88.94% findings are as good, or in Freddie's case, as bad, as it gets.)

This man isn't real, folks, he's Memorex...and Billy Eckstine is definitely not Freddie House's father. The results of the DNA test, done on May 25th, proves something that the Eckstine family already knew, Freddie is a fraud. No matter which of the many tales he told regarding how and when he "learned about his parentage" (and there are many versions), the truth of the matter is that Freddie has none of the same DNA as Gina Eckstein/Eckstine, Billy's daughter and the genuine article. Hopefully, this will put an end to Freddie's ridiculous stories and he will go back to using his real name and try to reestablish what's left of his career...and reputation.

We expect that, like he has done in the past, Mr. House will blame this whole thing on his poor mother. One of Freddie's claims was that his mother told him that Billy Eckstine was his father "when she was on her death bed." It might be noted that Freddie's mother (maiden name Jane Elizabeth Miner) is still very much alive. She must be very proud of her son.

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Attended the VIP preview for Clint Holmes' biographical musical, Just Another Man, last Thursday. This is a project that Holmes has been working on for years. An earlier incarnation, titled Comfortable Shoes, was produced and performed some time ago, the last time in 2002 during a six-week run at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago. For a time, the work in progress was called Breathe. Presented by the Nevada Conservatory Theatre, Just Another Man takes an up-close look at Clint's life, both past and present, including his rocky relationship with his father, his battle with cancer, dealing with a troubled teenage son, and his divorce following a three decades long marriage. Just Another Man is not the story of just another man, it's the very personal story of Holmes‘ family. Written by Clint, Larry Moss and Bill Fayne, Just Another Man tells of the struggles and accomplishments of singer/entertainer (and now actor) Clint Holmes. The tale takes the audience from 1944 through today - from the meeting of Clint's parents - his father, a black American jazz singer and, his mother, a white British opera singer - to his success as a Las Vegas headliner. The theater-piece features Holmes playing himself (using the name Rei Coles). He is supported by a fine cast that includes the oh so talented Tina Walsh, as Holmes mother; Earl Turner as his father; Reva Rice as his former wife; Gayle Steele, his real-life sister, playing his sister; and Tezz Yancey as his son. Other members of the acting/singing/dancing ensemble include Bill Fayne, Karole Foreman, Regi Brown, Kyla Grogan and Celeste Lero. The band is made up of Fayne, Jimmy Lockett, Tommy Steele (Clint's brother-in-law), Dave Hart, Darryl Williams, Tony De Augustine and Idalberto Perdomo.

An impressive turnout of community members filled UNLV's Judy Bayley Theatre for the VIP/media event last Thursday. Among the folks that we recognized (not necessarily in order of importance, but alphabetically), Bill Acosta and wife Jeanne Bavaro, David Atwell, Jenevi Bakch and husband Joe Schenk, Norm Clarke, Colleen Custer, Anthony Del Valle, Blair Farrington, Danny Gans, Pieter Grove, former Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt and her husband, Dennis Bono, Ray Jarvis, Robin Leach, Joe Leone, Jerry Metellus (the photographer who took the picture of Clint used in this week's column), Martin Nievera, Jerry Ritholz, the Scintas and Mike Weatherford.

We were very surprised, and a bit disappointed, to see this "work in progress" receive a very poor rating from a local theater critic. There have been many successful, long-running productions that may not have done as well without previews and out-of-town tryouts. This is the time when shows are tweaked and have the wrinkles ironed out. Not that we are making excuses for Just Another Man, but this should certainly be considered by anyone who sees the show at this stage, whether it be an audience member OR a critic. What we can say, without question, is, if there had been a CD available, Cousin Claire would have happily spent the money to take the songs (written by Holmes and Fayne) home and listen to them again. We think the majority of the enthusiastic audience members who saw this production the night that we did, would agree with us. Just Another Man is having its worldwide premier at UNLV through June 24th. For performance dates and times and to purchase tickets, call (702) 895-2787.

And speaking of musical theater and our university...Opening UNLV's New York Stage & Beyond series on September 14th, and making his Las Vegas debut at the same time, is Brian Stokes Mitchell. A four-time Tony-nominee (for Man of La Mancha, Ragtime, Kiss Me Kate and August Wilson's King Hedley II), and one time winner (for Kiss Me Kate), Mitchell also starred with Reba McEntire in South Pacific, shown on PBS as part of the Great Performances series. He recently released his first solo CD. The self-titled album consists of favorites by Stephen Sondheim, Cy Coleman, John Bucchino, George and Ira Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein among others.

Also, look for this year's Tony Award-winner, Christine Ebersole, to be part of UNLV's 2007-2008 series. Ebersole earned her Tony as Best Actress in a Musical for her dual role as Jackie Bouvier Kennedy's outrageous and scandalous relatives, Edith Bouvier Beale and "Little" Edie Beale, in Grey Gardens. Anthony Rapp, primarily known for his role as Mark Cohen in both the Broadway play and movie version of Rent. Tickets for non-season subscribers will go on sale in August.

And also on the subject of Broadway, Jill Paice, currently appearing in New York in John Kander and Fred Ebb's Curtains, starring last week's 2007 Tony-winner, David Hyde Pierce (of Frasier and Broadway's Spamalot fame), is no stranger to Las Vegas audiences. Jill appeared as Sophie Sheridan in Mandalay Bay's Mamma Mia! After leaving the Abba-inspired musical, Paice made her Great White Way debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel's The Woman In White. We predict big things for this talented young lady.

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When Roseanne Barr came into the Cabaret Theater at New York-New York in March, the plan was for her to perform there for six weeks. Due to the public's interest in seeing her doing stand-up comedy again (she spent a few years doing an award-winning TV series, in case you were napping), the Domestic Goddess was held over for an additional six weeks. Although we are seeing a somewhat calmer Roseanne than the one on public display in the ‘90s, our queen still has definite opinions on many subjects, including politics, religion, parenting (she has adult children, an 11-year-old, and grandchildren), menopause, the diet industry (and Kirstie Alley and Jenny Craig, specifically), sex, marriage and daytime TV's The View. Although Roseanne has been suggested by the media as a possible replacement for the outspoken Rosie O'Donnell, the Emmy-winner has not been approached by the show at all. "Actually, I think they are looking for someone LESS crazy than Rosie," states Roseanne. During the "psychic" question and answer portion of her show, when asked by an audience member if she would be replacing "that bitch" on The View, Roseanne responded, "Not a chance... Barbara (Walters) will be there till the end!" One thing is for sure when it comes to this lady, no subject is off limits. Whatever she tackles, she does it "her way." At the closing of her show, she sings (forget that Star Spangled Banner fiasco) her version of My Way. With credit to Paul Anka (the writer of the Frank Sinatra hit), here are some lines from the parody created by female impersonator/comic (and Roseanne's opening act for part of this three month engagement) Jackie Beat, with a little help from musician John Argent. Sing this chorus portion along to the original tune...

Yes I was Utah's only Jew, I had that cancelled talk show too,
Yes I was loud, but I stood proud, and did it my way.

A bitch, a grouch a grump, that's what I am....that's how I'm wired.
I should sue that Donald Trump 'cause that's MY line...that says: "You're fired!

And one more thing...I've gotta do...and that's apologize to you,
It was a crazy, mixed-up girl....who sicced Tom Arnold on the world
I made mistakes... Did I say, "Steaks?" Get out of myyyyy way....

But, all good things must come to an least for now. Roseanne Barr's last show of this "All You Can Eat Comedy Tour" Vegas engagement is on Sunday night. Show times are at 8 p.m. and ticket prices are $54.95. For reservations, call (866) 606-7111.

Roseanne Barr Steve Schirripa Shades of Sinatra

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Apologies to Sonny Turner and The Platters. They didn't play the Suncoast last week on June 7th and 8th as written by the overworked, social butterfly, Cousin Claire. They WILL be at the Suncoast on July 7th and 8th. The GOOD news is, you still have the opportunity to see the hit-making recording/performing R&B group. The Platters, featuring Mr. Turner, will perform at 7:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets start at $19.95 plus tax and can be purchased by calling (702) 636-7075.

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Will the Riviera Hotel & Casino's onetime entertainment director, Steve Schirripa, be spending more time in Las Vegas now that his Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri character has been whacked on HBO's The Sopranos? With the popular cable TV series coming to an end, Steve's days were numbered, even if he didn't meet a bloody and violent end. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, Schirripa managed to turn his 15 minutes of fame into six years on The Sopranos (joining the cast in the second season). He also authored a number of books, became a regular correspondent on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has made numerous guest appearances all over the tube.

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Las Vegas favorite Rene DeHaven recently celebrated his 85th birthday surrounded by many longtime friends and admirers. The almost 80 attendees were treated to a special, original birthday musical revue. Among those having a great time, both on and off the stage, were Betty Bunch, Larry Chernoff, Cindy Doumani, David Harris, Melody Helmics (and the Saloon Singers), Jim Hodges (with backup singer/dancers, Fine Wine), Ray Jarvis, Fluff LeCoque, Renee Lee, Greta Lor-Worth, Donesha McKnight, Mary Meyer, Bill Moore, Kimberly Renee, Jerry Ritholz and Joan Sailon, with Sal Angelica serving as MC. As recently as two years ago, the octogenarian once again joined about two dozen former local production show dancers in Golden Rainbow's Favorite Son number from Will Rogers Follies. Due to its popularity, this Tommy Tune-choreographed routine has been presented at the annual AIDS fundraiser on more than one occasion. Some of those who have participated over the years include Sal Angelica, Aiko Berge (Kay), Emelina Cooke, Michael Darrin, Diane Day, Tulsa Giles, Pat Gill, Pieter Grove, Jim Hogan, Jillian Hrushowy, Jerry Jackson, Cary La Spina, Liz Elliott Lieberman, Ron Lewis, Anita Mann, Pat McKechnie, Mistinguette, Nick Navarro, Nicole Navarro, Maria Poggi, Suzi Saxe, Robin Soli, Michel Stany, Cinnamon Steen and David Wright. (Could not confirm spellings of some of these names. Forgive us if we goofed on one or two.) The show-stopping routine never fails to earn a well-deserved standing ovation. Let's have another great big round of birthday applause for 85-year-young Rene DeHaven.

And speaking of birthdays, we wish a happy one to the talented comic/impressionist Gordie Brown. The Venetian headliner celebrates number 44 today. If you haven't seen Gordie perform, do yourselves a favor and check him out. Show times are at 7:30 p.m., every day but Wednesday (this hardworking entertainer needs at least one day a week to recharge). Call (702) 414-9000 for reservations.

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Shades of Sinatra will be the Father's Day offering at the Bootlegger Bistro this Sunday, June 17th. Produced by Kelly Clinton (who sometimes portrays Nancy Sinatra in the four-person revue), the tribute to the Chairman of the Board features Carmine Mandia, Ryan Baker, Larry Liso and Lisa Smith. Show time is at 8 p.m. Call (702) 736-4959 for reservations.

And speaking of ladies named Kelly, American Idol's first big winner, Kelly Clarkson, has canceled her summer tour because of poor ticket sales. She was scheduled to perform at the MGM Garden Arena in September.

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We witnessed an odd sight the other night in front the Fashion Show Mall on the Strip. It was after 11, during the week, with virtually no foot traffic in front of the shopping mall. A respectable-looking fellow set up a tripod and camera to take a photo of Wynn Las Vegas across the street. The gentleman with the camera had snapped the shutter only once, when he was approached by a mall security guard and told he had to leave as he was creating a disturbance. The picture-taker was caught off guard (excuse the pun), as he wasn't causing a disturbance of any kind. If one wants to take a photo of the front of Wynn, the only way to do so is from across the boulevard. Is this the mall policy? Is it that put-someone-in-a- uniform (with a goofy hat and an official looking badge) syndrome? What is the problem here? If there was no tripod involved, would the security man still have taken the position he did? It so happens that the photographer was a local, but Cousin Claire feels this kind of treatment could have a very negative effect on a tourist. Surely, we don't want that. Follow up...We called the mall security to find out what the deal was. Here is what we were told. No tripods, under any circumstances. No professional-looking photography equipment under any circumstances. Why? Terrorists! Yep, that's the answer. All the terrorists that we know would use hidden little spy cameras, not obvious cameras. You can take photos with your digitals, your fancy cell phones, video equipment or your old Kodak because that indicates you are a patriotic American. Show up with something better, you will be invited to leave. Cousin Claire might remind you non-photo taking types that it is almost impossible to get a decent night time photo without using a tripod or some other stabilizing support system. If you don't, as a result of leaving the shutter open for any length of time, you will wind up with blurry results due to the jiggle factor.

* * * * * *

We have it on good authority that one of the acts that is currently performing at the Steve Wyrick Entertainment Complex at Planet Hollywood will be packing up his trunks and heading for another property. According to reliable sources (the only kind we use), the amazingly talented Ronn Lucas, along with his family of dummies (who are really quite smart), will be departing the Miracle Mile Shops area and heading for a showroom at the Luxor. The move is expected to take place at the end of this month. This Wyrick space, although a nice enough facility, has been problem-plagued since before it opened. Construction delays caused at least one expected tenant to drop out of the lineup (Defending the Caveman opted for the Golden Nugget showroom instead, where they opened earlier this month.) The Wyrick Complex place faces other issues. Many people don't know the theater is there. If they DO know that it exists, they have no idea where in the mall it is located (there is no signage directing folks to the place). Where to park becomes another issue. If you choose to park closest to the hotel/casino entrance, prepare for a long hike to the Wyrick theater (it is suggested that the garage or valet near the shops is a wiser parking choice). From the ground level, the front of the theater/gift store/Triq lounge looks like anything but an entertainment complex. Come July 1st, the original three performing tenants - uber-talented singing sensation, Martin Nievera; ventriloquist extraordinaire, Ronn Lucas; and the landlord/magician, Mr. Wyrick - could be down to one permanent show, Steve Wyrick's Real Magic. (We have heard recently that Aga-Boom, a Cirque-type clown show that played for a short time at the Suncoast a few years ago, may go into one of the vacated spots.) The REAL magic would be making a decent-sized audience appear in that part of the Miracle Mile arcade. It may take a Miracle to keep this venue alive. Too bad, as a lot of money was put into all of this.

Ronn Lucas Kate Silver Liz Renay

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Kate Silver was an award-winning staff writer for Las Vegas Weekly over a five year period. During that time, she was named Journalist of Merit by the Nevada Press Association for 2001and Journalist of Excellence for 2003. She had a story published in Playboy magazine before moving into the world of glossies where she was the editor of 702, a section of the tony magazine, Las Vegas Life, for two years. Then Kate had an epiphany. During last summer, two life-changing things happened to put her on a new path. She wrote four chapters (that's 50,000 words, folks!) of Pauline Frommer's Las Vegas guidebook, and realized that if she could write a book for someone else, it was past time for her to write one for herself. Around the same time, Silver began shadowing a Mary Kay Cadillac Director, Marti Andersen, for a story in the Beauty Issue of Las Vegas Life. Kate attended a meeting that ended with the Mary Kay salesladies singing, a cappella, to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic. "We're rich beyond our wildest dreams, we're rich, we're rich, we're rich," they sang, and Ms. Silver knew she had accidentally stumbled onto the subject of her first book. In October, she became an independent beauty consultant (one of Marti's Miracle Makers!), and in January, Kate gave up her steady job (and steady paycheck) for freelance writing, while selling skin care products and immersing herself in what she describes as "a subculture that's become iconic for its pantyhose culture and the opportunities it offers women." If anyone needs a free facial or would like to try any of Mary Kay's skin care products (their new men's line just came out), you can contact Kate at [email protected]. Who knows, you might wind up as a chapter in her best seller!

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Last week, burlesque-lovers, young and not-so-young, gathered in Las Vegas for the 2007 Exotic World Weekend. Last year's events took place primarily at the Celebrity Theater on 3rd Street, across from the still-shuttered Lady Luck Hotel & Casino (will they ever reopen the place?). Needing more room to accommodate the patrons of the art, for this year's events, including the 50th Striptease Reunion, the Miss Exotic World Pageant, a luau and more, things took place all over the city - from the downtown Plaza showroom to Krave/the Harmon Theater adjacent to Planet Hollywood on the Strip (we liked their "Where the Strip meets Tease" catch phrase). The artistic and creative Grant Philipo tells us that at the Miss Exotic World's 50th Anniversary Show (he designed and "choreographed" the late Liz Renay's entrance for last year's event), it was reported that Renay and Philipo had broken a long-standing event taboo. Liz and Philipo outsmarted everyone by showing that, even though she couldn't walk out onto the stage, Renay could still make a grand entrance. Decked out in feathers, fur and jewels, the always glamorous Liz blew everyone away when she was carried in onto the stage reclining on an Egyptian litter, supported both physically and artistically by six handsome, practically nude men. This year, following Renay's lead, three performers entered the stage in wheelchairs and two of them stripped from their mobility equipment.

In conjunction with the adult weekend, an exhibit of some personal possessions and artwork done by the late Liz Renay was taking place at the Atomic Todd Gallery at 1541 S. Commerce Street, near downtown Las Vegas. The exhibit offers a rare glimpse into the private world of one of Las Vegas' most colorful icons. Called In Bed with Liz Renay, the Atomic Todd Gallery features over a dozen oil paintings from the artist's private collection. Until Ms. Renay's death in January at age 80, the only way to see these pieces was by personal invitation to the cult screen legend's home. Also on display are items as varied as carefully-coiffed hairpieces on meticulously painted wig-heads and her iconic mink eyelashes. The paintings, including a giant nude portrait of Liz's late daughter, Brenda (who toured briefly with Ms. Renay in the world's first mother-daughter striptease act), reflect the artist's unique spirit and uninhibited approach to sexuality. An acclaimed artist, author, model, nightclub performer and raconteur, Liz Renay appeared in countless films and was a favorite actress and close personal friend of 'cult' directors John Waters and Ted V. Mikels, among others. Convicted of perjury in a case involving her then-boyfriend, mobster Mickey Cohen, Renay served a three year sentence at Terminal Island Women's Prison in California, where she taught oil painting to fellow inmates, completed over 150 paintings (three of which are included in the show) and wrote the first draft of her best-selling 1971 memoir, My Face for the World to See. The exhibit, that opened on June 1st, will run through July 14th. In a clever bit of advertising, the gallery had a door hanger giveaway, with the opening for the knob/handle in the shape of a star. The sentiment stated, "Go Away! I'm in Bed with Liz Renay." For additional information and gallery hours, call Todd Von Bastiaans at (702) 386-8633.

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