Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
She's a little bit naughty. Shes a little bit nice.  
She calls em like she sees (and hears) em.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from July 06, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - July 6, 2007

Lucky Newlyweds Eric Michael Gillett KT Sullivan

Do you feel lucky? Are you in love? Is marriage in your immediate thoughts? If so, tomorrow could prove to be a great day for Las Vegas as well as for some happy and hopeful couples who are beginning their futures together. Some people like to choose special, meaningful dates when they plan a wedding. Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve have always meant long lines at the marriage license bureau and local chapels. Tomorrow's triple sevens (7-7-7) should bring plenty of extra activity when it comes to weddings. Bakeries and photographers will be exceptionally busy. While Elvis impersonators who perform marriage ceremonies should find themselves all shook up, not very lonesome tomorrow night, and, hopefully, not crying in the chapel. Numerous hotel wedding chapels are already booked for mass ceremonies, the only way to meet the demand for time and space. Over at the Stratosphere, for example, they are offering some of the country's most unique ways to tie the knot. If you want to get high on your wedding day, the top of the Stratosphere - more than 800 feet above the famed Las Vegas Strip - provides that unique option. The hotel/casino has booked more than ten times the number of weddings on what some consider to be the luckiest day of the century. The first of the Stratosphere's July 7th, 2007 ceremonies will take place seconds after midnight. The hotel has scheduled 60 weddings on the observation deck, some to be performed on those scary rides. When it comes to partnerships of any kind (including marriage) luck certainly can't hurt. We might suggest that, after tomorrow's ceremony, the new Mr. and Mrs. should head down to the Golden Nugget and take in the wise words and thoughts, written by Rob Becker, and hilariously delivered by Kevin Burke, in Defending the Caveman. There, the happy couple will, hopefully, learn how to co-exist together in the same cave. And here's a bonus, just for tomorrow. Tickets for the 7-7-7 matinee at 3 p.m., and the 8 p.m. shows at the Nugget will cost a bargain $7.77, plus any applicable taxes and fees. Call (702) 386-8100 for reservations. And, if time permits, you might even have a caveman perform a ceremony or two. Funnyman/ caveman, Kevin Burke, is not just a comic actor, he also happens to be an ordained minister.

People like to look for good reasons and good omens when it comes to gambling as well. As a result, there might be a heavier than usual amount of wagering going on around the city. Race and sports books could experience a bit more action, and Megabucks could get extra play, all because of tomorrow's date...7-7-7. Good luck, one and all.

* * * * * *

While living in Las Vegas, entertainer Eric Michael Gillett was a principal performer in Donn Arden's Hallelujah Hollywood at the MGM Grand (now Bally's) and Bill Moore and George Arnold's Bal du Moulin Rouge at the Las Vegas Hilton. He also performed in local book shows such as the downtown (Union) Plaza's A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. In 1986, Eric fulfilled many a boy's childhood dream...he ran away and joined the circus. Well, not exactly "ran away." Like every other candidate for the job, he had to audition. Talk about life imitating art...Gillett, who had portrayed a ringmaster while in Bal du Moulin Rouge, landed himself THE spot in the center ring when he was cast as the ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. Although he told friends he would only stay for a year, Eric wound up in this lead role for 12 years. During the dozen years with RBB&B, Eric, known as "The Singing Ringmaster," was seen and heard by millions. He released his first CD and appeared on many national talk shows. Since returning to "civilian life," and his new home in New York, Gillett has appeared on Broadway in Kiss Me Kate, The Frogs and Sweet Smell of Success. A few film roles have even come his way, including a role in the Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick version of Mel Brooks The Producers, and the Vanessa Williams-starring My Brother (soon to be released on DVD). Eric also teaches voice and coaches acting when time permits. This talented man's first love, though, is performing in live cabaret...sometimes with another singer but often on his own. His latest one-man tour de force is called Hook, Line and Singer. This show will be recorded as his third solo CD (the other two are Cast of Thousands and The Songs of Craig Carnelia). Mr. Gillett is currently in Oklahoma City playing Juan Peron in Evita for the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. You can read more about Eric Michael Gillett in the July/August issue of the informative Cabaret Scenes magazine.

On the 15th of this month, Gillett returns to New York to start directing a new show for KT Sullivan, scheduled for an upcoming run at the Algonquin in Manhattan. For those that are not familiar with Ms. Sullivan, they apparently missed her all too rare visits to our city. KT has appeared in Las Vegas twice, both times joined by Mark Nadler and both times in performance at the Charleston Heights Arts Center. Sullivan and Nadler first entertained here in George Gershwin - Sweet and Low Down, and in April, due to popular demand, returned in Always: The Love Story of Irving Berlin. These shows are always well-reviewed and well-received. If you get wind of future engagements by these two talents, and have ANY interest in seeing them, we urge you to act quickly when it comes to buying tickets. This is a good case of "If you snooze, you lose."

* * * * * *

We received a nice e-mail from Don Hill this week. You say you don't know who Don Hill is? Well, let's fix that. At 86-years-young, Mr. Hill was the bandleader for the famed Treniers, and is the group's last surviving member. Hill, along with identical twins, Claude Trenier and Cliff Trenier and brother Milt Trenier, began performing in the 1940s. The swinging Treniers were considered by many to be one of the first self-contained rock 'n' roll groups around. Anyone that knows the history of Las Vegas entertainment, knows these musical clowns were pioneers of the city's lounge era. Thanks to Las Vegas, the Treniers name became known around the country. Appearances on popular TV music/variety shows of the time - Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town, Steve Allen and Jackie Gleason - helped. The group released the song Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song), about the Giant's centerfielder. The clever ditty featured some dialogue by the Hall of Famer and was included on the soundtrack of Ken Burns' 1994 documentary, Baseball. In the 1950s, the Treniers even appeared in a couple of movies, including Don't Knock the Rock and The Girl Can't Help It. Released in 1957, The Girl Can't Help It starred Jayne Mansfield, Tom Ewell, Edmund O Brien, Henry Jones and a very young Barry Gordon. It also featured musical acts such as Julie London, Fats Domino, The Platters, Little Richard, Nino Tempo (without April Stevens), Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Ray Anthony and, of course, Las Vegas favorites, The Treniers. Hill writes, It sure is nice to hear about all my friends, entertainers who are still here entertaining like we did in the lounges when there were only three casinos. Claude Trenier passed away four years ago and since then no one but me wanted to keep going. Jeanne Brei, Artie Schroeck and Linda November still make me keep playing but now it's a little too much to play long periods at a time. I had a wonderful life, first playing with Louie Armstrong for four years, then with Tiny Bradshaw, Gerald Wilson and finally with The Treniers for 55 years. So the ride is about over but I love hearing about those still in there performing. I only wish there were more jobs for these talented people.

The only surviving brother, Milt Trenier, has lived in Chicago for many years. At one time, he ran his own nightclub in the Windy City. Today, he still makes an occasional appearance at local clubs.

Don Hill Barry Gordon Sierra Boggess

FYI...Sometime in the 1950s, we saw a very young Barry Gordon appear on a Las Vegas stage, joining Ray "The Scarecrow" Bolger in a song, dance and comedy act. It was Gordon stole the spotlight from Jason Robards Jr. when, in 1965, he played Nick Burns in the award-winning Herb Gardner-written film, A Thousand Clowns (Gordon had done the same role in the Tony-winning Broadway play). The precocious youngster also had a hit with the holiday song, I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas. Gordon went on to become president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving in that capacity from 1988 to 1995. In addition to sporadic acting roles, Barry Gordon also hosts a Southern California-based radio show. And, no, this Gordon is not related to the oft mentioned in this column Gerald Gordon. (There, drama coach Gordon makes it into Claire Voyant's ramblings yet again.)

* * * * * *

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned that former Mamma Mia! principal, Jill Paice, is now one of the stars of the Tony-winning Curtains, playing on Broadway. Paice isn't the only performer to move from a Las Vegas musical to one in New York. Sierra Boggess, one of the two singer/actresses who originated the role of Christine, in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, has left Paris Las Vegas for The Great White Way where she is starring as Ariel in the stage version of The Little Mermaid. Kristi Holden has taken Sierra's place in the Vegas Phantom. She shares the role of Christine with Elizabeth Loyacano. Show times for Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular are at 7 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays, and 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Mondays and Saturdays. Call (702) 414-7469 for reservations.

* * * * * *

On October 19th, longtime Las Vegas resident Pasquale Caputo will be the subject of a roasting by members of the famed Friars Club. You may know the recipient of the forthcoming barbs better as comic as Pat Cooper. Cooper is a favorite of radio shock jock Howard Stern. We will have more information on this event in the coming months.

* * * * * *

ICE: Direct From Russia, is the new show in the Versailles Theatre at the Riviera Hotel and Casino. Ice shows used to be a Vegas staple but, for a number of years, other than a specialty segment within a large production (Lido de Paris at the Stardust, Splash at the Riviera, both a fading memory), these cool shows have all but melted away in the Entertainment Capital of the World. ICE, adapted and directed by renowned choreographer Debra Brown, features 42 of Russia's most disciplined and athletic ice performers, guiding audiences on a magical journey. Their story is told through dazzling ice skating, stunning aerial acrobatics, acts of extreme dexterity and balance and unconventional wit. A show appropriate for the entire family, to encourage bringing the kids, ICE is offering a reduced price for children - half off the regular adult ticket price for all performances. "We hope that adding the child's ticket rate will encourage more adults to expose the young people in their lives to live performances," says show spokesman Tom Pilkington. Show times for ICE: Direct From Russia are Saturdays through Thursdays at 8 p.m., with an added 10 p.m. show on Saturdays. Adult ticket prices are $59.95 and $69.95 and tickets for children 12 and under are $29.98 and $34.98, plus applicable taxes and service fees. The Riviera box office is open daily from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. For further information and to purchase tickets, call 702-794-9433.

Pat Cooper ICE: Direct From Russia Bambi Jr. and Paul Jordan

* * * * * *

Mark your calendars, goombas. July 19th through the 22nd, Festa Italia will take place at the Summerfest Grounds in Milwaukee. The annual event attracts approximately 50,000 attendees each day. Las Vegas will be well represented when locals such as Bill Acosta, Denise Clemente and Dick Contino perform for the Wisconsin masses. Also scheduled to entertain are Dennis DeYoung (founding member and lead singer for the rock band Styx), singing and comedy team The Gaylords (From the Vine Came the Grape and Isle of Capri), and Arthur Godfrey's favorite singer, Julius LaRosa.

* * * * * *

Just three months after her appearance at the downtown Golden Nugget, Mary Wilson, returns to the city she now calls home to perform poolside, Saturday, July 14th, as part of the Silverton Hotel & Casino's Summer Concert Series. For this one night Las Vegas engagement, Wilson will be backed by five musicians and enhanced by two vocalists (including former Las Vegas entertainer, Lucy Shropshire). Last month, Mary played a 10 night engagement at the popular Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York. Most people know that Wilson was an original member of the world-famous Motown girl group, The Supremes. Her current shows feature many of the hit tunes introduced by the trio, but also includes a nice selection of standards, jazz, blues and gospel music. Wilson's latest solo album, I Am Changing, has been well received by both critics and the public. Mary Wilson's July 14th show at the Silverton starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are priced at a reasonable $25. For reservations and more information, call (702) 914-8557.

* * * * * *

Not surprisingly, multi-talented Wayne Brady will be returning to The Venetian, this time with plans to stay longer. Brady ended his second of two recent engagements on July 1st. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Mike Weatherford, Brady has just signed a one year contract with The Venetian that will have him working at the hotel into next year. Beginning August 4th, Wayne will be a regular player at the property for at least 26 weeks. As mentioned in an earlier column, the singer/dancer/improvisation master will host Don't Forget the Lyrics, a new TV game show airing on the FOX network through the summer.

* * * * * *

We got the following e-mail from Doris Kotzan (known in her working days as Bambi Jones). I received a call from a young lady who is Paul Jordan's daughter. Now to you, that name may not mean much, but to every entertainer who ever worked Boston, New York, Rhode Island, and on and on, they worked through Paul's Boston office. Back in March of 1990, Paul came to Vegas and went to visit Bambi, Jr. (Kotzan's daughter) and told her that he had retired after 53 years in the business.. He went on to explain that he had donated his memorabilia to the Harvard Theatre Collection of the college library. Harvard University is the home of the annual Hasty Pudding Awards. Paul was my agent for 25 years. He also represented Artie Brooks, Norm Crosby and Sammy Davis, Jr. He was instrumental in getting Bambi, Jr. her first job on the Las Vegas Strip, in a Rocky Sennes Holiday Casino Show. Talk about a walk down memory lane.

Paul Jordan (real name Albert P. Lantz) passed away on June 8th, at the age of 91. He was buried on June 14th in Lexington, Massachusetts, with Douglas Funeral Home handling the arrangements. Paul's daughter, Allison, would love to hear from anyone who remembers her dad. She would especially like her son to know what a great grandpa he had. Allison can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]. One thing Allison can tell her son is that Dori describes Paul as "One of the finest agents on this Planet." That's quite a legacy.

Doris Kotzan, called "Dori" by her friends, now makes her home in Greenwich, Connecticut, where she lives with her daughter Grace Moerhle (Morley) Coronel (known in her working days around Las Vegas as Bambi Jr.). Dori is the author of My Journey: Burlesque The Way It Was. She spends some of her leisure time visiting senior centers where she charms and entertains old-timers with stories about her career as a burlesque performer. As Bambi Jr., Gracie, who was raised in Las Vegas, appeared in a number of shows in the city, including Minsky's Burlesque at the Hacienda (now the site of Mandalay Bay), Crazy Girls at the Riviera, and Natalie Needs a Nightie at the downtown Plaza. Thanks to her famous "Final Four or Bust" poster, Grace helped gain national attention for UNLV's basketball team. Grace was married to talk show host Montel Williams and is the mother of his two teenage children, Montel Bryan Hank Williams and Wyntergrace Williams. She is now the wife of Marc Coronel. Grace and Marc are the parents of three-year-old Mace.

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

     Like to be notified when Claire Voyant's next column is available?
Then join Claire Voyant's announcement mailing list!
Enter your email address below, then click the 'Join List' button:

Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye