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 July 13, 2007
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - July 13, 2007

Joey Gian Robbie Howard Tom Wallek

In less than a week, we went from July 7th, 2007, lucky 7-7-7, to today, Friday the 13th. Our advice is to stay away from black cats, don't walk under any ladders, handle mirrors very carefully and put off your wedding plans until tomorrow. On the plus side of this day, long associated with bad luck, we want to wish a happy Friday the 13th birthday to actor/singer/songwriter Joey Gian. Gian, an early Star Search competitor and finalist, went on to make some movies (Return To Me, Mad About You, A Night In Heaven) and had recurring roles in TV's Hooperman, Beverly Hills 90210 and Knots Landing. Gian's first love is music, saying "When I'm on stage and the music takes over, I am in a state of true bliss. When I am singing, what you hear is the essence of who I am." Joey spent about a year working in Vegas. During that time, he was a regular performer at the Bootlegger Bistro and did a stint in the lounge at the Stardust. The talented and personable Mr. Gian should have had a longer career in Las Vegas but, unfortunately, like a number of other deserving, qualified entertainers who have, or are still trying to get a foothold here, the opportunities today are very limited. The good old days are just that, the good old days. Happy birthday, Joey.

And speaking of weddings, if you are thinking of taking the plunge, and have no fear of crowds, you might want to consider contacting the Today show. Yep, it's that time of year again. The popular NBC morning show is looking for engaged couples to "compete" for a nationally televised dream wedding. If you have seen any of the previous ceremonies, you will agree that they have been very impressive. The couple chosen to receive this gift package will be getting off to a great start on their road to forever. Through viewers voting for their favorites from a selection of four of everything, Today puts it all together, from soup to nuts. Well not exactly soup to nuts, but the show and its sponsors cover the costs of the wedding rings, invitations, bridal gown, groom's attire, attendants clothing, location of the ceremony and reception, the flowers, the cake, the honeymoon and just about anything else associated with a first class wedding. Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira are very generous when it comes to love...and ratings.

So how does Las Vegas enter into this story? Glad you asked. On Tuesday, June 24th, the Today show will broadcast from one of the most romantic hotels in Las Vegas, The Venetian. Al Roker will represent the show's on air personalities and, onetime Las Vegan, Jim Semmelman, will be here with Roker, making sure that things run smoothly behind the scenes. Jim, remembered by longtime Las Vegans for his acting/directing skills in productions such as Studs Terkel's Working, Jesus Christ Superstar, Two, Grease and Boys In The Band, has been stage manager for the Today show since 1999. If you, or someone you know, wants a shot at instant fame (and a paid for fall wedding), go to NBC's Today show Web site and follow the instructions. Oh yes, this year's shindig is a Martha Stewart Wedding...but don't let that stop you.

* * * * * *

On Monday, get over to The Orleans where the talented (and busy) Robbie Howard will be doing a 2 p.m. show in the Bourbon Street Lounge. Robbie has been a favorite around these parts for quite a few years. He has had long runs at the now-history Westward Ho (seven years) and the downtown Plaza and Lady Luck hotel/casinos (four years). Howard and company are popular with many of the properties around our city - Harrah's, Flamingo, Bally's, Paris, Golden Nugget, Stratosphere, Green Valley Ranch and The Orleans among them - who hire the fellows to entertain at corporate events and private, high-roller and slot parties. On Monday, it will be Pat Marlin on keyboards and sax, Jimmy Racey on drums, the very fashionable Dave Poe on sax and clarinet, and Dimitri Callus on guitar. Also David DeCosta, who is one of the Frank Sinatras in the Rat Pack show, will also be joining in. Chances are audience members will see some Frank and Dean-type interplay. Howard's talented troupe also plays casinos outside of Las Vegas, combining work with a change of scenery and a little family R and R. Robbie, a singer/comic/impressionist, also fills in on occasion at the Greek Isles The Rat Pack Is Back show. He does a dandy take on Old Red Eyes, Dean Martin. Another longtime and talented Vegas-based entertainer, Tom Wallek, also is an occasional actor in the tribute show. When actor/producer Sandy Hackett is out of town, Wallek (and sometimes George Carlin's longtime opening act, Dennis Blair) steps in to play the Joey Bishop role in the five year old tribute show. You can catch both Robbie and Tom in The Rat Pack Is Back on Tuesday, July 17th.

And speaking of Buddy's boy, Sandy Hackett is adding another credit to his resume. He is the executive-producer of The Portal, a horror film in production and expected to be released next year. The film stars Stacey Keach and Michael Madsen of Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2 fame. Hackett will also play a role in The Portal.

* * * * * *

In response to the item about Don Hill in last week's column, comes this e-mail from Robert Allen (the brains behind the Haunted Vegas Tours and Vegas Mob Tours)...

I really enjoyed hearing about my old friend Don Hill. Back in the day! My band and I did the midnight till 6 a.m. spot at the Silver City. The Treniers were appearing across the street at the Stardust. At least several nights a week, after their last show Claude, Cliff, Milt, Don and the rest of the boys would all come over and join us in the lounge. We would have all night jam sessions that would end in crazy Keno sessions that went on past dawn. I can remember driving home at 7 or 8a.m. after working all night, thinking "wow what a great job I have." Don Hill is one of the most talented saxophonists that ever played Las Vegas. He is also one of the nicest people on the planet. We're sure Mr. Hill will be delighted to read your note.

* * * * * *

And speaking of nice people, the entertainment community recently lost one of its good guys. Singer/musician/comic Fats Johnson (real name Ronald Louis Amerman) died at Spring Mountain Hospital in Las Vegas on June 23rd. He was 68 years old. A diabetic, Fats, as he was called, suffered a post-operative stroke after surgery on June 19th. The onetime lead singer of the New Christy Minstrels had lived in Las Vegas since the 1980s. While still with the Minstrels, Johnson was featured vocalist on the 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang album. Over the years, Fats appeared in concert with many stars, among them Eddie Arnold, Tony Bennett, Pat Boone, Vikki Carr, Chubby Checker, Roy Clark, Rita Coolidge, Bill Cosby, John Denver, the Four Freshmen, Larry Gatlin, Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood, Eartha Kitt, Brenda Lee, Steve Martin, Roger Miller, Ronnie Milsap, Rick Nelson, Wayne Newton, Kenny Rogers, the Smothers Brothers, Ray Stevens and Tina Turner. He also starred in numerous revues, including but not limited to the Historic Gold Rush Revue the with Randy Sparks & The Minstrels at the Moke Hill Town Hall in Mokelumne Hill, California; Jubilation at Granny's Dinner Theater in Dallas, Texas; Legs at the Sahara in Lake Tahoe; Branded at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas; Comedy Caravan at the Sahara in Las Vegas; Saddle Tramps at the Red Lion Inn in Elko and the Riverside in Laughlin; Main Street Tonight at the Old Yuma Theater in Yuma, Arizona; Rolling On The River at the Riverside in Laughlin, and the San Francisco Follies in the City By the Bay. A favorite at comedy clubs around the country, Johnson entertained at Igby's in Los Angeles, The Comedy Store in Hollywood, Catch a Rising Star in both Las Vegas and Reno, Sandy Hackett's Comedy Club in both Vegas and Laughlin, The Improv in Los Angeles, Giggles in Seattle, the Comedy Stop at the Trop in Vegas, Funny Farm in Temecula, Comic Strip in El Paso, Honolulu Comedy Club in Hawaii, Comedy Works in Denver, Comedy Corner in Indianapolis, and Comedy Corporation in Arlington, Texas. He most recently appeared at Funniez Comedy Club at Buffalo Bill's in Primm. Johnson is survived by his 92-year-old father, Louis Amerman; a son and daughter-in-law, Donald and Kim Amerman; his daughter, Allison Johns, and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on July 30th, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice House in Pasadena, a place where Johnson frequently performed. Fats Johnson Remembered will consist of memories, music and more. Food will be provided. A $15 suggested donation will go the American Diabetes Association in Fats' name. For additional information, or to send condolences to his family, friends may e-mail daughter Allison at [email protected], or son Donald at [email protected].

Fats Johnson Jason Tenner Jimmy Emerson

* * * * * *

Las Vegas entertainers are doing quite well on the reality show circuit. Wednesday saw both Sebastian Anzaldo as Frank Sinatra, and Sharon Owens as Barbra Streisand, go through to the semi-finals on The Next Best Thing. Whittled down from a dozen to five competitors, this weeks' episode of the ABC impressionists showcase also saw Trent Carlini make it into the semi-finals with his dead on (no pun intended) Elvis Presley impersonation. We were very surprised that another Las Vegan, Sandy Anderson as Dolly Parton, was cut at this stage of the competition. The Next Best Thing proves that you don't necessarily have to be unique to be successful in show business. If you can be as good as someone who came before you, you too can be a star. Over at NBC's America's Got Talent, magician Kevin James and Gregory Popovich's clever animal act both made it through another week. While all of this excitement is going on in Southern California, we have to wonder who is starring in Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was at the Riviera (where Sebastian and Sharon usually perform), and at the Sahara, where Dream King Trent stars in The Musical History of the King. Kevin James is usually one of the magicians featured in The World's Greatest Magic Show at the Greek Isles, and Popovich has his own show (with lots of cats and dogs), the World Famous Popovich Comedy Pet Theater, at the V Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. If you have plans to see any of the above mentioned performers, we suggest checking with the individual properties to make sure the stars are currently working here, not still in competition in Los Angeles. Call the Greek Isles at (702) 737-5540, the Riviera at (702) 794-9433, the Sahara at (702) 737-2515, and the V Theater at Planet Hollywood (702) 932-1818, for information and schedules.

Not too surprising to us was the elimination of Leonid the Magnificent from America's Got Talent. In his second season attempt to make it into the finals, the androgynous performance artist (that means "hard to describe exactly what they do") was once again sent packing. Will he turn up in Beacher's Madhouse at the Hard Rock where he has performed in the past? Stay tuned.

* * * * * *

Prince may have left the Rio, but he hasn't left Las Vegas, at least not as far as American Superstars is concerned. Superstars, playing at the Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower, has added Jason Tenner as Prince to its line-up of celebrity tribute artists. "Jason Tenner is a veteran performer who makes you believe that you are hearing and seeing Prince. It takes a very talented showman to even come close to matching the raw energy and musical brilliance that makes Prince so endearing to his fans," says Mark Callas, who produces American Superstars with his Springtime Productions partner, Donny Moore. Tenner, who began performing as Prince in 1997 as the front man of a Las Vegas-based tribute band called Purple Reign, will present a three-song set of some of the Purple One's biggest hits, Let's Go Crazy, Kiss, and 1999. Purple Reign has shared billing with acts such as Destiny's Child and The Bar-Kays. The group was in the top three Visitors' Choice for Best Lounge Act in a What's On magazine poll in both 2005 and 2006. LA Weekly also deemed the show among the "16 Things You Can't Afford To Miss In Vegas." Tenner will return to Purple Reign after his special, limited engagement with the talented Superstars' cast. In addition to Prince, Superstar audience members can currently see Darren Lee as Elvis, Kristie Fisher as Britney Spears, Chad Givens as Tim McGraw, Lorena Peril as Christina Aguilera and Damian Brantley as Michael Jackson. The high energy Superstars Dance Band and beautiful Superstars Dancers back the multi-talented cast. The popular show is now in its 11th year at the Stratosphere. Show times are Sunday through Tuesday at 7 p.m., and Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $41.75 for adults, and $30.95 for children ages 5 to 12. Beverages may be purchased prior to entering the showroom. For tickets or more information, call (702) 380-7711 or (800) 99-TOWER.

* * * * * *

While Frank Marino is away, the cats, er, cast will play. It appears that Roseanne Barr, who closed a three month headlining gig at New York-New York last month, is back on stage in Las Vegas. This time, though, it's at the Riviera. And this time, it isn't really Roseanne, it's comic Jimmy Emerson who, while "Joan Rivers" is vacationing, will host the Riv's La Cage as the Domestic Goddess. A longtime La Cage cast member, Emerson will still be portraying his usual/unusual comedic characters of `Madonna's Bigger Sister' and `Tammy Spraynette,' but now you will also see him do his monologue as Roseanne. "I'm going to include a little Ethel Merman, Peggy Lee and Anna Nicole Smith along with a couple of other big gals," states the Orange, Texas-native. Emerson has always known he would grow up to be an entertainer. With that in mind, he studied tap, ballet, jazz and modern dance, learned to ice skate and twirl a baton, and took singing lessons. In addition to being a drama major at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, Jimmy also studied mime at Stockton State College, voice and speech with Lorraine Condor and took an acting workshop at Weist-Barron. His list of acting credits is impressive. He has played a number of diverse roles, from Herbie in Sweet Charity, Mr. Bumble in Oliver! and Captain Hook in Peter Pan, to Thomas Cromwell in A Man for All Seasons. Somewhere along the line, Jimmy discovered he had a talent for stand-up comedy and the sort of glib, quick wit that made him much sought after as an emcee. It was then that he created his first female character, Roxie Starr. Following a stint with Bottoms Up, Emerson took a role in An Evening at La Cage in Atlantic City. It was there that he developed his Peggy Lee, Tammy Wynette and Ann Miller comedy look-alikes. Out of his Wynette take-off, Jimmy created his country-western trailer-trash marvel who goes by the name of Tammy Spraynette. This character has been a popular mainstay in Jimmy's La Cage performances, and has even appeared on the Phil Donahue Show.

In his spare time, Jimmy Emerson runs his own successful company, producing and directing shows with up to 18 members in the cast.

Frank Marino, who is vacationing in Russia, returns to his star-spot in La Cage on July 25th. Show times are 7:30 p.m., every night but Tuesday. For reservations, call the Riviera Box Office at (702) 794-9433.

* * * * * *

Every time there is an announcement about another Cirque, or Cirque-style or Cirque-inspired show, opening or on its way to a Las Vegas showroom/theater, we can almost hear the groaning of producers and acts who have lost yet another venue where they might have been able to work. Are we the only ones who think that too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing? There are now 10 permanent productions either already playing or anticipated to be playing here in the next few years. Don't believe it? In (sort of) alphabetical order, from A to Z, we have Aga Boom (at the Wyrick Entertainment Complex at Planet Hollywood), Criss Angel's show (on approach at the Luxor), Celine Dion's A New Day (at Caesars), an Elvis-inspired production (coming to City Center), Ka (at MGM Grand), La Reve (at Wynn), the Beatles tale of Love (at Mirage), the one that started it here, Mystere (at Treasure Island or TI), the watery O (at Bellagio) and Zumanity (at New York-New York). We aren't even counting shows like the equine-starring Cavalia, because that was a traveling show, playing here on the Rio property last December. Will the Cirque-type extravaganza wear out its welcome? Only time will tell. Right now, on a much smaller but similar scale, TV seems to be suffering from the 'monkey see, monkey do' syndrome. Of course we know about all of the entertainment reality shows - American Idol, America's Got Talent, Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, Last Comic Standing, The Next Best Thing, and on and on. And as the planners of these things are wont to do, many times the shows air at the same time, forcing viewers to TiVo, video tape or channel surf so as not to miss anything. Well, here we go again. During this last week, television introduced two new, but maybe too similar, shows to already oversaturated viewers. NBC debuted Singing Bee on Tuesday night , while FOX showed off their latest reality competitor, Don't Forget the Lyrics!, on Wednesday. It's former 'N Sync boy singer and recent Dancing With The Stars contestant, Joey Fatone, hosting Singing Bee, and The Venetian's newest headliner, Wayne Brady, at the helm of Don't Forget the Lyrics! Why do we have a feeling these latest entries won't be around for a second season? There have been a few recent newcomers that didn't even survive for one season, disappearing after just a couple of episodes. Donny Osmond's The Great American Dream Vote (whose title was longer than its life on TV) comes immediately to mind. That game show was no "dream," it was a nightmare!

Criss Angel The Great Tomsoni & Company Mario Cantone

* * * * * *

There are quite a large number of local clubs and organizations around these parts. Some of them are low key and you don't hear much about them, while others get plenty of publicity. Some sound pretty exclusive, some sound like all you need is a pulse to be a member. Then there's FIORE. This non-club club tells it like it is. FIORE, celebrating its third anniversary this month, stands (and sits) for Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events. We received an invitation from the very clever punster, and brains behind this one, pioneer entertainer Nelson Sardelli. From Mr. Sardelli comes this announcement...

ESPLANATION...LEMME ESPLAIN.

THE NON-CLUB CLUB F.I.O.R.E.

(AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION OF SORTS)

WILL CELEBRATE ITS 3rd ANNIVERSARY ON WEDNESDAY, JULY 18

WIVES, GIRLFRIENDS, COWBOYS AND CANADIANS ARE WELCOME.

TRADITION WILL PREVAIL (THAT'S JERRY VALE'S BROTHER).

WE WILL HAVE LIVE MUSIC, DANCING, ENTERTAINMENT, THE 50/50 DRAWING WILL BE DISTRIBUTED IN THREE PRIZES AMONG THE THREE LUCKY WINNERS, GIFTS, FLOWERS, CHOCOLATE, CAKE AND A FANTASTIC LUNCH/BUFFET SERVED ON CLEAN DISHES.

ALL THAT FOR THE CONTEMPTIBLY SMALL FEE OF

US$ 25.00 PER PERSON

AS USUAL, IT WILL ALL HAPPEN AT

THE TAKE ONE NIGHT CLUB AND RESTAURANT

ON THE S.E. CORNER OF FREMONT AVE AND 7th STREET

IN THE LOVELY LAS VEGAS DOWNTOWN AREA.

VALET PARKING AVAILABLE

FREE AMPLE PARKING ON THE PREMISES

DOOR WILL OPEN AT 11:30 AM.

CASH BAR

(THAT IS ROSEANNE BARR'S COUSIN BUT WITHOUT THE GLAMOUR, CLASS AND SOPHISTICATION)

BUFFET/LUNCH: 12:00 NOON.

DRESS CODE: CLEAN SUMMER CASUAL

ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM:

ARTIE SCHROECK (WE WILL FORCE HIM TO BUY A VOWEL)

LINDA NOVEMBER (FORMER MISS AUGUST, SEPTEMBER AND EARLY OCTOBER)

THE GREAT TOMSONI & CO. (HE WILL DO YOU A TRICK YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND)

PAUL XAVIER CAMPANELLA (WILL SING THE BLUES AND SOME PASTELS)

TOMMY DEERING (FROM BACH TO THE BEETLES AND OTHER BUGS AND CREEPY CRAWLERS)

SURPRISE GUEST STARS (DIRECTLY FROM THE SECRET WITNESS PROGRAM)

AND

NELSON SARDELLI (WHAT???...WHY??? .....OH WELL.... IF WE MUST ...WE MUST.)

MUSIC BY: THE GARY OLDS TRIO

PLUS

DR. GEORGE RITTER - (SAXOPHONIST VIRTUOSO AND CHIROPRACTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE)

OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?

PLAN TO HAVE A LONG LOVELY LUNCH WITH YOUR WIFE AND/OR GIRLFRIEND

INVITE ALL YOUR FRIENDS WHO ARE NOT YET PRESIDENTS.

LET US MAKE THIS DATE A MEMORABLE ONE

OR NOT.

BUT PLEASE, DON'T FORGET TO RSVP.


Non club club FIORE Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events

You MUST RSVP in order to attend this event. And besides, it's the polite thing to do.

* * * * * *

If we had anything to say about it (and we think we should) we would suggest comic Mario Cantone as the person to fill the empty View chair vacated by Rosie O'Donnell. The campy Boston-born Cantone is bright and very funny and could add a whole new spin to the all-girl panel. We think he would fit in just fine. Mario, who makes no secret of his sexual orientation, is at least as feminine as Rosie, even on her best day (don't you agree, Donald Trump?). If you were a regular viewer of HBO's Sex and the City, you probably remember Mario in his recurring role as Anthony Marantino. Cantone is a frequent guest on Comedy Central as well as on The View. His turn as a visiting host on Thursday's edition of the floundering daytime gabfest was probably one of the best episodes we have seen in months and months, especially during the Hot Topics free-for-all. Are you listening ABC?



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