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 August 24, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - August 24, 2007

Domenick Allen & Leigh Zimmerman Bill Fayne

Because of lack of space in last week's column, we delayed our story about Domenick Allen. That turned out to be a good thing, a blessing in disguise if you will. It gave us a chance to see Mr. Allen at work on Monday evening. From now, through the 31st (dark on Sunday), Domenick is part of the three-man show holding court at the Excalibur while Louie Anderson takes some time off. The show is called Clint Holmes Unplugged JAM. In addition to Mr. Allen and Clint Holmes, this (for Clint) bare bones show, also features Bill Fayne, Clint's friend of three decades as well as his musical director and writing partner. We are not sure why the title "Unplugged," as there is plenty of electricity generated by these three talented gentlemen. Surprisingly (or not), we actually enjoyed this format more than the one Clint did at Harrah's for six plus years. We would like to see more of this side of Clint Holmes...and friends. By the way, you can see Bill Fayne in his own one-man-show, My Life In Music, on Sunday at the Bootlegger. Dinner seating is at 7 p.m. and show starts at 8.

As promised, here are some things you should know about Domenick Allen, performing in Unplugged JAM with Clint Holmes and Bill Fayne at the Excalibur through the 31st (dark Sundays). His name may not be familiar to newcomers around these parts, but, to those that have spent time in Las Vegas during the early 1980s, they should remember seeing Domenick Allen's name in ads and on marquees, right under the larger letters spelling out L-I-B-E-R-A-C-E. For four years, from December 2, 1980 to 1984, Allen toured all over the world with the famed pianist. This was an opportunity, experienced by only a limited number of fortunate and talented individuals. Among the people who either had their careers launched or greatly enhanced as the result of being presented by Mr. Showmanship, were Barbra Streisand, Annie's Andrea McArdle, Fay McKay, the tap dancing Williams Brothers (discovered on Star Search) and puppeteer extraordinaire, Barclay Shaw. Born into a show business family (his parents, Nick and Heather Allen were well-known around Florida), Domenick was performing six nights a week when he was only 13. Domenick didn't just count on genetics to prepare himself for a life on the stage, he studied (acting at both the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and, from 1983 to 1987, with the famed New York acting coach, Stella Adler). Domenick Allen could best be described as a multi-threat performer. He has mastered many instruments, including, but not limited to, piano/ keyboards, saxophone (alto, tenor and soprano), clarinet, flute, guitar, bass guitar, banjo, ukulele, mandolin, harmonica and even bagpipes, which he played during his tenure with Liberace. Allen also has credits on a couple of albums, Burning For Buddy (Rich) on the Atlantic label and Tokyo for Universal/MCA. He has had theatrical roles in London (playing Tony Sorrento in the West End's production of the musical 125th Street at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and A Sense of Freedom) and the US (Blood Brothers, with Helen Reddy, on Broadway, Richard III, Othello, All's Well That Ends Well, The Dresser, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Entirely Sophie. During 1988-89, Allen played Simon Prescott on the NBC soap, Days Of Our Lives. Other television appearances included roles in Disney's Sing Me A Story With Belle, Matlock, Swift Justice, Small Wonder, Superior Court, Thumbelina (an animated feature film), and Star Search. Among live performances, a 1990-91 world tour as lead singer with Foreigner (I Want To Know What Love Is, Double Vision, Cold As Ice, Feels Like The First Time, Hot Blooded), a concert at Carnegie Hall (yes, Carnegie Hall) with the Buddy Rich Big Band, and appearances with Stevie Wonder at the L.A. Forum, Petula Clark, Carole King, Annie Ross (who is Domenick�s aunt), gospel singer Helen Baylor and Barry Manilow. Until the end of last year, the Allen family had been living in London. Domenick decided it was time to head back to the US and for him, specifically to Las Vegas. It took them only one day to sell their London home. As fate would have it, Domenick's wife auditioned for Mel Brooks and wound up being hired for the Vegas production of The Producers. Domenick (who was married to actress Charlene Tilton, Lucy Ewing on Dallas, from 1985 to 1992) has been married to Leigh Zimmerman for 14 years. Leigh is the statuesque va-va-va-voom blonde who plays Ulla in the Las Vegas version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, doing good business at Paris Las Vegas. Domenick and Leigh are the parents of seven-year-old Cayleigh.

Barclay Shaw John Eisele Terry Fator

There have been many stories about the generosity of Liberace. It was not unusual for him to give jewelry or automobiles to close friends and family members. In 1980, Domenick got an extremely generous gift from his mentor. Frances Liberace had died a couple of months prior to Domenick joining her son's show. Liberace wanted to GIVE Domenick his mother's Las Vegas home. The flabbergasted young entertainer said, "I can't take your mother's house," so Liberace sold him the place, with furnishings, for $1. Yes, that's what Cousin Claire said...$1. Domenick hasn't owned the house for many years, but he does still have the furniture. It has all traveled with the Allens to wherever they were living at the time and is now back in Las Vegas in their new home.

Clint Holmes and Domenick Allen's paths first crossed when Clint, as a correspondent for TV's Entertainment Tonight, interviewed Allen. They later found themselves entertaining, separately, on the same Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Both men recognized a mutual love of the same types of music and vowed to work together one day. That day is now. If you are a fan of good music and major talent, do yourselves a favor and get over to the Excalibur during the next week (dark on Sunday) and catch Holmes, Allen and Fayne in their limited run engagement at the castle on the corner of the Strip and Tropicana. We have a feeling the public has not seen the last of this dynamite combination.

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Multi-talented Doug Swander makes his Las Vegas debut at 7 p.m. tomorrow night (August 25th) at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin. Swander, presented by Michael Chapman and Chapquist Entertainment, is an actor, Sony Music recording artist and singer/songwriter who has shared the stage with Henry Mancini, Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Price, Hoyt Axton and Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers. Doug's repertoire ranges from country and classic rock 'n roll to popular, nostalgic standards and songs from the musical theater. Doug has appeared on Late Night With David Letterman, TNN Network's Nashville and Music City USA, and was a semi-finalist on Ed McMahon's Star Search. Swander's voice has been compared to some of the greatest crooners of our time. When he sits down at the piano, you're reminded of Harry Connick Jr., and when he picks up a guitar, Doug's at home in his own country roots. Swander's performance will also feature some of his original compositions, described as moving and personal. When you leave the theater, you'll feel like you just spent an evening with a new friend. Tickets, $15 for Sun City residents and $17 for all others, are on sale at Desert Vista, Mountain Shadows and Pinnacle Community Centers, all located in Sun City. Sorry, no phone sales. If you live elsewhere, you either have to drive out days prior to the performance date to purchase your tickets, or take your chances by just showing up the night of the show. No credit cards are accepted. All tickets must be paid for by check or cash, with exact change required. (We admit, the policies aren't very user-friendly but, almost always, the shows are worth the slight inconvenience.) For additional information on the Starbright, call (702) 240-1301.

And speaking of Star Search, we attended Linda Eder's sold out show at the Suncoast on Sunday night. In 1987-88, Eder was a Star Search contestant herself. She was undefeated for 12 weeks before being voted winner as 1988's Best Female Vocalist. Although Eder has appeared in Southern Nevada before, at UNLV and Lake Las Vegas, the three-night engagement at the Suncoast was her first at a Las Vegas hotel/casino. As it was a total sell out (Cousin Claire spotted cast members from The Producers and Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular in the audience), we have a feeling the Suncoast will bring Eder back. We have a couple of suggestions for her next hotel booking - bring more than one gown, and drink hot tea with honey to overcome that dreaded "Vegas throat" (cutting down on the stage "mood smoke" might also help). The co-star of the Broadway musical, Jekyll and Hyde, and a recording artist was a real crowd pleaser, hopefully erasing some of the bad memories left by Alexis Gershwin, the niece of George and Ira, who bombed at the Suncoast in late July. We have a feeling the hotel was hoodwinked by a publicity photo that was probably decades old, and a resume that may have been created by a high-paid fiction writer.

For those who missed Linda Eder last weekend, you will have another chance to see her when she returns to Las Vegas in June. Eder will perform on the outdoor mall at UNLV. The occasion is the continuing celebration of our growing university's 50th birthday/anniversary. Look for more information on this event as it gets closer to June.

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As August comes to an end, there is one thing we can predict with certainty...and, no, we are not talking about the blinking lights warning drivers to slow down for nine-month school zones. We are talking about the Jerry Lewis Labor Day weekend telethon. For the second consecutive year, the marathon telethon will take place at the South Point Hotel & Casino. What is new this year is that, after many years with CBS, local Channel 8, the annual event will be broadcast on ABC, Channel 13 in Las Vegas. If Jerry Lewis is in the neighborhood, can Eddie Foy III be far behind? Once again, Foy will be dealing with the talent portion of the telethon. Some years ago, Eddie the Third, who is primarily known as a Hollywood casting director, was a Las Vegas resident. During his time here, he was entertainment director at the Sahara. Interestingly, it was the Sahara that hosted the Jerry Lewis Telethon for many years...and that was prior to Foy's association with the property. In a move that made no sense (most places could never afford to pay for the publicity the nationally televised money-maker generated), the new owner opted not to continue the relationship with Lewis and the telethon. Of course, these are the same folks who opted not to keep the popular Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson, on the roster of entertainers playing on the north end of the Strip. There has to be a good reason why local hotels host things like the Miss America pageant and major award shows from their theaters. The reason, of course, is all the free publicity the events generate.

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Here is some news that came as a surprise to us...and there isn't much that surprises us these days. Milli Vanilli (remember them?) and the Village People have something in common, other than the obvious. It seems that lip synching is the common bond that these two acts share. When it was revealed that the duo known as Milli Vanilli (German-born Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan from France) did not do the singing on their 1989 debut album, they were stripped of their Best New Artist Grammy Award. Well, it seems that the boys from the Y.M.C.A., much like Milli and Vanilli, did not, and still do not, provide their own vocals when they perform. In the case of Milli Vanilli, the hit songs originally attributed to them (Baby Don't Forget My Number, Girl I'm Gonna Miss You and Blame It On the Rain) were, in fact, sung by Charles Shaw, John Davis and Brad Howe...who never received any awards or even acknowledgement. As for the disco-darlings - the policeman, Indian, construction worker, cowboy, army man and leather man - they may have been Macho Man (Men) and In The Navy, but, it seems, they were never in the recording studio. And, on the same subject, did you know that, for years, Frankie Valli hasn't been singing those famous falsetto notes? For at least two decades, he has assigned that job to another member of his ensemble.

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Hurry, hurry. Tonight (August 24th), at 8 p.m., the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada will hold a benefit concert at the Onyx Theatre in Commercial Center (East Sahara and Maryland Parkway). Performing in a variety show called A Tribute to the Great White Way, local entertainers, including Vita Corimbi and Skye Dee Miles from Menopause the Musical, Larry Atello from Tony �n Tina's Wedding, karaoke host Sheila Wright, Miss Kitty and Miss Frankie, The Sin City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Rudalenska and New York stage veteran John Eisele (see his Web site under his stage name, Johnathan Isley), will donate their artistic skills to help raise money for the center. Performances will include show-stopping moments from such famed productions as Cabaret, Chess, La Cage Aux Folles, Dreamgirls, Chicago, Follies, A Chorus Line, Jekyll and Hyde, Mame and more. This is the first in what is expected to be a series of annual concerts to help fund The Center. Conceived, produced and hosted by Eisele, the tribute will donate all proceeds to The Center, a non-profit organization that provides a safe and healthy environment for the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, offering important resources and services such as Hepatitis A & B immunizations and HIV prevention, testing, counseling, meetings, outings, referrals and programs. The concert space has been donated by the Onyx Theatre (enter through The Rack clothing store). In addition, the Spotlight Lounge will be sponsoring a post-concert party for all ticket holders. Tickets for A Tribute to the Great White Way can be purchased by calling The Center at (702) 733-9800 or visiting their office at 953 East Sahara Avenue, Suite B1. "I've been so fortunate to be a part of such an amazing, community-wide giving spirit in the five years since Las Vegas has been my home," said John Eisele. "It's truly an honor to continue that tradition with this benefit concert for The Center. I urge the Las Vegas community to support this event and treat themselves to a memorable evening of music and fun," he said. "It's going to be a very memorable night."

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As if Keith Thompson doesn't' have enough to keep himself busy, what with his job as musical director of The Producers and the creator of the monthly Composers Showcase, he has come up with something else to do, this time on a Saturday afternoon (tomorrow, the 25th at 2 p.m., as a matter of fact). There will be a semi-staged reading of a brand new, still in development show called IDAHO!, that has its sights on Broadway. Come be part of the process. Described as "an audaciously funny new comedy-musical," with book and lyrics by Morris T. Sheffield, and music by Morris T. Sheffield and Keith Thompson (Oh, that's what Keith does in his spare time!), the reading will be done by a talented group of professionals from shows such as The Producers, Menopause the Musical and Mamma Mia! Included in the cast are Rich Affannato, Melanie Allen, Jim Ambler, Sandra Benton, Patrick Boyd, Bill Gilinsky, Chris Holly, Shari Jordan, Chris Klink, Bill Nolte, Jay Rogers, Elizabeth Share, Jessica Sheridan, Rob Sutton and Alet Taylor. Stage manager is Joe Sheridan. The IDAHO! reading will take place in the Alta Ham Fine Arts Building (Paul Harris Theater) on the UNLV Campus (4505 Maryland Parkway). Admission is free. RSVP to [email protected], or call Keith Thompson at (917) 705-6899.

Although the Liberace Museum generously donates the use of the theater space for the Composers Showcase, it does not cover the cost of the technical help (as in stage lighting, etc.). Those costs are paid for by Tom Gallagher and John Meren of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada. The PAS has been in existence for almost 20 years, during which time they have put on shows (often featuring Las Vegas production show talent) in venues such as the Debbie Reynolds Hotel (now the Greek Isles) and theaters at the Winchester Community Center and Clark County Flamingo Library. This Sunday, at 2 p.m., they will present the oh so talented Lee Roy Reams in Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance. Mr. Reams will be accompanied at the piano by Keith Thompson (there he is again). Both gentlemen are associated with The Producers at Paris Las Vegas - Reams, in the tour de force role of Roger DeBris, and Thompson as musical director. You still may be able to get tickets for the Sunday performance (they are a reasonable $15). For further information, call PAS at (702) 658-6741. See you there.

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Due to the success of TV talent shows (American Idol, The Next Best Thing, Last Comic Standing, and America's Got Talent, which has been the top TV show with viewers during this season), is it any wonder that the networks are looking for other low cost reality-type shows? What's next? Clowning Around, with competing Ringling Bros. dropouts or rejects? You Are Getting Very Sleepy, featuring hypnotists from around the world? Gold Mime, where the grandchildren of Marcel Marceau challenge each other, without speaking of course, to win $10,000 in gold bars? Maybe next season. What you CAN expect to see beginning on October 17th, is Phenomenon, NBC's upcoming series with magicians and mentalists competing against each other for the top prize. The show is currently seeking ten folks who think they might have what it takes to come out the winner. Las Vegas auditions will take place at the Luxor (Egyptian Ballroom A) this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional auditions will take place in Los Angeles at the Tribune Studios (Bronson Gate, Building 11, Suite 104) on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and in New York at the Granada Production Space (9th Floor), also on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be interesting to see if some of the local performers (Kevin James and Nathan Burton, for example), who have already competed in similar shows, will turn up at open calls for Phenomenon.

On the subject of America's Got Talent, this season's winner of both the title and a million bucks is Texas ventriloquist Terry Fator. In early interviews, Fator, who is known as The Human Jukebox, indicated that his goal was to work in Las Vegas. Well, in addition to his big financial win, it was announced that the clever entertainer will be going into Jubilee! at Bally's. No mention was made as to when that would happen or for how long. We also read in a local gossip column (hopefully, the information is correct) that Fator will appear in the main showroom at the Las Vegas Hilton on October 14th. As for the Jubilee! dates, we will let you know the details when we find out. There were a few guest artists on the America's Got Talent Tuesday night finale, among them, cast members from Planet Hollywood's Stomp Out Loud. The low point of the two hour finale show was when judge David Hasselhoff brutalized the song This Is The Moment. For those who don't know, The Hoff (who we have loved since he played Snapper Foster on The Young and The Restless) starred in the musical Jekyll and Hyde in London and, for a brief period, on Broadway, where he sang that Frank Wildhorn (former husband of Linda Eder) power ballad many, many times - hopefully better than he sang it on Tuesday night's show. When he finished his over-the-top rendition, America's Got Talent host, Jerry Springer, asked Hasselhoff's fellow judge, Piers Morgan (the Simon Cowell of AGT) what he thought of the performance. Morgan, who had suffered painful injuries in a Segway accident a couple of days earlier, responded by saying "I didn't think I would ever experience the agony of breaking three ribs, but I just did it all over again." Ouch! What we can pretty much guarantee is, that if David had been a potential contestant on the talent show, he would have been sent packing very early in the elimination process. Stick to the judging, Hoff.

In a classy move, entertainer Ronn Lucas issued a statement congratulating fellow ventriloquist and America's Got Talent winner, Terry Fator. "I am just so proud of Terry for showing the nation that ventriloquism is an art form," said Lucas. "Terry has shown that ventriloquism is a powerful entertainment force to be reckoned with." The two men have known each other for more than 10 years, and have had numerous conversations about ventriloquism. While Lucas has not seen Fator work live, he truly enjoyed his performances on America's Got Talent, and is looking forward to watching Fator perform when he comes to Las Vegas. As for Lucas, who was named Ventriloquist of the Year by the American Society of Ventriloquists, he has been performing in Las Vegas for years, appearing in main rooms with headliners such as the Smothers Brothers and Jim Stafford (Spiders & Snakes and My Girl Bill), and in his own shows at the Rio and more recently in the Steve Wyrick Entertainment Complex at Planet Hollywood. These days, you can catch Ronn's clever act at the Luxor, where The Man Who Can Make Anything Talk entertains in the Atrium Showroom, Saturdays through Wednesdays at 3 p.m., with additional 1 p.m. shows on Mondays and Saturdays. Ronn is a no show on Thursdays and Fridays.

Kellie Pickler Darcus Peter Banks as Austin Powers

And speaking of TV talent shows...Proving that you don't have to win American Idol to become one, Kellie Pickler will perform at Whiskey Pete's Showroom in Primm on Friday, September 14 at 9 p.m. Pickler, a finalist on last year�s show, quickly became a fan favorite with her homespun, Southern-style charm and incredible vocal range. BNA Records, a subsidiary of Sony BMG Music, released Kellie's debut album, Small Town Girl in late 2006. The first single from that album, Red High Heels, quickly climbed the country charts. The second single, I Wonder, is a very personal song about her relationship with her mother. Kellie first performed I Wonder on TV's The View during her two-day co-hosting gig, then again on Season 6 of American Idol in March. Sales from Small Town Girl made Kellie Pickler the best selling new country solo artist for 2006. Tickets, priced at $24.95 plus applicable tax and fees, are available at Whiskey Pete's Box Office and Ticketmaster outlets. Whiskey Pete's, part of the Primm Valley Casino Resorts, is located 25 minutes south of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 at the Southern Nevada/California state line.

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One of our favorite female singers, Darcus, will perform at Sonny's Tavern tonight (August 24th) at 8 p.m. and midnight. This lady has sung in just about every major venue in the city and most recently was at Maggiano's on the Strip. Sonny's is located at 4145 S. Grand Canyon Drive (W. Flamingo and the 215 Freeway). Incidentally, Darcus is nominated for the American Black Music Award's Best R&B Performer. The ceremony will take place at the Cashman Theater this Sunday (the 26th). The Red Carpet portion begins at 5 p.m., with the show following at 6. Among other nominees (in various categories) are Delisco, Genevieve, Serena Henry, Clint Holmes, Santa Fe and Jason Tenner. Call Sonny's at (702) 889-1005 for additional information or more specific directions.

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We are saddened to report the recent death of Peter Banks. The genial gentleman was best known around Las Vegas as an Austin Powers look and sound-alike. Banks had a lifetime career in show business, as a singer, songwriter, karaoke host, producer and celebrity impersonator. He could frequently be seen at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon (formerly the Barbary Coast) when his friend Pete "Big Elvis" Vallee was performing. We met Mr. Banks in July of last year at media night for Shag With a Twist. His retro ensemble and portrayal of the Powers character, played in the films by Mike Myers, fit perfectly with the Shag costumes and mood. A humanitarian, Banks was friendly and outgoing and more than willing to pose for photos with others. Born in Leicestershire, England, he had been a Las Vegas resident for six years. Peter Banks was only 53 years old. Donations in his memory can be made to the Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas.

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