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 October 19, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - October 19, 2007

Gordie Brown Rich Little Babe Pier

Hopefully, this portion of today's column will make an impression on you...mainly because it is about impressionists. Some of the names may not be familiar to all you readers, while others might be. In alphabetical order (we want to be fair and politically correct here), the talented gentlemen we are mentioning this week are Gordie Brown, Rich Little, Babe Pier and Fred Travalena. Next Wednesday, October 24th, one of our favorite entertainers will celebrate an important milestone. Comic impressionist Gordie Brown begins his second year at The Venetian. The media is invited to come and partake of this young fellows talents and join him in an after-show toast or two. Since James Brown died last Christmas day, THIS Brown (we mean Gordie) could inherit the title as "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business." Cousin Claire would like to tell Las Vegas' Mr. Brown that he doesn't have to work quite so hard. The audience is already on his side and impressed (there's that word again) with his vocal and comedic skills. If you haven't seen Gordie Brown, he's at The Venetian. Go. Take a gondola ride. Check out this entertainer. Then get back to me and let me know if you were impressed (there it is again). Next we have Rich Little. One of the most recognized names in the field of impressions, the Canadian born entertainer has been performing professionally for more than half a century, having started when he was still in his teens. Little opens at the Golden Nugget on October 25t, and is scheduled to play in the 600-seat theater until April 6th of next year. Show times for Rich Little are Thursdays through Sundays at 7 p.m. Defending the Caveman takes the later shifts during the week, with shows at 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, and at 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. On Saturdays and Sundays, Caveman also offers a 3 p.m. matinee. Call (702) 386-8100. Longtime Las Vegan Babe Pier will have a temporary change of zip code when he returns to guest in the famed Palm Springs Follies revue (this is the show's 17th season) at the end of this month. A onetime member of The Vagabonds, Pier has been playing showrooms in this city for more than four decades. While in Palm Springs, he will spend the fall and winter performing with a changing group of headliners in the popular revue. Among the acts he will share the stage with are Anna Maria Alberghetti, Kaye Ballard, the Four Aces and Melba Moore. As for Fred Travalena, after a long absence from Vegas, he will headline at the Suncoast from October 26th through 28th. November 7th through 11th, veteran impressionist Travalena will perform at Buddy Greco's Supper Club in Cathedral City, outside of Palm Springs. Buddy and Lezlie Anders Greco were local residents until about a year-and-a-half ago, when they sold their southeast Vegas ranchero and moved to the other desert community. Call (702) 636-7111 for information regarding Fred Travalena's Suncoast gig, and (760) 883-5812 for info on his engagement at the Grecos.

And speaking of Defending the Caveman, tomorrow, at 3 p.m., in celebration of Oktoberfest, the Golden Nugget is hosting "Cavetoberfest" featuring the European version of the show spoken entirely in German. Karsten Kaie will star in the "Cavetoberfest" performance. He has been performing Defending the Caveman in Germany since 2001 and recently celebrated his 1,000th show. Defending the Caveman debuted in Germany in 2000. Within two years, it became the most successful one-man-show in the country. More than three million people have attended since its premiere.

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Fred Travalena Merryl Jaye with Johnny Mandel portrait

This Sunday, October 21st, the Los Angeles Jazz Society will hold its 24th Annual Jazz Tribute at the downtown L.A. Marriott Hotel. Johnny Mandel will be the 2007 Jazz Tribute Honoree. Others being honored include Marla Gibbs who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; Linda Hopkins, Jazz Vocalist Award; Bob Florence, Composer/Arranger Award; Greg Samuel, Jazz Educator Award; Ken Poston will receive the Terri Merrill-Aarons Founders Award, and Eric Lamm takes the Shelly Manne Memorial New Talent Award. Leonard Maltin will serve as Master of Ceremonies. A portrait of Johnny Mandel, painted by talented Southern Californian Merryl Jaye, will be on display. Ms. Jaye has produced her interpretations of many popular jazz and musical artists, including the late Joe Williams (a longtime Las Vegan), Nat King Cole, Stan Kenton, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie, Lena Horne, Chet Baker, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Maynard Ferguson and many, many others. To see examples of Merryl's work, check out her Web site at For additional information about the awards dinner and concert, call (818) 994-4661.

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She was too tall to be a Rockette, but Susan Anton was the perfect height to play Velma Von Tussle in the too short run of the Broadway musical Hairspray at the Luxor. Folks might be surprised to learn just how long ago it was that Anton first performed in Las Vegas (she was a principal singer in a show at the Hacienda, now buried under Mandalay Bay, more than 30 years ago). They might also be surprised to learn what a good singer Ms. Anton is and that she is a lot more than just another pretty face. Susan was one of the rotating guest stars (along with Paige O'Hara, Marlene Ricci, Maurice Hines, Jr.) in the Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular at the Flamingo, and had her own show in the lounge at the Desert Inn (now the site of Wynn Las Vegas). This weekend, Susan Anton headlines at the Suncoast. Call (702) 636-7111 for additional information.

Linda Hopkins Susan Anton Sandy Kastel

Another talented beauty, Sandy Kastel, will get a shot at her own Vegas show when she appears at the Suncoast next Wednesday (October 24th). This is Kastel's first hometown appearance since the release of her standards-studded debut album This Time Around. In addition to Ms. Kastel, the costumed and choreographed musical revue, called A Tribute to Las Vegas, will feature special guest star, legendary comic Pete Barbutti. Kastel will perform classic songs that truly define this city and the stars that made it famous. Among these are Fever, Beyond The Sea, All Of Me, Over The Rainbow and Danke Schoen. Earlier this year, Kastel's rendition of the Bobby Darin classic, Beyond The Sea (written by our friend Jack Lawrence) reached No. 14 on FMQB's AC40 chart. Sandy, a former Miss Nevada, will be accompanied by a 14-piece big band conducted by Bobby Rozario, famed for his work with Darin, Peggy Lee, Tony Orlando and Vic Damone. The show will also feature dancers choreographed by Angelo Moio, onetime dancer with Ann-Margret and Juliet Prowse, and one of the few choreographers sanctioned by Michael Bennett's estate to set the original choreography for the Tony-winning musical, A Chorus Line. Barbutti, well-known for his numerous appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, served as opening act for headliners such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. Kastel's show will raise money for Children's Miracle Network, the alliance of premier hospitals for children. Proceeds from a pre-show silent auction (starting at 7:30) will be earmarked for the network. Auction items will include jewelry, artwork, sports memorabilia, dinners at local restaurants plus much more. Tickets for Kastel's 8 p.m. show are available from $14.95, and may be purchased by calling the box office (open from noon to 8 p.m. daily) at (702) 636-7075 or Toll Free at (877) 636-7111.

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What goes around comes around. Proof of that exists with both the Scintas and Fashionistas shows. After moving here from Buffalo, New York, the "family revue," made up of siblings Frankie, Joey and Chrissi Scinta and friendly interloper Pete O'Donnell, launched their Las Vegas career in the Hilton's lounge/mini showroom now known as the Shimmer Cabaret. They left the Paradise Street resort to move to the Rio, and their own named large showroom. The next move took the Scintas to the north Strip and the Sahara. In September, the quartet returned to where their Vegas career began, the Hilton. They are now calling their show LOL (Laugh Out Loud) with The Scintas. In a similar case of musical chairs, John Stagliano's Fashionistas opened at Krave, adjacent to the Aladdin in October of 2004. Lots of changes there. Some months ago, the adult-themed erotic revue departed the club on Harmon and moved their business to the Empire Ballroom on the Strip. Fashionistas recently returned to the place from whence they started, only now it's known as the Harmon Theater AT Krave, and the place it's adjacent to is now Robert Earl's Planet Hollywood. One thing is for sure, when it comes to this is ever changing.

Incidentally, the Shimmer Cabaret is also the home of Menopause the Musical and the Sunset Strip Band. Because it plays seven days a week, there are two casts for Menopause. The ladies that sing and act their way through 25 parodies of classic hits about "the change," are played by 10 multi-talented pros - Susan Beaudian, Sandra Benton, Vita Corimbi, Lori Legacy-Hunt, Skye Dee Miles, Laura Lee O'Connell, Paige O'Hara, Cherie Price, Cheryl Spencer and Annette Verdolino. The cast is backed by a real, live trio made up of Michael Dubay on piano (he also serves as musical director), Jonathan Rem on bass, and Don Meoli on drums. The third show in the Shimmer Cabaret, the Sunset Strip Band, is NOT about menopause, but the talented 10 piece ensemble can cause hot flashes just the same. Made up of Steven Lee, Brenda Leonard Cowart, Andrea Adams, Nadia Albulet, Sina Foley, Elizabeth Keasler, D' La Vance, Melanie Michaud, Kip Mungin and Lorena Peril, this group keeps the heat going into the night. Show times for Laugh Out Loud with The Scintas are 2 and 9:30 p.m. on Mondays, and 9:30 p.m., Fridays through Wednesdays. Menopause the Musical plays at 7 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays; and 4 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. As for the Sunset Strip Band, they take over the Shimmer Cabaret late nights, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

And speaking of Joey, as in Joey Scinta...Comic, onetime talk show host, and former Rat Pack member, Joey Bishop has died. Bishop, who had been in declining health for the past couple of years, was 89. Although all the members of the famous, fun gang of music and mischief makers are no longer with us, their spirit lives on in The Rat Pack is Back! A Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey and Dean, now in its sixth year at the Greek Isles Hotel & Casino (there are also Rat Pack touring companies). In the show, Bishop is portrayed by Sandy Hackett (who, along with Dick Feeney, is also producer of the show) and sometimes by Tom Wallek. Our sympathies go out to Bishop's family, friends and fans.

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We hope that, if you are interested, you have already purchased your tickets for the Broadway Divas show at UNLV tomorrow night (October 20th) . If you haven't, it shouldn't be too late (the Artemus Ham Concert Hall seats more than 1,800). A part of the university's New York Stage & Beyond series, the Broadway Divas are made up of Julia Murney, who played Elphaba in Wicked, both on Broadway and in the national tour. Murney also appeared in Chess and Funny Girl. In 2000, she was the Drama Desk Outstanding Actress nominee for her role in The Wild Party. Emily Skinner was a Tony Award nominee as Best Actress in Side Show. She also was in The Full Monty and Jekyll and Hyde. Kate Baldwin co-starred in Wonderful Town, Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Full Monty. Kimberly Grigsby will conduct the orchestra. Kim also has conducting credits with the revival of Grease, as well as Spring Awakening, The Full Monty, Light in the Piazza and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Tickets are priced at $40, $55 and $80. For reservations, call UNLV at (702) 895-2787. The show starts at 8 p.m.

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On October 24th, a new TV reality show will debut on NBC. Called Phenomenon, the eight week competition, pitting magicians and mentalists against each other, will take over Deal or No Deal‘s 8 p.m. timeslot. Mind Freak star, Criss Angel, and paranormalist, Uri Geller, will critique the competitors. Phenomenon will conduct an intensive nationwide search for the next great mentalist. The series tests 10 hopeful mentalists who must compete each week to demonstrate a wide spectrum of mystifying talents for a panel of weekly celebrity guests and a studio audience. Geller and Angel will assess the contestants but ultimately the winner's fate will be determined by the viewers at home. In addition to voting, each episode will contain an interactive component to engage the at home audience. Among those participating in eight week contest will be Hooters star, Gerry McCambridge, known as The Mentalist. If Gerry is as good as we think he is, he should be able, with his skills, to determine who will win. As for the magicians, the best one in that category should be able to make the others disappear. We predict that is what is likely to happen.

Gerry McCambridge Kalani Kokonuts Liz Renay

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Ohmygod! This weeks' saddest moments on TV both took place on Tuesday. During the daytime, on her talk/variety show, it was a sobbing Ellen DeGeneres telling the story of her rescued pup being taken away from a family that she had given it to. Apparently, Iggy was removed from the second family because, according to the contract Ellen and her partner Portia de Rossi signed, the dog could not be placed with another family without permission from the agency where the canine came from. At night, it was Wayne Newton's croaking out a pitiful version of Danke Schoen on ABC's Dancing With the Stars that was sad (the Wayner and his partner Cheryl Burke were eliminated from the competition during week three). In a news story written by entertainment columnists Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith (published on October 8th), the ladies question if Wayne Newton has lost the ability to sing. Newton's response is "Absolutely, positively untrue. All someone has to do is come to one of my shows and draw their own conclusions. "The story is ridiculous," blasts the man who has been performing in Las Vegas since the 1950s. A couple of years ago, some unhappy audience members asked the same question in Parade magazine's weekly Question and Answers feature. According to Mr. Newton's spokesperson, Wayne was suffering from some sort of virus at the time the Enquiring Minds attended the onetime Mr. Las Vegas' show. He still has "the virus." We suggest that the Midnight Idol should become the Midnight Idle. Wayne HAS lost the ability to sing. He used up his voice singing too many weeks out of the year during the past 50 years. His attempts to please his earlier fans has cost Wayne dearly. When he states "All someone has to do is come to one of my shows and draw their own conclusions," people did just that during his five years at the now imploded Stardust Hotel & Casino. On a typical evening, approximately 10 percent of the audience would leave the showroom early, asking for their money back. They felt cheated. What they were seeing was the remnants of the onetime star of the Strip. Complaints ranged from, "he spent too much time schmoozing with the audience," to "the band and background singers did more than he did," and "that he had no voice left." It's sad, but this is the reality that is Wayne Newton today. Cousin Claire will probably take some heat for criticizing an American Idol (just like she has when she voiced her opinion on some other idols, like Oprah and Jerry Lewis for example). We wish Wayne would just admit the truth and declare that his singing days are over. That is not to say he still can't entertain, but just no more vocalizing...please.

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Grant Philipo is up to his usual Halloween tricks (and treats), come Saturday night. Grant is the host of the very "adults only" annual Hallow-Erotic Ball. This year, the ball is dedicated to the memory of Grant's good friend, the late Liz Renay (Liz loved this party!). The event is definitely not for the modest or faint of heart. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING goes at the Hallow-Erotic Ball...especially clothing. Attendees will see it all, and we do mean all! Among Philipos' talents (the ones we can write about) is costume designing. You won't see much of that at his haunted mansion on Saturday night. The idea is to go un-costumed, or wearing as little as the law allows. There are all kinds of contests - Sexiest Male & Female Nude, Most Elaborate Display of Flesh, Sexiest Male & Female Vampire, Hottest Female Impersonator, Hottest Male Impersonator, Naughtiest Guest among them - with cash, professional photo shoots, and fun prizes for the winners. A few of the show folk expected to attend are the incredibly gorgeous Kalani Kokonuts in a Command Performance of her burlesque act; the unbelievable female Impersonation of, Frankie Kein, star of One of a Kind; former adagio star turned comedian, Ludo Vika; male stripper with something extra, Sexy Jay, and, hopefully, the comedy antics of Tony & Lloyd. Also, Grant's friends, costume designer Michael Travis (The Supremes, Diana Ross solo, Laugh-In, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Lynda Carter, and many more), furrier Anna Nateece (responsible for most of Liberace's furs); and former Nevada Lt. Governor, the eccentric Lonnie Hammergren, will be among the celebrity judges at perhaps the wildest party of the year. Frank Marino, star of the Riviera's An Evening at La Cage, will act as host of the competition. There is no admission charge to attend the ball, but BYOB and "tip money" for the up-close and oh so personal entertainment. You will be asked a few questions by the host. If you pass the test (and Grant has high/low standards for attendees), he will give you the address and directions on how to get to his and Mary Dee's place. Nude models and erotic entertainers are invited to attend...after being interrogated by Mr. Philipo. If you just show up, you probably won‘t be admitted, so call (702) 796-0559. Be-jewel those thongs, polish those buns, and get ready to party!

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Rick Springfield and Eddie Money will share the stage tomorrow (Saturday the 20th) night, beginning at 8 p.m., when they perform at Buffalo Bill's Star of the Desert Arena in Primm, Nevada (located 25 minutes south of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 at the Southern Nevada/California state line). Springfield, the Australian-born pop-rock singer/ songwriter/actor, is best known for the 1980s hits, the Grammy-winning Jessie's Girl, Affair of the Heart, Love Somebody, Don't Talk to Strangers and I've Done Everything For You. Springfield, who played Noah Drake on the daytime soap, General Hospital. He also starred in EFX at the MGM Grand during that show's run. Brooklyn-born Money had a number of hits, including Take Me Home Tonight, I Wanna Go Back and Two Tickets to Paradise. Speaking of tickets, the ones to see Springfield and Money are priced at $44.95 and $29.95 plus applicable taxes and fees and are available at Buffalo Bill's Box Office or by calling 1-800-FUN-STOP. They can also be purchased through Ticketmaster outlets. Call (702) 474-4000.

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The October edition of the Composers Showcase takes place on Tuesday the 23rd, beginning at 10:30 p.m. (after theater). Featured local songwriters will include Dana Allen, Jason Andino, Michael Brennan, Vita Corimbi, Thom Culcasi, Wayne Green, Richard Oberacker and Josh Sassanella. The songs will be presented, vocally, by Brandon and Kelly Albright, Kristen Hertzenberg, Sarah Mugavera, Rick Pessagno, Elizabeth Share, Ryan Silverman and Rob Sutton. This monthly event takes place in the Wes Winters Showroom at the Liberace Museum, located on the corner of Tropicana and Spencer (enter off Spencer), next to Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens (NOT the freestanding building fronting Tropicana). There is a cash bar and a $5 per person hors d'oeuvres buffet provided by Keg and Cork Catering. (No credit cards, please.) Cousin Claire STRONGLY urges ALL attendees, other than the composers and performers featured that night, to cough up the five bucks. It's a paltry amount to pay for what you get. The money goes to the Liberace Foundation, whose mission it is to help talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance. Sound support is generously sponsored by John Meren and Tom Gallagher of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada (thanks Tom and John). A reminder...Carluccio's (next door to the museum) serves until 10 p.m. Come early and have dinner before the show. See you there.

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A great big THANK YOU to Liberace Museum Director Tanya Combs. She turned out to be the Princess on the White Stallion this week, by coming to Cousin Claire's rescue at the very last minute. Your efforts are much appreciated, Tanya.

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