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 November 09, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - November 9, 2007

Dave Swan Robert Goulet Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme

We have to wonder if the small turnout at last Saturday's benefit/tribute for ailing Dave Swan was due to the fact it was put together by The CAST Inc. Swan is a well-liked entertainment personality who has lived and worked in this community for about three decades. He portrayed King Arthur in Tournament of the Kings at Excalibur for many years, was a regular in Legends In Concert at the Imperial Palace and also appeared in Dick Feeney's Viva Las Vegas at the Stratosphere (it's now at the downtown Plaza). There should have been many more people than the approximately 100 who showed up at the Imperial Palace theater for the event. We will give you our opinion of why we think this project failed to do what it should have. We blame it on what is left of The CAST Inc., the organization who sponsored the fundraiser, and the floundering group's unelected current president.

As promised in an earlier column, we will try to explain the CAST. This group was started about five years ago, following the death of a onetime Las Vegas entertainer who left this earth with no family and no funds for a proper burial. A few caring souls collected enough to give the departed gentleman a respectable send-off instead of the lonely paupers' funeral he may have faced. Realizing that there were probably other aging former performers in the Las Vegas community who were dealing with similar circumstances, the small band of concerned humanitarians formed a group and called it The CAST Inc. Within a short time, after trying to deal with egos and internal politics, the people who started the group departed. Things have gotten progressively worse for the organization. The officers that ran, and continue to run, this now dwindling group, are not elected, they are self-appointed. (Is this any way to run an airline?) There are only a few people that have been assisted by this bunch. On their Web site, you can see that an electric wheelchair was provided for a former entertainer who had lost her mobility and independence, and that $15,000 was given to three schools in the community. HUH? We thought the purpose of the Cast was to help needy retired entertainers. When questioned about why money was given to schools, we were told that if there were dollars in their bank account at the end of the year, the CAST would have to pay taxes on the funds. The only way that would occur was if the group had not obtained the proper tax exempt/non-profit status. If there had been business people at the helm of the CAST, instead of entertainers, this would have been one of the first things they took care of. So, because they hadn't followed the basic rules, money that should have gone to assist those in need was given to schools. We felt that, if a bank account had to be emptied, a better idea would have been to make payments to Nevada Power to be used for some of our aging/ill entertainers' summer electric bills. Or, how about providing food baskets containing non-perishable items? Or, maybe paying for some minor home repairs?

Now, back to the Dave Swan event. Although we, like many others, no longer have much to do with the CAST, what we know is this. People who knew Mr. Swan, and some who actually worked with him over the years, were ignored (no e-mails answered, no phone calls returned) when trying to volunteer their services and/or talents for the IP-held show. For the most part, the generous people contributing their talent to try to make this a success, are the same people who usually volunteer their services when needed...and/or they are friends of the CAST president. And just how were the performers selected? Can you say "clique"? Who was it that was fielding the calls and e-mails? The CAST president. Another concern that we have is the fact that a number of the handful of folks who did show up at the Imperial Palace to attend the show, were told they could not make their checks out to Dave Swan, but only to the CAST. Why? If the funds were going to Mr. Swan anyway, why wouldn't the organization accept a check made out directly to him? If you want to spend $150 a year (or the now "reduced" amount of $100 a year, as announced at the tribute) to be a member of a social group that occasionally meets for lunch, and sometimes puts on a variety show while you have your meal, this may be right up your alley. If, on the other hand, you want to help those in need, either give the money directly to the person, or give it to a legitimate organization with a good track record and open books for you to look at. It's really too bad that something that started out with such good intentions has dwindled away to practically nothing. Remember, you pays your money, you takes your choice.

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It is hoped that the late Robert Goulet, whose name appeared on marquees around the country for many years, will have his name in lights one more time. The plan is for hotels along the famed Las Vegas Strip to pay homage to the singing star by putting a memorial message on their marquees today (Friday), the day of his funeral. Goulet, who brightened up the stages of the world with his wonderful baritone voice, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis on October 30th, while awaiting a lung transplant. Services were scheduled for 1 p.m. today at The Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer, 55 E. Reno Ave. (across from the Luxor on the Las Vegas Strip). Goulet gained international fame playing Sir Lancelot in the Alan Jay Lerner-Fredrick Loewe musical, Camelot, on Broadway. He went on to star in movies, on television and well as some very clever TV commercials. Over the years, Goulet earned a Tony, Grammy and Emmy for his endeavors. According to his wife of 25 years, Vera Goulet, among those invited to attend the services at the 2300-seat church are Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, Rich Little, Phyllis McGuire, Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Suzanne Somers, Barry Manilow, Celine Dion and Lance Burton. The public is also welcome to attend and pay their respects.

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Bobby Barrett Charlie Shaffer Sac a Pulses

Letters. We get letters. We get lots and lots of letters. (What? You don't remember The Perry Como Show and that tune?) Okay, so we don't get as many as Perry did (nor should we), but we do get our share. We are always happy to TRY to answer a question for a reader. For JR, who e-mailed from Austin, Texas, wanting to know the whereabouts of singer Bobby Barrett, this is what we have learned. Barrett, who is suffering some serious voice issues, is no longer performing. He is now living in Arizona. JR also mentioned a fondness for musician George Bugatti who was last seen by the Vegas visitors at the southeast neighborhood restaurant, Casa Di Amore. As coincidence would have it, the last place in Las Vegas that Mr. Barrett performed was at the same Italian eatery. As for Mr. Bugatti, when he is in the city, on Wednesdays through Saturdays, he can be found at Casa Di Amore, where he alternates with Doug Michaels. George is spending much of his time on the road. He and tenor sax player Sam Arlen (the son of the great songwriter, Harold Arlen) are touring with the show, The Wonderful Wizard of Song. Harold Arlen, the Wizard in the show's title, wrote Stormy Weather, Let's Fall in Love, Come Rain or Come Shine, That Old Black Magic, I've Got the World On a String and Over the Rainbow, among others. Thanks to Casa Di Amore manager, Michael Campagno, for filling us in on the latest info regarding both Barrett and Bugatti. The last part of reader JR's question is a little tougher to answer. JR (we don't know if JR is a he or a she) asks if we can suggest any other similar singers to see while in Vegas. Readers, who would you recommend?

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Lots of excitement taking place in downtown Las Vegas this last week...and we don't mean just that involving O.J. Simpson. (Simpson is charged with robbery using a deadly weapon, kidnapping and conspiracy.) We are talking about another exciting thing. On Wednesday night, a group of fans and friends gathered in the upstairs showroom at Fitzgeralds Hotel/Casino to honor Don Hill on the occasion of his 86th birthday (his actual birthday is November 1st), and to help launch Jeanne Brei's series of Wednesday night shows, Jazzin‘ With Jeanne and Jammin‘ With Jeanne, at the property. Hill performed with the famed Treniers for 55 years. Called "The swingingest saxophonist alive," Hill played with Louis Armstrong before joining The Treniers. He appeared in movies, on television and recordings and performed on stages around the country. It was wonderful to see him in the spotlight again, this time with Charlie Shaffer on piano, Danny DeMorales on bass and Jimmy Racey on drums (and providing some comedy bits), as they backed up singer/dancer, and the show's producer, Jeanne Brei. Joining Hill's wife, Gloria, in cheering on the pioneer musician (who sounds as good today as he did 50 years ago), among the well-wishers, we spotted Skip Trenier, Lonnie Hammargren, Mark Richards, Kid Carey, Bob Kaz and Sonny Charles of The Checkmates. Many happy returns, Don Hill!

Throughout the rest of November, enterprising Jeanne Brei continues her music and dance-filled Wednesday nights in the upstairs showroom at Fitzgeralds. Jazzin' With Jeanne, featuring a series of guest stars, will take place at 7 p.m., followed by Jammin' With Jeanne at 9 p.m. On November 14th, Shaffer, DeMorales and Racey return, with special guests at 7 p.m., followed by Dehner Franks on piano, and France's popular Sac a Pulses jazz band at 9 p.m. Tickets are $30 (half-price for seniors and locals). Add $10 and stay for the second, and different, show. Check out, or call (702) 254-3836 for additional information. Two different shows on one night, folks. Come for one, stay for both.

And speakin' of jazzin,‘ look for handsome trumpeter/composer Chris Botti at Green Valley Ranch on November 16th. The 2006 Grammy-winner has released 10 albums and performed and/or recorded with artists Andrea Bocelli, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra and Sting, among others. In his spare time, the talented musician dates women such as TV's news anchor Katie Couric, at least that's what the weekly tabloids say.

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Nelson Sardelli Debbie Reynolds Jack Jones

If Nelson Sardelli gets his wish, some possible future guest speakers and their lecture topics for his F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) non-club club, would provide unique entertainment. Artie Schroeck had his turn in September, speaking on a subject he knows very well...Artie Schroeck. In October, it was Paul Xavier Campanella discussing "What is wrong with E=MC2, the Blues (and some pastels) and his career." Some of the men (it's a "boys club," ladies) that Sardelli would like to have take the spotlight at future non-meeting meetings, and talk on subjects they should know plenty about, might include Charlie Callas, "Beating your own drums can make you go blind;" Babe Pier, "How to explain to today's audiences who Walter Brennan was;" The Addams Family's Felix (Cousin Itt) Silla, "My years with the NBA;" Freddie Bell, "They only brought (David) Beckham from England to play soccer because I had a hip replacement;" auto dealer Jim Marsh, "Which models make the best getaway cars and seven lethal diseases you could get when you buy a foreign car;" Chick Hughes, "How to impress your friends in New Jersey by photographing yourself with women you don't know...biblically or otherwise;" Dr. George Ritter, "Saxophone player or chiropractor...the best identity to have while in the Secret Witness Protection Program;" Peter Anthony, "Endless ranting with brevity (aka: Brevitorial Ranting);" Bill Acosta (The Man With 1001 Voices), "59 simultaneous conversations you can have with yourself;" Gene Vitale, "24 excuses we used in the NYPD to frisk good-looking women;" Charley Licata, "The 24 excuses to frisk good-looking women I taught Gene Vitale while we were both in the NYPD;" Richard (Rich Rich) Schwartz, "Golf and what you can do with your golf clubs;" Alan (Big Al) Bjorklund, "My years as the co-pilot for Foster Brooks;" Tom Savage, "The influence of a cape in today's conservative dressing" (from his article in GQ); Ben Ardito (Proprietor of the Take One restaurant), "Survival skills in the downtown area" (where his Take One establishment is located); Tommy Deering, "How listening to your mother and learning to play the piccolo will keep you from having to haul a #&%$# synthesizer all over the place;" Conrad Villella, "Two-hundred ways you can use the "F" word in any conversation and not gain weight;" Nelson Sardelli himself on, "Pretending to have an accent after 51 years in the USA;" and, our personal favorite, Tony Sacca, "How to convince people you really are on TV." Mr. Sardelli states, "We are open for more suggestions and/or volunteers. We are closed for complaints."

Disclaimer: Since Cousin Claire isn't acquainted with all of these characters, we are trusting Mr. Sardelli to know his cronies and their areas of expertise, as well as the correct spellings of their names.

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Debbie Does Vegas...and at age 75, Debbie Reynolds still does it damn well. Born Mary Francis Reynolds in Texas, the onetime Miss Burbank has been entertaining audiences through film (Singing In the Rain, Susan Slept Here, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, The Singing Nun, The Rat Race, What's the Matter with Helen? and the series of Tammy movies, among others), television (Will and Grace), and live stage performances since she was just 16 years old. Almost 60 years later, she is still at it. Most of Debbie's audience members are eligible for AARP (we know, because she did a poll). The former Miss Burbank is an inspiration to people her own age as well as those young enough to be her grandchildren. On Sunday night, we spotted Larry Raben and Lee Roy Reams in the Suncoast showroom, enjoying the show and the Unsinkable Ms. Reynolds. Raben plays Leo Bloom in The Producers, and Reams portrays Roger DeBris in the Mel Brooks romp at Paris Las Vegas (the show is dark on Sundays, just so the exceptional cast can get out and see pros like Debbie Reynolds). And a tip of Cousin Claire's great big lilac hat goes to Scott Humphries, Suncoast showroom director, who keeps the 500-seat theater running smoothly and treating people like they were welcome (not everybody does that, you know), and to the personable Howard Jochsberger, Director of Player Development, a big salute on the job he is doing. For those who don't know, the Suncoast is quite a distance from the Las Vegas Strip (about miles west), yet the place is consistently busy, especially the showroom. Why? Because instead of following the pack (no Cirque at the Suncoast), they book talent that has never played a Vegas hotel/casino or shows up so infrequently, entertainment enthusiasts have the chance to miss them as opposed to, "Oh no, he's not back AGAIN!" Jimmy Hopper, Linda Eder, Fred Travalena, Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor, Petula Clark, Gino Vannelli, Patti LuPone and John Davidson, have either already played the Suncoast during the past year, or are scheduled to perform there in upcoming months. Look for Broadway's Patti LuPone, November 23rd to 25th, and crooner Jack Jones November 30th through December 2nd. Clint Holmes & Friends take over the showroom, December 7th through 9th, and Stephen Sorrentino does his thing, December 14th through 16th. There is a question as to whether Marie Osmond will do her Magic of Christmas show, December 21st through 23rd, as scheduled. Oh yes, don't forget the wonderful Las Vegas Tenors, performing on Thursdays throughout this month. We will keep you posted on this one. In the meantime, you can purchase tickets for the other shows by calling the Suncoast at (702) 636-7075.

And speaking of Lee Roy Reams, the uber-talented song and dance man joins 10 other supporting performers to make the "Best in Show (Stoppers)" list in Las Vegas Life magazine's Best of 2007 issue. In addition to Reams, who portrays the flamboyant Roger DeBris in The Producers at Paris Las Vegas, other show-stoppers being recognized for their outstanding talent are "Pudgy" Cardella (The Queen of Comedy Tease in X-Burlesque at the Flamingo), Ryan Silverman (newly cast as Raoul in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular at The Venetian), Wally Eastwood (juggler of objects as well as humor in V - The Ultimate Variety Show at Miracle Mile Shops, Planet Hollywood), Brandon Pereyda (in Chippendales at the Rio), Nikki Crawford (cast member of Spamalot at Wynn Las Vegas), Kleber Berto of the MGM Grand's Ka), Abdoul & Adam Kone (Mini-Milli Vanilli in Little Legends at Krave's Harmon Theater), Vicki Van Tassel (Tanya in Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay), and Mr. Derrick Barry (impersonating Britney Spears in the Riviera's An Evening at La Cage).

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And the "Beauty and the Priest" saga continues. Now that Father George Chaanine has been sentenced for his assault on former production show singer Michaelina Bellamy, apparently it is okay for her to go more public in telling her side of what led up to the last January 26th attack. According to Ms. Bellamy, the now disgraced priest came up behind her while she was working at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church, catching her completely off-guard, and smashed a wine bottle over her head. She was left bloodied and bruised, with injuries that required about 20 staples to close the wound on her scalp. Chaanine fled the scene and was caught outside of Phoenix six days later. He has been incarcerated ever since. Someone just sent us a copy of the August issue (we are a bit behind on our reading) of Las Vegas Life magazine, where journalist John Katsilometes has a story called Deadly Sins detailing this controversial case. As the result of a September plea deal, charges of sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder were dropped against the Lebanese-born Chaanine. On November 1st, he was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison. He will receive credit for the nine months he has already served. Last week, Ms. Bellamy, who acknowledges accepting gifts and money (supposedly as much as $60,000 worth) for herself and her family, was featured in a segment on TV's Inside Edition. We wonder what the future holds for the onetime backup singer for Engelbert Humperdinck and Tropicana Folies Bergere principal. Is any publicity better than no publicity? Only time will tell.

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Michael Cagle Genevieve Chris Botti

Hooters Energy Drink and Paradigm Production Group (PPG) proudly present, America the Beautiful, a Veteran's Day Food and Music Festival, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., tomorrow and Sunday at the Clark County Amphitheatre located in downtown Las Vegas. A portion of all proceeds will go to Veterans Helping Veterans, a local charity, to benefit services and amenities for the new veteran's hospital currently under construction. Vets from all generations will also be honored throughout the two-day event. All active duty and veterans of military, police, and fire rescue may attend free of charge by showing the proper ID. Parking is free, and regular adult admission is $8, seniors are $5, and children from two to 12 are $3. Multiple day and family discounts are available. Door prizes will be drawn throughout the event. This diverse festival will include 20 hours of live entertainment over Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11 a.m. each day. Entertainment includes, "Best of Las Vegas 2007, The Goodfellas Band, Johnny Cash and Billy Joel tribute bands, Genevieve, Michael Cagle, Carla Cooke (daughter of legendary singer Sam Cooke), Prince tribute band Purple Reign, The Phoenix with Lez Warner of the Cult, Kil Jaden, and Dirty Penny. Among the celebrity MCs will be Lorraine Hunt-Bono and Dennis Bono. There will be food and merchandise vendors, as well as veteran and other non-profit groups. Family activities include carnival games, face painting, a rock-climbing wall, glass blowing demonstrations, and much more. The Clark County Amphitheatre is located at 500 S. Grand Central Pkwy at the Clark County Government Center next to the World Market Center and the Premium Outlet mall. PPG founder Bob Feeney has been producing charitable events for more than 30 years.

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The Second Annual Cool Bobby B Doo Wop Convention will be held at the Alexis Park Resort next Friday and Saturday, November 16th and 17th. The two-day event includes autograph signings, an old-fashioned sock hop, a classic car show, and a concert featuring almost 20 doo-wop groups. Among the acts scheduled to perform, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honorees The Moonglows with Harvey Fuqua (Sincerely, Ten Commandments of Love); The Fleetwoods, starring Gretchen Christopher (Come Softly to Me, Mr. Blue, Tragedy); The Capris (There‘s a Moon Out Tonight, Morse Code of Love); The Elegants (Little Star, Little Boy Blue); The Olympics (Western Movies, The Bounce); and The Edsels (Rama Lama Ding Dong). Also expected to entertain are Lewis Lymon (I'm So Happy, Honey Honey), The Chaperones (Cruise To The Moon), The Pentagons (To Be Loved, She's Mine), Jimmy Castor (I Promise To Remember), Jimmy Pipkin of The Galahads (Lonely Guy, I'm Without A Girl Friend), The Mermaids (Popsicles And Icicles), Philly Cuzz (One Summer Night), The Goodfellas, Vicky Tafoya, Danny Dean and The Redondos, plus the Doo Wop Daddies form Milwaukee and Texas favorites, The Moonlites with Mike Paladino (of the Bon Aires). Rich Rosen and Lane Quigley will act as special guest MCs. Regular price is $129 in advance for an All Event Pass, or $149 at the door. To attend just the Friday Night Sock Hop, it is $60 a person. Saturday's Finale Concert is $75. Bobby B is offering a special discount for Cousin Claire's readers. Using Discount Code # 825, tickets are $50 for just the concert, or a two-day pass, including the concert, is $90. Last year's concert ran for four-and-a-half hours. This year, even more groups are participating. For additional information on this event, call (702) 425-2473 or the Cool Bobby B Hotline at (513) 307-4429.

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Don't miss the chance to meet actor Burt Reynolds, when he appears this Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m., at the Field of Dreams store in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Reynolds will be signing autographs and introducing a special limited edition reproduction of his co-starring car in Smokey and the Bandit. Calling it the Burt Reynolds Edition Trans Am, YearOne describes the hand-built muscle vehicle as "Legendary style meets supercar performance." Three decades after it gained fame in the film, YearOne is teaming the star and the circa 1977-1981 car together again. The Burt Reynolds Edition Trans Am by YearOne, a modern performance makeover vehicle that injects supercar levels of power and grip into legendary style, starts at $129,900.00. Count us in.

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