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 November 16, 2007
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - November 16, 2007

Robert Goulet & Patricia Welch Jimmy Hopper Tony Orlando

Talk about opening a can of worms (snakes)...Based on the response we got to last Friday's story on the current CAST organization, Cousin Claire has struck a nerve. The reaction to the article, call it a semi-expose if you will, has been overwhelming. According to the onslaught of phone calls and e-mails we have gotten (and are getting), we apparently hit the nail on the head. Many have had questions about what is going on inside this once respectable organization, especially, what is going on inside the books (if there are any). In our last week's story, we did not identify certain parties by name, primarily because we thought that the gentleman who started the group no longer wanted to be connected to the remnants of his original organization. After seeing our article, he has given us the okay to use his name and express his ire at what the CAST has become in recent years...especially lately. The Good Guy, with the good intentions, is one Nelson Sardelli. You can find out much about Nelson by looking him up on the Internet. When the group started, about five years ago, it was called M.A.F.I.A., standing for Mutual Admiration Fraternity of Indefatigable Artists. It was created to raise funds to help entertainers in need as well as for fun (then Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt's unofficial assignment was to grant pardons to people without talent). Today, we are dealing with a different group of people with much different motives. Ulterior motives, perhaps. Also, in response to our column, the president of the CAST sent a "Get a Life" message to Cousin Claire, with copies sent to both his e-mail list and Mr. Sardelli‘s (without Sardelli‘s permission). Interestingly enough, instead of taking the opportunity to explain and defend the CAST (and at this point, the group needs defending), Mr. President chose to lie about Cousin Claire's work history over the last 30 plus years in lieu of dealing with the issues. To quote the wise Dr. Phil, "He who has nothing to hide, hides nothing." We are not finished with this story. Look for more on the subject next week.

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We are sure that Robert Goulet would have loved his funeral. The weather was perfect, especially for November. At 1 p.m. last Friday, the Shrine of the Holy Redeemer Church, located in the shadow of hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, welcomed approximately 1,200 friends, fans and family members to bid goodbye to one of the finest voices ever. Among the notables in attendance were Bill Acosta, David Brenner, Lance Burton, Norm Crosby, Tony Curtis, Danny Gans, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Clint Holmes, Jack Jones, Jimmy Kimmel, Rich Little, Frank Marino, Phyllis McGuire, Debbie Reynolds and Sarah Silverman. Pallbearers, including honorary, were Robert's sons, Michael and Christopher Goulet, grandson Jordan Goulet, Vincent Falcone, Dr. David Kipper, Steve Lawrence, Mike Merrick, Major R.E.G. Sinke, Jr. USMC "The Fox," Talbet Dowst, Norm Johnson, Michael McKay, Ted Powell, Phil Randall, Santos Savino, Alfie Scopp and Wayne Spellman. In a rare gesture, hotel marquees along the famed boulevard had pictures of, and farewell messages to, Camelot's Lancelot. Friends gathered at Wynn Las Vegas after the services. We understand that vocalist Patricia Welch did an awesome job singing The Lords Prayer at the church.

A native of Steubenville, Ohio (also the birthplace of the late Dean Martin), Patricia Welch attended West Virginia University where she majored in music. She trained classically with former Metropolitan Opera star Francis Yeend. Patricia has performed many musical theater roles, including Maria in The Sound of Music, Marsinah in Kismet, Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, and received rave reviews for her outstanding performance as Maria in West Side Story. She starred with the late Yul Brynner in the role of Tuptim on Broadway in the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical, The King & I. Patricia toured with Robert Goulet, where she was the featured soloist and sang duets with Mr. Goulet in his show, The Man and His Music. She also performed with Goulet for a PBS Special that aired a few months ago.

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Caught Liza Minnelli on Access Hollywood last night (Thursday). She looks trim and healthy; better than she has in a long time. Liza with a "Z" is working with her longtime friend and choreographer, Ron Lewis, putting together a show honoring her godmother, the late Kay Thompson (actress, vocal coach and arranger and writer of the Heloise at the Plaza books). No news on whether Ms. Minnelli will return to Vegas anytime soon. Her last appearances here were at the Luxor.

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If you had your calendar marked, and your heart set, to see Jimmy Hopper at The Orleans on December 2nd, you can make other plans. The afternoon show has been canceled. We are not surprised. After three decades of living here and keeping an eye on all things show business, we have learned to recognize certain warning signs. In the case of this particular event, when Hopper's opening act changed from singer Genevieve to the Frankie Moreno band, we found that a bit strange. The real red flag occurred when the recipient of this benefit concert changed THREE times. Originally announced as a fundraiser for the Sons of Erin, with no explanation, it was now going to benefit Miracle Flights for Kids. All of a sudden, it was announced that Veterans Help Veterans would reap the financial reward. The latest information is that the concert will not take place at all. The group behind this, dare we say "fiasco," is Paradigm Productions. Do we smell yet ANOTHER rat? We will no longer tout any events being put on by this organization.

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Happy birthday to Scorpios Elliot Ames, Roseanne Barr, Kid Cary, Dolly Coulter, Chris Hudson, Charlette Krane, Frank Marino, Greg Smith and Rick Smith. Although Greg is a member of the musical Smith Brothers, and Rick is also a performing musician, currently living and working in Florida, these two Smiths are not related to each other,

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Las Vegan Marvin Lashever, of GEM Productions, spent Veterans' Day in Branson, Missouri, visiting friend Tony Orlando and checking out Orlando's Veterans' Day shows at the Welk Resort Theatre. In honor of our vets, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall was on display to the public. Speaking off Mr. Orlando, he has lost an incredible 100 plus pounds since he was last seen around these parts. No, he didn't have surgery; he did it via Nutri-System. Look for Tony O to become the company's spokesperson after the first of the year. Also, you can inspect Tony Orlando up close and personal when he performs here, New Year's Eve at The Cannery.

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David & Dania Larry Edwards & Wendall Jackson Spencer Baker

Lance Burton, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Barry Manilow and Lyle Lovett & His Large Band are among the acts lined up for Ellen's Really Big Show, scheduled to premier on TBS Monday, November 19th at 9 p.m. (ET/PT). An encore will follow at 10:30 p.m. The comedy variety special, hosted by Emmy-winning talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, will be taped during the Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace. The 90-minute show will also feature comedians Rhys Darby and Sean Cullen, singer Ryan Shaw, the African Children's Choir and a host of unique variety acts, including the amazing quick-change artists David & Dania (seen on last year's America's Got Talent), the Fab Four Beatles tribute band, Peking Acrobats, the Footworkingz dancers, the U.S.A. All-Star Jump Rope Team. In addition to performing, Lovett will serve as musical director and his Large Band will be the house band for the special. DeGeneres will bring her trademark wit and winning personality, the same qualities that made her such a standout when she hosted the 57th Annual Emmy Awards and the 79th Annual Academy Awards. The third-annual edition of The Comedy Festival takes place through tomorrow (November 17th). The four-day event features multi-artist performances, tributes, stand-up comedy, sketch comedy and televised special events, and takes place in several venues throughout Caesars Palace, including the Palace Ballroom, which is being converted into the TBS Very Funny Theater. Ellen's Really Big Show was shot in Caesars' Colosseum, the Vegas home of Celine Dion and Elton John.

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Larry Edwards, aka "Hot Chocolate," "Patti LaBelle," "Tina Turner," etc., was in court recently...TV's Christina's Court, that is, seen locally on Channel 12, weekdays at 3 p.m. The case was called What's Love Got to Do with It, and dealt with dueling Tina impersonators and their dispute over who should get top billing. Larry's challenger was Wendall "LaWanda" Jackson, who, like Edwards, was featured in the Sandra Bullock-starring film, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous. Both performers had the opportunity to shake their booty for the judge and jury. Judge Christina settled the dispute and both men left the courtroom happy with the results.

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Kicking off the Holiday Season will be a special concert headed by master pianist Spencer Baker. On Sunday, November 18th, at 3 p.m., the music and dance event will be held at Summerlin's Mountain View Presbyterian Church at 8601 Del Webb Blvd., near Rampart and Cheyenne Avenues. Joining Spencer on the program will be guest singers, dancers, and instrumentalists doing a classical and Broadway music program. Some of the performers will include Nicole Pryor (from Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular at The Venetian), Joel Rene (from Mandalay Bay‘s Mamma Mia!) plus singers Kelli and Jason Andino, Allen Merritt, Sherry Burnett, Buddy Stephens, Dan Frank, and Vivian Broadhead. Also on the program will be dancers Kim Watanabe and David Robledo, harpist Sara Kantor, and organist Tim Harvey. Lance Taubold, a tenor who sang with New York's Metropolitan Opera for three seasons, is also performing. Spencer Baker earned his Master of Music in Piano Performance and Bachelor of Music at UNLV. He was Liberace Scholar, as well as winner of the professional division Liberace Competition in 2004. He has performed in Europe, Canada, extensively in the Southwest and Hong Kong. Baker has also been a soloist with the UNLV symphony orchestra and a Las Vegas musician for more than 10 years. He will be performing Prokofiev, Chopin, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff piano solos, as well as accompany and collaborate with the guests. Tim Harvey and Spencer are on the staff of Music Ministry at Mountain View Presbyterian Church. Tim is a highly accomplished church organist and pianist with an international reputation. He also directs the church's hand-bell choirs. He received his Bachelors Degree in organ performance and church music from Biola University in La Mirada California, and his Masters Degree in organ performance from the University of Mississippi. Tim has played at some of the largest churches in the world, for both worship services and special events. He has played both new and very old pipe organs in Germany and Italy. He also trains organists; and designs, builds, and installs organs in Nevada and surrounding states. Soprano Kelli Andino, along with the cast from the Artiste Del Arte show that played at The Venetian, toured Hong Kong with Spencer this summer. Kelli will be singing the beautiful aria Ch'il bel sogno di Dorretta by Puccini, as well as uniting with her husband, Jason Andino, on The Prayer (written by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager, and recorded previously by Andrew Bocelli, Charlotte Church, Celine Dion and Josh Groban, among others). Sherry Burnett, a new Las Vegas talent, will reprise her number, And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going from Dreamgirls, that she sang to great acclaim at Gardner's recent Tour Guide Ball. Buddy Stephens has been a rock musician for more than 50 years. He currently has a new Christian CD out and will sing a selection from that album as well as He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother. Dan Frank and Vivian Broadhead will sing a selection from Ragtime that will include dance interpretation by David Robledo, a Gardener scholarship. Kim Watanabe, also a scholarship student, will perform a solo from the Ballet, Don Quixote. Another new Las Vegas talent, Sara Kantor, a winner in the College of Southern Nevada's Las Vegas Youth Philharmonic Competition, will solo with the orchestra on January 15th. On Sunday, Sara will perform the third movement from Gliere's Concerto for Harp, which she used as her audition piece. She attended the award-winning Las Vegas Academy last year, and played in the Sweeney Todd orchestra earlier this month. Sara has already soloed with the Las Vegas Philharmonic in Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun. Allen Merritt, a singer/dancer from Phoenix, will sing pop and Broadway selections. He was a student of Garold's at Southern Missouri State University, and is a continued supporter of the Scholarship foundation. Nicole Pryor and Joel Rene will join forces in a splendid duet, What About Love, from the musical, The Color Purple. The Mountain View Gospel and combined choirs will sing under the direction of Dr. Mark Wherry, from the College of Southern Nevada. The program is free, but contributions will be happily accepted for the Garold Gardner Scholarship Foundation, a local non-profit that sponsors young performers with limited financial backing, who want to continue their education and become professional. The Foundation has been in existence for 15 years and has supported performers now working all over the world - on Broadway, TV, ballet companies, Hollywood, etc. For further information, please call the church office at (702) 341-7800.

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Doug Saleeby, half of the singing/keyboard team of Hudson and Saleeby (the other half is Chris Hudson), was in town from Memphis a few weeks ago. During his visit, Doug dined at Paris Las Vegas' Mon Ami Gabi, took in The Producers at the same hotel, and attended last months' Composers Showcase. Tonight, November 16th at 7, Saleeby will appear as a guest artist with the 17-piece Memphis Jazz Orchestra, where he will sing standards and sit in at the piano for a number or two. Called Jazz for St. Jude, all proceeds from the evening will go to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Memphis Drum Shop, 878 South Cooper. For more information, please call (901) 276.2328.

Doug Saleeby Dehner Franks

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Singer/dancer Jeanne Brei will present Shades of Sinatra vocalist Carmine Mandia as her special guest in next Wednesday's (November 21st) Jazzin' with Jeanne show at Fitzgeralds. (Last week, it was R&B singer/drummer Paul Stubblefield in the spotlight.) Backing up Mandia will be Charlie Shaffer on piano, Ty Lemley on bass, Jimmy Racey on drums, and, once again, the legendary 86-year-young Don Hill, from the Treniers, on saxophone. This week's show will also feature two tap dancing seniors, Carol Glenn from Sun City MacDonald Ranch and Celia Ellis from Sun City Anthem. Carol and her husband were featured in last month's Nevada Senior Idol show at the Charleston Heights Arts Center. Jazzin' with Jeanne starts at 7 p.m. in the upstairs showroom of the downtown hotel. At 9 p.m., on the same night, it's Jammin' with Jeanne, featuring the French jazz/Dixie band, Sac a Pulses and Dehner Franks on piano. On November 28th, Jeanne is planning a tribute to 90-year-young Prince Spencer, who tapped with the legendary Step Brothers dancing act for years before going to work with Redd Foxx. Since suffering a stroke, Spencer doesn't dance quite like he used to, but he continues to work as a casino host at Jerry's Nugget in North Las Vegas. (Brei, a tap dancer herself, was the associate producer/writer of Watch Your Step, Brother! which aired on PBS in September 2001.) Also featured on the 28th will be three hip-hopping grandmothers from Sun City Summerlin. The three ladies are members of Lynn Weber's jazz dancing troupe. Brei discovered that it's not just seniors who love jazz and dancing. "Last week, more than a dozen twenty-somethings came to hear the Sac a Pulses jazz band from France (they lead the 9 p.m. show) because they had caught them at the Phoenix Jazz Festival during the Phoenix Lindy XChange. So, we moved three or four rows of chairs and tables to the side and created a dance floor so they could dance. Swing dancer Nick Peterson told me that he was floored by their tribute to Sidney Bechet since their soprano saxophonist is absolutely wonderful." While in New York City last month, Brei went to the Paley Center of Media (which used to be the Museum of Broadcast) and watched hours of old 1950s musical variety shows with hosts such as Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole, Pat Boone, Jackie Gleason, etc. to see how it was done originally. In her first few shows at Fitzgeralds, Jeanne has been showing film clips of some of those ‘50s TV shows that featured, among others, the Treniers and the Step Brothers as guests. "It seems that the audiences really get the same kick out of watching those old shows as I do," states Brei. Cost is $15 for the first show. Add $10 and see both the 7 and 9 p.m., completely different, shows. For additional information, call (702) 254-3836.

Dancing Jeanne also informs us about ABC's upcoming All the Right Moves reality show. This is a competition for anyone and everyone who has a passion for dance. They hope to get people of all ages to audition - a 55-year-old firefighter, a 65-year-old grandma, a 21-year-old cheerleader, a cowboy. You get the Idea. The show will consist of six contestants who learn a dance routine from a choreographer at the beginning of the episode. All six contestants will compete using that dance, and the audience will vote on the best contestant. That winner will take home $100,000. The producers are looking for amateur dancers who can tear it up on the dance floor. If you have a great personality, lots of energy, and tons of charisma, you may be perfect for this show. Auditions are tomorrow, Saturday the 17th, at 1:30 p.m., and will take place at Backstage Dance Studio, 3425 Backstage Blvd. You need to be ready to dance at the audition to whatever music is played. If you want to practice, please do, or if you want to freestyle, that works as well. For additional information, contact Nick Vogt by e-mail at [email protected], or phone casting director Ashton Ramsey at (323) 828- 3657.

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And another one bites the dust. Of course we are talking about an out-of-date, out-of-fashion, out-of-sync, and, now, out-of-sight Las Vegas hotel. This time it's the Frontier, or New Frontier, or Last Frontier, or whatever you want to call it, that joins the Landmark, Sands, Desert Inn, Hacienda, El Rancho (Silverbird/Thunderbird in previous lives) Dunes, Showboat/Castaways, Aladdin and Stardust (we might have forgotten a couple) that went from once proud vacation spots to piles of rubble. The Frontier was the location of a number of entertainment milestones. It was the second hotel on the Strip but the first place in Vegas where, in 1956, Elvis Presley performed, and the first hotel where Siegfried and Roy starred as headliners in their own production show. In January of 1970, the Frontier was the site of the last Diana Ross and The Supremes performance. The hotel, opened in 1942 as The Last Frontier, can now be referred to as the Final Frontier. At 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the place went BOOM, to become yet another part of the disappearing Vegas history. The 65-year-old hotel will be replaced by the $5.8 billion Plaza Las Vegas (the new owners also own the Plaza in New York). The all-new Plaza Las Vegas is scheduled to open in 2011.

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Alberto Mizrahi & Theodore Bikel

Oy Vegas. On Sunday, November 18th at 7 p.m., Temple Beth Sholom will present Broadway legend Theodore Bikel and world renowned tenor Alberto Mizrahi, along with the temple's Cantor Daniel Friedman in a special performance of Our Song at the Summerlin temple. Bikel, whose 60-year career includes stage, film, television, radio and musical performances, collaborated with Alberto Mizrahi, affectionately known as "the Jewish Pavarotti," to create the album, Our Song, that will be featured during this rare performance. Bikel, perhaps best known for his role as Tevye in the stage version of Fiddler on the Roof, is also a renowned folk singer who has sung thousands of concerts in 23 languages around the world. Greek-born tenor, Alberto Mizrahi, one of the world's leading interpreters of Jewish music, has thrilled audiences worldwide in recitals, symphony concerts, and opera. He is Hazzan of the historic Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago. "We are so excited to host such world renown performers," exclaimed Cantor Friedman. "This is a rare opportunity to enliven our community with such incredible talent, and bring us together in joy, song and celebration." Temple Beth Sholom is located at 10700 Havenwood Lane in Summerlin. Tickets are $100 (Cantor's Circle includes Kosher caviar reception), $60 (reserved) and $40 (general admission.) can be purchased at Temple Beth Sholom. Call (702) 804-1333, ext. 104, for further information, or to make your reservations.

And here's a bit of show biz trivia for you...Cantor Friedman, mentioned above, has a musical theater history. Before he started singing for God, the Southern California-raised Friedman sang for New York audiences and toured in shows such as Cats and Les Miserables. Friedman was a cast member of Forever Plaid when it played the Flamingo in Las Vegas. He also happens to be married to Kevyn Wynn, the daughter of Las Vegas hotel mogul, Steve Wynn. One never knows when this information may come in handy.

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George Bugatti & Sam Arlen Sandy Hackett & Lisa Dawn Miller

We just found out about this, which is why it is so last minute. The 4th Annual Night of 1000 Stars will take place at the Hilton on Sunday evening at 7:30. Among those scheduled to perform are cast members, Vita Corimbi, Paige O'Hara and Skye Dee Miles, from Menopause the Musical; the Las Vegas Tenors, Sandy Hackett and wife Lisa Dawn Miller; The Scintas; Adrian Zmed and Sam Arlen and George Bugatti's Three Crooners singing the songs of Sam's father, Harold Arlen. Presented by Jonathan Scott, general admission tickets start at $25. VIP gold and platinum seats are also available. Proceeds will benefit the Family and children Treatment Center of Southern Nevada. Call the Hilton Box Office at (702) 732-5755 for more info.

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We were sorry to see Las Vegas resident Gerry McCambridge bumped from NBC's Phenomenon reality show. We thought The Mentalists performance on Wednesday was extremely impressive. If you saw the episode, Gerry did something using lots of souvenir postcards. In our eyes, this man, who performs in the Night Owl room at Hooters, is a winner...no matter what Uri Geller thinks.

Wayne Newton has canceled a number of performances around the country, including his anticipated holiday show in Las Vegas. Newton was scheduled to open at Harrah's this week and perform through December, but it was announced that that wouldn‘t happen. During his stint on Dancing with the Stars, it was reported that Newton had pneumonia. The pioneer entertainer minimized any talk of serious problems. We have no idea what is going on with him now, but we will stay on top of the story.



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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye