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 December 28, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - December 28, 2007

Pudgy! Sweet Louie & Friends Joan Rivers

As the Las Vegas entertainment community continues to deal with the death of The Checkmates' Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith, comes word of the passing of another member of the local show business world. Beverly Wines Cardella, best known to her fans as "Pudgy!," died at her Vegas home on Christmas Eve. We first met the "Queen of Tease" almost 30 years ago. At the time, she would travel from her hometown of Chicago to appear in local showcases and comedy clubs. Since moving to Las Vegas more than 20 years ago, Pudgy! appeared in a number of local venues, including Catch a Rising Star at Bally's and Crazy Girls at the Riviera. For the past year, Pudgy! was the comic relief in the X-Burlesque show at the Flamingo. A Chicago native (just like Cousin Claire), the former waitress traded in trays and menus for stages and spotlights and a career in show business. She was funny and clever and an expert at winning over an audience. At our deadline time, services had not been finalized, although we have learned that burial will take place in Chicago. This bright lady will be missed. She is survived by her three young-adult children.

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Last Saturday, an overflow crowd gathered at the downtown Palms Mortuary to bid farewell to Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith. Sweet Louie, best known for his many years as part of the award-winning Las Vegas lounge act, The Checkmates, died December 15th at the age of 68. Among the more than 500 friends and fans attending the services were Louie's longtime singing partner, Sonny Charles, Bill Acosta and Jeanne Bavaro Acosta, Peter Anthony, Freddie Bell, Dennis Bono and Lorraine Hunt-Bono, Jeanne Brei and Ada, Paul Xavier Campanella, Genevieve Dew, Harry Elston, Bill Fayne, Rick Friedman, Don Gloude, Don Hill and Gloria Hill, Clint Holmes and Kelly Clinton Holmes, Patricia Morse Jarman, Norm Johnson, Bob Kaz, Peggy (Mrs. Sonny) King, former Las Vegas mayor Ron Lurie, Lamont McLemore, Nelson Sardelli, Marva Scott, Lawrence T, Skip Trenier, Earl Turner and Sonny Turner. Bill Cosby sent a video offering his condolences. There were both tears and laughter generated in the chapel. One of the funniest remarks came from an entertainer, who said "Louie is probably up there saying, 'where were all you people when we were playing the Sahara?'" It was a nice turnout and a nice service for a man who, obviously, will be missed by a lot of people. Shown in accompanying Sweet Louie & Friends photo - (From left to right) Carme Pitrello, Nelson Sardelli, Freddie Bell, Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith and the late Bernie Allen.

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From reader Tim in Texas, who wants to know where singer Michael Lee can be found these days, we went right to the top for this answer...Michael Lee, himself. Lee spent a few years entertaining audiences in the Fitzgeralds lounge on the casino's main floor. He also performed outside the downtown hotel. Calling himself the "Singer of Memories," Lee performs music of the '50s through '90s, covering Blues, Doo-wop, Funk, Motown, Oldies, R&B, Rock, Soul, Swing and Top 40 tunes. A retired Los Angeles police officer, Lee and his Heat of the Night band can be found entertaining in numerous Southern Nevada venues, including The Cannery, Green Valley Ranch, Roxy's at Sam's Town, Railroad Pass Casino, Joker's Wild and the Fremont Street Experience. For additional information, including upcoming performance dates for Michael Lee, check out his Web site at

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We returned to the Suncoast this week to catch Kelly Clinton's last show for her Wednesdays in December engagement. If you missed her, shame on you. As we may have mentioned in earlier columns, we think that Ms. Clinton is a natural with a great future in show business, if that is what she chooses to do with her life. If you have only seen her as hostess/mistress of ceremonies at her Stirling Club and/or Bootlegger gigs, you have not seen Kelly Clinton. She sings, does impressions, is great at improv, and even plays a few notes on the trumpet in her one woman show. It is obvious that she loves what she does. As she sings in her show's closing song (with the bridge to Bill Withers' verse of You Just Can't Smile It Away rewritten by Clinton)...

You just can't smile it away

It's much more than passion

Oh it's love

And I've heard some people say

They've seen love move mountains


Here's to our time together

I hope you feel the same way too

It's been my dream forever

To share this night with you....

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Isn't it interesting that the TV series Cavemen, inspired by the Geico Insurance "spokesmen," is gone and so, apparently, are the hairy TV pitchmen? Who ever thought that was a good idea? We have to say that we do enjoy the Geico spot using comedienne Joan Rivers. The surgically challenged Ms. Rivers is almost unrecognizable from the woman she was five years ago. We think, much like Michael Jackson, Joan has taken cosmetic "enhancement" way too far (see accompanying photo). Yipes! It's kind of scary! Readers?

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Jerry Herman Don Pippin Rita McKenzie

On Tuesday, the first day of the new year, PBS will feature a 90-minute special on Jerry Herman. If you know anything about musical theater, you will know that Mr. Herman, who is now 76, is the writer of both the music and lyrics for some of Broadway's most successful productions, including Mame, Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles, Mack & Mabel and Milk and Honey, to name some. If you didn't know anything about musical theater before, you now know a little something. Carol Channing, Herman's longtime friend and one of the actresses who has played Dolly Levi, says of the composer/lyricist, "When they passed out talent, Jerry stood in line twice." Five years in the making, this documentary, by award-winning filmmaker Amber Edwards, will feature camera interviews, behind-the-scenes rehearsal sessions, rare photographs and never-before-seen archival footage of original Broadway performances to create a warm, humorous and moving portrait of a living theater legend. Those interviewed and showcased in this special include Channing, Angela Lansbury, Charles Nelson Reilly, Marge Champion, Arthur Laurents, Charles Strouse, Fred Ebb, George Hearn, Phyllis Newman, Michael Feinstein, musical director Donald Pippin, singers Leslie Uggams and Jason Graae, author Francine Pascal and historians Miles Kreuger and Ken Bloom. The film is filled with music, with original cast recordings and live performances, while the piano underscoring is played by Herman himself. Theater aficionados will be delighted with the collection of archival theater and motion picture footage. Not everything that Herman touched turned to gold. This documentary shows that by honestly examining a career of highs and hits as well as flops and lows. Herman's final Broadway show, 1983's La Cage aux Folles, was one of the highs. To quote an Internet source, "This was not only a critical and commercial smash, but a political and social turning point. Never before had two men held hands romantically in a musical or sung a love ballad to one another. George Hearn's star turn as Za Za, belting out the dramatic act one closer, I Am What I Am, still brings audiences to their feet with its forceful call for tolerance and dignity, a surpassingly powerful statement from a composer/lyricist who declared all along that he wanted only to entertain people. It was, Hearn recalls in Words and Music, truly "the best of times," until shortly after the show opened and cast members began dying of a mysterious illness, as AIDS swept through the theater community. Half of the original La Cage chorus didn't live to finish the run. Herman himself was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1985; he is one of the fortunate ones who survived to see experimental drug therapies take hold and is still, as one of his lyrics proclaims, 'alive and well and thriving.'" In most parts of the country, Words and Music by Jerry Herman will air from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. (check your local listings).

Mr. Herman has a number of Las Vegas connections. Two of them, Paige O'Hara and Lee Roy Reams, are currently working in shows in this city, Ms. O'Hara in the Hilton's Menopause the Musical and Mr. Reams in The Producers (the Mel Brooks musical comedy will end its one year run at Paris Las Vegas on February 9th). O'Hara has traveled and performed with Jerry Herman and has recorded an album of his songs, while Reams has directed versions of Hello, Dolly! and also toured with the songwriter. If you have been around these parts long enough, you may remember that some years ago, hotel mogul Steve Wynn commissioned Jerry Herman to write a Las Vegas-based musical with the intent of having it in a theater at The Mirage. Miss Spectacular was the result. A concept album, featuring Christine Baranski, Michael Feinstein, Davis Gaines, Debbie Gravitte, Steve Lawrence, Karen Morrow and Faith Prince, was released in 2002, but the show itself has never been produced. In October of 2006, UNLV presented an evening of Jerry Herman as part of their New York Stage & Beyond series. Although Herman, who was expected to be a part of the program was ill and could not attend, his longtime conductor/musical director, Don Pippin, and a talented cast made up of Jason Graae, Karen Morrow and O'Hara, did the composer proud. We might also mention that for a couple of days before the weekend concert, the talented performers gave Master Classes at the University, a real coup for both the school and the students.

And speaking of Broadway, January 4th through 6th, Rita McKenzie returns to Las Vegas with her Ethel Merman's Broadway show. She performed the show here about four years ago. This time, she will take to the stage of the Suncoast showroom. McKenzie's dazzling recreation of Merman has electrified audiences worldwide. Her internationally acclaimed performance started off-Broadway at the John Houseman Theatre in New York City. Since then, she has performed at Carnegie Hall, Pasadena Playhouse in Los Angeles, Harrah's Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and recently on an SRO eight city tour of Japan. The original cast album is available on Varese Sarabande Records. In addition to her Ethel Merman tribute, McKenzie has starred in the Los Angeles Premiere of the off-Broadway musical Ruthless! and can be heard on the Original L.A. Cast Recording of that show as well. She received rave reviews for her role as Phoebe Farber in the Pre-Broadway production of Hurry! Hurry! Hollywood! in Los Angeles and again as Maggie Jones in 42nd Street with Mariette Hartley. Her other starring roles include Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, Belle Poitrine in Little Me, Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Cleo in The Most Happy Fella, Widow Corney in Oliver!, Nurse Custer in Whoopee! and Mama Rose in Gypsy. Miss McKenzie is a popular Symphony Concert artist. She sang the rousing finale on the 1996 ratings smash, the Washington, DC Fourth of July Spectacular. She has been featured with the Philadelphia Orchestra Pops, as well as with the Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Diego, Austin, Ottawa, Canada, Baltimore, and Phoenix Pops and the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. Ms. McKenzie honored Cole Porter when she appeared at his 100th birthday celebrations at Carnegie Hall with Donald Pippin, and with Eric Kunzel and the Centennial Orchestra in Indianapolis. She made her London debut in the fall of 1995 in the Gala Celebration of the Anniversary of the End of World War II, The Fleet's In. Show times are 7:30 p.m. For reservations, call the Suncoast at (702) 636-7075 or (877) 636-7111.

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As we wind up 2007, Claire Voyant is responding to some reader's requests (no, we are not retiring and moving to the Midwest). Here is one suggestion that we are jumping on, both for fun and to inspire, or discourage, wannabe performers and/or producers who feel they are ready for Las Vegas...or even for show business at all. We would like friends and foes of this city to e-mail us with the names of the WORST shows or acts they have seen in the place they call The Entertainment Capital of the World. These selections can be from years ago or yesterday. Come on, readers. Let's hear what you think. We will print some of your choices.

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Debby Boone, who performed last weekend at the Gold Coast, must have an aging portrait hiding in a closet somewhere. At 51, and the mother of four adult children, Debby is still beautiful and has hardly changed in the 30 years since her mega-hit, You Light Up My Life, catapulted her from being the cute little daughter of Pat Boone to a star in her own right. Wearing a beautiful Edith Head designed black and gold gown (a hand-me-down from her late mother-in-law, Rosemary Clooney), Debby charmed the almost full Gold Coast showroom with her clear, pitch perfect vocals. The song selection included a number of Clooney songs, holiday tunes and some pop and theater standards. Her version of The Music That Makes Me Dance and You Are There, dedicated to her husband of 28 years, Gabriel Ferrer (son of Clooney and actor Jose Ferrer), was touching and heartfelt. Not surprisingly, her encore number was the, then popular, 1977 blockbuster hit. We personally hoped she would close with (from the film The Promise), a song recorded by both Boone and Rosemary Clooney. Vince Falcone, long associated with Frank Sinatra, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and just about everyone who is anyone, served as Debby's pianist and conductor. Mr. Falcone recently welcomed his second grandson. Photo of Debby Boone by Doug Saleeby.

Debby Boone Four Freshmen Terry Fator

As a side note, in the past couple of years, the room at the Gold Coast has played host to Forever Plaid, Marty Allen and his bride Karon Kate. In recent months, though, it has remained mostly empty and unused. What a waste, for both entertainers and potential casino customers. We would venture to say that, if not for an attraction like Debby Boone filling up the theater over last weekend, at least 500 people would have had no reason to be at the Gold Coast at all. Our group had dinner before the show and gambled afterwards. Isn't that one of the prime purposes for having entertainment at local properties? Just asking.

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On January 4th and 5th, the Four Freshmen will entertain at Michael Gaughan's South Point. Although none of these fellows are original members, the current cast of Freshmen do amazing jobs on FF favorites, including Graduation Day, It's a Blue World, There Will Never Be Another You, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, In This Whole Wide World, Day by Day, Mood Indigo and Candy. One of the most influential vocal groups of the 1950s, The Four Freshmen pioneered a revolutionary new style of close-harmony vocals that has been copied but never duplicated by many groups since then. For Freshmen reservations, call (702) 797-8055.

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If you happen to be spending your New Year's Eve in Las Vegas (about 300,000 visiting revelers are expected to ring in 2008 in this city), there are plenty of entertainment choices available to the masses. You can anticipate the ticket prices to be even higher than usual on the last night of 2007, although the good news is, the Strip hotels - Circus Circus, Flamingo, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, Stratosphere, Treasure Island and The Venetian - fireworks displays will be free. (High winds may cause the show in the Vegas sky to be canceled. Fingers are crossed for clear and calm weather.) Among the headliners scheduled for the Monday night festivities, called America's Party, are Debbie Reynolds at the South Point, Terry Fator at the Hilton, the Goo Goo Dolls at Mandalay Bay's House of Blues, B.B. King at Buffalo Bill's in Primm, Imelda Papin with special guest David Pomeranz at The Orleans, Kanye West at the Palms, Tony Orlando and Sammy Shore at The Cannery, Earth, Wind & Fire at The Venetian, The Family Stone Experience in one room and the Robbie Howard Band in another at The Orleans, David Copperfield at the MGM Grand and the Doobie Brothers and Bangles at the Fremont Street Experience. Call the venues for show times and prices.

If the name Terry Fator is not familiar, it is probably because you don't watch America's Got Talent. Fator gained national popularity when he became the second season winner of the reality TV series. When it was announced that Fator would be headlining at the Hilton in October, the show sold out in days, prompting him to add another performance the following day. Fator's special guest for both shows was Bobby Badfingers, who also competed on the same reality show. Fator is no overnight success. He has spent 32 years honing his skills as a ventriloquist, comedian, singer, and celebrity impressionist. It was his smart decision to blend those skills with his incredible ability to mimic famous singers that put him over the top. Terry has a unique talent of making his "characters" sing like national recording artists and he does it without moving his lips. You will hear Fator interpret stars like Garth Brooks, Elton John, members of the Rat Pack, Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Elvis, Richard Marx, James Blunt, Roy Orbison, Keith Urban, Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole, Brooks and Dunn, Maroon Five, Tracy Chapman, Louis Armstrong and even Kermit the Frog. Having performed for more than 15 years, Terry has shared the stage with top performers like Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Neal McCoy, Styx plus performed for some of the largest Corporations including General Motors, Midas Muffler, AT&T. As mentioned above, Fator will be the Hilton's headliner for New Year's Eve.

The Sunset Strip Band, who make their musical home in the Las Vegas Hilton's Shimmer Cabaret, took a little time off recently...not to vacation, but to travel with Hilton headliner Barry Manilow as his opening act. The popular show band, made up of Steven Lee, Brenda Leonard Cowart, Kip Mungin, D'Lavance, Andrea Adams, Sina Foley, Nadia Albulet, Melanie Michand and Elizabeth Keasler. You can celebrate New Year's at the Hilton, with gourmet dinner at the hotel's Casa Nicola or TJ's Steakhouse, and a show featuring the hot SS band. Call (702) 732-5755 or (800) 222-5361 for reservations.

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Happy 22nd birthday to multi-talented Siameze Floyd who celebrates his natal day tomorrow (December 29th). Siameze is the son of entertainers Eric Floyd and Wanda Dee.

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Some of our wishes for the new year include, Las Vegas stages where people with genuine talent, like Jimmy Hopper, Martin Nievera and David Pomeranz (mentioned above), can perform on a regular basis. We would also like to see the great pretenders, scam artists, and phonies get what they deserve...and that's "out of here!" There are many good, honest, caring professionals in this community. It is a shame that there are a handful of creeps who try to exploit the most vulnerable, children, seniors and entertainers. We would like to believe that "cream always rises to the top" and "what goes around comes around." We look forward to seeing more examples of that.

For our many readers, we wish you happiness, good health and good friends throughout the new year.

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