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 August 15, 2008
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - August 15, 2008

(Mad Dog) Michael Darrin and the Clowns, Charlie & Sherry Frye

Derrick Barry as Britney Spears

Terry Fator


Due to major computer problems, Cousin Claire has been unable to share news with you readers for two weeks. Although some of the things we couldn't write about are now what might be considered "old news," we still feel it makes for worthwhile reading, so we will try to play catch up.

Michael Darrin would have loved his memorial service. The talented choreographer/costume designer died on July 2nd following a battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). On Tuesday, July 29th, friends gathered at the Oasis Christian Church in Las Vegas to look back at some of the amazing life of this genius. The Philadelphia-native created and performed in productions all over the US and around the world, touring with more than 56 Broadway shows and working with many of the biggest stars in show business. His brother, Bob Lentini, did a masterful job of going through years of videos to put together wonderful clips of different phases of Michael's life and career - including childhood photos of Jimmy Lentini (before he took the name of Michael Darrin), Michael as a dancer (he partnered with Cyd Charisse and Juliet Prowse among others), his costume sketches (that came alive in his award-winning production shows), clips from his dance revues (designed and choreographed by MD), and a section on his association with Paula Abdul. As was Michael's last wish, the chapel was filled, not with just people who loved and admired him, but with flowers...lots and lots of flowers. As suggested, many of the attendees wore black, gray and/or purple, Michael's favorite colors. Among the more than 200 people who joined together at the church were cohorts from the world of dance, including Tiger Martina, Diana Saunders Bellomo, Rich Rizzo, Shrymp Johnson, Blair Farrington and Rusty Taylor, joined Dolly Coulter, Diane Ellis, Grant Philipo, David Harris, John and Pam Thompson (The Great Tomsoni and Co.), Michelle Johnson, Tony Arias, Lloyd Ziel, Tim Searcy, Jeanne Quinn, Charlie and Sherry Frye (Charlie Frye and Co.), Tim Conroy and, of course, Michael's mother, Betty Switenko. Michael's longtime friend, Robert Craig, handled the hosting duties very well. (We apologize for those we omitted. Either we didn't see you, didn't know you, or didn't recognize you.)

NOticeably missing was Paula Abdul. Ms. "Where Would I Be Today Without American Idol" was a NO show, at both the fundraising benefit held for Michael at Krave in July of 2006, AND the memorial service. We must say, at the very least, Ms. Abdul is consistent. She made NO contribution of any kind. She sent NO card or telegram. There was NO floral arrangement with her name on a card. We find this especially troubling, since Michael Darrin was instrumental in two of Paula's biggest career successes. Michael's collaboration with Abdul and Dean Barlow, choreographing the outstanding opening number of the 1990 American Music Awards, garnered him television's highest award when he won the Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. He choreographed Paula's Cold-Hearted-Snake (a song title that we think may accurately describe Ms. Abdul), which was the first music video to ever debut on the Top-20 Countdown, at No. 1. For this, Michael received Billboards Music Video Award, as well as the American Dance Award for Best Choreography in a video for 1989. There were many highlights that afternoon but, for Cousin Claire, the best one had to be the beautifully written and delivered eulogy by the very talented Charlie Frye (in addition to his skills as a performer, it is the artist Mr. Frye who created Claire's portrait used in this column). As he approached the podium, Frye appeared a bit flustered. "I'm so confused," he said, "I thought this was for Michael Flatley." He then read this heartfelt tribute...

There's a line in Cyrano de Bergerac, that goes:
"To die among friends.
Can a man ask for more;
Can a world offer less?"

Well, I think the world did indeed offer Michael less; less than he deserved. He deserved more success, more fame, and more recognition on a wider scale than he received, though he received a pretty fair share. But show business isn't fair, and he knew it. And even though he could be frustrated with the occasional lack of opportunity to show off his considerable talents, he wasn't really bitter about it. If a competitor was doing good work, they could count on Michael's cheer being the loudest in the audience. Embarrassingly so.


Unlike so many who take up the life of a showman, Michael wasn't really motivated by the same things that many of today's artists are. The fame and money, which Michael certainly would have welcomed, were not his main objective. For him, it was all about art. Michael was an artist, in every sense. He certainly would have benefited by being a little less passionate about his work, and more willing to compromise his integrity, but one thing he couldn't do: he couldn't do mediocre.


His rants and his tirades, which could be legendary, were not borne out of meanness, they were borne out of an intense drive, and passion; and sometimes panic that he wasn't going to hit the soaring goal he had set for himself and his production; and his dancers. He loved his dancers. And those that didn't want to kill him loved him too.


Our paths first crossed when Patrick Maes hired us for a show he was putting on in Lake Tahoe, which Michael was directing, choreographing, costume designing, lighting, fingernail painting, etc., etc. I believe Michael's first words when we showed up were: "Not a fucking juggler." We were friends ever since. He had me at "fucking."


I don't know exactly when it evolved from friendship to family. Maybe it was around the time we were all in South Africa, and he was chasing giant ostriches around with a video camera because he didn't like the way their feathers just laid there when they weren't being tormented. He created such a stir down there, that soon afterwards they let Mandela out.


As you know, there were many sides to him. He was about as close to a Renaissance man as anyone in this nutty end of the business could possibly be. The side we knew of him -- and we knew them all -- was the real one, and it was wonderful. And never dull. I used to tell him that while some people seem to march to the beat of a different drummer, he had his own rhythm section. Everyone knows what the libido refers to, and besides the obvious, it also refers to one's creative energy. Michael's libido was second to none.
He couldn't do anything by half measures, whether it was lighting the massive stage in Reno, or lighting his living room; or even decorating one of his ridiculously over-the-top Christmas trees. Trees so elaborate that you lost all sight of branches, and doubted whether there actually was a tree under there anymore.
And how many people design a Halloween costume with a fifty-foot extension cord. When they plugged him in the lights on the Strip dimmed. He used to say, "What are you going to do when I'm no longer around to make fun of?" I said "Who says we're gonna stop." And we never will.

I've heard it said that life isn't so much about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself, and little Jimmy Lentini did us all a delightful favor when he created the one and only Michael Darrin. Our beloved Mad Dog, who was put on this earth to amaze and amuse. And admire. And love.

After the videos were shown and the speeches made and a song was sung, the crowd was directed outside to the church patio. A very large circle was formed, with everyone holding hands. Cathy Rand, from The Dove Connection, read a poem called Fly Home (see below) which was followed by the release of 14 beautiful white "angel" doves from a large straw basket. Before disappearing into the bright blue sky, the birds, in perfect formation, made multiple passes over the courtyard. After the 14 doves were gone from sight, dove No. 15, supposed to represent Michael's soul, was carried around to be gently touched by the approximately 220 people before being set free for its journey. As if it were Michael himself, the last dove flew to a rooftop overlooking the courtyard, perched itself where it could observe what was going on below and make sure that everyone was in their proper place and appropriately attired, much like Michael would have done. When the dove was satisfied that things were going as they should, it took off for the heavens.

Fly Home

God saw you getting tired,

And a cure was not to be.

He put His arms around you,

And whispered, "Come with Me."

With tearful eyes we watched you go,

And watched you fade away.

Although we loved you dearly,

We could not make you stay.

A golden heart stopped beating,

Hard working hands put to rest.

God broke our hearts and took you home,

For peace and eternal rest.

Fly home, fly free. We love you.

Your spirit now soars with no more pain.

Fly home on the wings of a dove,

We will meet in heaven once again.

Disclaimer - After doing their jobs, the beautiful white doves, trained by Ms. Rand, return home. They have been used through the Vegas Valley, even as far out as Lake Las Vegas, and always manage to find their way home.

* * * * * *

At the end of selecting the 40 talented folks who would go into the finals of NBC's America's Got Talent (aired on Thursday, August 7th), Derrick Barry, a Britney Spears impersonator currently performing in Norbert Aleman's An Evening at La Cage at the Riviera, was still in the running for the first place million dollar prize. For the winner of this reality competition, taking top prize is only part of the reward. As in the case of last years winner, ventriloquist/ impressionist Terry Fator, high paying jobs and fame await. Fator, who has been performing monthly in the main showroom of the Las Vegas Hilton since his AGT 2007 victory, goes into the 1,265-seat theater at The Mirage in February of next year, taking the place of that hotel's most recent headliner, Danny Gans. Fator will purportedly earn $100 million over the next five years at The Mirage. As for Gans, he will once again be working for hotel mogul Steve Wynn when he takes over the theater formerly occupied by Broadway-style productions of Avenue Q and, until , Spamalot. Personally, we feel that Fator, the new kid on the block, will be a hard act to beat when it comes to impressionists...with or without puppets. Good luck to all.

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Cook E. Jarr

Tom Kurtz

Joan Sobel

To Las Vegas reader Vivian H. who wants to know "Whatever happened to Cook E. Jarr who used to sing in all the lounges?", we are happy to report that the Jarr man, who is now in the second half of his sixties, is still singing for his supper. Cook E. has been a Las Vegas lounge staple since the early ‘80s, when he left the East Coast to go to work at the Sands (now the site of The Venetian). Over the years, the popular entertainer has kept audiences coming back for more at venues such as the Hotel Continental (now Terrible's), the Silver Slipper (referred to as the "Sleazy" Slipper by the Cookster), MGM, Caesars, Tropicana, Bally's and the El Rancho (called El "Roacho" by the Cookmesiter). He has been such a hit, that the Continental and Harrah's have both immortalized Jarr by putting his image on casino chips! Many of the places he has played are now history, but the Cook E. Jarr is still standing. There are the spandex pants, plenty of gold jewelry and that hair. Oh, that hair. There's also the ability to get, and keep, the joint (wherever it may be) jumping. Among Cook E. Jarr's loyal fans are a number of celebrities, including David Brenner, Carrot Top, Brad Garrett, Tom Jones, Toby Keith, George Lopez, Bill Medley, Dennis Miller and Ray Romano (don‘t be surprised to see a famous face or two in Cook E's crowd, Vivian). Late night TV host, former Las Vegan Jimmy Kimmel, is also a big fan and has had Jarr on his ABC show many times. You can see Mr. Jarr, live and in person, on Fridays and Saturdays, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Harrah's outdoor Carnaval Court. (He loves his two days on, five days off schedule!) Cook E's backup band, The Krums, has been swept away, but Cook E. himself lives on. For additional information, you can call his Hotline at (702) 737-7762.

* * * * * *

We hope you took the opportunity to vote in the primaries. If you Southern Nevadans didn't do so, it might mean that good guys (and gals) like Tom Kurtz and Lou Toomin won't be on your November ballot. In that case, you deserve what you get (folks like currently tarnished and/or imprisoned Dario Herrera, Mary Kincaid Chauncey, Erin Kenny, Lance Malone, Yvonne Atkinson Gates, former School Board member Greg Nance, Judge Nicholas Del Vecchio, and, last but certainly not least, embattled judge Elizabeth Halverson). The public doesn't always get the opportunity to make their feelings known. Voting is one way to have your say, so make sure you are registered and get out (or request a mail in ballot) and VOTE. Congratulations to Nevada Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Delaney who handily beat out her opponents in the primary race for Clark County District Court Judge in District 8, Department 25. Kathleen is the daughter of the late Joe Delaney, a longtime Las Vegas entertainment columnist. Her daddy would be proud.

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The Performing Arts Society of Nevada presents An Afternoon of Song and Dance, featuring Joan Sobel and cast members of Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, on Sunday, August 24th, at Clark County Flamingo Library Theater, 1401 East Flamingo. Sobel, who plays Madame Firmin in Phantom, will be joined by singers Ben Hale, Nicole Pryor and Danielle White, and dancers Ruedi Arnold, Courtney Combs, Erina Noda, Brianne Kelly Morgan, Erina Noda, Rebekah Raun, Heather Sirois-Arnold and Deana Villei. Laurence Sobel serves as musical director and accompanist. The concert starts at 2 p.m. and tickets are $15 a person. They may be purchased at the library's theater box office, starting an hour before the performance. For additional information, and to make reservations, call (702) 658-6741.

* * * * * *


Wes Winters

Gordie Brown

Mark Giovi

Cousin Claire had big plans for Saturday, July 26th...or so she thought. The idea was to spend about 12 hours at Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops, pigging out...on entertainment. After taking in Martin Kreloff's one-man art exhibit, on display at the Triq Ultralounge in the Steve Wyrick Complex, we would go see Wes Winters' 1 p.m. Musical Tribute to Liberace inside the Wyrick Theatre. After Wes' performance, we would then head to the V Theater, also located in the mall adjacent to Planet Hollywood's Hotel Casino, to see Toxic Audio's 2:30 show. We saw this amazing a cappella group when they were here at the Luxor in 2005, and we were blown away. We expected to be just as impressed when we saw them at the V. That was to launch our five show V Theater marathon. At 4 p.m., we would see Gregory Popovich and his Comedy Pet Theater, featuring his collection of very smart and entertaining rescued cats and dogs, followed at 5:30 by Fab Four Live, a tribute to The Beatles. In addition to recreations of John, Paul, George and Ringo, there is an Ed Sullivan character cleverly woven into the show. We very much wanted to see comic Kelly McDonald, filling in, through July 29th, for vacationing Paul Terry. Paul has been portraying the scowling TV variety show host for a number of years. We have seen Terry in the role and thought he did an excellent job. We were looking forward to seeing what McDonald would bring to the party. V - The Ultimate Variety Show, featuring some of the world's finest specialty acts, has two nightly performances, at 7 and 8:30. We hadn't decided which of the two we would attend, but we definitely planned to be at one of them. Winding up our long day, we would see the uber-talented Gordie Brown at 10. Gordie combines comedy, music and impressions in a fast-paced show. Audience members won't see a harder working entertainer ANYWHERE! James Brown WAS known as "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business." Since James is no longer in the running, we give the title to another Brown...Gordie Brown! We have been following this man's Las Vegas career for years, going back to the old Maxim days (the East Flamingo piece of real estate now houses the Westin Casuarina), to the Golden Nugget (where he was known as "Downtown Gordie Brown"), The Venetian, and now to Planet Hollywood, where he should be dubbed "Uptown Gordie Brown." Planning this outing took a couple of weeks - we had to fit it in on a day (and night) when we had no other obligations, and it had to be when none of the acts were dark. Unfortunately, although we had been told our all day outing was something that was not a problem for the V Theatre to handle, when we tried to verify everything through phone calls and an e-mail, the calls were not returned and the e-mail was not answered. We never were acknowledged or confirmed by either Mark Walker, whose job it is to handle these things, or David Saxe (who we were told was out of town). As late as Friday afternoon, the day before the anticipated adventure, there was no one (not even Saxe's assistant) who could say, "Sure come on over, we can accommodate you." In more than 30 years of writing about entertainment in this city, we have never encountered a situation like this. We can also assure you, this is not the way they handled (or MIShandled) things in the "good old days" of Las Vegas. We found it all absolutely amazing...and not in a good way. It wasn't like we were trying to take six friends to a free gourmet dinner at Wynn Las Vegas. We needed a place for one person (Cousin Claire) to see and then report on the of assortment of shows being presented at the V Theater. Maybe they are doing so much business over there, they don't need any additional FREE press. At any rate, as of July 30th, Toxic Audio has left the building (hopefully to turn up somewhere else in Las Vegas) and, as of August 9th, so has Gordie Brown. Gordie takes off for five months to serve as opening act for Celine Dion's world tour. We will catch him when he comes back home to work...as long as it isn't at the V Theater. Needless to say, we won't be patronizing the place or suggesting that any of you do either. We do plan, however, to journey to Planet Hollywood to see Wes Winters and the art exhibit featuring the works of, now local, artist Martin Kreloff, both at the Wyrick. The V now joins the short list of local places, like the family-owned Italian joint on Las Vegas Boulevard South, that we will no longer patronize or mention by name in this column. If places in the hospitality business aren't hospitable, why spend time or money there? There are plenty of accommodating venues where one can see shows in the city. And there are certainly a plethora of dining spots that serve Eggplant Parmesan or Chicken Marsala, along with a pleasant attitude and a smile. As for the entertainment at the bistro? We will catch the acts elsewhere. Wes Winters performs his Liberace Tribute at 1 p.m. (off on Fridays and Mondays). Call (702) 777-9974 for Wes Winters reservations.

* * * * * *

Mark Giovi, currently featured in Bite at the Stratosphere and a onetime member of the Las Vegas Tenors, will go solo tonight when he performs music from the 1920s through today at the MacDonald Ranch Community Center, 2020 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson, at 7. Tickets are $18. To purchase, call (609) 851-5390, (702) 286-8280, or (702) 270-7000.

* * * * * *

Music lovers will have a difficult time deciding where to spend this Sunday. The Liberace Museum is featuring Michael James Scott, the Judy Bayley Theater at UNLV will present Clint Holmes, and it's Steve Lawrence at The Orleans. On Sunday (August 17th) at 2 p.m., Michael James Scott will present In Progress, at the Liberace Museums Cabaret Showroom. In Progress is a musical journey via Gospel, Soul and Contemporary Musical Theatre revealing the search for one's happiness, self, love and ultimately the purpose and joy of life. Scott is currently featured in the Las Vegas company of Jersey Boys. On Broadway, he appeared in Mamma Mia!, All Shook Up, The Pirate Queen, and Disney's Tarzan. Off-Broadway, Michael was featured in Here's to Joe, opposite Donna McKechnie (the original Cassie in A Chorus Line), and was part of the concert cast of Jerry Springer the Opera at Carnegie Hall. Scott was the standby for Ben Vereen in the international tour of Fosse, and eventually took over the role. For the past two years, Michael has sung with the critically acclaimed Broadway Boys, doing concerts and benefits all over the East Coast, including at New York City's famed Birdland Jazz Club. Regionally, he has been seen in Aida, Ragtime, South Pacific, and Cinderella to name a few. Scott's dance background extends back to the Broadway Theatre Project in Tampa, Florida, where he studied with the legendary Gwen Verdon, Vereen, Gregory Hines, and Ann Reinking who he also assisted. Michael graduated from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. He has appeared in numerous national commercials and is a proud member of Actor's Equity. He has participated in workshops and Master Classes with Ruthie Henshall, Dave Clemmons, Patti LuPone, Phylicia Rashad, Richard Maltby Jr., Frank Galati, Mary Walkley, Adrienne Angel, Joan Lader, Rob Fisher, Frank Wildhorn, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jeff Calhoun, Rick Pessagno, James Naughton and John Parks. In Progress will also feature Joseph Anthony Byrd, Valisia Lekae Little and Lauren Tartaglia, with Musical Direction by Keith Thompson, of Jersey Boys, at the piano, Keith Hubacher on bass, and Don Meoli on drums. BJ Allen handles the lighting and Richard Camuso is responsible for sound. Donations from this One Show Only performance will benefit the Liberace Foundation Scholarship Fund for the Performing & Creative Arts. The museum is located at 1775 E. Tropicana Ave. (at Spencer). Seating is limited!


Michael James Scott

Clint Holmes

Steve Lawrence

What can we say about Clint Holmes that hasn't been said many, many, many times before? Those that keep up on these things know that Clint debuted his Las Vegas show at the Golden Nugget about 10 years ago, before heading to Harrah's on the Strip, where he performed in his own self-named theater for more than six years. You probably also know that he has written, with some assist from his close friend and musical director, Bill Fayne, a bio-musical that has had a number of incarnations and titles (Comfortable Shows, Breathe and, most recently, JAM - Just Another Man). Well, what Cousin Claire hasn't said before is that Holmes, along with some of his musical friends, is doing five performances (one of which took place last night) in the Judy Bayley Theatre at UNLV. You can still catch Clint Holmes Sings Broadway, tonight (August 15th) at 8 p.m., tomorrow at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Proceeds from the matinee on Saturday will benefit the downtown Las Vegas Academy of International Studies Performing & Visual Arts (WHEW!), while tomorrow nights' show helps support the Nevada Conservatory Theatre. Tickets are $20, $25 and $30, and may be purchased through the UNLV's Performing Arts Center Box Office. Call (702) 895-2787.

It's Steve Lawrence, going solo, tonight through Sunday night, at The Orleans. As we mentioned in an earlier column...no Eydie for this engagement. Steve will be accompanied by a 27-piece orchestra, conducted by Vincent Falcone. If the shows aren't already sold out, tickets are $60.50 to $88, plus applicable taxes and fees, and may be purchased by calling (702) 365-7075.

* * * * * *

Broadway headliner and two-time Grammy winner Jennifer Holliday will be co-headlining the "Best 10 p.m. Show in Las Vegas" with George Wallace at the Flamingo Hotel, August 19th through the 30th. Holliday has been making music for more than 20 years, but is best remembered for her 1982 hit single And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going from Dreamgirls. In 1982, she earned herself a Tony Award for her role as Effie in the Broadway musical. She has also appeared on Broadway in Your Arm's Too Short to Box with God, and Sing, Mahalia, Sing. While starring on Broadway, Holliday released several successful pop albums, spawning numerous hits including I Am Love and No Frills Love. In more recent years, she has continued to top the dance charts with hits like I'm On Your Side, A Woman's Got the Power, and Think It Over. As for Wallace, he is the winner of the American Comedy Award for Best Stand-Up Comedian, has been featured in his own HBO special, One Night Stand, and has appeared in several major motion pictures including the Coen Brothers' hit The Ladykillers opposite Tom Hanks and Marlon Wayans. George has appeared on numerous television shows including Oprah, The Tonight Show, and the Late Show with David Letterman. He is currently in his fifth year as a headliner at the Flamingo, where he performs shows suitable for all ages at 10 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. For ticket information please call (702) 733-3333.


Jennifer Holliday

Jill Seagrave

AIDA

* * * * * *

From proud papa Jim Seagrave comes this information regarding his (and Jan's) daughter, Jillian Seagrave. Jim, Vice President of Advertising for Coast Casinos, passes along these reviews of Jill's performance in Noel Coward's Hay Fever, recently performed at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda, California. From the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune , comes this item..."Politely sexy, magnificently costumed and produced, and downright hilarious are apt descriptions of "Hay Fever. Jackie Coryton, portrayed by musical comedy veteran Jillian Seagrave, adds contrasting shyness as the guest of Judith's novelist husband, David Bliss. And the Berkeley Daily Planet described the production by saying, "The timing of the ensemble becomes as complicated in its own way as a Busby Berkeley floorshow. There's a mathematical precision to Sir Noel's survey of giddy imprecision," while the Alameda Sun writes, "Seagrave never gives her brow a rest in her constant state of confusion and perfects the mannerisms of the reticent individual." Bravo, Jill!

* * * * * *

From loyal and sharp-eyed reader Merrick Wolfe (who is a show business type) comes this correction on something that overtired and stressed out Cousin Claire wrote a couple of weeks ago...

You've probably already been told, but if not: Estelle Getty did not play Harvey Fierstein's mom in the movie version of Torch Song Trilogy. That was Anne Bancroft. I LOVE Anne Bancroft (may she rest in peace).

Thank you, Mr. Wolfe. You were the only one who called that error to Cousin Claire's attention. Guess that means that you win the prize (TBA).

* * * * * *

Check out Xavier Blues at Lucille's in The District, tonight and tomorrow night from 6 to 10 p.m. The trio is the perfect mix to accompany the barbecue delicacies served up at Lucille's. (Our personal favorite is the Garden Burger.)

* * * * * *

Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida opened at Spring Mountain State Park on Wednesday. Part of the Super Summer Theatre series, Aida will play tonight and tomorrow (August 15th and 16th), as well as Wednesdays through Saturdays, August 20th through 23rd and 27th through 30th. This production, directed by Steve Huntsman, choreographed by Keith Dotson, and musical directed by Shauna Oblad, will star Tai Lewis as Aida, Brandon Albright as Radames, and Nicole Riding Bell as Amneris. Gates to the theater and parking open at 6 p.m. and close at 8 p.m. There is an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle to enter the park, but this fee is waived for Super Summer Theatre patrons arriving AFTER 5 p.m. Shows start a few minutes after 8. There will be no intermission during the two hour performance. Aida offers an exciting family experience (children five and under are admitted free). You can bring dinner, snacks, beverages, blankets or standard patio chairs, but no low beach chairs, high back chairs, or reclining loungers. It is strongly suggested that you take a sweater, jacket, or blanket along (really!), as temperatures are typically 10 to 20 degrees cooler at the Ranch than they are in the city. Leave the pets at home for this one. Advance tickets are $10 and can be purchased in person at Prestige Travel (located in Smith's Shopping Center, Rampart and Lake Mead), or at UNLV's Artemus Ham Hall Box Office, online at http://UNLVtickets.com, or by calling (702) 895-2787. Tickets at the gate are $15 (if available).

* * * * * *

Pancake lovers take note...There is a new pancake on Hash House A Go Go's menu for the month of August. In an effort to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and its upcoming Walk to Cure Diabetes on Oct. 11, Hash House A Go Go is running the special pancake promotion featuring the Motor City MoJo, which was created specially to benefit the organization. Just for the month of August, Hash House is donating $2 from the sale of every Motor City MoJo pancake to JDRF. Created by Michigan natives Monica and Joe (MoJo) Garin, the cinnamon-crusted buttermilk pancake features freshly sliced bananas in every bite and is served with Chef Anthony Vidal's homemade strawberry jam. For nut-lovers, pecans are an added option to this delicious creation. Hash House A Go Go brings farm fresh food with a funky, modern twist to the locals and visitors of Las Vegas. The well known restaurant puts its own unique spin on dining, making it an experience like no other. Hash House A Go Go is about having a good time - sophistication with no pretension. Personally, we love this place. It is a real, not to be rushed experience and a great place for a birthday party. Warning: go hungry! The restaurant serves lunch daily from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday - Thursday. Hash House A Go Go is open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and until 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is located at 6800 West Sahara Avenue. For reservations, call (702) 804-4646, or visit www.hashhouseagogo.com.

* * * * * *

To the somewhat anonymous person who sent the e-mail regarding our articles about COLABO and the Billie Holiday project, if anyone had sent an explanation of the starts and stops, date and cast changes, and the other very strange and questionable things regarding this show, we would have been more than happy to follow up on it. Instead, we received a phone call from Troy Adams (or whoever he is) attempting to intimidate by threatening to sue. We were lied to by people at COLABO and possibly by the short-lived leading lady (who, by the way is an acquaintance rather than a friend of Cousin Claire's). When something smells rotten, it probably is...and all of this has a really bad odor. And, dear mystery writer, your high school English teacher would have a stroke if he or she saw your pitiful excuse of a letter.



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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye