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 August 29, 2008
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - August 29, 2008

Cloris Leachman

Toni Braxton

Simon Cowell

Every season on Dancing With the Stars, there seems to be a Las Vegas connection - Wayne Newton, magician Penn Jillette, and John O'Hurley, late of Wynn Las Vegas' Monty Python's Spamalot, and, of course dancing pros, siblings Julianne and Derek Hough, who, although Utahans, have some Las Vegas history. We were anxious to learn who would be competing in the upcoming season (starting on ABC, September 22nd), and what Vegas connection there might be. Sure enough, there is one. No, it's not veteran soap vixen Susan Lucci, or Kim Kardashian (although Bruce Jenner's step-daughter spends quite a bit of time here, partying at some of this city's celebrity enhanced ultra clubs) or 82-year-old Cloris Leachman (best known for her role as Phyllis on the Mary Tyler Moore Show) or former 'N Sync bass singer, Lance Bass. The Vegas connection in the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars is Toni Braxton. You remember Toni Braxton. She is the onetime '90s six time Grammy winner/chart topper (Un-break My Heart, Breathe Again) that opened her own production, Toni Braxton: Revealed, at the Flamingo in August 2006 (replacing Newton). Braxton took a number of "sick days" during her Vegas run. In April, the show went dark when Braxton was hospitalized with what hotel officials said at the time was a complaint of chest pain. The show had been scheduled to resume June 6. We had heard rumors, some months before, that she would not complete her anticipated two year engagement at the Flamingo, healthy or not. That proved to be the case, when the show was officially cancelled "so she (Braxton) could focus on her health," just days before June 6th. Apparently, the plucky Braxton has made a miraculous recovery, as she is well enough to take on the rigors of this season's Dancing With the Stars.

And speaking of reality TV shows, it is interesting to note that for its eighth season, American Idol is adding another judge to the mix. Award-winning songwriter, Kara DioGuardi, will join Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson in deciding the musical fate of the thousands and thousands of hopefuls who dream of earning the possible fame and fortune that comes from Idol exposure, as in the case of Mikalah Gordon, William Hung and Sanjaya (he of the ever changing hair-don'ts) Malakar, to name a few. The way things have worked, up until now anyway, is that Simon, Paula and Randy would determine if the early competitors would go on to the finals. If one judge said "yes" and one said "no," it was judge number three who would break the tie. How will that work with an even number of judges? Unless...there is a plan underway to get rid of one of the three original judges. Hmmm. If that were the case, we know it wouldn't be Simon Legree, er Cowell, who gets his walking papers. Could it be the "dog," Randy Jackson? Or, might the powers-that-be behind the successful series decide they have had enough of the dingy, rambling (what is that lady on?) Ms. Abdul? Maybe that idea is just wishful thinking on our part.

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Iliza Shlesinger

Andrew James

Clint Holmes

Unfortunately we got this item too late to help sell any tickets but, because we figure the young lady can use the publicity anyway, we are letting you know what you missed. For only four nights, from August 24th through the 27th, Iliza Shlesinger, the winner of season six's Last Comic Standing competition, was a guest in Bally's legendary stage spectacular, Donn Arden's Jubilee! Shlesinger became the first female comic to win NBC's summer hit during the reality show's final episode, which was filmed live at Paris Las Vegas. Her $250,000 prize package includes an exclusive talent deal with NBC, a brand new Honda Pilot, and the highly-anticipated starring appearance in Jubilee! at Bally's. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, and residing in Los Angeles, Shlesinger is not only the first female comic to win the coveted stand-up comedy title, but also the youngest. Her resume boasts that she was the winner of Myspace's So You Think You're Funny contest, and G4 Network's Myspace Girl of the Week. In addition to Last Comic Standing, Shlesinger's TV credits include appearances on E! Entertainment Television's The Soup with Joel McHale, Chelsea Lately, Forbes Celebrity 100, TV Guide's America's Next Top Producer, and Byron Allen's Comics Unleashed. Shlesinger has written for and is currently a host/writer for GOTV. Her stand up comedy appearances include performing in various cities in Asia for the Armed Forces Entertainment, House of Blues in Las Vegas, The Comedy Store, New York Comedy Club, various Improvs and the Friar's of Beverly Hills. Donn Arden's Jubilee! performs twice nightly at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and is dark on Fridays. Tickets can be purchased at the Bally's Box office. For more information, please call (702) 967.4567.

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To Lou in Vancouver, and Donna S. in Illinois, who both had basically the same inquiry regarding crooner Andrew James...Although it took a little while to get an answer, we now have one for your e-questions. According to his manager, Steve Beyer, Mr. James, who performed here in the Galleria Bar at Caesars for about four years, now does most of his singing at private and corporate events. Although he makes his home in Vegas, with the changes in the type of entertainment that most of the hotel/casinos book today, unfortunately there aren't a lot of opportunities for someone with Andrews' Sinatra-style of singing. It is possible, Lou and Donna, that what goes around comes around. Perhaps one of these days, the powers that be will realize that there are many locals and visitors who don't give a rat's ass about upscale, expensive, loud ultra dance clubs, but instead long for the days when it was music, GOOD music, with lyrics that told a story and delivered in a way you could understand them. One way to, perhaps, bring back "old Vegas," is to let the folks that run the joints know what you want. Hell, it's worth a try. In the meantime, if we get word about any anticipated Andrew James engagements, or sightings, we will let you know.

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For you Clint Holmes fans, and we know you are out there, lest you think Cousin Claire was not aware of the anticipated Holmes engagement at The Kennedy Center in our nation's capitol, and that is why it wasn't mentioned in earlier columns, that is not the case. We knew that no contracts had been signed for the gig and did not want to promote the project before that happened. We are glad we didn't follow (or lead) some of the other media types on this one. We are sorry to say, Clint's three anticipated September dates at the prestigious Washington, DC, center will not take place. Of course, there is always the chance Holmes will perform at the center sometime in the future, but it won't happen anytime soon. In the meantime, Holmes, one of the hardest working men in show business, will be doing other things (as he always does) and making other appearances (as he always does). When we have details, we will pass them along.

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Tommy Tune, Liliane Montevecchi & Lee Roy Reams

Carol Lawrence

David Friedman

In early June, America's only honor recognizing excellence in dance on both stage and film, the Fred & Adele Astaire Awards, paid tribute to some of the greatest talents in the field. Highlights of the gala evening, held in the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center Studios (311 West 34th Street), included this year's Award honorees Spencer Liff (Best Male Dancer on Broadway for his dancing in Cry Baby), Karen Olivo (Best Female Dancer on Broadway for her dancing in In the Heights), Rob Ashford (Best Choreography on Broadway for his work in Cry Baby), and Dave Scott, Hi - Hat and Jamal Sims (Best Choreography in Film for their work in the film Step Up 2: The Streets). Brooke Shields presented nine-time Tony Award and two-time Astaire Award-winner, Tommy Tune, with the first Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award. With Lee Roy Reams directing the evening's entertainment, the event also boasted appearances by Savion Glover, former Astaire dancing partners Jane Powell and Arlene Dahl, singer-songwriter Sylvia Tosun and vocalist Anna Bergman. The evening benefited The Auditory Oral School of New York, a non profit organization which specializes in teaching deaf and hard of hearing children to listen, talk, think and socialize. Honorary Chairs for the event were Fred Astaire's daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie and her husband, artist Richard McKenzie.

On September 4th, Lee Roy Reams will join singer/actress Carol Lawrence at Chicago's (it's actually Highland Park) Martin Theatre at Ravinia. Lawrence, the original Maria in West Side Story, closes out Ravinia's Martinis at the Martin cabaret series for the year. For her role in the Broadway production of the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim musical, Lawrence received a Theatre World Award and a Tony nomination. She has starred in stage productions of Saratoga; Subways Are for Sleeping; I Do! I Do!; and Sugar Babies. She also appeared in an L.A. production of Follies. Tickets for the 8 p.m. Ravinia performance range from $10 to $75 and may be purchased by calling the box office at (847) 266-5100.

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The plan to create a small memorial garden for Bernie Allen has grown, thanks to the donations of a number of generous community members. What was hoped to be a quiet spot, with a tree of two planted to honor the late comic, has generated enough money to plant a number of trees in one of the Valley's newer county parks. In the beginning, the location was expected to be in Sunset Park. Since there are a number of changes going on there, Russ Thompson, arborist/horticulturalist and director of the memorial trees department for Clark County, has suggested that the garden be created at Desert Bloom Park, located at Maryland Parkway and Wigwam. In 2003, Thompson, who has worked for Clark County for more than 25 years, received the Bill Tomiyasu Memorial Award from the Nevada Cooperative Extension. A specialist in things of this nature, Thompson also suggests waiting until the temperatures go down a bit before planting the trees at Desert Bloom, giving the living memorial the best opportunity to thrive and grow for many years to come. We will keep you readers posted as to when the dedication ceremony will take place.

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On Saturday, September 6th at 2 p.m., a group of performers from Las Vegas Strip productions (past and present) are coming together for a special, one-day concert to benefit Family Promise as the organization celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Listen To My Heart: The Songs of David Friedman will be performed by Greg Davis (Forever Plaid), Keith Dotson (Tommy, Smokey Joe's Cafe), Bruce Ewing (Forever Plaid, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular), Lisa Fairweather (Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular), Russ Thomas Grieve (Men Are From Mars, Mamma Mia!), Dana Rogers Martin (City Lites, Jubilee!, Hooray for Hollywood), Kevin Sherrell (Jubilee!, Men Are From Mars), Mollie Tennant (Jubilee!), and Tina Walsh (EFX, Mamma Mia!, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular). Jack Gaughan (conductor for Phantom) will serve as musical director. The program is staged by Michael Piontek (Mamma Mia!). Listen To My Heart is an incredible collection of songs, which will have you laughing, crying, touched and inspired. New York composer, David Friedman, knows how to speak to the heart and, although you might not recognize his name, chances are that you have heard his music. Many of David's songs - Trust The Wind, You're Already There, What I Was Dreamin' Of, My White Knight, He Comes Home Tired, If You Love Me, Please Don't Feed Me, I'm Not My Mother, You'll Always Be My Baby, Two Different Worlds, Open Your Eyes to Love, Live It Up, Trick of Fate, The Gift Of Trouble, Catch Me, I Can Hold You, My Simple Christmas Wish (Rich, Famous and Powerful), We Can Be Kind, Only My Pillow Knows, Nothing In Common, What I'd Had In Mind, If I Were Pretty, We Live On Borrowed Time, You're There, As Long As I Can Sing, Help Is On the Way, I'll Be Here With You, and the beautiful title song, Listen To My Heart - have been performed and recorded by luminaries such as Jason Alexander, Laurie Beechman, Laura Branigan, Kristen Chenoweth, Petula Clark, Kathie Lee Gifford, Heather Headley, Lainie Kazan, Nancy LaMott, Barry Manilow, Diana Ross, Leslie Uggams and many others. David Friedman has served as musical director for such Broadway productions as Sarav�, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Song & Dance, and Beauty and the Beast. He was also the conductor and vocal arranger for the Disney films Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Friedman wrote the music and lyrics to Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves. This concert will benefit the programs of Family Promise Of Las Vegas, helping homeless families get off the street and back into homes. Listen To My Heart will be performed on Saturday, September 6th at 2 p.m., at the Community Lutheran Church (3720 E Tropicana). Admission is $30 per person. (Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, 100% of the ticket price will go directly to Family Promise of Las Vegas.) For tickets or information, call (702) 245-0992.

FYI...When Listen to My Heart opened at Upstairs at Studio 54 in 2003, it was Mark Waldrop, an expert at showcasing unusual musical material (Bea Arthur's one woman Broadway turn, a Bette Midler tour, and the deliriously funny revue When Pigs Fly, featuring the outrageously outrageous Jay Rogers, are among his credits), who directed. Waldrop also happens to be the talented man who directed Bill Nolte (Franz Liebkind in Mel Brooks' Las Vegas version of The Producers) in his one man show (sort of) All of Me, when it played in Vegas last February.

Mark Waldrop & Jay Rogers

Ronnie David

Jerry Lewis

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If you spent time in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s, and you like good music presented in a classy manner, you may remember entertainer Ronnie David who played piano and sang in a number of the top lounges around the city, including at the MGM Grand (now Bally's) and Caesars Palace (still Caesars, just lots bigger). These nights, Ronnie is performing in the piano lounge at Tilman Fertitta's beautiful restaurant, Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse, at 1510 Texas Street in downtown Houston (where Ronnie is from). If the name Fertitta sounds familiar, it is because, in addition to their Texas holdings, the family, primary shareholders of Landry's Restaurants, also own the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas (where there is also a Vic & Anthony�s restaurant), as well as the Nugget in Laughlin, Nevada. Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III, owners of the Station Casinos, and the Texas Fertittas are cousins. These fellows are obviously sharp businessmen. Bringing Ronnie David into their tony Houston dining establishment confirms that. The talented Mr. David performs Mondays and Wednesdays, from 6 to 11 p.m. If you happen to be in the Houston area, stop in at Vic & Anthony's for a listen. Tell them Cousin Claire sent you.

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Labor Day is on approach. Can Jerry Lewis be far behind? The answer is no, he can't be. We turned to some of our inside sources to get the names of some of the talented people who will perform for the live audiences as well as the television viewers. Here is what we found out. Among the hosts, from locations all around the country, Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars), Jann Carl (Entertainment Tonight), Bart Connors, Norm Crosby, Billy Gilman, Ed McMahon, Nancy O'Dell (Access Hollywood), Tony Orlando, Alison Sweeney (Days of Our Lives) and Ace Young (American Idol). Contributing their talent will be Joshua Bell, Regina Belle, Bo Bice (American Idol), The 5 Browns, Nathan Burton, Jason Byrne, Carrot Top, Kelly Clinton (after midnight on Sunday/Monday), Celine Dion, Wally Eastwood, Terry Fator, Gloria Gaynor, Herman's Hermits with Peter Noone, Jack Jones, Kid Rock, Las Vegas Mass Choir, Ronn Lucas, Maureen McGovern, Menudo, Pat Monahan of Train, Renee Olstead, John Pinette, Frank Sinatra Jr., Starship with Mickey Thomas, Sugarland, Billy Bob Thornton, Three Doors Down, George Wallace and Bob Zany. This is the telethon's 43rd year, and its third originating from the South Point Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas. This years' TV marathon will broadcast for 21� hours, starting at 9 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 31st, and winding up at 6:30 p.m. EDT on September 1st (it would be three hours earlier in Southern Nevada). ABC's Channel 13 will air the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon locally. For other areas, check television listings.

Kelly Clinton

Bart Williams

Candy & Harvey Kaye

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Are all Virgos virgins? That is a question you will have to ask the following birthday celebrants. Among the Virgos with birthdays between August 24th and September 22nd, are Susan Abbott, Eric Michael Gillett, Gail Lucas, Bill Moore, Diane Wisdom, Michael Jackson (the child/man turns 50 today, the 29th!), Vera Goulet, Laura Freeman-Blackburn, Lenadams Dorris, Gary Olds, John Neeland, Randy Carlson, Robbie Howard, Michael Feinstein, Oliver Richman, Joe Pellegrino, Montel Brian Williams, Bart Williams (no relation to young Montel), Michelle Rohl, Paul Hansell and Norman Kaye, who is 86 on September 22nd. Also, happy anniversary to Hugh and Jan Wood Lovelady, and Bruce and Debbie Zarka.

And speaking of Eric Gillett (who performed in Donn Arden, Maynard Sloate, and Bill Moore and George Arnold productions while living and working in Las Vegas), he is directing both Anna Bergman's (with special guest star, Brent Barrett) upcoming shows at Feinstein's at Loews Regency, and KT Sullivan's (she and Mark Nadler are Vegas favorites, after having guest starred together at the Charleston Heights Arts Center numerous times over the past few years) next New York show. KT will celebrate Jerome Kern in All the Things You Are, September 23rd through October 11th, at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room.

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The Las Vegas entertainment community has suffered yet another loss. Harvey Kaye (Kaplan), of Spiral Starecase fame, passed away in Las Vegas on August 18th, five days before what would have been his 70th birthday. Formed in Sacramento, California, Spiral Starecase was a popular 1960s group, recognizable for its horns and lead singer/ guitarist Pat Upton's distinctive voice. In addition to Upton, and Harvey Kaye on organ, the group included Dick Lopes on sax, Bobby Raymond on bass guitar, and Vinny Parello on drums. (The group's original drummer was Victor M. Tejada from Mission Hills, California. Spiral Starecase is perhaps best known for their hits, More Today Than Yesterday, written by Upton, released in January 1969, and the follow-up She's Ready. More Today Than Yesterday has been covered by a number of artists, including Sonny & Cher, and Diana Ross. After four years together, Spiral Starecase disbanded. Upton went back to L.A. to work as a session musician, eventually working with Ricky Nelson. Harvey Kaye returned to Las Vegas where he re-formed Spiral Starecase. They toured the U.S., Canada, and Mexico until the mid 1980s, when they returned to Las Vegas, where they performed in a number of hotels here. These days, Mike Caschera leads the 16-piece ensemble as they continue to perform in concert venues and corporate events around the U.S. Until the time of his untimely death, in addition to managing Spiral Starecase through his Smash Productions, Harvey spent the last eight years as a top salesman with the Grandview vacation ownership company. Kaye is survived by his wife of 34 years, Candy Kaye, and four children - sons Harvey Kaplan Jr. and David Kaplan, and daughters Debbie Kaplan Wiggins (husband Morty Wiggins) and Brenda K. Starr. On Monday, September 8th, Candy Kaye will host a celebration of Harvey's life. The event will be held at the Las Vegas Elks Lodge, 4100 W. Charleston, beginning at 6 p.m. There will be music and smiles and memories shared, as Harvey would have wanted it.

Harvey Kaye's daughter, Brenda K. Starr, is a singer originally in dance-pop, but more recently in salsa-based music. She has had two Top 40 hits on Billboard's Hot 100, I Still Believe and What You See is What You Get. In the late 1980s, a young Mariah Carey was a background singer for Brenda. It was Starr who helped Carey secure a recording contract by giving a demo tape of hers to Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola at a party (Carey and Mottola were married from 1993 to 1998). In 1999, Mariah Carey had a hit with Starr's 1988 song, I Still Believe.

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The Las Vegas Clark County Library District presents Conversations with Myself... and Others - Dramatic renditions of the poetry and music of Woody Woods, featuring: the talents of Lou Jarrett, China Hudson, Rhayne Thomas, Wendy Edmead, Woody Woods and special guests. On Saturday, September 6th, the program will be presented at the West Las Vegas Library Theater, 951 W. Lake Mead; on Saturday, September 13th, you can enjoy it at the Summerlin Library Theater, 1771 Inner Circle Drive; and on Sunday, September 14th, the presentation will take place at the Clark County Library Theater, 1401 E. Flamingo Rd. All three will be at 3 p.m. and admission is free. For more information, call (702) 507-3989.

Woody Woods

Mark Giovi

Larry Raben

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Beginning on Sunday, September 7th, DeStefano's Italian Restaurant brings back the old style Las Vegas supper club. The eatery will launch the concept by presenting An Evening with Giovi. In case you don't spend any time in the city, or never read the ramblings of Claire Voyant (perish the thought!), the "Giovi" would be Mark Giovi. Mr. Giovi, a principal in the Stratosphere's Bite revue, and one of the original members of The Las Vegas Tenors, has put together a special show for DeStefano's small and intimate dinner theatre format. This is the first of what is anticipated to become a regular feature at the southeast Las Vegas dining spot. The dinner theater series, which can accommodate 100 people, will provide a 90-minute show. Seating will be assigned on a first purchase, first choice basis. Dinner will be served at 6 and cleared at 7. The show will begin at 7:30, with dessert and coffee after the show. Three, four-course entree selections are available to choose from - Beef Brasciole, Chicken Marsala and Rigatoni with Meat or Marinara Sauce and Meatball or Sausage. All seats, at $30 per, will be sold by one week prior to the event date and are non-refundable. Food gratuity is included in the price. Applicable entertainment tax will be added. There will be a cash bar (beverages and drink gratuity are not included). Call (702) 436-3275 to purchase tickets. Please be prepared to give your menu selection when you purchase your seat. DeStefano's is located at 3430 E. Tropicana, on the northeast corner of Tropicana and Pecos, where Mark's CD will be available for sale. It should be a wonderful close-up encounter!

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The award-winning hit musical, The Producers, opened at the Gateway Playhouse, Long Island's premiere professional Equity musical theatre, on Wednesday night, August 27th. Scheduled to run through September 13th, this production is directed by the multi-talented Larry Raben. Raben portrayed Leo Bloom in the Paris Las Vegas version of the Mel Brooks romp. The cast features Michael Kostroff (Max), Adam Wylie (Leo), Christine Cherry (Ulla), David Edwards (Roger DeBris), Stephen Ted Becklar (Franz), Garth Kravits (Carmen Ghia), with Anne Bloemendal, Sarah Burns, Will Cohen, William James Daniels, Erik Floor, Abeku Hayes, Patrick Oliver Jones, Denis Molnar, Kevin Murnane, Linda Neel, John O'Malley, Candice Pennefather, Jessica Sheridan (who was in the Las Vegas production), Elizabeth Sousek, and Lindsay O. Travis.

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As is the norm, last nights' Composers Showcase featured an eclectic variety of musical material presented by some of this city's most talented people. Featuring the songs of local composers and songwriters, including the very unique and new to the showcase, Polish-born Ashia Grzesik, a cellist/vocalist/songwriter ( Pay To Be Loved, Anal Sex); Erich Bergen (from Jersey Boys), Ben Hale (Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular), Rylan Leo Helmuth (Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular), Clint Holmes (Just Another Man), Jason Martinez (Jersey Boys), Keith Thompson (Jersey Boys) and Dale Vernon, delivered by Natalie Bradshaw (Jersey Boys), Julia Krohn (Jersey Boys), Reva Rice (late of Spamalot and JAM -Just Another Man), Michael James Scott (Jersey Boys), Lauren Tartaglia (Jersey Boys), and other special guests. Instrumentalists Sheila Davis, Patricia Diaz, Bill Fayne, James Harvey, Keith Hubacher, Don Meoli, Raymond Pancarowicz, Lee Richey and Drew Zingg also contributed their amazing talents to the late night crowd. Some of those we spotted enjoying what has become one of the most entertaining monthly offerings in the city, were Laura Freeman-Blackburn, Kelly Clinton, Cara Dace, Larry Frost, Garold Gardner, Gerald Gordon, Carole Hassell, Ray Jarvis, Skye Dee Miles, Davy Nathan, Jerry Ritholz, JoAnn Toranto, Scott Watanabe, Fred Watstein, and onetime Las Vegas entertainer, Diane Wisdom (Hassell with Wisdom), visiting from Dallas. As the Jersey Boys would sing...Oh, What a Night!

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