Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
She's a little bit naughty. Shes a little bit nice.  
She calls em like she sees (and hears) em.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from December 26, 2008
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - December 26, 2008

Rebecca Ramsey

Keith Thompson

Dick Feeney

Tomorrow, Saturday, December 27th, at 1 p.m., the Glenwillow String Trio will present an hour-long program at the Liberace Museum. The selections performed will include the classical music of Dohnanyi, American Folk Music arranged by fiddler Mark O'Connor, original music by Rebecca Ramsey plus holiday favorites. The musicians are Ramsey on violin, Hanna Suk on viola, and Moonlight Tran on cello. Rebecca played first chair for many notable entertainers including Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis Jr., and Luciano Pavarotti. She was also concertmaster for Andrea Bocelli's current DVD, Under the Desert Sky. She is a member of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and her private violin students have been winners of the Bolognini competition, the Silver State, the MTNA at the state level and the national Sphinx competition. She has enjoyed presenting her musical compositions at the monthly Composers' Showcase (held at the Liberace Museum), and her award-winning recording of The Stone Sanctuary, Silhouettes of Zion, has been played on KCNV-FM 89.7 Nevada Public Radio. Hanna graduated from the National Music Academy of Ukraine, receiving both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Music. She was formerly a member of the String Quartets Caprice Classic and Premier, and an artist with the Kiev Chamber Orchestra and National Ukraine Symphony Orchestra. She has toured throughout Europe and Ukraine, as a solo performer and as a chamber musician. Ms. Suk has collaborated in numerous premiere performances of new music at music festivals around the world. She emigrated to United States in 2005, and now resides in Las Vegas and is a member of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Moonlight received her Bachelor of Music Performance degree in cello from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. She also holds a degree in Business Administration from UNLV. She plays in the Las Vegas Philharmonic and is much in demand for many important shows on the Strip. In addition to teaching in her thriving cello studio, she also teaches for the Nevada School of the Arts and for the Community College of Southern Nevada.

Also at the Liberace Museum, at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 30th and 31st, and again on Saturday, January 3rd, Keith Thompson slips onto the piano bench at Liberace's glittering Baldwin in the Cabaret Showroom, filling in for the amazingly talented pianist, Philip Fortenberry, who will be taking a little time off to perform at the Kennedy Center in our nation's capitol. Thompson, an award-winning songwriter/musician/musical director (hell, he does everything), is currently the musical director for Jersey Boys at The Palazzo. The museum is billing his program, as Celebrate Me Home. Thompson prefers the title, Celebrate the Day (ANY day). Whatever it's called, it should be a wonderful experience. Keith is an award-winning songwriter/musical theater creator (Idaho!, Kooky Tunes, and more), with a keen sense of humor and a heart full of mischief. He is sure to play, sing, and charm the audience with songs and stories from his life and career, all the while paying homage to Liberace. Join Keith Thompson in a musical celebration of home, family and the holiday season. Tickets are $17.50 per person and may be purchased by calling (702) 798-5595. The Liberace Museum is located at 1775 East Tropicana Ave. at Spencer. Philip Fortenberry, associate conductor for Jersey Boys, will return to the museum on January 6th, to perform his Liberace and Me shows, on January 6th.

* * * * * *

Dick Feeney (that's with three "E"s) made a smart move when he legally tied up the name Rat Pack for entertainment projects. Tribute artist Barrie Cunningham, who performed in separate shows at the Gold Coast, as both Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffett during 1999, is probably sorry that he didn't come up with the idea first. The two men wound up in court after Cunningham used The Rat Pack Is Back as a title for a Frank, Dean and Sammy revue he put together for a holiday appearance about a year ago. Attorneys Mark Borghese and Ryan Gile, of the law firm Weide and Miller, have filed a motion with the federal court to withdraw their representation of Barrie Cunningham and his company, BC Entertainment, sighting non-payment of his legal bill. Earlier this year TRP Entertainment filed suit against Cunningham and his company for federal trademark infringement resulting from his use of the Rat Pack is Back in advertising a show he produced last New Year's Eve at the Gold Coast casino. And speaking of Mr. Feeney, although his long running afternoon show, Viva Las Vegas, is not currently playing (don't count this one out), Dick reports that his nighttime Rat Pack show at the Plaza is doing better than ever.

* * * * * *

We are always pleased if we can answer a reader's question, even if it takes a while to do so. Such is the case with G.J.G., retired from the New York Police Department. The Brigantine, New Jersey resident wanted to know whether Robyn (Lewis) St. Romain is the same Robyn Lewis that had her own band with her sister Renee back in the late 80s in Atlantic City. G. goes on to say "We were great friends back than. I worked security at Harrah's when Robyn played the Old Bay Cabaret and later when she was a member of Playboy's Girls of Rock & Roll when they appeared in Atlantic City one summer." Yes, sir, the two Robyn's are one and the same. In addition to working with Playboy's Girls of Rock & Roll in Atlantic City, Ms. St. Romain performed in the show when it was in Las Vegas at the old Maxim (now the site of the Westin Casuarina). Robyn also worked as a principal singer in a number of David Wright/Ron Lewis revues at the downtown Plaza. For many years, the talented songbird sang back up with Wayne Newton. As a matter of fact, she is still working with Newton today (or whenever he appears in concert). We hope that answers your questions, G.J.G. Thanks for reading... and for writing.

* * * * * *

On Tuesday afternoon, we spotted a number of familiar faces enjoying lunch and a reunion of sorts at Marie Callender's in southeast Las Vegas. The ladies had skated together in Strip ice shows at both the Hacienda (now the site of Mandalay Bay) and the Flamingo about 30 years ago. Sharing memories were Gail Donaldson Lucas, Sharon Holmes Mandel, Santa Barbara resident Toni Andrews (visiting her mother Roberta Mann in Vegas), Susie Lease Fajardo, Melinda L'Elliott, Sherry Pedley Jones, Nancy Lee Parker Andrews, Lindsay Fitzpatrick, and Susan Meinhold Sobel. Suzanne Speich, who had a conflicting engagement, stopped by for a quick hello. The girls had such a good time, it was decided that these little gatherings should take place at least once a year, not every 25.

Ice Skaters Reunion

Rene Lavan

And speaking of ice skating and ice skaters...We feel the need to warn those who might have responded to ads looking for skaters over the age of 45 for a touring show "starting in late January," you may be dealing with a sociopath. "Producer" Jerry Allen has a poor work history in Las Vegas. Yes, the man is creative and talented (although we know of no prior connection he may have had with ice revues), but he is also dishonest. Our knowledge of Mr. Allen goes back about 13 years. At that time, he was planning an Old English Panto (a musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in Great Britain, Canada and other countries, and is usually performed during the Christmas and New Year season) show at the Cashman Theatre just north of downtown Las Vegas. The only thing Mr. Allen produced at that time was lots of empty promises and unpaid bills. This man borrowed an American Express credit card from someone who was supposed to be his good friend of his (trusting onetime Las Vegan, John Buonomo), ran the bill up into the thousands and disappeared. John died in October of 2006, never having been repaid and with his credit in shambles. After both of these incidents, Jerry Allen disappeared for a period, but like a bad penny, he keeps turning up...returning to the scenes of his crimes, if you will. He is back once again, with a new, but familiar sounding, routine. This supposed ice show (called Babes on Ice or Babes on Blades), was advertised to be in rehearsal from January 1st through 6th (only six days of rehearsals???). No one has been told exactly WHERE the tour stops will be, when they will start and when they will end. Does this sound legit? We urge anyone interested in this project to be wary and beware. If, after these red flags, one decides to take a chance on this person, they very least they should do is make sure that they have paid for round trip plane tickets home. You have been warned.

* * * * * *

If you can't survive as a live production on the Las Vegas Strip, turn the poorly reviewed show into a television reality series. That's what is happening with Fuego Raw Talent (previously called Raw Talent Live). According to the Press Release we received, the Latin dance production and video illusion show, at the Sahara since October, will launch the first Spanish language reality television series, Fuego en Vegas. The series will air on KBLR Telemundo Las Vegas (channel 39), Saturdays at 6 p.m. beginning December 27th. The half-hour program will delve into the lives of the Fuego (if you do not speak Spanish, Fuego means Fire) cast members, capturing performances and behind-the-scenes drama, gossip, rivalries and love triangles, and revealing the life of being an entertainer on the Las Vegas Strip. Fuego en Vegas is the creation of ND (Nicole Durr) who also directs. Latino star, actor Rene Lavan, serves as the show's producer and host. Fuego Raw Talent opened at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in October 2008, where the cast performs Thursday through Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $79.95, inclusive of tax and fees, and can be purchased by calling the Sahara box office at (702) 737-2515 or toll free at (888) 696-2121. If you want to see this show, live, we suggest doing so quickly. Rumor has it that Fuego will depart the Sahara right after the first of the year...maybe even on January 4th when both Mandalay Bay's Mamma Mia! and Stomp Out Loud, currently at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, end their engagements.

* * * * * *

Barbara Ann Rollins

Sam Bottoms

Buddy Charles

From Vita Corimbi comes some extremely sad news...Barbara Ann Rollins, 31, one of the performers in Tony n Tina's Wedding at the Rio, died on Wednesday morning (December 17th). During a trip to New York, Las Vegas resident, drama coach Gerald Gordon, spotted Barbara in the off-Broadway production of Tony n Tina's Wedding and, just like in the movies, after the show, he went backstage, introduced himself, gave her his card and offered her the lead in his new film, Happily After Forever. After reading the script, Rollins agreed to play the role. For her work in that small film (there are no small films, only small actors LOL), in 2005, the Los Angeles Film and Video Festival named Barbara Ann Rollins Best Actress in a Short Film. (Also in 2005, Gerald Gordon earned the Best Director award for Romantic Drama, Short Film, from the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival for Happily After Forever.) Barbara was born in Newton, Massachusetts. She had lived in Las Vegas since 1984, where she attended Chaparral High School. She graduated from UNLV in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in theatre arts. Barbara worked in the theatre communities of Las Vegas and New York City, and was a founding member of Cockroach Theatre in Las Vegas. In October, Barbara married Ernie Curcio. In addition to her husband, Barbara is survived by her mother, Marylou Rollins; sister, Janice Rollins; aunt, Donna Stone; and her grandfather, Eugene Hummer. Services were held last Sunday. In a strange twist of fate, Sam Bottoms, who had also worked with Gordon in the early 70s, died of brain cancer on December 20th. Sam's brother, actor Joseph Bottoms, was starring in a Santa Barbara production of Dames at Sea, directed by Gerald Gordon. Sam was a member of the chorus. Because Joe had to leave for a week, as he was filming Winesburg, Ohio, a PBS project featuring actress Jean Peters (the onetime wife of Howard Hughes), Gordon asked Sam if he would just walk through Joe's part while Joe was gone. Sam not only walked through it, but, by watching all previous rehearsals, he was able to play the lead while Joe was in L.A. "Sam Bottoms was truly an amazing actor," stated Gordon. Bottoms was probably best known for his role in Apocalypse Now. He was only 53 at the time of his death.

Las Vegas personal manager and former Chicagoan, Jeanne Bavaro, informs us of the passing of Buddy Charles, a well-known Windy City piano man. Charles died Thursday, December 18th, at his home in Morton Grove, following a battle with leukemia. He was 81. Through his illness, Mr. Charles remained a trouper. Until three weeks before his death, he appeared every Tuesday and Wednesday night at Chambers Restaurant in Niles. On weekend nights, he played piano at Rush Street piano bars and the Coq d'Or (Golden Rooster) in the Drake Hotel. On Monday night, he taught eighth-grade religion class at St. Isaac Jogues in Niles. He was born Charles Joseph Gries in Chicago. His stepfather was Dixieland cornet player Muggsy Spanier. Charles began his musical journey at the old Curly's Show Lounge at Belden and Clark, but was best known for his Rush Street runs at the Black Orchid and, between 1972 and 1990, the Acorn on Oak. He moved to the Drake in 1990. His songbook was profound. Buddy could play everything from Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan to Cole Porter and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. He always connected with people because of his love of humanity. "He was gracious no matter how drunk you were, how disheveled you appeared," one of his longtime fans stated. He led the city in decades of sing-alongs. But Charles was much more than a piano man. He was a father, a husband, an amateur psychologist, a boxer and a Sunday school teacher. Buddy Charles is survived by Pat, his wife of 54 years, and four adult children.

Page Cavanaugh

Eartha Kitt

Alexander Viazovtsev & Laraine Kaizer-Viazovtsev

And more sad news from the world of music. Jazz pianist and singer Page Cavanaugh died on December 19th of kidney failure. He was 86. The Page Cavanaugh Trio was one of Southern California's most popular nightclub acts from the 1940s to the 1990s, performing at Ciro's, the Trocadero, the Captain's Table on La Cienega Boulevard, the Money Tree in Toluca Lake and the Balboa Bay Club. The group played in the film Romance on the High Seas with Jack Carson and Doris Day and in movies such as A Song Is Born, Big City, and Lullaby of Broadway. Cavanaugh's trio also appeared with Frank Sinatra at the Waldorf-Astoria and elsewhere, and on his Songs By Sinatra radio show. He also played for NBC Radio's The Jack Paar Show. The Page Cavanaugh Trio, which placed in Top 10 polls in Down Beat and Metronome magazines from 1946 to the early '50s, had chart hits such as The Three Bears and She Had to Go and Lose It At the Astor. In the early '60s, he formed a seven-piece group, The Page 7, that recorded for RCA and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and other TV programs. Around the same time, he opened his own club in Studio City. "At the end of the '50s, when rock 'n' roll came in, prices went down, and you couldn't get arrested," he said in a 1992 interview with The Times. "I'd end up playing in bowling alleys. It was a bad time." Still, he said, "a life in music was a good choice for me. It's been a damn roller coaster, flying high one day, poor as Job's turkey the next. But I can't think of anything I'd trade it for." "He was always a creatively fascinating artist throughout his long career," music critic Don Heckman told The Times. "What he did with his most famous group in the '40s and '50s was to develop a new style, in which all three members of the group would sing in unison in a whisper fashion." It was a time, Heckman said, "when jazz and popular music were in much closer sync than they are today, so that groups like Nat King Cole and George Shearing and Page Cavanaugh could play with a distinctly jazz flavor and still reach large audiences and sell a lot of records." Walter Page Cavanaugh was born January 26th, 1922, in Cherokee, Kansas, and grew up on his family's farm. Both of his parents played ragtime piano, and he switched from his first instrument, ukulele, to piano when he was about 9. He later won high school solo piano competitions four years in a row and earned a scholarship to Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg, Kan. But he stayed less than a semester and joined a Kansas-based band. At age 20, he moved to Los Angeles and joined the Bobby Sherwood band, with whom he toured until he was drafted during World War II. While serving in the Army Signal Corps, he joined the Three Sergeants, a trio with Al Viola on guitar and Lloyd Pratt on bass, which played for officers' club dances and other functions. After the war, they became known as the Page Cavanaugh Trio. The latest edition of the Page Cavanaugh Trio, featuring Phil Mallory, Cavanaugh's bass player of 18 years, and Jason Lingle on drums, released its last CD, Return to Elegance, in 2006. Cavanaugh made his final appearance with his trio in June 2007 at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, where the band had played on Thursday nights for more than a decade. In the 1980s, Page Cavanaugh performed in Las Vegas, sans sidemen, at places like the Union Plaza (now the Plaza) downtown. "He loved to entertain," Mallory said. Cavanaugh, who never married, had no immediate surviving family members. No services were planned.

Is it a coincidence that Eartha Kitt, the woman who made a hit of Santa Baby, would die on Christmas day? According to author SQuire Rushnell, who wrote the book When God Winks, there are no coincidences. The sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, was 81 when she lost her battle with colon cancer. Kitt, famous for her catlike purr, was one of America's most versatile performers, winning two Emmys and nabbing a third nomination. She also was nominated for several Tonys and two Grammys. An aunt eventually brought her to live in New York, where she attended the High School of Performing Arts, later dropping out to take various odd jobs. By chance, she dropped by an audition for the dance group run by Katherine Dunham, a pioneering African-American dancer. In 1946, Kitt was one of the Sans-Souci Singers in Dunham's Broadway production Bal Negre. Her travels with the Dunham troupe landed her a gig in a Paris nightclub in the early 1950s. She was spotted by Orson Welles, who cast her in his Paris stage production of Faust. That led to a role in New Faces of 1952 (which also featured Carol Lawrence, Paul Lynde and, as a writer, Mel Brooks) where Kitt became a hit singing Monotonous. While traveling the world as a dancer and singer, Kitt learned to perform in nearly a dozen languages and, over time, added songs in French, Spanish and even Turkish to her repertoire. Usku Dara, a song Kitt said was taught to her by the wife of a Turkish admiral, was one of her first hits, though she says her record company feared it too remote for American audiences to appreciate. Her first album, RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt, came out in 1954 It featured such songs as I Want to Be Evil, C'est Si Bon, and the saucy gold digger's theme song, Santa Baby, which is revived on radio at Christmastime. The following year, the record company released That Bad Eartha, with Let's Do It, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and My Heart Belongs to Daddy. In 1996, she was nominated for a Grammy in the category of traditional pop vocal performance for her album, Back in Business. Kitt also acted in movies, playing the lead female role opposite Nat King Cole in St. Louis Blues in 1958, and in the 1990s appeared in Boomerang and Harriet the Spy. On television, she was the sexy Catwoman on the popular Batman series, replacing Julie Newmar who originated the role. A guest appearance on an episode of I Spy brought Kitt an Emmy nomination in 1966. She was outspoken about causes she believed in, making headlines in the 1960s for denouncing the Vietnam War while attending a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. For some years afterward, Kitt performed almost exclusively overseas. She was investigated by the FBI and CIA, which allegedly found her to be foul-mouthed and promiscuous. In 1978, she returned to Broadway in the musical Timbuktu!, which earned her a Tony nomination and an invite back to the White House by then president, Jimmy Carter. In 2000, Kitt earned another Tony nod for The Wild Party. Two years later, she played the fairy godmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. In 2003, she was back on Broadway after replacing Chita Rivera in a revival of Nine. Over the years, Kitt had liaisons with wealthy men, including Revlon founder Charles Revson, who showered her with lavish gifts. In 1960, she married Bill McDonald. They divorced after the birth of their daughter, Kitt. On stage, Eartha was sexy and flirtatious. Offstage, she described herself as shy and almost reclusive. In her autobiography, she wrote that her mother was black and Cherokee, while her father was white, and she was left to live with relatives after her mother's new husband objected to taking in a mixed-race girl. She referred to herself as "Eartha Mae, that little urchin cotton-picker from the South." For years, she was unsure of her birthplace or birth date. In 1997, a group of students at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, located her birth certificate, which verified her birth date as January 17th, 1927. Kitt had previously celebrated on January 26th. "I'm an orphan. But the public has adopted me and that has been my only family," she told the Post online. "The biggest family in the world are my fans." Her career spanned six decades, from her start as a dancer with the famed Katherine Dunham troupe to cabarets and acting and singing on stage, in movies and on television. In addition to her daughter, Eartha Kitt is survived by millions of family members.

And speaking of Vita Corimbi, in addition to playing piano for Tony 'n Tina's, Vita is also a member of the all girl musicombo (thank you, Forrest Duke), Killians Angels. The ladies will be entertaining at Brendan's Pub in The Orleans on December 26th, 27th and New Year's Eve, beginning at 9 p.m.

At the Celebrity Nightclub, at 201 N. 3rd Street in downtown Las Vegas, 714Entertainment will present The Barkays, Darcus, comic J. Reid, and DJ Chris Brown bringing in the New Year. Galaxy Glenn will host the evening which will include entertainment, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight. General admission is $99 a person. VIP tickets are $175. For $500, up to four guests get a cabana and two bottles of their liquor of choice. For reservations and/or more information on this New Years Eve event, call (702) 498-2622.

* * * * * *

When it comes to the Kaizer family, music definitely runs through the gene pool. The public will be able to see and hear for themselves on Thursday, January, 8th, when the group gets together to perform a 6:30 p.m. free concert at the Clark County Flamingo Library. Sponsored by John Meren and Tom Gallagher of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada, the concert will feature Dr. Ed Kaizer and wife Janet Kaizer on piano, their daughter Dr. Laraine Kaizer-Viazovtsev, on violin, Laraine's husband Alexander "Sasha" Viazovtsev on flute, and non-relative Mert Sermet on cello. The program will include Classical, Jazz, Ragtime, and Boogie-Woogie, with selections from Bowling Suite for Flute and Jazz Trio, the Ravel Piano Trio, Brahms Piano Trio No. 1 B Major, and more. Dr. Ed Kaizer and his wife Janet are both piano professors at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. They are both amazing ragtime pianists, and Ed Kaizer is a fantastic jazz pianist. We would recommend getting to the library early, as this offering should generate a full house. When it comes to a show like this, the old saying "You get what you pay for," goes right out the window.

Dr. Ed & Janet Kaizer

Lola Falana

Annie Gaybis & John Byner

* * * * * *

Claire Voyant reader, Dee in Florida, informs us that the picture of Tanya Tucker used in last Friday's column was taken by a Tanya fan named Bob Suomela. If we had known that, we certainly would have given the gentleman from Minnesota credit. It was a fine picture, Mr. Suomela, and we thank you making it available for our use. Dee says she hopes that Tanya pops up in Vegas soon. We are sure that her fans would hope for that as well.

* * * * * *

From Annie Gaybis, now on tour in Jacksonville, Florida, comes this e-mail inquiry...
I was wondering if you could let me know how Lola Falana is doing. She has always been an inspiration. I have tried with no success to get The Professional Dancers Society in LA to honor her. I dont know why they dont ...
We don't know why they don't honor her either, Annie. Lola Falana, who is now 66 years old, was a headliner here for a number of years. In fact, during the 1980s, she was known as the First Lady of Las Vegas. A multi-talented dancer, singer, actress, and all-around entertainer, Falana was a sexy superstar. Under the tutelage of blues singer Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bill Cosby, and Wayne Newton, for a time, Falana became the highest-paid female performer in the history of Las Vegas. In the late 1980s, her career came to a temporary halt when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). She briefly returned to the Las Vegas Strip for a couple of engagements, one that took place at the Sands soon after the announcement of her illness, creating lots of unanswered questions. How could a person, suffering from MS, and described as unable to walk, make such a miraculous recovery? At that Sands performance, she was able to do high kicks and other difficult dance moves and perform like in the good old days. We were told that calls were coming in from all over the world, from people wanting to know how this was possible, and what kind of treatment Falana was undergoing to improve her health so quickly...or at all. Today, it still puzzles those who witnessed the performance. Lola didn't stay around Las Vegas for long. The story was she went home to Philadelphia to be near her family. We know of more than one instance when the still beautiful lady was recognized by fans, but, when asked if she was Lola Falana, said that she wasn't. In recent years, Falana was back in the Entertainment Capital, but this time, religion had replaced show business in her life. She became a regular worshiper at the Guardian Angel Cathedral just east of the Strip, where dressed in long robes she kept to herself. She seems to have disappeared once again. Interestingly, as difficult as it is to get current information about Ms. Falana, it is equally difficult to locate a current photo of her. We trust, if we were to find something recent, the attire would be very different than what audience members remember her wearing in her Vegas heyday.

As for the e-mail writer, Annie Gaybis, she herself is a singer, dancer, actress, having just finished Il Trovatore for The Orlando Opera and the Orlando Philharmonic where she was the principal dancer. "Never in a million years did I think I would be dancing to The Anvil Chorus," says Annie. Recently, she was also guest artist for First Coast Ballet and The Jacksonville Symphony for their production of Nutcracker. In early February, Gaybis will be starring in a touring production of A.R. Gurney's Love Letters for Independent Artists. Her first film was Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. A number of movies followed, including the controversial Showgirls, where, under Marguerite Pomerhn-Derricks' choreography, she was featured throughout the film as one of its main dancers. She worked with Eddie Murphy in The Distinguished Gentleman, and with Kevin Costner in Waterworld. She has also been a guest on Baywatch, Married With Children, and Leeza. Annie has been featured opposite John Raitt (father of Bonnie) in the Los Angeles production of South Pacific, and worked with Placido Domingo in a number of productions at the Los Angeles Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, including Carmen and Othello. Ms. Gaybis has toured the world with her cabaret show, sharing the stage with headliners such as Vic Damone, Phyllis Diller, Rodney Dangerfield, Peggy Lee, David Brenner, Hal Linden, Red Buttons, Little Richard, Michael Buble, Joel Grey, Kevin Meaney and Jeff Ross. She has also been profiled on 60 Minutes. Annie is married to comic impressionist, John Byner, and has guest starred with him in two holiday specials for the Family Channel. Like Ms. Falana, Byner was a Strip regular for many years, including a stint in Sid and Marty Krofft's Comedy Kings at the Sands. Cousin Claire had one of those being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time experiences about 22 years ago. The occasion was an event-filled weekend at Caesars Palace as the property celebrated their 20th anniversary. There were all kinds of planned activities, with celebrities and media-types involved. The Circus Maximus showroom (now but a fading memory, the performance space having been replaced by the Colosseum which has played host to the likes of Celine Dion, Elton John, Bette Midler, Cher and Jerry Seinfeld), welcomed back many of its two decades of headliners in a special taped for cable television. During that weekend, we spent a wonderful evening, sharing a table with funnyman Byner, Tom and Dick Smothers, and the Smothers Brothers' musical director, Michael Preddy. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner (carving Beef Wellington, Crepes Suzette, etc.) and a delightful couple of hours of interesting conversation. It was a once in a lifetime experience and an evening that we will always remember fondly.

And speaking of the Smothers Brothers, the musical comedy twosome return to The Orleans, January 30th through February 1st.

Dick & Tom Smothers

Oh, What a Night!

Shades of Sinatra

* * * * * *

Oh, What a Night! (A Tribute To The Music of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons) will fill the Suncoast Showroom with familiar favorites on January 2nd, 3rd and 4th, at 7:30 p.m. Audience members can expect to hear hits such as Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like a Man, Rag Doll, Bye, Bye Baby, Let's Hang On, Working My Way Back To You, and, of course, Oh, What a Night. A ChapQuist Production, the cast consists of Paul Holmquist, George Solomon, Brandon Albright, and Rick Morgan. Tickets start at $19.95, plus applicable taxes and fees. Call (702) 636-7075 for reservations.

And in other tributes, today you can enjoy memories of past Christmases, beginning at 4 p.m., when "Judy," "Frank" and "Dino" sing familiar favorites. Okay, so it's not the REAL thing, but it's darn close, as Denise Rose, CJ "Frank the Voice" Sinestro, and Luciano Correa, with Ronnie DiFillips on piano, recreate the sounds of Garland, Sinatra and Martin at Aurelio's, 10960 S. Eastern (waaay South) in Henderson. Join in the sing-along, enjoy some great tasting Chicago-style pizza and toast the season. Call (702) 685-6000 for directions.

* * * * * *

The Cannery Casino & Hotel brings the Legends of Motown Old School Tribute Show into The Club on Friday, January 2nd, and Saturday, January 3rd. The show features acts paying tribute to The Supremes, Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, The O'Jays and more. With a 15-member cast, the Legends of Motown Old School Tribute Show features tributes to more than 30 legendary acts, using vocals, choreography and a brief biography of each. This gives audiences from all generations an opportunity to learn about the musical legends they are about to see. The shows begin each night at 8 p.m. Admission is $5 at the door.

* * * * * *

Broadway's Jerry Herman's music can be heard in the most interesting addition to theaters along the Great White Way and around the world. Wal-Mart used his We Need a Little Christmas song, from Mame, for their holiday TV commercials. In addition to Mame, Herman is the composer and lyricist of Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles, Milk and Honey, and the as yet unproduced Las Vegas-inspired, Miss Spectacular.

* * * * * *

Shades of Sinatra, made up of Ryan Baker, Larry Liso, Carmen Mandia and Lisa Smith, will provide entertainment at noon on, Wednesday, December 31st at the Suncoast. Tickets start at $19.95 plus taxes and fees. Call (702) 636-7075 for reservations.

On the same day, at the South Point, it's Bill Fayne's Le Voci Vegas in the Grand Ballroom at noon (doors open at 11 a.m.), and Tony Orlando at 9 p.m. (doors open at 8). The cost for the afternoon show is $25 per person and includes entertainment, party favors and an early champagne toast. The nighttime event is $150 per person and includes dinner, party favors, an open bar and champagne toast at midnight and, of course, Tony Orlando.


Have a question about Las Vegas? Want to make a comment (be nice, now)?
If so, drop an e-mail and ask. Click Here
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.
You can find Past Columns HERE

     Like to be notified when Claire Voyant's next column is available?
Then join Claire Voyant's announcement mailing list!
Enter your email address below, then click the 'Join List' button:

Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye