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 January 04, 2008
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - January 4, 2008

Leslie Uggams Jason Graae Jimmy Hopper

Following the February 9th closing of The Producers at Paris Las Vegas, the multi-talented Lee Roy Reams won't be idle for very long. Currently portraying the outrageous Roger DeBris in the Mel Brooks Tony-winning musical, Reams will head for Houston, Texas, where he will direct Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! at the Theatre Under the Stars. The production, which will run from February 26th through March 9th, will star Leslie Uggams as Dolly Levi. The Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress/singer recently thrilled Broadway audiences co-starring with James Earl Jones in the revival of Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond. That performance came on the heels of her portrayal of the offbeat society heiress, Muzzy, in the Tony-award-winning musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. In 1968, Leslie won a Tony Award for her role in Hallelujah, Baby. This will not be Uggams' first TUTS appearance. In 1989, she appeared there in the production of Anything Goes, and in 2001, she played The Witch in Into the Woods. Leslie Uggams won worldwide acclaim as a dramatic actress in one of the most watched dramatic mini-series in TV history, Alex Haley's Roots. She earned the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1978, an Emmy nomination for Best Leading actress, and a Golden Globe Nomination, all for her role as Kizzy.

Speaking of Jerry Herman, we loved the PBS special that aired on New Year's Day, highlighting his career as a Broadway composer. Herman wrote both the words and music for Mame, the above mentioned Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles, Mack and Mabel among others. Our minor complaints with the documentary are not enough face time for Jason Graae, and no face time (or any time) for Lee Roy Reams, Karen Morrow or Las Vegas resident Paige O'Hara (currently in Menopause The Musical at the Hilton). Nice to see Don Pippin, Herman's longtime musical director, so prominently featured. Pippin, Graae, Morrow and O'Hara, all took part in a tribute to Jerry Herman that played at UNLV in October of 2006. Mr. Herman was expected to take part in that evening, but illness kept him from attending. If you missed the documentary, it will probably air again (check your local TV listings). If not, a DVD is available for purchase.

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It's official! Jimmy Hopper will be returning to the Suncoast in March. Following his successful two-day engagement on Mother's Day weekend last May, the wise powers that be at Boyd Gaming are bringing the multi-talented entertainer back, this time for three days, March 28th, 29th and 30th. Word of mouth and Hopper's local fan base should result in sold-out performances. Jimmy Hopper first generated Las Vegas buzz when he was featured in the Rio's sky-high Voo Doo Lounge. The buzz continued when he moved to the Fontana Room at Bellagio, resulting in a more than four-year run.

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The Liberace Museum has figured out yet another way to lure music-lovers to their establishment. In addition to their Composers Showcase, held once a month beginning at 10:30 p.m. (after theater), on Sunday, January 13th, they are launching the Second Sunday Cabaret Series. The first artist to be featured will be Bruce Ewing. The Suffern, New York-native is a graduate of the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. He is presently appearing in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular at The Venetian Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Prior to Phantom, for four years, Bruce appeared as Jinx and Sparky in Forever Plaid at the Flamingo, followed by a stint as Jinx in the same musical production when it moved to the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino. Before Vegas, Bruce worked all over the country in musical theater. Credits include national tours of Forever Plaid, City of Angels, Grand Hotel, and Ziegfeld: A Night at the Follies. For his show at the museum, Bruce will offer his cabaret act called Every Day Is A Gift. Its a combination of theatre music and inspirational, uplifting music. The performance falls on Bruce's birthday weekend, so he is inviting everyone he knows (and those he hasn't met yet) to attend his "party." As a birthday gift, Bruce asks for any donation, half of which will go to the Liberace Foundation and Museum, with the other half going to Family Promise of Las Vegas. The program will play twice on the 13th, once at 1:30 p.m. and again at 3:00 p.m. Admission is free for Nevada residents and their guests. The Liberace Museum is located at 1775 East Tropicana Avenue at Spencer.

Bruce Ewing Dixie Evans Las Vegas Classic Jazz Band

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Actors Bart Williams and John C. Brown turn filmmakers as they direct their love of burlesque into a documentary called The Last First Comic. The two have traveled from coast-to-coast, interviewing people such as Irving Benson, Ed McMahon, Alan Young, Mickey Deems, Don Potter, Chris Costello, Suzanne Charney and Betty "The Ball of Fire" Rowland. This weekend, Bart and John will be in Las Vegas to film and interview Dixie Evans. In her day, Dixie was known as "The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque." This lovely lady should add plenty of spark to the project.

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Letters. We get letters. We get lots and lots of letters (thanks again, Perry Como)...

From reader Carolyn Proctor comes this e-mail...

Regarding your comment about Gold Coast entertainment, you really should mention the Dixie band in the afternoon, Mondays thru Fridays. I don't know of any other hotel right now offering anything free in the afternoon. These guys are very professional, with lots of performing credits, and one of Cork (Carolyn's husband, comic Cork Proctor) and my favorites.

Thank you for the reminder, Carolyn. Although we were referring to the main showroom at the Gold Coast, and the Las Vegas Classic Jazz Band (their current name) plays in the hotel's East Lounge, we are more than happy to mention this talented group of musicians. Some folks may know the LVCJB better as the Royal Dixie Jazz Band (or the Kinda Dixie Jazz Band or the Sorta Dixie Jazz Band). The renamed sextet - today made up of Dan Ellis (leader/piano/ vocals), Steve Johnson (reeds/piano/vocals), Paul Testa (drums), Tom Ehlen (trumpet/ vocals), Jeff Davis (bass) and Nate Kimball (trombone/vocals) - perform Monday through Friday, from 1 to 6:30 p.m. at the hotel. A trip to the West Flamingo property to hear these gentlemen should be on your 2008 To Do list.

When we requested Claire Voyant readers to let us know what they think are the WORST shows or acts they have seen in Las Vegas, we meant on stages around the city. We decided to print this e-mail, as it is a valid answer to a vague (on our part) question...

From longtime Las Vegan Lawrence K comes this nominee...

I'm sure a TV show can be included. When Robert Sacca, the twin brother of Tony Sacca was still alive they had a less than tolerable talk (and I use the term "talk" loosely) show. The twins were seated at desks on the opposite ends of a couch on which the guest sat. The twins, who had a difficult time completing a sentence without screwing it up, were hosting Mel Tillis. If you don't remember, Mel (who is now 75-years-old) was the guest and had an uncontrollable stutter when he spoke. The interview was going so poorly with Mel having to turn his head (like he was watching a tennis match) to answer alternating questions from the articulate(less) twins on either end of the couch and having to try to understand the unintelligent questions that were being asked, Mel blurted out, "I t-t-t-talk b-b-b-better than the b-b-b-both of you." Naturally, the passing of someone in the community (Robert Sacca) always saddens us, but the Sacca Twins TV show has got to go down as one of the WORST in history. Unfortunately, Tony Sacca has not gotten any better to this day.

We also received a nice e-mail from entertainer Peter Lemongello. If the name is familiar, it is probably because, in 1976, the singer from Islip, Long Island, New York, became the first person to sell a million records through a television direct marketing campaign. Using a city-by-city marketing strategy, he and his partners began their Love '76 campaign on late-night TV, targeting all six New York metropolitan channels 70 to 100 times a week. The two-record set album, Do I Love You, sold 43,000 copies in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey in 13 weeks. After signing with Private Stock Records, they began the same campaign in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The album began to sell on an unprecedented level, attracting widespread media attention. Lemongello came up with the idea after a lukewarm cabaret career and numerous appearances on national TV, including three on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. After the success of the TV ad campaign, Lemongello performed at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In more recent years, he has performed in Branson, Missouri, and other venues around the country.

From Stan Evans comes this e-mail...

I would hope that you would include Lisa Donovan among the group that should be performing in Las Vegas on a regular basis. Before Lisa moved here two years ago, she had performed many times on major Vegas stages, such as -- in the main rooms at the Dunes (for two weeks) with Donald O'Connor, at the Riviera with Donald O'Connor and Mickey Rooney, many times with Don Rickles at the Golden Nugget, with Rickles again at the Desert Inn and with George Burns in his final Vegas appearance at Caesars Palace. (Lisa was the last person to have shared a stage with Burns, at Caesars Tahoe, before the home accident that ended his career.) And then there was Lisa's solo performance at that great lounge at the Desert Inn, where Lisa alternated shows with, among others, the great Keely Smith. Jack Eglash and Burton Cohen saw Lisa at Caesars with Burns, and hired her for three weeks. She brought in so much business that they kept renewing her until that three-week gig turned into a nine-month engagement. Outside of Vegas Lisa also worked other major rooms -- with Rickles, with Burns and with Rich Little, among many others. (You can find more information on Lisa at Beyond that, Lisa was scheduled to do six weeks at Paris Las Vegas, with the possibility of extending, starting October 3, 2001. After that deal was made and agreed to, of course, came the tragedy of 9/11. Two weeks later and only one week before Lisa's scheduled opening, Paris Las Vegas called with the news that, due to poor post-9/11 business, they were shutting down the room Lisa was to sing in. But, they said, "We will make up for that cancellation." We're still waiting. When Lisa moved to Vegas, it was with the hope of finding steady work here -- so that she could cut down on international traveling (She's worked cruise ships around the world. And did a solo tour of Australia (Judy! Judy! Judy! Lisa Sings Garland). Getting back to the point you made, it's been tough finding work here. Lisa's done a couple of dates at the Starbright Theatre and has another date scheduled there in May. And Jeanne Bavaro, one of Lisa's great supporters, has produced a couple of cabaret shows with Lisa. So Lisa continues singing regularly. But not in Vegas. In just the last four months, Lisa, who, remember, moved to Vegas in the hopes of settling down some, has traveled to, among many other places, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Alaska, Japan, Hawaii, French Polynesia, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, China, Thailand, Malaysia -- and will start the new year in Darwin, Australia. Which brings me to the other part of your column that stood out for me. There may be an ironic message to be culled from this. You mention Marty Allen and Karon Kate Blackwell, talented Las Vegas residents who did such good business recently at the Gold Coast. But who also don't find much work here. Guess where they are right now? On the same cruise ship (Princess Sapphire) with Lisa. (They each did a show on different nights. And then worked together in a farewell show.) They've become friends as they all debark in Darwin and fly home to Vegas -- where they all hope to find steady work. But will, in order to keep working, have to leave Vegas again.

There's your message brought home, Cousin Claire. Performers who entertain people all over the world but can't find steady work in the city that bills itself as the Entertainment Capital of the World. There's something wrong somewhere. And bless you for pointing it out.

Lisa Donovan Michael Orland Elizabeth Loyacano &
Tim Martin Gleason

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Belated birthday greetings to entertainer Carme Pitrello who celebrated his December 28th natal day in Florida. Pitrello, a longtime Las Vegan, still maintains a home here but spends much of his time out of the city. Why? One reason is because, with all of his cruise ship work, it is a little more convenient for ship boarding than his ranchero in the Southwest desert.

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We caught the early (7:30 p.m.) of Imelda Papin with special guest David Pomeranz at The Orleans on New Year's Eve Monday. We would have liked to see a few more numbers from Mr. Pomeranz but, after all, it was Papin's show. David did his popular (especially among the Filipinos, who made up the majority of the audience) King and Queen of Hearts, The Old Songs (a Pomeranz tune recorded by Barry Manilow), and Got To Believe In Magic. He later joined Imelda in a duet. We have one criticism of the show. Although most of the audience was made up of Filipinos, for those of us who didn't speak or understand the language, we would have liked to see the English lyrics run on one (or more) of the three screens on stage during the two songs sung by Papin. It's a suggestion, folks.

We were very pleasantly surprised to see longtime friend Michael Orland on piano. In case you don't know anything about Mr. Orland, we will give you a short bio. Michael began his professional show business career as musical director and accompanist for the late comic/puppeteer Wayland Flowers. Since that time, Orland has worked with just about everyone who's anyone in music and cabaret - Lucie Arnaz, Kaye Ballard, Nell Carter, Dom DeLuise, Sam Harris, Lainie Kazan, Sally Kellerman, Gladys Knight, Roslyn Kind, Barry Manilow, Ann Miller and Chita Rivera among them. In addition to his work with individual performers, Orland has been associated with TV's American Idol since the reality show's inception. He is the pianist/ arranger and musical director for the popular FOX television show. By the way, Idol begins its new season on January 15th.

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With very little fanfare, services were held for comedienne Pudgy! (Beverly Wines Cardella) last Saturday. The funny lady passed away at her home on Christmas Eve. Her last ongoing role was as the comedy relief in X-Burlesque at the Flamingo. Burial was to take place in her native Chicago.

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From a Claire Voyant reader comes all this newsy info (we may have to hire him as an assistant!)...

Elizabeth Loyacano, who created the role of Christine in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, has joined the New York cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's record-setting Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre. Loyacano succeeds Julie Hansen, who played her final performance on November 15th. The Broadway company also features Howard McGillin as the Phantom, Tim Martin Gleason (Raoul), George Lee Andrews (Monsieur Andr; Andrews is the only cast member to have been with the Broadway production for the entire run), David Cryer (Monsieur Firmin), Marilyn Caskey (Madame Giry), Wayne Hobbs (Piangi) and Heather McFadden (Meg Giry). Elizabeth has also been seen on Broadway in The Woman in White, Oklahoma! and Dracula. Her other theatrical credits include Harmony, Titanic and Grease. Directed by Harold Prince, The Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest-running show in Broadway history. The musical, based on the Gaston Leroux novel, is the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Kristen Hertzenberg and Kristi Holden are currently sharing the role of Christine in The Venetian's Las Vegas production. For tickets and information about Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, call (702) 414-7469.

And speaking of Howard McGillin...Acting coach Gerald Gordon recalls directing Dames At Sea, produced by the very affluent Biltmore Hotel in their annex, the ritzy Coral Casino in Santa Barbara. It starred Joseph Bottoms in one of his first stage shows long before he went into films following in the steps of his brother Timothy Bottoms (Sam and the youngest brother, Benjamin Bottoms, who studied with Gordon, have also had acting careers). Howard McGillin, then 19-years old, was featured and his voice was outstanding even then. This opened for six weeks in November 1972 and was held over for an additional four weeks because it was so successful. Opening night audience members included Eva Marie Saint, her husband Jeffrey Hayden, Bradford Dillman and his gorgeous wife Suzy Parker, Anthony Zerbe and the very affluent society of Santa Barbara. Gordon was housed in a two-story, three-room bungalow at the Biltmore Hotel where guests dressed for dinner. Says Gordon, "I loved it there. I stayed for the entire run. I never wanted to leave."

And from the same helpful reader who provided the info on Elizabeth Loyacano comes this...

The Jerry Lopez Band, Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns, perform every Monday night at the Palms. A few weeks ago, Bette Midler came in to see the band, and took the entire horn section to perform in her The Showgirl Must Go On, gig at Caesars Palace, beginning next month. They are all considered to be some of the top musicians in Vegas. Also, America's Got Talent winner, singing ventriloquist Terry Fator, is using the Scotty Alexander Band to back him up at all his Hilton performances. Scotty is the former guitar player and bandleader for Wayne Newton. Fator, who performed at the Las Vegas Hilton on New Year's Eve, has return dates scheduled at the hotel January 17th through 19th, and February 22nd through 24th. Mr. Fator is really expanding on his 15 minutes of fame...which is a good thing.

Howard McGillin Gerry McCambridge Clem Zeleski

Also expanding on his 15 minutes of fame is The Mentalist, Gerry McCambridge. The increase in Gerry's crowd counts at Hooters proves that you don't have to take first prize on a TV reality competition to be a winner. McCambridge was one of 10 contestants on NBC's Phenomenon. His performances were mind boggling, to both the audiences in the studio and at home. In spite of that, it was Mystifier, Mike Super, who claimed the $250,000 prize. Two-and-a-half years ago, McCambridge was booked into the Rampart for a three-week run. Those three-weeks turned into 47 weeks. Gerry's next Las Vegas stint was at the Stardust, first in a small room and then in the main showroom. He was there until the hotel closed in November of 2006. His current gig at Hooters is now up to five nights a week and the audience numbers are growing. We saw The Mentalist in the big room at the Stardust. We have to say that we much prefer the show in a smaller, more intimate setting. In this kind of venue, you really have the opportunity to see the amazement on the faces of the audience members, especially the ones that become involved in the show. In addition to being a consummate entertainer, Gerry McCambridge is also a savvy businessman. A year ago, while on "sabbatical" from a regular gig (McCambridge is a favorite on the corporate and special events circuit), Gerry started an online ticket business, called Vegas Seat Fillers. He recently sold 75 percent of the business to entrepreneur Chip Lightman (he represents Danny Gans and owns a couple of Las Vegas restaurants) and PR lady Laura Herlovich. The business is now called Show Tickets 4 Locals.

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There were some significant differences between Clint Holmes' Unplugged show at the Excalibur last August, and his recent Unplugged show at the Sahara. In addition to some holiday songs that were included in the December version of Unplugged, two talented musicians joined the original trio of Holmes, Bill Fayne and Domenick Allen. Playing bass was Keith Nelson, and on drums, and just about everything else within reach, was Brian Czach. Nelson is a longtime Las Vegan with an impressive list of credits. The bassist/vocalist has worked with Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer and Diana Ross, and appeared on The Tonight Show and the 1984 Grammy Awards. In recent years, he has been part of the Steven Lee Group and most recently has been performing with comic/singer/ impressionist Gordie Brown at The Venetian. New York-native Brian Czach, a brand new Las Vegan (he and his wife moved here only three days before the Sahara gig started), has been working with Domenick Allen for five years. Brian is an act on his own. We are sure he will find plenty of opportunity to ply his craft in his new hometown.

Mosaic, the a cappella group that works with comic George Wallace at the Flamingo, came onstage to offer a Readers Digest version of Carol of the Bells, while singer Ronnie Rose demonstrated his vocal abilities from the audience. We also spotted Las Vegas Tenor Teddy Davey in the crowd, as well as former entertainer (ice skater/chimp trainer) Sherry Jones (Pedley) in the audience. Sherry was celebrating her birthday at the Sahara (where she worked before retiring about a year-and-a-half ago), enjoying the show and a bite to eat afterwards. Many of her former co-workers greeted her warmly, wanting to know how she was enjoying her well-deserved "time off." The answer is that she is loving it. Cousin Claire's feelings about retirement are that the hours are great, but the pay is only so-so. It was nice to see former Stardust showroom maitre d, Bob Van Dura, who currently works at the Sahara.

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A date and location for A Celebration of Life for entertainer Clem Zeleski has been announced. The gathering of friends will take place at the Clark County Library on East Flamingo, Saturday, February 9th at 1:30 p.m. Zeleski, who died on November 27th at the age of 45, was best known for his interpretation of the dance style of classy and debonair Fred Astaire. The event is being organized by good friends, Kenny Mazlow (coming into Las Vegas from his job at San Francisco's Beach Blanket Babylon), Shirley Allen and Scott Singharath. Friends and/or fans of Clem's are invited to attend.

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You can dazzle your (grownup) baby even more when you step out in sneakers by Kashi Kicks. We aren't talking about just any sneaker, we are talking about Liberace-inspired footwear. Now acknowledged by the Millennial Generation as "The King of Bling," in addition to his skills at the piano, the late entertainer was known for his extravagance, showmanship and over-the-top wardrobe and lifestyle. The inspiration for the shoe collection followed a 2006 visit to the Liberace Museum to view the Outside the Shoe Box exhibit, which displayed an array of designer shoes worn by Liberace throughout his career. Alan Kashi, designer of Kashi Kicks in Pittsburgh, PA, has a background in jewelry design and is directly connected with hip-hop culture. The company is known for their highly-decorated, detailed and dazzling sneakers coveted by the celebrity feet of George Clinton, Flava Flav, Dj Unk, Joey Porter, Slim of 112, Cool of Cool & Dre and Casey Hampton of the Steelers. Kashi states, "With the introduction of this sneaker collection, Liberace's street credibility is absolutely bumped up a notch. We previewed the shoes for the fashion world at MAGIC in Las Vegas this past August, and eventually they'll be sold around the world at specialty stores and foot-ware giants, even in destinations as far as way as Australia and Europe." For a limited time, sneaker lovers, fans of the late showman, and hip-hoppers alike can step in the bling' with the Kashi Kicks' Liberace Collection, priced at $99 and available exclusively in Las Vegas at the Liberace Museum store or online at A portion of proceeds from every sale benefits the non-profit Liberace Foundation, which helps talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance. To purchase the shoes at the Liberace Museum, call (702) 798-5595 for hours, or visit the store at 1775 E. Tropicana Ave. at Spencer.

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