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 January 11, 2008
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - January 11, 2008

Martin Nievera Shades of Sinatra Brent Barrett

Look for a favorite of ours, entertainer Martin Nievera, to join the Society of Seven at the Flamingo for a special two-month guest spot, from February 13th through April 13th. The very talented Mr. Nievera is a major star in the Philippines and should be one in Las Vegas as well. He performed in his own show at the Golden Nugget during 2003 and 2004, followed by a short stint at the Steve Wyrick Theater last year (so far, no act that has managed to survive in the theater at Planet Hollywood for very long). Perhaps this engagement with the SOS will give Martin, known as "The Concert King" in the Philippines, the chance he needs to be seen by some savvy entertainment buyer with an eye for building a regular following for this talented fellow. He definitely deserves his own room. Check out Martin Nievera and SOS at the Flamingo. Show times are Wednesdays through Sundays at 3 p.m. Call (702) 733-3333 for reservations.

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Shades of Sinatra returns to the Suncoast Hotel & Casino for a 7:30 p.m. show, Wednesday, January 16th. "The Shades," as Ryan Baker, Larry Liso, Carmine Mandia and Lisa Smith call themselves, pay tribute to Old Blue Eyes with songs he made famous. Within a relatively short time, the musical quartet has gone from singing in a neighborhood restaurant to headlining in hotel/casino showrooms. For a chance to see Shades of Sinatra at the Suncoast, call (877) 636-7111 for ticket information and reservations.

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Look for our Phavorite Phantom, Brent Barrett, to pop up on stages other than the one in the incredible opera house at Paris Las Vegas. The fact that there are two actor/singers (Anthony Crivello is the other) covering the title role in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, allows Mr. Barrett to take other jobs, a good thing for his as well as music lovers in other parts of the country. For example, on February 23rd, 24th and 25th, Barrett will perform with Karen Ziemba, Connie Kunkle, Nina Hennessy, Ty Stephens, James Sasser and Peter Howard in Life is a Cabaret - A Tribute to Fred Ebb, part of the 30th Anniversary of the Lyrics & Lyricists series. The event, with Rob Fisher as artistic director, will take place at the famed Kaufman Concert Hall at the 92nd Street Y, located at 1395 Lexington Avenue in New York City. New Yorker Fred Ebb's four-decade collaboration with composer John Kander produced a remarkable string of unforgettable shows. Fisher, the music director of the revival of Chicago, explores the legacy of the lyricist whose 700 songs epitomized the wit and sophistication of Broadway. Together, Kander and Ebb's stage credits include Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Zorba, Woman of the Year and Cabaret. Their film work includes the scores for New York, New York, and Funny Lady. They are also well known for music they wrote for Liza Minnelli. There is some dispute over what year Ebb was born, but there is no question of when he died - September 11, 2004. Show times are at 3 and 8 p.m. on the 23rd and 24th, and 2 and 8 p.m. on the 25th. Tickets are $50 and $60 per person. On June 28th, busy Brent will perform in concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, as part of Barbara Cook's Spotlight Series. We will have more details on this as the date draws closer.

Fred Ebb Mark Nadler & KT Sullivan Ethel Merman

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Last month, KT Sullivan, Craig Rubano, Dominic Meiman and Mark Nadler launched their new CD of operetta songs called The Night They Invented Champagne. The CD was produced by Frank Skillern and features beautiful orchestrations for piano and string quartet. The December launch was such an enormous success, many people weren't able to get in, so they are doing it again! This go-round will take place on Sunday, January 20th at 7 p.m. at the La Rivista Palatine Restaurant, located at 313 West 46th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues) in New York, of course. The group will perform selections from the CD throughout the evening, promising a most festive experience. The cost for The Night They Invented Champagne is $75 per person. That includes the show, three-course dinner and a complimentary CD. Early reservations are strongly suggested. Call (212) 245-1707.

Incidentally, due to popular demand, Mark Nadler and KT Sullivan return to Las Vegas and the Charleston Heights Arts Center for a concert on Sunday, March 2nd. In previous appearances, the talented duo has done musical tributes to both George Gershwin and Irving Berlin (Nadler also made a solo visit to perform his brilliant Mark Nadler In a Nutshell). This season‘s presentation is called Time After Time: Celebrating the Great American Songbook. This duos Las Vegas appearances are always sellouts, so if you have any interest in this type of entertainment, call (702) 229-6383 and make your reservations right away. Tickets are only $10 per person, unless you wait until the day of the performance when they are $15. If history repeats itself (and, in this case, it probably will), the tickets will be gone weeks before March 2nd. He, or she, who hesitates is lost, and misses a great show. Don't say we didn't warn you.

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Unless you use mobility equipment, or have a companion or family member who does, you may not even be aware of some of the obstacles encountered in Las Vegas (and, probably, other city's) public places, primarily hotels. Here are a couple of examples. The Venetian, a relatively new and first class property, has no automatic door entering the casino from the third-floor valet parking garage. It is almost impossible for most wheelchair-bound individuals to pull open heavy glass double-doors with one hand, while trying to maneuver their medical equipment with the other. One usually has to depend on the kindness of strangers (thank you, Tennessee Williams and Blanche DuBois) to hold doors open so the rider can scoot inside. Sometimes the wait takes longer than it should. Almost every hotel/casino, especially the newer ones, is equipped with electric doors. Why not The Venetian? In a number of restaurants and showrooms (the Las Vegas Hilton, for one, and the coffee shop at the now-closed Stardust, for another ), guests in wheelchairs and or electric scooters are asked if they can walk (maybe to move from their equipment to a theater seat or dining chair). If the guest indicates that they are able to do that, their wheels are taken away and parked somewhere convenient for the employees, but not convenient for the customer. If the guest should need to leave the dining area or theater (to use the restroom or in case of an emergency), getting to their equipment might be impossible. In some establishments, mobility equipment may remain at the dining table...only if you stay in it. If you choose to sit in the chair, and keep your wheelchair or scooter at your side, many facilities will not allow this. At a table with four chairs, employees will remove one of the chairs to make room for the scooter or wheelchair with a person in it, but not for the unoccupied piece of equipment. Why? It takes up the same amount of room either way.

And, although the following incident had nothing to do with the fact that a disabled guest was put through great inconvenience, we witnessed an unpleasant scene in the showroom at the South Point last weekend. A couple, one of the people who happened to be in a wheelchair, arrived at the theater to see The Four Freshmen. They had won a pair of tickets in a radio contest, and were looking forward to enjoying the show from their very good reserved seats. When they were taken to where they were supposed to sit, the seats were occupied. Even though their tickets were not for the seats they were sitting in, the interlopers did not want to move. The hotel employee did not know how to handle the situation so a supervisor was called. Same thing. They wanted the couple with the upfront tickets to sit in less desirable seats to avoid the issue. It was only after the threat of contacting the media that the hotel insisted the people in the seats that didn't belong to them had to move. Again, we ask why? Why wasn't this handled properly and in a more efficient yet polite manner? Are employees not taught how to take care of these types of problems without all the fuss? For a city that needs to stress comfort, convenience and hospitality to their guests, there are certainly some areas that need fixing...hopefully, sooner than later.

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Many people know the name Nino Frediani from his years as a world-class juggler. He has been a Las Vegan and a featured Strip performer for about three decades. Frediani was a specialty act in Bill Moore and George Arnold's productions of Razzle Dazzle and City Lites, and The Great Radio City Spectacular starring the Rockettes, at the Flamingo. In more recent years, he has been a guest in Crazy Girls at the Riviera. In September, Nino became a partner in a Henderson restaurant. Formerly known as Chianti, the newly renamed Trilussa is located at 2895 N. Green Valley Parkway near Sunset. The chef/co-owner at Trilussa, Franco Spinelli, has been cooking up a storm for more than 35 years. A native of Milan, Italy, after culinary school, Spinelli in Italy, South America and Tahiti. He and his family arrived in the United States 20 years ago. Since that time, he ran Cafe Milano in Palm Desert, California, for five years and was the chef at Panevino in San Diego. In 2002, Franco was brought to Las Vegas to open Panevino here. He worked at Zeffirino at the Venetian for two years before deciding to open his own place. Call Trilussa at (702) 433-5405 for hours of operation and reservations.

And speaking of Bill Moore, he was one of many showbiz-types who took in Rita McKenzie's show at the Suncoast last weekend. As the ads stated, "There's No Business Like Ethel Merman's Broadway!" McKenzie proved that with her uncanny, award winning off-Broadway portrayal of Ethel Merman in this international smash hit. Rita's one-woman show saw her present I Got Rhythm, There's No Business Like Show Business, Everything's Coming Up Roses and 20 more of Broadway and Merman's all-time greatest songs. Also enjoying the show over the three nights were Nancy Lee Parker Andrews, Brent Barrett, Jeanne Brei and mom Ada, Michael Caprio, Randy Carlson, Michael Chapman, Rene DeHaven, Lisa Donovan and sister Ina Jo, Stan Evans, Nathan Ferrier, Tom Gallagher, Lou Garcia, Garold Gardner, Gerald Gordon, Paul Holmquist, Ray Jarvis, Sherry Jones (Pedley), Frank Leone, John Meren, Gary Oaks, Freda Payne, Sharon Prier, Jerry Ritholz, Howard Shapiro, Randy Slovacek, Joanie Spina and Thom Wise among many others. Ethel Merman was born on January 16th, 100 years ago. The Queen of Broadway Musicals died in 1984 at the age of 76.

Freda Payne Roslyn Kind Kenny Kerr

And speaking of the beautiful Freda Payne, if you missed her early November shows at The Cannery, you have another chance to see and hear her when she brings her Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald to the Charleston Heights Arts Center, for a performance at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 10th. The Detroit-born singer/actress is probably best known for her 1970 hit, Band of Gold. That tune earned Payne a Gold Record. A year later, the Vietnam protest song, Bring the Boys Home, netted her a second Gold Record. In the 1980s, Freda, Estelle Reiner (wife of Carl Reiner and mother of Rob "Meathead" Reiner) and Roslyn Kind (half-sister of Barbra Streisand) did a pilot for a project called Ladies of the Nightclub. A few years ago, Freda and Darlene Love performed at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York. The two ladies cleverly called their show Love & Payne. They then took Love & Payne to the Cinegrill at Los Angeles' Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The shows in both cities received excellent reviews. Payne also appeared on Broadway in Jelly's Last Jam, Sophisticated Ladies and Blues in the Night. The Charleston Heights Arts Center is located at 800 S. Brush Street, near Charleston and Decatur. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 the day of the performance (if there are any seats left). Call (702) 229-6383 for reservations.

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Condolences to comic/impersonator/singer Kenny Kerr on the recent death of his mother, Ruth "Sunny" Kerr. Kenny, who starred in Boy-lesque in Las Vegas for many years, is currently entertaining audiences as the star of the CopyKatz Celebrity Revue in Palm Springs. He will take some time off this week to attend his mother's memorial services in Blue Anchor, New Jersey, before returning to Palm Springs. In lieu of flowers, the family is suggesting donations to the Wellness Center at 2300 S. Rancho #205, Las Vegas, NV 89102. If you are in the Palm Springs area, stop in and see Kenny. The address for the Copy Katz Showroom & Backstage Bistro (formerly Atlas) is 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Show times and ticket prices are Tuesday through Sunday at 8 p.m., $39 per person, and Thursday at 9 p.m., $49 per person. Call (760) 864-9293 for reservations.

And speaking of Kenny Kerr and Boy-lesque...From Papote Varet, who choreographed many versions of the popular female impersonator show over the years, comes this information. The Señoras of Excellence/Señores of Distinction Awards Gala will take place Saturday, January 12th at Wynn Las Vegas. Benefiting the Latin Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fund, the awards are presented to men and women who have excelled in their careers, as well as contributed their time and efforts for the betterment of our community. This year's impressive honorees are: Tibi Contreras Ellis, President/CEO, Home Helpers; Amparo Z. Gamazo, Director, Modernization/Development, HACLV; Laurie Travis, President, LT Eventions; Rudy Prieto, CEO and General Manager, Las Vegas Hilton; Consul Mariano Lemus Gas, Consul of Mexico; and Larry Mason, Clark County School Board. A Special Recognition honor will go to World Renowned Recording Star, Marco Antonio Muñiz. Sandy Peltyn, Isabel Pfeifer and Mr. Varet will host the event.

Papote Varet, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, studied with the famed Ballet de San Juan. Varet has worked with Betsy Haug, Peter Jackson, and the institute of Le Danse, Barcelona, Spain. Stage performances, which took him from Broadway to Spain and Italy, include Cabaret, Sarava, and Fiddler on the Roof. His nightclub acts include Viva Viva Lissette and Sandy Peltyn‘s show. He's done TV specials for Showtime, Nevada Opera Theatre and many others. He has been directing and choreographing Boy-lesque at the Sahara Hotel for the past six years. Varet is responsible for the outstanding choreography for Miss Nevada USA Pageants and Miss Nevada Teen USA Pageants.

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Hats! opens at Harrah's tomorrow (January 12th). The musical comedy, inspired by the Red Hat Society ladies, celebrates woman's journey into middle With the success of Menopause the Musical at the Las Vegas Hilton, this tale of a woman who is stressed out about her impending 50th birthday, might be a dandy follow-up for those who have already experienced menopause. Hats! shows that aging can be fun - with a little help from your friends. Written by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and Anthony Dodge, and directed and choreographed by Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Hats! features songs by a number of well-known female songwriters, including Susan Birkenhead, Michele Brourman, Pat Bunch, Gretchen Cryer, Beth Falcone, Kathie Lee Gifford, Carol Hall, Melissa Manchester, Amanda McBroom, Pam Tillis and Sharon Vaughn, along with a few fellows, Doug Besterman, David Friedman, David Goldsmith, Henry Krieger and Stephen Lawrence. The show has already played numerous cities around the country, but the Harrah's production will get a special Vegas-style boost with additional and better costumes, comedy, and choreography. Hats!, presented by Dick Foster Productions, features nine singer/actresses, including local talents Dolly Coulter and Corrie Sachs. Show times are Saturdays through Thursdays at 6 p.m., with an added 2 p.m. matinee on Sundays. Call (702) 369-5111 for reservations.

Dolly Coulter Donny & Marie Osmond Johnny Fortuno

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If you haven't had your fill of Osmonds, siblings Donny Osmond and Marie Osmond will be performing in the MGM Grand's Hollywood Theatre July 17th through the 23rd. We don't know how ticket sales are going for this one, but if the interest is anything like that of The Osmond Family booking at The Orleans last August, this year‘s July engagement at the MGM may already be sold out. To check on ticket availability, call (702) 891-7777.

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It comes as no surprise that The Club at the Cannery Casino Hotel will feature an Elvis Presley tribute show just a few days after what would have been his 73rd birthday, since Kathy Spehar, head entertainment honcho at the North Las Vegas property, is a longtime, diehard Elvis fan. Johnny Fortuno will star in Celebration of the King's Life, tonight (January 11th) and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. With his raw energy and powerful stage presence, Fortuno has been praised by critics and celebrities as one of the top Presley tribute artists. Additionally, his costumes pay homage to the late King. Johnny will perform many of Elvis' hits including, American Trilogy, Suspicious Minds, Can't Help Falling in Love and Love Me Tender. He will be joined by Elvis' original back-up singers and Gospel Hall-of-Fame members, Bill Baize, Ed Hill, Sherrill Nielson and bass singer, Butch Owens. Other special guests will include Elvis' personal friend and bodyguard, Sonny West; Elvis' cousin, Jerry Presley; Elvis' Kissin' Cousins co-star, Cynthia Pepper; Elvis' Blue Hawaii co-star, Darlene Tompkins; DJ with Elvis on Air, Steve Christopher; Patsy Anderson and Sandy Miller. Other activities that will take place throughout the weekend include memorabilia dealers and fan club displays. The Cannery Row Buffet will be taking part in the fun by hosting a special "Food that fed the King" section featuring Elvis' favorite dishes. Admission to the show is $15 a person. Call (702) 617-5555 or (866) 287-4643 for reservations.

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Christopher Bowman, the 40-year-old former skating champ known as "Bowman the Showman," was found dead at a hotel in Southern California's San Fernando Valley yesterday (Thursday, January 10th). Authorities say a drug overdose could be to blame. An autopsy was being planned. Bowman was one of figure skating's biggest personalities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He won the U.S. men's figure skating titles in 1989 and 1992, and was runner-up in 1987 and 1991. He also won a silver medal at the 1989 world championships, and a bronze the next year. He skated in the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, finishing seventh in 1988 and fourth in 1992. Bowman battled drug problems, and underwent treatment at least twice - once before the 1988 Olympics and then again after the Albertville Games in 1992. A onetime child actor, Bowman is survived by a daughter from a previous marriage.

We have also been informed of the death of Cam Cooper. Cooper was employed by Harrah's in Northern Nevada for a number of years, prior to going to work for Bill Cosby. In his 80s when he died on Sunday, January 6th, Cam was a friend to many Las Vegas headliners. The walls of his home were lined with photos of the Who's who of stars, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. At our deadline, no funeral services had been announced.

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