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 February 01, 2008
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - February 1, 2008

Jahna Steele Laurie Miller John Fredericks

In less than six weeks, Las Vegas has lost its third well-known local entertainer. On December 15th, it was Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith who died while working at sea with partner Sonny Charles. The twosome, known as The Checkmates, were longtime Vegas lounge icons. Louie was 68 at the time of his death. Just nine days later, on December 24th, comedian Beverly Wines Cardella, known professionally as Pudgy!, died unexpectedly at her home. A native of Chicago, Pudgy! had been a current cast member of X-Burlesque at the Flamingo. Then, last Friday, too late for the January 25th column, we learned of the death of Jahna Steele. According to the coroner's report, Jahna's death was caused by an accidental overdose of a prescription medication. In an eerie coincidence, Jahna, who like Pudgy! had entertained audiences in the comedy spot of Crazy Girls at the Riviera, died exactly one month after Pudgy! If you know anything about the history of Las Vegas entertainment, you may already know the story of Jahna Steele. Jahna was born John Matheny, September 29th, 1958. While in her 20s, the San Antonio, Texas-native underwent sex reassignment surgery and became Jahna. Forget the tales saying that Jahna was "exposed" during her days at Crazy Girls. This is pure fiction. In 1992, when the reality TV show, A Current Affair, was shooting footage at Crazy Girls for an upcoming segment on the girlie revue, it was "mentioned" that Jahna had been born a male. That information caused A Current Affair to divert its focus from the show itself, and turn to its unique star, Miss Steele. This did not please Crazy Girls' producer, Norbert Aleman, and resulted in Jahna's being fired from his production. We feel this was a major mistake on the part of Mr. Aleman. He couldn't have bought this kind of publicity. The sex change was no secret to those that knew Jahna, and even those who didn't. A number of years prior to her role in Crazy Girls, Jahna was the star of the Boob Tube Revue that played at Vegas World (now the Stratosphere). During that period, Jahna was billed as the first transsexual to star in a Las Vegas Strip revue. To paraphrase a song from the Broadway musical, Flower Drum Song, Jahna enjoyed being a girl. She was bright and funny and talented. During her days as a lounge chick singer, no lady filled out a Bob Mackie-style gown better than the beautiful Jahna Steele. In 1991, Jahna was voted Las Vegas' Sexiest Showgirl. The following year, she was named Entertainer of the Year, and in 1993 she was deemed Most Beautiful Showgirl. Jahna became a talk show favorite, appearing with Maury Povich and on Entertainment Tonight. She had been married at least twice and taken advantage of more times than that. Her stint as the hostess of the Hawaiian version of Boy-lesque, ended with her being scammed out of money and a place to live by the then producer. (We understand that the scoundrel wound up serving time. We hope that's the case.) Jahna hosted the first of the Beaux Arts Ball to be held at MGM Grand's Studio 54. She guest-starred on NYPD Blue in an episode called Don We Now Our Gay Apparel. In 2004, Jahna hosted The World's Most Beautiful Transsexual Contest, held at the Riviera Hotel. A 2006 documentary film, Trantasia, based on that event is available. See it to learn more about Jahna and to gain more insight into her life and career.

There will be two memorial services for Jahna. The first will take place on Monday, February 11th. We will have details on this in next Friday's column. The second, coordinated by Jahna's longtime friends, entertainers Michelle Rohl-Justice and Lon Bronson, will be A Tribute to Jahna's Great Spirit and a Celebration of her Life, filled with music, videos and memories. This will occur at the E String Grill, 2031 W. Sunset Road (near Mountain Vista) in Henderson, on Friday, February 29th. Michelle and her band will perform at 9:30 p.m., followed by the tribute that will start at 11 p.m., to accommodate the show crowd. It is suggested that people who knew Jahna, and would like to honor her, get to E String early to get a seat. For more info, to participate in sharing pictures, videos, stories, etc., or to be added to the mailing list, please contact Michelle at [email protected]. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jahna Steele's name to the We Care Foundation, a treatment center for substance abusers.

* * * * * *

Bad news. Good news. The bad news is that the February 2nd concert date for Tony-winner Christine Ebersole at UNLV has been cancelled, and Cousin Claire wasn't notified. Thus the big build-up for Christine in last Friday's column. Fear not, fans of Broadway performers, the star of Grey Gardens has been rescheduled for an April 26th date. We will remind you of her impressive credits in mid-April. The good news is that this will allow those who had tickets for Ebersole to see the multi-talented Laurie Miller at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin. In recent years, the onetime member of the popular girl-group, Expose, has been doing her one-woman cabaret act around the world - on land and sea. This will be a "back by popular demand" engagement for Miss Miller. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $17 for Sun City Summerlin residents, and $17 for the rest of you. Call the Starbright Theatre at (702) 240-1301 for reservations, and (702) 869-2064 for current and future show information.

And speaking of our university, in celebration of Valentine's Day, members of the UNLV Opera Theatre's upcoming production of Così fan tutte present a concert of love songs (including excerpts from Mozart's opera) at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 9th at Christ the King Community Church (corner of Torrey Pines and Tropicana). Christine Seitz, the Director of UNLV Opera Theatre, is emcee for the program, and Michelle Lee is pianist. Both graduate and undergraduate students are featured on the program, including Eldric Bashful, Walter Biggham, Dominick Chenes, Edina Flaathen, Luis Gonzales, Kristopher Jordan, Georgia McQuade, Amanda Mura, Michele-Bridget Ragsdale, Lynne Ricci, Brandon Teal, and Christina Williams. This concert is free and open to the public.

* * * * * *

To help celebrate African American History Month, Conversations with Frederick Douglass, an original stage production, produced and directed by Walter Mason, ponders what it would be like if Douglass had a one-on-one conversation with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and others. Co-sponsored by Cox Communications and the Frederick Douglass Educational Fund, Conversations with Frederick Douglass will take place in the West Las Vegas Library Theatre, 951 W. Lake Mead Blvd., on Saturday, February 9th at 7 p.m. Mr. Mason, a longtime Las Vegan, was formerly associated with the legendary Sammy Davis Jr., prior to going to work in the entertainment department of the Las Vegas Hilton. He is currently head of the Ira Aldridge Theatre Company of Nevada, where he teaches acting. Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) was a U.S. abolitionist, orator, and writer. He escaped from slavery in 1838, and campaigned against racism in the United States. Admission to this program is free and open to the public. For additional information, call the West Las Vegas Library at (702) 507-3940.

* * * * * *

Mosaic, the Las Vegas-based musical group, was recently named the Next Great A Cappella Group on CBS's The Early Show. The nationwide search was judged by Boyz II Men, the best-selling Motown group ever. On Monday, Mosaic received their grand prize, national airtime performing on The Early Show. Mosaic is made up of six members, Josh Huslig, Sean Gerrity, Corwyn Hodge, Troy Dolendo, Heath Burgett and John Gibson. Huslig founded the group three years ago while living in Orlando, Florida. Each of the members was working in entertainment and connected musically through one another. Since moving to Las Vegas in late 2006, Mosaic has performed as special guests with comic George Wallace at the Flamingo. They have also established themselves as a favorite for private events. The group's act covers a wide range of songs while mixing elements of funk, jazz, hip-hop and even opera to create a sound all their own. Heard live, it is hard to believe that every sound is vocally produced. Mosaic is currently working on a new album. You can see them along with George Wallace at the Flamingo, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 p.m. Call (702) 733-3333 for reservations.

* * * * * *

Beginning on February 7th, Channel 3's popular weatherman (and dog lover), John Fredericks, will once again serve as host/MC for a month of Thursdays talent competitions to be held at the Suncoast. Produced by Ed Mathews' Desert Productions, the first group of competitors are youngsters. There will be six performers (listed according to age) showcasing their talent. The youngest is nine-year-old Kiersten Apfelbaum, a 4th grader at the Gilbert Magnet Performing Arts School and member of choir and drum team. Kiersten has acted in several plays and performed at the Bootlegger, Turnberry Towers and other local events. Ellie Smith, age 11, has earned the nick-name "Star Spangled Girl" for performing the National Anthem for crowds at Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks games. She was selected by David Foster to perform in the 2007 Andre Agassi Grand Slam event, along with Tony Bennett, Kelly Clarkson, Hall & Oates and Santana. Eliie has also performed at the Tuacahn Amphitheater, Disneyland, and many other civic events and productions. Fourteen-year-old Barry Fortgang was voted Best Male Vocalist at the Contemporary A Cappella Competition, and second place winner on Las Vegas Channel 5's Singsation's TV Show. Barry performs with the Green Valley High School Choir, Madrigals, and Barbershop. He played Chip in Green Valley's production of Beauty and the Beast, and hopes to perform in a Broadway Show someday and/or play for the New York Yankees. Vanessa Bayot, also14, adores singing. She performs in her school's musicals and choir, and has performed at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay, Plaza Hotel and Turnberry Towers. Vanessa will continue to sing until she reaches her dreams. Jennifer Daquilla, age 17, attends Coronado High School in Henderson. She has performed for local events around the valley including at UNLV, the Bootlegger, Turnberry Towers, the City of Henderson Amphitheater and Fremont Street Experience. Jennifer will attend UNLV as a voice major in the fall. She aspires to be a professional performer. Eighteen-year-old Tess Langguth enjoys country music, especially singer Carrie Underwood. She has performed at the Clark County Fair, Bootlegger, San Gennaro Feast, Turnberry Towers, and many other local events. Tess hopes to become a recording artist. Tickets are Free to Club Coast Members (limit two per member). They may be picked up at the Suncoast Box Office on the Mondays before each show, beginning at noon on February 4th. The Box Office is open until 8 p.m., but tickets are always gone by 2 p.m. Call (702) 636-7075 or Toll Free at (877) 636-7111. If you are not already a Club Coast Member, shows like these are one of the reasons to become one.

* * * * * *

Montel Williams Sylvia Browne Oliver Liam Richman

On Wednesday, CBS Television Distribution announced the cancellation of The Montel Williams Show. The 17-year-old syndicated talk show will cease production after the current television season. Stations that carried his show will be offered a series of Williams reruns. The Best of Montel will be 260 hours of "some of the most exciting episodes" from the show's history, the producers said. If our local CBS station, Channel 8, decides to air a year's worth of repeats (and we wonder why they would), we hope that the segment, with the topic being mother and daughter exotics, will be one of the repeats. It was on that episode that Montel met the lady that would become his second wife, Las Vegas' own Grace Mohrle (known when she was performing here as Bambi Jr.), and his future mother in law, Dori Kotzan (known professionally as Bambi Sr.). Montel was cancelled after Fox stations, which carried his show in the country's top two markets, declined to renew the show. Montel has averaged a 1.5 rating this season, down 12% from last season. The show peaked at a 4.4 rating in its best season. Montel has not commented on what he'll do next. We have to wonder if the cancellation news came as a surprise to Mr. Williams, or if his psychic friend and frequent guest, Sylvia Browne, was intuitive enough to give him a heads-up on this one.

And speaking of Sylvia Browne, from the StopSylviaBrowne Internet site comes these comments from non-fans of Ms. Browne (you can count Cousin Claire among them)... "Whatever the reasons for the (Montel Williams Show) cancellation, Browne will no longer have her free hour-long infomercial every week on national television, and that will translate to fewer of her books being sold, and fewer people being exposed to her. I believe this to be a very good thing." And from another writer, "Regardless (of the reason for Montel's cancellation), it's a dramatic loss of publicity for SB and will have a major impact on her ability to keep on racking in the millions, defrauding people, and doing damage on such a large scale, and that's what matters. All reasons for us to celebrate!" And then there is this one, "My guess is that we will continue to see new books with her name on them (regardless of who actually writes them) until they stop selling well, and that she will continue doing her $750, twenty-minute phone readings as long as the market for them exists. And our very favorite, "Maybe tomorrow is the last new SB episode. Maybe it's the one where she gives a reading that she so obviously pulls out of her ass, even Montel looks at her and goes "What? What the **** are you talking about? Did you just make that **** up? You been making all that **** up all this time? **** that! I'm outta here!" If you think we are making this **** up, or would like to read more, check the site for yourself! If you still want to see Sylvia Browne live, you will have a chance to do so when she appears at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, February 9th through the 14th (dark on the 15th) and on the 16th. She then returns in March, from the 8th through the 13th (dark on the 14th) and the 15th through the 18th. Show times are at 4 p.m. Ticket prices are $82.50 and $137.50, PLUS applicable fees. Cousin Claire Voyant, who fancies herself somewhat of a psychic herself, predicts you would have to be a little nuts to spend this kind of money on the hit and miss Miss Browne. Attendees must be 12 or older. For reservations call (702) 597-7600 or (800) 750-5464...if you dare.

And, on the subject of TV cancellations, after eight years on the air, Judge Hatchett has also gotten her pink slip. As in the case of the Montel Williams Show, repeats of Judge Hatchett will be offered to stations next season. If ANY court TV show should have been given the ax, we feel it should have been the embarrassingly bad Judge Maria Lopez. And so it goes.

* * * * * *

If you are a regular reader of Claire Voyant (and we know you are), you may remember when we wrote about young entertainer Cayleigh Capaldi who made her Vegas main room debut in the Las Vegas Tenors' December holiday show at the Hilton. This 7-year-old blew the audience, not to mention her father, away with her talent and poise on stage. We have to give some of the credit for Cayleigh's abilities to the genetic factor - her parents are the multi-talented singer/musician (he plays many instruments), Domenick Allen, and singer/actress Leigh Zimmerman, currently playing Ulla in The Producers at Paris Las Vegas. Well here's another good example of the gene theory at work. It would be quite a surprise if young Oliver Liam Richman wasn't talented. Like Cayleigh, Oliver has show business in his genes. His maternal grandfather was the late songwriter Ron Miller (For Once In My Life, If I Could, I've Never Been To Me, and many, many more). His paternal grandfather is actor/artist/author, Peter Mark Richman. And Oliver's mother is singer/songwriter Lisa Dawn Miller. Environment could also play a role in Oliver's amazing talent. His step-father is comic/ producer/actor/singer (yes, he sings), Sandy Hackett, the son of the late Buddy Hackett. We wonder how many folks know that, in 1964, Buddy Hackett starred in a short-lived musical called I Had a Ball. Richard Kiley (best known for his role as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha), and one of Jerry Herman's favorite ladies, Karen Morrow, also starred. The music was written by our friend Jack Lawrence and Stan Freeman. The senior Hackett did a surprisingly good job on a tongue-twister of a song called Dr. Freud. You can hear it, along with the rest of the original tunes, on the cast album. Back to Oliver. Two years ago, we saw this phenom perform at the Suncoast with Lisa and Sandy in a family holiday show. He knocked our socks off (it was winter and we were wearing them). Today, Oliver has a new CD (his grandfather's For Once In My Life), an agent and his own Web site. Forget American Idol...we predict a Tony Award for this young fellow, before he turns 30. Check out Oliver Liam Richman's site, and see if you don't agree with us.

Karen Morrow Gerry & Scott McCambridge Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano

And this genetic thing continues with the McCambridges. In another family affair situation, Gerry McCambridge, known as The Mentalist, has his son Scott McCambridge learning the business from the ground up. Seventeen-year-old Scott is now appearing on stage in the show at Hooters with his proud father. "He expressed an interest in show business about a year ago. I put him to work backstage when I headlined nightly at the legendary Stardust." When the Stardust closed, and Gerry was offered a contract at Hooters Casino Hotel, he felt Scott was ready for some stage time. "After the show every night he signs autographs and poses for photos with all his glassy-eyed teen age female fans," states Gerry. In addition to his son, The Mentalist has added something else to his show. On the heels of his recent participation as a contestant on NBC's reality series, Phenomenon, Gerry McCambridge ends his Hooters shows by successfully predicting the lottery numbers. "For years, after every performance I am always asked by audience members if I can predict the winning lottery numbers" McCambridge says. "It is something I always wanted to attempt. It took about two years to figure out how I could make it happen successfully, night after night, at the finale of my Las Vegas show. The audience is looking at my predicted numbers during the entire performance" Gerry explains. "The lottery routine ending involves the entire audience. They all take part in the shows as the showroom goes crazy with excitement. When they see the prediction unfolding right before their eyes, they are amazed. Many of them write down my predicted numbers and play them back in their home state after leaving Sin City," he chuckles. Since his appearance on Phenomenon, the demand for Hooters tickets and private appearances around the country has increased. As a result, the property has added more Mentalist shows to their schedule. McCambridge is now performing magic, comedy and mind reading in the Hooters Night Owl room, five nights a week. Show times are Wednesdays through Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $36.95 and may be purchased by calling (866) 584-6687. Check out both Gerry and Scott McCambridge at Hooters. Tell them that Claire Voyant sent you.

* * * * * *

On Wednesday, February 6th, New Yorkers and East Coast visitors can catch an enjoyable evening of music when the Lincoln Center presents American Songbook, This Is The Life, as Eric Comstock and company give a jazzy salute to composer Charles Strouse in his 80th year. Performing along with piano player/singer Comstock will be his beautiful wife, Barbara Fasano on vocals, Harry Allen on tenor saxophone, Peter Washington on bass, and Vito Lesczak on drums. Strouse, who wrote the music for Broadway's Annie, Bye Bye Birdie, Golden Boy, Applause and many other hits, will appear as special guest. The event will take place at 8:30 p.m., in the Allen Room at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th Street. Tickets start at $35. Call CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500.

* * * * * *

Last Tuesday offered a wealth of entertainment for music lovers. The reading of Keith Thompson and Buddy Sheffield's IDAHO! brought out lots of show folk for the afternoon performance in UNLV's Black Box Theater. The audience was amused and greatly entertained. The music is punny and delightful, and the performers are among the best in The Entertainment Capital of the World. That same night, the monthly Composers Showcase was in the spotlight. It was Standing Room Only, in and outside of the Liberace Museum's Wes Winters Showroom. The talent of the songwriters and the people who perform the tunes is always top-notch. Our favorite segment, among a night of highlights, was the trio made up of New York guest artist Jay Rodgers, and local composer/singers Keith Thompson and Thom Culcasi, singing Yes, This Is My Real Voice (and yes, that IS Rogers' real voice). The very clever tune was written by Thompson for his original musical called Kooky Tunes. This is a revue that should be seen by Las Vegans...perhaps for a charity fundraiser. Anybody listening?

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