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 February 22, 2008
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - February 22, 2008

Freddie Bell

Don & Gloria Hill

Frankie Laine

They may be calling that remnants of The CAST Inc. organization The Show Biz Society (or anything else they choose), but on Sunday, the REAL show biz society was NOT at some ridiculous event "honoring" the group's current leader. Instead, they chose to attend the funeral services and a loving gathering for a legitimate "star" in our community...Freddie Bell. The Palm Mortuary on Eastern had a Standing Room Only crowd to pay their respects to Bell, and there were approximately 300 people that showed up at the Italian American to celebrate his life with stories and songs. Among those saying goodbye to the longtime Las Vegas lounge legend - Peter Anthony, Carme Pitrello, Nelson Sardelli, Ned Mills, Larry Taylor, Artie Schroeck, Linda November, Ivor Price, Diane Ellis, Denny Denman, Carmine Mandia, Arleen Gibson, Kid Cary, Dennis Bono and former Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt-Bono, Joe LaVigna, Ada Brei, Richard "Mac" and Frances MacDonald, Lenny Martin, Judy Coco, Norm Johnson, Nancy Barr, Gary Olds, Phil Leo, Marvin Lashever, Linda Glynn, Judy Tannen, Z.Z. Zorn, Pete Allman, John Kaye, Chick Hughes, Jeanne Brei, Don and Gloria Hill, Robert Allen, Adam Flowers, Kathleen Dunbar, Mike Christ, Maggie Albasani, Paul Stubblefield, Frank Grata, Fred Doumani, Lou Toomin, Izzy Marion, Angelo and Nancy Cassaro, Edward Portello, Jim Marsh, Bob Sachs, Joe Cassaro, Tony Tegano (brother Joey Tegano, who is hospitalized, was missed), Mark Alden and Sasha Semenoff. There were many friends and plenty of music and stories. Freddie would have loved his sendoff.

Freddie Bell photo by Mike Christ

Don Hill, the former saxophone player with the famed Treniers, considered Freddie Bell to be almost like a brother. The history of the two men goes back to Wildwood, New Jersey's Beachcomber, where The Treniers and The Freddie Bell Show played opposite each other. In 1954, when Resorts International opened in Atlantic City, the two acts once again alternated in the same room. As fate would have it, the entertainers wound up living and working in Las Vegas. In addition to show business, Bell and Hill shared another common Don Hill says of his friend of more than 54 years, "We considered each other family. I am going to miss my brother like crazy, but I know we will be playing golf together again in heaven. I love you, man."

According to some very reliable sources, the control freak who heads up that group (you know the one we mean) suggested that Freddie Bell's funeral and gathering afterward were deliberately scheduled to conflict with a celebration for the jerk. Would we, could we, make this crap up?

Freddie Bell never wanted a star with his name on a Las Vegas sidewalk. He expressed his feelings on the subject some time ago. Although the entertainment pioneer seems an obvious choice for immortalization, his thinking was clear and logical and now makes perfect sense to us. What should have been developed as an honor for those that truly deserve it, is, instead a private business. The facts are that just about anyone who can scrounge up the $15,000 can get a star on the sidewalks of Las Vegas Blvd. The most recent recipient proves that point. It's a embarrassing, unfunny joke. It is our suggestion that those who feel this makes a mockery out of what should be an earned and deserved reward, let their feelings be known via letters to local elected politicos. It is shameful that The Entertainment Capital of the World has no permanent LEGITIMATE way of paying tribute to the REAL pioneer entertainers - the ones that actually made their living (as in getting paid for their work) performing in this city beginning in the 1940s. We feel that our Mayor, Oscar Goodman, forget about turning the old downtown post office into a Mob Museum and, instead turn it into a museum dedicated to the entertainers that made Las Vegas what it is today. If the Mob Museum is something the mayor (a former defense attorney who counted mobsters among his clients) can't let go of, how about paying tribute to Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and the rest of the boys in a small section of the building. The majority of the space should be reserved for the likes of Frankie Laine, Elvis Presley, Johnny Carson, the Mary Kaye Trio, Ann-Margret, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, The Treniers, Dean Martin, Anthony Newley, Robert Goulet, Debbie Reynolds, Marie Wilson and the many, many talented performers who attracted tourists to the city.

A group of angry citizens has taken up the cause and is planning a meeting to discuss what is and isn't going on regarding the neglect of proper and formal acknowledgement of entertainers in our city. A grassroots movement is taking place for the cause they are calling Las Vegas Star Wars. The first gathering will occur this Sunday, February 24th, at 2 p.m., with some politicians and attorneys invited to attend. If you are interested, RSVP and get the meeting location and directions by e-mailing to [email protected].

Louis Prima & Keely Smith


Jimmy Hopper

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The award-winning Las Vegas Academy's production of CATS definitely put a local spin on Andrew Lloyd Webber's. We got a real kick out of seeing "cats" that looked like Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis Jr., Carrot Top and a number of Vegas icons, scamper, dance and sing through the Neon Bone Yard. There was even a trio of Blue Men. There are two days left to see CATS Las Vegas. Call (800) 585-3737 to purchase tickets.

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We were in the audience last night (Thursday, February 21st) when Jimmy Hopper made his debut in his new Las Vegas Strip home - the Lava Room in Trader Vic's at Planet Hollywood. Once again, Hopper is entertaining in a room with a view. His first local engagement was in the Voo Doo Lounge on top of the Rio. After a couple of years in the clouds, Hopper moved into the Fontana Room at Bellagio, where he attracted crowds for more than four years. For the past three years, he has been touring, working on a new (hopefully) Broadway-bound musical, and playing a regular gig at The Islands in Newport Beach, California. Apparently, he missed Las Vegas...and Las Vegas definitely missed him. Hopper's schedule at Trader Vic's offers shows on Thursdays and Sundays at 9 and 11 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. In spite of what you may have read in today's Las Vegas Review-Journal, Mr. Hopper has an open ended contract at Trader Vic's (as opposed to a "weekend engagement" as written), there is no show that starts at 10 p.m., and there is a $20 cover charge (it's not "free" as indicated in Vegas Confidential). The Lava Room has an intimate, up-close, almost living room-type feel, with comfortable overstuffed chairs from which to enjoy the Strip view...and Jimmy. If you have never seen Mr. Hopper before, you are in for an eclectic surprise. There aren't too many singers who can do the music of the Beatles, Elton John, Al Jarreau, Sting, Freddie Mercury and Queen, Daniel Powter, Snow Patrol, Five for Fighting, Moody Blues, Mika, Gino Vannelli and Andrea Bocelli - and do all of them equally well. Jimmy Hopper can. Playing piano and guitar, Hopper is joined by pretty Mira Khomik on violin, and Gary Bruno on a multitude of guitars (including a very interesting looking electric Yamaha). As mentioned in earlier columns, Jimmy Hopper, with orchestra, will perform in the showroom at the Suncoast on March 28th, 29th and 30th. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Call (702) 636-7075 or (877) 636-7111 for reservations. By the way, for those that have been around Las Vegas since the 1980s, Jimmy's guitar player is NOT the same Gray Bruno that used to do standup comedy around these parts.

Jimmy Hopper photo by Michael Munson

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Have we mentioned Bill Nolte's upcoming solo show at the Clark County Library on East Flamingo this Sunday? Okay, well we're mentioning it again. In our previous descriptions of All of Me, the title of this project, we described it as a "one man show." We have since been told that there will be a special guest. It seems that Mr. Nolte is a big fan of reality television shows...most specifically, Dancing With the Stars. In a tribute to that TV favorite, Bill and a dancing partner will pay homage to the genre. We expect this to be a fun, entertaining and music-filled afternoon. Tickets are $15. For reservations, call the Performing Arts Society of Nevada at (702) 658-6741. See you there.

Bill Nolte

Penn Jillette

Handy Girls Book Cover

And speaking of Dancing with the Stars, the ABC TV show begins its sixth season on Monday, March 17th. The current lineup for stars are comic Adam Carolla, Shannon Elizabeth, Ugly Betty's Christian de la Fuente, actor Steve Guttenberg, actress Marlee Matlin, R& B singer Mario, Priscilla Presley, tennis ace Monica Seles, Miami Dolphins player Jason Taylor, Hairspray's Marissa Janet Winokur, and ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi. And representing Las Vegas will be Penn Jillette, the talkative half of the magic team known as Penn & Teller.

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Comic/impressionist Rich Little was hospitalized at Summerlin Hospital on Saturday, as the result of a moving blood clot. As we go to press, Rich's personal assistant, Charlotte Morgante, tells us that things are under control and 69-year-old Little is much improved. Nonetheless, his current gig at the Golden Nugget, scheduled to run through April 6th, has now been cancelled so the veteran entertainer can concentrate on healing. For those who would like to send get-well wishes, please mail your notes and cards to Rich Little at 9030 West Sahara #445, Las Vegas, Nevada 89117.

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Well, it's that time of month again...for the Composer's Showcase, that is. Usually held on a Tuesday, the February offering will take place on WEDNESDAY instead. Mark your calendar for the 27th (the time is still the same, 10:30 p.m., as in after theater). And the place, where it has been held since last April, remains the same - the Wes Winters Showroom in the Liberace Museum. We might mention, again, this is the portion of the museum located adjacent to Carluccio's restaurant at the back of the Liberace Plaza, not the freestanding building close to Tropicana. This month's lineup of talent will feature the songs of local composers and songwriters Michael Brennan (La Reve, MD), Thom Culcasi (Venetian Gondolier), Wayne Green (Spamalot MD), Rylan Leo Helmuth (Phantom Tech Crew), Richard Oberacker (KA, MD) and Keith Thompson (Jersey Boys MD), performed by Bruce Ewing (Phantom), Kristen Hertzenberg (Phantom), Jacquelyn Holland (Mamma Mia!), Sarah Anne Lewis (Phantom), Mark Leydorf (Michael Brennan's writing partner from L.A.) , Jimmy Lockett (Starlight Express, God Lives In Glass, Just Another Man), Elizabeth Share (Mamma Mia!), Joan Sobel (Phantom), Janien Valentine (Notre Dame de Paris), Danielle White (Phantom), plus other special guests. Also featuring the amazing instrumental chops of Philip Fortenberry (Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys assistant conductor), Johnathan Gorst (Phantom assistant conductor), Abe Gumroyan (The Producers violinist, Liberace scholar), Mark Pardy (Spamalot drummer), Fred Watstein (The Producers bass player) and Drew Zingg (Spamalot guitar player). For the few who don't already know, the Liberace Museum is located at the corner of Tropicana and Spencer, next to Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens (come early for dinner at Carluccio's, serving until 10 p.m.) The Wes Winters Showroom is in the round building next to Carluccio's (off Spencer, not Tropicana). Cash bar (no credit cards, please). Hors d'oeuvres buffet provided by Keg and Cork Catering, $5 per person. The mission of the Liberace Foundation is to help talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance. Your generous donation to the foundation will keep this wonderful program at the museum. After all, it shouldn't cost them money to host the Composers Showcase.

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Local ladies (at least for the past few decades) Barbara Ciarlantini and Mary Schwartz are over the moon these days. Due to popular demand, their award-winning children's book of a few years ago is being reprinted. In a real coup, Barbara and Mary have been invited to read The Handy Girls Can Fix It to students in conjunction with the upcoming Nevada Reading Week. On February 25th, they will be at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas. On the 27th it will be Fay Galloway Elementary School in Henderson, and the 28th, the students at Harriet Treem Elementary School, also in Henderson, will learn what it's like to be a Handy Girl. If you would like to know more about the co-creators of Handy Girls and the book itself, check out the Web site at The Handy Girls Can Fix It is available through numerous sources, including Amazon.

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If you have any interest in entertainment or entertainers, you probably know this already, but in case you don't...Cher has confirmed a rumor that has been circulating for a number of months. The answer is "Yes," she will headline in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace Colosseum, beginning May 6th. The performance agreement, in partnership with AEG Live, includes approximately 200 shows over a three-year period. Cher at The Colosseum, an impressive spectacle designed exclusively for the 4,300-seat venue, will feature countless chart-topping hits from the artist's unparalleled career. The show will be complemented by extraordinary choreography from Doriana Sanchez, state-of-the-art lighting and special effects and breathtaking costumes designed by the world-renowned fashion icon, Bob Mackie. "I started in Vegas at Caesars, so I've come full circle," Cher said. "I'm back and I plan to give my fans the best experience yet. I think everybody knows I only do things in a big way." A world famous superstar for more than 40 years, the Oscar and Emmy-winning performer has conquered every endeavor – concerts, recordings, Broadway, TV, movies, film directing and books. Cher has released more than 25 albums and sold over 100 million records worldwide in her Grammy-winning solo recording career. "Cher's name in one word encapsulates icon, award-winning legend, and captivating performer. There is only one home for someone of that legendary status – the most recognized casino brand in the world, Caesars Palace," said Caesars Palace President, Gary Selesner. "Caesars is pleased to welcome Cher back to Las Vegas' most prestigious entertainment address, The Colosseum, joining Bette Midler and Elton John." The 90-minute show will be presented at 7:30 p.m. four nights a week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (dark Monday, Thursday and Friday). Tickets for performances from May 6th through August 31st are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (866) 510-CHER (2437) or online at, keyword "Cher". Tickets may also be purchased in person at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace Box Office, open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For groups of 20 or more, call 702-731-7208. Prices are $95, $140, $175 and $250.


Gordie Brown

Fan Yang

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Bad news/good news...First, the bad news. We were very surprised to learn that the amazingly creative and talented Gordie Brown's engagement at The Venetian ended on February 13th. Although we were unable to get an explanation directly from the horse's mouth, you know we will stay on top of this story until we do. Whatever the reason, they can't keep a good man down, or a talented man off a showroom stage for long.

The good news is that Gordie's talented group of musicians won't be idle for long. We have it on good authority that all five gentlemen - Jeff Neiman, Keith Nelson, Adam Shendal, Steve Swinford and Rocco Barbato - will provide the music for Trent Carlini's show at the Sahara. Trent is the Elvis Presley tribute artist who won TV's Next Best Thing reality show last year.

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Float away to an iridescent world of fantasy and fun at Fan Yang's "unbubblelievable" Mega Bubble Show, now playing in Las Vegas at the Steve Wyrick Theatre, located in Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops . This unique show combines innovative lighting effects and lasers with the fantastical aesthetics of bubbles to create a beautiful and mystifying masterpiece. The show has been featured on TV's Late Night with David Letterman, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Fox & Friends, The View, and CBS's Sunday Morning. Fan Yang is a world-renowned bubble scientist, international artist and performer, whose show has been featured in museums and science centers around the world. Yang has spent the past two decades studying the mysterious world of bubbles. The greatest bubble artist in the world, Fan Yang, wows audiences with an array of bubble effects you have to see to believe. He holds 14 Guinness World Records including "The Biggest Bubble Ever Blown" and "The Most Bubbles within a Bubble." During his show, Fan creates striking bubble carousels and labyrinths. A laser light show of epic proportions, and the show's spellbinding grand finale, floods the theatre with wave after wave of light-catching bubbles. The Mega Bubble Show is appropriate for all ages. Show times are at 1 and 3 p.m. Tickets range from $39.75 to $80.45 and can be ordered by calling (702) 777-9974.

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