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 March 21, 2008
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - March 21, 2008

Bryan Lefeber

Joe Williams by Merryl Jaye

Cork Proctor

The most recent edition of the Composers Showcase offered quite a unique night. Thanks to Las Vegas Sun newcomer, Joe Brown, and his extensive coverage of the February showcase, the Wes Winters Showroom at the Liberace Museum was filled to overflowing on Tuesday. This month's show got started a little later than the usual 10:30 (after theater) launch. Why? Because a brief south-Strip blackout (affecting Mandalay Bay, the Luxor and Excalibur) resulted in Mandalay Bay's Mamma Mia! starting a bit late. Since a number of the cast members were scheduled to perform, the showcase didn't begin until almost 11. No one complained. The night's offerings were quite varied, thanks to the amazing talent pool of songwriters and vocalists that call this city home (at least for now). For Cousin Claire, the real highlights of the late night/early morning presentations were three Keith Thompson contributions - a song used in the first Las Vegas Easter Bonnet Competition (this is an annual AIDS fundraiser in New York), and two tunes from God Lives In Glass - City of Walls, sung by Joan Sobel and Bruce Ewing (both from Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular), with violinist Rebecca Ramsey (Spamalot), cellist Moonlight Tran (Las Vegas Philharmonic, late of The Producers) and pianist Philip Fortenberry (Jersey Boys), and Heaven, Hell or Puberty, sung by Bryan Lefeber, from Spamalot. The other incredible presentation was an instrumental called Under a New Sun, written by Rebecca Ramsey. This beautiful piece of music featured Ramsey on violin, Fortenberry on piano and Tran on cello. The audience gave this one a well-earned standing ovation. Incidentally, Ms. Ramsey has a CD called The Stone Sanctuary, Silhouettes of Zion available. It can be purchased online through CD Baby.

As for Joe Brown, the journalist relocated to Vegas at the end of December after departing the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was the Sunday Entertainment Editor. Prior to his stint in the City by the Bay, Brown was with the Washington Post. We plan to keep an eye on this fellow.

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For the first time, in almost 20 years, the Joe Williams Music Scholarship Fundraiser was unable to find a hosting hotel where they could hold their 2007 event. Fear not, the event has found a new home at the South Point Hotel Casino Spa. The event was created in 1989 and named after the legendary baritone, Joe Williams, who died in 1999 at the age of 81. This year's For the Love of Joe concert will take place on Sunday, April 6th at 2 p.m. The (usually) annual gala is designed to raise money to assist music students at the College of Southern Nevada in reaching their educational goals. Featured on this year's concert will be Bob Anderson, one of the world's most accomplished singing impressionists. Anderson currently lives and performs in Branson, Missouri. Legendary blues singer Marlena Shaw will also share the stage, along with composer Artie Butler (who, with Phyllis Molinary, wrote the beautiful Here's To Life, a song recoded by Joe Williams), jazz duo The Cunninghams, singer Freddie House, and Pete Barbutti will bring his brilliant comedic gifts to the stage in a special starring appearance. The CSN Vocal Jazz Ensemble will represent the College, with many scholarship recipients performing. Accompanying this amazing group of talented singers and comedians is the 17-piece CSN All-Star Jazz Band, conducted by Tom Ferguson and Vincent Falcone. The entire event will be hosted by Master of Ceremonies and long-time Las Vegas comedian Cork Proctor. Among the entertainers from Las Vegas and around the world who have donated time, talent, and money by performing in previous Fundraiser Concerts, The Four Freshmen, Robert Goulet, Jack Jones, Clint Holmes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carl Fontana, Ruth Brown, Bill Acosta, Frankie Randall, Buddy Greco, Jimmy Wilkins, Gary Marshal and Roz Ryan. Joe continued to be an advocate for music education, and performed in many Fundraiser Concerts, until his untimely death in 1999. We miss Joe terribly, but his legacy and the Fundraiser Concerts live on. Since the Fund's inception, over $135,000 has been raised, and the Fund has assisted over 400 CSN students by providing tuition waivers for music classes. Tickets are $40, and may be reserved by contacting the South Point Hotel, Casino, and Spa box office at (702) 797-8055.

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Gerald Gordon, and his students, has done it once again. Gordon, in case you have never read this column before (perish the thought), is a much sought after drama/acting coach. Quite the taskmaster (he probably won't like that word), not only does he eliminate many more applicants than he accepts for his classes, he works the ones who pass his stringent tests until they bleed - well, maybe not BLEED, but he requires more of them than they require of themselves. The results? Another outstanding Actors Showcase last Sunday, the signing of a number of the talented thespians, and a group of people feeling very proud of their accomplishments...and deservedly so. Participating in the latest showcase, were beginner and returning students, Daniel Beraducci, Elly Brown, Josh Costell, Anthony Drissi, Ja Elam, Nathan Ferrier, "Blu" Griffith, Kenny Harlow, James Lake, Ni-Ko Prasad, Forest Rall, Ciarra Siller, J.D. Smith, Brad Stein, Danny Vigil and Fhretscya Youmans. Since we don't want to show any favoritism (and don't want to be criticized by anyone for not saying enough about them), we will be politically correct and say that everyone did an excellent job...including the hardworking Mr. Gordon, who counts Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody among his former students, is a transplanted Los Angeles resident. He has made his home in Las Vegas for the past 10 years. Maybe someday, like Brody, one or more of Gordon's local hopefuls will stand on a stage somewhere and give an Oscar, Emmy or Tony acceptance speech. Break a leg, folks!

Elly Brown

Mike Cardella Jr.

Mary Kaye Trio

And speaking of Mr. Gordon, one of his former students, Mike Cardella Jr., was in the audience last Sunday. When it was his turn to be part of Gordon's showcase some months ago, Cardella blew the audience away with a very dramatic scene. We were sitting next to Mike's mother, the late comic Pudgy!, who was mesmerized by her son's outstanding acting ability. She, like others who saw his performance, was in tears. This young man wants to follow in the path of his incredibly talented and funny mother. In that vein, Mike just graduated from Second City in February, going through all five levels during this past year. He also drives from Vegas to Southern California every week to take classes at Improv Olympics in Los Angeles. In addition, almost every Monday night, Mike performs with different improv troupes at the Onyx Theater (located inside The Rack at the Commercial Center on East Sahara). Cardella says that he is trying to get as much stage time as possible, in hopes to "one day finally make a buck doing it." With his genetic comedy/improv roots, we think that is in the cards.

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About 15 concerned and caring individuals got together last Tuesday to start the wheels in motion for an event to raise money to assist veteran Las Vegas lounge entertainer Norman Kaye. Norman, who with his late sister Mary Kaye and Frankie Ross, made up the internationally known Mary Kaye Trio, is in a rehabilitation facility trying to recover from a stroke. Beginning on Sunday, when Medicare stops paying the total cost for Norman's stay in rehab, his wife, Barbara, will have to come up with $128 a day to keep him in the facility. Kaye needs a lot of physical therapy and will need to spend a lot more time away from home. A decorated military veteran, Kaye should be eligible for care in a veterans hospital. Unfortunately, the Boulder City, Nevada, hospital has no beds available, so, for now, the family is buying time. Thanks to the generosity of some kind citizens, in just a short time, Nelson Sardelli and Rick Vittallo have collected about $4000. So far, the local organization that is supposed to be there for ailing entertainers in the community has not come forward to offer help. The plan by the volunteers is to have a variety show featuring a number of headliners, along with an auction of celebrity memorabilia, artwork, show tickets, and other interesting items. The need is for a theater or theater space to hold the fundraiser, with an aimed for date of April 27th. A second planning meeting will take place on Monday. We would welcome any and all assistance. Contact [email protected].

We have just been told that another show business veteran, Fay McKay, is also ailing. A singer and comic, McKay is probably best remembered for her boozy Twelve Daze of Christmas parody. Like, Norman Kaye, Fay is also hospitalized as the result of a stroke. We will provide more details when we get them.

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A mention of that forever-young redhead in an earlier column prompted this question from a reader in San Francisco...

I understand Tempest Storm will be on stage in Las Vegas in June. My boyfriend has loved her since he was a kid (he's turning 61 in June). I'd like to take him to the show for his birthday. Do you have information on when, where, etc.? Thanks so much!

We went right to the source for this answer. Ms. Storm, who celebrated her 80th birthday
on February 29th (she is an honest-to-goodness Leap Year baby), will appear as part of the Exotic World events to be held at the Palms, June 12th, 13th and 14th. We will have more details on this as we get closer to the dates. In the meantime, lovely reader, start making your travel plans.

Another young-at-heart senior is comic/impressionist Babe Pier. Babe is that rare breed of comedian who inspires as much praise from his peers as he does from fans. No less an "expert" than Rich Little has called him the "Father of Impressions," and no wonder: Pier was the first impressionist to play Las Vegas and helped make celebrity impersonation a staple form of entertainment on the Strip. Beginning his career as a semi-pro baseball player, Pier's infield clowning soon led to a spot on TV's The Arthur Godfrey Show. He went on to countless appearances with Ed Sullivan, Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin, among others, and was a three-time guest on HBO's Rich Little and the Pretenders. He has toured live venues throughout the country and overseas, appearing with stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Foster Brooks, Dick Contino and Tony Bennett. In Las Vegas, Babe is a favorite opening act for Frankie Avalon. Today, Pier is the show's specialty act in the 17th Season of The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. This is Babe's second booking in the popular revue. This year's show is called Tin Pan Alley!, "Celebrating the Golden Age of Popular American Music." All of the talent - the line of Long-Legged Lovelies, the Follies Gentlemen and the specialty acts - are 55 and older. "Mr. Pier has been called the 'Man of a Thousand Faces,'" notes Follies impresario and master of ceremonies, Riff Markowitz, "but that may be an understatement. He was a big hit on our stage in Follies season 11, and we've been planning an encore visit ever since." Babe is shares the Follies stage with Melba Moore, through tomorrow. Moore will be followed by guest star Anna Maria Alberghetti, who opens on Wednesday and will close out the season... along with Babe Pier.

Babe Pier

Melba Moore

Roseanne Barr

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Although we haven't gotten over to the Sahara to see her yet, we are told that Roseanne Barr is funnier and more irreverent than ever. If you go (and we hope you will), don't expect to see Roseanne Connor (her character's name in the Emmy-winning TV show). Audience members can expect some salty language, and even a few F-bombs. Roseanne says that she made a deal with her 12 year-old son, Buck, agreeing to pay him $5 every time she used a swear word. The first week he made $3600!

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Last night (Thursday, March 20th), we attended the media event to welcome Jimmy Hopper back to Las Vegas. Hopper's new home is 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 building a following there, Hopper moved into the Fontana Room at Bellagio, where he attracted audiences (both locals and tourists alike) for more than four years. For the last three years, Jimmy has been touring and working on a Broadway-bound musical. His "regular gig" was at The Islands in Newport Beach, California, where just like here, Jimmy built a loyal following. With many changes taking place in Las Vegas since his departure, Jimmy was wooed back by an offer from the new Trader Vic's. Since opening there last month, the entertainer has made some changes in his performance schedule. To accommodate Strip performers as well as others seeking later show times, and because Sundays proved to be a quiet night, Wednesdays have been added and Sundays, for now, eliminated. (Speaking of other performers, Domenick Allen, Clint Holmes and Frankie Scinta all turned out to see Hopper last night. Scinta did a fine job singing Just the Way You Look Tonight, while Holmes did Charlie Chaplin's Smile. We wonder why the talented Allen didn't display his vocal chops?) The current show times for Jimmy are Wednesdays through Saturdays, beginning at 10 p.m. The Lava Room offers an intimate, almost living room-type feel, with comfortable overstuffed chairs where, in addition to the music, visitors can enjoy the fabulous Strip view from its second floor location. Hopper fans know what to expect from the entertainer...the unexpected. If you haven't experienced this versatile entertainer, prepare for an eclectic surprise. We don't know many singers who can do the music of the Beatles, Elton John, Al Jarreau, Sting, Freddie Mercury and Queen, Michael Buble, Daniel Powter, Rod Stewart, Snow Patrol, Five for Fighting, Moody Blues, Mika, Gino Vannelli and Andrea Bocelli equally well. Jimmy Hopper is a performer who can. He even included a beautiful version of Cole Porter's Night and Day, as well as Jimmy Webb's MacArthur Park and Glenn Miller's signature theme, Moonlight Serenade. Hopper, who plays both piano and guitar in his show, is joined by two very talented musicians - pretty Mira Khomik on violin, and Gary Bruno on a multitude of guitars and backup vocals. In the audience were Hopper's bride of a year, Sheri; his mother-in-law, Charlotte; and his able assistant, G.G. Conklin. Also, see Jimmy Hopper, WITH orchestra, in the 500-seat theater 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. If you are one of Hopper's many fans, we suggest seeing BOTH shows for the different things that each offers.

Jimmy Hopper

Clint Holmes & Domenick Allen

Al Jarreau

And speaking of Al Jarreau, he will be making a return visit to The Cannery on May 17th. Tickets for Jarreau, who will be joined by the Stanley Jordan Trio, go on sale today. A seven-time Grammy-winner and crossover legend, Jarreau will perform at The Club inside the Cannery Casino & Hotel. His innovative musical expressions have made him one of the most exciting performers of our time. Some of his most memorable hits include Mornin', the theme song to the popular television series, Moonlighting, After All and We're In This Love Together. Whether singing classical jazz and standards, pop hits or R&B ballads, Jarreau's incredible voice will give the audience a show they will never forget. Stanley Jordan came to prominence with the release of his 1985 debut album, Magic Touch, a revolutionary project that placed him among the most distinctive and refreshing new voices of the electric guitar. The key to Jordan's fast-track acclaim was his mastery of a special "tapping" technique on the guitar's fret board instead of conventional strumming and picking. Some of Jordan's best-known work includes singular versions of The Lady In My Life, Eleanor Rigby, Georgia On My Mind and Jordan's original Plato's Blues. Tickets start at $24.95 plus tax and fees and can be purchased at the Cannery Casino & Hotel's ticket sales counter located at the front desk. Tickets are also available by calling (702) 617-5585 or (866) 287-4643 (toll free), or by visiting

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On Sunday, March 30th, singer/dancers, Gary Oakes and Lou Garcia, will be the featured entertainers as part of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada's Brown Bag Concerts series. Both gentlemen have impressive resumes. Individually, after receiving his MA degree from Columbia University, Gary went on to perform lead roles on Broadway in a number of shows, including Boys From Syracuse, 1776, Little Mary Sunshine, Shoemaker's Holiday and On the Town. Lou graduated from the University of Montana before serving in the US Navy. Upon completion of his military service, Lou headed for the Great White Way. He appeared in Zorba, Illya Darling, Gypsy, West Side Story, The King and I and Mame. The twosome has been singing together since their days (and nights) on Broadway. They have headlined on cruise ships, in showrooms in Reno and Las Vegas (including in Donn Arden's Hallelujah Hollywood), national Broadway tours and summer stock. Sunday's All New Revue, featuring music from Broadway and pop favorites, will mark Gary and Lou's 13th year as part of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada. Tickets for the 2 p.m. show are $15. Call the Performing Arts Society of Nevada at (702) 658-6741 for reservations. Tickets will also be available at the library theater box office beginning at 1 p.m. the day of the show.

Gary Oakes & Lou Garcia

Sammy Davis Jr. by Merryl Jaye

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Jerry Schafer is puzzled, and so are we. Schafer, a longtime Las Vegan, has contracted with Imagine Omni Media to act as supervising producer and director for the Mark Barnett (Survivor, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?) reality series entitled Contender Muay Thai Asia. The first fourteen episodes, shot in Thailand and Singapore in conjunction with Schafer's Silver Moon Pictures LLC, were completed in September. The final episode of the Contender Series, to include the championship fight as a Live Event, was to take place here. Surprisingly, although this type of martial arts (known as the Art of Eight Limbs) is a major attraction for many people throughout the world, Schafer has been unable to find a local hotel willing to host the show. The money is in place. The property would be paid for the use of their arena. And ticket buyers would beat a path to the hotel or sports facility. So? If Schafer cannot locate a space very soon, the final episode and ensuing seasons will probably have to be done out of the country. As for Schafer, his career in the entertainment industry began in 1957 when he wrote The Legend of Billy the Kid, a television pilot he produced at Republic Studios in North Hollywood, California and on locations in Nevada, at the Valley of Fire. In the past 50 years since, Jerry has written, produced and directed a number of major motion pictures and television shows, including an award-winning documentary Get Madd for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. His live production shows in The Entertainment Capital of the World won acclaim and included such hits as 1963's Speaking of Girls, the first afternoon show ever presented on the famous Las Vegas Strip. Schafer was Entertainment Director of the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas from 1963 to 1970. During that period, he produced such stars as Judy Garland, Jack Benny, Polly Bergen, Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows, Robert Goulet, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis Jr., and many others. In 1967, he wrote an original musical comedy and 33 original songs for That Certain Girl, starring Walter Slezak, Dennis O'Keefe, Virginia Mayo, Gunilla Hutton and Bobby Rydell. That Certain Girl was the first original Broadway-style musical comedy to premier in Las Vegas. He directed the first annual Rhythm & Blues Award show in 1987, produced and directed Belle Starr, an original musical comedy, and the film, Fists of Steel. Schafer has won numerous awards for his productions of Police Training Films, and in 1999, he oversaw the construction of a Las Vegas-style showroom called Jerry Schafer's Legal Speakeasy, for which he wrote, produced and directed a musical variety show, The Roaring Twenties. As an author, Jerry wrote Angel in My Pocket, published by Beginning to End Publishing Co., The Youngest Producer in Hollywood and The Movie Maker. Perhaps, some hotel honcho will read this and make Jerry Schafer an offer he can't refuse. We will keep you posted on this one.

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