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.  
She’s...

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from March 28, 2008
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - March 28, 2008


Lani Misalucha

Martin Nievera

Steven Brinberg

We have to wonder what the folks at the Flamingo are thinking...or if they are thinking at all. On Tuesday, we attended the Society of Seven show, featuring the lovely Lani Misalucha and one of our favorite entertainers, Martin Nievera. In case you hadn't heard, this Flamingo engagement will end on April 13th. The big question is WHY? The room was full for the 3 p.m. show and, talking to security guards and people who work in the theater, we were told this is typical. In the approximately five years that SOS has been working in Las Vegas, they have played in as many venues - the Las Vegas Hilton, Golden Nugget, Aladdin, Bally's and, for the next couple of weeks, the Flamingo. The group is obviously doing something right. Tony Ruivivar and Bert Sagum have been with SOS since its inception, more than 40 years ago (the two men were embryos when the group started), with Roy Guerzo, Mike Laygo, Hoku Low, Vince Mendoza and Wayne Wakai coming on board in ensuing years. (In April of 2006, Gary Bautista, longtime lead vocalist, died following a stroke.) SOS is a true variety show, featuring many styles of music, comedy sketches and celebrity impersonations. Among the personalities who get the SOS treatment are Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Beyonce, Dionne Warwick and Britney Spears, all done by Lani. Martin and the rest of the fellows take shots at Sammy Davis Jr., Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Little Richard, Josh Groban and others. A Broadway segment includes tributes to Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Chicago, Man of La Mancha, Jekyll & Hyde and The Lion King, complete with animal puppets to rival those created by Tony-winning Costume Designer/Director Julie Taymor. One of the funniest moments in the revue is a takeoff on The Supremes (we hope Las Vegas resident Mary Wilson has seen this number). Lani Misalucha's version of Puccini's Nessum Dorma is a showstopper. We urge those who seek real talent, performing the type of show that resulted in Las Vegas earning the title of Entertainment Capital of the World, to see the Society of Seven with Lani Misalucha and Martin Nievera before April 13th (although we anticipate that some smart hotel bigwig will snag the group and bring them back to Vegas in the fall). Matinees for SOS are at 3 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. Call (800) 221-7299 for reservations. Hurry, hurry. (There are discount coupons for locals in the Friday Review-Journal's Neon section.)

Will magician Nathan Burton, who takes over the theater after the departure of SOS, do as well at the Flamingo as the Hawaiian/Filipino group has done? We doubt it. No disrespect to Mr. Burton, but an afternoon magic show is not unique to Las Vegas. In fact, you can see one right down the street at the Tropicana, where Dirk Arthur and his livestock perform at 2 and 4 p.m., Saturdays through Thursdays. A little time should tell if we are right on this one.

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Michael Chapman and ChapQuist Entertainment present the Las Vegas debut of Simply Barbra! starring Steven Brinberg. Well-known in other parts of the country, the New York-based Brinberg will make his first Las Vegas appearance on Saturday, April 5th, at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin. Steven's amazing talent takes impression to the highest level, as he not only creates the look and persona of Barbra Streisand, he uses his own voice to deliver amazing vocals! This unique musical-comedy event has toured worldwide to sold-out crowds and rave reviews. Barbra's lifelong friend, conductor and composer Marvin Hamlisch, has paid Brinberg the greatest compliment, appearing with him and prestigious orchestras, including the National Symphony (at the Kennedy Center). Steven has performed at Carnegie Hall, Stephen Sondheim's birthday concert at the Library of Congress, and on Broadway in the concert version of Funny Girl with Whoopi Goldberg. Simply Barbra! is simply a show not to be missed! Showtime is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 for Sun City residents, and $20 for non-residents. Call (702) 240-1301 or (702) 869-2064 for additional information. Please visit www.CHAPQUIST.com for more information.

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Here's a handful of friendly reminders...

Tonight and tomorrow (March 28th and 29th), it's Carmine Mandia & Friends at Piero's (355 Convention Center Drive) from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mandia is a part of the Shades of Sinatra show and also performs a tribute to the late, great Bobby Darin. Call Piero‘s at (702) 369-2305 for additional information.


Carmine Mandia

Jimmy Hopper

Las Vegas Tenors

The unique and talented Jimmy Hopper performs his Journey of the Heart concert in the Suncoast showroom tonight (March 28th), Saturday and Sunday. Show times are at 7:30 p.m., with tickets ranging in price from $22 to $55. Call (702) 636-7075 or (877) 636-7111 for reservations.

You can catch the fabulous Las Vegas Tenors at the Hilton next weekend, on April 6th. The talented quartet - Bill Fayne, Bobby Black, Teddy Davey and Mark Giovi - will perform Broadway music as well as fan favorites for their fifth appearance in the Las Vegas Hilton‘s 1600-seat theater. Show time is at 6 p.m. Call (702) 732-5755 or (800) 222-5361 for reservations.

For the Love of Joe, a concert benefiting the Joe Williams Music Scholarship Fund, takes place on Sunday, April 6th at the South Point. Among those appearing on the bill are Bob Anderson, Marlena Shaw, Pete Barbutti, Artie Butler, Vince Falcone, Tom Ferguson and Cork Proctor. Joe Williams established this event about 20 years ago. The College of Southern Nevada music program reaps the rewards of this annual event. Tickets are $40 for the 2 p.m. show. Call (702) 797-8055 for reservations.

Song and dance men, Gary Oakes and Lou Garcia, perform their All New Revue at the Clark County Library on East Flamingo, Sunday (March 30th) at 2 p.m. Tickets for the show - featuring music from Broadway and popular standards - are $15. Call the Performing Arts Society of Nevada at (702) 658-6741 for tickets. They are also available the day of the show, beginning at 1 p.m., at the library box office.

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From good guy Jerry Fink's recent Las Vegas Sun column comes this item...Checked in with Mary Schwartz - cousin of the late Larry Fine, the curly haired member of the Three Stooges - and found she and Barbara Ciarlantini will re-release a children's book they created, The Handy Girls Can Fix It! More than 30 years ago, she and Ciarlantini owned a painting and paperhanging company called Handy Girls and wrote a weekly column for local papers that answered how-to questions. Out of their experiences came the book, which is aimed at building self-esteem in girls by teaching them how to fix things. Look for it at handygirls.com and other online stores.


Jerry Fink

Gerry McCambridge

Gordie Brown

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Congratulations to Gerry McCambridge, voted No. 2 as the Best Magician in the Las Vegas Review-Journal's 27th Annual Best of Las Vegas Readers Poll. Calling himself "The Mentalist," McCambridge beat out David Copperfield, Penn & Teller and many others with names more familiar to the general public. Cousin Claire knows it can be a risky thing to tout an act to someone. We have no concerns, though, when it comes to recommending The Mentalist. No one who has gone to see Gerry's unique act has ever come away disappointed. Instead they come away amazed and thoroughly entertained. We received this e-mail from a friend who went to see Gerry McCambridge at our suggestion.

I would like to thank you for suggesting we see "THE MENTALIST," aka Gerry McCambridge, the other evening. As my guest, I took an old friend from college, Fern Mackour, on her last night in Vegas. The full house at Hooters went wild as each new and amazing feat was unveiled. This was my second trip to see this performer and that he is. Having seen him before, I thought that maybe this time, with added insight, I would be able to figure out some of the remarkable feats he would do. We both came away totally entertained and totally mystified by all he did, as was the rest of the audience who loved him. Fern's comment to me was that he doesn't do enough as we could have stayed another hour watching him absolutely thrill and bewilder his audience. If it's all tricks, and I guess it probably is, he has the finest "show" on the Strip. If it isn't all "tricks" and he really is a mentalist (whatever that means), the United States Government should get a hold of him as he could be our most effective way of getting peace and security in the world. Simply, we loved the show and again, I want to thank you for making it possible for us to be privileged to see him. I want to go back again!

Gerald Gordon
Oh yes, it was magician Lance Burton who came in first in the Reader's Poll.

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Another one of our favorites, the talented comic/singer/impressionist Gordie Brown, opens at the V Theater in Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops on Monday, March 31st. Gordie, who recently closed out a one year plus gig at The Venetian, will do10 p.m. shows at the V Theater, every night but Sunday. It was in 1987 that Gordie made his first plane trip, flying to Las Vegas to pursue his dream...and his idol, Paul Anka. Brown was determined to meet Anka. It took some time but it finally happened, resulting in a friendship and Brown becoming Anka's opening act during a Canadian tour. It was during that '87 trip to Las Vegas that Brown gave a videotape of his act to Bonnie Saxe, mother of Melinda Saxe, then known as The First Lady of Magic. Seven months later, Bonnie called Gordie to join fellow impressionist Babe Pier and juggler Anthony Gatto as one of the specialty acts in Melinda‘s new production. In the years since, Gordie has opened for Louie Anderson at Bally's, toured with Barry Manilow during 1995, and worked with Jay Leno, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, The Righteous Brothers and Jerry Seinfeld. He also performed in Dick Foster's productions of Spellbound, at both the Landmark and Harrah's in Las Vegas. He spent a few years in Los Angeles doing stand-up comedy. He made his national television debut on A&E's Evening at the Improv. That was followed by a job co-hosting NBC's Friday Night Videos, a starring role on PAX TV's Twice in a Lifetime, and several appearances on Hollywood Squares. Gordie also wrote and recorded the theme song for the Emmy Award-winning animated TV series, Life With Louie, created by Louie Anderson. Gordie is a much sought after act for corporate events, having performed for Ford, General Motors, Pepsi, Porsche and Toyota among others. During the two years of his One-man, Many-voices show at Harrah's in Reno, Gordie earned numerous awards including the Reno Gazette Journal's Best Casino Show for both 2002 and 2003, Nevada Magazine's Best New Show/Best Entertainer for 2002 and Best Entertainer/Best Comedian for 2003. The Sacramento Bee named Gordie Entertainer of the Year in 2002. During the past few years, the clever entertainer has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman as part of Impressionist Week, Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and EXTRA! What audiences get when they see Gordie Brown is a very entertaining, high-energy show by a warm and gracious talented performer anxious to please. Gordie takes on approximately 60 personalities per show. In the acting and comic category, he covers a wide variety of entertainers including All in the Family's "Archie and Edith Bunker," Jim Carrey, Johnny Carson, Tom Cruise, Billy Crystal, Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, Michael J. Fox, Katharine Hepburn, Dustin Hoffman, Jay Leno, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Garry Shandling, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jimmy Stewart, Christopher Walken and John Wayne. From the world of music, there are Gordie's original parodies of songs made famous by Louis Armstrong, Garth Brooks, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Tracy Chapman, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sammy Davis Jr., Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, M.C. Hammer, Julio Iglesias, Chris Isaak, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Billy Joel, Elton John, Tom Jones (with an assist from Fantasy Island's "Tattoo"), Annie Lennox, Gordon Lightfoot, Meat Loaf, Dean Martin, Alanis Morissette, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Ozzy Osbourne, Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Randy Travis (whose lips don't move when he sings), Vanilla Ice, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, and even American Idol reject, William "She Bangs" Hung. There are also takes on the contemporary musical groups Barenaked Ladies, Green Day, Matchbox 20, 4 Non Blondes and award-winning Santana. Even Ted Koppel and Mike Tyson turn up in appropriate, and not so appropriate, spots. If he is up to it, you might even hear Gordie's impressions of Joe Cocker and Jerry Seinfeld, voices he considers the most difficult for him to duplicate. With Gordie's expressive, malleable face, and a few simple props, not only do you get the sound of the performers, you also get an uncanny physical resemblance with many of his characterizations. What audience members WON'T get is the "typical" impersonators portrayal of familiar stars doing all too familiar lines. You can expect the unexpected when you see Gordie Brown. Since he considers himself first and foremost a comic, and he writes all of his own material, prepare yourself for something a bit different and definitely off the wall. Although he steers clear of heavy political topics, he does keep up on the latest news, incorporating it into his act. It also isn't unusual for him to throw in some surprise material. Brown has been successfully earning his living as an impressionist since he was old enough to work. Before becoming a vocal impressionist, the Montreal, Canada-native created another kind of impression. As a political cartoonist with the Ottawa Sunday Herald, Brown's impressions were done on paper with pen and ink. It was during those days that he entertained his co-workers with jokes done in the voices of well-known celebrities. His fellow workers thought he was good enough to compete so they entered him in a local talent competition. They were right. Gordie Brown took first place in the contest. In a strange twist of events, as the result of Brown's working with Bonnie Saxe more than 20 years ago, he became very close friends with Bonnie's son, David Saxe. In fact, David was best man at Brown's wedding. David is the producer at the V Theater so, once again, two decades later, Gordie will be working with a member of the Saxe family. "We are very excited to have Gordie Brown at the V Theater," says David Saxe. "He is by far the most entertaining and electrifying one man show on the Las Vegas Strip."

In addition to the Gordie Brown Show, the V Theater is currently home to V-The Ultimate Variety Show, Toxic Audio, Gregory Popovich Comedy Pet Theater, and Stripper 101. The venue recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation, including state-of-the-art seating and a brand new stage. Tickets start at $59.00 plus taxes and fees for adults. For reservations, call the V Theater Box Office at (702) 932-1818 or purchase tickets online at www.varietytheater.com.

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One of Vegas's biggest openings in recent months (no, not Bette Midler or Jersey Boys opening on April 4th) takes place on March 31st. That would be Donald Trump's latest venture and his first foray into the local scene. The 64-story Trump International Hotel & Tower, located a stones throw from rival Steve Wynn's place (hopefully, there will be no stone throwing), will not have a casino but will offer both non-residential and residential condominiums. We hear that, due to the overwhelming sellers response to Trump's first tower, stated to be the tallest residential building in the city, plans are already underway for a second identical tower right next to the first one.


Donald Trump

Jimmy Kimmel

Panic at the Disco

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Jimmy Kimmel's Tuesday night show was almost 100% Vegas. Guests included Roseanne Barr (currently at the Sahara, Saturdays through Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.); magician Penn Jillette (who performs with his silent partner, Teller, in their own showroom at the Rio), straight from being booted off Dancing With the Stars earlier in the evening ); and the musical group Panic At the Disco (formed right here in Vegas by Summerlin teens during their junior high school days). It might be noted that talk show host/comic Jimmy Kimmel was also raised in Las Vegas. As for Panic At the Disco, its current band members are Brendon Urie (vocals, guitar and keyboards), Ryan Ross (guitar, keyboards and vocals), Jon Walker (bass guitar, vocals) and Spencer Smith (drums and percussion). Bass player Brent Wilson was with the group during 2005 and 2006. Their debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, reached No. 13 on the charts, and has sold more than 2.2 million copies since its September 2005 release. The band's second album, Pretty Odd, was released on Tuesday. And speaking of Roseanne, watch for her appearance on Craig Ferguson's CBS show, next Friday (April 4th).

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Tomorrow night, it's the Lamont Patterson Big Band Memorial Dance, featuring the Gene White Orchestra. For more than 15 years, Lamont Patterson was a Las Vegas-based jazz and entertainment columnist. In addition to his love for jazz, Patterson was a big band fan, as well as a fan and friend of Frank Sinatra. Before his death in 1997, Lamont established a trust fund to be used for a music scholarship at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He also made financial provisions for an annual free big band dance. The idea was to keep musicians working and the public listening and dancing. For many years, the event took place in a ballroom at the Stardust. The hotel/casino is gone, but the melody lingers on. The 2008 edition of the popular concert/dance will occur at the East Las Vegas Senior Center, located at 250 N. Eastern Avenue (north of Charleston, on the corner of Stewart). Admission is free, but space is limited (adults only, please). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with live music provided from 7 to 10. For additional information, call (702) 229-1515.

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Are you a musician who likes to travel? Have a passport and no plans from early September through early December? We are posting this information that was passed on to us by entertainer Laurence T.

I need musicians ASAP! I need a jazz pianist, bass and sax. I have a three month gig starting September 5th in Beijing, China. Please help me. I need to move on this quickly because of airline tickets, and the Olympics! Please send this across Musicland.

Signed,

Loni Clark at [email protected]


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Boyd Gaming's Jim Seagrave, Vice President of Advertising for Coast Casinos, is a very proud poppa. His daughter, Jillian Seagrave (called "Jill" by her family and friends), who works in finance by day, has not given up her love for music. Jill graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where she appeared as "Ado Annie" in Oklahoma!, "Sandy" in Grease, "Shprintze" in Fiddler On The Roof, and "Helena" in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her Gorman classmates voted Jill "Most Likely To Become Famous." She attended Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, where she performed the lead in Cinderella, played "Constance Neville" in She Stoops To Conquer, and was "The Narrator" in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Since graduating from St. Mary's, Jill has performed in San Francisco Bay Area theatrical productions of Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, Bye Bye Birdie, Hair and Beauty and the Beast. Ms. Seagrave's most recent role was as "Polly" in The Cocoanuts at the Contra Costa Civic Theatre in El Cerrito.


Jill Seagrave

Ronn Lucas

Nancy LaMott

When you think of hit Broadway musicals, it's easy to forget something like The Cocoanuts, which played New York's Lyric Theatre for eight months in 1925 and '26. That's because, more than an Irving Berlin musical with a book by George S. Kaufman (not too shabby, as pedigrees go), it was first and foremost a Marx Brothers vehicle, the one that became their first feature film. So for a community theater to stage it as they might any other musical takes some chutzpah, but the folks at El Cerrito's Contra Costa Civic Theatre had so much fun doing Animal Crackers in 2006, they decided to reunite their own Marx Brothers. One report stated, "The young lovers are more interesting than usual in a comedy like this, mainly because Jillian Seagrave has such a sunny voice and demeanor and such grace while dancing as the ingenue, ‘Polly.' Benjamin Scott has some upright charm as true love "Bob," and Nan Ayers does the flustered Margaret Dumont shtick proud as stuffy ‘Mrs. Potter.' The ballroom-style dances between ‘Bob' and ‘Polly' are also delightful, as is the Groucho character's exaggerated tango with ‘Mrs. Potter.'" Ken Bullock, of The Berkeley Planet, wrote "The cast - about 20 in all - brings their own various talents into the mix, with particularly good performances by R. Martin Newton as desk clerk ‘Jamisen‘ and Nan Ayers in the Margaret Dumont role of ‘Mrs. Potter,' as well as first rate romantic ingenues (Benjamin Scott and especially Jillian Seagrave, who do Berlin's big hit, Always..." As a side note, many musicologists consider Always to be Irving Berlin's best song. Jill is Jim and Jan Seagrave's younger daughter. Their older daughter, and Jill's sister, Elizabeth, is also musical. In fact, a few years ago, the Seagrave Sisters recorded a CD.

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Our favorite ventriloquist, Ronn Lucas, has made a lateral move from the Atrium showroom at the Luxor to the Thunder From Down Under Showroom at its next door neighbor property, the Excalibur. Since Ronn's show is appealing to youngsters as well as adults (most kids will not appreciate the technical requirements of a skilled ventriloquist), the family-friendly Castle on the Corner is probably a better fit for "The Man Who Can Make Anything Talk." Show times for Ronn Lucas are 3 p.m., Saturdays through Mondays. Call (702) 597-7600 for reservations.

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For fans of the late Nancy LaMott, we have this information...In today's music industry, where many artists go from fresh to forgotten in a matter of months, LaMott is a true phenomenon. On March 11th, her latest release, Ask Me Again, entered the Billboard Jazz Chart at No. 12. This accomplishment is made even more remarkable by the fact that this marks LaMott's chart debut, and comes more than 12 years after her untimely death from Uterine Cancer in 1995. Having worked her way up from the cabarets and piano bars of New York City, San Francisco, and Atlantic City, to Tavern on the Green, the Algonquin, Good Morning America, and LIVE! with Regis and Kathie Lee, Nancy was poised for stardom as her life drew to a premature close. Sadly, she was never able to experience the fruition of her years of work. However, she is one of those rare artists whose captivating presence never fades, and never has this been seen more clearly than right now. Motivated by a promise made to Nancy shortly before she passed away that the whole world would hear her sing, Producer/Songwriter David Friedman has worked tirelessly to give Nancy's music the attention it deserves. The now-charting Ask Me Again is the most recent product of this promise. The two CD set includes 21 previously unreleased songs, in simple, no-frills arrangements showcasing Nancy's unmatched vocal performances, accompanied by her longtime accompanist/arranger Christopher Marlowe. Also new for LaMott lovers is I'll Be Here With You, the first-ever DVD of Nancy's live performances. During her all to brief career, as well as in the years since her death, Nancy LaMott captured the attention of celebrities, fellow artists, and fans across around the world. Championed, then and now, by Kathie Lee Gifford, Lucie Arnaz, Michael Feinstein, David Zippel, Michel LeGrand, David Friedman and many others, it is not too surprising that Nancy LaMott would land on the Billboard Jazz Chart more than a decade after her passing.

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Happy belated birthday wishes to former Las Vegan, Steve Schiffman. During the years he lived in this city, Schiffman served as a PR man for a number of hotels, including the Golden Nugget, Bally's, Desert Inn and the Debbie Reynolds Hotel (now the Greek Isles). He was terrific at his job. If he wasn't able to take the call from a media-type, or didn't immediately have the answer to a question, he would always get back to the inquiring mind, and in a timely manner. There weren't (aren't) many in this community like our longtime friend, Mr. Schiffman. He currently makes his home in Arizona where, we hear, he might be working on a book about his life in the fast lane. He should have plenty of interesting tales to tell. We look forward to owning an autographed copy.

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In case you aren't keeping track, this week's column mentions a number of our "favorites" (Gordie Brown, Ronn Lucas, Gerry McCambridge, Martin Nievera, Jim Seagrave, Steve Schiffman and Jerry Fink ). See, we can be NICE when the situation presents itself...or perhaps it's just a case of Spring Fever. As for the rest of you (and you know who you are), Cousin Claire is watching and listening.



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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye