Displaying keen perception and great insight.
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She calls ‘em like she sees (and hears) ‘em.
Note: This is a past column from April 04, 2008
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - April 4, 2008
The Four Freshmen
There are so many talented individuals living within our community. There are also many benefits that take advantage of that fact (most in a good and positive way) and use these talented folks to attract a paying audience. The generous people in our community can’t be everywhere and they can't support everything, especially when many of those things take place on the same day and, often, at the same time. We urge you to check into where your money is going and how much of it will actually reach the person or charity in need. You might be shocked to learn exactly how much comes out of every dollar donated "to cover expenses" (publicity, paying musicians, paying a producer, etc.). As for our part in this, we try to promote only those things we are sure of. If there are any "red flags," we want to warn readers of that as well.
Here is one we are sure of. The hotel/casino is donating the theater, the staff, ticket printing and all that is required to put this show together. The professional musicians are donating their time and talent, as are the entertainers. This is our suggestion...If you plan to be in the Las Vegas area on the afternoon of April 20th, start saving your dollars (you will only need 20 of them) for an upcoming benefit. Norman Kaye, a pioneer of the Las Vegas lounge scene, is ailing. Expenses for his care are mounting and the onetime member of the legendary Mary Kaye Trio needs help. A variety NORM-a-THON hopes to raise the funds needed to cover Norman's stay in a rehabilitation facility as he recovers from a stroke. It is amazing to see the response from the entertainment community as this event comes together, especially when they know that ALL of the proceeds will go to the people who need them. Among the performers who have said YES to the NORM-a-THON, and will appear in the show, are musicians the Gary Olds Trio, Vince Falcone, Dr. George Ritter, Tommy Deering, Rick Vittallo Jr., Gus Mancuso and Jerry Lopez and the Fat City Horns (currently performing with Bette Midler at Caesars Palace). Also donating their time and talent are Charlie Callas, Sammy Shore, Pete Barbutti, Jimmy Hopper, Artie Schroeck, Linda November, Bill Nolte (The Producers), Peter Anthony, Genevieve, Nik Mastrangelo, Paul Xavier Campanella, Jeanne Brei, Robert S. Ensler, Teddy Kaye, Ronnie Rose, Frank Grata, Linda Angeline, Michaelina Bellamy, Genevieve; the fabulous Las Vegas Tenors (Bill Fayne, Bobby Black, Teddy Davey and Mark Giovi); and Gerry McCambridge, The Mentalist. Nelson Sardelli will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon. As mentioned above, tickets are only $20 per person and may be purchased at The Orleans box office starting next week. Where else can you see so much talent for so little money, while helping someone in need at the same time? The answer is, NOWHERE! For additional information about Norman Kaye AND the benefit, check out this site, http://www.enormousnorm-a-thon.com/, created and lovingly put together in only a couple of days by Robert Ensler. There will be updates in next week's column.
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Readers might not believe this, unless they consider the source of the duplicity. He's at it again but, this time, with a slightly different MO. Freddie What's-His-Name now has a new strategy. Instead of calling himself Freddie Eckstine, and claiming to be the son of the late, great Billy Eckstine, Freddie House is now calling himself "Mr. B," because, to quote this phony, "he doesn't want to ride on the coattails of his father." From Eckstine's daughter, Gina Eckstine, comes her report on the latest developments in this saga. "I guess you know Freddie is on the prowl again. He has a new manager, and is now saying that I have done some sort of scam with the DNA!!! He is saying I wasn't there or something. I don't know. He must have forgotten I took his picture. I have them if you want. I'll send two. I have more. Remember I told you he ran out of the room when I got my camera out? The clinic also took his picture, for verification purposes. I continued to take some good ones of he and that wife of his. This guy is really sick." We have to agree with Gina. Wonder if they have a shot or medication to cure whatever ails Mr. House.
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Singer/actress Lorna Luft, Judy Garland's OTHER daughter, comes into the Suncoast from June 20th through the 22nd. It was Garland herself who stated that Lorna was the one with the voice (sorry Liza). Luft (Lorna's father was Judy's third husband, Sid Luft) is a favorite of composer Jerry Herman. Herman has practically given Lorna his beautiful song, Time Heals Everything, from Mack and Mabel. If you have never seen Lorna's one woman show, Songs My Mother Taught Me, if you were/are a fan of Garland's, or just like music, do yourselves a favor and get yourself reservations for this presentation. We have to give Terry Jenkins, Corporate Director of Entertainment for Boyd Gaming, credit for bringing this type of entertainment to the very dry cabaret desert.
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Michael Kessler & Melinda Jackson
September 20th, will mark the 60th anniversary of the Four Freshmen's founding. One of the most influential vocal groups of the 1950s, The Freshmen pioneered a new style of close-harmony vocals that set the stage for bands like the Beach Boys, Spanky & Our Gang, the Hi-Los, Manhattan Transfer and numerous others. In 1948, Hal Kratzsch and brothers Ross and Don Barbour formed a barbershop quartet called Hal's Harmonizers at Butler University's Arthur Jordan Conservatory. The band also featured Marvin Pruitt. Later that year, the group switched to a more jazz-oriented repertoire and the quartet was renamed the Toppers. Soon thereafter, Pruitt left the group and was replaced with Ross and Don's cousin, Bob Flanigan. Over the years, the Freshmen had a string of hits, including It's a Blue World, Graduation Day, In This Whole Wide World and Love Turns Winter to Spring. Still recording and still performing (with the second generation of musicians), the pioneer group placed No. 1 in the Best Vocal Group category for the 2007 Jazz Times Readers poll. On May 10th, the two surviving members of the original quartet, Bob Flanigan and Ross Barbour, will receive honorary doctorate degrees from Indiana's Butler University at Indianapolis. The widows of Don Barbour (who died in 1961) and Hal Kratzsch (who passed away in 1970) will accept the honor on behalf of their late husbands. Flanigan, who turns 82 on August 22nd, has been a Las Vegas resident since the 1970s.
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We hate when this happens...multiple things we, and others, would like to see, all happening on the same day and, pretty much, at the same time. For example...on Sunday, April 13th, there are three terrific events competing for an audience. Not fair. We would like to see all three shows!
Here's the schedule. Beginning at 1:30 p.m. (with a second show following at 3), Nicole Pryor, currently a cast member in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular at The Venetian, will perform in the Wes Winters Showroom at the Liberace Museum. Nicole appears as part of the Second Sunday (of each month) Cabaret Series. Call the Liberace Museum, (702) 798-5595, for additional details. Starting at 2 (on the same Sunday afternoon), are the talented, recent Vegas transplants, dancers Michael Kessler and Melinda Jackson. The partners, on stage and at home, will perform with an 11 member cast in Dancin' Feet, A Musical Fairy Tale, at the Starbright Theater in Sun City Summerlin. The Las Vegas Sun called M&M and their American Dance Theatre, "Showstoppers." Tickets are $25. For reservations and more information, call (702) 363-1341 or (702) 240-1301 or (702) 966-1410. THEN (whew), at 3 p.m., it's C.J. Harding in her Tribute to Patsy Cline at the Charleston Heights Arts Center. With quotes like these - "The crowd is stunned. This is incredible. C.J. Harding looks and sounds just like Patsy Cline," The Tampa Tribune, Florida, and "C.J. Harding's faithful re-creation of Patsy Cline kept everyone spellbound," Silver Springs Theme Park, Florida - a trip to Charleston Heights seems like no risk at all. Go. Enjoy a nice afternoon. For reservations, call (702) 229-6383. You can also buy tickets at the door the day of the show...if there are any left.
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Some reminders...Tomorrow night, it's New York cabaret star, Steven Brinberg in his role as Barbra Streisand. Brinberg not only looks like the diva, he sounds like her as well (no lip-synching for Steven). You can see (and hear) Brinberg in his first Las Vegas performance when he takes to the stage at the Starbright Theater in Summerlin, beginning at 7.
Later that night, Domenick Allen and his wife Leigh Zimmerman are in the spotlight for a gala fundraiser (see details below). This Sunday, the 6th, also offers a couple of interesting entertainment options. Thanks to the set times, music lovers can do both (a round of Musical Chairs, if you will).
Domenick Allen & Leigh Zimmerman
Kathie Lee Gifford
At 2 p.m., it's For the Love of Joe, The Joe Williams Scholarship Fund Concert in the showroom at the South Point. Among those scheduled to perform, singing/impressionist, Bob Anderson, in from Branson; Marlena Shaw; The Cunninghams; composer/arranger Artie Butler (Here's To Life); Pete Barbutti and others. Comic Cork Proctor will emcee. Legendary jazz and blues singer Joe Williams was a Las Vegas resident for many years. He died in 1999. Tickets are $40 and may be purchased by calling (702) 797-8055.
At 6 p.m., head for the Las Vegas Hilton and the Fabulous Las Vegas Tenors. The Tenors - Bill Fayne, Bobby Black, Teddy Davey and Mark Giovi - will present Broadway in Song! The program will contain many of the Tenor's audiences favorites, plus a selection of hits from the musical theater. Tickets are from $29.95 to $39.95 (plus tax & service charge). There are also some special priced, two for $20, Balcony tickets. To take advantage of this great offer, use code LVT when calling the Las Vegas Hilton Box Office at (702) 732-5755.
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Here is one of those worthy causes we mentioned earlier. The Valencia Ballroom at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, located on Rampart in the northwest part of our expanding city, will be the site of a grand fundraiser to benefit the Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain. The Fourth Annual Reach for the Stars Gala will start with 6:30 cocktails followed by dinner, a live and silent auction, and entertainment. The entertainment portion of the evening begins at 9:30 with Leigh Zimmerman (Ulla in The Producers at Paris Las Vegas) serving as Mistress of Ceremonies for the event, and her husband, multi-talented singer/actor/musician, Domenick Allen, performing. Tickets are $175 per person. Get out your party clothes (no tank tops and flip-flops, please) for this one.
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We have just gotten word that singer/comedian Fay McKay passed away early this morning. She suffered a stroke about a month ago and had been hospitalized ever since. McKay, who was 77, had been an entertainment staple in Las Vegas for many years, first in a revue at the Top of the Landmark (now a parking lot across from the Convention Center) called Tower Suites, and then as a featured act in the production show, Casino de Paris, at the Dunes (now the site of Bellagio). In the mid-1980s, McKay was the star of a revue called Bloopers. That one played at the Marina (located on the corner of Tropicana and the Strip, where the MGM Grand now sits). Best known for her version of The Twelve Daze of Christmas (a clever musical number involving a little too much imbibing of alcoholic beverages), Faye was a frequent guest on TV variety shows such as those hosted by Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas. It was while appearing on Griffin's show that McKay was spotted by Liberace. He was so taken with the entertainer, he sought her out in Las Vegas and invited her to join his traveling show as a special guest. She toured around the world with Mr. Showmanship, performing in places such as the London Palladium. A memorial service for Fay McKay will be announced at a later date.
Coincidentally, like Fay McKay, Domenick Allen also got a career boost from Mr. Showmanship. Allen toured with Liberace, sharing the same stage with him for about three years. For those that don‘t know, Liberace had a great eye (and ear) for talent, introducing many "new" people, like Barbra Streisand, Denise Clemente, puppeteer Barclay Shaw and many others, to an international audience. Even after his death in 1987, Liberace continues to present opportunities for hopeful entertainers through his foundation, supported primarily through the Las Vegas museum, located at East Tropicana and Spencer.
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Look for Roseanne Barr, currently performing at the Sahara (show times at 9:30 p.m., Saturdays through Wednesdays) to guest on this Wednesday night's Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Craig Ferguson airs on CBS, following David Letterman.
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Sheeeee's baaack! After eight years off the airwaves as a regular personality, Kathie Me Gifford (sorry David Pomeranz) returns to TV as the new face on NBC's Today. Recently expanded from three hours to four, the popular morning show will use Ms. Gifford during the final hour. Hopefully, the former Live with Regis and (fill in the blank) co-host has learned something from her past and will not make the same mistakes this time around. If she does, the cast and crew of the show may be entitled to hazard pay. The public does not want to hear about every breath and move that, now grown son, Cody makes. Puleeez!
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The Gold Coast Hotel and Casino will host a Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend from Thursday, April 10th, through Sunday the 13th. The four-day event will feature a classic car show, a tradeshow selling a variety of vintage jewelry, clothing and memorabilia; artwork and a Burlesque competition. Now in its eleventh year at the Gold Coast, the event is expected to draw nearly 18,000 people. The Viva Las Vegas Shifters Car Show (located in the northeast parking lot) is on Saturday, April 12th, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tradeshow will be held in the Gold Coast's California Ballroom. Both events are open to the public. Come dressed in Vintage and Rockabilly-style attire.
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Sandy & Lisa Miller Hackett
Buddy & Lezlie Anders Greco
Birthday greetings (late or early) to Aries celebrants, Havanna Gallagher (daughter of actor and onetime Las Vegan Michael Bravo), musician Corky D'Fini, songwriter Ervin Drake (Good Morning Heartache, I Believe, It Was a Very Good Year), Tony Orlando, Wayne Newton, PR lady Jackie Brett, composer Jack Lawrence (Tenderly, Beyond the Sea, All Or Nothing At All), singer/songwriter Janis Ian (At Seventeen, Society's Child), Handy Lady Barbara Ciarlantini, Lisa Dawn Miller, former vocalist for The KLF Wanda Dee (short for Deeva), Michael Cohen, Arthur Shafman (who represents, among others, Mark Nadler, KT Sullivan, Christine Andreas, Julie Budd, Heather McRae, Barbara Brussell, Andrea Marcovicci and C.J. Harding, mentioned above), April Goldson, John Kaye and Las Vegas Sun writer Jerry Fink.
Celebrating anniversaries during the same period are Sandy Hackett and Lisa Dawn Miller Hackett (their third) and Buddy Greco and Lezlie Anders Greco (number 13 for the musical twosome).
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This one should be a sell out. On Friday, May 23rd, Mandalay Bay will present David Foster & Friends. We should all have friends like those of songwriter/producer David Foster. Performing in this one-night-only concert, held at the Events Center, are Babyface, Andrea Bocelli, Michael Buble, Peter Cetera, Josh Groban and American Idol's Katharine McPhee. Tickets go on sale tomorrow. Call (702) 632-7580 or (702) 474-4000 for more information.
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While many were celebrating with corned beef and cabbage, followed by green beer, our friend Lee Roy Reams (Roger DeBris in the Paris Las Vegas presentation of Mel Brooks' The Producers) and cabaret artist Karen Mason spent St. Patrick's Day in New York, performing the music of Jerry Herman as part of the American Musicals Project. The AMP is a fantastic program that brings American Musicals to 7th and 8th graders in an interesting and informative way. Lee Roy hosted, directed and performed in the concert titled Hello Jerry! - The Works of Jerry Herman. The evening featured funny, sad and romantic songs from a number of Herman musicals, including Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye