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.
Note: This is a past column from April 18, 2008
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - April 18, 2008
Show your love for Norman Kaye by attending the eNORMous NORM-a-THON Fundraising variety show, this Sunday (April 20th), beginning at noon in the 800-seat Orleans showroom. Even if you don't know who Norman Kaye is, perhaps you are familiar with the famed Mary Kaye Trio of which Norman was a founding member. It was Norman, along with his sister, Mary Kaye and Frank Ross, who under the Mary Kaye Trio name, launched the Vegas lounge era that lives on today (although, in a somewhat different form). Frank Ross died in 1995, and the world lost Mary Kaye in March of last year, leaving Norman, 86, as the sole surviving member of the Trio. Norman recently suffered his second stroke and today is confined to a rehabilitation facility. Full Medicare coverage has been exhausted, and the cost for Norman's care is now mounting at the rate of $128 a day (almost $900 a week!). Event organizers hope to raise enough money to cover his rehab expenses for the next few months. For only $20, audience members will be treated to performances by the likes of Bill Acosta, Pete Barbutti, Charlie Callas, Clint Holmes, Jimmy Hopper, The Las Vegas Tenors, Rich Little, Gerry McCambridge The Mentalist, Bill Nolte from The Producers, Sammy Shore, Earl Turner and Jerry Lopez with his 14 piece group, Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns. If they can get here, Shecky Greene, Keely Smith (of Louie Prima fame) and accordionist Dick Contino are also scheduled to appear. Joining them will be another dozen or so Las Vegas entertainers making this one of the largest events of its kind ever performed in this city. All of the performers are donating their time and talent to help one of their own. The good people at Boyd Gaming Corporation (primarily Terry Jenkins, Mary Marshall and Candi Cazau) generously provided their beautiful Orleans theater and the crew needed to put on the show. Unlike most benefits, ALL of the money raised will go to pay for Norman's care (nothing will be deducted from the proceeds to pay for fancy ads, musicians, producers costs, or ANYTHING). The posters, programs and fliers were paid for with separate donations from generous and caring community members. Tickets are on sale at The Orleans Box office or by phone at (800) 675-3267. If his doctors give the okay, Mr. Kaye is expected to be present at the event in his honor. For additional details on the eNORMous NORM-a-THON, see Robert Ensler's very informative Web site at www.enormousnorm-a-thon.com. You won't find a better entertainment bargain anywhere in the city...and you will be helping out a fine gentleman. Support the cause. Call The Orleans box office at (702) 365-7075 to purchase tickets, or buy them outside the showroom door. Doors open at 11:30. Seating is first-come, first served, and show starts promptly at noon. See you there!
Special THANKS to media folks
Jerry Fink (see http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/culture/2008/apr/17/veteran-performers-rally-help-one-their-own/),
Rolando Larraz (Las Vegas Tribune),
Duke Morgan (KJUL 104.7 radio in Las Vegas),
John L. Smith (Las Vegas Review-Journal and KVBC-TV Las Vegas Channel 3,
and Mike Weatherford (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Don Hill, a longtime member of another pioneer Vegas musical/comedy group, The Treniers, will be among those honoring Norman Kaye. And speaking of Mr. Hill, we received the following e-mail on Monday. Cousin Claire is constantly amazed when it comes to the Internet and how it connects people. Hopefully, our writer won't mind our sharing his letter with you readers...
Many years ago (in THE SIXTIES), I worked at a great club in Chicago named the "THE SCOTCH MIST" as the maitre 'd......The Treniers appeared there many times. I lost touch with them over the years until I read Don Hill's name in your column and was thrilled. I would appreciate greatly if you could pass on my email address or my phone to him....I was known as "Jerry Kong," a name which I got from Claude and Cliff...Thanks so much....
Jerry Kerbis in Michigan
Here is the impressive part. When we asked Mr. Hill if the name Jerry Kong was familiar, the 86-year-young musician said it was, and quickly rattled off where and when he knew Mr. "Kong." Not only is Don Hill's memory terrific, he also still does an amazing job playing the saxophone. We like these kind of stories. (Cousin Claire passed Jerry's e-mail, with address and phone number included, on to Mr. Hill.)
* * * * * *
Less than six months after her father died of pulmonary fibrosis at age 73, Robert Goulet's daughter, Nicolette Goulet, has passed away at 51. Called "Nikki" by her friends, the actress was best known for her roles in TV soap operas - Ryan's Hope, Search For Tomorrow, As the World Turns and Guiding Light - between 1979 and 1989. She was the oldest of Robert's children, born during his marriage to Louise "Lu" Longmore. Nikki, who resided in Las Vegas, succumbed to cancer on Tuesday. She was the mother of Robert's two grandchildren, Jordan and Solange. Funeral services for Nicolette Goulet will take place at Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern, on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Las Vegas has lost one of its most colorful characters with the death on Wednesday of 85-year-old Heinz "Henri" Lewin. Born in Germany, Lewin came to the United States in 1947. His first job in this country was as a busboy at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel. He worked his way up the corporate ladder, staying with the Fairmont until 1964 when he went to work for the San Francisco Hilton. When the company purchased the Flamingo and International in Vegas (now the Las Vegas Hilton), Lewin was named Executive Vice President of Hilton's gaming interests. In 1985, Henri left Hilton and worked as a consultant for a number of hotels, including the Sands, Maxim (now the Westin Casuarina), and the Aristocrat chain. When it came to marketing, media members and invited guests never knew what to expect from the innovative promoter. One thing Cousin Claire (or the many others who were there) won't soon forget, was the party held at the Sands Hotel in 1989, the night the brand new Mirage opened directly across the boulevard from the aging Sands (now the site of The Venetian). To "compete" with the new Steve Wynn property, Lewin decided to create his own "volcano" of sorts. After a nice dinner in one of the Sands restaurants, guests moved outside to the front of the hotel to find a miniature replica of the big and noisy mountain attraction in front of The Mirage, perched on top of the Sands porte-cochere. Lewin was up there with the condensed version of the Mirage mountain (complete with a small flame on top), sitting at a piano and, accompanied by a couple of REAL musicians, serenading the guests below. That was the kind of media-savvy showman that Henri Lewin was. His final services were held in San Francisco earlier today. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the charity of your choice in the name of Heinz G. Lewin.
* * * * * *
We are sorry to report that Monty Python's Spamalot just got its closing notice. The comedy/musical, which opened in March of last year, will end its run on July 13th. Is it just our imagination, or is there a pattern here when it comes to Steve Wynn's properties and entertainment? We have to give the man credit, as it was Wynn who introduced all that is Cirque to Las Vegas when he brought Mystere to Treasure Island in 1993. Since then, we have watched the casino mogul come up with unique (for Vegas) entertainment ideas, not promote them properly, and then close them up, i.e., Michael Feinstein in the Fontana Room at Bellagio in 1998 (that ended in less than a month, thanks to no promotion), Avenue Q at Wynn (opened in September 2005, closed in May 2006), and now Spamalot (closing less than 16 months after opening). After only six months, live lounge entertainment at Wynn became a thing of the past. Also, don't forget about Wynn's aborted plans to bring a Jerry Herman musical to the Mirage. The only thing that came from that idea is the Miss Spectacular Concept Album, featuring folks like Christine Baranski, Feinstein, Davis Gaines, Debbie Gravitte, Steve Lawrence, Karen Morrow and Faith Prince, singing Herman tunes. If you want to catch Spamalot before it disappears from the Strip, call (702) 770-9966 for reservations. Hopefully, in spite of this news, the cast and crew of Spamalot can continue to "always look at the bright side of life."
Nothing is secure or guaranteed in this city (just ask the recently terminated 400+ middle management people from MGM Mirage), or anywhere else for that matter, but, in the case of shows like Avenue Q, The Producers (the Paris Las Vegas production that closed early in February), and now Spamalot, we have to wonder if clever advertising might have helped... and we don't mean by covering a handful of taxi cabs in ugly orange shag carpet to "promote" Avenue Q.
Speaking of Steve Wynn, and entertainment, here's a last minute item. Look for Danny Gans to leave The Mirage, where he has been performing for the past eight years, and cross the Strip to Wynn's latest development, Encore. Gans will end his run at The Mirage in November and open at Encore early next year. It was Steve Wynn who lured Gans from the Rio to The Mirage, while Wynn was still owner of the property. Gans' first star spot in Vegas was at the Stratosphere. Earlier Vegas appearances saw Gans as part of an ensemble cast in a revue at what is now Main Street Station. He also did his act at the small Boulder Highway casino, once known as Nevada Palace, and soon to open as the Cannery East.
* * * * * *
The April edition of the Composers Showcase takes place on Wednesday (the 23rd), beginning at 10:30 (after theater). This month, the musical smorgasbord marks its second anniversary by presenting songs written by local composers and songwriters, Jason Andino, Michael Brennan, Thom Culcasi, Jean Francois Cyr, Wayne Green, Kristi Holden, David Milnes, Richard Oberacker, Rob Taylor and Keith Thompson. Vocalists will include Natalie Gauvin, Elena Gutierrez, Ben Hale, Greg Kata, Nicole Pryor, Jon Peterson, Lisa Richard, Joan Soble, Danielle White and Renatta Wilson. Amazing instrumentalists Kasey Carmody on guitar, Philip Fortenberry on piano, Rebecca Ramsey on violin, and cellist Moonlight Tran will also display their talent. As it has been for the past year, the showcase will take place in the Wes Winters Showroom at the Liberace Museum, 1775 East Tropicana (at Spencer), next door to Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens (the restaurant serves until 10 p.m.) There is a cash bar (no credit cards, please) and a $5 hors d'oeuvres buffet provided by Keg and Cork Catering. Donations to the Liberace Foundation are happily and gratefully accepted. The mission of the foundation is to help talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance. The staff at the Liberace Museum is much appreciated for the extra mile (not to mention the extra hours) they undertake to host the Composers Showcase at their facility.
* * * * * *
Hey, all you show folk out there (and we know you are out there), if you are reading this (and we know that you are), we want you to check out a new site. You can promote yourself and your skills as well as communicate with people sharing your interests. We will let you know more about this in coming weeks. In the meantime, check out OpenVegas.com.
* * * * * *
Clint Holmes & Friends comes into the Suncoast this weekend. Most folks know who Clint Holmes is. He probably has many friends, but the ones who will join him on stage for the next few evenings are, his longtime musical director/writing partner, Bill Fayne (of course), and his talented sister, Gayle Steele. The band includes old friend, New York percussionist Richie Rodriguez (he and Clint worked together for 15 years); Davey Nathan from the Toni Braxton show on keyboards; Gabe Falcon, who played drums and percussion for Holmes during his long run at Harrah's; Rochon Westmoreland on bass, also from Clint's show at Harrah's; and Gayle's husband/Clint's brother-in-law, Tommy Steele from Kelly Clinton's (Kelly is Mrs. Clint Holmes) band, on sax, flute, clarinet and a few other instruments. In addition to fan favorites from his repertoire, Holmes will be adding some brand new songs, including two from his biographical musical, Just Another Man - JAM, that have never been done in his night club act before. Show times for Clint Holmes & Friends are 7:30 p.m., tonight through Sunday. Ticket prices start at $29.95 plus tax and may be purchased by calling (702) 636-7075.
Thank you, Kelvis Clinton.
* * * * * *
Dick Feeney (that's with three "E"s) is doing his part to curb inflation by dropping ticket prices on his three Las Vegas shows. The producer has cut ticket prices on The World's Greatest Magic Show from $55.95 to $19.95 and $24.95 plus taxes. The variety magic production, playing at 7 p.m. nightly in the theater at the Greek Isles on Convention Center Drive, was a rarity even before this "recession busting" move, wisely offering free tickets for children, 12 and under, accompanied by an adult. Don't let the bargain prices fool you. The World's Greatest Magic Show, featuring an assortment of ever changing magicians, is one hell of an entertainment bargain. For reservations, call (702) 737-5540. Don't wait too long on this offer. Feeney may regain his senses within a short time. Dick Feeney, with partner Sandy Hackett, is also the fellow behind The Rat Pack Is Back! and Viva Las Vegas, both attracting audiences to the downtown Plaza Hotel. Call (702) 386-2444 for information and reservations.
* * * * * *
After a slight delay (she was originally scheduled for February 2nd), at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 26th, the UNLV Performing Arts Center welcomes multiple Tony Award-winner Christine Ebersole to the Artemus Ham Hall as part of the New York Stage & Beyond Series. Ebersole's credits include Gore Vidal's The Best Man in 2000, Dinner at Eight in 2002 (for which she was nominated for a Tony Award), Steel Magnolias in 2005, and the role for which she won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, as Dorothy Brock in the 2001 revival of 42nd Street. In 2006, Ebersole took the dual role of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie") and Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie") in Grey Gardens, a musical based on the movie of the same name. After a sold-out off-Broadway run, Ebersole remained with Grey Gardens when the play moved to Broadway in the fall of 2006. The dual role earned Ebersole her second Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Tickets for Christine Ebersole are $40, $55, and $85 and can be purchased at the Performing Arts Center Box Office at (702) 895-ARTS (2787) (open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday), or by visiting pac.unlv.edu. An additional $1 facilities fee is charged on all Performing Arts Center tickets.
* * * * * *
On April 23rd, The Pitbull of Comedy, Bobby Slayton, will celebrate his one year anniversary in the Night Owl Showroom at Hooters Casino Hotel. The New York-born comic/actor (he played Joey Bishop in the 1998 The Rat Pack movie, and had supporting roles in 2001's Bandits, The Mind of the Married Man, and the Oscar-nominated Dreamgirls, is ranked among Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time, thanks to lines like "They say married men live longer. It just seems longer," and "If you can't laugh at yourself, make fun of other people." Bobby shares the Night Owl Showroom with the very clever and entertaining Gerry McCambridge - The Mentalist. Show times for Bobby Slayton are at 9 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. McCambridge can be seen at 7 p.m. on the same nights. Call (866) 584-6687 for reservations to either or both shows.
* * * * * *
Singer/actress Karole Foreman was the original "Tanya" ("Donna Sheridan's" rich girlfriend) in the Las Vegas version of Mamma Mia!, now in its sixth year at Mandalay Bay. Karole takes pride in the fact she was also the first African-American to play the role of Tanya in the ABBA-inspired musical. Ms. Foreman, who currently resides in Southern California, had a role in last Monday's episode of NBC's popular series, Medium, starring Emmy Award-winner Patricia Arquette.
* * * * * *
April 15th is a significant day for numerous reasons. Taxes are due and it is the birthday of both Michael Aaron Cohen (who turned 46 on Tuesday) and talent manager Arthur Shafman, who is a little older than Mr. Cohen. April 15th also marks the beginning of Viva Las Vegas' 18th year as an entertainment staple in this city.
* * * * * *
Check out Carmine Mandia (Shades of Sinatra, Bobby Darin tribute artist and more) and special guests, Fridays and Saturdays in April, from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at Piero's, 355 Convention Center Drive. Call Piero's at (702) 369-2305 for additional information.
* * * * * *
According to Society of Seven's Tony Ruivivar, last week's column about the group's departure from the Flamingo (their last day was Sunday) created quite a buzz. We hoped it would. What in the world are the "suits" at the Strip property thinking? On the afternoons they worked, there was always a long line waiting to get in to see the Hawaiian-based group (Lani Misalucha and Martin Nievera, who guest with SOS, are Filipinos). Filling up an 800-seat showroom for just about every show is a feat in itself. The fact that SOS is an afternoon show, makes the room counts even more impressive. The members of Society of Seven - Ruivivar, Bert Sagum, Roy Guerzo, Mike Laygo, Hoku Low, Vince Mendoza and Wayne Wakai - do have work, but not where they currently make their homes, in Las Vegas. Some smart hotel bigwig should grab SOS, give them a room to work in, let the public know they are there, sit back and see what happens. Our suggestion of WHERE that room should be? We say The Orleans theater. It was apparent to us, especially after talking to SOS show goers, the audience didn't just happen to be at the Flamingo, they CAME to the Flamingo for one reason and one reason only...to see the Society of Seven. Wherever this talented group of performers go, their audience will follow.
Note: The only person authorized to negotiate business deals regarding the Society of Seven is one Mendrei Leelin.
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
Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye