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 June 06, 2008
You can find the current column HERELas Vegas - June 6, 2008
For you cabaret lovers who live in or visit Las Vegas, here is some exciting news. Manhattan's Don't Tell Mama, located at 343 W. 46th Street, will open a branch of their popular club in downtown Vegas! Opened about 25 years ago by Erv Raible (who, at one time, also owned The Duplex, Eighty-Eight's and The Firebird Cafe), the New York club was purchased by the Pham family (or should it be Pahmily?) around 1989. The Phams sold the 46th Street club a year ago, and Ming Pham moved to Las Vegas to open the first REAL East Coast-style cabaret club here. Expected to launch in October, Mama's should stimulate the public's interest in this kind of entertainment. Up until now, there have only been sporadic cabaret offerings through a handful of local venues (Suncoast, Starbright Theatre, UNLV, Liberace Museum, and Charleston Heights Arts Center, for example). We are very grateful to them, but it just isn't enough (anyway, you can never have too much of a good thing), especially when our city calls itself The Entertainment Capital of the World. We are hoping to have the opportunity to enjoy talents that have been on our Vegas Wish List for years. We want to see people like Jay Rogers, Ray Jessel, Kaye Ballard, Terri White, Jim Caruso, Bobby Caldwell and some of the additional artists who perform at clubs in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Boston, Los Angeles and in other cities around the country, bring their wonderful, clever acts to Vegas. Don't Tell Mama is looking to hire singing bartenders, a wait-staff and pianists, using the same concept as that in NYC. Contact Ming Pham at [email protected]. We will keep you posted on this one.
Ray Jessel photo by E.K. Waller
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If you didn't already read it here, or learn about it elsewhere, we will tell you that the popular Las Vegas Tenors have been going through some major changes these days. One of the original members, Mark Giovi, has left the group in a business dispute. As a result, the normally four-man ensemble were down to three, Bill Fayne, Bobby Black, and Teddy Davey. Guest artist, Chris Coyne, a principal singer in the Tropicana's Folies Bergere, was brought in for last Sundayâ€˜s (June 1st) Las Vegas Hilton engagement. At almost midnight on Saturday, we received this message from Fayne, the man behind (and in front of) the Tenors.
Hi....I wanted to tell you that Teddy is in Summerlin Hospital having emergency gall bladder surgery in the morning....We're going ahead with the concert...You know, THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!....It should be a very interesting evening!
We are pleased to report that the show DID go on, with Bill, Bobby and Chris singing all the parts. And it was interesting...interesting enough for the audience to reward the gentlemen with a number of standing ovations. Talk about working under pressure. Bravo to all.
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Happy first birthday to the Springs Preserve, celebrating with an All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival on Sunday (June 8th) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be much to do, see and hear, including entertainment by Killian's Angels, The Pickadillos, and other musical guests. Killian's Angels is thrilled that their song, Celtic High Step (aka The High Reels), is featured on the biggest selling video game of all time, Grand Theft Auto 4 (with sales in excess of $7 million since its launch on April 29th). Celtic High Step is played during the scene in a NYC Irish Pub. This is an exciting time for Killian's Angels, as it means that thousands of people, world wide, are hearing them for the first time. The Springs Preserve is located on Valley View, between W. Alta Drive and US-95. Take the family.
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Jason Byrne & Tony Hassini
Congratulations to Jason Byrne, Magician Extraordinaire, from V - The Ultimate Variety Show at the V Theater inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, who was recently awarded the Merlin Award from the International Magicians Society (IMS) for Best Cabaret Magic. On May 29th, during his show at the V Theater, Jason was presented the award by IMS World President/Chairman and CEO Tony Hassini. "I am excited and honored to receive this award," said Jason. "The lineup of magicians who have received the award in the past is incredible. I am grateful to be considered part of this prestigious group." Among the Merlin Award past recipients are Criss Angel, Blackstone, David Copperfield, Doug Henning, Penn & Teller, and Siegfried & Roy. The International Magicians Society was founded in 1968 with the purpose of promoting and preserving the art of magic. Recently, the IMS was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the World's Largest Magic Society with more than 37,000 members. According to Hassini, "The International Magicians Society's Board of Directors voted unanimously for Jason Byrne as the Best Cabaret Magic 2008. The Merlin Award is to magic what the Oscar is to movies." The V Theater is home to entertainment for the entire family. In addition to V - The Ultimate Variety Show, the talent lineup includes Gordie Brown, Toxic Audio, and Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theater. For information and/or reservations, please call (702) 932-1818.
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This (the following e-mail) is the kind of thing that warms Cousin Claire's heart. It is also an example of what's RIGHT about Las Vegas and many (not all) of the people within the entertainment community. This message comes in response to a column article about some comics who are trying to raise a few dollars (in $20 increments) to purchase a tree (or group of trees) to be planted at Sunset Park in honor of the late comic Bernie Allen...
Bernie Allen was one of the funniest guys to ever step on a Las Vegas stage. He was also a dear friend and a wonderful person. He was always willing to share his knowledge, jokes and advice with any comedian established, up n' coming or in between.
It's seems a shame that no one will cough up a Twenty Dollar bill to honor his memory.
I pledge $500.00 if someone out there out there in "Show Biz" will match me.
Let's get this thing rolling and show a little "class" for a great performer and a true gentleman.
(Signed) Robert Allen
Robert Allen, who is not related to the late Bernie Allen - but like Bernie, worked with Steve Rossi, as an "Allen" (he was No. 3) in the Allen & Rossi musical/comedy act - is a longtime Las Vegan. He is also a very successful businessman. He didn't get where he is by using people and promoting himself by doing things like buying himself a Strip sidewalk square with his name on it. He got where he is with hard work and smart choices. Robert started in Las Vegas, in 1974, as a comic in a show at the Dunes. That was followed with his own music and comedy revue, The Robert Allen Show, at the Silver City. Through the 1980s and â€˜90s, he made his living primarily as a stand-up comic, working in production shows at Vegas World (now the Stratosphere), the Riviera (in Splash), and the Tropicana's Folies Bergere. There was also the Allen produced, much publicized Shock! that played at the-no-longer-in-existence Bourbon Street Hotel & Casino. Today, Robert and his wife, Deborah Danielson, live in a beautiful home that was once the residence of Italian crooner Jerry Vale. In addition to an occasional stand-up gig, these days (and nights) Robert devotes much of his time to his Haunted Vegas and Vegas Mob Tours businesses. When he started the Haunted Vegas Tour four years ago, it was with one rented 14-passenger van that Allen took out on Friday and Saturday nights. That germ of an idea has grown into the two different tours (Haunted and Mob), that run six days a week and use two large busses and a van (equipped with flat screen TVs showing film footage related to the tour subjects), and now owned by Allen. In addition to drivers, Allen employs professional entertainers and character actors (dressed in appropriate attire) as traveling tour guides. If you are interested in taking one (or both) tours, for tickets and additional information, call (866) 218-4935.
And speaking of Robert Allen (and we were)...If close-up magic is your thing, you're going to love the 2008 Las Vegas Magic Invitational (LVMI). Once again, Allen and Danny Archer are presenting three days of incredible cutting-edge magic, lectures and shows. The fun and magical mayhem never stops in the City That Never Sleeps. The eighth annual West Coast close-up convention will showcase the very best Close-Up and Cabaret Magic that you will see anywhere. In addition to the booked talent, LVMI always draws a who's who of top name performers hangin' and jammin' all night long (you never know who will turn up at this gathering). LVMI 2008 salutes the Legendary Tower Bar, with Doc Eason, Eric Mead, Bob Sheets, Jay Scott Berry, Daniel Garcia and, from the UK, Will Houstoun. Plus, there will be a tribute to S.W. Erdnase (or whoever he REALLY was), with Jon Armstrong, Jason England and Allan Ackerman. The Las Vegas Magic Invitational 2008, featuring Close-Up and Cabaret Shows, Magic Workshops, Great Guest Lecturers, and Jam Shows (where you are invited to perform), takes place at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino, from June 8th through the 10th. For additional information, contact Robert Allen in Las Vegas at (702) 434-2210 or Danny Archer in Colorado at (303) 321-6267.
And speaking of Mrs. Robert Allen, Deborah Danielson, the Certified Financial Planner and Investment Advisor recently learned that that prestigious Barron's magazine has named her one of the country's Top 100 Females in Finance. Deborah will be honored in a ceremony on the East Coast in November.
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We recently received some reader inquiries regarding entertainer Kenny Kerr. To Jeff M. in Wichita Falls, Texas, who e-mails...
Coming to Las Vegas soon...saw Kenny Kerr and BoyLesque at the Silver Slipper and many times afterward...lost touch for a few years...does he still have an act and, if so, where? thanks for much for your time.
And from RC in Las Vegas, comes this request...
Why don't you do an article on the Silver Slipper and Kenny Kerr. I'm sure a lot of people would like to know what's happened to him, the show and the Slipper.
We have known Kenny Kerr for 30 years. On the East Coast, while still a teenager, the entertainer had been performing in all kinds of venues, mostly in and round Atlantic City and Philadelphia. Frequently told how much he resembled Barbra Streisand (and this was without makeup and wigs), Kenny decided to experiment. Learning how to apply a little lipstick, false eyelashes and wigs, gave Kerr the confidence to try and create an act. With the encouragement of onetime partner, Roger Caldwell, Kenny built a small revue with himself as the anchor. In 1977, New Jersey-native Kenny and his band of merry men came to Las Vegas to showcase at the popular Monday night Talent Showcase at the Sahara. They made numerous once-a-week appearances, where they were seen by some prominent local businessmen - Jack Eglash, Terry James and Herb Kaufman. These fellows knew a good thing when they saw it, and this was a good thing. When approached by Eglash, James and Kaufman, Bill Friedman, of the Silver Slipper (the large rotating shoe that was in front of the now-a-fading-memory hotel/casino, is currently part of the downtown Neon ), agreed to give the act a two-week trial at the Slipper. Calling itself This is Boy-Lesque, the female impersonator revue opened at the small mid-Strip establishment on Friday the 13th of May in 1977. Doing three shows a night, at 8, 10 and midnight, Kenny Kerr and Boy-Lesque turned their two-week trial into a 12 Â½ year success story. Among the cast of performers in the early years were boy dancers/comedy foils, Caldwell (who also co-produced the show), Juan Jose and Kawika. The lovely "ladies" consisted of Jan North (Carol Channing, Rita Hayworth), Shelly Michaels (Bette Midler, Shirley MacLaine), Emore' (Diana Ross, Josephine Baker, Donna Summers, Shirley Bassey and Pearl Bailey), Causha Lee (Marilyn Monroe, Ann-Margret), Jan Britton (Judy Garland, pony/girl dancer), Les Harrison (Shirley Bassey, Flip Wilson's "Geraldine"), Carlotta (Charo), comic Bobbie Barnes, and one of the nicest and funniest "broads" on the Vegas scene, Howard "Little Lil" Benway (My Boy Lollipop, Timi Yuro's Hurt, Georgie). ("Lil," as everyone called him, died of cancer in June of 2006. He was 64.) The show's star, Kenny Kerr, portrayed Streisand, Cher, Dolly Parton and some lesser known "characters" (Princess Mary Ann of Monrovia). Kenny's famous striptease still poses the question, "Where did he put it?" Other performers over the years included Larry Edwards (Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle), Sammy Gonzales (Liza Minnelli), Artie Jones (Diana Ross), Rolando "Cha Cha" Obando (Gloria Estefan), Jamie Desario (Marilyn Monroe, Dolly Parton), James A. Williams, aka Toni James (Diana Ross), and Bobby Carroll (Liza Minnelli). Most of the show's costumes were created by Hedy Jo Star. After the Silver Slipper, productions starring Kenny Kerr had runs at the Sahara, Debbie Reynolds Hotel, Plaza, and Stardust. In his own, smaller one man/one woman Las Vegas shows, usually called Kenny Kerr & Friends, he performed at Sunset Station, Suede Nightclub and the Bootlegger Restaurant. Kenny has always made himself available for any worthwhile local charity that needs his fast-on-his-feet (even in stiletto heels), razor-sharp wit to keep things moving. In or out of a gown, Kerr is one of the best, and fastest stand-up comics around. In 1996, he had a significant role in The Associate, starring Oscar-winners Whoopi Goldberg and Dianne Wiest. Kenny Kerr, known as The Master of Illusion, proves that "A little powder, a little paint, makes a man what he ain't." Currently, Kenny performs at CopyKatz Club (formerly Atlas), at 210 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. For show times, call (760) 864-9293.
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Elly Brown/Golden Rainbow
Genevieve as Billie Holiday
This fall, among the new television programs being introduced on CBS is a series called The Mentalist. No, it isn't a show about local entertainer Gerry McCambridge, although, maybe it should be. The Las Vegas Mentalist will celebrate his 500th Vegas show tomorrow, June 7th, and his one year anniversary at Hooters on June 11th. Expect plenty of celebrating. An invited guests only party will be held in a couple of weeks. We will be there and will report on the festivities in an upcoming column. Congratulations, Gerry!
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It's an all-original, all-singing, all-dancing musical journey across America when Las Vegas-based HIV/AIDS charity Golden Rainbow presents its 22nd annual Ribbon of Life fundraising production show. The spectacular is staged Jun 14th and 15th in Le ThÃ©Ã¢tre des Arts at Paris Las Vegas. The show celebrates American music from the West Coast, the Heartland and the East Coast. The production draws hundreds of singers and dancers from the best shows in Las Vegas, and this year, Ribbon of Life stars the casts of Folies Bergere, Jubilee!, La Cage, Le Reve, the Lost Vegas crew, Mamma Mia!, Missy Cochran Entertainment, Mosaic, No Boundaries Dance Company, O, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, Spamalot, Tim Searcy, Tony & Lloyd and Tony nâ€˜ Tina's Wedding. Special performances include Las Vegas show performers and their children and The Hot Flash Hoofers, who are journeying from Vancouver, British Columbia, to appear. The production typically involves more than 200 performers from Las Vegas Strip shows and other city theatrical organizations. All the talent in the show donates their time. Sponsors include Paris Las Vegas, Bergman Walls & Associates, The Boughner Family Foundation, Century 21 MoneyWorld, David Greenhouse Photography/ Liquid Light Studios, Findlay Cadillac Saab, Harrah's Entertainment, HouseSeats, The Idea Factory, IGT, Imperial Royal Sovereign Court of the Desert Empire, Dr. Fiona Kelley, The John Kish Foundation, Las Vegas NightBeat, Orbitz, Q Vegas, Shack Findlay Honda, St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, Steinbeck Communications, VegasAuditions.com and Wells Fargo. The annual Ribbon of Life is the largest show of its kind staged in Las Vegas, and the single largest fundraiser of the year for Golden Rainbow, a service organization serving men, women, children and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Southern Nevada. Show time is at 1 p.m. both days. Tickets are $35, $50, $100 and $200, and are available by calling (702) 384-2899.
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This is an update for casting for a new touring show, The Circus McGurkus (based on a Dr. Seuss book, If I Ran The Circus), directed by Franco Dragone (Celine Dionâ€˜s A New Day at Caesars Palace, Le Reve at Wynn Las Vegas), produced by Running Subway Productions, with music and lyrics by David Yasbek. They are seeking versatile Broadway-style singers, specialty and circus acts, acrobats, gymnasts, and sideshow artists. (Trying to find singers who are acrobatic, and acrobats and gymnasts who can sing, is not so easy.) Also looking for a young male actor/singer to play Morris McGurk. Think of this character in terms of the TV actors that played the Beaver or Dennis the Menace - pre-pubescent, but not a little kid. If there's an age, he reads around 11 or 12, not yet a teenager. Young enough to have an outrageous imagination, but old enough to have a job cleaning up the junkyard. Mature (or can play on older 45+) male singer/actor for Mr. Sneelock, junk yard owner who partakes in Morris' fantasy circus. Acrobatic, gymnastic, dance, singing and specialty skills are a huge plus for all roles. Looking for versatility. Auditions, by appointment, will take place in Las Vegas, July 24th through 27th, and in Los Angeles, July 29th through 31st. Additional information can be found at www.circusmcgurkuscasting.com. Please send demo DVDs, photos and resumes to Casting Director Joanie Spina at Circus McGurkus Casting, 2250 E. Tropicana Avenue Ste.19-716, Las Vegas, NV 89119, call (702) 232-1482, or submit electronically to [email protected]
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Go back to an era of juke joints, zoot suits, big bands, and jazz. a seedy bar in Philadelphia. The time is 1959. The place is a seedy bar in Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie Holiday's last performances, given four months before her death at age 44. More than a dozen musical numbers, including Ervin Drake's Good Morning Heartache, Jack Lawrence's Tenderly, My Man, God Bless The Child, Summertime, They Can't Take That Away From Me, Don't Explain, Lover Man, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, and Strange Fruit, will be performed. The musical numbers are interlaced with salty, often humorous, reminiscences to project a riveting portrait of the jazz singer known as "Lady Day." This production stars the internationally acclaimed singer, Genevieve, who uses her three-octave range to breathe new life and soul into all your Billie Holiday favorites. Genevieve will be backed by a live eight-piece band, featuring Gary Olds, Jeff Colvin, Michael English, Lou Gonzalez, Matt Green, Wilbert Hemsley, Justin Peterson and Fred Watstein. An Evening With Billie Holiday will take place at the 160-seat West Side Theater, located inside the Family Music Center at 8125 W. Sahara. Performances are at 5 p.m., Sundays, June 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th, as well as on July 6th. (Regina Anderson will perform the Billie Holiday material on June 15th and July 6th.) For tickets, priced at $20 (save $3 each on groups of eight or more), call (702) 942-7358, or go to colabo.biz. Tickets also may be purchased at the door, one hour before the shows.
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George Bugatti & Sam Arlen
The West Las Vegas Performing Arts Center, located at 951 West Lake Mead Blvd., in collaboration with KJ Aquarius Productions, will present the premier of MaD from New Yawk!, a hilarious tribute to Big Apple survival strategies. This new solo variety show, featuring actor/comic Kent Jackman, will be presented on Friday, June 13th at 7 p.m., and again on Saturday, June 14th at 3 p.m. Spiced with original hip-hop, provocative news bulletins, and sarcastic audio and video inserts, MaD from New Yawk! is an innovative, character-driven montage that is sure to delight audiences who yearn for thought provoking, culture-based comedy. This urban-edged showcase is suggested for mature, adult audiences. Kent Jackman was formerly a regular on the syndicated Apollo Comedy Hour TV series and has appeared in episodes of Law & Order and Cruel and Unusual. He also had a role in the 1992 film, Malcolm X. Admission to MaD from New Yawk! is free. For more information, call (702) 507-3991.
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Recording artist George Bugatti, who performed at Bellagio during its infancy, joins Sam Arlen, son of the late composer Harold Arlen, in creating Wizard - The Music of Oz Composer Harold Arlen, scheduled for a six-week run at the Greek Isles on Convention Center Drive. There is much more to composer Arlen than Over the Rainbow, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, and Weâ€˜re Off to See the Wizard. He also wrote songs such as Stormy Weather, Blues in the Night, One for My Baby (And One More For the Road), Let's Fall In Love, That Old Black Magic, Come Rain or Come Shine, Get Happy, It's Only a Paper Moon, I've Got The World On A String and many more. Wizard is a live, multimedia tribute to Arlen, with stories that take the audience from the Cotton Club in Harlem, through Arlen's Hollywood years, to the Broadway stage. The show features Sam Arlen as the narrator, and Bugatti's Three Crooners. Co-written by Nigel Wright, Wizard is produced by Perry Damone, son of Vic Damone and the late actress, Pier Angeli. (Young Damone was named for singer Perry Como.) The show will open on June 14th, with show times at 9 p.m. The World's Greatest Magic Show is at 7 p.m. For reservations for either production, call (702) 737-5540.
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Reminder...A memorial service for the late Fay McKay, who died on April 4th following a lengthy illness, will be held tomorrow, Saturday, June 7th, at 2 p.m. at the Spiritual Life Center (formerly called the Las Vegas Church of Religious Sciences), 1420 E. Harmon, one block east of Maryland Parkway and UNLV. Some of her performer friends are expected to participate. The singer/comedian gained national recognition in 1951 after she won the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. She toured extensively, performing in nightclubs across the country. In Las Vegas, she appeared at the top of the Landmark Hotel where she met Liberace, later traveling around the world with him as his co-star. Fay also appeared in Bloopers at the Marina (now the site of the MGM Grand), Casino de Paris at the Dunes, and performed with the Mickey Finn band. She will be fondly remembered as that incredibly funny "drunk" lady who made the 12 Daze of Christmas a popular holiday favorite (a number parodied by Kenny Kerr, mentioned above, in versions of Boy-Lesque). The public is invited to attend Fay McKay's memorial service.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye