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 13, 2008
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - June 13, 2008
Sadly, the number of people who made the trip to the Spiritual Life Center on Harmon and Maryland Parkway to say goodbye to entertainer Fay McKay was much smaller than it should have been. Among the friends and fans who came to pay their last respects on Saturday afternoon were Peter Anthony, Jeanne Brei, Jim Hodge, Nancy Leefe, Marion and Lou Novits. Those at the service were treated to a look back at McKay's decades long career. Cute stories were told, memories were shared, audio recordings of Fay were played, and video clips of her sharing the spotlight with Liberace on the Mike Douglas Show and performing at the Landmark were shown. Randy Carlson, Fay's longtime friend and neighbor, along with Fay's cousin, Jeanne Broughton, did a great job of setting up the photo display (there were many, many pictures, including McKay with Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace, Big Tiny Little, Robert Goulet and numerous other celebrities), and editing the films and music. The funny lady with the big voice, who gained fame through her hysterical "drinking" version of The Twelve Daze of Christmas, died on April 4th following a couple of years in declining health. We have to wonder why there was not one representative from the organization formerly known as The CAST. If you know the story, some years ago (during a different regime), the group that is supposed to support entertainers, purchased an electric wheelchair for McKay. Today, the current board does very little to help those that need it, and, it seems, they can't even take the time to bid farewell to one of their own. Incidentally, following Fay's death, the wheelchair was donated back to what used to be The CAST. At the end of the afternoon tribute, Fay McKay was given one last, well deserved, standing ovation.
And speaking of, while not speaking of, that faux charitable organization mentioned, but not mentioned above, when the group's leader asked longtime supporter Lou Toomin about renewing his membership, Toomin said he would pay his annual dues AFTER he had a look at the books. Mr. Toomin, who is currently running for state senator, had, and has, made this request numerous times before. Instead of providing him with the information he requested, the egomaniac that runs the organization chose, instead, to remove Toomin from the already dwindling membership list. As Dr. Phil McGraw states, "He who has nothing to hide, hides nothing." We wonder what this bunch has to hide.
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The local entertainment community has suffered yet another loss. From Keith Thompson, musical director for Jersey Boys at Palazzo and the man behind the Composers Showcase, comes this sad news...
The Las Vegas Entertainment Community lost a beloved friend and a wonderful artist this week. Adrian Garcia passed away on Monday, June 9th at 1 p.m. following a battle with cancer. Those who had the pleasure of playing music with him know that his tremendous bass playing spoke for itself. Adrian fought his long bout against cancer with courage, persistence, and faith. He was a soulful, caring, and honorable man with a great sense of humor.
Adrian played for Sheena Easton, Martin Nievera, and also worked with Latin Breeze and the Jim Spoto band. He was active in the production shows here in Las Vegas as the bass-player for Hairspray at the Luxor, Storm at Mandalay Bay, and, most recently, for Hats! at Harrah's. Please keep Adrian's family in your thoughts and prayers as we miss him in our musical community and sadly mourn his passing.
Services for Adrian Garcia were held yesterday (Thursday, June 12th) at 1 p.m. at the Remnant Ministries Christian Fellowship, 325 East Windmill Road, just west of Bermuda.
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Cousin Claire was delighted to get a call on Wednesday from the talented and personable Larry Raben. Raben was calling from St. Louis, where both he and the equally talented and personable Lee Roy Reams (both gentlemen were principals in The Producers at Paris Las Vegas) are in rehearsals for the very same Mel Brooks' musical romp, opening at the 90-year-old Muny on June 16th. Lee Roy will once again portray the flamboyant Roger DeBris, while Larry, who played Leo Bloom in the Vegas production, will take on the role of Carmen Ghia, played here by Rich Affannato (and for six months during its Broadway run by Star Search alum/winner, Sam Harris). The Producers will be at the nation's oldest and largest outdoor theatre through June 22nd. In addition to Raben and Reams, the Muny cast is made up of Lewis J. Stadlen as Max Bialystock (portrayed at different times in the Vegas production by both Brad Oscar and Tony Danza), Don Stephenson as Leo Bloom, Anthony "Tony" Cummings (son of the late actor, Bob Cummings) as Franz Liebkind (played here by Bill Nolte), and Angie Schworer as Ulla (played in Las Vegas by Leigh Zimmerman). For those that never saw the film or the play, the storyline goes like this...When brash Max Bialystock and his shy accountant, Leo Bloom, realize that they can make more money with a Broadway flop than with a hit, they set out to produce the worst play in theatrical history. It's brazen and bawdy, sweet and spirited. It's musical and funny. What's not to love? The production of The Producers will be followed by Disney's High School Musical (June 23rd through July 2nd), My Fair Lady (July 7th through 13th), 90 Years of Muny Magic (July 14th through 20th), Miss Saigon (July 21st through 27th), My One & Only (July 28th through August 3rd) and Fiddler On the Roof (August 4th through 10th). If you are in the St. Louis area, call (314) 534-1111 or (800) 293-5949 for more information and/or to purchase tickets.
And speaking of Tony Danza, he is in New York and back at Feinstein's at Loews Regency through tomorrow (June 14th). Calling his new show I Could Have Danced All Night, the revue features his usual mix of music, comedy and dance, and includes songs like Dancing in the Dark, Let's Face the Music and Dance, The Last Dance, and At the Hop. Sounds very much like the one-man show that Lee Roy Reams did here last August as part of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada's Brown Bag Concert series. Reams called HIS show Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance (in which he did both...sing and dance). We think Mr. Danza may have been in the audience that afternoon. Perhaps he was inspired/influenced by the veteran Broadway performers' idea, hmmm?
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For you fans of the Las Vegas Tenors, we would like to take a moment to correct some misinformation printed elsewhere. Mark Giovi, the principal singer in Bite at the Stratosphere, and one of the Tenor's founding members and singers (until about a month ago) - Bill Fayne, Bobby Black and Teddy Davey are the other three - would like it to be known that he would have been more than happy to join and help out his former music mates for their June 1st engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton. Mark recently left the popular group, citing some differences in opinion regarding business decisions. Chris Coyle, from the Tropicana's Folies Berger, was brought in to fill the empty spot created by Mark's absence. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. The day before the group's last Hilton engagement, Teddy suffered a serious gallbladder attack and had to be hospitalized, leaving the Tenors with only two original members, plus Coyle, to carry on. Since the Tenors already had some dates scheduled at the time of the breakup (the June Hilton engagement and a weekend in July at the Suncoast), Giovi offered to perform with the fellows for those bookings. He was never contacted and his genuine offer to help was not accepted. We don't know who will be singing with the Tenors on the stage at the Suncoast come July 4th weekend. Stay tuned.
Fear not, Mark Giovi fans. The talented singer is not sitting around with nothing to do. In addition to his ongoing role in Bite (he has been in the revue for three-and-a-half years), Mark has other things going on, including his own one-man show (we will have details on an upcoming August engagement soon). In October, Giovi and the Bite cast spent six-weeks performing the show in Greece. Last weekend (June 6th through 8th), Mark was part of the entertainment lineup for the 2nd Annual Italian Feast of Santa Clarita, held in Valencia, California (that‘s Magic Mountain territory). This event, highlighting entertainment, Italian culture, music, rides, a kids corner and food, is put on by the same folks who present the Los Angeles San Gennaro Festival. In addition to his solo spots in the Santa Clarita's Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows, Giovi joined his friend and fellow performer, Joey Gian (who was also entertaining at the Italian Feast), for a few duets, including Sweet Home Chicago and Mack the Knife. Gian, by the way, lived and worked in Las Vegas for about a year, singing primarily at an Italian bistro on the far south end of the Strip, and in the lounge at the Stardust. After becoming a Star Search finalist in the mid-1980s, Joey went on to recurring roles on TV's Knots Landing (where his love interest was played by Desperate Housewife, Nicollette Sheridan), Beverly Hills 90210, and Steven Bochco's Hooperman (starring the late John Ritter). Gian has also appeared in a number of films, including Return To Me, starring David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Helen Hunt and Carroll O'Connor (in his last film). Joey also wrote and performed some of the music in the movie, including What If I Loved You, which in recent years has become a popular wedding song.
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Here are some Tropicana Topics...Felice Garcia has joined the cast of the legendary Folies Bergere as the new principal female singer. Felice has been performing in talent shows, musicals, plays, pageants, civic events and other miscellaneous functions, since she was nine. A native of Carlsbad, California, Felice attended high school in Reno and spent a year living abroad in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Some of her accomplishments include winning the "Reno Idol" competition, a local version of American Idol, in 2004. She was also the first runner up for Miss Reno/Sparks, Nevada in 2005. Felice moved to Las Vegas three years ago, and is currently attending UNLV, where she is a senior majoring in Vocal Performance. Her role models include Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes, Dolly Parton, and Aretha Franklin, just to name a few. Folies Bergere is performed at 7:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the show is performed at 8:30 p.m. Shows are topless and restricted to guests 16 and older, except the 7:30 p.m. shows on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Folies Bergere is dark Sundays. Tickets are $35, plus tax and surcharge, for table seating and $45, plus tax and surcharge, for booth seating, and can be purchased through the Tropicana Box Office at (702) 739-2411.
The award-winning jazz-rock band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, will perform a one-night-only concert, Saturday, June 28th at 8 p.m. in the Tropicana's Tiffany Theatre. Celebrating 40 years of touring the country, Blood, Sweat & Tears will present some of their greatest hits, including Spinning Wheel, And When I Die, and You've Made Me So Very Happy. BS&T was the first musical group to have three hit singles from the same album, and the first band to combine rock with jazz. They earned multiple gold albums and Grammy Awards, including the most prestigious of them all, Album of The Year. Though there have been many changes in the bands line-up over the years (most notably the departure of lead vocalist David Clayton Thomas), Blood, Sweat & Tears continues its tradition of finding and showcasing the brightest talent around the world. The band's appearance at the Tropicana will include the band's founder, Steve Katz. Tickets for Blood, Sweat & Tears are $42.50 for table seating and $53.50 for booth seating, including tax and service charge. The Tropicana is also offering a special room and show package for Blood, Sweat & Tears. The package includes two night accommodations (June 27th and 28th), plus two tickets to the June 28th performance. The cost is $114.50 per person, and is based on double occupancy. Taxes, gratuities and surcharges are not included. Call the Tropicana box office at (702) 739-2411 or log onto www.tropicanalv.com to buy regular tickets. To purchase the special package, call 1-800-462-8767 and mention promotion code IEMBST8, or visit the Web site.
And speaking of the Tropicana, their Public Relations Director, Lisa Keim-Carr, departs the hotel after almost eight years in that position. Lisa, who was also a PR person at the Desert Inn and a Senior Specialist at The Firm, will become the city of Henderson's Marketing and PR Supervisor for the Cultural Arts and Tourism Department beginning on June 16th. Good going, Lisa!
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Last Friday (June 6th) saw our Phavorite Phantom, Brent Barrett, taking his final bow as the star of The Venetian's Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular. It was an emotional experience, with many fans throwing roses on the stage. Kristi Holden (playing Christine that night) gave a tearful speech and Brent was presented with floral bouquets. Barrett has been sharing the starring role with Anthony Crivello since the Andrew Lloyd Webber award-winner opened in June of 2006. Other changes are taking place within the Phantom cast. Kristen Hertzenberg, who also plays Christine in Phantom, is on maternity leave as she awaits the birth of her first baby.
Some other major show changes are happening now and over the next couple of months. There will be two show closings in July...Monty Python's Spamalot will depart Wynn Las Vegas on the 13th, after a 16-month run, while Hats!, which opened in January, will end its Harrah's engagement on the 10th. Apparently, like the Elvis he portrays in The Dream King, Trent Carlini has left the building...that would be the Sahara Hotel where his show has been playing since early last year. The Beatles tribute show, Fab Four Mania, which seemed to be doing well at Planet Hollywood's V Theater, is also out of the Sahara after six months. The Second City troupe, at the Flamingo since 2001, is also disappearing from that venue (no new Las Vegas plans have been announced). Then there is the Society of Seven and Toni Braxton Revealed, also gone from the Flamingo in recent weeks. The Paris theater has been empty since The Producers closed four months ago. We don't know what to make of all of this. Is it the poor economy? Is it the venue? Is it lack of creative, ongoing marketing? Or is it just lack of interest by the ticket buying public? It's hard to say. Anyway, if you want to see Hats! before it ends, we suggest contacting Harrah's for the schedule as they seem to be making changes by the minute (for example, the Sunday matinees have ended). Call (800) 392-9002.
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And speaking of Broadway musicals, we wouldn't be surprised to see Patti LuPone, last in Las Vegas for an engagement at the Suncoast in November, take home the Tony Award for her role as Mama Rose in the revival of Gypsy. The Antoinette Perry "Tony" Award is one of the most coveted in the entertainment industry, and the annual telecast is considered one of the most prestigious programs on television and, usually, one of the most entertaining of all the award shows. Tony Awards are bestowed annually on theatre professionals for distinguished achievement. Hosted this year by Whoopi Goldberg, the show airs on CBS, Sunday night beginning at 8 p.m. (ET/PT time delay). This year's version, the 82nd, should be an exceptionally good one, as numbers from 13 musicals will be presented. In addition to the special performances by the Tony-winning musicals Rent and The Lion King, for the first time ever, Sunday night's show, broadcast from Radio City Music Hall, will feature performances by each of this season's Broadway musicals. Along with the nominated musicals Cry-Baby, Grease, Gypsy, In the Heights, Passing Strange, South Pacific, Sunday in the Park with George and Xanadu, this year's telecast will also include live performances by A Catered Affair, The Little Mermaid and Young Frankenstein casts.
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Ribbon of Life
Tomorrow and Sunday (June 14th and 15th), Golden Rainbow presents its annual Ribbon of Life spectacular. Now in its 22nd year, the community's No. 1 fundraiser assists those Southern Nevadans with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS. The revue will take place in the 1,500-seat Le Theatre Des Arts at Paris Las Vegas. Hundreds of Strip and off-Strip production performers gather together to put on a show that, in the last few years, has raised approximately $250,000 in one weekend in June. Golden Rainbow was the creation of the late Peter Todd and Bree Burgess. Their young and middle-age friends and Bally's co-workers were dying from this "new disease." Many were unable to work and found themselves with no medical coverage, no income and, many times, no home. What to do? What entertainers do best...put on a show to raise money to help, with housing, food and educating the public about this plague. The first show took place in the showroom at Bally's. Since then, many hotels have played host to the fundraiser. Show numbers in this weekend's 2008 Ribbon of Life include, from the "Hollywood" segment, Muppet Mania, The Surreal, Hollywood's Not America, The Bare Necessities and Disney Salutes the Oscars. From the "Heartland" portion, look for Hero, Amazing Grace, Devil Went Down to Georgia, Classic Rock, Struggles in the Heartland, Believe and The Victory is Ours. The "Broadway" section includes Rhythm Remix, You Gotta Get A Cirque Show, Gay or European?, Home, All I Ask Of You, Bend and Snap!, A Tribute to Bob Fosse and You Can't Stop the Beat. Among the performers contributing their time and talent, cast members from Cirque du Soleil‘s Ka and O, Fantasy, Folies Bergere, Jubilee!, La Cage, Le Reve, Mamma Mia!, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, Spamalot, Tony ‘n Tina's Wedding, and The World's Greatest Magic Show. Also participating, The Hot Flash Hoofers of Vancouver, MGM Grand Productions, Missy Cochran Entertainment, Searcy Entertainment Inc., Studio 54, Tony & Lloyd, and children of many of the entertainers. Spamalot's leading man, John O'Hurley, will also appear. Tickets for Ribbon of Life range in price from $35 to $200. Call (702) 384-2899 to purchase or go to http://www.goldenrainbow.org
Golden Rainbow Ribbon of Life photo courtesy of Las Vegas CityLife.
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Without Las Vegas talent, the recent rash of TV reality shows would be a whole lot duller. We are probably (inadvertently) leaving out some names, but here are some of the shows that featured acts based in Vegas...American Idol - Mikalah Gordon; America's Got Talent - Kevin James and assistant Antonio Hoyos, Nathan Burton; Phenomenon - Gerry McCambridge; The Next Best Thing - Trent Carlini, Sebastian Anzaldo, Sharon Owens; Dancing With the Stars - Wayne Newton, and dancing "pros," siblings Julianne and Derek Hough who both have some Las Vegas history). The latest hometown entry is Third Town, a Vegas-based country "boy band" currently competing on NBC's Nashville Star. If they don't start here, chances are many of the competitors will wind up on a stage, somewhere in Las Vegas...like last season's America's Got Talent winner, Terry Fator, who performs once a month at the Las Vegas Hilton.
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Once again, entertainer Nelson Sardelli gathers some of his talented and generous friends together for a trip to the Nevada Veterans Home in Boulder City where they will brighten the day of those who have nobly served their country. This will be the third year for what is fast becoming a Father's Day tradition. Some of the performers and musicians who have volunteered their talent for the occasion are Bill Acosta, Gary Allen, Linda Angeline (as Marilyn Monroe), Peter Anthony, Chuck N. Baker, Pete Barbutti, Michaelina Bellamy, Jeanne Brei, Charlie Callas, Paul Campanella, Kelly Clinton, George Dare, Tommy Deering, Robert S. Ensler, Vincent Falcone, Frank Grata (as Rodney Dangerfield), Clint Holmes, Teddy Kaye, Chaz La Forte, Las Vegas Tenors, Nik Mastrangelo, Mundane the Great (also known as Jac Hayden), Gary Olds Trio, Carme Pitrello (if he is not at sea), Dr. George Ritter, Ronnie Rose, Sammy Shore, Felix Silla (Cousin Itt of TV's The Addams Family), Senatorial Candidate Lou Toomin, Allen Tramont, Roy Willie (as Willie Nelson), and Sardelli who will serve as MC for the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. variety show. In addition, Mr. Sardelli indicates that he hopes to hear from Linda Darnell, Deanna Durbin, Sabu, Mor Paul (Les Paul's brother), Maria Ouspenscaya and Lamont Cranston (only The Shadow knows if he will make an appearance), regarding their availability to participate in this worthwhile event. (It is Cousin Claire's suggestion that Sardelli not count on any of these folks to show up...although we think they would, if they could.)
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A little more on More & Gendel. You remember these two...they were rained out of a scheduled outdoor gig at Barley's Casino in Henderson. The musical duo has been asked to lead the way to the all new Ladies Night at the Las Vegas Hilton. As of now, these events will take place in the Hilton's Tempo Lounge, on Tuesdays, from 6 to 10 p.m., through July 8th. There is no cover and no drink minimum, and ladies drink FREE between 6 and 9 p.m.! Gentlemen playing Blackjack in the Tempo Lounge on those nights, also drink for free.
Drawings for cash and prizes will take place at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Check out Llynda More and Mark Gendel, Tuesdays at the Hilton.
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Involving one of the most unusual plots for a musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, opens at the 160-seat West Side Theater located inside the Family Music Center at 8125 W. Sahara, tomorrow (June 14th). It will continue with 9 p.m. shows on Saturdays, June 21st, 28th and July 5th. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. The book is by John Cameron Mitchell, and the music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask. Hedwig premiered in 1998 and has been performed throughout the world in hundreds of stage productions. It has gathered a devoted cult following, similar to that of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Featuring songs such as Tear me Down, Nailed, Origin of Love, Random Number Generation and Wicked Little Town. Part rock concert, part theater, this hard hitting show, takes audience members on a whirlwind ride, with music reminiscent of David Bowie, Queen, Elton John, Nirvana, and The Beatles. Hedwig will be played by Troy Adams, Yitzhak by Betsy Holm, and Tommy by Cesar Chacon. A four-piece band is also an integral part of the show. A few years ago, Cousin Claire saw a production of Hedwig, put on by the now defunct, award-winning Nevada Theatre Company and directed by David Tapper. Blue Man Group and Second City cast member, Marcus Weiss, played Hedwig and was, well, brilliant! His was probably one of the best community theater performances we have seen in our more than 30 years in this city. If Colabo (the producers) can come close to the quality production we saw out at The Lakes, and if you are open to something very different, we would recommend seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch. For tickets and additional information, call (702) 942-7358 or go to COLABO.BIZ on the Internet.
Keely Smith & Tommy Tune
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The 2008 Super Summer Theatre is currently presenting Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. The story will transport audience members to a lovely French provincial town where the beautiful Belle lives with her father - a dotty inventor. When her father doesn't return home from a trip to the local fair, Belle rushes off to find him. To her dismay, she discovers he is being held captive in an old castle by a horrible beast. She trades her freedom for his and the "tale as old as time" begins. How Belle tames the unfortunate Beast, and his ultimate transformation into a handsome prince, continues to enthrall audiences on Broadway nightly. Guests are encouraged to bring a blanket or chair (chairs may also be rented at the park) in general-admission grass seating, share a picnic dinner, and indulge in treats from the concession stand and enjoy the outdoors before settling in under the stars for some super theatre. Guests are also urged to bring jackets since, believe it or not, once the sun goes down (which it does) it can get quite chilly at the ranch, even in June, July and August. Nestled in the heart of Red Rock Canyon, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and Super Summer Theatre provide theatergoers with a special evening of relaxation, enjoyment and family-friendly entertainment. Now in its 33rd season, Super Summer Theatre is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing affordable, high quality productions to the people of Southern Nevada. The ranch is located 10 miles west of 215 on Charleston. Performances of Beauty and the Beast are Wednesdays though Saturdays, and wind up on June 21st. Gates open at 6 p.m., with show starting at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10 at the UNLV Box Office, Prestige Travel at Lake Mead and Rampart, or online at unlvtickets.com. A limited number of tickets are available at the gate the night of the show for $15. Disney's Beauty and the Beast is produced by P.S. Productions. Additional shows and events this summer include performances of 1776 and Aida. The season continues in September with the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance theatre and ends that same month with Jazz Fest. For more information (and better directions), call (702) 594-PLAY.
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While watching a TV commercial for the new Get Smart movie, we think we heard Vegas lounge legend Keely Smith singing Sunny Side of the Street in the clip. The Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway-starring film (based on the 1960s TV series starring Don Adams as Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99) could gain the 76-year-old Smith a new generation of fans. In recent years, Keely has received excellent reviews for performances at Café Carlyle and Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York. Maybe it's time to bring Keely Smith back to the city where she first found fame with Louie Prima, Las Vegas.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye