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 January 09, 2009
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - January 9, 2009
Railroad Pass Hotel Casino (12/17/2008)
For those who feel that Claire Voyant delights in flushing out and exposing the rats in the entertainment business, she doesn't. She would be delighted if musicians, actors and other performers did not have to deal with these liars, cheaters and con artists. We don't even feel this is OUR job, but SOMEONE has to do it. Certain folks need to come with Warning Labels. Publications such as Backstage, Variety and the locally run Callback (or whatever it is known as today) should feel an obligation to alert their readers (primarily those in show business) of land mines in their paths to fame. Apparently they don't, so we will continue to name names of the rotten apples and/or phonies (like, in alphabetical order, "Troy Adams" of COLABO.BIZ, Jerry Allen, Regina Edwards and Robyn Spencer, for example) in our midst. To these folks we say...Get out of here. Get lost. Or get honest Stop preying on the innocent, vulnerable talented artists in the business called Show. If you don't, you can expect to find your names here again and again. And, by the way, we would much rather use our space to promote and inform readers about GOOD, caring people, and the fine, and often overlooked, wonderful talent offerings available in Las Vegas (and New York, and San Francisco, and Chicago, and Los Angeles and elsewhere. By the way, if these snakes make things right and/or change their MO (Method of Operation), we will happily give credit where it is due.
Then there is the other kind of story, the kind that we prefer to print, like this one...
For those that view Las Vegas as a city without a heart and soul, here is something to prove otherwise (there are eight million stories in...oops, wrong show). Many people pass by the Railroad Pass Hotel & Casino at 2800 S. Boulder Highway while on their way to or from Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, traveling between Vegas and Boulder City, or heading off the highway to Laughlin, without giving the property much thought. Well, here's something to think about the next time you spot the Railroad Pass sign in the hills of Henderson. The day (and night) of Southern Nevada's "Big Snow of 2008" (December 17, to be exact) the Railroad Pass served as a haven, a Safe House if you will, for travelers who became stranded in the vicinity. Whether it was due to the icy roads or stalled vehicles, many people unexpectedly found themselves inside the Railroad Pass. The hotel/casino, owned by MGM Mirage, proved to be a godsend for those people. Couples, families, individuals, and even a few four-legged furry creatures, all became welcome guests at the Railroad Pass. Longtime hotel man, Curt Thompson, who serves as the property's Director of Operations, calls it "a night to remember." Thompson, who has been a Southern Nevadan since the late 1960s, tells us they had a packed house, with every square foot occupied by a stranded motorist. All of the hotel rooms were filled, and restaurant booths were used as makeshift beds (the domestic animals and their owners were given a separate space to sleep). Thanks to very unusual, for Southern Nevada, weather conditions, hotel employees were unable to come to, or leave from, their workplace. With the roads closed, and traffic between Vegas and Boulder City literally at a standstill, many of the hotel and casino workers were stuck (and we mean that only in a descriptive way) at the property for 28 hours. Yet everyone managed to make the best of an unplanned situation. And if you think it never snows in the desert, the double tanker Chevron truck, shown in the accompanying photo, was stuck in the entrance to the Railroad Pass' in something white and cold that looked and felt an awful lot like snow. We have to wonder why this rescue/good Samaritan story never made it into our daily newspaper.
A bit of history about the above mentioned property - Established in 1931, the Railroad Pass holds the oldest acting gaming license in Southern Nevada. During the years, 1931 to 1935, that Boulder Dam (now called Hoover Dam) was being built, the brand new Railroad Pass was the place for the workers to go - for food, gambling, and even to get paid (their salaries were kept in a still in existence safe at the property). There was even a bordello on site. What there wasn't, was a liquor license (so you had to get drunk elsewhere). Today, things have changed considerably (liquor is legal and available, the ladies of the night are not). The hotel has 120 rooms and suites, with rates starting at a more than reasonable $39 a night. There are three restaurants, the Box Car Buffet, the 24-hour Iron Rail Cafï¿½, and the Conductor's Room, serving dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. There is also a lounge offering a variety of musical entertainment. On Tuesday evenings, personable DJ Larry Taylor continues to host Ballroom Dancing at the Railroad Pass. From 6 to 10, for $10 per person, guests can show off their dancing skills (lessons are available from 6 to 7) and cool off with one included beverage. Call (702) 294-5000 or (800) 654-0877 for additional information or room reservations.
And speaking our daily newspaper, anyone beside us notice the diminishing size of the Las Vegas Review-Journal? We are not referring to the dimensions of the pages, we are talking about the number of pages. Many of the things we used to look forward to, like Carol Cling's Shooting Stars, the Image magazine, and some other special features, have all but disappeared. We were unhappy when the comic pages bumped the lovable loser, Tom Wilson's Ziggy, to put in the one-square, unfunny and often unreadable, Argyle Sweater (what were they thinking???). They still tout themselves as "Nevada's Largest Newspaper" (it probably still is) but, in spite of the dwindling content, the R-J has seen fit to raise the price of the weekday editions to 75 cents. These days, Nevada's Largest Newspaper might better be described as R-J Lite. When the Jumble puzzle disappears, we will stop reading that paper altogether.
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Okay, you music lovers (and we know a lot of our readers are), here is a new book that you might want to add to your collection. It's called Between the Sheets...and, no, it isn't a "how to" book. Although the teaser advertises, "Get someone you love Between the Sheets," the sheets being referred to are not bed linens, but sheets of music. Subtitled "The Stories Behind My Songs," the author is Jack Lawrence. You say you don't know the music of Jack Lawrence? We'll bet you do. He is the man who wrote, among hundreds of other songs, Tenderly, the English lyrics to Beyond the Sea, Hold My Hand (sung by Don Cornell in the 1954 film, Susan Slept Here, starring Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds), All Or Nothing At All, If I Didn't Care (the first major hit for The Ink Spots and also recorded by The Mills Brothers), and I Had a Ball (from the musical of the same name, that starred Richard Kiley, Karen Morrow and Buddy Hackett). This is Mr. Lawrence's second book, the first one being They All Sang My Songs. And they all DID sing his songs), from Dinah Shore, Pearl Bailey, Kay Starr, the Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney and Diana Krall, to Pat Boone, Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine, Fats Domino, Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra. Instrumental versions of Jack's songs were done by Glenn Miller, Al Hirt, Count Basie and Lawrence Welk, and Jack Lawrence creations were featured in both Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan. We read the songwriter's first book, published in 2004, and found it to be very revealing, both about Mr. Lawrence's life and the people he knew and associated with (many folks will find the segment on Buddy Hackett especially interesting). The soft cover, large format (dimensions 8.5" x 11") Between the Sheets contains 240 pages, many of them featuring color and black and white photos, the lyrics to 56 of Mr. Lawrence's songs, as well as a sheet music section of 20 songs written by the author. The new book is available for $29. 95, plus shipping and handling. While supplies last, with each book purchased, buyers will also get They All Sang My Songs, Volume 2, a compilation CD of 24 original recordings, with songs written by Jack Lawrence and performed by the artists that made them famous. Published by Jarick Productions PO Box 1002, Georgetown, CT 06829-1002 USA. Order form can be found at www.jacklawrencesongwriter.com.
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Roslyn Kind & Neil Sedaka
Yesterday morning, regular Claire Voyant reader, Grant Philipo, flew to New York City so he could be there today (January 9th) for the "Big Extravaganza Opening" of the Liz Renay Retrospective at Deitch Projects, 76 Grand Street (in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan). The exhibition, called Liz Renay - How To Attract Men, will run through January 31st. Deitch gallery hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. (for today's opening, hours are 6 to 9 p.m.). We will have more about this exhibit, and Liz Renay next Friday. For more information about the Deitch Projects showing, call (212) 343-7300. In conjunction with the exhibit, on Sunday, January 11th, at Santos Party House (100 Lafayette Street & Walker) Deitch Projects and the Burlesque Hall of Fame present I Love Me!, a tribute show to the beautiful artist Liz Renay. The show is produced by Julie Atlas Muz and the World Famous *Bob*, starring Dirty Martini, Jo Boobs, Paula the Swedish Housewife, Bambi, Bunny Love, Dr. Lukki, Little Brooklyn. There will be an installation by Sequinette and musical selections by Scott Ewalt. Doors open at 8 p.m., show is at 9 p.m. and a Liz Look-A-Like contest will begin at 10. The cost is $5 admission.
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The Unforgettable Natalie Cole headlines at the Star of the Desert Arena at the Primm Valley Resorts next Friday, January 16th. Tickets to see the eight time Grammy Award winning performer range from $38.45 to $60.45. Primm is located on the California/Nevada border, about 40 miles from downtown Las Vegas. Call the box office at (702) 382-4388 or (702) 382-1212, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The box office is closed on Sundays and Mondays, except on event days.
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In November, Roslyn Kind, performed two weekend shows in The Club at the Cannery in North Las Vegas. On New Year's Eve, the talented and gracious entertainer performed for the party crowd at the Catalina Bar & Grill Jazz Club on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. To the delight of the audience, Roslyn's longtime friend, composer and performer Neil Sedaka, who was in the audience, joined her on stage and in a song or two. The twosome were so well received, "we hope to see them on stage together in the future," says her agent, Jackie Stander. And speaking of Ms. Kind, she celebrates her birthday today (January 9th). We join her friends and fans in wishing her a happy, healthy and busy year. (Thanks to Ms. Stander for both the accompanying photo and the head's up on the birth date.)
Tony Martin & Cyd Charisse
And speaking of Ms. Stander, she reports that she has Mitzi Gaynor's new show, Razzle Dazzle! My Life Behind the Sequins, celebrating its world premiere tomorrow (January 10th) at San Francisco's Herbst Theater. Fresh on the heels of attracting a new generation of fans with her acclaimed PBS musical documentary, Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years, a nationwide tour is being launched, with announced stops at the Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, California, on March 22nd, the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California on March 23rd, and the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on April 8th. Additional cities will be announced shortly, hopefully one of those cities being Las Vegas.
Mitzi will bring her incomparable brand of showmanship back to the stage in this new theatrical production, a glittering multimedia, one woman tour-de-force of music and memories from her show-stopping life and career. Razzle Dazzle! My Life Behind the Sequins reunites the Golden Globe nominee with the original creative team behind her acclaimed television specials and concert performances - world renowned fashion icon, Bob Mackie, director/choreographer Tony Charmoli and musical arrangers Dick DeBenedictis and Bill Dyer. For the first time, Mitzi shares personal stories, moving reminiscences and behind-the-scenes anecdotes from her life and remarkable show business career, including those of starring in such classic motion pictures as There's No Business Like Show Business, Les Girls, The Joker is Wild, and the making of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific. Along with a seven-piece orchestra led by musical director/pianist Ed Czach, Mitzi will perform a virtual songfest of signature musical hits from her film, television and nightclub catalog. The performer will reprise one of her fondly remembered television and nightclub characterizations, "The Hipsy-Pipsy Gypsy", in addition to performing a diverse slate of song selections from John Kander and Fred Ebb, Leon Redbone, Irving Berlin and Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Mitzi will also present new material from the recent Tony-winning Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone - all set to brand-new staging and choreography by Mr. Charmoli. This new production, scripted by Ms. Gaynor and conceived and constructed by producers Rene Reyes and Shane Rosamonda, will also feature video footage culled from her television, concert and film work in an all new up-to-date setting. Stander & Associates also has Tony Martin in San Francisco this weekend. The 96-year-old (his birthday is on Christmas) Oakland-native performs at 7 p.m. tonight and again tomorrow in the Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St. Tickets are $50. For reservations call (866) 468-3399.
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Tony-winning composer, musical director, vocal arranger and musician Don Pippin is so enthusiastic about a new musical work he recently previewed, he is sponsoring a public performance at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 12th. The show, called Midnight Madness, is a modern day musical fable is based on William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. (We might note that a number of very successful Broadway productions - Kiss Me Kate, The Boys From Syracuse and West Side Story - were inspired by the Bard.) Put on by the New Jersey Youth Theatre, the 45-minute presentation will be performed at The Lambs Club at 3 West 51st Street in New York. For reservations, call (908) 233-3200. Seating is limited, so act quickly. The New Jersey Youth Theatre is one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed non-profit, youth theatre companies in the country. They produce professional-level theatrical productions, musicals and plays, comprised primarily of aspiring young talent, presented in premiere venues across the state. Founded in 1991, NJYT, formerly Westfield Young Artists' Cooperative Theatre (WYACT), has produced more than 32 main-stage productions. The summer programs alone have served more than 70,000 patrons from New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and more than 1,100 talented young performers from the State of New Jersey. Under the direction of Artistic and Stage Director, Cynthia Meryl (a thirty year veteran of Broadway, theater and television), and a select team of theater-arts professionals, NJYT provides young (eight to 18), aspiring performing artists the highest quality, theatre-arts training in drama, musical theater, voice, tap, ballet, jazz and performance experience. The young artists, participate in an intensive rehearsal and performance process, learning both the artistic and technical standards, as well as the complexities of developing and performing Broadway-quality productions. Each summer, this free experience is offered to approximately 75 to 100 of New Jersey's most talented young performers, musicians and technicians who aspire to enter the professional arena. Many New Jersey Youth Theatre alumni have gone on to successful Broadway, regional theatre, film and television careers. To participate in the summer production program, young performers and musicians must go through a highly competitive audition process. The auditions, open statewide, are held in March/April each year at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). Among the musicals that NJYT has produced since 1998 are, Carousel, 1776, Ragtime, Guys and Dolls, Anything Goes, West Side Story, South Pacific, Once On This Island, Brigadoon, and Oliver!
And speaking of talented young people and top-notch performances...Las Vegas has its very own award-winning teaching institute for young people, it's the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing & Visual Arts, located in downtown Vegas. In recent years, the Academy has put on amazingly professional productions of Cats, Miss Saigon, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sweeney Todd, The Elephant Man, Beauty & The Beast and Little Women, often being the first high school in the country to be given permission to do so. Coming up in the next few months are productions of The Wiz, You Can't Take It With You and Bang, Bang You're Dead. For more information on The Academy, call (702) 799-7800.
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Don Novello, Victoria Jackson & Joe Piscopo
Could NBC's Today show weatherman/anchor, Al Roker, be reading Claire Voyant (we know that some Today show employees do)? How else would the New Yorker know about Las Vegas' Hash House a Go Go? Roker, who was in Vegas this week to cover the Consumer Electronics Show for Today, made a trip to the West Sahara restaurant where he and his producer, Jackie Olensky, had breakfast. You haven't had breakfast until you have had a Hash House breakfast. If the truth be known, Today show hosts and crew members have been at Hash House during previous visits to the city. Obviously, these folks know a good thing when they taste it. So do Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw, Martha Stewart, and Bjork. 'N Sync's Joey Fatone, also dined at the unique establishment this week. The Vegas Hash House a Go Go is located at 6800 W. Sahara. Their phone number is (702) 804-4646. The only other Has House is in San Diego.
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Longtime Las Vegas musician, Gary Olds, heads off to the Delta Downs in Vinton, Louisiana, where he will play drums for one leg of the Saturday Night Live Reunion Tour. The Boyd Gaming property will play host to Joe Piscopo, Victoria Jackson, and Don Novello as "Father Guido Sarducci," when the veteran SNL performers take to the stage in the Delta Event Center tomorrow night.
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On his Monday night show, TV personality Craig Ferguson announced that he had just gotten married. Ever the prankster, we figured it was the setup for a joke. Apparently, it wasn't. Ferguson, who frequently appears in Vegas (Tropicana, The Orleans, MGM Grand), married Megan Wallace-Cunningham, an art dealer from Vermont in a ceremony at her parents farm..
Craig & Megan Wallace-Cunningham Ferguson
Rick, Brandon, Paul & George
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If we had had this information at the time, we would have provided it, so, it is with sincere apologies that we belatedly give photo credit to pro Don Cadette who took the Oh, What a Night! photo we used last Friday, and the Shades of Sinatra shot that we used a couple of weeks ago and have used a few times before that. Mr. Cadette has credits up the wazoo, in some movie roles, as a musician and as a photographer. In Hollywood, the Massachusetts-native was a drummer on Aaron Spelling's top TV series, The Love Boat, for 10 seasons. One day, Spelling asked Cadette if he had a camera with him. When he responded "yes," Cadette was launched on a new career. In Addition to Love Boat, Don became a photographer for Diagnosis Murder, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Murder She Wrote, Perry Mason Mysteries, The Dom DeLuise Show, 3rd Rock From the Sun and, for 10 seasons, The Roseanne Show. Over the years, Cadette has photographed the likes of Ann Miller, Della Reese, Van Johnson, Cab Calloway, Carol Channing, Ernest and Tova Borgnine, Red Buttons, George Burns, Hugh Hefner, Joan Collins, Michael Landon, Tony Curtis, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Lansbury, Gavin MacLeod, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Tom Selleck, Bruce Willis, Patrick Swayze, Dick Van Dyke, Whoopi Goldberg, Shelley Winters, Forrest Tucker, Gordon MacRae, Tammy Faye Bakker, Los Angeles Mayors Tom Bradley and Richard Riordan, Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and England's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Since moving to Las Vegas 10 years ago, Don has photographed many of the city's performers and also teaches seniors the joy of photography.
And if the name Cadette is familiar, but you are associating it with a lady, it could be because Don's wife, Jeannie Lyons Cadette, has lots of credits as a singer/dancer for 45 years - 1957's Pajama Game at the Riviera; Our Young Generation, working with Johnny Mathis for three years; The Establishment, opening for stars such as Don Knotts, Andy Griffith, Liberace, Woody Allen, Edie Adams and Jerry Van Dyke at Caesars Palace; and appearing with The Mills Brothers, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach, Anthony Newley, Mac Davis, Roger Miller, Henry Mancini, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Bassey, Roger Miller, Phyllis Diller, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Lennon Sisters and Frank Gorshin - still shows up on a stage every now and then. Her last gig was as part of the Encore Follies that played to a full house at the Winchester Cultural Center in Las Vegas. Jeannie also performs with the local Silver Belles. The Cadettes have resided in Las Vegas for 10 years.
And speaking of Oh, What a Night!, we enjoyed the show at the Suncoast very much. The only thing that Oh, What a Night! has in common with the blockbuster, Tony-winning Jersey Boys, is that both revolve around Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Whereas Jersey Boys (which in spite of the current frightening economic conditions, continues to do dandy business at The Palazzo) combines the group's music with the sometimes troubled rise to fame of the boys from Newark, Frankie, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, and Tommy DeVito (who makes his home in Las Vegas). In Oh, What a Night!, Brandon Albright, Rick Morgan, Paul Holmquist and George Solomon sing, dance and joke their way through the music made famous by the quartet from New Jersey.
The accompanying photo, taken during an Oh, What a Night! performance last weekend, is also the handiwork of Don Cadette.
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Greg, Kathy & Bill Walker
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We just learned of the January 4th death of entertainer Greg Walker. A member of The Walkers, we first saw Greg perform at the old Holiday Casino, where he and his siblings, Kathy Walker and Bill Walker, were a featured act in a number of Rocky Sennes productions. They were favorites of ours. Born in Chicago, Greg was raised in Pennsylvania, moving to New York City in the late 1960s to join a comedic harmonica band, the Harmonica Rascals. With that group, he performed around the world where he entertained U.S. troops on USO tours of Vietnam. He left the Rascals in 1971 to attend Ohio's Findlay College. In 1972, Greg teamed with his brother and sister to form The Walkers, a musical-comedy act featuring the trio doing celebrity impressions. The Walkers made their first Las Vegas appearance with The Mickey Finn Show at the Landmark Hotel in 1974. In 1977, Greg, Kathy and Bill Walker were signed by Sennes to star in his variety review at the Holiday Casino (now Harrah's). During their 11-year run there, the family act made repeated national television appearances on Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, the Joan Rivers Show, the Jerry Lewis Telethon, among them. The threesome appeared in Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace during 1988 and then went on to do convention shows across the country, and concert appearances in Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, Europe and Australia. They traveled the world together, doing their act on cruise ships in recent years. The Walkers' last long-running engagement was in Robbie Howard's Stars of The Strip at the Lady Luck Hotel. For the last five years, Greg entertained as Elvis in the Dealertainer Pit of the Imperial Palace. Greg, who was 57, is survived by his daughter, Brittany Walker, his parents, Dr. James H. and Shirley Walker; brother, Pastor Bill Walker (Stephanie Webb-Walker); sister, Kathy Walker-Koch (Dave Koch); niece, Savannah Reeves; and his ex-wife, Dina Powell. There will be a celebration of Greg's life at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 10th, at Trinity Life Center, 1000 E. St. Louis Ave. in Las Vegas. Our deepest sympathies to his family.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye