Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

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.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from February 06, 2009
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - February 6, 2009

Nelson Sardelli & Friend

David Engel as Roger DeBris

David Burnham

Once again, it's time for the F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) annual Valentine gathering. This year's event will take place next Friday, the 13th. Although Friday the 13th has long been associated with bad luck, the group's founding president (EVERYONE is a president in this group), Nelson Sardelli, promises there will be no snow on that day (the December get-together took place on the 17th, the day of the big Vegas snow). What makes this get-together different than most of the other F.I.O.R.E. non-club meetings? The ladies can attend. Equal opportunity meetings take place at Christmas time, Valentine's Day (or close to it), and on or around the non-clubs anniversary, with the ladies being presented roses and chocolates. (Those F.I.O.R.E. boys sure know how to treat a girl!) The Valentine's Day celebration will be held at the Italian American Club at 2333 E. Sahara. Doors will open at 6:31 p.m., the dinner buffet will be at 7:03, and the party will last until 10:32 (would we make this stuff up?). Dress is "elegant casual" (no tank tops or flip-flops, please). There will be live music, entertainment, dancing and lots of gifts. Cost is $30 per person. Widows of former presidents are the guests of F.I.O.R.E. If you would like to attend, please RSVP, at your earliest convenience, to [email protected] or [email protected].

The accompanying photo shows Mr. Sardelli (and friend) on their way to the Italian American Club.

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As of last Friday, there was still an outgoing message when calling the Caylix Jazz Supper Club on West Sahara, although our spies have told us that the place is empty and out of business. If, in fact, it is closed, we say good riddance to bad rubbish...the rubbish being the club's owner, Regina Edwards. In the approximately six months that Edwards ran the club (pretty much into the ground), she managed to leave people who made the mistake of thinking that she was honest, holding worthless checks or never bothered to pay them at all. Edwards was/is an equal opportunity scam artist, cheating both employees (specifically entertainers) and customers. In one case, Edwards agreed to replace the bum check that she gave a customer, only if said customer would sign a Paid in Full slip. Even though the customer WASN'T paid in full, she agreed to sign it in order to get SOME of her money back. If a restaurant doesn't have catsup or any greens to make a salad on hand, that should give a hint of what, and who, you are dealing with. Unfortunately, for some folks, the clues came too late. For those that think our public bashing of this woman helped close her up, we would like to think that were the case, and would be happy to take the credit. The truth of the matter is that it was Ms. Edwards poor business practices that really did her in. We have been told Regina Edwards is going into business in Atlanta. Citizens of Georgia, you have been warned.

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Musical Theatre West is presenting The Producers at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach through February 15th. There is at least one familiar face to Las Vegans in this Long Beach production. Larry Raben, who played Leo Bloom in the Vegas production of The Producers, re-creates the same role for Musical Theatre West. David Engel, portrays the flamboyant Roger DeBris (played for most of the Tony Award-winning show's local run by Lee Roy Reams). Michael Kostroff is Max Bialystock. If you are in the Southern California area, and want to see a fun-filled, music-filled romp, call (562) 856-1999 for show times and tickets. Use the code Cast 09 to purchase tickets for only $20.

And speaking of The Producers, it was Keith Thompson who conducted the orchestra during the show's run at Paris Las Vegas. Thompson, who is now the musical director and conductor for Jersey Boys at The Palazzo, has been sitting (and standing, and playing, and singing) in the Liberace Cabaret for the occasionally absent Philip Fortenberry (including Philip's two weeks at the Kennedy Center with the Andrew Lloyd Webber tribute concert). In addition to the February 10th and 11th dates mentioned here earlier, on Valentine's Day, Saturday the 14th, Fortenberry will be judging a piano competition, so Thompson will, once again, take over at that beautiful mirror-covered Baldwin. You can't go wrong seeing either one, or both, of these talented musicians at work. Show times are at 1 p.m. and tickets are $17.50. The Liberace Museum is located at 1775 E. Tropicana at Spencer.

Sympathies go out to singer/actor Bill Nolte (Franz Liebkind in The Producers, and currently touring in Fiddler on the Roof) on the loss of his mother.

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We were busy last weekend, enjoying a couple of dandy musical offerings. On Saturday night, we were at UNLV where we saw Defying Gravity - The Music of Stephen Schwartz as part of the New York Stage & Beyond series. The New York performers were Julia Murney, David Burnham, and Farah Alvin on vocals, and Mark Hartman on piano. Hartman was ably assisted by Las Vegas musicians, Joe Lano on guitar, Chris Davis on bass, and Joel Richman on drums. Gordon Greenberg directed the production. The cast performed Stephen Schwartz songs from musicals such as Pippin, Wicked, The Baker's Wife, The Magic Show, Pocahontas, Children of Eden, and Godspell, among others. The unfortunate thing is that there wasn't a bigger audience to see and enjoy all this talent. Whether it's the current economy or lack of recognizable names that are responsible for the small crowds in the 1832-seat Artemus Ham Concert Hall, we worry that it may cause the university to discontinue these great programs. That would be a shame.

Domenick Allen, Leigh Zimmerman & Cayleigh Capaldi

Bella Rumore

Frankie Laine

On Super Bowl Sunday night, it was The Las Vegas Tenors in the Suncoast Showroom. Vocals were provided by Bill Fayne, Teddy Davey and Bobby Black, with special guest, nine-year-old Cayleigh Capaldi performing Stephen Sondheim's Children Will Listen from Into the Woods. The singers were backed up by Jeff Neiman on piano (with Fayne and Domenick Allen taking over for some numbers), Davy Nathan on keyboards, Keith Nelson on bass, and Adam Shendal on drums. The gentlemen were enhanced by the ladies of Bella Rumore, with Lisa Viscuglia and Nina DiGregorio playing electric violins, Hanna Suk on viola, and Dena Perrico on cello. Kim De Libero accompanied on harp.

Capaldi family photo by Jeanne Bavaro

Here is an interesting (we think) fact. One of the songs performed by tenor Bill Fayne was Ervin Drake's beautiful I Believe. In 1953, that moving tune, sung by the late Frankie Laine, was No. 1 in the United Kingdom for 18 weeks. On Thanksgiving weekend of 2000, Laine, who was 86 at the time, sang that very song on the same stage at the Suncoast. Beginning in the late 1940s, Frankie Laine had performed in Las Vegas in every decade, with his last appearance at the end of 2000. Today, February 6th, it is exactly two years ago that Old Leather Lungs died at the age of 93.

And speaking of tenors Bill Fayne and Teddy Davey, the twosome will be performing live (which is much better than the alternative) this Monday, the 9th, at Summerlin's Mezza Lounge and Grill, 9460 Tropicana, west of Fort Apache. Calling the program Bill Fayne and Friends, Davey will be the featured guest performer. More than likely, there will be other interesting friends stopping by to sit in and play or sing a tune or two. From 6 to 9:30 p.m. you can have dinner, a drink, and enjoy the gang as they present music (great standards, jazz and perhaps even an aria) and the fun of Bill & Teddy's Wacky Adventure. For additional information, call 489-4493.

And speaking of classy/classical entertainment, the Clarion Synthesis in Concert, featuring D. Gause on clarinet and piano, and F. Gerard Errante on clarinet. Don't miss this exciting preview of their upcoming European tour, complete with two world premieres. The duo specializes in presenting a wide variety of textures generated from an artful combining of clarinets, keyboards, and electronics. This concert will contain unique and innovative works that will be presented in a relaxed, informal setting. The music is inventive and fresh and at the same time, appealing and accessible. The musical event takes place on Sunday, February 8th at 3 p.m. at Mountain View Presbyterian Church, 8603 Del Webb Boulevard (Sun City Summerlin). For further information, call (702) 341-7800. Although there is no set ticket price, a donation is graciously accepted (that's a hint, folks).

D. Gause & F. Gerard Errante

Wes Winters

Jimmy Wilkins

On February 15th, Wes Winters begins an open-ended Sunday afternoon gig at the upscale ENVY Steakhouse and Lounge in the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel, located at 3400 S. Paradise. Enjoy the piano stylings of Winters, who spent almost five years performing at the Liberace Museum, while partaking in a delightful champagne brunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The sophisticated and convenient, ENVY offers the perfect mix of upscale ambiance, comfort and, now, the music of Wes Winters. For more information, call (702) 784-5716.

Wes Winters photo by Mary Millard

And more music news...Tomorrow, from 2 to 5 p.m., the Las Vegas Jazz Society presents the Jimmy Wilkins Orchestra at the Black Label Tavern, 3550 S. Decatur Blvd. There is a $10 cover charge.

On Sunday, Liberace's Music in the Museum series presents a Classical Music Concert featuring the Mechta Trio. The museum hours on Sundays are from noon to 4 p.m. Shows are at 1:30 and 3 p.m. "Mechta" means dream in Russian, the language that brought the talented young ladies, who make up the Mechta Trio, together. They present striking and deeply emotional music written for this genre from all classical style periods in an exciting and moving interpretation. Maria (Masha) Pisarenko, who was born in Siberia, is a 2008 Liberace Piano Competition Finalist. She traveled to Moscow to compete in the first Tchaikovsky Youth Competition, and attended the Central Music School of Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory where she graduated in 1997. She later studied at the Russian Academy of Music where she earned her Bachelor/Master of Music degrees, and was a second place winner in the International Piano Competition held by the Frederick Chopin International Organization in Rome in 1996, and in the International Piano Competition in memory of Sviatoslav Richter Paris in 1997. Masha is currently working on her Master of Music Degree at UNLV, while actively performing and teaching. Dr. Laraine Kaizer-Viazovtsev was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1976. She earned her Bachelor, Master and Doctor of Music Degrees in violin performance from Bradley University in Peoria, where she studied with Marcia Henry. At Indiana University in Bloomington, she studied with Mauricio Fuks, and at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, with Kurt Sassmannshaus. In 2004, Laraine launched a visual arts career with her paintings (they can be viewed at Laraine is currently a violinist with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and a free lance 'strolling' violinist. Elena Kapustina graduated from the Belarus State Conservatory in 1989 with a diploma as Cellist, Chamber Music Performer, and Pedagogue. She is a former member of the opera-Philharmonic Society Orchestra of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and performed with the Plovdiv National Opera Theater Orchestra for 10 years, touring Europe, Asia, and the United States. Elena is currently a member of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra. She teaches cello and piano, and is a very valuable addition to the Youth Camerata Orchestra.

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If you want to share a wedding dinner with Tony n' Tina anytime soon, you won't be doing it at the Rio. After seven years at the Rio, beginning tonight, the interactive party moves into space at Planet Hollywood. Show times for Tony n' Tina's Wedding are Mondays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. Prices start at $89.99. For reservations, call (702) 785-5055.

Tony n' Tina's Wedding

Ritchie Valens

Menopause the Musical

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If you are of a certain age (mostly old), particular milestones remind you just how quickly time flies by. For example, it has been 50 years since three young musicians, Buddy Holly (Charles Hardin Holley), Ritchie Valens (born Richard Steven Valenzuela), and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson Jr.) died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa. Called "The Day the Music Died," February 3, 1959, ended the lives of a trio of rising stars of rock and roll. At the time of their deaths, Valens was only 17, Holly was 22, and The Big Bopper was 28.

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With not much time to spare, on Tuesday, we finally got over to the Hilton to see Menopause the Musical. The cast we saw (subject to change) consisted of Paige O'Hara as the Soap Star, Skye Dee Miles as the Professional Woman, Cheryl Spencer as Earth Mother, and Annette Verdolino as the Iowa Housewife. All played their roles excellently, and the audience (not surprisingly, mostly women), had a great time, even joining the performers on stage at the end of the show. If one can use the number of people in the cozy Shimmer Cabaret as a barometer, it sure didn't look like a worldwide, national, or even local, recession was in progress. On an early in the week night, one would expect a light crowd. That wasn't the case on Tuesday. It brings up the question...why is the show closing? It would be pretty fair to assume that most of the audience members would have had no other reason to be at the Hilton, if not to see this show. Who makes these decisions, anyway? The show will close its three year run on April 5th. If you are a woman who has, is, or will be, experiencing the joy of hot flashes, or a man living with one of those females, see Menopause. There is a possibility that the show will find another home in Las Vegas, but why take that chance. Call (702) 732-5755 for show times and reservations.

And speaking of decision makers, what are the Paris Las Vegas powers-that-be thinking by keeping their Le Theatre des Arts dark and empty? It has been a year since The Producers closed. We have no idea how many people the show played to on a nightly basis, but if it was only attracting 400 or 500 people a night, that was 400 or 500 more people who are spending time and money (on food, drink and gaming) at the place than there are these nights.

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TV's weekly Masters of Illusion continues to feature Las Vegas-connected magicians on the hour long reality show. On last Monday's show, Jeff McBride (last at Palace Station in Vegas), Kalin and Jinger (Mark Kalin and Jinger Leigh), and Amazing Johnathan, currently performing at the Harmon Theater at Krave, were among those featured.

And on the subject of illusionists and television, it is once again Magic Week (at least for four nights, anyway) on CBS's Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. With introductions provided by Neil Patrick Harris, Monday's show featured the Monte Carlo's Lance Burton; Tuesday's, Jason Randal; Wednesday's, Jason Hudy; and Thursday's, Ed Alonzo (The Geeky Guy with the Glasses, also known as The Misfit of Magic, who used to perform regularly in Las Vegas) sharing the hour with comic Garry Shandling. (Alonzo was also a guest on The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet on Thursday.) It has been some time since Shandling has been seen regularly on TV. Cousin Claire and Mr. Shandling have much in common. They were both born in Chicago and grew up in Tucson. They both had cystic fibrosis touch their family (Garry's older brother died from the disease). They both eventually moved to Southern California, although not together. They both write - Shandling, award-winning comedy material, and Cousin Claire, Letters to the Editor. And Gary Shandling had a successful TV series that ran from 1986 to 1990. Cousin Claire didn't.

And speaking of magic...The Mentalist (how does he do it???), Gerry McCambridge, will present his 700th Las Vegas show this Wednesday, February 11th. Performing in the Nite Owl Showroom at Hooters since June of 2007, McCambridge continues to mystify and entertain audiences six nights a week (7 p.m., every night but Friday). Even skeptics (including Cousin Claire) are amazed at what takes place in that off-Strip performance space. We highly recommend this reasonably priced show. For reservations, call (866) 584-6687. And on the subject of Hooters...Word is that The Pitbull of Comedy, Bobby Slayton, who currently shares the showroom with McCambridge, will depart the property in mid-March.

Ed Alonzo

Garry Shandling

Gerry McCambridge

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There is always something interesting going on at Neon Vegas. This weekend is no exception.
On First Friday (that's today), beginning at 7 p.m., volunteers will pose as mannequins, as well as doing their make-up to fit the part. They will carry signs stating why the arts are important to them. The Sketchofrenics Improv and Sketch Comedy troupe will perform at 8 p.m. The Neon Venus band plays at 8:45 p.m., followed by Sinco at 9:30 p.m. and Rubik's Hotel at 10:30 p.m. Guest visual artist, Brenna Curry, is someone with vision in multiple mediums. Brenna is presently displaying her very "standoutish" paintings that explode with vibrant colors and flow. These paintings are on metal, and range in size from 28×18 to 57×37. The artist resides in Phoenix where she got her inspiration for these works. There is also a photo exhibit, with works by Leyla Downes and Michelle Schissler. The public is invited to party at the Neon Vegas Art Theatre, 1404 S. 3rd St. at Imperial. A $1 donation is suggested.

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Las Vegas resident, comic/impressionist Babe Pier's brother, Roland "Rollie" Pier, was recently inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville. Also inducted at the same time were Gene Tunney, Larry Boardman, "Tiger" Ted Lowry, Bernie Reynolds and Lou Bogash Jr. Rollie, makes his home in New London, Connecticut, has been a school teacher, a coach for the semi-pro Vagabonds baseball team, a boxer and a boxing trainer. Pier admits that he wasn't the best fighter. What he was, was determined. His strength of mind as a trainer of pugilists such as Brian Macy, is part of what led to his recent induction into the Boxing Hall of Fame. Pier said that he felt the other inductees) were far above his abilities as a boxer. "I fought a lot of fights and lost most of them," he stated. "To be truthful, I'm kind of surprised that I was selected. I spent three quarters of my life doing this. I was never great, but I made myself go fight people all over." These days, Pier, 78, spends his time training the next wave of boxers, such as Beth Geary, at the Whaling City Boxing Club. Despite all that he's done, and the work he does in the community, Pier shies away from the spotlight. His wife, Yvette, who has been with him through it all, said the retired school teacher simply loves the sport of boxing. "He's very happy, he's very modest," she said. "He's not a windbag, like, 'I did this,' or 'I did that.' That's not him. I'm very proud. What he's done was not for pay. He did it voluntarily." Rollie's brother, Babe, who also has been known to punch the bag on occasion, was in Connecticut for the induction ceremony.

Bobby Slayton

"Rollie" Pier

Elton John

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Pick up a newspaper or tune into the news and you wind up worried about EVERYTHING! Gasoline and grocery prices are rising. Real estate is falling. You could get sick eating tomatoes or peanut butter...or is it cilantro or jalapenos? No one seems quite sure. High unemployment rates, poor and inadequate health care and, in our state (the state of confusion), a governor that is an embarrassment...on many counts. So what's the good news? One of our not-so-guilty pleasures, Hash House a Go Go's announcement that their favorite garnish, rosemary, an ingredient used in many of the unique restaurants' dishes, is actually GOOD FOR YOU. Wow! According to a recent USDA study, many popular herbs are a great source of natural antioxidants, beating out berries, fruits and vegetables. In fact, research shows that the seasoning rosemary can help prevent, not only cancer but also age-related skin damage. The report goes on to state that the two key ingredients in rosemary, caffeic and rosemarinic acids, are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that help protect the body's cells from damage by free radicals. "The rosemary has always been Hash House A Go Go's signature garnish on every one of our dishes," said Hash House's owner, Jim Rees. The fact that it is now being reported as a health benefit is a great asset to diners. Has House dishes that utilize the herb as an ingredient include the restaurant's signature dish, the Sage Fried Chicken and Bacon Waffle Tower, as well Roasted Chicken Hash, Chicken Salad Sandwich, Fired Chicken Benedict, Slow-Cooked Bar B'Que Pork Ribs, Black Skillet Chicken, Pan-Seared Chicken, Roasted Butternut Squash, Big O' Chicken Pot Pie, Grilled Chicken and Brie Sandwich, Kids Fried Chick, and the Fried Chicken and Eggs dishes. If you are not familiar with Hash House a Go Go, the establishments (the original is in San Diego) bring farm fresh food with a funky, modern twist to the masses. The popular restaurant puts its own unique spin on dining, making it an experience like no other. Hash House A Go Go is about having a good time - sophistication with no pretension. The restaurant serves lunch daily from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Hash House A Go Go serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, Mondays through Saturdays. They are open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is located at 6800 West Sahara Avenue. For reservations or inquiries, please call (702) 804-4646 or visit

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Elton John will wind up his long-running Red Piano show in the Caesars Palace Colosseum on April 22nd. When he opened five years ago (yep, it's really five years), the plan was to do 75 performances and then move on. Obviously, the Rocket Man decided to hang around a little longer. When he ends his run in two more months (to tour with Billy Joel?), Elton will have performed almost 250 shows in that Celine Dion-created space. Bette Midler and Cher will continue on in the Colosseum, with no other acts announced to fill in for the departing Mr. John.

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