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 February 20, 2009
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - February 20, 2009
All good things come to those who wait. Well we have waited long enough for a real New York-style piano bar/cabaret in Las Vegas. After more than a year, dealing with building permits, contractors, licenses and the rest of the red tape involved in getting a business off the ground, Don't Tell Mama has finally opened downtown. Located at 517 Fremont Street, just east of Neonopolis, the 96-seat club is owned by Minh Pham, who, with his family, operated the famed New York cabaret of the same name for almost 20 years. The Las Vegas establishment opened quietly on Wednesday night. Happy hour begins at 6 p.m., with entertainment starting at 8. Next week's lineup of talent at Don't Tell Mama includes, on Monday, Thom Culcasi, Jenifer (that's how she spells her name) Kruskamp, and Chani; Tuesday, Mike Dubay, Kruskamp, and Bianca; Wednesday, Joey Singer, Jenifer, and Phillip Officer; Thursday, Dubay, Jenifer, Officer, and Lloyd Ziel; and next Friday, Jeff Celentano, Jenifer, Rique (that's how he spells his name) Rose, and Colette Hawley. The official opening, with a ribbon cutting by Las Vegas mayor, Oscar Goodman, will take place on March 9th. Jenifer Kruskamp, who moved here from New York a few months ago, is well-known in the East Coast cabaret circles, and is a MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) and Nightlife Award-winner. For more details about Don't Tell Mama, please call (702) 207-0788.
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OOOPS and mea culpa. Two sharp readers, entertainment writer/publicist Frank H. Lieberman, and show biz maven, Grant Philipo, both pointed out the same mistake in the week's column. The Mirage theater where Terry Fator now makes his home, was formerly the Danny Gans showroom. It is Cirque du Soleil's Love that now occupies the former space where Siegfried and Roy plied their trade. Since, Mr. Lieberman was once the publicist for the two magicians, he knows of what he speaks. Mr. Philipo, on the other hand, is just plain smart. Thanks for enlightening Cousin Claire, gentlemen. By the way, we have never been in ANY of the performance spaces at The Mirage. Why? Apparently, we haven't been at this game long enough (more than 30 years), and we don't work hard enough (then why are we so busy?), to warrant invites to any of the Mirage shows. And to think, we knew Danny Gans when he was performing in a small Steve Rossi produced revue at the downtown International (now Main Street Station). And so it goes.
And speaking of e-mail, we got one from Cherie in Denver, who writes, "I was in Vegas for the Donald Braswell concert, which was outstanding! Did you see it? Why aren't there reviews of the show anywhere?" No, Cherie, we didn't see Mr. Braswell (one of last seasons finalists on America's Got Talent) during his Hilton showroom engagement. We hope the singer did well in his first solo Vegas appearance. Personally, we thought the 1,600-seat theater was a risk for a newcomer (unless, you are Michael Buble). Readers?
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If there were any empty seat in the Cannery's Club on Friday night, we didn't see them. Singer/impressionist, Bob Anderson, who has been living and working in Branson for the past five years, was royally welcomed back to the city he called home for many years. Backed by Vince Falcone at the piano, Vinnie's brother Marc Falcone on keyboard, Tim Pratt on drums, Jack Cenna on percussion, and Bob Sachs on upright bass, Anderson sang some gems in his own voice, including a couple of our favorites that we don't hear very often, Jimmy Webb's Didn't We, and Stevie Wonder's You and I, before going into some of his popular vocal and lookalike impressions. We especially liked the carbons of Johnny Mathis singing Over the Weekend, Ray Charles doing Georgia, Andy Williams' The Days of Wine and Roses, and Neil Diamond's September Morn. Of course, Bob‘s take on Tony Bennett always generates great audience response...as it did the night we saw the show. Among the local supporters who showed up on Friday night to welcome Bob back, we spotted Domenick Allen and his Mrs., Leigh Zimmerman; Clint Holmes and his bride, Kelly Clinton, new grandpa, Bill Fayne; Earl Turner, who we hear is heading back to Laughlin for a gig at Harrah‘s; and looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the day before his birthday, journalist/artist, Norm Johnson.
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Although Las Vegas Review-Journal theater critic Anthony Del Valle gave the Las Vegas Little Theatre's House of Blue Leaves, John Guare's 1971 dark comedy, a lukewarm rating (a D+), he did have some very nice things to say about our friend, actor Nathan Ferrier. Not only does the tough-as-nails critic make Ferrier and his friends and family feel proud, it also brings great joy to Nathan's acting coach, the equally tough, Gerald Gordon. It's hard to say which of the two gentlemen, Del Valle or Gordon, expect more from community theater actors but, in this case, it's probably a tossup. In the R-J's Tuesday (February 17th) edition, Del Valle wrote, "Las Vegas Little Theatre's "House of Blue Leaves" reminded me of an important rule in play-going: Don't give up hope until you see the second act." He goes on to say,"...it does contain two brief, genuine performances. (Michael) Blair makes the son an angry, obsessed psycho, and he's remarkable for his ability to get us to laugh at his farcical character while getting us to care. Nathan Ferrier makes the most out of a quick appearance as a Hollywood hotshot. He plays the kind of guy who knows all the right people and loves to say "Love ya." Ferrier gets inside the one-note role, so that we never catch him going for an effect. Blair and Ferrier demonstrate how this show should be acted -- with an exaggerated but solidly grounded reality base. If only (Walter) Niejadlik had been able to infuse the other characters with that sort of earnestness and fever! We might have, then, been moved by the poignant ending. But how can we be moved by anything when in lieu of relationships, this production is stuffed with jokes?" The show continues through March 1st, with performances at 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays. The Las Vegas Little Theatre is located at 3920 Schiff Drive, off of Valley View, just south of Spring Mountain. Tickets are $19-$22. For additional information, call (702) 362-7996. On the 18th, in Mr. Del Valle's review of Theatre in the Valley's production of Crimes of the Heart (which garnered an A grade), directed by Jim Williams, the R-J critic cited Anthony Farmer, another of Gerald Gordon's former students, for his fine work, stating "(Mr. Farmer) renders a believable lawyer friend, whose down-home naiveté and wholesomeness feels genuine." Theater-lovers can see this production of Crimes of the Heart tomorrow (the 21st), at a 2 p.m. matinee, or at 7 p.m., at the Henderson Convention Center, located at 200 S. Water Street. Tickets are a very reasonable $10. Call (702) 558-7275. Yesterday, the Las Vegas Sun's Joe Brown reviewed The Diary of Anne Frank, directed by Robert Brewer and presented at UNLV's Judy Bayley Theatre by the Nevada Conservatory Theatre. Brown writes, "The ensemble cast is believable and even-handed, with particularly touching turns by Charlene Sher as Anne's nerve-racked mother..." Surprise. Ms. Sher is also one of Mr. Gordon's former students. The Diary of Anne Frank continues through the weekend, with performances at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $30. For more information, call (702) 895-3535. Congratulations on work well done, Gerald Gordon.
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Rebecca Spencer, who portrayed Madame Giry in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular for almost two years, returns to our city to join pianist Philip Fortenberry, in his Liberace & Me show in the 75-seat cabaret at the Liberace Museum, for three special performances, at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, February 24th, Wednesday the 25th and Saturday, the 28th. Among the show's offerings will be selections from Spencer and Fortenberry's musical collaborations on her albums, Wide Awake and Dreaming and Fair Warning (the CDs will be available for purchase at the museum). With continued acknowledgment and respect for Liberace's musical influences, they will also share stories behind some of the musical selections, as well as from their personal and professional experiences. Musical numbers include standards such as I've Got You Under My Skin, Stardust, Deep Purple, as well as novelty songs and some original compositions. Tickets for Liberace & Me are $17.50. To purchase tickets, call 798-5595, x14. Advance reservations are suggested. The Liberace Museum is located at 1775 E. Tropicana Avenue at Spencer. Museum hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays, from noon to 4 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Rebecca Spencer & Philip Fortenberry
And speaking of Rebecca Spencer and the Liberace Museum, she will be one of the performers in this month's Composers Showcase. The night is Thursday, the 26th. The time is 10:30 p.m. (after theater). And the talented folks contributing their original material are local composers and songwriters The Apple Sisters, Erich Bergen, Kye Brackett, Michael Brennan, Travis Cloer, Wayne Green, Rylan Leo Helmuth, Christopher Lash, Jeff Leibow, Richard Oberacker , Keith Thompson, Mark Wherry and Ashton Zyer. Performing the works will be Brooks Asher, Kimmy Gatewood, Kristen Hertzenberg, Rebekka Johnson, TeeJay Jones, Sarah Lowe, Stephan Price, the above mentioned Ms. Spencer, and other special guests. Musicians playing will be Jim Belk, Angela Chan, Patricia Diaz, Philip Fortenberry, Jeff Johnson, Jeremy Meronuck, Danny Miranda, Rebecca Ramsey, Geri Thompson, Moonlight Tran, and Fred Watstein. Audience members (not performers or their guests) are now charged $5 to see and hear some of the best talent in this city. If you choose to partake of the late night hors d'oeuvres buffet, provided by Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens Restaurant, that will be an additional $5 per person (not per table) for everybody. As usual, a cash bar is available. At $5 or $10, this is an amazing entertainment bargain. The focus of The Composers Showcase is to unite the Las Vegas theater community and reveal the creative spirit that abounds in all of them. The mission of the Liberace Foundation is to help talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance.
And speaking of the Composers Showcase, the talented Vita Corimbi, a frequent participant in the showcase (with her clever and mostly humorous originals) has been named Assistant Musical Director for PEEPSHOW, Jerry Mitchell's revue scheduled to open at Planet Hollywood in April. In addition, Corimbi currently serves as vocal coach for Menopause the Musical (where she played "Earth Mother" in the Hilton's production). A native of Las Vegas, Vita is a gifted and award winning performer, recording artist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. She has been music director for Tony ‘n Tina's Wedding, performs with the all-girl group, Killian's Angels, and has worked with Tom Jones, Wayne Newton and Krashtop Willie. Vita is a sought after voiceover and jingle artist with national and international credits. She has received three Emmy Awards for performance and music composition. She is the creator of a myriad of original comedy characters that have been showcased in numerous television events, most notably the one-liner spewing, blonde, buxom lounge lizard and Las Vegas ambassadress, Bunny LaShay, a corporate, cabaret and drag queen icon.
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Michaelina Bellamy & Nelson Sardelli
Don & Gloria Hill
Norman & Barbara Kaye
On Wednesday, February 18th, the Las Vegas Tribune carried this story...
The F.I.O.R.E. Celebrates Its 4th Valentine's Party
For almost five years now, the Las Vegas Tribune has been writing about and covering the antics of the Non Club Club F.I.O.R.E. It has been a fun ride. If there is a better "non club" club, a better purposeless organization or a more fun group of people out there, we haven't found it. The membership of this most unorthodox group is made up of folks from all walks of life: doctors, entertainers, lawyers, politicians, businessmen, policemen (retired and still active), musicians, retired members of our armed forces, community leaders and some folks in the Secret Witness program, albeit we are not sure nor can we prove it. For five years we have witnessed their inexplicable growth, their monthly meetings and the fun events when wives and girlfriends are welcome and the upscale side of this organization comes into view. We have witnessed great Christmas parties, club anniversaries and other parties that are second to none. Live music is provided by professional Las Vegas musicians, most of them presidents of the club (did we mention that every member is a president from the moment they join F.I.O.R.E.?); first class entertainment is provided by many entertainers who, again, are presidents, as well as by some of the female Las Vegas entertainers who have been attending all the club's major events. We hear there are rumors of a female branch of the F.I.O.R.E. being formed: The FIORETTES. We can't wait! Last Friday, at the Italian American Club, the F.I.O.R.E. celebrated in grand style its 4th Valentine's party. The general consensus? It was the best event so far. F.I.O.R.E. meetings are held monthly, often with special guests. Comedian Cork Proctor is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the March 12 meeting. For more information about this organization please go to: http://www.nonclubclubfiore.com.
We have it on good authority, this get-together was a smashing success. About 100 folks came out for a pre-Valentine's Day celebration. Among those spotted at the fun-filled party were Nelson Sardelli, Norman Kaye and his wife, Barbara, Don and Gloria Hill, Linda November and Artie Schroeck, George and Bella Meese, Mr. and Mrs. Felix Silla, Michaelina Bellamy, Kid Cary and Sophie, Jim Marsh, Lou Toomin and daughter Jennifer, Peggy (Mrs. Sonny) King, Allen Tramont, Joel Dane, Andrea Gross (who provided many of the door prizes), and Las Vegas Tribune publisher Rolando Larraz. Providing music for performing and dancing was The Gary Olds Trio, featuring Olds on drums, Chuck Hoover on keyboards, and Danny DeMorales on bass. Also joining the trio for some numbers was Dr. George Ritter, playing sax. Although he was unable to attend because he was working (wonderful words to hear, these days), entertainer/president Paul Campanella provided the sound equipment for the evening. It was great to see Norman and Barbara Kaye in attendance at the event. Not only were they present, they were even dancing! Readers may remember that, last April, F.I.O.R.E. held a very successful fundraiser at The Orleans, lovingly called the Enormous Norm-a-Thon, with ALL of the more than $20,000 in proceeds going to help Norman (of the legendary Mary Kaye Trio) with his rehabilitation and home care in his recovery from a serious illness.
Late breaking news...According to one of the F.I.O.R.E. presidents, there is a possibility that the March 12th meeting will be open to First Ladies, as well as presidents. This only occurs a few times a year, and only for very special occasions - such as Valentine's Day, Christmas and when the speaker is Cork Proctor. Mr. Proctor, who has been a Las Vegan since Nevada became a state, will present some of his one-man show, Cork Proctor‘s Classic Tales of Las Vegas. We will keep you posted on this one.
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Bart Williams, Sharon McNight & Beverly Washburn
For those who saw Sharon McNight do her Red Hot Mama tribute to Sophie Tucker at the Starbright Theatre last September, they only saw a small portion of her talent. On Valentine's Day, Ms. McNight showed a number of other sides to her versatile entertainment skills. This time around, the show was called Gone, But Not Forgotten. and paid homage to a number of the great ladies of show business. With Joan Edgar at the piano (Ms. Edgar worked with famed female impressionist, the late Charles Pierce, for many years), Sharon McNight performed songs attributed to a variety of famous legends of the past, including Pearl Bailey (Tired from Variety Girl), Judy Canova (Wabash Blues), Patsy Cline (Sweet Dreams/I Fall to Pieces), Bette Davis (They're Either Too Young or Too Old), Betty Hutton (Rumble, Rumble, Rumble), Madeline Kahn (I'm Tired from Blazing Saddles), Eartha Kitt (I Want To Be Evil), Ethel Merman (Some People from Gypsy), Martha Raye (Ol' Man River), Sophie Tucker (The Man I Love), and Ethel Waters (Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone). Sharon gave a hint of Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow, before launching into a very clever approximately six minute synopsis of the Wizard of Oz (where Sharon played all of the characters). In addition to the songs, McNight gave a short bit of interesting history on each of the ladies. The performer closed her one woman show with a piece of special material called Bacon, written by Mary Liz McNamara. Animal rights activists would have loved this one. Among the audience members, we spotted actor Bart Williams (who played "Nicely Nicely Johnson" in the Las Vegas production of Guys and Dolls, starring Jack Jones, Maureen McGovern and Frank Gorshin at the Desert Inn), and his friend, former ‘50s and ‘60s child actress, Beverly Washburn (with credits in the memorable films, Shane, The Greatest Show On Earth and Old Yeller, among others).
Accompanying photo by Don Cadette.
In an odd coincidence (if there are such things), in her description of singer Pearl Bailey, Sharon McNight spoke of Bailey's 38-year marriage to drummer Louie Bellson. No one in the audience was probably aware that Mr. Bellson had passed away earlier that day at the age of 84. A big band and jazz drummer, Bellson was a master musician who performed with such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and his late wife, Pearl Bailey. Bellson died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications of Parkinson's disease following a broken hip in November. Bellson's career spanned more than six decades. He performed on more than 200 albums with jazz greats including Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong. It was through Ellington that he met Bailey, the great singer and Broadway performer. They married in 1952. When she died in 1990 at age 72, Bellson told the Philadelphia Daily News that "I just lost my best friend." Tentative plans are for a Los Angeles area funeral, followed by funeral and burial in Moline, Illinois, his boyhood home. Details will be announced. Condolences can be sent to Louie's surviving wife, Francine, at Mrs. Louie Bellson, c/o Remo, Inc., 28101 Industry Drive, Valencia, CA 91355. Contributions in his memory can be made to Emmanuel Baptist Church and mailed to Mrs. Bellson at the address above.
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We are once again into the competitive days and nights of American Idol. Now in its eighth season, it might be interesting to remind folks of the winners and runner-ups of Idol's past seasons, and to ask, "Where are they now?" The first season (2002) saw Kelly Clarkson named winner, with Justin Guarini in second place. Second season (2003), Ruben Studdard won, while Clay Aiken came in at No. 2. In 2004's third season, Fantasia Barrino was the winner, with Diana DeGarmo in second spot. In the fourth season (2005), Carrie Underwood was declared the winner, with Bo Bice earning the second spot. In 2006, the season five winner was Taylor Hicks. Katharine McPhee was No. 2. Season six (2007) named Jordin Sparks the winner, with Blake Lewis in second place. Last year, season seven saw David Cook in first place, and David Archuleta in second. As Idol history has proven, it isn't always the winner, or even the runner-up, that makes the most headway after the competition ends. Some of the top players seem to fade from sight (and memory) within a short time, while some, who didn't score as high do pretty well for themselves. Jennifer Hudson, who came in at No. 7 in the third season of American Idol, went on to earn a Best Oscar for her role in the film, Dreamgirls. A number of Idol competitors have gone on to play Broadway, among them, Aiken in Spamalot, Barrino in The Color Purple, Frenchie Davis (who was disqualified before she had the chance to show her real stuff), in Rent), DeGarmo in Hairspray, Tamyra Gray in Bombay Dreams and Rent, Hicks as "Teen Angel" in Grease, and Constantine Maroulis in The Wedding Singer, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Rock of Ages. In April, McPhee will be seen in an episode of the CBS hit series, CSI:NY. In 2007, the pretty brunette played herself in an episode of TV's Ugly Betty, and appeared in the movie, The House Bunny. So far, in the still very early stages of season eight, our favorite is Danny Gokey. His version of Hero, earned Gokey entrée into the club of a dozen finalists. Three more trios will be added over as many weeks, before the show gets down to the real elimination process. American Idol airs on FOX, usually on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
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Once again, Masters of Illusion (airing in Las Vegas on My Network TV, KVMY-21, Monday nights), featured a number of prestidigitators with ties to Southern Nevada. Among the illusionists performing feats of magic this week were, Arian Black, Ed Alonzo, Jeff McBride and Mark Kalin and Jinger Leigh. A new face to us was 15-year-old, Kyle Eschen, who we think has quite a bright future ahead of him. With his unique, funny, clever patter, and low-key delivery (not as low-key as comic Steven Wright, thank you), Kyle is a real crowd pleaser. We look forward to seeing more of this young man...maybe even in a Vegas show.
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The Performing Arts Society of Nevada is presenting Love Songs and More at the Clark County Flamingo Library, 1401 E. Flamingo, 2 p.m. on Sunday (February 22nd). Vocalists, Bert Anderson, Laurie Caceres, Dolly Coulter and Randy Hendrickson, will perform hit songs from Broadway and film. Tickets are $15 and may be ordered by calling (702) 658-6741, or purchased at the library box office one hour before show time.
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It's former Las Vegas Tenor, Mark Giovi, at the Starbright in Sun City Summerlin on Sunday, March 1st. Calling his presentation, This is My Life, Giovi will offer a variety of material - from pop to classical. Tickets are $15 for Sun City Summerlin residents, and $19 for those who travel to the area. Show time at the Starbright is at 3 p.m. The theater is located at 2215 Thomas Ryan Blvd. (three miles west of Rampart, off Lake Mead). Call (702) 240-1301.
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These entertainers must be doing something right, because the suits keep bringing them back...
Bill Fayne and Teddy Davey continue to Rock the House at the Mezza Lounge & Grill, Mondays from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Bill and Teddy, both members of the popular Las Vegas Tenors, perform all types of music during the evening. The mic is also open to other professionals, so you never know who may drop in to sing a tune or two. Mezza is offering a free glass of house wine with any authentic Mediterranean or Italian entrée, to customers there for Bill and Teddy's Wacky Adventure.
Shades of Sinatra member, Larry Liso, entertains at Mezza on Thursdays and Fridays, from 6 to 10 p.m. Larry promises great jazz standards, dance music and guest singers during his Thursday and Friday shows. Mezza Lounge & Grill is located in Summerlin, at 9460 W. Tropicana, just west of Ft. Apache. Call (702) 489-4493.
And Carmine Mandia, also a Shades of Sinatra member, sings for YOUR supper at Piero's, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, from 7 to 10:30. Singing friends join Carmine at the mic. The restaurant is located at 355 Convention Center Drive, between the Las Vegas Strip and Paradise. Call (702) 369-2305.
Singer/musician Ronnie Rose returns to the House of Blues Courtyard Restaurant (at Mandalay Bay), next Friday and Saturday, February 27th and 28th, from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Joining Rose is Keith Nelson on bass, Harvey Hughes on drums, Chris Claremont playing guitar, and Tom Lipps on keys.
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Former Las Vegas entertainer, Ari Dane, informs that he has a new CD on the market. Called Venice Sci-Fi, the project (two-and-a-half years in the making) was inspired by his Southern California neighborhood. You can read all about it and listen to audio clips by clicking on this Link http://aridane.biz/news.html. Venice Sci-Fi is available through CD Baby.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye