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.  
She’s...

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from May 01, 2009
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - May 1, 2009


Danny Gans

Darin Hollingsworth

So much to write about...so little time. We will start with the new news first, and then move on to some of the things we didn't have room, or time, for last Friday (we hate when that happens).

VERY LATE BREAKING NEWS...

As we approach our Friday deadline, we have just learned that longtime Las Vegas entertainer, Danny Gans, has died. The 52-year-young Gans, eleven-time Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year, apparently passed away in his sleep, sometime early this morning. When Gans opened at the new Stratosphere (formerly known as Vegas World) in 1996, many people thought the talented impressionist was a newcomer to this city. We knew better. Before there was the Stratosphere, Rio, Mirage (where he headlined in his own theater for eight years), and ,since February, Steve Wynn's Encore, there was Nevada Palace (now the site of Cannery East) and the downtown International (now Main Street Station). Our most sincere condolences to Danny's wife of 28 years, Julie, and their three children.

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As loyal readers know, we regularly visit the Liberace Museum, supporting and enjoying things like the Composers Showcase and special performances by talented artists such as Wes Winters, Philip Fortenberry, Keith Thompson, Erich Bergen, Bruce Ewing, Nicole Pryor and Rebecca Spencer. In recent months, we had observed subtle and not so subtle things going on in the buildings on East Tropicana, i.e., a major piece of Liberace's furniture, quietly and privately, sold from the museum's collection, and the dwindling gift shop inventory, being two examples. We suspected something major was happening at the now 30-year-old tourist attraction. We could only guess what that might be. On Monday, we started getting calls (Cousin Claire has lots of spies out there), informing us of the departure of the Liberace Foundation's R. (for Richard) Darin Hollingsworth. Last May, Hollingsworth who had been the Foundation and Museum's Executive Director for two years, was named its President. According to a press release issued by the foundation, this was done "to empower the position to act as needed and in a timely manner rather than seek Board approval for every issue." In our opinion, this could have been a big mistake for the museum's future. You know what they say about "too much power in the wrong hands" being a dangerous thing. In the hands of a control freak, it is especially dangerous. From our personal observations and experiences, Mr. Hollingsworth is a control freak. He is a person who tries to get his way by intimidation. A couple of months ago, we were witness to a "confrontation" between Hollingsworth and an older woman in the museum's café. It seems the woman had been discussing concerns about the museum's operating procedure with a few people, and Mr. Hollingsworth was made aware of this. He told the senior, in no uncertain terms, "if you have questions, you come to me." Nothing wrong with that, as long as one is also permitted/allowed to discuss things with others. We go along with the theory that he (or she) who has nothing to hide, hides nothing. Is Darin Hollingsworth's "departure by mutual decision with the board" coming too late? Has the damage already been done? Is there hope for maintaining Liberace's legacy in a building in southeast Las Vegas? We don't know. Word is that, beginning next year, instead of waiting for the public to come to the museum to see all that is, or was, Liberace, the treasures will go to the public in the form of a moveable feast. If the collection does go on tour, what does this mean for the state of the current museum? That remains to be seen. We had hoped to talk to one, or some, of the foundations' board members before deadline. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. We will stay on top of this story...and we will do that by talking to whoever we want to (thank you very little).

Following a story about Darin Hollingsworth and the museum severing ties, written by Kristen Peterson and published in yesterdays' Las Vegas Sun, a slew of comments from the public can now be seen online. It is apparent, by the tone of at least five of the twelve printed responses to Ms. Peterson‘s story, that Darin is leaving some wreckage strewn along his jagged career path. Here are a couple of examples (exactly as written, misspells, typos and all)...

Actually, Darin Hllingsworth should be run out of town for what he did to the Liberace Museum and the Liberace Foundation. The spin that has been put on this in quite unbelievable as the truth is Mr. Hollingsworth foolishly squandered millions of dollars of the foundations money. He was brought into the Liberace Museum and Foundation by Jeff Cope as "somebody with extensive experience in fundraising and working in the non-profit sector". None of this was true, nor did any of it come to fruition. The economy may play a small role in the Liberace decline, but the majority of responsibility rests on Darin Hollingsworth's shoulders. If you do a little digging, it becomes very apparent. A consultant???? I wouldn't consult him to clean a toilet.

And...
As a dedicated former employee of the Liberace Museum for over six years, who had the distinction of being fired by Mr. Hollingsworth I say "what goes around comes around." Never knowing much about Liberace until I started working at the Museum, I realized what an incredible kind gentleman he was and this instituion and his memory should never go away. Mr. Hollingsworth however should have been gone two years ago.

And...
If the foundation was set up as a trust, with Mr. H. as its trustee, the beneficiaries should be able to hold him accountable for its downturn. If he was any kind of fiduciary that would still be a smart thing to do.

And...
Darin Hollingsworth was a drop of poison. He was rabidly afraid of talented people- he was the kind of manager who only kept less capable people around him, for fear he would be found out as the totally incompetent person he is. The people left at the attraction are only those that cannot find work elsewhere- so they tolerated his micro-managing and outrageous behavior. The board really dropped the ball on this- the place was run into the ground by this guy, who one hopes will never have a position of management again in his life.

And...
The reputation of the Liberace Museum has been tainted with the decision to sell off one of the most valuable artifacts from the collection to a private party (Liberace's prized Louis XV desk).
There is an understood promise between a museum and its public against the sale of collection objects for general operating expenses. This promise exists across generations in order to prevent the financial challenges of a given time from depriving future generations of the benefits of a museum's holdings. If a museum is unable to properly care for an artifact, the artifact should be transferred to another institution with the expertise to properly care for it so that the object remains in the public trust. Standard museum best practices will allow for the sale of an artifact from the collection if that sale advances the value of a museum's permanent collection and when proceeds from the artifact sale are used only for acquisition or for direct care of collections. In this case, the desk's sale greatly diminished the value of the Liberace Museum's collection and use of proceeds remains highly uncertain. What will the Liberace Museum be selling off next? Is anyone interested in buying a one-of-kind full-length pink feathered cape?
If you are interested, you can read all of this for yourselves by going to http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/apr/30/director-waves-bye-liberace-foundation/.

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Susan Anton, Clint Holmes, Domenick Allen & Martin Nievera

Earl Turner & Lani Misalucha

There's a new game, and name, on the local entertainment scene. They call themselves Vocal Soup, and the musical quartet is made up of some of the top talent in this, or any other, community. Following in the footsteps of popular ensemble groups such as the Las Vegas Tenors, Dangerous Curves, Fifth Avenue, Voci Vegas, Shades of Sinatra, Voices (with Earl Turner and Lani Misalucha), Vocal Soup mixes together Domenick Allen, Susan Anton, Clint Holmes, and Martin Nievera, in what should make for some tasty soup. Vocal Soup makes its debut at the Suncoast at 8 p.m.(not the usual 7:30 start time) on Friday, June 19th, where they will perform through that Sunday, the 21st. Tickets are $33, $44, and $55, all inclusive. Call (702) 636-7075.

And speaking of Voices, currently in the Shimmer Showroom (formerly called Shimmer Cabaret) at the Hilton, we think it might better be called The Earl Turner Show with special guest, Lani Misalucha. According to what we have read, the producers of Voices, Angelo Giordano and John Stuart, have had no input in the format of the show. Maybe that's what's wrong with Voices. Perhaps Giordano and Stuart should have some say-so. We think Voices needs some fine tuning. The way it plays right now, it might better be called The Earl Turner Show with special guest star, Lani Misalucha. Too much Earl. Not enough Lani. The pacing needs to be changed a bit. Just about everything that Turner does is high energy. Our favorite piece was his story-telling Grandma's Hands. As for Ms. Misalucha, she too needs to slow it down a bit. Her show-stopping number, Puccini's Nessun Dorma, comes way too early in the lineup. As a result, she has nowhere to go but down. Come on, Angelo and John, give these two talented people some advice. At $50 a ticket, the audience, and Lani and Earl, deserve better.

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Gerry McCambridge, known as The Mentalist, is on the move. On May 14th, he will perform his last show at Hooters Casino Hotel, where he has entertained crowds for the past two years. On May 15th, McCambridge will open in a newly created 300-seat showroom, adjacent to the V Theater in Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops. Gerry, who keeps track of such things, reports that his first show at Planet Hollywood will be his 777th performance since his move to Las Vegas. He considers this to be a sign of good luck. Since McCambridge is one of our favorite performers, we hope that is the case. Show times for The Mentalist will be at 7:30 p.m., dark on Wednesdays. Ticket prices are $39.95 for general admission, and $49.95 for VIP seating. Call (702) 932-1818 for reservations to shows starting on May 15th.


Gerry McCambridge

Brian Stokes Mitchell & Michael Feinstein

Shades of Sinatra

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The New York Pops 26th Birthday Gala was an evening to celebrate. Last Monday night's gala celebrated Feinstein's at Loews Regency on its 10th anniversary and congratulated Michael Feinstein and Jonathan Tisch for their leadership of the popular nightclub. The orchestra also saluted New Amsterdam Rediscovered, a joint Dutch-American initiative celebrating the 400th anniversary of the exploration of the Hudson River. The Carnegie Hall concert was conducted by Music Director-Designate Steven Reineke, and hosted by Liz Smith. Liza Minnelli made a surprise appearance to present Feinstein with his award. Performers included Ashford & Simpson, Sara Caswell, Barbara Cook, Bob Dorough, Cheyenne Jackson, Brian d'Arcy James, Idina Menzel, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Anika Noni Rose and children from The New York Pops' education programs. The concert was sold-out, with 2,804 in the Carnegie Hall audience. The post-concert dinner dance at The Pierre was attended by 300 guests.

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The three ladies of Dangerous Curves - Margaret "Gret" Menzies Gonzalez, Karen Merstik Michaels and Lisa Smith - put on a very entertaining show at the Clark County Flamingo Library a couple of weeks ago. The trio has a nice blend as well as some strong solo voices. For us, the highlights included their versions of Moon River, Is This Any Way To Fall in Love, Children Will Listen, The Girl Who Used To Be Me (written by Las Vegans Rob Hyatt and Jerry Jones of Fifth Avenue), Faithless Love, and one of our personal favorites, The Girl In 14G (written by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan, who also wrote the new music for Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie). A number of the mentioned tunes are available on Girl Talk, the debut CD of Dangerous Curves.

And speaking of Lisa Smith, she and three men in her life (yes, her husband Ron knows, and understands) - Ryan Baker, Larry Liso and Carmen Mandia - collectively known as Shades of Sinatra, will be appearing at the Suncoast next weekend, May 8th, 9th and 10th. It's a fun show of songs primarily associated with Old Blue Eyes. Tickets start at $19.95 plus tax and fees. Call (702) 636-7075.

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In last Friday's column, Felice Garcia's photo was used with no explanation of why (Cousin Claire was asleep at the wheel), so we are using it again, this time with some text to go with it. Ms. Garcia was one of the principal singers in the dwindling days of the Tropicana's Folies Bergere. When we saw her in the show a couple of weeks before its closing, we have to admit, we weren't impressed. It might have been the costuming, or the song choices, or a combination of both. One night, a few weeks ago, we unexpectedly caught Felice singing Sondheim (possibly auditioning for her next job) at the Don't Tell Mama cabaret/piano bar in downtown Las Vegas. Felice was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and very little makeup, looking much differently, and prettier, than she did on the Tropicana stage. We will look for her to show up on another stage in the city.


Felice Garcia

Tony Orlando

Tony Scodwell

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Tony Orlando plays the South Point, tonight through Sunday. Weekend show times are 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $45 (tax included) and can be purchased by visiting the South Point Box Office or calling (702) 797-8055. Next Sunday, May 10th, at 7:30 p.m., look for M&M (Michael Kessler and Melinda Jackson) American Dance Theatre's Dancin' Feet at the South Point. Described as a Romantic Musical Comedy, Dancin' Feet tells the story of Dancinmannio and Twinkletoenia, two showbiz muses who are banished from Mt. Olympus and sent to the planet Earth because they are voted off of the reality TV competition show, Dancing with the Gods. In order to get their immortality back, the two muses have to bring joy and inspiration to two mortals on earth. Tickets start at $15. Call (800) 834-2029.

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The Charleston Heights Arts Center, located at 800 S. Brush Street (near Charleston and Decatur), offers numerous programs throughout the year. International folk dancing is offered every Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. Contra dancing is offered on Saturdays twice a month from 7 to 10 p.m., with group lessons at 6:30 p.m. Coming up on May 9th is a Mother's Day dinner and dance, with entertainment by The Gene White Octet, vocal harmonies by Swing Patrol and dinner provided by At Your Service Catering. The city-operated facility also invites residents and visitors to enjoy a couple of weekend events. An all-ages Jane Austen Dance will take place tomorrow, May 2nd, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. This event should appeal to Jane Austen fans, history enthusiasts, dancers, music lovers, and anyone interested in a unique cultural event. Enjoy elegant Regency-era dancing to live chamber music - like an English country dance from a Jane Austen novel - on Saturday. Evening dress is requested. The event is presented by the city of Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada Old Time Contra Dancers. In preparation for the event, English country dance lessons are being offered at the center from 6 to 8:45 p.m. today (May 1st), as well as from 1:30 to 5 p.m. tomorrow. Lessons cost $3 per person at the door. On Sunday, at 2 p.m., for adults only, a concert by the Tony Scodwell Big Band, featuring vocalist Lisa Mayer, will take place at the center. Comprised of 16 musicians, the band will include a drummer, pianist, bass player, three trombonists, and five each trumpet and saxophone players. Leader Tony Scodwell is a veteran of some of the greatest big bands - Stan Kenton, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey and Buddy Rich - as are several other group members. The concert will include music they made famous, such as The Mole, Two O'clock Jump, and That Old Black Magic. Mayer will sing many swing era favorites, like Nacio Herb Brown's Singing in the Rain, and Memphis Slim's Everyday I Have the Blues. Tickets are priced at $12 at the door for the dance, and $5 for all seats for the concert. Free parking is available at the center. For details on upcoming performances and available classes, call (702) 229-6383 for a free ArtQ brochure. You can also pick one up at the arts center, or view it online at www.lasvegasparksandrec.com.

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Lissette Salazar Napoleoni and Peter Valentino, also known as Neon Venus, invite one and all to participate in downtown's First Friday, taking place tonight. Dress in White and Pose with Us for a Pro-Arts Message. There will be an art installation at 7 p.m. (make-up starts at 5 p.m.). Artists, sculptors, painters, actors, models, dancers, etc., will join in front of the theater for a celebration of spring and summer. The group will then walk to the park in front of the Neon Venus theater. A number of them will pose as statues, to signify that the public wants more art in the parks, and more support for original creative voices from Las Vegas. Everyone is invited to join in. At 8 p.m., children from the theater‘s acting program will take to the stage to show you how far along they are with the play, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plus some additional skits. The entire play will showcase at the Neon Venus Art Theatre the first weekend in June. At 9 p.m. tonight, there will be a preview of The Shape of Things, directed by Peter. The actors will perform a scene from the play to be showcased at the Neon Venus Theatre on Saturdays during the month of May. Don't miss the talented performers. Beginning at 9:30 p.m., Neon Venus, Rubiks Hotel, and Cloth and Canvas will perform, followed at 11:15 with an Improv show by Neon Venus students. The Neon Venus Art Theatre is located at 1404 S. 3rd Street. A donation of only $1 per person is requested. For additional information, call the theater at (702) 787-2481.

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Niki Scalera

Joan Sobel (photo by Don Cadette)

Bernadette Peters

Thursday, April 23rd, marked the third anniversary of the popular Composers Showcase. As usual, there were many highlights to celebrate the occasion. Clever Keith Thompson, who oversees and hosts the festivities, did three wonderful songs from his musical mind - For You, Sixteen Bars and The Audition Lament (the last two that almost everyone in the late night audience can relate to). Broadway/Las Vegas' Niki Scalera (Hairspray, Tarzan, We Will Rock You) performed one of the songs from Buddy Sheffield and Thompson's IDAHO!, The Boys Are Never Put Out (Because I Do), and Vita Corimbi did I'm Fabulous (and she is). Joan Sobel, from Phantom, sang What Took You So Long, telling the tale of a mother whose child comes out of the closet, one of the terrific numbers from Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker's (the musical director for Cirque du Soleil's KA at the MGM Grand) clever new musical, Don't Make Me Pull This Show Over: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Parenting. We have heard a number of the story songs from this show (at the Composers Showcase, of course) and are very impressed. The "musical stories" run the gamut from funny, to profound, to touching, and cover many subjects related to child rearing. Among the show's 18 songs are This Is Still My Country, Not Me, I Don't Have The Right, I Had A Freakin' Box, Don't Make Me, I Need Sleep, Because I Said So, Do You Know, Reversal, In the End, and God Bless. On Wednesday, Don't Make Me Pull This Show Over: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Parenting, had its World Premiere at Ohio's Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, where it will run through Sunday, May 17th. Tickets are priced from $16 to $38 and may be ordered by contacting the theater at (513) 421-3555. The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati is located at 1127 Vine St. Show times are on Sundays at 2 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. If you are in the Cincinnati area...

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Tonight, at 8, it's Lea Salonga at UNLV, as the 2008-2009 New York Stage & Beyond season winds down. A Tony winner for her role in Miss Saigon, Salonga also had starring roles in Broadway's Les Miserables, and was the singing voice of Aladdin's Princess Jasmine and Mulan, in the animated film of the same name.

And, what will YOU be doing exactly one year from tonight? We know what we will be doing, God willing. We will be spending the evening at UNLV's Artemus Ham Hall, watching that Broadway Baby, the winsome Bernadette Peters. We had some knowledge about the possibilities of her coming here some months ago, but we promised not to leak the info. Well, Mr. Henley, the reason we are mentioning it now is because Ms. Peters has the date listed on her Web site. We are excited by the prospect of seeing her on a Las Vegas stage again. One of our fondest memories, and one of the best shows we ever saw here, was Bernadette and Peter Allen co-headlining at the Desert Inn in August of 1989. Peters is one of the most critically-acclaimed Broadway performers, having received nominations for seven Tony Awards (she won two), and eight Drama Desk Awards (she won three). Four of the Broadway cast albums on which she has starred have won Grammy Awards. Frank Rich of the New York Times said, "As an actress, singer, comedienne and all-around warming presence, Bernadette Peters has no peer in the musical theater..." Mark your calendars. Tickets for the 2009-2010 season are not yet on sale, but there are probably still tickets available for tonight's Lea Salonga show. Ticket prices are from $35 to $80. Call (800) 895-2787, or go to the UNLV Box Office to purchase.

And speaking of UNLV...
Congratulations to the UNLV Department of Music Liberace Scholarship Jazz Quartet - Otto Ehling, piano; Paul Ringenbach, drums; Julian Tanaka, saxophone/clarinet; and Scott Teeple, bass - for their winning performance in the Combo Division Competition at the prestigious 47th Annual Reno Jazz Festival this past Saturday, April 24th. The Liberace Scholarship Jazz Quartet, made up of different members, also took first place in last years competition. This year, they competed against 20 combos from some of the top music programs in the Western Region. Tanaka won the "Outstanding College Performer," and Ehling was awarded the distinction of the "Outstanding College Rhythm Section Performer" out of 24 colleges and universities from California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Nevada.
Shown in the accompanying photo, from left to right: Otto Ehling, Julian Tanaka, Scott Teeple and Paul Ringenbach.


Liberace Scholarship Jazz Quartet

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If you were watching Celebrity Apprentice on Sunday night, when Melissa Rivers was sent packing, you can see that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Shame on Melissa and her mother, Joan Rivers (who, these days, looks like Cat Woman), for their very unbecoming behavior. It's a competition, Melissa, not a war. When Donald Trump announced that she was fired, the younger Ms. Rivers had a meltdown, calling her competitors "whores" and dropping the f-bomb numerous times. As for Mama Rivers, who stormed out of the building when her little girl was ousted, other than as a pitchwoman for her jewelry line on QVC, at age 76, her career is pretty much over. For that bratty, spoiled daughter of hers, this display of bad sportsmanship, and the potty mouth rant, just proves that neither of these broads are team players. What a mess!


Melissa & Joan Rivers

Julianne Hough

Natalie Cole

And speaking of reality shows, Matt "With the Hat" Giraud is the latest singer to be bumped from American Idol, and the beautiful and talented Julianne Hough along with her country singer boyfriend, Chuck Wicks, are the latest casualties on Dancing With the Stars. For those that don't already know this, Julianne, a two-time winner on the popular reality series, attended the prestigious Las Vegas Academy of International Studies Performing & Visual Arts high school. Julianne says she won't return for the ninth season of DWTS. Hough's self-titled debut album reached the top of Billboard's country album chart last year. FYI...The award-winning recording artist, Ne Yo, is also a former Las Vegas Academy student.

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Singer Natalie Cole made a guest appearance on Idol last week. She is supposed to launch the grand opening of M Resort's new Entertainment Piazza, but we are not sure on what date. On Natalie's official site, it indicates the performance will take place on May 9th. On M Resort's site, in two different places, it lists two different dates - May 23rd and May 28th. We are pretty sure that the Grammy-winning Ms. Cole will only be appearing on ONE of those dates. You might want to check with the hotel to find out which information is correct. Tickets range from $68.25 to $105 and may be purchased through ticketmaster. Call M at (702) 797-1000.

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Many readers may be surprised to know that Bea Arthur, who died on Saturday at the age of 86, actually appeared here at the Tropicana in 2005. Arthur was probably best known for her roles in three successful, long-running television series, All in the Family and Maude, in which she played the outspoken Maude Findlay, and The Golden Girls Dorothy Zbornak. Her show business start really began in the theater, with roles in 1954's The Threepenny Opera, Fiddler On the Roof, and Mame, where her role as Vera Charles, opposite Angela Lansbury, earned Bea a Tony Award. She later re-created the character in the movie, which starred Lucille Ball as Mame. Arthur also appeared in the Oscar-nominated Lovers and Other Strangers, and in Mel Brooks' History of the World - Part 1. She was one of the stars of the 1994 Emmy-nominated Jerry Herman's Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl, in which her tour de force performance of Man In The Moon (from Mame) was a showstopper. She was the winner of a Comedy Ace Award for her appearance in the FOX TV series, Malcolm In The Middle. Bea and Emmy-winning writer, arranger, composer, musician Billy Goldenberg (his Broadway credits include shows such as An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, 110 In The Shade, An Evening With Diana Ross, and Ballroom), created Bea Arthur On Broadway: Just Between Friends. Following a 23-city tour, in 2002 the show opened at the Booth Theatre in New York where it ran in a limited engagement and was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Special Theatrical Event. In August of 2005, accompanied by her longtime friend, An Evening With Bea Arthur and Billy Goldenberg was presented in the Tropicana's Tiffany Theatre. In the special one-performance only show, the legendary actress/comedian shared observations, stories and music, as she reminisced about friends and milestones from her more than 50-year show business career in a 90-minute, sometimes bawdy, autobiographical act. We had the pleasure of seeing how a pro like Bea Arthur worked the crowd. We're glad we were there for the experience.


Bea Arthur

Leigh Zimmerman

Steve Schiffman

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The talented and beautiful Leigh Zimmerman, who last performed in Las Vegas as Ulla in The Producers, heads to London where she will star as Velma in Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End. The singer/dancer/actress will be re-visiting a role she played eight years ago. Her opening night is June 1st, and she closes on July 11th. Co-starring in the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical will be Jerry Springer, making his stage debut as Billy Flynn. Leigh is married to the uber-talented Domenick Allen (mentioned earlier in this column), and is the mother of the amazing performer, little Miss Cayleigh Capaldi.

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If you missed the April 12th edition of 60 Minutes, with Charlie Rose interviewing casino mogul Steve Wynn, our friend, former Las Vegan Steve Schiffman, informed us that we could view the entire interview via the Internet. If you have any interest in this city, and we assume that you wouldn't be reading this column if you didn't, we urge you to check it out by going to the CBS Web site, clicking on 60 Minutes and scrolling down to the April 12th date and the Casino Mogul Steve Wynn's Midas Touch, The Man Who Helped Reinvent Las Vegas story. As for Mr. Schiffman, over a period of years, he was involved in the PR/Marketing departments of the Golden Nugget, Desert Inn (now the site of Wynn Las Vegas), Bally's and Debbie Reynolds (now known as the Greek Isles) properties. He is now retired and living in Arizona. It is too bad that there aren't more Schiffman-types still plying their trade in Las Vegas. This man knew how to handle the public and the media, a skill that is sadly lacking today. Other than veteran marketing maven Jim Seagrave, currently VP of Marketing and Advertising with Boyd Gaming, we can't think of anyone else who appears to understand the game. (See the PEEPSHOW item elsewhere in this column.)

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Since we live in Las Vegas, we don't know if this is only a local phenomenon, but this is a city of constant benefits...usually for a good cause. Maybe because we have so many talented people in the community, the majority of the fundraisers involve performers donating their time and skills to help those in need. Here are a few upcoming examples...


Trina Johnson-Finn

Jeanne Bavaro, Brent Barrett & Angela Acosta

You may have read or heard about the unbelievable plight of Las Vegas entertainer, Trina Johnson-Finn. Trina is an entertainer who has sung back-up with the likes of Barbra Streisand and MC Hammer and has appeared on Oprah. She also works in the celebrity tribute industry, performing as several different iconic singers. In February, Trina was hired to impersonate Toni Braxton for a "private party" in Suriname, South America. She went on stage and was booed and had things thrown at her. She had to be rushed off-stage. As it turned out, the client was a scam artist, one Angel Ventura from Trinidad, who had promoted Trina as the real Toni Braxton. He skipped town with all the box office proceeds before Trina took to the stage. Authorities took Trina and her husband, Raymond Finn, a by-stander, into custody and charged them with fraud and swindling. Raymond spent two weeks in jail and was then released, while Trina is still there. Tomorrow, beginning at noon, John Stuart is turning over his Legends Ranch for a benefit to help raise a defense fund for Trina Johnson-Finn. There will be all kinds of entertainment and food, beginning at noon and lasting until around 8 p.m. The Legends Ranch is located at 8213 Rancho Destino, near Blue Diamond and Windmill. Admission price ranges from $10 to VIP treatment at $40.

Some new names have been added to the list of entertainers who will perform at the May 17th fundraiser to aid victims of the earthquake that struck the central region of Italy on April 6th. The Sunday afternoon benefit will feature a plethora of performers, including Peter Anthony, Pete Barbutti, Michaelina Bellamy, Dennis Bono, Jeanne Brei, Lance Burton, Charlie Callas, Paul Campanella, Denise Clemente, Kelly Clinton, Kathleen Dunbar, Robert Ensler, Mark Giovi, Shecky Greene, Don Hill, Clint Holmes, Lorraine Hunt-Bono, Joni Illi, Rich Little, Mafalda, Nik Mastrangelo, Linda November, Babe Pier, Carme Pitrello, Lena Prima, Cork Proctor, Frankie Randall, Sal Richards, Ronnie Rose, Artie Schroeck, Frankie Scinta, Sammy Shore, Felix Silla, Joe Sirola, Allen Tramont, and Gabriella Versace. Nelson Sardelli will serve as host/MC. About 300 people died, and more than 40,000 people have been left homeless, as a result of the quake. An Affair of the Heart...To Italy with Love will take place from 1 to 4: p.m. in The Orleans showroom on Sunday, May 17th. Doors will open at noon and tickets can be purchased in advance, or in person, at the Orleans box office. Tickets are $35.

On Sunday (May 3rd) at 1 p.m., a group of singers from Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular will join eight UNLV students in a concert to be held at the Community Lutheran Church, 3720 E Tropicana Ave. just west of Sandhill. The afternoon vocal concert will raise money for students to attend the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS). There is no set admission price but organizers are requesting a free will offering. Checks can be written directly to the American Institute of Musical Studies, and all donations are tax-deductible. The study program will take place in Graz, Austria, this summer, from July 6th through August 16th. The AIMS Summer Vocal Institute, the oldest and most well known of all summer vocal programs, offers a unique experience in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. AIMS features an international faculty from Europe and America who are experienced teachers and performers. The primary focus of this comprehensive summer course is on personal advancement in technical, language and dramatic areas, and the development of a professional approach to a career in music. AIMS is dedicated to providing training that bridges the transition between education and a career in music. Phantom cast members, Joan Sobel, Megan Starr-Levitt, Marc Cedric Smith and Stephen Price, will be singing in the hopes of bringing attention to these students and their efforts to advance their musical education. Sobel participated in AIMS when she was in college, and is thrilled to be helping our local UNLV Vocal Students make it to this incredible institute. The UNLV students who are participating are Nathan Van Arsdale, Edwin Cotton, Sheronda McKee, Amanda Mura, Maureen Seymour, Michael Smith, Valeria Ore, and Isabella Ivy. For more information, please call (702) 245-0992.

And at the same facility next Friday (May 8th) at 7 p.m., singers from the Anthem Performing Arts Community will offer a One Night Only concert, Stroll Down Memory Lane, a collection of Broadway songs from shows including Annie Get Your Gun, Guys and Dolls, The Music Man, Anything Goes, Porgy and Bess, West Side Story, and Jekyll & Hyde, along with American standards originally made popular by singers such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Bette Midler, Rosemary Clooney, Barbra Streisand, and others. Featured in the concert are singers Chuck Simmons, Carol Joyce, George Gingerelli, Jan George and Gail Beckman. Admission is $12 per person. The program will benefit Family Promise of Las Vegas, a community-wide program that supports homeless families on their journey to a stable future. Tickets are available at the Community Lutheran Bookstore. For more information, call (702) 458-2241.

We are sure readers will want to know how the April 19th Dancing With the Las Vegas Stars competition/fundraiser turned out. The good news is that Brent Barrett's original partner, Jeanne Bavaro, who was injured during earlier rehearsals, was well enough to take her place at his side on the dance floor. That, of course, means that Bavaro's lovely and talented daughter, Angela Acosta, did not get the opportunity to go into the game for her mother. Both of these ladies grew very fond of Mr. Barrett during the preparation for this event that raised money, through admission prices to the competition/exhibition at the Palms, as well as the revenue generated from the $1 per vote charges. The top money earner (based on the number of votes at a buck per) and, as a result, the winner, was boxer Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and partner, Mandy Kuhn. First runner-up was radio personality, Chet Buchanan, and his partner, Jennifer Atlas, and second runner-up was our favorite couple, Barrett and Bavaro (sounds like a personal injury law firm). Chris Phillips, of Zowie Bowie fame, and his partner Carrie Cone; radio gal Steph MacKenzie and her partner, Lupe Martinez; and Las Vegas Mayor, and good sport, Oscar Goodman and his partner, Dana Delgado, brought up the rear. The real winners, though, were the cancer-related charities that benefited from all of this hard work, sweat, and an injury or two. As for young Angela Acosta, if Dancing With the Las Vegas Stars becomes an annual event (and we won't be surprised if it does), expect to see her in an upcoming competition.

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As promised/threatened in last week's column, in spite of the PR company's reluctance to provide us with the information ("because it's a topless show"), here are the names of Jerry Mitchell's PEEPSHOW cast: Mel B ( former Spice Girl, Melanie Brown), Kelly Monaco, Nick Kenkel, Albert Blaise Cattafi, Cheaza, Olivia Cipolla, Keltie Colleen, Jason Davies, Kristin DeCesare, Lena Giroux, Renay Wright Herter, Monica Klus, Emily Loftiss, Allie Meixner, Stoyan Metchkarov, Marielys Molina, Leah O'Donnell, Carolyn Pace, Tara Palsha, Jessica Press, Jackie Seiden, Josh Strickland (singer, Broadway's Tarzan, American Idol), Timber, Jennifer Quinlan, Katie Webber, Adar Wellington and Kaci Wilson. The all-girl band is made up of Susan Draus, Musical Director and keyboards; Vita Corimbi, Associate Musical Director; Jill Warren, guitar; Dixie Dawkins, sax; Jennifer York, bass, and Nan Fortier, drums. We will tell you more about these folks over the next few weeks, as they bring lengthy and very impressive credits to this show.

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Lesley Gore, the singer behind such iconic 1960s hits as It's My Party and You Don't Own Me, will debut at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York, from May 5th through 9th. With Louis St. Louis as musical director, in addition to her legendary songs, Gore will offer new
interpretations of modern classics by The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Laura Nyro and John Lennon. She will also present pop/jazz standards by George Gershwin and Michel Legrand.


Lesley Gore

The Lion King

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Preview performances for the long awaited Las Vegas production of The Lion King begin on Tuesday (May 5th) and run through May 14th. The Tony Award and Olivier Award-winning musical is based on the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name. Music is by Elton John and Tim Rice. Directed by Julie Taymor, the musical features actors in cleverly designed animal costumes, as well as giant, hollow puppets. The musical has been playing on Broadway since October 15th, 1997. It is now Broadway's ninth longest-running show in history. Time magazine called The Lion King, "Awe-inspiring! A gorgeous gasp-inducing spectacle!", while Newsweek declared the production "a landmark event in entertainment." The New York Times said, "There is simply nothing else like it." Preview performance show times are Monday through Sunday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. The show is dark on May 12th, with the official opening night taking place on May 15th with a 7 p.m. curtain. Beginning on May 16th, shows are at 8 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and Saturdays and Sundays at 4 and 8 p.m. Dark on Fridays. Tickets are priced from $53 to $168.50, all inclusive. They are available for purchase through the hotel's Lion King Box Office, or through ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.

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Reminders...On Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., it's pianist Wes Winters at ENVY The Steakhouse, in the Renaissance at 3400 Paradise Road. Winters provides the music portion for the Mimosas & Music brunch. For only $25 per person, you get wine and cheese tasting, unlimited sparkling wine, Mimosas, fruit smoothies and a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Appetizers include fresh fruit and berries, smoked salmon with tomatoes, red onions and capers and Envy's signature fruit and granola parfaits. There also are serving stations with omelets, Belgian waffles and seafood. All of that AND Wes Winters! Reservations can be made by calling (702) 784-5716 or by visiting www.envysteakhouse.com.

Richel Kompst repeats her Blame It On the Walleye - A Musical Journey Through the Neurotic Mind of a Norwegian Blonde, tonight at 7. This time, backed by The Nightcrawlers band, the multi-talented Richel does her thing at the Reed Whipple Theater, 821 Las Vegas Blvd. North. Tickets are only $7. Call (702) 229-6211. Check her out.



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