Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column



Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
She's a little bit naughty. Shes a little bit nice.  
She calls em like she sees (and hears) em.  
Shes...

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from July 17, 2009
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - July 17, 2009


Ray Jarvis, Rebecca Spencer & Jerry Ritholz-Jarvis

Frank Marino

On Wednesday, our friend Ray Jarvis lost his 14 year battle with cancer. No one fought harder to survive than Ray. He agreed to any and all types of treatment, experimental or traditional, while never complaining or asking, “Why me?” When he was feeling good, the onetime song and dance man enjoyed life to the fullest, seeing shows, going on cruises, and spending time with friends. Ray had a variety-filled career in show business. He was practically born dancing. When he was still a teen in Canada, Ray opened his own ballet school. As a youngster, he was a champion baton twirler in Toronto. He was also a member of a well-known Canadian Ballet Company. The Ray Jarvis Trio, of which, not surprisingly, Ray was the leader, performed regularly on Canada’s Shirley Harmer’s TV show. Over the years, Ray appeared on Broadway in the chorus of My Fair Lady, Pajama Game and Can Can. He also performed at places such as the famed Latin Quarter in New York, appearing with many stars, including Robert Goulet, Betty Grable, Jimmy Durante, Shirley Bassey, Josephine Baker, Liberace, Dorothy Lamour, Kaye Ballard, and Marie McDonald, many of whom became close friends lifetime of Ray’s. In the late 1950s, Jarvis moved to Las Vegas where he performed in Minsky’s Follies at the Dunes, George Arnold’s 1959 Ecstasy On Ice at the Thunderbird, and for five years, beginning in the early ‘60s, was a principal in Les Folies Bergere at the Tropicana. It was during that period that Ray worked with the French actress/ dancer/singer, Liliane Montevecchi. In August of 1958, while attending a performance of Cole Porter’s Out of This World at the Chicago Music Theater in the Windy City, that Ray Jarvis first met Jerry Ritholz, who was the production’s set designer. In 1973, Ray was working for producer Barry Ashton, traveling between Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, when he auditioned for Donn Arden’s new show, Hallelujah Hollywood, going into Las Vegas’ brand new MGM Grand (now Bally’s) hotel. When it was learned that the show’s opening was going to be delayed, Ray went to work at sea. It was in 1976, on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, that Ray and Jerry met up for the second time. Ray was the ship’s Cruise Director and an entertainer, and Jerry was traveling with his mother. That cruise was the beginning of Ray and Jerry’s three decades long relationship. They had been together ever since. In 1983, Ray returned to Las Vegas, this time with Jerry who gave up those dreaded Chicago winters for the Southern Nevada desert. In Las Vegas, the two gentlemen enjoyed the music and theater scene, attending the ballet and concerts when the opportunities presented themselves. The Jarvis/Ritholz home reflects their love of music and art, as well as reflects Ray’s career in show business, with hundreds of photos of him with almost everyone he ever sang or danced with lining the walls of a den. Quite an impressive history. Ray and Jerry were very involved with, and supportive of, a number of charities, including Golden Rainbow. After saying goodbye to those that loved him, Ray passed away on July 15th at the Nathan Adelson Hospice. Ray Jarvis is survived by Jerry Ritholz-Jarvis, his life partner of almost 34 years, and many friends. No services have been announced. Rest in peace, Ray.
The accompanying photo shows Ray and Jerry with one of their favorite ladies, entertainer Rebecca Spencer who played Madame Giry in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular for the production's first two years.

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Oh Lord...of the Dance, that is. Here we go again. If you were planning on seeing Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance during its "Limited Run" at the DOOMED Wyrick Theater, you are out of luck. We felt if ANYBODY or ANYTHING could succeed at this theater, Lord of the Dance, which has a broad international fan base, thanks to specials on PBS and performances around the world, should have been able to overcome the jinx that plagues the theater located in the Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood. They couldn't and they didn't. Welcome to the club of failed ventures, Mr. Flatley. You can get in line behind Martin Nievera, Ronn Lucas, Wes Winters, Fan Yang, Trent Carlini, Tom Dane and any of the others who have been through the "Wyrick system." It will be interesting to see just how long Rockstar - The Tribute lasts. There already seems to be a problem with this one. If you check out Rockstar on the Internet, you will see, according to numerous sites, that the show was "supposed" to be open about a week ago. In fact, there are people trying to re-sell tickets for dates when there was no Rockstar. The only way this production stands a snowball's chance on the Strip in August, is if they have a huge, and we mean HUGE, advertising budget. Even then... We wish them luck.

And before we were able to write our story about Shear Madness, the interactive murder mystery comedy production, playing in a, built for the occasion, theater in Town Square, comes word that it is closing. Everything we heard and read about this show was very positive. Perhaps it was the timing (the opening was delayed by a couple of months). Perhaps it was the location (a nice shopping area on the south end of the Strip). Or perhaps it was the state of the economy. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above. Whatever. We are sorry we missed Shear Madness.

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The ripple effect of Michael Jackson's death three weeks ago, is already impacting people who are living with chronic pain. As if the suffering folks don't have enough to deal with, these battle weary soldiers are now being kicked while they are down. Rules are being changed regarding the dispensing of certain prescription drugs - not to addicts, who are getting them illegally and taking them for recreational purposes, but to folks that need them to be able to get out of bed in the morning and live anything that remotely resembles "a normal life." It will probably become a lot more difficult to obtain needed medication through legal channels, and we all know what that means - parking lot exchanges in the dead of night. Too bad that a few bad apples, both in the medical field and in the public sector, will force the government and insurance companies to take control. The truth is that, the people who want to get drugs for the wrong reasons will always find a way to do so, while those in need (as opposed to those in want) will be the ones who really pay the heavy price.

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Sheeee's, er, heee's back. Over Labor Day Weekend, on September 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, female impersonator Frank Marino, who starred in An Evening at La Cage at the Riviera for almost a quarter of a century, will return to the Strip for a special four day/eight show engagement at the Imperial Palace. Divas Las Vegas, with a cast of 14, will feature all new numbers, all new costumes and some new characters. Audience members can expect interpretations of their all-time favorites - Cher, Diana Ross, Madonna and Wynonna - plus some of today's top stars, including Beyonce, Britney Spears and Lady Ga Ga - think MTV. According to Marino, Divas Las Vegas is a show 25 years in the making. Frank credits Senior Vice President and General Manager of Harrah's and Flamingo Las Vegas, Don Marrandino, for adding Divas Las Vegas to Harrah's impressive entertainment lineup. Marrandino, who has been described as an "innovative gaming industry executive," has quite an impressive record when it comes to booking successful acts. He is responsible for bringing and/or keeping Donny & Marie, Rita Rudner, Human Nature, Legends In Concert, Nathan Burton, George Wallace, Mac King, Vinnie Favorito, and "X" Burlesque (we hope we haven't overlooked anyone and apologize if we did). Frank Marino is proud and pleased to join the other shows and performers, and feels he is in very good company.

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Keith Thompson

Ali Spuck

John Kaye

It's that time of month again (no, not THAT time of month)...On Thursday night, July 23rd, at 10:30 (after theater), it's the AAA (Always Anxiously Awaited) monthly Composers Showcase, featuring the songs of local composers and songwriters. Among the talented group of writers, singers and musicians who will participate in this Thursday's showcase are Erich Bergen, Michael Brennan, Vita Corimbi, David De La Paz, Philip Fortenberry, Wayne Green, Ben Hale, Clint Holmes and Davy Nathan, Kristofer McNeeley, Keith Thompson, Tina Walsh and Tyler Williams. This wonderful event, and it IS an event, takes place in The Cabaret at the Liberace Museum, 1775 East Tropicana at Spencer. There is a $5 cover charge at the door (the cover charge is waived for students with proper ID). All proceeds go to the Liberace Foundation. There is also a $5 Hors d'oeuvres buffet provided by Carluccio's and the Liberace Museum, as well as a cash bar (no credit cards, please). One never knows who might show up, on the stage or in the audience, at the showcase...one of the things that makes Las Vegas, not only the Entertainment Capital of the world, but special.

In addition to the ongoing monthly Composers Showcase, and the brilliant pianist, Philip Fortenberry, who performs his Liberace and Me program on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1 p.m., there are a number of new and newer things happening in the performance space at the Liberace Museum. First, there is VS., a new cabaret concept. VS. is an event produced by performers, for performers. It is not an open mic nor a traditional cabaret. Backed by a rocking house band, featuring some the best musicians in Las Vegas, it's a combination of a rock show and a cabaret, showcasing talent from the biggest shows on the Strip, visiting Broadway greats and stars from TV, film and the Los Angeles theatre scene. Each edition of Vs. has a different theme that will contrast two different concepts, artists, shows, composers, etc., pulled from all genres of music. Think Hello VS. Goodbye, Love VS. Hate, John VS. Paul, B-Sides VS. Hits...and the list goes on. If you want something different, plan to check out this new show.

And then, Los Angeles Ovation-nominated singer and actress, Ali Spuck, brings her one woman show, Here I Am, to the Liberace Cabaret on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Ali, who is married to Kristofer McNeeley of Jersey Boys, will take show goers on a journey of music and comedy, inspired by her experiences, family and friends. You'll be entranced, impressed and delighted by her gregarious spirit. Song selections will include classic Broadway tunes, contemporary cabaret hits, and the romantic Gershwin songs from the Golden Age of music. Backstage West described Ali as ""Buoyant and appealing," while the Los Angeles Times stated, "Ali Spuck rivals Bette Midler." Ticket prices for Here I Am, produced by VS. a Rock Cabaret and Principle Productions, are $15.

A week from Saturday, July 25th, the Liberace Museum will present John Kaye and the Coalition. John, son of Norman Kaye and nephew of Mary Kaye of the legendary The Mary Kaye Trio, brings his unique style, described as Acoustic R & B Soul and Smooth Jazz, to the Cabaret Showroom at the Liberace Museum for one-night-only. Accompanied by The Coalition, John will include some of his father's original songs - Why Did You Leave Me for Perry Como, Let's Love for Johnny Mathis, I'm In Love and Let Me Help You To the Blues - in his presentation. Norman Kaye is expected to be present at the museum for John's 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $20 per person in advance, and $25 if purchased at door. Call (702) 798-5595 x14 for reservations.

Then, within the next couple of weeks, a black tie event will take place at the museum, with the goal of raising enough money to put a proper and permanent sound system into the cabaret space. Once that mission is complete, we predict that the already popular cabaret will become the first choice for talented artists who want to perform without the restrictions of a major Strip production show. For tickets to, or information about any of these events, call (702) 798.5595, ext 13, or e-mail [email protected]

FYI...
The Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to 15 U.S. colleges and universities for disbursement to students excelling in the areas of music, theatre, dance, fashion design and the creative arts in the 2009-2010 academic year. The scholarship recipients are: Bard College Music Department; California State University, Sacramento Department of Music; Columbia College Chicago; Columbia University School of the Arts, Theatre Arts Division; Columbus College of Art & Design; Manhattan School of Music; Northern Illinois University Department of Music; The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University; University of Missouri
University at Buffalo, SUNY; University of Nevada Las Vegas; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Music; University of Oregon School of Music and Dance; University of Rochester Eastman School of Music; and the Viterbo University Music Department. The Liberace Foundation is supported by private donations from individuals, corporations, individual Liberace fans, fan clubs, and admirers globally. The glittering Liberace Museum, which commemorated its 30th anniversary on April 15, is also a significant funding source for the Foundation. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. For more information and to become a supporter of the Liberace Foundation, call (702) 798-5595 ext. 16, or visit the Web site,
www.Liberace.org.

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Carol Channing & Forever Plaid Cast

Alison Arngrim

We attended the special, one-time-only, showing of Forever Plaid the movie at Sam's Town last Thursday night. We thought that Alison Arngrim, "Nasty Nellie Oleson" from TV's Little House On the Prairie days, did a good job hosting the before-the-screening, Red Carpet segment. In addition to Fred Willard, Kate Linder, Carol Channing, Carl Reiner, Loretta Devine, Donna Mills, Stefanie Powers, Rip Taylor, JoAnne Worley, and Tippi Hedren were among those interviewed by Arngrim, or spotted in the crowd at the Club Nokia in Los Angeles. After the premiere of Forever Plaid, seen simultaneously in hundreds of movie theaters around the country, Channing (who is 88) sang "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Viewers were then treated to the live Plaids - Larry Raben, David Engel, Stan Chandler and Daniel Reichard - doing Plaid-style arrangements of songs from Cats and Sweeney Todd, as well as a crazy medley of the 1952 song "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window," and the contemporary, "Who Let the Dogs Out" (woof, woof, woof, woof, etc.). Our complaint with this unique venture was the lack of publicity and promotion regarding the nationwide, one time only, theater showing, as well as the show time. As a result, the turnout was quite sparse, at least in the Las Vegas theater where we saw the film. Since live productions of Forever Plaid, the musical, played in Vegas for some time, we feel that loyal Plaid fans would have attended the movie...if they had known about it. Also, an early afternoon show time would have made it possible for some of the local Strip performers to come out for the fun...especially since both Raben and Engel were onetime Strip performers themselves - Raben in The Producers, and Engel in Forever Plaid - and made lots of friends while they were living here.

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The Society of Seven, once again, had another successful weekend at the Suncoast showroom. SOS charms their audiences with beautiful music and outrageous comedy delivered by a talented cast of characters - Tony Ruivivar, Bert Sagum, Hoku Low, Vince Mendoza, Wayne Wakai, Mike Laygo, Roy Venturina, and special guest, American Idol finalist, Jasmine Trias. We doubt that there is anyone who could enter a showroom in a down or bad mood, watch these pros at work, and not leave at the end of the show, feeling good. Among the familiar smiling faces that we saw enjoying last Sunday night's show were, singer Mark Giovi; Dana Stern, former Golden Nugget Entertainment Manager; Carole Hassell and sister, Laura Blackburn; Ron O'Neal, the Golden Nugget's Director of Entertainment; singer/model/magician Ben Stone, son of producer Paul Stone; and Mendrei and Cecile Leelil from Rosy Cheeks Entertainment Group.

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Well, it appears that there are more problems in Steve Wyrick's life than the ever-changing talent line-up at the theater in the Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood that bears his name. As we have mentioned before, since the theater's opening, in early 2007, there has not been one act or show, that has managed to overcome the curse of the space...that curse, we feel, being Wyrick himself. The Wyrick produced July 4th Death Drop "stunt" that went awry in front of Planet Hollywood, looked like another publicity-generating attempt on the part of the magician. (You do recall, that at the time of poor Anna Nicole Smith's tragic death, Wyrick claimed that he might be the father of Anna's baby, Dannielynn, don't you? Is this guy for real???) Wyrick has yet to give an explanation regarding the accident that left a member of his stunt crew injured. The stunt called for Wyrick to be hoisted in the air above 500 flaming spikes. Some netting, holding the box, caught on fire, and one of Wyrick's crew members, reportedly inside the box, suffered burns. His name and condition were never released. Wyrick has been very quiet about this subject, and has yet to provide any specific details about the stunt or what went wrong. Oddly, he had plenty to say about poor Anna Nicole.

And speaking of businesses with problems, we have to wonder exactly what is, or isn't, going on at Las Vegas' Don't Tell Mama's? It seems that the downtown piano bar/cabaret, which we were so looking forward to, is going through growing pains...or maybe we should call them "shrinking" pains. After numerous delays, due to construction and licensing issues, the club finally opened in February. We are not sure why, but apparently advertising their entry into the local market isn't important to the owners. We are very surprised at how many local professional entertainers, who should know about this club, don't. Talented performers and musicians who worked at Mama's - Phillip Officer, Lisa Wilson, Lloyd Ziel, and Joey Singer, among others - are now gone. This is a fun place, with live entertainment, including a singing wait staff, and open mic available for those with a hint of talent. We hope the owners will seek some advice on how to properly promote what could be a real, long-term asset to the city. We don't want to see Don't Tell Mama disappear. The club, open seven nights a week, is located at 517 Fremont Street, a half block east of Las Vegas Blvd. Call (702) 207-0788.

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Kelly Monaco

Brent Barrett

Giovanna & Nelson Sardelli

Soap opera devotees are not just a loyal group of people, they also tend to have extremely long memories. Even decades after an actor has left the world of daytime drama, the performer's role in a favorite show can still resonate with the fans. A number of daytime drama veterans have made the transition to theater, often musical theater. Among them are beautiful Kelly Monaco, a regular cast member on the soaps, Port Charles and General Hospital, who recently headlined in Jerry Mitchell's PEEPSHOW at Planet Hollywood. Another example is our friend, handsome Brent Barrett, called "one of the crown jewels of musical theater," having played such iconic roles as "The Count" in Grand Hotel, "Frank Butler" in Annie Get Your Gun, the title role in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, and the suave "Billy Flynn" in Chicago, a part Barrett resumed on Broadway earlier this month. It might surprise some to know that Brent's first brush with fame was as the insanely jealous "Tony Barclay," who accidentally killed the woman he loved on ABC's All My Children. (We never pass up an opportunity to mention our Phavorite Phantom.)

And, while still in a "New York State of Mind" (thank you, Billy Joel), as part of the Second Stage Theatre Uptown, if you happen to be in the area, you can see Lila Rose Kaplan's Wildflower, directed by the much recognized and praised Giovanna Sardelli, through August 8th. Yes, if you are wondering, Giovanna is related to the often mentioned in this column, Nelson Sardelli. The talented lady happens to be one of Mr. Sardelli's daughters. Giovanna recently won the 2008 Joseph A. Callaway Award for excellence in stage direction for Second Stage Theatre Uptown's production of Rajiv Joseph's Animals Out of Paper. Other credits include, Taking Flight (Goodman Theatre & Stages Repertory Co., CTG, San Diego Rep., and Sundance), All This Intimacy (Second Stage Uptown), Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (The Lark), Huck & Holden (Cherry Lane), and Lynn Rosen's Apple Cove (The Lark/TMTP). Wildflower tells the story of a woman and her troubled son, looking to escape their past in Crested Butte, a small town with its own share of secrets. They encounter a curious girl, a forest ranger, and an ex-drag queen. The five collide in a summer of botany and sexual awakening. This comic drama explores the discovery of desire and its unexpected consequences. The cast is made up of Nadia Bowers, Ron Cephas Jones, Quincy Dunn Baker, Jake O'Connor, and Renee Felice Smith. Wildflower is playing at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway at 76th Street, Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., with added 2 p.m. matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays. General admission ticket prices are $50, with discounts available for students and younger patrons. Box office opens one hour prior to curtain. For reservations, call (212) 246-4422.

As for the proud papa, tomorrow evening, Nelson Sardelli will be overseeing the 5th anniversary celebration for the F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) group, to be held at the Italian American Club on East Sahara. The following week, he heads east to visit his dentist in Northfield, New Jersey, and then into Manhattan and the Second Stage Theatre Uptown to see the results of Giovanna's directorial work, where he will be flashing those pearly whites. Accompanying Mr. Sardelli to the theater will be his other daughter, Pietra Sardelli, who, like her busy daddy, calls Las Vegas home.

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Jimmie "JJ" Walker

Ronnie Fabre

Fellow columnist/publicist, Norm Johnson, reports that Bob Kephart's Comedy Stop has found its new home on the Las Vegas Strip. The Comedy Stop, which had been at the Tropicana for almost two decades, will open in the Sahara's famed Congo Room on Monday, July 20th. "After being at one hotel for nearly 19 years, I was not surprised at the immediate response I received upon leaving the Tropicana Hotel," Bob Kephart said. "I was offered various rooms on the Strip, as well as off the Strip. After considering everything presented, there was no question, the Sahara Congo Room was the place to be!" Kephart went on to say, "We will maintain our policy of booking three of the best comedians on the circuit every week. After all, that's what made us the No. 1 comedy club, as voted on by residents of Las Vegas and Atlantic City." For the launch of the Comedy Stop's Sahara location, Louis Ramey, who was one of five finalists in the 2008 edition of the NBC television series, Last Comic Standing, will join Broadway veteran Rick Crom, and television veteran, Jimmie J.J. Walker, for premiere week, inside the Congo Room. Show times for the Comedy Stop at the Sahara will be 9 p.m. nightly, with tickets priced at $24.95, plus tax and applicable fees. A locals special is available, with tickets starting at $19.95 plus tax and applicable fees (must show a Nevada drivers license). For more information or reservations call (702) 737-2515.

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Happy birthday to Ronnie Fabre, who celebrates today (July 17th). Ronnie has been performing onstage for most of her life. Ronnie began her professional career in 1968, when, as a teenager, she traveled to Vietnam with the Safaris, of "Wipeout" fame, and was also the playoff band for the Bob Hope Show for '68 and '69. She returned to the states, and sang backup for the Righteous Bros and Bill Medley. Ronnie moved to Las Vegas in 1970 and has proceeded to sing in just about every major Strip hotel ever since. Known as the "Little Girl with the Big Voice," Ronnie has appeared in Pinups 2001 at the Sahara Hotel, and Jerry Jackson's Wholly Smoke. She played the Playboy Club circuit as lead singer of the all female band, Topaz; was the lead singer for Vegas Company at Caesars Palace; portrayed Ethel Merman and Judy Garland in Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace, and again played Garland in The Divas; performed with lounge band of the year, The Checkmates; was in Sid and Marty Kroffts Comedy Kings; sang with the Lon Bronson All Star Band, and worked on two Nelson Riddle recording projects as an ensemble and lead singer. The lady has also opened for Allen and Rossi, Frank Gorshin, and Tony Bennett. Ronnie's comedic flair has been seen at Catch a Rising Star, where her quick wit and funny impressions were warmly received by the audience. As a guest on Paul Shaffer's Viva Shaf Vegas, Ronnie was described by Paul as a "crazy and zany gal!" Over the last 15 years, she has established herself as a respected private voice teacher. She has taught hundreds of students in Las Vegas - some who have been singing for years before taking Ronnie's private singing class, and some of who are just learning how to match pitch or find their voice.

Ronnie is married to musician Steve Golden. Steve is a gifted saxophone, flute, and electronic woodwind player, who has performed with the greats, from Frank Sinatra to Diana Ross. They have a band called The Golden-Fabre Syndrome, where they play everything from pop to jazz. When she isn't teaching, Ronnie and Steve frequently perform together, mostly for corporate events and private parties. Separately and together, this talented twosome make beautiful music. Many happy returns of the day, Ronnie.

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Unified Tribe

Nigel Lythgoe

They call themselves Unified Tribe, and they just might be the best musical ensemble you never heard of. Made up of a large, multicultural "tribe" of talented musicians and singers, Unified Tribe has a sound somewhat reminiscent of Earth Wind & Fire, while still staying true to themselves. The organization has gained a sizeable following over the last decade, for both its style and its grooves. Formed in the early '80s by the singular-named Magic, the tribe, a classy funk/R&B band with New York and L.A. roots, is anything but industry-formulated. It's their true musicality that first hooks fans. With a core that's been together for more than twenty years, their strong relationships form the perfect foundation for the potent sound in their music. Newcomers and industry veterans show an appreciation for what they have to offer. "Unified Tribe is the badest band on the planet. If history repeats itself, then Unified Tribe is the next Earth, Wind and Fire," states R&B group The Whispers. Howard Hewett, formerly with Shalamar, adds to that sentiment. "I went to their studio and left with my mouth wide open...These cats are bad!" Their production company, Magic Muzik Productions, Inc., comprised entirely of band members, has worked with music veterans such as Earth, Wind & Fire, The Whispers, The Manhattans, Phil Perry, The Rippingtons, George Duke, and Nia Peeples. After spending some time in Austin, Texas, the group is currently based in Las Vegas. Independent from the get-go, Unified Tribe debuted in 2001 with Listen to This, an album that was well received and earned positive buzz for the group. In 2003, Unified Tribe released their second album, Mixed Messages. Following a three-year break from recording, in 2006, Unified Tribe self-released FUNKtional Family, their long-awaited third album. It was a hit, and became the group's first album to chart around the world. Mixing a funk foundation with soulful grooves and messages of unity, the strong musicianship of the ensemble has solidified a relatively small but fiercely loyal following for the tribe. With their latest album, On Purpose ("Cuz that's how we dooz it"), that small group of followers is expected to grow. There have been a few changes in personnel over the past twenty-some years, but the team remains unified and focused on the future. Today's band-mates, all of whom go by single names, consist of the above mentioned Magic, Harmony, Merrily, Kal-El, Jessi, Kathy, Kay, Greg, Rochon and Orin. Whether in the studio or on stage, the teams' originality comes across loud and clear. Fans and industry aficionados often comment on the fact that Unified Tribe's show far surpasses any earlier expectations. On Purpose is available online through Amazon and CD Baby. On July 25th at 9 p.m., Unified Tribe will take over the 650-seat Access Showroom at Aliante Station, North Las Vegas' newest hotel casino. The 10-member Tribe will deliver A Performance of Gratitude, featuring music from their latest CD, On Purpose. This free concert will be part of a live video shoot. Attendees must be 21 or older. You can learn more about Unified Tribe by going to their Web site at www.unifiedtribe.net.

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Because it was a private event (and we DO respect people's privacy), we weren't going to mention the goings on at Nigel Lythgoe's recent 60th birthday party at his home in Lake Las Vegas. Among the guests attending the festivities were American Idol judge Simon Cowell and Olivia Newton-John. Lythgoe, the former executive producer for Idol, and the current executive producer and a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, apparently likes Southern Nevada, as he owns, not one, but, two homes in Las Vegas. Paul Stone provided the entertainment for the VIP party guests in the form of The Overtures, widely regarded as the finest '60s tribute band in the world. A fun time was had by all.


The Overtures

Elisa Furr

Helen Joy (Wray)

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If our friend, Joann Toranto, says "she's great," we must give entertainer Elisa Furr a plug...even though she is doing her thing at that Italian joint on the south end of Las Vegas Blvd. You know, the one that we don't talk about or patronize. Ms. Furr, who has performed as Celine Dion in American Superstars at the Stratosphere, and shared main room stages with artists such as Lou Rawls, Mickey Thomas and Mike Reno, entertains this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at THAT place.

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Tonight and tomorrow night, at 7 p.m., Michael Chapman and ChapQuist Entertainment present Helen Joy's Fifth Annual Broadway Vignettes at the Starbright Theatre, at 2215 Thomas Ryan Blvd. in Sun City Summerlin. This exciting evening of highlights from some of Broadway's most memorable musicals, features a cast of youngsters, ages six to eighteen. The fun-filled show promises to entertain Broadway music lovers, as well as inform those who've never experienced a live Broadway musical. Tickets are $12. For credit card orders, please call (702) 869-2064. For general Starbright info, call (702) 240-1301.

Sadly, on July 3rd, after a long and valiant battle with emphysema, longtime Las Vegas entertainer Helen Joy died at the Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas. Between 1975 and 1989, her group, Helen Joy & The Joy Bells, performed on the Strip at the original MGM Grand, the Dunes, Jockey Club, Sahara, Aladdin and Landmark hotels. On three occasions, she took Helen Joy's Young Entertainers to the White House to perform. Helen, an Australian native, was awarded a Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal by Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain for entertaining the troops in Vietnam. Though she still occasionally performed, Helen's passion was passing the torch to talented youth. In addition to teaching stage and vocal dynamics, she also produced many shows throughout the community each year, featuring these talented young performers, Helen Joy's Young Entertainers. One of her proudest accomplishments was having the honor of this talented group being invited to perform at the White House during the holidays five times! A memorial service was held at The Lakes Lutheran Church on July 11th. For those that would like to honor Helen, the family suggests a memorial scholarship contribution in her name to the Youth Foundation for the Performing Arts, helping children become the stars of tomorrow, 5430 Sandpiper Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89146, (702) 364-8669.

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Naked Boys Singing! continues to do impressive numbers at the Onyx Theatre, located inside The Rack on East Sahara in the Commercial Center. Brides-to-be are discovering what New Yorkers, where the show has been running for 10 years, already knew...Naked Boys Singing! is a great event for Bachelorette Parties! After 10 years, the smash hit comedy is still running strong in New York. As mentioned in an earlier column, after just a couple of weeks, NBS has been extended for an indefinite run. A Sunday matinee has also been added. Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 10 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. The Onyx Theatre is at 653 E. Sahara, just west of Maryland Parkway. Tickets, for adults only, are $30. For additional information about Naked Boys Singing! (the answer is YES, they are really naked), and to make reservations, call (702) 732-7225.

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When you're alone and life is making you lonely, You can always go - downtown...and while you are down there, you can check out the talented impressionist, Gordie Brown, currently knocking them out in his own showroom at the Golden Nugget. Show times are 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. Tickets range from $39.95 to $99.95, plus applicable taxes and fees. Call the Golden Nugget ticket office at (866) 946-5336 for reservations.


Gordie Brown

Dondino

Neil Patrick Harris

Tomorrow (July 18th), in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, Jefferson Starship will perform a free concert as part of downtown's Fremont Street Experience's Summer of '69. On July 25th, The 5th Dimension will provide the musical entertainment. Both groups play from 9 to 11 p.m., with Jefferson Starship on the 3rd Street stage and The 5th Dimension on the 1st Street stage. Don't forget to dig out your tie dyes.

Marriage Can Be Murder, an award-winning comedy and murder mystery dinner show, is celebrating its tenth year in Las Vegas. The longest running dinner show in Southern Nevada, Marriage Can Be Murder, is an interactive experience where the audience unknowingly becomes involved with mystery unfolding around them. "Guests keep coming back to see the show because they enjoy the interaction of the characters on stage and in the crowd," said Eric Post, co-creator of the dinner theater concept with wife Jayne Post "Our audience members love that they are submerged into the action, and, with their reactions, each show takes on a different twist and turn. We knew 10 years ago our idea of dinner theater was different than anything else in Las Vegas and we look forward to celebrating 10 more years of Marriage Can Be Murder." Marriage Can Be Murder, which recently moved from the Four Queens to Fitzgeralds," can be seen seven nights a week at 6:30 p.m., with seating beginning at 6 p.m. inside the Showroom at Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel in fabulous downtown Las Vegas. A Marriage Can Be Murder dinner show package is $54.95, and includes a three-course dinner, one non-alcoholic drink, and tip. A VIP package is available for $69.95, and features premium seating, a souvenir t-shirt, one complimentary well cocktail, domestic beer or wine, and tip. Special Nevada resident pricing is $44.95 and includes one non-alcoholic drink, and tip. Prices do not include LET and service/ticket fee. Fitzgeralds is located at 301 Fremont Street and anchors the east end of the world-famous Fremont Street Experience. Tickets can be purchased by calling (702) 388-2111 or by visiting www.marriagecanbemurder.com.

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Imagine our surprise when we spotted onetime Vegas lounge star, Dondino, in the holding area for people hoping to get onto America's Got Talent. Dondino was shown in close-ups, numerous times over a couple of shows. Since we haven't seen him do his thing in front of the judges yet (and maybe we won't), we have no idea if Don will make it into the actual competition. For some time, we know the singer was living and working in Branson. We have no clue where he hangs his hat these days. We will keep an eye (and an ear) on this.

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Larry Hart and company (and he had plenty of both "Hart" and company) put on quite a show at the South Point last weekend. Many of Larry and the cast's family and friends turned out to enjoy Praise and to see Hart receive a number of honors, including Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman's proclamation declaring July 12th, 2009, Larry Hart Day. In addition to Hart, the concert, which was dedicated to Larry's friend and onetime business associate, Michael Jackson, included performances by Darcus Speed, Jeneane Marie, MarQue, Jenevi, Paris Red, Dianne Spann and Jennifer Weatherly. Larry's mother, Toni Hart, was a special guest, and she was a hoot. There were some great outfits (lots of designer names were involved) and some terrific songs. Among our favorites were "Jesus Loves Me...For the Mess I Am," "Stomp My Prada," "Stand Strong" (from Hart's Sisterella), "These Pumps," and "Big Hair Gets You Closer to God." Among those spotted in the audience were Cindy Doumani, Dr. Parvin Modaber Jacobs, Shelley Berkley, Papote Varet, Sandy Peltyn, Eric Floyd and Wanda Dee with their son, rising star, Siameze, Jeanne Bavaro (celebrating her birthday one day early), Dr. Adele "ZZ" Zorn, Mary Schwartz, Tony Arias, Lloyd Ziel, and Tim Searcy. PR lady, Jackie Brett, did a fine job promoting the afternoon, and, once again, Showroom Manager Robyn Turk handled the guests and room with poise and politeness (a lost art in some hotel casinos). On Sunday, August 9th, Larry Hart's Praise will return to the South Point for the third time. If you missed it before, or want to see it again, mark your calendars now.

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Neil Patrick Harris, who we thought did a great job hosting the Tony Awards last month, has been signed to emcee the 61st Annual Emmy Award show on September 20th. The Emmys will air on CBS, the network that is also, coincidentally, the home of How I Met Your Mother, in which Harris stars. How I Met Your Mother will launch its fifth season, also on September 20th, immediately following the award show.

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Matsuri is one of the new offerings at the Imperial Palace. Maybe three times will prove to be the charm when it comes to the Japanese "Muscle Musical" and Las Vegas (the . We really liked Matsuri when we saw it in its limited run at the Riviera in the summer of 2006. The following year, the energetic, fast-paced production moved to the Sahara. We know that the Golden Nugget checked out the show for their hotel's, then under construction, new expanded showroom. Although Matsuri might have been too big for the Nugget stage, it probably would have done much better than what went into the, then new, 600-seat theater, Cover Girls and Simply Ballroom. Neither show lasted very long. But we digress (that happens frequently). Matsuri will open at the IP on Friday, July 31st, with shows scheduled for 4 p.m., Wednesdays through Mondays. Additional shows will be at 8 p.m. on Fridays, with an early afternoon (1 p.m.) show on Saturday. It will share the hotel casino's 650-seat showroom (the former home of Legends In Concert) with Human Nature, the Australian "boy band." Tickets for this 70-minute family-friendly show are priced at $49.99, plus taxes and fees, for general admission; $59.99 (plus taxes and fees) for VIP seating; and $65.99 (plus taxes and fees) for the show and dinner. There are discounted ticket prices for children. Phone (702) 731-3311 for more information and reservations. We will have more details on Matsuri after it opens and we see it...again.

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The Tears of Joy Theatre will perform Stellaluna at the historic Fifth Street School, Thursday, July 23rd at 2 and 7 p.m. Adapted from the popular book by Janell Cannon, Stellaluna is the story of a baby fruit bat that falls into a bird's nest. She tries to adapt to her new home, but struggles to fit in with others. The message of self-acceptance and celebrating diversity is warm and clear. Tickets are priced at $3 each, or $10 for four. Children less than two-years-old will be admitted without charge when accompanied by a supervising adult. Tickets may be purchased online at www.artslasvegas.org or at the door. The Fifth Street School is located downtown, at 401 S. Fourth St., on the corner of Fourth and Clark streets. Parking is available in the adjacent lot and on the surrounding streets. The building opened originally in 1936 as a much-needed grammar school for the growing population (about 12,000 people at that time). Officially called the Las Vegas Grammar School, the complex was informally referred to as the Fifth Street School almost since its inception, due to its location on Fifth Street (renamed Las Vegas Boulevard in 1959). Now restored and officially called the Historic Fifth Street School, the building and its site are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register. For more information on this entertaining and educational series, call (702) 229-4614.



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