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 February 12, 2010
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - February 12, 2010


Frankie Laine - Las Vegas 1950

Benny Hollman

Freddie Bell

It's official. March 30th, on what would have been his 97th birthday, Frankie Laine, will be honored with a Legend Star in San Diego, where the late singer made his home. The star will be mounted on the outside wall next to Frankie's favorite restaurant, Trattoria Fantastica, at 1735 India Street. During the ceremony, the area of India and Date Streets will be blocked off. Benny Hollman's band (Benny Hollman served as Laine's Arranger, Conductor, Manager and Musical Director for more than 14 years) will be playing Frankie Laine hits, that include Ervin Drake's "I Believe," "Jezebel," "That's My Desire," "Mule Train," "That Lucky Old Sun," and themes from "Rawhide," "High Noon" and "Blazing Saddles," among others. Several guest singers are anticipated to attend and perform, including Laine's longtime friend, 96-year-old Herb Jeffries. If "The Singing Rage," Patti Page ("How Much Is That Doggie In the Window," "Old Cape Cod," "Tennessee Waltz," "Mockin' Bird Hill"), is available, she is also expected to participate. FYI... February 6th marked the third anniversary of the death of Frankie Laine. We will keep readers apprised of the upcoming ceremonial details. As we frequently say - If you're in the area...

And on the subject of the man who was known as "Mr. Rhythm," it was at The Orleans, in 1998, that we saw him do a concert to benefit the local musicians union. Laine has always credited the men and women who played behind him for his success (we have a feeling Frankie would have been a success, even if he performed a cappella) and frequently traveled around the country to support the unions. We hadn't seen Frankie work since an afternoon performance at the historical Chicago Theater, in the early 1950s. We didn't know what to expect, more than 45 years later. Backed by the Benny Hollman orchestra, 86-year-old Laine walked out to the middle of the Orleans stage and sang "That's My Desire." It was almost as if time had stood still. The voice was still strong (they didn't call him "Old Leather Lungs" for nothing) and confident. He hit all the right notes and didn't miss a beat. His reward at the end of the first number was a sincere, thunderous ovation from the 800+ audience members in The Orleans Showroom. "Surprised you, didn't I?" Laine queried with a twinkle in his eye. The rest of the show was just as good. The man earned and deserves a Legend Star in San Diego. He also deserves permanent acknowledgement in the Entertainment Capital of the World. Is anybody listening?

We might mention that, if the joke that is the Las Vegas Walk of Stars had any merit at all, singer, songwriter, actor, Frankie Laine, should have been one of the first recipients to receive that "honor" (to quote the late Freddie Bell, who doesn't have and didn't want a star, "If you have to buy it, it isn't an honor."). Word has it that Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin will finally get their stars on the sidewalks of Las Vegas. A virtually unknown local TV host, with shows on obscure stations airing in the middle of the night, has had a star for some time, while they are just getting around to Sinatra and Martin. What is wrong with this picture? From what we understand, a representative from the Martin family may be present for the momentous occasion, while the Sinatra family wants no part in this at all. As for Frankie Laine, he might be the only entertainer who had performed on a Las Vegas stage for seven consecutive decades, beginning in the 1940s and ending in November of 2000, when he made his last Vegas appearance at the newly opened Suncoast. The fact that he was never inducted into the (now missing from public view) Casino Legends Hall of Fame during his lifetime, is an embarrassment and should cause some red faces around this city.


John Messana - Canal Street Sommelier

Canal Street Citrus Harvest Salad

And speaking of The Orleans...
On Thursday, February 4th, before the restaurant had opened for the regular dinner crowd - hours are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m. (the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) - a handful of VIPs were invited for an afternoon of food tasting in the lovely and comfortable Canal Street restaurant, located inside The Orleans on West Tropicana. Hosted by the Firm's Vice President of Public Relations & Marketing, Jasen Woehrle, and Kristy Alward, Public Relations Manager for Boyd Gaming Corp., 10 delighted guests shared a gastronomical experience in what was termed a Media Sampler Tasting. The idea was to introduce some new dishes, added to, or slightly changed, from Canal Street's menu. The Orleans' director of food and beverage, Rene Werner, and executive chef, Philip J. Bonanno, along with chef Anthony Oliva and sommelier John Messana, all had a say in the new selections and carefully described the items and wines that were presented to the special guests. Assuming that we would select the dishes from those listed on the Tasting menu, we were quite surprised to learn that we were going to have the opportunity to sample EVERYTHING on the special menu. With the proper well-chosen wines served with the Pre-Appetizers (Fresh Fruits and Cheeses); Appetizers (Beef Short Rib Ravioli and Seared Ahi Tuna and Lump Crab Meat), Soup and Salad (Lobster Bisque and Citrus Harvest Salad), Entrees (Chili Cured and Cilantro Crusted Lamb Lollipop with Lobster Mac and Cheese; Chilean Seabass Napoleon with Andouille Cream Corn; Filet Mignon with Bleu Cheese Scallop); and Dessert (Raspberry Souffle, Macerated Berries Over Ice Cream in a Praline Cup, Flourless Chocolate Cake), all was beautifully presented. The only difference between what we sampled and what a guest would be served, was the portion size. Yet, there was so much food, that we went home with doggie boxes (no bags for Canal Street). Quite an afternoon. We are sure old and new customers will be delighted. Cousin Claire might mention, that for such a nice dining spot, with elegant but not snobby ambience, we found the prices for both food and wine to be very reasonable. The Citrus Harvest Salad (with sliced chicken included), for example, is $10. It is very generous (see accompanying photo) and, we are told, is often ordered as the Entrée.
Reservations for this locals favorite are recommended and can be made by calling (702) 365-7111. Bon apatite.

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If you are reading this early enough, here's a reminder about something happening tonight.
It's the cast of The Lion King in a very special Valentine's Day weekend performance in the Cabaret Showroom at the Liberace Museum, starting at 7. Tickets are $25 at the door. Call (702) 798-5595, ext. 14.

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Mrs. Clint Holmes (that would be the very talented Kelly Clinton) passed along the following review from David A. Frye of the Palm Beach Daily News (February 9, 2010)...

Palm Beach Pops guest Clint Holmes shines in Kravis show

A great musical match-up took place Monday night as Maestro Bob Lappin and the Palm Beach Pops welcomed veteran entertainer Clint Holmes to the Kravis Center stage.

An extremely polished performer, Holmes seemed right at home fronting the large group. He held his own through a well-paced set of quiet ballads as well as big numbers, while sharing the spotlight with Lappin and an array of soloists from the Pops lineup. The evening began sweetly enough with flutist Sara Stout kicking off the Chaplin classic "Smile," which also made great use of the string section. Special guest Mike Renzi — a world-class arranger, orchestrator and accompanist who has worked with everyone from Sinatra to Miss Piggy — stopped by to sit in with Lappin for a challenging dual-piano version of Gershwin's "Embraceable You." Rounding out the opening set was Renzi's beautiful medley of award-winning songs by Michel Legrand, including a full-tilt swing take on "I Will Wait For You" that had toes tapping throughout the hall, book-ended by a lush, string-laden approach to "How Do You Keep The Music Playing?" While the Pops players are still as bankable as ever, both individually and as a unit, the lighting designs and audio mix have never been better, making for a great overall experience. In the second half, Holmes came out of the gate swinging with a tight big-band arrangement of "Get Me To The Church On Time," from My Fair Lady, the first of many show tunes — both classic and original — performed that evening. Displaying a well-tempered confidence that only comes from 20-plus years in Vegas and Atlantic City, Holmes smoothly segued from one tune to the next, weaving anecdotes and one-liners into the mix in a conversational tone that doesn't feel rehearsed. In fact, he makes you feel right at home, sharing his tasteful interpretations of a wide variety of material while channeling bits of the heroes he has known over the years: a little bit of Sammy Davis Jr. in "What Kind of Fool Am I?," a little Sinatra in "I've Got you Under My Skin," and a little Michael Jackson in a refreshing version of "Human Nature." Other highlights included the stunning West Side Story Suite — a beautifully understated abridged version of the show that was a one-man tour-de-force — along with several original tunes from a yet-to-be-produced autobiographical musical, and his 1974 number one pop hit, "Playground In My Mind," which had the Kravis crowd happily singing along. By pairing with Holmes, likely the most talented "one-hit wonder" whose name you might not recall but certainly should remember, the Palm Beach Pops has raised the bar substantially for future guest performers, and found a solid collaborator who is as close to a perfect fit as it's had in recent years. It resulted in simply a great night of music.

Clint Holmes' next local appearance takes place at the Suncoast, Saturday, March 13th at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday the 14th at 4 p.m.


Clint Holmes & Kelly Clinton
Holmes by Erik Kabik

SOS - Michael Laygo & Jasmine Trias
 

Dori Kotzan by Fran Kuhn
 

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Continuing their indefinite engagement at the Gold Coast, Society of Seven, with special guest star American Idol's Jasmine Trias, are changing their show times. Beginning next Friday, SOS will discontinue their afternoon shows, going to one 7 p.m. show on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The high-energy variety show combines comedy sketches, celebrity impersonations, dance and live music performances, featuring popular standards, Top 40 and Broadway selections. Tickets start at $29.95, plus tax, and may be purchased at the Gold Coast Box Office or by calling (702) 251-3574 or visiting www.goldcoastcasino.com.
Photo of Michael Laygo and Jasmine Trias by Robert Macabagdal

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Former Las Vegas resident Dori Kotzan, also known as Bambi Jones or Bambi Sr. (she is the mother of Grace Morley, who was known as Bambi Jr. during her Vegas show days), is really excited about her latest project. Dori is the February centerfold with a three page pictorial spread in Jesse James' (the husband of Oscar-nominated actress, Sandra Bullock) Garage magazine. The soon to be 80, grandmother of three, looks darn good for her years and we are sure the bikers who look at Garage magazine "just for the articles" (wink wink) will get a real kick out of fun-loving Dori. Currently living in Connecticut, her goal is to move back to, what the late entertainment writer, Forrest Duke, called TBCOTA (The Best City of Them All), Las Vegas. Check out Dori's latest video at http://vimeo.com/9325669.

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From singer Michelle Johnson comes this update on her career. Next week, from 8 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday, Michelle will be at Brendan's Pub in The Orleans. The young lady reports that The Orleans had stopped the Tuesday Night Jazz series, but decided to give it another run because of a spike in attendance last month, so she is back on board, one Tuesday a month. There are usually talented guests (like Clint Holmes, Lena Prima, Skye Miles, and others) dropping buy to contribute a song or two. Michelle will also be working with Sonny Turner, formerly with The Platters. On Saturday, February 13th, they will be performing A Valentine's Rock N' Roll Spectacular at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, Michigan. The Turner troupe will be entertaining with other legendary groups in shows beginning at 8 p.m. EST. Thursday afternoon at 2, Johnson will be co-hosting and singing in the Suncoast's Hit Parade show. Lastly, this busy lady is starting a non- profit music therapy foundation for at-risk youth, called Music Medicine WoRX. You can check out Michelle's new blog, and all that she is doing, by going to www.michellejohnson.com.


Michelle Johnson

Celine Dion

Buddy & Lezlie Anders Greco

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No big surprise here...unless you have been living under a rock and/or not reading any publications or watching TV. As expected, Celine Dion will be returning to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The first performance of the new show (no title given yet) will take place on March 15th of next year. Even though the production won't debut for more than a year, tickets went on sale today at Caesars and Ticketmaster outlets, with prices ranging from $55 to $250, plus taxes and fees. Dion, whose new production will take a different direction than A New Day, is expected to perform 70 shows a year over a three year period. Since Celine's first contract with Caesars ended in December of 2007, headliners including Elton John, Bette Midler and Cher have held court in the

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On Tuesday, March 9th, Las Vegas' Don't Tell Mama will celebrate its one year birthday. Joanna Pham, wife of owner Minh Pham (who also owned and operated the Manhattan club of the same name for many years), informs us of the downtown cabaret/piano bar's current schedule. Tuesdays, it's pianist Michael Spadoni, Mark Randall at the keys on Wednesdays, Michael Dubay on Thursday nights, Robby Wingfield on Fridays, Chris Lash on Saturdays, and Rebecca Olschewski on Sundays. The regular cast of singers/bartenders/servers include Savannah Smith, Aundrea Whitt, Sandra Geier, Bianca Alanis, Shannon Bond and Brook Smith. On Sundays, from 7 to 9 p.m., Richard Weiss plays Classical Cabaret (two drink minimum). In addition to a lineup of pros, visiting singers are urged to share their talent with the customers. This isn't karaoke, folks, and there are no screens showing lyrics. What there IS, are real live pianists and fake books. Don't Tell Mama is located at 517 Fremont Street (just east of Las Vegas Blvd. and the Fremont Street Experience). Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 p.m., and Sundays from 7 p.m. (now closed on Mondays). Call (702) 207-0788 for additional information.

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In July, the Palm Springs' Desert Sun newspaper noted that jazz legend Buddy Greco's Cathedral City nightclub was in foreclosure. The month before, people calling the club heard the voice of Mrs. Greco, Lezlie Anders, on the answering machine, stating that the club would be holding its "Bon Voyage" party and show June 11th through 13th. The Supper Club never reopened. On Tuesday, February 9th, the Desert Sun ran a different story. This time with a headline reading, Buddy Greco Making the Jump Across the Pond The story goes on to say...As if to prove 83 is the new 53, Buddy Greco is moving to England and starting over. His farewell appearances for local fans, including those who patronized his dinner club in Cathedral City, are Friday and Saturday in the Cascade Lounge of the Spa Resort Casino. But this isn't a final farewell. Buddy and his wife, singer Lezlie Anders, will return in the spring of 2011 to play the McCallum Theatre with a 40-piece orchestra. But they'll be part-time residents of England by then. The jazz pianist and former Frank Sinatra Rat Pack associate will begin an engagement at the Leicester Square Theatre in London's West End on May 4. He and Lezlie have 20 dates booked in the UK after that and there could be more on the European continent. That's why they're leaving America. "You have to go where the work is," said Lezlie. "We're very excited just about the prospect of working." She and Buddy will perform their theatrical production of "Fever," based on Buddy's relationship with Peggy Lee, at Leicester Square. Then Buddy will join a "Las Vegas Legends" tour through towns like Birmingham, Manchester, York and Edinburgh through September. The touring package will feature artists saluting Lee and the Rat Pack - Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. Buddy will be the only real Las Vegas artist on the bill. England is so starving for pieces of the Sinatra legend, the BBC has planned a radio tribute on April 30 featuring Buddy with the BBC Orchestra. They're also doing a six-part series on Buddy titled, "I Had A Ball: The Swinging Life of Buddy Greco." Buddy, like fellow desert residents Jerry Vale and Frankie Randall, played the Sahara Hotel lounge in Vegas while Sinatra played the show room. But Buddy wasn't just a lounge lizard at a piano bar — I recently heard some remastered recordings Buddy made of that 1967 gig with an 18-piece band and they rocked. He plans to release them as an album titled "Live At the Sands." One of Sinatra's best albums was "Sinatra at the Sands" with Count Basie and Quincy Jones. But Buddy said Sinatra once came to his lounge and exclaimed, "You've got one more piece in the band than I do." Buddy opened for Frank at the first Sinatra Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament gala. I also heard him play Sinatra's only benefit at the McCallum in the late '80s. Playing with them on that bill were Sammy Davis Jr., Mel Torme and Dinah Shore. I told Buddy that McCallum show was the closest thing I've heard to a real Rat Pack concert. But he said that was just a small taste of what it was like to be around the real Rat Pack and fringe members like Vic Damone, Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Judy Garland and Shirley MacLaine. "I can't explain it to you," he said over lunch recently. "We were like little kids! You had to be there." Buddy gave me one more Sinatra story for the road: "We were in Atlantic City," he said. "Dean and everybody was there. Dean was looking at Frank's set of golf clubs and he said, 'Do you mind if I try this driver?' Frank said, 'Sure,' and Dean went down the elevator. And Frank calls security! He says, 'This is Mr. Sinatra. A guy who looks just like Dean Martin stole my golf clubs.' And they arrested him when he got down there! But just for a moment." Lezlie requested an encore. "What about you and Yul Brynner blowing all the windows out of the house here on Frank Sinatra (Drive)?" she implored. "Oh, God," Buddy sighed, like he was embarrassed. "We were at the house and he had these big orange ash trays. Yul Brynner and I were drinking by the pool and Yul got a couple of cherry bombs." "More than a couple," corrected Lezlie. "There were quite a few cigarettes burning in the ash tray, so we threw (the cherry bombs) in. About 20 seconds later you hear (explosion sounds). Well, needless to say, it destroyed everything." "Not only did it blow up the ash trays," added Lezlie, "but the table." "And the windows!" said Buddy. "Do you think Frank was pissed? Oh, boy." Buddy will miss the Coachella Valley, but he said, "I have an opportunity now to go to another country where I've performed for 60 years and make a very good living. It's not to say I'm not coming back." For reservations for Greco's Spa shows, call (800) 585-3737


Frankie Randall

Joel Grey

Katharine McPhee

And speaking of Palm Springs and its musical residents, Frankie Randall, who divides his time between Las Vegas and the California desert community, will gather some of his talented friends together for Last Call at Jilly's at the McCallum Theatre for the Performing Arts, at 73000 Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert, California. On Wednesday, February 17th at 8 p.m., Randall and friends will recall the heyday of New York's famed Jilly's Bistro. For those who don't know, Jilly Rizzo was one of onetime Palm Springs resident, Frank Sinatra's, closest friends. A decade ago, for an entire season, Randall performed a Sinatra tribute at the Annenberg Theater. For the upcoming McCallum show, Frankie will sing and play pop and jazz tunes, including Sinatra songs. He is also inviting many of his talented (and famous) friends to join him on stage. He has asked comedian Gary Mule Deer (Johnny Mathis' longtime opening act) to do some comedy. He said Mule Deer complained he wouldn't be able to attend a rehearsal, but Frankie said, "There is no rehearsal!" Look for fellow Sinatra cronies Keely Smith and Pat Rizzo to show up, along with singer-clarinetist, and former Barney Miller star, Hal Linden, and who knows who else. Hear the music, and the stories, that made Jilly's the favorite hangout for many celebrities, including Ol' Blue Eyes himself. Tickets range from Balcony seats at $15, to Premium Orchestra and/or Mezzanine seats at $55. For general information and reservations, please call (760) 340-ARTS, or toll free at (866) 889-ARTS).

Looking at the McCallum's upcoming lineup, we have to say we are a bit envious. Tonight, for example, legendary performer and Tony Award winner, Joel Grey, best known for his iconic performances in Cabaret and George M!, sings and dances his way onto the McCallum stage.
In March, Tony-winners, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin perform together on the 19th and 20th; American Idol finalist, Katharine McPhee is in the spotlight on the 25th; on the 26th, it's Judy Garland's OTHER daughter, Lorna Luft, paying tribute to her late mother; and on the 27th, it's Steve Tyrell. April 3rd, Broadway star and recording artist, Linda Eder entertains at the McCallum. Although most of these acts have performed in Vegas at one time or another (LuPone at the Suncoast and Orleans, Patinkin at UNLV, Luft at the Desert Inn, Stardust and Suncoast and Steve Tyrell at the Golden Nugget) , it has been a while, and it isn't often enough. Are you listening, Vegas booking people???

Michael Feinstein, who had been scheduled to appear with Tyne Daly at the McCallum on February 19th, has had to cancel. Why? Because he is doing something a little bigger instead.

All About Me, starring Michael and Dame Edna, will preview at Henry Miller's Theatre on Monday, February 22nd, in preparation for a Thursday, March 18th opening. All About Me (the "Me" being Mr. Feinstein) is written by Christopher Durang, Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) and Feinstein, and conceived by Feinstein and Humphries with Lizzie Spender and Terrence Flannery. This is Dame Edna's third return to Broadway, following her smash hit, Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning, Dame Edna: The Royal Tour in 1999, and 2004's Tony- nominated Dame Edna: Back with a Vengeance. Michael Feinstein last appeared on Broadway in 1990 in Michael Feinstein in Concert: Piano and Voice and performed on Broadway in 1988 in both Michael Feinstein in Concert: "Isn't It Romantic" and in Michael Feinstein in Concert. He received a special Drama Desk Award in 1988 for celebrating American musical theater songs in 1988. Famed director, Casey Nicholaw, has generously agreed to direct the joint endeavor. Acclaimed playwright Durang, previously announced in negotiations for Dame Edna's solo show, will now combine both shows into one unique musical entertainment. The rest of the design team will be announced shortly. All About Me will be produced by Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel.

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Ali Spuck & Kristofer McNeeley

Paul Szigety

Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas

After a brief sabbatical, Ali Spuck, and her Here I Am one-woman show returns to the Liberace Museum Cabaret for 2:30 p.m. performances on Sundays, beginning next weekend, February 21st. A Los Angeles Ovation-nominated singer and actress, Ali Spuck will take you on a journey of music and comedy inspired by her experiences, family and friends. You'll be entranced and delighted by her gregarious spirit. Song selections include classic Broadway, new contemporary cabaret hits, and romantic Gershwin songs from the Golden Age of music. One of our personal favorites is Ali's version of the funny "Diva's Lament" from Monty Python's Spamalot. The Los Angeles Times says, "Ali Spuck rivals Bette Midler," while Backstage West describes her as "Buoyant and appealing." Ali will be accompanied by Dave Haertel at the piano. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the Liberace Museum, 1775 E Tropicana (at Spencer), or by calling (702) 798-5595, ext 13, or e-mailing to [email protected].
Oh, and did we happen to mention that Ali and her actor/singer husband, Kristofer McNeeley, are expecting their first baby in June? Kristofer is a cast member of Jersey Boys, where he usually plays Hank Majewski, one of the original members of the boy group that evolved into the Four Seasons. During next week, however, McNeeley will play the role of Tommy DeVito.

And speaking of the Liberace Museum...
Our sympathies go out to the museum's recently named President, Jack Rappaport, on the death of his father, Irving Rappaport, who passed away on February 2nd at the age of 96. Born in New York City, Irving moved to Las Vegas in 1961. From 1966 to 1995, he was the general manager at the Palms Apartments. Mr. Rappaport served as President of the Nevada Apartment Association from 1968 to 1971. In addition to his son, Jack, Irving Rappaport is survived by his daughter, Lita Dove of California; grandchildren, Michael Rappaport of Las Vegas, and Alexander Dove of California; niece, Jan Bauman; and nephew, Jeff Blankfort, who both reside in California. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that contributions in his memory be made to the Irving Rappaport Introduction to the Performing Arts Program at UNLV. Information on the program and contributions can be made by contacting The College of Fine Arts, UNLV, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Box 455013, UNLV, Las Vegas, NV 89154-5013.

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Paul Szigety passed away in Las Vegas on February 1st. Born in Budapest, Hungary on May 8, 1919, the son of Odon and Elsa Szigety, Paul was a Holocaust survivor; a classical musician, stage manager, associate entertainment director, and director of some Las Vegas entertainment in local showrooms, (Folies Bergere, Broadway-type shows and book shows) for more than 30 years. Mr. Szigety was also a member of the advisory board of the Super Summer Theatre. Paul is survived by his loving wife and companion of 29 years, Marjorie Szigety; Marjorie's children, Kenneth, Randy, David Moses and Dianna Estes; and six grandchildren, all of Northern, California; nephew, George Lawrence; niece Dr. Susan Lawrence; grandnephew Stephen; grandniece, Rebecca; and great-grandnephew, Marly, all of Australia. Paul had many friends in Australia and the Las Vegas area (too many to name). A memorial will be held in his honor of his 91st birthday, May 8, 2010, at the Community Lutheran Church, 3720 E. Tropicana Ave. in Las Vegas. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Nathan Adelson Hospice at 4131 Swenson St., Las Vegas, NV 89119, in Paul's memory.

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A victim of the troubled local economy, the AAA Five Diamond Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson will close its doors on May 2nd, putting about 350 employees out of work as a result. Efforts are being made to place them at other Ritz-Carltons, Marriotts or hotels in the Las Vegas area. Employees at the hotel were informed of the closure on Monday. The hotel will remain operational until the May closing date. The 15-acre, 349-room luxury hotel opened in February 2003. "When the economy was good, this hotel was an extremely popular destination resort," Vivian Deuschl, corporate vice president of Ritz-Carlton, said. "It's been one of the real jewels in the crown of the company for us." The 3,600-acre Lake Las Vegas, a development 20 miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip, includes more than 1,600 residential units, luxury hotels and a casino. Lake Las Vegas is now in bankruptcy, burdened with $728 million in liabilities amid the worst real estate downturn in memory.
Note - Celine Dion and her family own a home at Lake Las Vegas

Photo by Steve Marcus

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Diane Ellis' Frannie

F.I.O.R.E. Widow

Mariska Hargitay

Another one of our entertainer friends, singer, voiceover actress Diane Ellis, has suffered the loss of a beloved pet. As Diane tells it, Frannie showed up on her front patio one day. She thought this was the most beautiful cat she had ever seen! "She had the biggest blue eyes. Even though they were a little crossed, I thought she was adorable. I immediately named her after "Ol Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra. After discovering that he was a she, I named her Frannie. I used to call her Frannie Girl," says Diane. "Frannie was part Siamese, and as you know, they can be a little temperamental. Well she made it clear that she was the Boss to my other kitties.

Frannie Girl brought me 12 years of love, and smiles. She suffered from Feline Asthma, and had Hypothyroidism. We discovered a lump on the top of her head during Christmas. I had it aspirated, and discovered that Frannie had the beginning of Lymphoma. The lump grew rapidly. Being a cat person all my life, I knew her body language, and looked for the signs of having to put her down. It was a peaceful passing. I figured for all of the years of unconditional love that she gave me, the least I could do was to be with her till the very end. I will never forget my little baby, Frannie Girl." We know Frannie has scampered over the Rainbow Bridge and into a place of forever fun and good health.

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Here are some more Valentine's Day options (see the February 5th column for the first group of suggestions) for all of you romantics. Whatever your choices, reservations are strongly suggested...
Hash House A Go Go is featuring Valentine's Day dinner specials ranging from $4.95 to $28.95 to create the perfect romantic evening with that special someone. In addition to the regular menu items that are available, specials include the following selections from Chef Vidal's holiday menu: House-made Kennebec Potato Chips for $7.95; Grilled Flatiron Steak in Andy's soy-based barbeque with fried green tomatoes and crispy fried shrimp, served with sweet corn mash at $25.95; Chilean Sea Bass stuffed with all blue crab cake served with griddled garlic mash and asparagus and drizzled with basil pesto cream, $28.95 (available only at the 6800 West Sahara location); Bite of Blueberry Shortcake for $4.95; Heart-Shaped Snickers Bread Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream at $7.95. Both locations are also serving a special Sweetheart Brunch from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Brunch specials include the Raspberry and White Chocolate Flapjack for $8.95, and the famous B.L.T. Mary, a chilled 20-ounce glass with a bacon and salt rim, house Mary mix and vodka, all trimmed with a fresh tomato wheel, smoked bacon slice, rib of romaine lettuce, buttered white toast and a mayo pack for just $8.95. Brunch dining is first come, first served. Dinner reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling the Sahara location at (702) 804-4646 or the Imperial Palace location at (702) 254-4646. Hours at West Sahara are from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (with a respite from 2:30 to 5 p.m.) , reopening from 5 to 9 p.m. The Imperial Palace hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (check for Valentine's Day special hours). Our advice? Go hungry!

You might also celebrate Valentine's Day with a candlelit dinner at Bernard's Bistro at The Village Lake Las Vegas. Chef E. Bernard, owner and executive chef of Bernard's Bistro, celebrates Valentine's Day with a romantic candlelit evening featuring a five-course meal of signature items. The menu items include "Be My Valentine," a blood orange tomato soup garnished with Cointreau coconut chutney; "Fleur de Lys," smoked salmon with crème fraiche and caviar in dill truffle oil; "Two Hearts Beating as One," heart-shaped artichoke ravioli with mascarpone cheese and asparagus in a cabernet sauvignon sauce; "Love Me Tender," a brandy flamed filet mignon with foie gras in Morel Porto sauce, served with potatoes Au Gratin and petite legumes; "Romeo & Juliette," a duet of red peppercorn-crusted lamb loin and rack of lamb served with polenta-spiced apricot in Madeira wine sauce; and "Togetherness," two quail in zinfandel sauce served with caramelized pears and truffled sweet peas. Special vegetarian entrees are available also. The five-course meal, served from 6 to 11 p.m., is $75 per person. Please call (702) 565-1155 to make reservations. Overnight stays are available at MonteLago Village Resort and Vacation Villas. To book a special weekend package at the Resort, please call (888) 600-2688 or visit www.montelagovillage.com. For Vacation Villas, please call (702) 568-1174 or visit www.lakelasvegasrentals.com. Bernard's Bistro is located at 15 Costa di Lago in The Village Lake Las Vegas

And a reminder from Nelson Sardelli...
Tomorrow evening, Saturday, February 13th beginning at 7, it's the F.I.O.R.E.'s annual Valentines' Day Dinner Dance at Bugsy's Speakeasy on the southwest corner of Sahara and Jones. Suggested dress code is Flappers and Guidos or evening elegant. There will be a great buffet, a no host bar, flowers and chocolates for the molls, flappers and F.I.O.R.E. widows, 50/50 drawing for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes as well as prizes for best costume, live music by the Gary Olds Trio, plus special guest Dr. George Ritter and some surprise performers (since no one knows who will be participating in this portion of the festivities, it will be a surprise for everybody). Small arms must be checked at the door. The price for all of this fun? A paltry $35 per person (except for the widows, who get a free pass). Invite your Italian or non-Italian friends to this non-club club event. Please RSVP to
[email protected]. Don't make them come and get you.

And speaking of Nelson Sardelli, the humanitarian is requesting public support for the Joyful Heart Foundation, headed up by actress Mariska Hargitay. Inspired by her character, Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU (Sexual Victims Unit), and the thousands of survivors who reached out to her for help, Mariska founded Joyful Heart in 2004. The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. The Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winner states that, "All things are possible with an open heart-and a joyful heart." She goes on to say, "My work with the Joyful Heart Foundation has brought me into contact with so many remarkable people over the years, and they continue to reinforce that profound lesson. Now we have an opportunity to apply that lesson together, and embrace the promise of change. As we pass the milestone of our fifth year, stronger and more viable than I ever dared imagine, we are introducing a new mission statement and a new website. Yes, change can be a little unsettling, but I am welcoming it with open arms. Another change I've embraced is how I see myself in this world. I used to call myself the "accidental activist." No more. I have fully engaged in this mission. It is part of my path, one of the reasons I am here. You see, I don't believe in accidents; I never have. My love for Hawaii where I had my first "heart opening;" my job on SVU that exposed me for the first time to the reality of rape, domestic violence and child abuse and the deep trauma they cause; the development of my relationships with the people who now staff Joyful Heart and sit on the board: all of it was beautifully orchestrated to help us reach the survivors we need to reach, to find other hearts that need opening. From the very beginning, long before there was a mission or an office or a website, there was the name-Joyful Heart-which was no accident either. At Joyful Heart, we are not about creating more happiness, though that certainly is a welcome by-product of what we do. We are not about having people feel better for a day or a week or a month. We are dedicated to helping survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse recover a sense of joy that informs every part of their lives, helping them take the profoundly courageous steps towards living a life steeped in hope and possibility. I am awed by how much has come together over the past five years. I began Joyful Heart tentatively, unsure about how-or even if-I could make it work; I didn't know anything about running a foundation. But I dove in, opened my heart and trusted that I was on the right path. And now I know I was. None of it was accidental, and all of it has led to this moment-this courageous, promising, joyful moment-where you are reading this letter, and we can say: Welcome to Joyful Heart, where anything is possible."

Peter Hermann, Mariska's husband, says, "The Joyful Heart Foundation, is in the running for a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project (www.refresheverything.com). Pepsi is giving away $20 million in grants to "people, businesses, and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact." Joyful Heart (www.joyfulheartfoundation.org) is in the running for the highest level grant of $250,000. For the entire month of February, until the 28th, people can vote ONCE A DAY, EVERY DAY at www.refresheverything.com/votejoy. PLEASE vote, and tell everyone you know to vote, too! And I mean everyone. Your friends, your family, the people you work with, your neighbors, the person next to you on line at the grocery store... everyone. It takes about a minute to register, and then voting daily takes all of about 15 seconds. And we're up against some heavy-hitting organizations, so every vote counts. If you're having trouble voting, e-mail Melissa at ([email protected]) and she'll walk you through it.

* * * * * * *


Fielding West

Bob Kephart, producer of the award winning Comedy Stop at the Sahara Hotel/Casino, has assembled three of the top comedians in the country for the week of February 15th through the 21st. Headlining will be comic/magician Fielding West. Sharing the bill with Fielding will be Jim Carroll and Patrick O'Donnell. West is not only a magician's magician, but possesses that very rare and impeccable sense of comedic timing that has landed him the opening spot for some of the biggest names in show business, including Liza Minnelli, Glen Campbell, Earth, Wind and Fire, Mel Tillis, Phyllis Diller and dozens more. His finale, "Fighting a Vicious Lion," has to be seen to be believed. A winner in the prestigious Desert Magic Seminar's Comedy Competition, Fielding has made numerous network television appearances on shows such as The Smothers Brother's Comedy Hour, A&E's An Evening at the Improv, Caroline's Comedy Hour, NBC's The World's Greatest Magic and World's Wildest Magic specials. Fielding also works as a writer, and has been a magic consultant and technical director for a number of Lance Burton, and Siegfried and Roy's TV specials. Last July, West performed in his first one hour comedy magic special, Hocus Pocus It's Fielding West, aired on WGN. Patrick O'Donnell has been a comedian for more than 20 years, and was a $10,000 winner on ABC's America's Funniest People. Patrick is a high energy comedian and his impressions of past Presidents of the United States are considered to be classics. During his time on stage, he can go into a dissertation about the Catholic faith, his family life or touch on current events. Jim Carroll has been touring the comedy circuit for more than a decade, and has appeared on many of the top comedy television channels. He is a favorite of the various services, and was asked and accepted a flight with the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels. The Comedy Stop in the Congo Room at the Sahara consistently books three of the best comedians, seven nights a week. Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are priced from $19.95 for resident of Nevada (proof of resident) plus tax and fees, with general admission tickets priced at $24.95 plus tax and fees. For information or reservations call the Sahara Box office at (702) 737-2878.

And speaking of the Sahara's entertainment offerings, both Bob Kephart's Comedy Stop and Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show will move from the upstairs Congo Room, into the main showroom on the casino level, beginning March 2nd. We feel this will be a good thing, especially since, as far as we know, the escalators taking customers to the upper level still are out of service. Also, now show-goers won't have to pass by the second floor dark and closed buffet. Maybe the powers-that-be (we always wonder who these decision-makers are) will consider putting their back in around-the-clock operation. These kinds of "cut backs" send a poor message to tourists.



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