Las Vegas - May 21, 2010
A Sign of the Times
There has been plenty of interest from around the country for this weekends' show in the Las Vegas Hilton's main room. Response to the billing of Connie Francis and Dionne Warwick as co-headliners, a first ever union, has resulted in 100% room occupancy at the Paradise Road hotel casino. Rick White, VP of the Hilton, says that he has "NEVER seen a production generate this kind of national press and excitement in all of his days at the Hilton." Following a week of radio and TV talk show visits by Francis, Warwick and producer Eric Floyd, Grand Divas of Stage is expected to respectably fill up the 1600-seat theater on all three nights, tonight through Sunday (May 21st through 23rd). Among those expected to attend "The Concert of the Century" are David Copperfield, Gladys Knight, Kenny Kerr, Robin Leach, Frank Marino, Lani Misalucha, Wayne Newton, Donny and Marie Osmond, Freda Payne and Mary Wilson. Tickets are $59, $79 and $99, plus applicable taxes and fees, and can be purchased by calling the Hilton at 1-800-222-5361.
And speaking of Ms. Francis...AP Music Writer, Nekesa Mumbi Moody, reports, Connie Francis' classic song "Where the Boys Are" is getting a Gaga-esque update. Francis says the producer behind some of Lady Gaga's hits, and also Destiny's Child, has produced a dance remix of the torch song. "We're going to release it on the 29th of May, which is the 50th anniversary of 'Where the Boys Are,'" she said in a recent interview. The 71-year-old singer said she hadn't heard the song, but added: "I want to hear it any way it sells." Francis said she recently worked with her godson, Rob Fusari, on the remix. Fusari recently made news when he sued Gaga, claiming he was largely responsible for her success but was ditched when she got big. For this weekend's history-making Hilton engagement, Francis and Warwick will do their own sets, and then sing together at the end of the show. Francis said she's seen a change in her fans in her decades in the business. "It used to be, 'Connie, can I have your autograph for my younger sister? Connie, can I have your autograph for my wall?'" she said. "Then it was, 'Connie, can I have your autograph for my mother?' And now it's, 'Connie, can I have my autograph for my grandmother?' I hope it stops there!"
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On Sunday afternoon at 2, Travis Cloer steps out of his Jersey Boys role as Frankie Valli to do his own thing as part of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada's concert series. This will take place at the Clark County Library Theater, 1401 E. Flamingo, just east of Maryland Parkway. Travis is very talented. The show should be a sell out. For reservations, call (702) 658-6741. Tickets are $15 and may also be purchased at the library box office one hour before show time.
Louie Prima & Keely Smith
Also, on the very same afternoon (this Sunday) at 3 (we hate when this happens), it's the musical comedy, I Know I Came in Here For Something at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin. We know about Menopause the Musical, the short-lived Hats, My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish and I'm In Therapy, and The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron - all small cast musical comedy revues with an a theme. Now comes I Know I Came In Here for Something, a four-person romp that most folks of a certain age can relate to. How many times have you gotten up out of your comfy chair, walked into another room and stood in the doorway asking yourself, "Why did I come into this room?" You're not alone. If you are middle-aged, have been middle-aged, or intend to be middle-aged, you will relate to every delightful song in this musical revue. I Know I Came in Here For Something, about the joys, thrills and horrors of being middle-aged, won rave reviews in New York's Summer Theatre. Together and apart, Las Vegas performers - Joni Illi, Jeneane Marie, Victor Moea and Tom Dyer - bring you clever songs that will keep you toe-tapping, and humor that Baby Boomers can relate to. Book and lyrics are by Carl Ritchie, with music by Wayne Moore. Laurence Sobel serves as musical director. Tickets - $15 for Sun City Summerlin residents, and $18 for non-residents - are on sale at Desert Vista, Mountain Shadows and Pinnacle community centers. For more information, call (702) 360-8340.
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We don't even have to go back as far as the '50s, and the days (and nights) of the Mary Kaye Trio, Freddie Bell & The Bellboys, The Treniers, and Louis Prima & Keely Smith, to remember the good old days of Las Vegas lounge entertainment. Anyone who has been around, as a tourist or local, since the '70s or even into the '90s, recalls the time when just about every hotel casino had a lounge and a show band. You remember show bands - music and shtick from groups like the Vagabonds, Nitwits, Novelites, Reycards, Goofers, Characters, Happy Jesters, Winchester Cathedral, Ray Anthony & The Bookends, Dae Han Sisters , Babe Pier and Jay Orlando, Esquivel and Sun Spots, just to name a handful. Then there were those who usually took their music a little more seriously - groups and folks like The Smith Brothers, Cook E. Jarr, Wholly Smoke, Carleen Terrano, Bill Acosta, Loretta Holloway, Dondino, Hudson & Saleeby, Jerry Tiffe, Bob Anderson, Darcus, Glen Smith, John Wills, The Checkmates, Bill Acosta, Chazz, Streetcar, Tyler Murray, Ronnie David, Liz Damon and The Orient Express, Perfecto & Motion, Karen Nelson Bell (Kelly Stevens), Beverly & The Sneakers/Sidro's Armada, Brendan Bowyer's Irish Showband, Denise Clemente, and Pizazz (Frenz/Friends). Then, of course, there were the standup comics, like Don Rickles, Shecky Greene, Jackie Gayle and others, who started in the lounges before moving on to headline status. The Vegas lounges of old (and not so old), were made up of people who entertained while the audiences sat (or stood) and watched. For the most part, there was no dance floor between the performers and the drinking customers to obstruct the view. There was music, and frequently comedy, until the wee small hours of the morning, with headliners such as Johnny Carson and Bill Cosby dropping in after their shows to join groups like the Harry James band by playing drums. In the "good old days" the lounges were fun, they were free, and they were full. There was camaraderie and a connection of sorts between the paying customers and the entertainers. That's why we were very surprised and disheartened to see and hear what is going on in the Salute lounge at The Palazzo. Inside Palazzo's main showroom, is the joy of Jersey Boys, while right outside that room is a dark cloud over the Salute lounge. Here are examples of what is and isn't happening in that performance space. The musicians are discouraged from any interaction with the guests. That means no responding to song requests (even if the request comes folded up inside US currency) and no communication with the audience, before the shows, between the shows, or after the shows. What can they be thinking? No matter how good the music, why would anyone make a place that's run like Salute a regular destination on their social calendar? It appears that, for the most part, unless some smart marketing/entertainment person realizes how important this type of entertainment/socializing was to the growth of a tiny, bump-in-the-road desert town, the glory days of the Las Vegas lounges are over. May their memories linger on in the minds of those who were privileged to have experienced them, both as spectators and performers.
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Beverly Washburn as Spider Baby (1968)
Christopher-Joel Carter IV
May 27th is the last Thursday of the month, and you know what (usually) happens on the last Thursday...it's Composers Showcase night. This month's lineup will feature the music of local songwriters Thaddeus and Tracey Corea, Dennis Edwards, Lee Richey, Danny Roque, Kevin Stout and The Yucca Mountain String Band, Keith Thompson, William Waldrop and Robert Williamson, and Danny Wright and Susan Haller, the delightful song stylings and vocal powers of Brandon Matthieus, Carly Thomas-Smith, Nikka Wahl and Danielle White and other special guests, plus the amazing instrumental chops of Jim Belk, Chris Davis, Tish Diaz, Paul Firak, Philip Fortenberry, Ray Pancorawicz, Dan Philippus, Joey Singer, Kevin Stout, Matt Taylor and Fred Watstein. Sound is by Richard Camuso and Mary McFadden. There is a $5 cover charge at the door (free with Student ID), a cash bar (no credit cards, please), and $5 specials at the CafĂ©. The mission of the Liberace Foundation is to help talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance. The Liberace Cabaret Showroom is located at 1775 E. Tropicana at Spencer, next door to Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens Restaurant.
And speaking of Carluccio's...Because it appears that some showcase attendees aren't quite ready to go home afterwards, Carluccio's will stay open until 2 a.m. on Thursday for The Late, Late Show. There will be drink specials and a piano available. Those that don't write music or didn't perform at the showcase, can do a song or two right next door to the museum, "Where the music continues..." Those that DID perform are also invited to sing, or play, some more. See you there!
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Based on the 1968 cult film, Spider Baby, The Onyx Theatre, located inside The Rack fetish store in the Commercial Center (yep, you read that right), will feature a musical version of the Jack Hill classic horror film, June 4th, 5th, 11th and 12th at 7 p.m. Spider Baby the Musical tells the story of the Merrye family. Each member suffers from the same degenerative mental disorder which causes a loss of impulse control. Some distant relatives want to institutionalize the Merrye children and sell their land. Spider Baby the Musical deals with the extreme measures the family takes to stay together. This year, composer Enrique Acosta, inspired by his talented cast, has expanded the show, adding four new songs and re-arranging more than half of the original songs to give the show a darker, more raw sensuality. This play is not intended for children, as it depicts sexual situations and violence. Tickets are $25, with a $5 discount for locals.
Fans of the film might be surprised to know that actress Beverly Washburn, who portrayed Elizabeth Merrye in the Spider Baby movie, lives in Southern Nevada. Now in her 60s, Beverly is still recognizable from her childhood roles in movies such as 1957's Old Yeller with Dorothy McGuire; The Greatest Show On Earth, with Jimmy Stewart and Hans Christian Andersen with Danny Kaye (both in 1952); and The Juggler with Kirk Douglas in 1953. Beverly, who may have been the busiest child actress of her era, also had roles in just about every TV series there was, from the Jack Benny Program, Zane Grey Theater, Father Knows Best, The New Loretta Young Show, Wagon Train and The Streets of San Francisco, to Star Trek. To learn what it was like to grow up Beverly Washburn, read her story in Reel Tears. Nobody could cry reel tears like little Miss Washburn.
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Last Sunday, we attended the Grand Finale of Liberace Birthday Week at the museum that bears the entertainer's name and much memorabilia associated with his long and successful career. Among the performers who participated in the "closing ceremonies" were pianists Christopher-Joel Carter IV (who also served as MC and filled in as accompanist for some missing piano players) and Danny Wright, violinist Mr. Valeri Glava (who performs in the Liberace Cabaret on Thursdays), and singers Phyllis Bell and John Kaye. Then, there were special guests, the Allen/Zimmerman/Capaldi family - that would be singer, pianist (and other instruments), onetime Liberace protĂ©gĂ©e, Domenick Allen; his wife, musical theater star, Leigh Zimmerman; and their 10-year-old wunderkind, Cayleigh Capaldi, who won over the audience with her solo number, "No Small Miracle," a beautiful song written by daddy and daughter. Domenick accompanied Cayleigh on piano. Ali Spuck, who has an ongoing Sunday cabaret show at the museum, was scheduled to participate, but, instead was resting up after giving birth to her, and Kristofer McNeeley's (he is one of the cast members in Jersey Boys), first child, a daughter born on Saturday, the day before Mother's Day and the birthday finale. Even if the museum's director, Tanya Combs, hadn't mentioned something about the difficulty of gathering talent to participate in this event (primarily because of work schedule conflicts), we have to wonder why singer Denise Clemente, who was a Liberace protĂ©gĂ©e years ago, and pianist/singer Wes Winters, who provided ongoing entertainment in the performance space at the museum for almost five years, were not part of the talent lineup. We are sure that both parties would have been delighted to be included in ceremonies celebrating what would have been Liberace's 91st birthday.
Anna Nateece by Jim K. Decker
In a recent article, our friend and colleague, journalist John Katsilometes, suggested that the modest turnout for much of the birthday week events "served largely as a reminder that the museum needs to relocate where there is more natural foot traffic." Kats goes on to say "This is, hopefully, the final Liberace birthday celebrated on Tropicana and Spencer. He needs a new room." We disagree. Liberace doesn't need a new room. Liberace needs more and better publicity. We think that the Liberace Museum should stay right where it is, and where it has been since 1979. This is the location that Liberace chose to house his lifetime collection of kitchy treasures. It is where he oversaw the building of the Plaza and museum. The problem with the place is not due to where it sits, but to the lack of clever, inexpensive promotion. The museum used to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. We think it could be again, IF (and that's a great big IF) things were handled properly over at 1775 E. Tropicana. We are sure that if longtime Liberace associates, and those who really care, or cared, about his legacy and memory (people such as Domenick Allen, Wes Winters, and Liberace's fur designer/creator, Anna Nateece) were asked their opinion, they would feel the same way that we do. Why take on high rent, traffic, parking problems and other stressful issues associated with the Strip and hotels? Many tourists want to see other areas of the city, whether it be Mt. Charleston, the dam, Red Rock, or even the Liberace Museum. The museum offers a very interesting look into the glamorous life of Mr. Showmanship as well as of Las Vegas, where Liberace performed many weeks out of the year at places like the Riviera, Las Vegas Hilton and in the Circus Maximus (that would be BC, Before Colosseum) at Caesars Palace. The unique museum (now in its 31st year) houses automobiles, costumes, jewelry and pianos all belonging to the King of Bling and used in his worldwide concerts. Fix the problem where it is, don't move the problem somewhere else. What is saved on rent, by staying in the Liberace Plaza, could be used to promote the place. Sorry if this upsets some folks at the museum that we like, but as it says at the top of this column, we calls 'em like we sees 'em.
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If you haven't seen the Society of Seven (and we hope you have), or have seen them and want to see them again (and we hope you do), you only have a few more chances to do so...at least this time around at the Gold Coast. After only six months at the off-Strip property, the group will end their engagement at the Gold Coast on Sunday, May 30th. We hate to see the talented members of this entertaining troupe - Tony Ruivivar, Bert Sagum, Hoku Low, Wayne Wakai, Michael Lygo, Vince Mendoza and Roy Venturina - go. They will be leaving a great big hole in the local entertainment scene. We last saw the show during Mother's Day weekend, when 15-year-old Arshiel Calatrava was filling in for the vacationing Jasmine Trias. The young Hawaiian has quite a future ahead of her. Not only is she an amazing singer, Arshiel seems wise and balanced. As for SOS in general, their shows are always fun and always entertaining. We hope they will find themselves an appropriate Las Vegas show space in which to share their talent with the public. Society of Seven (SOS) combines seven talented male performers with "American Idol" star Jasmine Trias in a family-friendly high-energy variety show. SOS features comedy sketches, celebrity impersonations, dance and live music numbers. This talent-packed showcase presents a wide range of music, including everything from popular standards to Top 40 and Broadway hits. We urge you to check them out before the end of the month. Show times are Friday through Sunday at 7. Tickets start at $34.95, plus taxes and fees. Call (702) 251-3574.
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Michelle Johnson will be performing with Sonny Turner and The Platters at a live PBS Special taping at the Benedum Center in the Cultural District of Pittsburgh, tonight. Presented by WQED, the Oldies Spectacular will feature music from the '50s to the '70s, by artists such as Ronnie Spector, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Marcels, Lou Christie, Jay Black, The Chiffons, The Passions, The Coasters, The Cleftones, Bill Burkette and Hugh Geyer of The Vogues, The Ventures, Eddie Holman and many more.
Sonny Turner, Michelle Johnson & The Platters
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Tonight at 8, pianist Alpin Hong will bring audiences of all ages to their feet with a concert at the Henderson Events Plaza, 200 S. Water Street, in the Water Street District, that combines stunning technique, emotion and humor. His extensive classical training, matched with his background in skateboarding, snowboarding, martial arts, and videogames, forms a creative force unmatched in its youthful vivacity and boundless energy. Hong will conduct a week-long residency program at Basic High School prior to his concert. He will feature some of Basic's band, orchestra and chorus students in his Friday night performance. Presented by the City of Henderson and Target, the event includes pre-show activities, such as art displays and children's make and take crafts at 7 p.m. Admission is FREE.
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If you are reading this early enough to attend, and you are a fan of The Beatles, here's something for you. Tonight, beginning at 8, The Club at The Cannery in North Las Vegas (Craig Road and I-15) is going to present, The Beatles Let It Be and Beyond...The Solo Years!, as a part of its Concert Series. The Fab are going to play the Let It Be album in its entirety. At 9, the Lon Bronson horns will join The Fab for some solo Beatles stuff - "Jet," "It Don't Come Easy," "Uncle Albert" - tunes like that. This should be fun. The evening will be hosted by the best morning man in the business, KKLZ's Mike O'Brian. Beatles fans of all ages (5 and up) are welcome. Tickets are $10 at the door (starting at 7 p.m.) on a first come, first seating basis. Lon Bronson followers can also see Bronson and the All-Stars at the Green Valley Ranch, on the second and fourth Thursdays in June (the 10th and 24th). Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is free.
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On Tuesday (May 18th), Steve Green of the Las Vegas Sun reported this story...
Las Vegas magician Steve Wyrick voluntarily filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation Monday, listing assets of $93,157 against liabilities of $54.355 million. The entertainer, whose show and Steve Wyrick Theater at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood resort on the Las Vegas Strip closed Dec. 10 amid financial trouble, indicated in the filing he owns no real estate but has assets including a $44,725 2007 Porsche Carrera and more than $35,000 in "tools of the trade." Several investors and lenders are listed as creditors. The creditors include the Miracle Mile Shops, his former landlord, owed $6.623 million; businessman Byron Burke Barr in Dallas, owed $7.5 million; Chase Ventures in Dallas, owed $2 million; a Hollis Campbell/Star Mobile Homes in Crandall, Texas, owed $5 million; his former law firm, the Rycraft Law Office in Henderson, owed $100,000; and businessman Steven Tebo in Boulder, Colo., and a company he is associated with, owed $30 million. Wyrick, who lists his occupation as a self-employed entertainer, listed his current monthly income as $5,500 and said the source was "loans and gifts from mother." This compares to Wyrick's income in 2008 and 2009 of about $130,000 per year. The filing noted the Miracle Mile Shops on Jan. 15 repossessed his theater valued at $16 million and Tebo had repossessed a $250,000 motorcycle as well as pictures and posters valued at $600,000. The initial effect of the bankruptcy filing likely will be to stay proceedings in several lawsuits pending against Wyrick over past-due accounts and other matters.
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Check out the swinging sounds of Zanzibar, next Friday and Saturday (May 28th and 29th), from 8 p.m. to midnight, in Addison's Lounge at the Rampart Hotel & Casino, 221 N. Rampart. The fellows - Joe Lepore, Hal Singer, Bob Stein, John Falbo and Scott Webb - will be joined by vocalists Diane Ellis and Sally Stewart for this engagement. Zanzibar is a favorite of visiting and local swing dancers. Join in the fun at Addison's. Call (702) 507-5900.
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This year's Ribbon of Life 2010 spectacular will take place in the main showroom at the Las Vegas Hilton, Sunday, June 13th at 1 p.m.
The annual "Ribbon of Life" stage spectacular is Golden Rainbow's single largest source of funding. Staged each June, "Ribbon of Life" is an incredible production show featuring hundreds of singers, dancers and other performers from the best shows in Las Vegas, staging original numbers created specifically for that year's "Ribbon of Life" show. Each performer donates his or her time and talent to the production. Easily the biggest show of the year, "Ribbon of Life" is a theatrical event for all ages that leaves audiences breathless, on their feet and cheering for more. Golden Rainbow, an official 501(c)(3) non-profit, was founded in 1987 by members of the Las Vegas entertainment industry when one of their own was forced to live and die in a garage because of a lack of supportive services and financial resources. Golden Rainbow is the only HIV/AIDS service organization in Southern Nevada that provides permanent housing. Their programs also include direct financial assistance and HIV/AIDS education programs. They provide financial relief to men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, by assisting with payment of rent, mortgages, utilities, health-related costs and other life sustaining expenses. More than 80% of Golden Rainbow's funding is raised through events such as Ribbon of Life, Corporate Sponsorships and the generosity of community supporters. All of the money stays in Southern Nevadan. Tickets, priced at $200, $150, $100, $75, $50 and $25, can be purchased by contacting the Golden Rainbow office at (702) 384-2899, or online at
And now for this column's weekly Sardelli Section...
Nelson Sardelli is enjoying his new toy, a Spyder Can-Am Roadster (with a trailer on the back so he can transport his collection of past and future awards and trophies wherever he may roam). Nelson proudly admits that he refuses to accept old age gracefully. The accompanying photo confirms that.
Not surprisingly, we have received plenty of feedback following our story regarding the greedy musician who helped himself to tip money meant for the featured chick singer.
The shameful event took place at Frediani's (currently known as Happenings), on Sunday night, April 25th. The keyboard player that night apparently felt it was perfectly alright to help himself to the money in the tip jar and disperse it as he saw fit, even though the advertised performer, and the person who SHOULD have received the bulk of the funds was a well-known talented Las Vegan. The majority of the money (almost $200) was put in the tip jar by one gentleman, who was there that night only to see the singer. One of the letters we got came from some musicians who also were taken advantage of (financially) by the same scoundrel. This incident happened at a private party at DeStefano's (now closed). The party host was a good friend of one of the musicians, and chose to hold the party at DeStefano's where the music man was working because of that friendship. The pay for the four-man music group was built into the cost of the party, but the host gave the group "leader" a $100 tip that was to be divided up between the quartet. Call it "convenient amnesia," if you will, but until one of the music men "reminded" this guy about the tip, there had been no mention or attempt of sharing the pot. Since we know about two similar incidents, we have to wonder just how many other times this has occurred. Shame on the guilty party!
If so, drop an e-mail and ask.
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.