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 October 07, 2011
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - October 7, 2011


John Meren, 1939-2011

Rebecca Spencer

We are saddened to report the death of John Meren, co-founder with Tom Gallagher of the two-decades old non-profit, the Performing Arts Society of Nevada. John, who was 72, had suffered a massive stroke early last week. He had been hospitalized since that time, prior to being moved to the Nathan Adelson Hospice on Tuesday. He passed away on Wednesday afternoon, without ever regaining consciousness following the stroke that felled him. John was born in New York on February 4, 1939. He loved the theater and opera, and traveling to places near and far to experience live performances. He was a kind man with a good sense of humor. John is survived by a number of family members on the East Coast, and his life partner, Tom Gallagher. A celebration of John's life will be held at a future date. When we have the details, we will pass it along to our readers.

It has been decided by John Meren's family to cancel all previously scheduled upcoming PASNV events. As a result, the Philip Fortenberry concert, originally planned for Sunday, October 23rd at the Flamingo Library Theatre, will not take place. If it had been our call (which it wasn't), we would have gone "on with the show." We feel that is what John would have wanted, and it would have been a fitting farewell and memorial to a man who devoted so many years to the Performing Arts Society and loved music.

Upon learning of John Meren's death, Rebecca Spencer, who portrayed Madame Giry in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, wrote...
I am thinking of everyone in that community I call my home away from home. I received a call from Tony Arias just after John had passed and have spoken with Philip (Fortenberry) and Keith (Thompson). I am paralyzed by this news. I knew of the events at the onset but I was sending prayers that he would make his way back to us. But the angels came to get him and now we have to be willing to accept and endure that he is in a better place. I can only imagine the impact that this news is having on the Las Vegas greater theatrical and musical community. On a personnel note: John and Tom (Gallagher) made a huge impact on me and were the catalysts for my musical career inviting me into the PASNV musical arena while I was out in Las Vegas. Tony Arias and Lloyd Ziel first introduced me to John and Tom and the next thing I knew I was performing at The Flamingo Library. Significantly, it was through John and Tom's inspiration that ignited and launched further my musical collaboration with concert pianist, Philip Fortenberry. From the short but rich time in my life that I lived and worked in Las Vegas, I realized how vital PASNV was and respected greatly how long it had taken to build. John and Tom dedicated years of carving out that amazing out reach and concert arena to support the live performing artists in Las Vegas in turn cultivating a community beyond the STRIP; often inspiring and absolutely uniting many of the artistic worlds of Las Vegas. Their passion and perseverance brought a kaleidoscope of concert programs to their Las Vegas audiences that you could not and can not find on THE STRIP; mentoring, sponsoring and welcoming professional artists and students from all over the world to PASNV. John continued to offer me advice over long lively phone calls filled with and supported by the wisdom of his long time career in show business and love of the theatre and music even after I departed from the Las Vegas community. And when my husband Jim D'Asaro, Executive Director of Broadway Bound Children's Theatre, reached out to produce Keith Thompson's, GOD LIVES IN GLASS for an all teen production at the Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, John approached Broadway Bound with a sponsorship to help support the efforts of bringing that magnificent piece to Seattle. That news came to me just after having performed an afternoon appearance with Philip Fortenberry at the Liberace Museum that both John and Tom had attended. The last time I spoke with John was over the phone sharing an incredible conversation after I moved to Seattle and it lasted from the time I drove onto the ferry just off of Vashon Island and all the way to Everett just making my matinee curtain, which was over an hour and a half drive. And so much wonderful insight and ground was covered in that precious spontaneous moment in time and always the laughter was shared. I wish I could have hit the save button! John talked faster than I could ever! I was so uplifted after all of the advice he offered in that conversation and as he shared the enthusiasm of having just returned from New York and was looking forward to planning their trip to Europe. What an incredible life of generosity, life lessons, accomplishments and spirit of community that John has shared with us all! A True Gentleman of the THEATRE! He will forever resonate in my life!

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On Sunday, October 16th, columnist/publicist Norm Johnson heads up a benefit concert to assist ailing entertainer, Michaelina Bellamy. Michaelina, a former principal singer in the Tropicana's long running Les Folies Bergere extravaganza; an Airman of Note, as a featured singer with the famous United States Air Force Jazz Band; and part of world tours starring Engelbert Humperdinck and Wayne Newton, is battling leukemia. The fundraising event, to be hosted by journalist/TV host John Katsilometes with Tricia McCrone, and Domenick Allen and Leigh Zimmerman, will take place in the showroom at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa, from 2 to 4 p.m. (doors open at 1). Performers include Abraham Laboriel, Artie Schroeck, Deana Martin, Dennis Bono, Elisa Furr, Gordie Brown, Justo Almario, Linda November, Lorraine Hunt Bono, Rob Garrett, Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns, and Vincent Falcone. Gary Anderson will lead the 18-piece Summit Big Band. Audience members can expect some surprise guests, possibly even Bellamy herself. General admission tickets are $25, and are on sale at the South Point. Please call the box office at (702) 797-8055. If you are unable to attend, but would like to help, donations can be made to Lions Health First Foundation (one of the sponsors of the benefit): Michaelina Bellamy Fund, 5040 Edna Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89146.


Michaelina Bellamy by Terry Ritter

Joe Williams

Michael Orland

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On Sunday, October 23rd, the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) will present their annual Joe Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund Concert in the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa Showroom. Concert organizer, Ed Foster, tells us that this year's concert will feature Bob Anderson, Pete Barbutti, Artie Butler, Vinnie Falcone, Rick Faugno, Cork Proctor, and Reva Rice. Founded by Grammy-winning jazz vocalist, Joe Williams, who made his home in Las Vegas, this is the 21st year for this annual event. Williams passed away in 1999 at the age of 80. His wife, Jillean Williams, survives him. Show time for the Scholarship Fund Concert is at 2 p.m. Tickets are $ 40, and may be purchased through the South Point box office. Call (702) 797-8055.

This is not to be confused with the event presented by the College of Southern Nevada Department of Fine Arts, taking place in the Nicholas J. Horn Theatre, located AT the North Las Vegas campus, on Thursday, October 13th, when CSN's choral and instrumental departments join together for their Joe Williams Music Scholarship Concert, helping students achieve their music education goals. This event takes place at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $8 for adults, and $5 for students and seniors. Since monies go for the same purpose, attend the one more that offers the most convenient time and location, or support both. Raising funds for music students was a cause close to Joe Williams' heart. The college is at 3200 E. Cheyenne. Call (702) 651-LIVE (5483) for reservations and/or additional information.

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In entertainment writer/critic Mike Weatherford's recent Las Vegas Review-Journal column on the woes of Steve Wyrick, the bankrupt magician that seems to have almost as many (stage) lives as that proverbial cat, Weatherford asks the question, "How is he (Wyrick) able to keep having a show in town after the public seems to have voted him off to Timbuktu, or at least Branson?" As we have written before, just about any Vegas hotel is willing to play landlord if some real gambler is willing risk his savings to rent theater space in a Pay to Play deal. We feel the BIGGER question is, "How does Wyrick manage to talk the sucker, er, person with the blank check, into ‘investing‘ in a show that has moved from place to place, helmed by a man who lacks, not only charisma, but even a personality?" The bankruptcy situation is only a small part of the problem (after all, look at Wayne Newton...or don't) here. We think it is time (or past time) for Wyrick to move on. Maybe Plano, Texas, would welcome their fair-haired boy back home. To read Weatherford's latest, well-written column on the subject of Wyrick, check out http://www.lvrj.com/living/digging-deeper-into-magician-wyrick-s-woes-130931738.html.

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Happy half-century birthday to American Idol's pianist, arranger and associate musical director, Michael Orland, who celebrates the milestone today, October 7th.

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Halloween celebrations are looming on the horizon, and you know what that means... F.I.O.R.E., the non-club club, will be up to their usual tricks, and treats. The annual F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) Halloween fest will take place at the Italian American Social Club, 2333 E. Sahara, on Saturday, October 22nd. The ghoulish evening starts at 6:30 p.m. and continues until 10. Cost is $30 for those in costume, and $35 for the fogies who where the usual, boring attire. As is the tradition, F.I.O.R.E. widows are welcomed free of charge. As is also the tradition, their new boyfriends must pay. Anyone brave enough to enter will receive a box of Barilla Pasta (thank you, Sue Natole), plus the ladies (and any gentleman who insists) will receive a free feather boa. Of course, a fine buffet dinner, open bar and entertainment, surprises and fun are guaranteed by the hard-working Nelson Sardelli, who keeps FIORE up and running. We will have more on the party of the season in upcoming columns. In the meantime, don't get shut out by delaying responding. Those who are interested in being part of the grownup festivities should RSVP, ASAP, to [email protected].


F.I.O.R.E. Halloween Party

Pietra Sardelli

And speaking of Nelson Sardelli (and we frequently do), the proud papa sends us this news...
His daughter, Pietra Sardelli, was recently recognized by Q Vegas Magazine as one of 33 incredible individuals who make a significant difference in the lives of the Las Vegas LGBT community. Pietra is about to serve her second term as Vice President of the Board of Directors for Golden Rainbow, a local non-profit organization that has provided housing and assistance to individuals, families and children living with HIV/AIDS, for the past 25 years . She was the producer of their primary fundraiser, the Ribbon of Life show, this past June. She is thrilled that she will also produce the 2012 Ribbon of Life show, to be held at the brand new Smith Center, scheduled to open in March.

And speaking of the Italian American Club, it seems that the 51-year-old facility is having some serious financial troubles. As a result, Angelo Cassaro, president of the Italian American Club of Southern Nevada, is busy preparing for the ‘Rediscover The Italian American Club' fund raising dinner to be held at the club, 2333 E. Sahara, on Saturday, October 15th. Donation is $40 per person, and consists of a fabulous Italian buffet dinner, a night of entertainment, dancing, raffles, a live auction and great prizes. Leading a stellar cast for the show is veteran performer Nelson Sardelli, who will host the event. Appearing with Sardelli will be comedian Pete Barbutti; famed accordionist, Dick Contino; crooner, Jerry Tiffe; Lena Prima, daughter of Louis Prima; Richie D and the Hi-Lites, The Rock-Its, Sheila Del Monte, and Kelly D.


Italian American Club

Free RKO Records CDs of classic jazz artists, such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Lester Young, will be given to all who attend the event. This event is sponsored by Augustus Society, Grandsons of Italy, IAC Women's Guild, La Voce, Sons of Italy, The Non-Club Club F.I.O.R.E., The Orleans Hotel & Casino, and UNICO. For reservations, call (702) 457-3866.

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Received a newsy e-mail from friend, Larry Raben. In case you weren't around at the time, or don't read Cousin Claire's ramblings on a regular basis, we will let you know (or remind you) that Larry portrayed Leo Bloom in The Producers when the Mel Brooks musical comedy was playing at Paris Las Vegas. Larry will be directing Hairspray, starring Jim J. Bullock as Edna, with David Engel as Corny Collins, at Musical Theatre West in Long Beach. In November, he will direct Fanny for the Musical Theatre Guild. Larry also informs that the DVD of Forever Plaid the Movie is out and available. It features Stan Chandler as Jinx, Engel as Smudge, Raben as Sparky, and Daniel Reichard as Frankie/Francis, with David Hyde Pierce doing the narration.

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Mac King

Comedy magician Mac King joins the fight to make breast cancer disappear during Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a special fundraiser. Throughout the month of October, audience members who make a $5 donation after his Mac King Comedy Magic Show at Harrah's, will receive two limited edition pink Mac King & Susan G. Komen - Magic For a Cure wristbands. For those that purchase two merchandise products after the show, King will donate the $5 on their behalf. All proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen of Southern Nevada. The wristbands won't be the only pink in Mac King's show. For the entire month of October, King will "go pink" for a cause by ditching his traditional yellow "Cloak of Invisibility" for a pink one. "Breast Cancer is a terrible and unfortunate disease that no one should have to endure," said King. "That's why I'm calling upon my guests to join me in the fight to make breast cancer disappear. Wearing a nifty "Magic For A Cure" wristband is a great way to show support and raise awareness for this important cause." Now in his 12th year of headlining afternoons at Harrah's Las Vegas, Mac King has been consistently lauded throughout his impressive run, including recently being named "Best Strip headliner" in the Las Vegas Weekly's 2011 annual Vegas' best awards. Las Vegas Review-Journal's "Best of Las Vegas" readers' poll named his show the "Best Bargain Show" for eight straight years (2003-2011), and deemed him "Favorite Male Las Vegan" in 2008. King has also been honored as Magic Magazine's "Funniest Act in Magic," the World Magic Awards' "Best Comedy Magician" and the Magic Castle's "Magician of the Year." King has made television appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, and all five of NBC's The World's Greatest Magic TV specials. He has also made several appearances at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, and was a featured performer in the Masters of Magic series at the Luminato Festival in Toronto, Canada. King, one of today's brightest and most talented magicians, takes the stage twice daily, at 1 and 3 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, in the Showroom Theatre at Harrah's Las Vegas. Tickets are $29.95, plus tax. Call (702) 369-5111 for reservations.

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The little town of Belton, South Carolina, recently celebrated the 25th annual Standpipe Heritage and Arts Festival with new events, updated vendors, and fun for the whole family.
From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the city square in Belton was humming to the music of popular upstate performers, featuring longtime Las Vegan, Loretta Holloway, now "South Carolina's First Lady of Song." The festival also includes an art show and market, heritage artisans, sporting events, historical tours, fire truck rides, a classic car show, great food, children's activities, more than 30 quality craft vendors, and community outreach booths. After a street dance, with the versatile music of the City Street Band, the evening ended with a spectacular fireworks finale. In August of 1987, the State Department of Archives and History accepted the eighty-year-old standpipe, which is used for water storage, as a historical site. The castle-like tower, that rises above the town of Belton, has become a familiar landmark. For many years, the standpipe was an international landmark for pilots flying the southeast to help pinpoint their location. Its image has long been used as Belton's logo in the town's seal and on government and municipal letterheads. In 1908, Belton Council approved spending the amount of $12,500 to build the standpipe. Construction on the 155 foot structure, one of the highest reinforced concrete structures in the United States, began on O'Neal Street in late 1908 and was completed in early 1909. The structure was one hundred feet high by January 3rd, 1909, with the additional fifty-five feet added later that year. The unusual shape of the standpipe is said to have been an idea of the builders to secure a more even distribution. The little windows in the structure, from bottom to top, were placed there for ventilation and so construction workers could get sunlight to see what they were doing. The standpipe's base is thirty feet in diameter and it penetrates thirty feet into the ground, where it widens out into a funnel shape. From the ground level, it tapers inward one hundred feet to the point where the water tank begins. From that point, the tower ranges outward again to thirty feet in diameter and upward fifty-five feet to the top. It has the capacity to hold up to 150,000 gallons of water and is currently full. In October of 1987, the first annual Standpipe Festival was held to help raise money for the improvement of the outside appearance of the historic structure as well as other renovations for safety and water storage reasons. These renovations began in late 1989 and were completed to satisfaction in June of 1991. Although the original reasons for the Standpipe Festival are no longer needed, the festival still remains an annual event that all of Belton looks forward to.


Loretta Holloway in Belton

Roslyn Kind

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If you are in the Southern California area, Roslyn Kind, who performed here at the Cannery in November of 2008, will be a part of the 2011 Walk to End Alzheimer's fundraiser in Century City‘s Century Park, on October 9th. All Walk to End Alzheimer's donations benefit the Alzheimer's Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. The mission of the Alzheimer's Association is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. With more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer's, and nearly 11 million more serving as caregivers, the time to act is now! Walk to End Alzheimer's is the nation's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer care, support and research. Since 1989, this all age, all-ability walk has mobilized millions to join the fight against Alzheimer's disease, raising more than $347 million for the cause. Events are held annually in the fall in nearly 600 communities nationwide. Registration for the 10K walk opens at 7 a.m., with opening ceremonies at 8:30. The walk kicks off at 9 a.m. For additional information, call California Southland Chapter at (323) 930-6228, or e-mail to [email protected]. The end of Alzheimer's disease starts here.

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Yes, that's former Las Vegan Buddy Greco singing the opening theme, "Around the World" for ABC's new TV series, Pan Am. Buddy, and wife, Lezlie Anders Greco, now make their home in England.


Buddy Greco

Donny Ray Evins

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On Saturday, October 15th at 7 p.m., Donny Ray Evins returns to the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin to, once again, perform his tribute to Nat King Cole. Relax and reminisce as the two-time Las Vegas Variety Entertainer of the Year-winner recreates some of the magic of the great Nat King Cole. Donny's beautiful baritone voice and smooth soulful style lures the audience back to the time of the famous crooner. Performing some of the world's greatest hits, Donny also moves and grooves through the fantastic songs of Ray Charles, James Brown, Barry White and many others. Tickets are $15 for Sun City Summerlin residents, and $18 for non-residents. All shows at the Starbright Theatre are first come, first served with no limit on the number of tickets purchased. Saving seats is prohibited. Be sure to get your tickets early so you don't miss out! Show tickets may be purchased at Desert Vista, Mountain Shadows and Pinnacle Community Centers. All ticket prices include Live Entertainment Tax. Tickets are non-refundable. Starbright Theatre shows are open to everyone ages 12 and over.
All ticket sales are check or cash (exact change required). No credit cards accepted. For up-to-date information on Starbright Theatre shows, call (702) 240-1301. The Starbright is located at 2215 Thomas W. Ryan Blvd., high in the hills, west of Rampart, off Lake Mead.

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From Annie Gaybis Byner comes this news...
Annie's hubby, veteran comic impressionist, John Byner, and blonde and bubbly Connie Stevens, are working together in Boston, before John heads to Toronto for some corporate dates. At the end of this month, John and Annie will be in New York to see shows. They hope to catch Clint Holmes at the Carlyle Café where he will be Remembering Bobby Short, in a musical tribute to the late entertainer who appeared at the legendary New York nightspot for more than 35-years (from 1968 to 2004). In December, Annie will be dancing with First Coast Ballet and The Jacksonville Symphony in Nutcracker, followed by a dance performance with the Symphony in La Boheme, in the style of a 1939 era. It‘s the same production that the New York City Opera did, using the same sets, costumes and director. Annie has been asked to play "Cherie" in Bus Stop, for a new Florida theater company called City Rep. It's nice to know that the talented Byners are busy.


Annie Gaybis & John Byner

Larry Taylor

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"First DJ" Larry Taylor informs us that he is through with retirement, at least for now. Taylor, who prior to moving to the Nevada city by the river, was the record-spinner and hosted ballroom dancing at the Gold Coast in Vegas for more than 18 years. That's what we call a pretty steady job, especially since the Gold Coast gig was a "two week notice contract." Apparently, no one used that out option, at least not for almost two decades. Beginning on Sunday, October 9th, Larry starts over again (he will keep doing it until he gets it right), this time at the Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall in Laughlin, owned by Paul and Sue Lowden. Larry Taylor's Big Band Dance will take place on Sundays, from 1 to 5 p.m., and Tuesdays from 6 to 10 p.m. Dance lessons will be available during the first hour. Taylor notes that if this booking lasts as long as his engagement at the Gold Coast, he will be in his 80s when it ends. Based on the fact Larry is a George Burns fan, that could happen. If you are going to be anywhere near Laughlin on Sundays or Tuesdays, stop in at the Pioneer Hotel, say hello to the DJ, and take a spin around the dance floor (preferably with a partner). And speaking of Mr. Taylor, let it be noted that on Father's Day, Larry Taylor's name was unintentionally omitted from the list of volunteers, led by Nelson Sardelli, who traveled to Boulder City to entertain and visit with the military vets who reside at the Nevada State Veterans Home in the little city by the dam.

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Reminders...
Liza Minnelli and Jeff Trachta/Tracta are at the Las Vegas Hilton, tonight and tomorrow night. Show times at 8 p.m., with tickets priced from $103.85 to $225.95, all inclusive. Call (702) 732-5755 for reservations. The ticket prices, and the fact it is Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, could hamper business at the Hilton. But, then again, it‘s Liza.

Over at the Suncoast, Bill Fayne & Friends (more than 30 of them) Celebrate Sondheim, tomorrow and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $15.95, plus taxes and fees. Call (702) 636-7075 for reservations.

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Anyone who reads this column with any regularity knows that there are a couple of local businesses, calling themselves public relations firms, who we feel should probably have their licenses pulled...or, at the very least, should not be allowed to call themselves PR companies. Are they breaking any laws? Probably not. Are they doing the jobs that they should and could be doing for their clients? Definitely not. Here is a prime example of how one of these two companies, and more specifically the company founder/owner, operates. Following their "big" media night handled by one of these poor businesses, a local producer/star had this to say..."I don't even know where to begin, except to say this, if you didn't know it was media night you would have just thought the audience had a few more cameras than usual. The company owner showed up with her assistant, wearing a pair of tight slacks and a blouse that looked like something she would work in the yard in. She said there were 133 confirmed RSVPs to the event, however only about 75 of them showed up. Thank God we put tickets on sale too...we had about 140 in the room. What I don't understand is what I'm paying for. She provided nothing but her 'list' of contacts to send evites to. My friend in Houston had most of those names on HER list. She (the "businesswoman") didn't bring any press materials (I provided a Media Poster with new pics and a new web site page with new pics and new bios) or gifts, or celebrities, or even gum!" Needless to say, our producer friend won't be using the services of the unnamed outfit again.

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For those readers - among them, Brenda in Azusa; Donald Pile and Ray Williams, award-winning, celebrity travel columnists out of Kansas City; and Christine from Las Vegas - who have asked, "Any updated news on the Liberace Museum?" Sadly, we have no good news to report at this time. But, we want to assure readers who care about this subject, we are not putting the sad demise of the museum in the Cold Case file. There should have been enough money to keep the museum up and running forever. The 31-year-old nostalgia-filled building, which closed last October, is a sad testament to the memory of Mr. Showmanship. We feel there are people who should be prosecuted for theft or fraud or both. In our opinion, it was greed and dishonesty that caused the death of the tourist attraction. Words like mismanagement and corruption have been used to describe the operation at the East Tropicana strip center. It was a year ago, in a story about the demise of Liberace's pride and joy, that the, then, Museum President, Jack Rappaport, stated, "We tried everything, OK? We reached out to the public. We couldn't get them here." He went on to say, "The late crowds weren't enough to save the museum. A commercial real estate broker and Las Vegas arts patron, Rappaport claimed he had been in discussions for nine months with moneyed interests on the Strip, but the place couldn't be saved. MGM? Harrah's? Steve Wynn? Asked by the reporter, which giants of Las Vegas wanted the multi-million-dollar collection, Rappaport wouldn't name names (we wonder why). He acknowledged discussing vacant space at Town Square, where execs were apparently keen to house the Liberace Museum. The museum didn't have the estimated $2.6 million it would take to move and build new exhibit space, Rappaport said. We might also mention that moving to the south Strip shopping and dining location, might have been a case of jumping from the frying pan (where there was no huge monthly rents and common area maintenance costs) into a bigger, much more costly fire. Rappaport, if you choose to believe anything he said, claimed that the board of the "Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts and the Liberace Museum" has contracted with a professional company to send the collection on tour. Buildings and fixtures will remain, in the hope that an economic recovery allows the Las Vegas institution to be re-opened, Rappaport said. Rappaport said he's out of a job too, after four years with the museum. We feel no pity for a man with no credentials or experience to run a non-profit, who did nothing to generate money for the museum but drew a salary of approximately $90,000 a year! "I envisioned myself being part of this for years," he said sadly (you bet he was sad!). Then, Rappaport brightened while discussing the Town Square talks, and said, "There's 20,000 square feet of space there that just screams, 'I want to be Liberace!' " He estimated a national tour will start by mid-2011, "no later than a year" from now. It will show only some of Liberace's final belongings -- "a couple of cars, a couple of pianos, maybe 12 costumes, memorabilia." There are 400 costumes in the collection. Okay, Jack, the year is up in 10 days. NOW what do you have to say? We only hear the sounds of silence.


Liberace

James Dean

And, while still on the subject of Liberace, according to a recent Las Vegas Sun story by Delen Goldberg, a group of dedicated Liberace fans, lead by Las Vegan Christine Kramer, are on a mission to have the pianist's image immortalized on a U.S. postage stamp. A petition has been launched, nominating Mr. Showmanship for the honor. Delen goes on to say, "Liberace wanted to be on a stamp before he died, but they had a rule that you had to be dead 10 years," said local Liberace enthusiast Kramer, who penned the petition and runs a "Liberace deserves a stamp" website. "Then 10 years came and went. But there are so many parts of our lives that are influenced by him. Every year there is someone on American Idol that wouldn't be there if there were no Liberace. He was the first one to take a famous lifestyle over the top, to have a sense of humor and change how rich people lived. We wouldn't have ‘Jersey Shore' or ‘Real Housewives' if there wasn't Liberace first." The U.S. Postal Service just changed their rules for stamp submissions. Living figures can now be honored, and the post office is asking the public for input as to who should be chosen first. Kramer wants to make sure Liberace gets his stamp before someone like Snooki. "I'm competing against the Justin Biebers of the world," Kramer said. "Cher already said she wants one." Kramer submitted a petition to the U.S. Postal Service and the White House on Tuesday asking them to consider Liberace. If she gets 5,000 signatures by Oct. 26, the Obama administration will issue an official response to her request. The Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which evaluates the merits of stamp proposals, receives up to 40,000 suggestions for new stamps every year. They narrow the choices down to about 50 finalists, and the postmaster general makes the final decision. Liberace fans had previously nominated him for a stamp but their submission was rejected. Feb. 4 will mark the 25th anniversary of his death, and Kramer hopes the timing is right for another try. If Liberace were selected, the post office would do a national search for stamp art and open the submissions up to a national vote. "It's time to fix this historical oversight," Kramer said. "I would love for this to be a great community-thing for Las Vegas. We've had so much depression in our city, why not have Liberace lift us up?" Las Vegas was Liberace's primary venue for performing. The city also housed the Liberace Museum until it closed Oct. 17. (Thank you for your well-written horror story, Delen Goldberg.)

It's hard to believe that almost 25 years has passed since Liberace's much publicized death. But then, it also seems unimaginable (to those of us who were around at the time) that September 30th marked the 56th anniversary of the death of actor James Dean. Dean, was only 24 when he died in a car crash on a California highway. Dean only made three significant films - Rebel Without a Cause (1955), East of Eden (also 1955), and Giant (1956) - but they were enough to make him a cultural icon. Dean was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Dean the 18th best male movie star on their AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars list. Whether it's a James Dean, a Marilyn Monroe, an Elvis Presley (whose Graceland keeps his memory and legacy alive), or a Liberace, no matter how many years pass, they still live on in the hearts and minds of those who remember them.

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Andy Rooney

Last Sunday night, when 92-year-old Andy Rooney said goodbye after 33-years of weekly segments on 60 Minutes, part of what he said was, "I probably haven't said anything here that you didn't already know or have already thought. That's what a writer does. There aren't too many original thoughts in the world. A writer's job is to tell the truth. I haven‘t always been right but I think I've been right more often than I've been wrong." He also said how lucky he was to get paid for giving his opinions and having a platform to complain about things that bothered him. Andy also mentioned that he had a high school English teacher who told him he was a good writer, giving him the confidence to just do it. Cousin Claire feels much like Andy about her job. No comparison, especially when it comes to salary, but there are some nice fringe benefits to this kind of work. And a, better late than never, public "thank you" to Allen Sterrett, English teacher at Amphitheater High School in Tucson from 1948 to retirement in 1991, who gave a similar boost to a kid who really didn't apply herself like she should and could have during those Wonder Years. Allan Sterrett passed away June 20, 2004 at the age of 80. He was a wonderful teacher and friend. Thanks, Mr. Sterrett, for the inspiration.



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