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.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from July 27, 2012
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - July 27, 2012

Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas Celebrates Milestone

Another busy weekend in Las Vegas. On Saturday night, we were among a showroom full of audience members who helped Frank Marino and the fine cast of Divas Las Vegas celebrate their 1000th performance at the Imperial Palace. Everyone was in a party mood, and the theater at the IP was rocking. The show is most entertaining, with excellent choreographed numbers finely executed by the impersonators and the six talented male dancers. A party was held following the show, with a cupcake-covered giant high-heeled shoe competing for camera time. A tip of the big bonnet to all - in and out of the spotlight - who make Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas a success. We would like to offer an important suggestion to the folks who go to see Divas. If you don't stay until the very end of the production (your cars will wait for you), you will miss one of the shows' highlights - Kenneth Blake's touching interpretation of Charles Aznavour's "What Makes a Man a Man." Here's to another 1,000 shows, fellows!

Sunday, family, friends and fans turned out at the South Point to witness comedian Cork Proctor get skewered by his peers (and others) on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The $40 charged for tickets went to Opportunity Village, a favorite charity of Cork's and his former wife, Carolyn Hamilton, who was most instrumental in putting the afternoon event together. The roasters ran the gamut from "A" (Peter Anthony) to "Z" (Bob Zany), with funny folk like The Las Vegas Review-Journal's John L. Smith, Carme Pitrello, Bob Ross, Gerry Bedknob, Kenny Bob Davis, Kathleen Dunbar, Jac "Mundane the Grate" Hayden, Kelly McDonald, Jeff Wayne, Kim Richards, Sammy Shore, Fielding West, and the ex-Mrs. Proctor, throwing zingers. Showgirls were provided by Minstinguett Productions. Among the folks we spotted in the almost full house were Cork's daughters, Luann and Kathy, who made the trek from Southern California to see their father get his just desserts; Toni Sandoval and sister Louise, Renee Hale and her mom Eileen, comic/ventriloquist Michele LaFong, Las Vegas Media Group's Lisa Gioia-Acres; author Linda Lou (whose book title we love, Bastard Husband: A Love Story); Doug Taylor, Steven Lee Cowart, Corky DiFini, Stan Stahl, Bob and Corrie Sachs, Steve Golden and Ronnie Fabre, Kenny Laursen, Tommy Dearing, Mark Barrett, Tom and Joni Illi, Michael John, the South Point's Damian Costa, Lance Burton, Samina Pitrello, Charly Raymond and Kathy Wicker (almost Raymond), Maggie Peterson, Johnny and Pam Thompson, Jim and Jan Seagrave, John Katsilometes, Ron Garrett, Ray Borders, Mike Schaefer, Artie Schroeck and Linda November, Spike Measer, Bill Acosta, Judy Coco, Nelson Sardelli, Lou Toomin, Norm Johnson and Nancy Barr, Mel Carter and Jackie Brett, Laurie Buckley, Fred "Mickey" Finn, Ken Hanlon, Dr. Wilfred Krom, Rich Newman, Mark Massagli, Opportunity Village's Linda Smith, Brenda Weems, Murray Westgate, Rick and Phyllis White, Ed Foster, Denny Weddle, Angela Bello, Mistinguett, and Bobby Gronauer, to name "a few." If your name isn't listed, it's either because you weren't there, we missed seeing you, or our memories aren't what they used to be. A number of congratulatory telegrams were read, and producer Greg Thompson provided a very funny video for the audiences enjoyment. Following the roast, the birthday boy was outside the theater, selling and signing copies of his new book, My Mind Is An Open Mouth - A Life Behind the Mic, written with the assist of Carolyn. We understand that the comedy roast generated about $15,000 for Opportunity Village. A fine event for a worthy cause.

Cork Proctor & Mistinguett Showgirls

Bob Zany Leads Roast

* * * * * * * *

The August F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) luncheon meeting should be a memorable one, to say the least. The guest speaker for the Thursday, August 9th gathering will be none other than Dori Kotzan, a.k.a. Bambi Jones. She is known for being the Original Burlesque dancer and author of the book, My Journey BURLESQUE The Way It Was. Dori has appeared in the documentary, Exotic World & The Burlesque Revival, on the Montel Williams Show with her daughter, Grace "Bambi Jr.", and was featured in a pictorial in Jesse James' Garage magazine. The audience will learn "all you wanted to know about burlesque, and then some," from an 80s lady who lived it. We expect to see lots of Presidents (all the gents are Presidents) turn out for this one. Of course, the First Ladies are more than welcome to attend (and take notes). In addition to the special guest, a fine buffet lunch is served and live music is provided by Gary Anderson and The Malcontents. All this fun takes place at the Italian American Club, 2333 E. Sahara, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Cost is $25 per person. RSVPs (replies, for those who don't speak French) are necessary. Please contact Gene Vitale at [email protected].

Doris "Bambi Jones" Kotzan

Marty Allen, Nelson Sardelli, Shecky Greene & Lou Toomin

And speaking of the F.I.O.R.E. group, perhaps some restaurants/delis in town should think of putting marquees with show times outside their establishments. On a recent weekend, we spotted a couple of F.I.O.R.E. Presidents, Nelson Sardelli and Lou Toomin, lunching with veteran comics Marty Allen and Shecky Greene, at a popular west Las Vegas dining spot. Anywhere else, you would have to pay a cover charge to see this much talent in one spot. (You can see a photo of the fellows, right here, for free!)

* * * * * * * *

Congratulations to magician Murray Sawchuck and his beautiful stage assistant Chloe Louise Crawford who married in a surprise wedding on July 20th. The ceremony apparently was not a complete surprise to everyone - including Chloe's mother and stepfather who traveled from England for the wedding, and Murray's parents who came from Vancouver, B.C., as well as the bridal party, Ashton Nicole, star of Bite at the Stratosphere, Chloe's bridesmaid; and Doug "Lefty" Leferovich, Murray's onstage comedy sidekick, who served as best man. The bride, groom, and wedding party are currently appearing at the Tropicana's Laugh Factory in Murray Celebrity Magician. All the very best to the newlyweds.

Newlyweds Murray and Chloe Louise Sawchuck

Kenny Kerr

* * * * * * * *

Comic, singer, female impersonator, Kenny Kerr, too long absent from a Las Vegas stage, performs two "Uncensored" shows (when has Kenny ever been censored?) at The Onyx on Tuesday night. Show times are at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $25. The Onyx is located central to the city, just off the Strip at 953-16B East Sahara Avenue in the NE corner of the Commercial Center. Ample parking and entrance inside the Commercial Center with access to several restaurants, bars, shops, clubs, the GLBT Community Center, and more. Call the Box Office at (702) 732-7225, or Theatre at (702) 333-6698.

Songstress Pia Zadora, accompanied at the piano by Vince Falcone, makes her Smith Center debut tonight at 8 p.m., followed with a 7 p.m. show tomorrow night. Tickets are $36 to $43, and may be purchased at The Smith Center box office, 361 Symphony Park Ave. Call (702) 749-2000.

And Clint Holmes returns to the Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center for his monthly weekend performances, Friday, August 3rd, and Saturday, the 4th at 8:30 p.m., and Sunday, August 5th at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $45. For reservations, call (702) 749-2000.

Clint Holmes

Scott Watanabe

* * * * * * * *

It has been well publicized that, after more than six years, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular will end its run at The Venetian on September 2nd. After more than five years, one of the actors, Scott Watanabe, will be leaving the production early. Prior to his role in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, Scott was featured in the Broadway, Los Angeles and Toronto productions of The Phantom of the Opera. He also has appeared in Pacific Overtures, Kismet, Candide, Miss Saigon, Man of La Mancha, Annie Get Your Gun, Dial M for Murder, It's Only a Play, Mame, Camelot, The Prince and Pauper, Merrily We Roll Along, Evita, The Most Happy Fella, Chess, Paint Your Wagon, The King and I, Oklahoma!, Zorba and Flower Drum Song among others. He has also appeared on TVs Law & Order: CI.

On July 28th, Scott will start work on Allegiance, A New American Musical, at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Rehearsal starts July 31st, with performances beginning September 7th. It is an epic story of family, love and patriotism set during the Japanese-American internment of World War II. On the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a meeting with a young journalist forces WWII veteran Sam Kimura (television and film star George Takei) to remember his family's relocation from their California farm to the Heart Mountain internment camp. As they struggle to adjust to their new home, Young Sam, Telly Leung (Godspell, Glee), and his sister Kei, Lea Salonga (Tony Award-winner for Miss Saigon), find themselves torn between loyalty to their family and allegiance to their country. Music and Lyrics by Jay Kuo, book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione. Allegiance is Directed by Stafford Arima. With its moving score, Allegiance takes audiences on a journey into our nation's history through the eyes of one American family. Allegiance is scheduled to run at the Old Globe until October 28th. Single tickets go on sale Friday, August 10th at noon. The internationally-acclaimed, Tony® Award-winning Old Globe is one of the most renowned regional theatres in the country, and has stood as San Diego's flagship arts institution for over 75 years. The Old Globe produces a year-round season of 15 plays and musicals on its three stages, including its highly-regarded Shakespeare festival. The Globe has become a gathering place for leading theatre artists from around the world, such as Tom Stoppard, Daniel Sullivan, and Chita Rivera, among many others. Numerous Broadway-bound premieres and revivals, such as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, and Damn Yankees have been developed at The Old Globe and have gone on to enjoy highly successful runs in New York and at regional theatres across the country. The Old Globe is at the forefront of the nation's leading performing arts organizations, setting a standard for excellence in American Theatre. It is located at 1363 Old Globe Way in San Diego. Phone (619) 231-1941.

* * * * * * * *

It took a Valley Girl (we have readers EVERYWHERE) to catch a typo that we missed. The late George Swift, who passed away on June 7th, was born May 3rd, 1927, not 1827, as we reported in last Friday's obit. George was the stagehand at the Silver Slipper during the long run of Kenny Kerr's Boy-lesque.

* * * * * * * *

Martin Kreloff by Steve Marcus

Kristen Peterson of Las Vegas Weekly reports...
Five artists were selected by Clark County this week for a program that will rehabilitate 50 foreclosed homes in the Winchester neighborhood. The project is part of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, designed to restore neighborhoods blighted or emptied by the foreclosure crisis. Using federal funds, the county purchases homes that are foreclosed or vacant, then rehabilitates them. Program administrators say that the primary objective is to restore the home's functionality with favorable aesthetics to help with marketability. Collaborating with a team of contractors, local artists will be doing anything from landscaping to designing, consulting and construction. Selected artists include Brent Sommerhauser, David Sanchez Burr, Zak Ostrowski, Martin Kreloff and Adam Morey, all of whom are experienced in large-scale installations, sculptural works and architectural designs or are familiarity with the architecture of the neighborhood. "I've been looking for an opportunity to do this type of thing for a long time," says Patrick Gaffey, who initially suggested involving artists in the project. "By doing that we can really raise the level of design in our Valley. Some artists are interested in design generally and are disappointed in the way things have gone in the past." The neighborhood was selected by the county's Community Resources Management Division, which identifies areas in need of revitalization. The county partners with two nonprofit groups, Housing for Nevada and Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, which assist low-to-middle income families in purchasing or leasing the homes. Twelve of the homes have been purchased and rehabilitation will continue through summer 2013. The budget for each home is estimated to be between $50,000-$90,000 and artists will make up to 5 percent of that. Seventeen artists applied.

* * * * * * * *

Alton Fitzgerald White, who played Mufasa in The Lion King during part of its Las Vegas engagement at Mandalay Bay, is more than a little excited about the upcoming release of his second CD, Disney: My Way! Selecting from the enormous catalogue of classic Disney songs, Alton has put together an album of his favorites, which will certainly include some of yours. The album includes songs from Aladdin, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Newsies, Beauty and the Beast and more. The triple talented singer, actor, dancer has starred in six smash Broadway hits, making his starring debut as John in Miss Saigon with his powerful heart rending performance of the anthem, "Bui Doi," bringing nightly ovations. Demonstrating his vocal versatility, Alton then moved on to the more aggressive role of The Hawker in The Who's Tommy, the hit rock-opera. Next was the popular Broadway show, Smokey Joe's Café, where Alton dazzled theatergoers with dynamic renditions of Leiber and Stoller classics. His commanding performance reached new heights as he sang and danced the romantic pas de deux, "Spanish Harlem," to stunning applause. This performance lead to his West End debut in the original London company of the smash hit. Not long after returning to the States, Alton landed the coveted starring role of Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime: The Musical. The journey began with the pre-Broadway original company in Toronto, opposite four-time Tony Award-winner, Audra McDonald, the critically acclaimed national tour, and ultimately Broadway, opposite Tony Award-winner, LaChanze. Alton's performance mesmerized audiences into consistent emotional standing ovations. His next move took him on the road to originate the role of Mufasa in the First National Tour (The Gazelle Tour) of Disney's The Lion King. After just more than a year of touring, Alton was invited to take over the role in the Broadway company. Then, in the Fall of 2007, Alton was offered the amazing opportunity to play the role of Mister in Oprah Winfrey's The Color Purple opposite American Idol-winner, Fantasia Barrino. For a phenomenal three weeks, Alton was blessed with the wonderful challenge of rehearsing the role of the troubled, tortured Mister during the day, while performing the role of the iconic father Mufasa in the evenings. Being a part of two incredible Broadway shows at the same time is a thrilling honor that Alton will never ever forget. After an exceptionally blessed five-and-a-half years of continuous eight shows a week, Alton took a year off for TV (episodes of Law and Order), film (The Invention of Lying, directed by and starring the brilliant multi-award winning comedian, Ricky Gervais), concerts around the world, voice-overs and commercial work. In 2009, Disney invited Alton to re-create the role of Mufasa for a record breaking, sit-down company at Mandalay Bay, here in Las Vegas, where he fell in love with the mountains, hiking and Bikram Yoga. After a phenomenal year in Vegas, Alton was again invited back into the Broadway company of The Lion King where he is having even more of a blast now than when he first began his journey playing King Mufasa! Disney: My Way!, will be available on iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon, beginning September 1st. Check it out!

"Weird Al" Yankovic

* * * * * * * *

His Weirdness, "Weird Al" Yankovic, returns to Southern Nevada with an engagement at the Cannery in North Las Vegas, a week from tomorrow, Saturday, August 4th. The king of musical parodies, Yankovic can be credited (or blamed) for creations including "Eat It," "Another One Rides The Bus," "Girls Just Want To Have Lunch," "I Love Rocky Road," "I Think I'm a Clone Now," "Like a Surgeon," and "My Bologna." Reserved tickets are $19.95, Gold Circle tickets are $34.95, and Patio Tables are $74.95 - all plus taxes and fees. They may be purchased at the Cannery, 2121 East Craig Road. Phone (702) 507-5700.

And speaking of the Cannery, mark your calendars for Rob Garrett's Hot August Night, on Friday the 10th. The Neil Diamond tribute artist, a Cannery favorite, will once again pay homage to the "Solitary Man," as he does most Augusts. Show time is at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door.

Rob Garrett

Sherman Hemsley

* * * * * * * *

Sherman Hemsley, star of The Jeffersons TV sitcom, died at his El Paso, Texas home on July 24th He was 74. Some Vegas newbies might be surprised to know that Hemsley has some local history on local stages. In 1986, Hemsley starred in Norman, Is That You? at the Hacienda, now the site of Mandalay Bay. It might be noted that Star Search's Angela Teek, who went on to perform on Broadway in Ragtime, Oh, Kay! and Rock of Ages, got one of her earliest career breaks when she was cast opposite Sherman Hemsley in the comedy.

* * * * * * * *

Singer, entertainer, songwriter David Pomeranz is very excited about the fact that his Scandalous, the Aimee Semple McPherson Musical, starring Carolee Carmello, is headed to Broadway! Kathie Lee Gifford penned the show's book and lyrics, collaborating with composers Pomeranz and David Friedman. Previews will begin October 13th, with a projected November 15th opening night. David Armstrong, artistic director of Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, where the work was seen in 2011, under the title of Saving Aimee, again directs the show, making his Broadway debut. Carmello is the versatile powerhouse actress-singer who was Tony Award-nominated for her work in Lestat and Parade. She plays the controversial character from her teenage years to maturity. This will be Carmello's 12th Broadway show, following such titles as Sister Act, The Addams Family, Mamma Mia!, Urinetown and more.

Scandalous will be produced by Dick and Betsy DeVos, Foursquare Foundation, and Jeffrey Finn (executive producer), in association with The 5th Avenue Theatre. Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) has "fallen through the cracks of history," even though her evangelical efforts continue today. Foursquare Foundation, one of the producers of Scandalous, is affiliated with The Foursquare Church, which McPherson founded. Today, Foursquare has more than 1,800 U.S. churches and almost 60,000 churches and meeting places in 140 countries. Ed Watts will play Aimee's first and third husbands, and Roz Ryan (who played Matron Mama Morton in the Mandalay Bay production of Chicago) will play Emma Jo, a New Orleans brothel keeper. Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Joel Fram, choreography is by Lorin Latarro. The creative team of Scandalous also includes scenic designer Walt Spangler (Desire Under the Elms), costume designer Gregory A. Poplyk (making his Broadway debut), Tony-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz (Once, Aida), sound designer Ken Travis (Newsies, Memphis) and Tony-winning orchestrator Bruce Coughlin (The Light in the Piazza). Tickets, at $57-$127, will be available beginning August 20th at or (877) 250-BWAY (2929). Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the Neil Simon Theatre Box Office, 250 W. 52nd Street, beginning September 17th.

David Pomeranz is probably best known around these parts for two hits he wrote that were recorded by Barry Manilow - "The Old Songs" and "Tryin' To Get the Feeling Again." He performed here at both the Steve Wyrick Theater (now the David Saxe Theater) in Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Mall, and the now closed Stirling Club. We would love to see David's Charlie Chaplin musical at The Smith Center. Anybody listening?

David Pomeranz & Kathie Lee Gifford

Gary Waddell

* * * * * * * *

Longtime local news anchor, Gary Waddell, is retiring from the KLAS anchor desk after more than 32 years with the Las Vegas CBS-affiliate. Waddell has anchored evening newscasts on 8 News Now continuously since joining the staff in 1980. He is the longest tenured anchor in Southern Nevada's history, winning numerous awards over the years, including Best Local Newscast in the Nation by UPI. He was inducted into the KLAS Hall of Fame in 1996, the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1997 and this year he was inducted into the Associated Press Radio Television Association Hall of Fame for his many years of service to Nevada and Las Vegas. During his years at KLAS-TV, Waddell covered some of the biggest local and national stories of the last three decades including the MGM fire in 1980 and the PEPCON chemical fire and explosion in 1988. In 1996, Waddell covered the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and in 2002 Waddell was sent to New York City to report live from Ground Zero on the first anniversary of 9/11. And in 2005, Waddell covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans. Gary will continue to anchor the station's noon, 4 and 4:30 p.m. newscasts until his retirement on August 3. After that, he will occasionally appear on KLAS for coverage and perspective during major events, the station said in a statement. Gary plans to spend some of his leisure time riding one of his three motorcycles, now that he will have plenty of time to spare. Don't leave home without a helmet, Mr. Waddell. We will miss Gary Waddell‘s regular appearances. Old habits are hard to break.

* * * * * * * *

The rumor mill is running rampant with stories of shows on the move, or heading into new (for them) venues. Far be it from us to spread unconfirmed tales, so, we will just ask...Is Society of Seven headed for the Riviera? (We would love to see the talented music makers in a new home.) Is Smokey Robinson's Human Nature departing the Imperial Palace and segueing to the Monte Carlo? Time will tell. If these stories prove to be true, you heard it here. If not, blame someone else for the false tales.

* * * * * * * *

The new set of dates for Cee Lo Green's postponed Loberace production at Planet Hollywood have been announced. Green has officially moved back the original shows this year, which were set to begin August 29th, and run through the end of 2012. The new opening dates are now listed as late February, running through mid-April. Tickets are $49.50 to $149.50 for table seating, and go on sale August 1st at the Planet Hollywood box office. Call (800) 745-3000, or check out ticketmaster.

Cee Lo Green

The Canadian Tenors

* * * * * * * *

Taking place, on Sunday, August 5th at 2 p.m., at The Smith Center, is the return of The Canadian Tenors. The Tenors will perform all new music from their yet to be released sophomore album, Lead With Your Heart, and film a new PBS special at The Smith Center. The foursome will invite some of their friends as special guests to share the stage for this unforgettable performance. After a sold out concert at The Smith Center in March, The Tenors are excited to return to Las Vegas with a brand new show. The concert will be recorded in Reynolds Hall for the PBS special and a live concert DVD. The Tenors have traveled the world for the past four years. From Johannesburg to Shanghai, London to Los Angeles, they have inspired millions of music lovers with their rich harmonies, addictive charm and powerful songs. They have performed for world leaders and many celebrities, including an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show with Celine Dion. Most recently, The Tenors performed in London for Queen Elizabeth II. Tickets are $29 to $69 for The Smith Center performance. Call (702) 749-2000 for reservations.

Have a question about Las Vegas? Want to make a comment (be nice, now)?
If so, drop an e-mail and ask. Click Here
Cousin Claire will do her best to find the answer for you.
You can find Past Columns HERE

     Like to be notified when Claire Voyant's next column is available?
Then join Claire Voyant's announcement mailing list!
Enter your email address below, then click the 'Join List' button:

Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye