Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

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

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from March 01, 2013
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - March 1, 2013

Travis Cloer


Monday, March 4th, Travis Cloer gets his shot at his own show in The Smith Center's Cabaret Jazz club. Cloer, who portrays Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys at Paris Las Vegas, was originally scheduled to perform his Setting the Standard show on February 4th, but illness hit the entire family (wife, Jennifer, and their baby girl) forcing postponement. Travis should be in fine form as he presents songs such as Steppin' Out with my Baby, Fever, Not While I'm Around, That's All, Let the Good Times Roll, and other surprises, done in the Cloer-style. Travis will be accompanied by Jersey Boys' musical director, Keith Thompson on piano, along with Steve Flora on bass, Brian Czach on drums, Eric Tewalt on sax, Danny Falcone on trumpet, and Kevin Stout on trombone. To make reservations for Travis Cloer, with show time at 7 p.m. and tickets priced at $25 and $35, contact The Smith Center Box Office at (702) 749-2000. See you there.

Taking place in the same performance space at The Smith Center, two nights later (Wednesday, March 6th) is the popular Composers Showcase. They are excited to be adding famed guitarist, Esteban, to its line-up this month. There are also some other new exciting writers, as well as some familiar favorites, returning to share their original songs on the stage of Cabaret Jazz in the Boman Pavilion. Presented by PK Music and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, next weeks' talented participants include Composers: Jolana Adamson, Esteban, Joel Ferguson, Rylan Leo Helmuth, Martin Kaye, Jeff Leibow, Rob Marnell, Richard Oberacker, Danny Roque, Michael Spadoni, Keith Thompson, Mark Wherry and more. Performers include: Doug Baker, Kris Coleman, Rayme Cornell, Ben Hale, Kristen Hertzenberg, Jimmy Lockett, Cora Lockheart, Shana Tucker, Tina Walsh, Virginia Woodruff, Eric Jordan Young and more. The Players are: Jim Belk, George Bryant, Tish Diaz, Sandra Donatelle, Philip Fortenberry, Mikey Hachey, Dave Hart, Teresa Joy, Laraine Kaizer, Jenny Massey, Rebecca Ramsey, Laurence Sobel, Kevin Stout, Geri Thompson, Moonlight Tran, Tyler Williams and more. Sound is by Kevin Harvey, and lights by Jeremy W. Hodges. Showtime is at 10:30 p.m. (after theater), with doors opening at 9:30. Cash Bar/Late Night Menu Available. Tickets are $20 (assigned seating), and available at the Smith Center Box Office, go online at, or call (702) 749-2000. Walk-ups are welcome, if seats are still available. The Smith Center is located at 361 Symphony Park Avenue in downtown Las Vegas.

Doug Baker

Gerry McCambridge

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It's songbird, Lisa Smith, with Gary Peterson at the piano, performing Jazz at Kelly's Prime Steak & Seafood, 3900 Paradise Rd. (formerly Ruth's Chris Steakhouse), this weekend.
The twosome, along with some special guest performers, will make music in the lounge tonight, Friday, March 1st, and tomorrow night, from 7 to 10:30 p.m. There is no cover charge, but there is a one drink minimum. Happy hour specials, usually from 3 to 6:30 p.m., have been extended until 7. Just mention you came to hear Lisa sing. For reservations, call (702) 791-7011.

And if you happen to be in Southern California on Sunday, March 3rd, it's Joey Gian at Catalina Jazz Club, 6725 Sunset Blvd., beginning at 7 p.m. Performing with Joey are, on guitar, two-time Grammy-winner, Josh Sklair (Etta James); Tom Canning on piano (Al Jarreau); on bass, Michael Saucier (Barbara Morrison); and on drums, Jack LeCompte (Anita O'Day). Prepare for a show filled with soulful and romantic NEW music with Joey and his award winning musicians. Tickets are $20, plus dinner or two drinks minimum. For reservations, call (323) 466-2210.

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Cousin Claire doesn't make it a habit to be critical of other writers (preferring, instead, to ignore them), but in the case of Today in Las Vegas' Scott Roeben, we are giving him a finger-wagging. In the current issue of the purse-sized tourist magazine, Mr. Roeben, who we do not know, takes credit for the cover story, Get Into the Act: Las Vegas Shows Where You Can Be the Star. How Roeben could do an article about local audience participation shows, and not mention Gerry McCambridge, The Mentalist, is mind-boggling. Entertainers like comic-magician, Mac King; The Blue Man Group (although we feel most of their audience participants are "plants"); and hypnotist Marc Savard, were among those mentioned, and should have been, but omitting McCambridge was a major "oversight," considering the subject. A Las Vegas performer, for coming up on eight years, during all of his shows, McCambridge uses about 70 ticket-buying audience members to achieve his goals. We have seen the show many times. We have also recommended the show to others. All of us leave the theater asking the same question, "How did he do that?" If you haven't experienced The Mentalist, you can see him do his amazing feats, and possibly become part of the show, at the V Theater inside Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops, at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays through Tuesdays (dark Wednesdays). Call (702) 260-7200.

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People around UNLV are popping their buttons, as alum, Korre Heggem, who earned a BA in Fine Arts in 2008, won an Academy Award Sunday as part of the team behind the visual effects for Life of Pi. Congratulations to Mr. Heggem, and our University.

Korre Heggem

Mark Bennick with Kathleen Pomeroy

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The Magic of Vegas is in Maui. The Kā'anapali Beach Hotel welcomes Las Vegas magician, Mark Bennick, to the stage of its Kupanaha Magic Dinner Theater for a limited engagement. Bennick steps into the spotlight with his show of spectacular magic and illusions, as he takes over for Kupanaha star illusionist, Jody Baran, during Baran's absence. Although only 27-years-old, Mark has been wowing Vegas audiences since he was 17 with his family-friendly mysteries, energetic style, and quick wit. He has amazed and amused audiences with his runs at such resort casinos as The Mirage, Monte Carlo, Tropicana, Paris Las Vegas, and the new Cosmopolitan, causing the Las Vegas Leisure Guide to write that Bennick "brings back fond memories of a young David Copperfield." The Kupanaha Magic Dinner Theater experience, featuring Mark Bennick, is presented Tuesdays through Saturdays. The 3-1/2 hour evening of non-stop entertainment begins at 4:45 p.m. with a welcome Mai Tai, followed by a delicious three-course gourmet meal and tableside close-up magic. Gold Circle front row seats are $89; General seating is $79 for adults; $55 for teens; children 12 years and under are $39; ages 5 and under are free, when accompanied by a paying adult. Validated self-parking is offered for patrons of the event. Show reservations, as well as room reservations at the Kā'anapali Beach Hotel, can be made by calling (808) 667-0128 or (800) 262-8450.

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Lisa Gioia-Acres reports that the last Las Vegas Media Group lunch meeting went well. There was a great turnout, great conversations and connections, and a terrific speaker. Charles Silvestri shared how his family arrived in Las Vegas many moons ago, and how the move was the best thing that happened. Since then his family has grown, and many members still call Las Vegas home. He talked about working his way up from a casino worker to his tenure in the Clark County School District, and how he is instrumental in sending 12 students a year to Washington, D.C. The Charles Silvestri Junior High School is named after him. Two old friends, Mr. Silvestri and Frank Valeri, reconnected at the meeting after many years. Charles, and Helen Mortenson, passionate about the project she has been working on for years, asked the group to lend their voice in support of the designation of the Upper Las Vegas Wash as a national monument. As many know, the area is rich in Ice Age fossils. Happy Wedding Anniversary to friends, Don and Gretchen Payne, who tied the knot on Valentine's Day 49 years ago. We want to be invited to the party for your 50th! Bo Boivert and Frank Valeri generously contributed photos from their private collection, during their time as professional photographers, for Lisa Gioia-Acres' book, Showgirls of Las Vegas. Both Bo and Frank have an amazing collection of photos of some of the most famous people to perform or visit Las Vegas. Anyone interested in revisiting Las Vegas in its glory days, should ask to see their photos. At the March meeting, two speakers will talk about the Lou Ruvo Brain center. Note: Two photographs, located on page 26 in Lisa's book, were identified as coming from UNLV's Special Collections. In fact, they were from the Frank Valeri photographic collection.

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In their February 25th issue of VEGASINC, the over story for the business publication recognizes a handful of the city's top financial executives. Among them is Deborah Danielson, President/owner of Danielson Financial Group. She has been working in the investment industry since 1981. The Las Vegas native is a certified financial planner and certified fund specialist - the first woman in Nevada to achieve that designation. Danielson is the wife of Robert George Allen, the fellow behind the popular and successful Haunted Vegas and Mob Tours.

Deborah Danielson by Christopher DeVargas

Ervin Drake (Ervin Maurice Druckman)

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Last week, in conjunction with an off-Broadway revue called, Old Jews Telling Jokes, we listed quite a number of Jewish comics, showing both the names they used for stage and the ones on their birth certificates. Of course, we couldn't list them all, as it would take too much time and space. We had a few calls from readers with comments about our list. One of them, a bright lady that we have known for decades (who just happens to be "Jewrish" - a combo of Irish and Jewish), chastised us for forgetting to include Joan Rivers on the list. HELLOOO! She was there, right where she belonged, alphabetically placed between Don Rickles and Seth Rogen. We understand, though. The eyes are one of the first things to go. We have to admit that there WAS one person who was intentionally omitted. That would be Joseph Levitch. Why was he left off the list? Because we don't find him funny or amusing, and we don't like him as a person. Not familiar with the guy? Maybe you know him better as Jerry Lewis. Enough space wasted on him. Another reader, who just happens to be a comic himself, although not Jewish (unless Peter Anthony Laurino is a Jewish name), e-mailed us to let us know that we had omitted Jackie Gayle (birth name Jack Potovsky). Like we explained, we couldn't list everyone, but to maintain a nice relationship with Mr. Laurino, we will give Jackie a special mention. Born in 1926, he was an American standup comedian and actor. A Brooklyn native, Gayle was introduced to show business as a drummer for Sally Marr, mother of comedian Lenny Bruce, and became a close friend of Bruce's. It was Bruce who convinced him to try stand-up comedy and, in 1964, Gayle helped opened the Los Angeles Playboy Club with Tony Bennett. In Las Vegas, he headlined at Caesars Palace, the Tropicana, Sahara, Aladdin and Sands hotels, and became the opening act for such stars as Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and Tina Turner. Considered a "comedian's comedian," his late-night lounge shows were a magnet for stars such as Johnny Carson, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. Jackie also appeared on more than 20 episodes of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. His acting credits include the 1987 film, Tin Men, and Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose.

If memory serves us correctly, Jackie Gayle's last Vegas appearance was at the Sands, with impressionist Bob Anderson, in the revue, Salute To the Copa. Jackie Gayle died on November 23rd, 2002, at the age of 76. He is survived by his wife, Tracy, and son, Justin.

Jerry Herman (Gerald Herman)

Jack Lawrence (Jacob Louis Schwartz)

Jews are not only funny, they are also musical. Some of them, including Mel Brooks, are both funny AND musical (The Producers). Thus, this week, we are providing the names of some of the greats. From the world of Broadway, let's give a standing ovation to just some of the composers responsible for the songs that left audiences humming as they departed the theater, and in the recording genre, a handful (well, maybe a little more) of those that you danced to during high school and college. As usual, we use our politically correct alphabetical method of listing the names, starting with Harold Arlen, followed by Burt Bacharach, Lionel Bart, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Don Black, Jerry Bock, Alain Boublil, Artie Butler, Sammy Cahn, Eric Carmen, Leonard Cohen, Cy Coleman, Betty Comden, Hal David, Neil Diamond, Howard Dietz, Ervin Drake, Al Dubin, Isaak Dunaevsky, Bob Dylan, Fred Ebb, Ray Evans, Sammy Fain, Dorothy Fields, Charles Fox, George and Ira Gershwin, Norman Gimbel, Adolph Green, Johnny Green, Marvin Hamlisch, Oscar Hammerstein II, E. Y. "Yip" Harburg, Sheldon Harnick, Lorenz Hart, Jerry Herman, James Horner, Billy Joel, John Kander, Jerome Kern, Carole King, Herbert Kretzmer, Burton Lane, Jack Lawrence, Tom Lehr, Jerry Leiber, Mitch Leigh, Alan Jay Lerner, Jay Livingston, Frank Loesser, Frederick Loewe, Johnny Mandel, Barry Mann, Melissa Manchester, Barry Manilow, Michael Masser, Alan Menken, Anthony Newley, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, David Pomeranz, Richard Rodgers, Sigmund Romberg, Harold Rome, Carole Bayer Sager, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Arthur Schroeck, Arthur Schwartz, Stephen Schwartz, Neil Sedaka, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Mike Stoller, Barbra Streisand, Charles Strouse, Jule Styne, Cynthia Weil, Kurt Weill, Frank Wildhorn, Maury Yeston and Victor Young. And, here is something we find most interesting (we hope you think so as well). Many, maybe even MOST, of the most popular Christmas songs were written or co-written by Jewish composers. Among them, in no particular order, are: "White Christmas," Irving Berlin; "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)," Mel Torme and Bob Wells; "Winter Wonderland," Felix Bernard; "Sleigh Ride," Mitchell Parrish; "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!," Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne; "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," and "A Holly Jolly Christmas," all by Johnny Marks; "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," George Wyle; "I'll Be Home For Christmas," Walter Kent and Buck Ram (yes, THAT Buck Ram); "There's No Place Like Home For the Holidays," Al Stillman; "We Need a Little Christmas," Jerry Herman; and "Baby It's Cold Outside," Frank Loesser. We think it would be fair to say, that, without Jews in the world of entertainment, there would be a lot less laughter, and a lot less great music.

Melissa Manchester

Anthony Newley

And speaking of David Pomeranz ("The Old Songs," "Tryin' To Get the Feeling Again," "Born For You"), yesterday, February 28th, the New York-born entertainer/songwriter, who is an icon in the Philippines, became the only International artist ever to receive a star on their Walk Of Fame in Manila. Mazel tov!

David Pomeranz

Hofbrauhaus Birthday Party

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Last weekend, we were guests at a special birthday celebration held at the Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas, the first and only German beer hall and restaurant to call Las Vegas home. As a replica of the legendary Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany, HBH takes great pride in giving you an experience as authentic and unforgettable as the 420-year-old original. From the traditional Beer Hall bursting with nightly live entertainment, to the tree-lined Beer Garden, everything has a bold touch of Bavaria that you won't forget any time soon. There is plenty of beer drinking, and even some paddling going on. If you want a quiet, romantic dining spot, the Hofbräuhaus is not the place for you, but for a fun, party-like atmosphere, and authentic German food, the Hofbräuhaus. Ed Kovacs, Director of Operations, does a fine job handling the crowds, and Jane Khaldy, Director of Event Sales, has great PR skills. We had a terrific server named Peggy (we renamed her "Pegmeister"), who was attentive, but not overbearing, taking the time to explain many of the menu items to us newbies. Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas is located at 4510 Paradise Road, on the southeast corner of Paradise and Harmon, across from the Hard Rock Hotel. For reservations, call (702) 853-BEER (2337). Skoal!

Hofbrauhaus Server Peggy

George Daly

On Sunday, we were at The Orleans to see and hear Natalie Cole. She sounded great, performing a number of her hits, along with a nice mix of familiar favorites by other artists. In spite of the fact that she was competing with the Oscars, it looked like a full house. We spotted veteran blues and rock drummer, Larry "Wild" Wrice, and his lovely wife, Louise, in the crowd.

And speaking of the Hofbräuhaus, on Tuesday, March 5th, SinCityQSocials, a club for local LGBT professionals, invites you to mix, mingle and meet there, beginning with cocktails at 8 p.m.

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In January of 2009, we ran the following item and got no response. Since Jim H. is still a Claire Voyant reader, but has had no luck in locating his old friend, and because we have more readers these days than we did four years ago (yep, we do), we have decided to run it again. Jim is trying to find out what became of former Ice Capades performer, George Daly. He is hoping a reader may be able to help. Jim says that over the years, Ice Capades has held very successful reunions in Las Vegas, attracting between 700 and 800 former Capades participants. Daly was not present at any of these events, and Jim could not find anyone who had seen him in recent years. If you have any knowledge of George Daly, please let Cousin Claire know and she will pass it on to Jim H.

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Nikolas Mastrangelo, who becomes Nik at Nite when he performs after dark at local venues, will be singing at Casa Di Amore, tomorrow, Saturday, March 2nd, and the following Saturday, the 9th, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. If you plan to stop by, reservations are suggested, as the place fills up fast. Casa Di Amore is located at 2850 E. Tropicana. Phone (702) 433-4967.

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Painter and illustrator, Eric Comstock, is debuting his work in Las Vegas at TastySpace Gallery. He will be there Sunday, the 3rd, from 11a.m. to 1 p.m. for a reception. Comstock's abstract paintings and collage work will be on view until Tuesday, March 26th, at TastySpace inside Emergency Arts, 520 Fremont St., at the corner of 6th and Fremont. Stop by, admire, and support.
Note: This is not the cabaret-performing Eric Comstock.

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The talented, and busy, Rebecca Spencer, who portrayed Madam Giry in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, will take her bow from the International Asia Tour of Phantom of the Opera, at the end of the Seoul, Korea-season, on March 24th. Rebecca had signed on for only Manila and Seoul, however, she was offered to extend to Bangkok and Singapore as, at this point, the tour is projected to continue through 2014 in Asia. "What a gift to have had the opportunity to fulfill a very rich journey in my own Phantom career," says the singer/actress. "From Carlotta to Madam Giry, and from Germany to Las Vegas to Asia!" Ms. Spencer is now excited to be getting back to her new home in Southern California, where her hubby, Jim D'Asaro, is Director of Production at the soon-to-open Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Rebecca and many in the musical theater community are mourning the untimely death of Broadway performer, Kevin Gray, who died on February 11th at the age 55, following a sudden heart attack. Only Two weeks, earlier, Kevin and his beautiful wife, Dodie Pettit, an original Broadway Phantom ballerina, had celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with other past and current cast members. Of the actor, Rebecca says, "Kevin was not only an amazing colleague and long time friend, but he was a great man and mentor to everyone he touched on stage and in real life and also a significant member of the Phantom Phamily." Gray's career was spent mostly playing leads in large-scale musicals, including as Raoul and then in the title role of Broadway's Phantom of the Opera in 1990. He later played the Phantom on tour, winning Florida's Carbonell Award for his performance. Mr. Gray again sang the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber when he starred in a tour of the revue, Music of the Night, and played Pontius Pilate in a 2000 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. He appeared as The Engineer in the Los Angeles and Toronto productions of Miss Saigon. Other Broadway roles included a turn as the King of Siam in the 1996 revival of The King and I, co-starring with Marie Osmond. Off-Broadway, he appeared in a 1984 revival of Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures; the 1987 David Hare-penned musical The Knife starring Mandy Patinkin; and a staging of The Death of Garcia Lorca, all at the Public Theater. Regionally, Gray acted with The Portland Stage Company, Boston Shakespeare Company, Stonington Shakespeare Company and The Mount Gretna Playhouse. Recently, he played Scar in a national tour of The Lion King. Gray was a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he worked on such musicals as Grease and Cabaret. He left that position in 2011 to teach at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford., and, in 2011, took on the position of associate professor of theater at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford.

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On Wednesday, Home & Family on the Hallmark channel, featured actress Tamera Mowry discussing nutrition for mom and baby; allergy-friendly chef Cybele Pascal created delicious meals; fitness expert Billy Blanks, Jr. demonstrated a country line dancing workout; and Las Vegas-based comic impersonator, Rich Natole, performed.

Rich Natole

Van Cliburn 1958

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Richard Street, a more than 20 year member of the famed Temptations, died in a Las Vegas hospital on Wednesday at the age of 70. Street, who was with the popular Motown group from 1971 through 1993, was the second former member of the musical ensemble to die in less than two weeks. Otis "Damon" Harris, passed away on February 18th in his hometown of Baltimore at the age of 62. He had been with the group for four years from 1971. The Temptations was one of Motown's most successful acts, with hits including "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," "Hey Girl," "Heavenly," "Superstar," and "Masterpiece." The Temptations sold millions of records since it was founded in 1960. They continue to tour under the leadership of Otis Williams, the only remaining member of the original line-up. Richard Street is survived by his wife Cindy Street.

And, internationally renown pianist, Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn, better known by the name Van Cliburn, died of bone cancer on Wednesday. The Louisiana native was 78. Cliburn, whose mother was a trained pianist, was a piano prodigy who began lessons at age 3. As a teenager he studied at Juilliard and, at 20, made his Carnegie Hall debut. In 1958, he won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. He was 23. His rendition of Tchaikovsky's Concert No. 1 earned him an eight-minute standing ovation, and Premier Nikita Khrushev declared him the winner. The victory put him on the cover of Time magazine and earned him a ticker tape parade in Manhattan. Van Cliburn's studio recording of the same piece became the first classical album certified platinum and launched a lucrative touring career that lasted more than 20 years. It was his tradition to begin every concert with "The Star-Spangled Banner." He played for every President from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama. In 2001, he was awarded the Kennedy Centers Honors, and earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2003. Van Cliburn is survived by his long-time partner, Thomas L. Smith.

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