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 September 05, 2014
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - September 5, 2014


Anthony Rais & Totolino

The September F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) luncheon will take place at the Italian American Club, on Thursday the 11th, starting at 11:30 a.m. Now in its 11th year, the F.I.O.R.E. tradition continues, with exciting, interesting, thought provoking and entertaining guest speakers. This month, meet Master Marionettist, Artiste Anthony Rais, 2013 Puppeteer of the Year. Rais is a multitalented entertainer. In his unique marionette presentation, Rais shatters the stereotype of kiddy puppet shows, elevating a centuries old art to new heights. Anthony's peers have honored him with heartfelt accolades and standing ovations. One of Rais' featured Marionettes is Totolino. Under Anthony's masterful manipulations, this endearing little clown transcends the fine line between fantasy and reality. The presentation is evidence of Rais' painstaking attention to movement, expression and detail. Amazingly life like, Totolino will amuse you, he will charm you, and ultimately he will tug at your heartstrings. The end result is nothing short of genius. Rais is no stranger to Las Vegas stages, having performed as a featured specialty act in an extended engagement of The Magic of Paris at Paris Las Vegas on the famed Strip. In addition to special guest Rais, the afternoon will include a delicious buffet lunch, the famous F.I.O.R.E. 50/50, giveaways, live entertainment, music provided by Gary Anderson & The Malcontent, and plenty of fun and camaraderie. Cost is $25 per person. As is the tradition, all widows of past F.I.O.R.E. presidents (all the men are presidents), are guests of the non-club club. New boyfriends are on their own. RSVPs are mandatory. E-mail to [email protected]. Please check out the ABOUT US section on the F.I.O.R.E. site, www.nonclubclubfiore.com before deciding if you want to join the folks at the Italian American Club. F.I.O.R.E. is not for everyone. For the few who don't know, the Italian American Club is located at 2333 E. Sahara.
Look for details in an upcoming column on the October gathering. The Italian-style Halloween Party will take place on Sunday evening, October 12th (Columbus Day).

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Opportunity Village encourages local businesses to get involved in its year OV Community Giving Campaign. Many local restaurants, retail stores and attractions have stepped up to donate and help raise funds to meet the organization's $136 Million Capital Campaign goal. Celebrating its 60th anniversary through May of 2015, Opportunity Village is encouraging local businesses to help raise funds to meet its $136 million capital campaign goal during the "Year OV Community Giving." Announced in May, the goal was established in an effort to fund ambitious plans, including the development of Betty's Village, the organization's first residential facility; a permanent North Campus; a retrofit of its Oakey Campus, which houses Opportunity Village's renowned Magical Forest holiday attraction; and an expansion of the Walters Family Campus, home of the Paper Pros document management division. First, MJ Christensen Diamonds joined the effort by donating a stunning 1.03 carat Flame Cut Diamond pendant set valued at nearly $20,500, to be raffled at Opportunity Village's 60th Anniversary Grand Finale Celebration on May 15, 2015. Next, a number of the valley's most renowned restaurants hosted fundraising events and promotions to help meet the goal, including Table 34, Sammy's Restaurant & Bar, Honey Salt, Via Brasil Steakhouse, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant and Dom DeMarco's Pizzeria & Bar. In addition, other local businesses, including Supercuts and Regis Family of Brands hair salons, the Las Vegas 51s and entertainer Véronic DiCaire, have also held special events in the last month to benefit the organization. Chico's, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Versace, have all agreed to host upcoming benefit events to be scheduled in the near future. Any business interested in joining the cause to help Opportunity Village meet its capital campaign goal during the "Year OV Community Giving," can contact Kevin Taylor at (702) 880-4043, or visit http://www.opportunityvillage.org/host-a-fundraising-event/, for more information. Opportunity Village is a not-for-profit organization that serves people within our community with significant intellectual disabilities, to help improve their lives and the lives of their families. Opportunity Village was founded in 1954 by seven dedicated, committed and loving families who were determined to give their children with disabilities the very best lives possible. Now, 60 years later, Opportunity Village is one of the most recognized and respected community habilitation programs in the United States. Opportunity Village is Nevada's largest employer of people with disabilities, serving nearly 3,000 individuals annually - people who were previously considered unemployable - providing vocational training, community employment, day services, advocacy, arts and social recreation. Many of them work at Opportunity Village's Employment Resource Centers and in jobs throughout the community, collectively earning wages amounting to more than $6.5 million in 2013. They're hard-working and diligent, proudly paying taxes and happily leading more fulfilling lives. Primarily a self- funded organization, Opportunity Village generates the majority of its operational funding through its employment contracts and fundraising efforts such as the Magical Forest and Great Santa Run, saving Nevada taxpayers $42 million annually. This year, as Opportunity Village celebrates its 60th Anniversary, it pledges to continue building upon our proud tradition of enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities in southern Nevada for another 60 years - and beyond.

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Joan Rivers 1933-2014

Joan Rivers & Impersonator Frank Marino

The headline for internet's The WRAP, Covering Hollywood, stated, Joan Rivers, Legendary Comedienne and 'Fashion Police' Host, Dead at 81. The sharp-tongued entertainer who opened doors for women in comedy, died yesterday, September 4th. Rivers, who most recently co-hosted E!'s Fashion Police, was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on August 28th, after she stopped breathing while undergoing throat surgery. She was later placed in a medically-induced coma and had been on life support. The comedian, whose unvarnished sense of humor drew criticism as well as laughs for decades, was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn in 1933. The daughter of Russian immigrants Meyer and Beatrice Molinsky, Joan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. In 1955, Joan married James Sanger. The marriage was annulled six months later. Her second marriage to film and television producer Edgar Rosenberg lasted 23 years, until his suicide in 1987. The couple had one child, daughter Melissa Warburg Rosenberg, who was born in 1968. A 1965 guest appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson launched her national career. Though she would go on to frequently guest-host for host Johnny Carson, Rivers was banned from the late-night show after she bailed on her permanent guest-host position in order to launch a competing show on Fox. While The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, was short-lived, her ban would last for more than two decades. She returned to the Tonight Show earlier this year, briefly appearing with new host Jimmy Fallon on his first episode. Rivers was nominated numerous times for a Daytime Emmy, winning in 1990 in the Outstanding Talk/Service Show Host category for The Joan Rivers Show. She appeared on many other television shows, including The Carol Burnett Show, Hollywood Squares, Saturday Night Live, Nip/Tuck and The Ed Sullivan Show. She and her daughter, Melissa, co- starred on the reality series, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, and were longtime co-hosts of E!'s Oscars pre-awards coverage, while the elder Rivers went on to host red-carpet events for TV Guide Channel. Joan wrote a dozen books, including the mock memoir, The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz, Diary of a Mad Diva, Enter Talking, Still Talking, Bouncing Back: I've Survived Everything...and I Mean Everything...and You Can Too!, Having a Baby Can Be a Scream, Murder at the Academy Awards, Men Are Stupid...and They Like Big Boobs - A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery, and I Hate Everyone...Starting With Me. As a recording artist, Rivers was nominated for a Grammy award for her comedy album "What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?" Rivers had a successful fashion and jewelry line called the Joan Rivers Classics Collection, which is a top seller on QVC. In 2009, Joan and Melissa were contestants on the NBC reality competition show "Celebrity Apprentice." Joan won by beating out poker champ Annie Duke. At one time, she donated her time and was a celebrity spokesperson for Cystic Fibrosis. Rivers had a long history as a Las Vegas headliner. Joan Rivers is survived by her daughter, Melissa and her grandson, Cooper. Funeral services for the late comedian will be held this Sunday at the synagogue where she was a member, Temple Emanu-El in her hometown of New York City.

At this time, can't help but think of Divas Las Vegas star, female impersonator/comic, Frank Marino, who built his original act around Joan Rivers. Can we talk?

From Las Vegas author, Mary Marcella Schwartz, comes this fond memory of the late Joan Rivers.
"When Joan made a promise, she kept it. She came to the launch of our first "Handy Girls" book as we presented her with the first "Honorary Handy Girls" award in 1984 at Sunset Park. She signed our book 'I hope the Handy Girls make you rich!' This meant a lot to two young girls, Barbara Ciarlantini and myself, with a dream -- and she knew that. RIP Joan. We'll miss you.


Joan Rivers & Handy Girls - Barbara Ciarlantini & Mary Schwartz

In connection with the passing of Joan Rivers, reader Jerry Vann sent along this message (printed as sent, with no changes/corrections)...
I know you didn't have a chance to meet Beverly Wren... YOU would have loved her.... she was still going strong at 94. I would talk to her about what shows we had booked at NUMBERS and send her pictures and videos of them since she was not always able to make it out. She was wonderful. Knowing Beverly as well as I did I have a feeling she wanted to get to the gates BEFORE Joan so she could grab all the Heavenly Bookings before anyone else. Beverly was an angel in our midst. She helped so many of us.

It is with sadness that the show business we all love has lost another visionary. Beverly Wren peacefully passed away Wednesday night September 3rd in Houston, Texas. Beverly the small feisty woman with a big heart and a flashy personality was the power behind the building that opened as Houston's Million Dollar City Dump and which later became the iconic Disco Theater known as NUMBERS. To her credit and fore site the building has now been in operation for more than 40 years. Beverly was instrumental in bring Las Vegas style shows to Houston during the 1970's oil boom. Her stage played host to so many well known Vegas veterans like Pia Zadora, Breck Wall and his Bottoms Up group, The Agostino's, Los Argentinos Mario and Daniel Celario and Diva's performer Hot Chocolate (Larry Edwards) who was a weekly regular on Beverly's stage for many years before moving to Las Vegas. Beverly's reach extended from Broadway to Tinsel Town LA and of course the Las Vegas Strip. As an example, in 1976 Gavin MacLeod of TV's Love Boat fame polished his comedy act on Beverly's Houston stage. She booked New York City's Village People when the general public new little about them. Drag deva DIVINE (Harris Glenn Milstead) developed his stage act on Beverly's stage and then of course went on to do more movies including the original Hairspray. Many of today's biggest concert acts from REM to Maroon 5 have performed on the stage that Beverly built. The impressive list of performers can be found on the NUMBERS website www.numbersnightclub.com. Her passing leaves a huge void in entertainment circles. Along with her involvement in the entertainment business Beverly was also associated with many many charities. Being small in stature she once said, "Dammit, I may be to short to be a show girl but I can sure be a gal who puts on shows." She may be gone from this earth but her Texas can do spirit is still shining from the stage at 300 Westheimer in Houston Texas.
Anyone who knew her will miss her. Those who didn't know her will miss out on the chance to meet her.

(A bit about Mr. Vann. He has produced shows all over, from Miami to LA and Vegas, and has been out on tour with everyone from Los Argentinos duo Mario and Daniel Celario, to *NSYNC. He has done everything from planning a birthday party for Bette Midler, to a dinner for country artist Pat Greene, or a horse back ride for Paul McCartney...)


Beverly Wren & Jerry Vann circa 1970s

Elvis Presley

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We may be the first to print this news. The two most influential and inspirational entertainers in Rob Garrett's life have been Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond. Garrett saw his first Elvis concert at New York's Madison Square Garden on June 10th, 1972. Between then and December of 1976, Rob saw Presley perform live 23 times - twice at the Garden, three times at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, and 18 times in Las Vegas at the Hilton. It was also in Las Vegas where Rob first saw Neil Diamond perform live. That life changing event took place in 1976, at the then brand new 7,500-seat Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts, on July 4th weekend. How ironic, then, that Garrett, who has spent almost 20 years of his life as a Neil Diamond tribute artist, will be taking his show into the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton where Elvis, The King of Rock and Roll, was legend. To be performing at the property where his idol held court for years is heady enough, but Garrett and his King of Diamonds Band will be alternating with Presley tribute artist, Trent Carlini, in the hotel's Shimmer Cabaret. Elvis, Elvis and Neil. It doesn't get much better than that for this hardworking performer. Rob's Neil Diamond tribute show opens on Wednesday, September 24th, with performances starting at 8:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. We will have more details in next Friday's column.

Note: The photo caption of Garrett and Diamond, suggesting that Rob might be the "illegitimate Brooklyn born son" of Neil, is done with tongue planted firmly in cheek, i.e. we are just kidding.


Neil Diamond & Maybe "Illegitimate Son" Rob Garrett

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A couple of Dianas are heading to stages in Las Vegas over the next two months. On Friday, September 19th, it's Miss Diana Ross, bringing her In the Name of Love Tour into The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Call (866) 320-9763 for details and tickets. And, on Saturday, November 8th, Diana Krall's Wallflower World Tour makes a stop at the Palms. In support of her upcoming CD release, Wallflower (available in stores October 21st), Krall embarks on the US leg of the 'Wallflower World Tour' that will take her to 26 cities, starting November 7th in Phoenix, Arizona, and concluding in Clearwater, Florida, on December 14th.


Diana Ross

Diana Krall

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Nik Mastrangelo, aka Nik at Nite, sends along this message. "A big thank you to all the folks who stopped by the Tuscany last Sunday to see the great Joe Lano, Bob Sachs, Mike Mechem and me, as we celebrated the music of Irving Berlin and Cy Coleman. Thanks also to Jo Belle Yonely for stopping by and singing for us. She really knows her stuff! Another all star lineup! The evening was a huge success! We are taking this week off, but will be back in the Tuscany's Piazza Lounge from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., on Sunday, September 14th, with Joey Singer, Steve Flora and Jess Gopen." Look for more details on Nik at Nite and The Trio in next Friday's column.


Nik at Nite Mastrangelo

Lisa Smith

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Since 1970, the signage outside the property at 305 Convention Center Drive has gone through many changes - from the original Royal Inn , to the Royal Americana, Paddlewheel, Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel, Greek Isles and, most recently, the Clarion Hotel and Casino. As of last Monday, the signs in front of the 44-year-old off Strip property say CLOSED. Not sure what this means when it comes to the Wolf Theater, located inside the Clarion, but we will try and find out.

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Songstress, Lisa Smith, will be performing in the Gold Coast Showroom Lounge, Wednesday, September 10th from 1 to 4 p.m. She will be accompanied by Dan Ellis on keys and Darin Presley on drums. There is no cover charge and a no drink minimum. Join them for a great afternoon of dancing and fabulous music! The Gold Coast is located at 4000 W. Flamingo.
On Saturday, September 13th, Lisa and her musical hubby, Ron Smith, will be joining Bill Fayne at Ron Decar's Event Center, 1201 S. Las Vegas Boulevard, for An Evening of Classic Broadway, circa 1960s. In addition to the wonderful Classic Broadway presentation at 8 p.m., there will be a special 30-minute show by Dangerous Curves. Two shows for the price of one! For ticket prices and reservations, call (702) 384-0771, or (800) 574-5406. Did we mention the Event Center has a nice menu, offering starters, entrees, desserts and cocktails? Yep. They do.


Ron & Lisa Smith

Bobby Darin

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See and hear Carmine Mandia, with special guest, Mark Giovi, backed by the Ned Mills six-piece Big Band, as they celebrate the music of Bobby Darin on the big stage at the Italian American Club, Wednesday, September 17th. Show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20. Reserve your spot. Get your tickets now! Email Carmine at [email protected], or call (702) 457-3866.

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Chicago's ABC-7 (WLS-TV) welcomed noted entertainer, Deana Martin, as a guest earlier today, September 5th, on "Windy City Live." Deana, daughter of iconic performer, Dean Martin, will share stories of her famous Dad and will perform a selection from her newest CD, Destination Moon. Later in the day, Deana appeared as a guest on the popular afternoon radio show, Roe & Roeper, on WLS 890-AM, where she answered questions from listeners. Deana Martin grew up in the presence of Hollywood's elite; including "Uncles" Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. It was "Uncle Frank" that gave Deana her very first singing lesson when she was a budding entertainer. A noted entertainer in her own right, Deana has performed to capacity crowds and audiences around the world. Destination Moon features timeless tunes made famous by Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington, Bobby Darin, and Nat King Cole, plus new songs written exclusively for her. The cornerstone of the release is an electronic duet with her Dad on the Cole Porter classic, "True Love." Deana Martin's entire CD catalog is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and at DeanaMartin.com.

And speaking of Ms. Martin, she returns to the South Point Showroom for shows at 7:30 p.m., next weekend, September 13th and 14th. Tickets, available at the South Point Box Office or by calling (702) 797-8055, range in price from $15 to $25, plus tax and fees. If you haven't seen her perform, don't miss the opportunity. If you have seen her before, chances are you will want to come back to see her again.


Deana Martin

Cork Proctor

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Reminder...
On Sunday, September 7th at 2 p.m. (doors open at 1:30) in the theater at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 McLeod (east of Eastern, and north of Desert Inn)., the Performing Arts Society will present the inescapably gifted pianist, vocalist and entertainer, Wes Winters, in a program entitled From Liberace to Jerry Lee ,a tribute show exploring some of the most memorable songs and moments in the careers of Liberace, Jerry Lee Lewis, Barry Manilow, Andrew Lloyd Webber and other musical superstars. Tickets are $15 each in advance, and $18 at the door. For additional information, call (702) 658- 6741, or e-mail [email protected].

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Beginning tonight, The Onyx Theater presents Neil Simon's California Suite. Chaos Theatre Company and Olde English Productions, in association with Off Strip Productions, are pleased to announce their latest endeavor, California Suite. Neil Simon's engaging play, consisting of four separate scenes, all of which take place in the same suite in the Beverly Hills Hotel, is a delightful comedy giving the audience the experience of four plays in one cohesive package. In a unique twist, each scene of this production will be directed by a different person - Shane Cullum, Jeremy Nino, Gus Langley, and Jason Nino - for a truly unparalleled experience.
Show times are September 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th at 8 p.m., with matinee performances on Sunday, September 7th and 14th at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Make your reservations by calling the Onyx Box Office at (702) 732-7225.

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If you happen to be in Ecuador on September 28th, longtime Las Vegan, comic Cork Proctor, will be performing for the first time in that part of the world. We expect to have more details before the event.

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The Great Tomsoni, Johnny Thompson to those who know him out of the spotlight as well as in it, had a recent health setback. We wish him a speedy recovery. The popular entertainer, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday with a party attended by many of his nearest and dearest friends, is one tough cookie, so we expect to hear positive news. As they say, it's hard to keep a good man down, and Johnny is a good man.


The Great Tomsoni, Johnny Thompson

Bethany Owen

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Jim Whirlow, Director/Producer, announces that Las Vegas headliner and singing voice impressionist, Bethany Owen, is preparing to set-up shop in Huntington Beach, California, at Fuzion, for select Wednesday afternoons during the Fall season. The schedule is set to begin this coming Wednesday, September 10th, with a rotation of both of Bethany's one-woman production shows - One Voice, a variety Comedy, Jazz, Pop and Country voice impressions show which has been touring nationally since 2002; and Country Queens, an all country themed impressions show paying tribute to legendary women of country music, from Kitty Wells to Shania Twain, and Martina McBride to Gretchen Wilson, with a splash of Minnie Pearl to mix in some fun. Included in the admission price is a 3-course American style lunch menu that is table served at shows, made up of Freshly Baked Rolls, Zuppa Bella Soup - Sausage, Kale, Potatoes and onion in a chicken broth, finished with cream OR Fresh House Salad - with choice of dressing. Grilled Chicken Breast with Bacon and Mushroom Gravy, served with Fuzion Rice and Fresh Seasonal Vegetables OR Sausage Pasta Cake (that's what they call it) with Sweet Red Pepper Marinara Sauce. House made Apple Strudel OR House made Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream. Coffee, Hot or Iced Tea, and Water, plus a full no-host bar will be available during both the lunch and the show. Owen recently completed a successful four-month weekly summer run at Old World Huntington Beach, offering an afternoon lunch and show packaged event for visiting tourists, Senior bus groups and locals alike, who may be looking for something different to do with their friends and families over the normal lunch hour. The Fuzion shows run on select Wednesdays with a few Thursday afternoons in September through November. Seating begins at 11:30 a.m. Lunch is served at Noon, with show time from 1 to 2:30 p.m. JRW Group Entertainment's Whirlow notes that, "The lunch show is being produced this way to give those in the senior community, especially those who may not like to drive at night, an opportunity to come out during the daytime to see a dynamic live stage show and enjoy a nice sit-down lunch." The Fuzion Cabaret Showroom is located at 7227 Edinger Avenue in Huntington Beach. For venue Information, call (714) 377-7671, or go to www.FuzioHB.com. For reservations and schedules, call June at (714) 475-9678. General admission is $34, Groups of 10 or more is $28, and Groups of 40+ is $25.
*Advance Reservations ONLY.

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As August comes to an end, here's a salute to September! The Nitekings lineup for this month: On Wednesdays, September 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th, you can check them out at The Orleans, in The Bourbon Street Cabaret, from 4 to 8 p.m. The Orleans is located on Tropicana, west of The Strip. On Sunday evenings, you can find the group rockin' the house at Sam's Town, in Roxy's Lounge, from 7 to 11 p.m. Sam's Town is located on Boulder Highway and Flamingo. Last month, we got a little background on the NiteKing Band. This time around it's the front line in the spotlight. Victor Moea: Born in Brooklyn, Victor spent many years entertaining in the New York area. He performed with The Belmonts, The Del Vikings, and The Buddy Greco Orchestra. Victor has acted in many TV commercials and has numerous credits from his songwriting skills. Angelo Mastrio: Born in Hartford Connecticut to a musical family, Angelo began singing and playing drums at the age of seven. He too performed with The Del Vikings and played drums for Sonny Turner's Platters for 12 years. He is the "Senior" member of The NiteKings. Eddy B: Born in NY, Eddy grew up in Chicago and soon became a major player for various local acts. He has performed for Lou Rawls, Stevie Wonder, and Natalie Cole. In Vegas, he has worked with Phil Flowers & Smooth. Eddy is also an accomplished drummer. Skip Petronzio: Skip spent his early days in Cleveland as a bass player backing up Frankie Yankovic, Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge, The Capris, and The Skyliners. Rich Perez: Rich formed the band United & Main Event while in Pontiac Michigan before forming The NiteKings. He also sang with The Del Vikings. Rich is the founder of The NiteKings here in Vegas and now works as their manager. Like the song says. "See You in September!" Signed, Tony C for The NiteKings


The NiteKings

Cook E. Jarr

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We never thought we would see the day (or night), but we hear that the inimitable entertainer, Cook E. Jarr, is putting away the spandex pants and is retiring from performing. This is yet another thing we will have to check out. Stay tuned.

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Join the LGBT Chamber of Commerce for lunch, an awesome speaker, socializing and networking. Open To The Public - No Reservation or RSVP Needed. Lambda's monthly LGBT Community, Business Luncheons are held every 2nd Wednesday of the month from 11:30 am - 1 pm. Members are invited to place the marketing materials in the "give-away" bags for attendees. Paid members: Bring your materials early! Lunch is $18, all inclusive. Pay Online or at the door (cash, credit or debit card). Click at left to pay online. Please note price change. Our first increase in 10 years. The Lunch event is at the Palacio Del Sol #2 Banquet Hall, 953 E. Sahara Ave. inside Commercial Center, this Wednesday, September 10th.

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Bart Williams in The Wizard of Oz

In an August 25th Arts & Entertainment, News review from St. George News, written by Hollie Reina, here is some of what Ms. Reina has to say about Tuachan's Wizard of Oz production.
Tuacahn puts 'wonderful' back in Oz
Lions, tigers and bears. Flying cows, broomsticks and monkeys. Ruby slippers, emerald cities and yellow roads. Oh my! Tuacahn's 2014 production of "The Wizard of Oz" is a high-adventure, comedy extravaganza that takes the audience on a twisting ride from Kansas to Oz and back. But with the addition of "wonderful" or not, the classic tale remains to this day one of the most widely recognized and best-known stories in American culture. Indeed the movie is a quintessential holiday must-see for many. The story follows Dorothy, an adolescent girl growing up on a farm in Kansas whose only friend - according to her - is her dog Toto. Dorothy, like any teenage girl, feels lonely and misunderstood, especially after a nasty encounter with her mean neighbor Miss Gulch, and longs for something beyond the simple life she shares with her Uncle Henry, Aunt Em and a crew of farmhands. Dorothy's wishes to go far away to a place where things surely must be better are perfectly expressed in the iconic song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which was almost cut from the movie (if you can believe that) because of length. Making her Tuacahn debut as Dorothy, Kari Yancy, stepped into the ruby slippers with a perfect fit. Her stage presence and genuine concern for Toto made her character believable and while her voice didn't have the smooth velvety quality of Judy Garland - the actress who played Dorothy in the original film - she held her own, belting out the show's most famous tune with clarity and control. Dorothy's misadventures begin when she and Toto are caught up in a tornado and whisked, house and all, into the whirling dust devil finally landing in Munchkinland and on top of a wicked witch. The Twister scene is where Tuacahn's staging chops really shone as a giant cyclone graced the stage, a life-sized (but not real) cow went flying through the sky, and the dull bleak landscape of the Kansas plains was transformed into the vibrant land of the Munchkins in Oz. In Tuacahn's Oz, Dorothy is greeted by an adorable children's cast of Munchkins singing and dancing in jubilance that their new heroine has killed the Wicked Witch of the East. These pint-sized thespians were definite scene stealers with their colorful costumes and angelic voices. My personal favorites, the young boys of the lollipop guild, who managed to turn their 15 seconds of song into a laughter-filled moment to be remembered. The entrance of Glinda the Good Witch of the North in a pink "bubble," Dorothy's surreptitious donning of the scarlet slippers and the kaleidoscopically clad Munchkins created a scene that played out on stage with all the Technicolor of the MGM movie. But, though Dorothy is warmly welcomed to Munchkinland, she already starts to feel homesick asking Glinda for a way home. The cotton-candy good witch played by Annie Ramsey Lewis - a Tuacahn stage veteran with past roles in "Grease," "Little Mermaid," and "Oklahoma" - tells Dorothy she must visit the Wizard of Oz to find her way home. Dorothy sets off on a journey to find the Emerald City and the so-called "wonderful wizard" by following the yellow brick road. On the other hand, the artistic choice did allow for more crowd interaction as the yellow brick road, though admittedly not very yellow (yellow lights shone down), climbed its way up the amphitheater stairs and across the rows adding dimension and depth not attainable had they stayed on stage. For me, the show got really entertaining as Dorothy met her three famous companions; the brainless Scarecrow, the heartless Tin woodsman and the Cowardly Lion played respectively by Mark Reis, Todd Nielson and Trevor Dion Nicholas. These three characters deftly tumbled, creaked, and cowered across the land of Oz and provided the biggest laughs (Nicholas does a spot on impersonation of a famous Disney voice that is an absolute riot) and gasps (the audience audibly groaned as Reis proved to be a veritable Gumby). But even with her three amiable companions the journey is not always smooth for Dorothy as she is constantly thwarted by the Wicked Witch of the West in her attempts to reach the Emerald City and ultimately Kansas. I would be remiss without mentioning the thrilling Tuacahn debut of Mary Gutzi as the Witch who was at once terrifying and hilarious as well as gravity defying as she flew over the audience, menacingly cackling and shooting sparks. But despite the aid of her poisoned poppies, Winkies, Jitterbugs and Flying Monkeys to retrieve the ruby slippers and thus destroy Dorothy, the classic tale ends in a puddle for the evil Witch. My only strong critique of the otherwise fabulous production is the adult ensemble. As the second act opens and the awesome foursome arrive in the Emerald City they are awash in a sea of green as they are welcomed into the Wizard's world but for all the grandeur of the city, I couldn't get past the labored dance numbers (to be fair I have 20 years dance training to jade me). Though there were stellar dancers among the cast not everyone was up to par and as a result both the Emerald City number and the Jitterbug felt stilted and slightly lackluster. The saving grace of the Emerald City was the Wonderful Wizard himself, played with beautiful cunning and humor by Bart Williams, who was every bit the daunting and bumbling character he should be. While some reviewers have complained that the show is too long, having tried to stay true to its stage and film roots, I actually felt that some of the ending scenes seemed rushed and all too soon the Wicked Witch was melting and Dorothy was clicking her heels home. Overall, I think the talented group of lead actors, spectacular staging, lovable cast of Munchkins and one well behaved "little dog too," combined to create a memorable evening of entertainment for both the young and the young at heart that put the "wonderful" back in Oz. Overall, I think the talented group of lead actors,
spectacular staging, lovable cast of Munchkins and one well behaved "little dog too," combined to create a memorable evening of entertainment for both the young and the young at heart that put the "wonderful" back in Oz. That ought to get you thinking about taking a trip to Utah!

Note: Written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum, and originally titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the subsequent Broadway musical (1902 ) and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie adaptation (1939) dropped "wonderful" from the title.
The Wizard of Oz will play at Tuacahn Amphitheatre, 1100 Tuacahn Drive in Ivins, Utah (outside of St. George), through October 17th. For additional information, or to purchase tickets for Tuacahn Center for the Arts production of The Wizard of Oz, call the Box Office at (800) 746-9882 or (435) 652-3300.

Another note: For those familiar with The Phat Pack revue, we might mention that Phat Pack cast member, Randal Keith, is currently appearing as Uncle Henry and Emerald City Guard in The Wizard of Oz in Tuachan.

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