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 January 23, 2015
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - January 23, 2015

Birthday Boy Keith Thompson

Kerry O'Malley

The January 2015 edition of the Composers Showcase took place late on Wednesday the 21st in The Smith Center's Cabaret Jazz last night (the monthly showcases don't start until around 10:30 p.m., as most of the songwriters, singers and musicians are involved in shows around the city). Among the participants this week were Dr. Mark Wherry, singing one of his original songs about "His Mama being a heifer" (would we make this up?); Kerry O'Malley from Steve Wynn's ShowStoppers, doing Keith's "Eat, Drink and Be Mary;" Chris Lash, "Working On Me;" Jason Andino and Niki Scalera singing Keith's "What If?" from Kooky Tunes; Wayne Green, who is currently with the touring company of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, did a very funny, written that day, number (we did not catch the title); Richard Oberacker, plus a cast of a dozen, including Andrew Ragone (Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, Steve Wynn's ShowStoppers), did a number from the musical, Ace, called "Worthy;" Matt Taylor, accompanying himself on guitar, performed "If I Had the Time;" Brazilian songstress Patty Ascher, with Uli Geissendoerfer on piano, did a hot number; Felice Garcia sang a song that Keith Thompson wrote with Dolly Parton in mind; young Nate Harlan played an original song, accompanying himself on guitar; and Mariano Longo, joined by Lou Lou White, did a number with "Personality." Were that we could give all the talented people the credit they deserve. Not enough room. Not enough time. At midnight, host Keith Thompson, the creator with Michael Brennan of the Composers Showcase, was interrupted on stage at exactly midnight, when the full-house audience surprised him by singing the "Happy Birthday" song (the Jersey Boys musical director turned a year older on the 22nd). In honor of the occasion, he sang one of his compositions called "Take Me Back."

Jason Andino

Terry Lavell

For the regular showcase-goers, of which there are many, wondering where the usual greeter/ticket taker, the personable Maxine Gaines, was, she was upstairs, seating folks on the mezzanine level. Handling the front door, was New York transplant and new Smith Center worker, Terry Lavell. We will let you know about Terry's interesting background in next Friday's ramblings.

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Helen Reddy, returns to The Orleans Showroom for 8 p.m. performances tomorrow and Sunday. Born into a well-known Australian show business family, Helen Reddy became a recording artist herself and enjoyed more than a dozen Top 40 hits in the United States. She was the first Australian to win a Grammy Award and to have three No. 1 hits in the same year. Reddy was the first Australian to host her own one-hour weekly primetime variety show on an American network, along with several specials that were seen in more than 40 countries. She is often referred to as the "Queen of '70s Pop." Reddy's stardom was solidified when her single "I Am Woman" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 in December 1972. Over the next five years, Reddy had more than a dozen other hits including "Peaceful," "Delta Dawn," "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)," "Keep on Singing," "Angie Baby," "Emotion" and "Somewhere in the Night." At the height of her fame in the mid 1970s, Reddy was a headliner on the Strip with opening acts Joan Rivers and Barry Manilow. Reddy also starred in the theater in London's West End and on Broadway. As a solo concert artist, she has played at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, as well as London's Royal Albert Hall and the Palladium. She was the first Western female performer invited to sing in the People's Republic of China. Helen Reddy retired from live performance in 2002, and has been practicing as a clinical hypno- therapist and motivational speaker. In 2012, she decided to come back to the stage and is on tour performing some of her hits and songs she has never before performed live. Tickets start at $39.95 plus tax. For reservations, call (702) 284-7777.

Helen Reddy

Nik Mastrangelo at Nite

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Nik Mastrangelo reports they had another great crowd at the Tuscany's Piazza Lounge last Sunday, as The Nik at Nite Trio, made up of Joey Singer, Bob Sachs, Mike Mechem and Nik, picked out some great Broadway tunes and did 'em their way. "We always have great fun playing for such a responsive audience," says singer Mastrangelo. This Sunday, from 7 to 11 p.m., the great Joe Lano will be with Bob, Mike and Nik to do an evening of music from the movies. Some of the songs to be performed are "Moon River," "Days of Wine and Roses," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Singin' In the Rain," "As Time Goes By," and "Cheek to Cheek."

Don't miss it! Nik at Nite will be off for Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st, but will come roaring back the following Sunday with their One Year Anniversary celebration at the Piazza. It will be a red carpet event, with a full quintet, special guests and drink specials to coincide with the Latin Nights theme. Mark your calendar to come party with us. The Piazza Lounge is located in the Tuscany Suites (on the hotel side) at 255 E. Flamingo. Help spread the word about the coolest room in town.

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We were most excited to see a TV commercial for Safe Step Tubs during late night viewing of The Way We Were. Why would we get excited about a commercial? Because the pitch lady" was/is former Las Vegas entertainer, Diane Ellis! Diane, who, after 30+ years as a performer in Las Vegas, moved back to the Boston area to help care for her mother a couple of years ago. This Safe Step Tub TV spot was done in that part of the country. If you knew Diane, or didn't, and would like to see the spot, click here... pli=1

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If you don't already have your reservations in place for Denise Rose and Gary Anthony, paying tribute to Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra, respectively, you are out of luck when it comes to seeing these performers next Thursday, the 29th, at the Italian American Club. The big room is completely SOLD OUT!

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Denise Rose as Judy Garland

Ervin Drake 1919-2015

Songwriter Ervin Drake passed away on Thursday, January 15th, following a battle with bladder cancer. He was 95. You aren't familiar with the name Ervin Drake? You might be familiar with some of his songs. Billie Holiday's "Good Morning Heartache," maybe? How about "I Believe," a big hit for Frankie Laine? "A Room Without Windows," from the Broadway show, What Makes Sammy Run?, and recorded by Steve Lawrence? Or, you may have heard of "It Was a Very Good Year," sung by that Sinatra fellow. All, and more, were written by, or with, Ervin Drake. Mr. Drake was most proud of a song he wrote (both words and music) called "Who Are These Strangers?," recorded by Michael Feinstein in 2003, that speaks to and about the gay community. Ervin always said "this is the most important song of my career."
Proceeds from "Who Are These Strangers?" went to Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS. Here are the lyrics (or as close as we can get)...

WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS we know have been here
Since the dawn of this old human race?
WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS whom we fill with fear
And we treat as a social disgrace?

They're our sisters and brothers and parents and, yes,
They're our daughters and sons, and what's more,
They're among us at school and at work and, I guess,
Very frequently, right next door.

WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS denied self-esteem?
All they ask is to live here in peace.
Most of these strangers share our every dream,
And they may be your nephew or niece.

If a man loves a man or a girl loves a girl,
Should we listen when told we must hate them?
If they've truly been evil since ages primeval,
Why then does our God still create them?

I ask You,

WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS who gave all that art?
Michelangelo soon comes to mind.
Name some composers who wrote from the heart?
And Tchaikovsky's the first of his kind.

While they hid their identity, they gave their all
With an unknowing world in their debt;
Filling every museum and symphony hall
Were they really thanked? Not as yet.

WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS in our world of pop?
There's Cole Porter and Coward as well.
Where would the theatre be? Start from the top ...
Does the name Oscar Wilde ring a bell?

Jerry Robbins, Nureyev, Nijinsky for dance,
Marcel Proust, Herman Melville, the novel;
After all their enriching the world of romance,
Many people would still have them grovel.

WHO, (James Baldwin, Langston Hughes)
I ask You, (Tennessee Williams, Somerset Maugham)

WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS who came to define
All the culture the twenties would see?
Alice B. Toklas and friend Gertrude Stein
Had the salon that ruled gay Paree;

Back when Emily Dickinson silently stood
As the Empress of Poem and Prose;
Never dreaming an Ellen DeGeneres would
Let the world know more - just suppose.

WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS that brought us so far,
All these heroines out of the past?
In spite of bigotry, followed their star,
And persisted though hissed - and stuck fast.

Yes, these women are different but, no, not bizarre,
And we're learning from their rare acumen
That it's natural for them to be as they are and
They'll teach us yet how to be human!

WHO, (Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo)
I ask YOU, (k. d. lang, Melissa Etheridge)


Ervin Drake is survived by his wife Edith.

Ervin Drake's "I Believe"

Written by Ervin Drake to Benefit Broadway Cares

Note: Cousin Claire got to know Ervin Drake through phone calls, e-mails (which have all been saved since 2004) and snail-mail. She received her copy of the "Who Are These Strangers?" CD directly from Mr. Drake. She is proud of the fact that she sent the composer the YouTube version of Las Vegas' Kelly Clinton singing "Good Morning Heartache."

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Stan Irwin, producer and personal manager for many celebrities, died in Los Angles of natural causes on Wednesday, January 21st. He was 94. Mr. Irwin had an interesting and impressive Las Vegas history. He was entertainment director and VP-general manager for the entire Del Webb Gambling/Entertainment Corporation, which included the Fremont and other downtown casinos. During its heyday, Irwin brought in the likes of Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Sinatra and many other top names of the 1950s and 1960s. It was Irwin who was responsible for bringing Johnny Carson to the Sahara in Las Vegas, where Johnny broke all the records in the Congo Showroom. Others he brought to Sahara for their first Vegas stints included Dan Dailey, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jeannette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Marlene Dietrich, George Burns, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Eleanor Powell, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Eve Arden, Bob Newhart, Maury Wills and Shari Lewis. Irwin guided the careers of Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Buddy Rich, and Keely Smith and Louis Prima. He managed Pearl Bailey and her husband, drummer Louis Bellson, for 30 years, setting up the key step in Bailey's career via an all-black version of Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, and a famous photo of Bailey on the cover of Life magazine. Having started in showbiz as a vaudeville comic, Irwin toured the world as the comedian who warmed up the audience at Bailey's USO shows. He was also responsible for bringing The Beatles to Las Vegas for the first time and got them to do two shows in one night. Demand was so high that Irwin had to move them from the Sahara to the Las Vegas Convention Center on August 20, 1964. The 50th anniversary of that event was recently celebrated in Las Vegas.

Irwin also served as executive producer of The Tonight Show in 1962, the first year of Johnny Carson's reign. Irwin was also a songwriter who wrote the lyrics, and Lan O'Kun the music, to "That's What God Looks Like to Me" for Frank Sinatra. Irwin wrote it as a gift to Sinatra after Sinatra's mother died. He also voiced the Lou Costello character in Hanna-Barbera's The Abbott and Costello Cartoon Show in the 1960s. Stan Irwin is survived by his wife, Margie, a son, a daughter and six grandchildren.

Stan Irwin RIP

Ben Hale

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On, Saturday the 31st, it's Ben Hale, stepping out of his role as Johnny Cash in Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah's Las Vegas, and onto the Cabaret Jazz stage at The Smith Center, to do his own shows (he is doing two - one at 5 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m. on the 31st). See and hear other sides of this talented singer/composer/actor/musician a week from Saturday in Benjamin D. Hale - A Night of Cosmic American Music. Ben draws from the best of Country, Blues, Gospel and Folk and blends them into his own spicy musical gumbo. Backed by a stellar band, and featuring special guest vocalists, this is an event not to be missed. For tickets, contact The Smith Center Box Office at (702) 749-2000.

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The 2000-seat Green Valley Grand Event Center was completely Sold Out for Rob Garrett's King of Diamonds, Neil Diamond tribute show last Saturday night. This was Rob's first time playing that venue. We are sure the REAL Neil, who turns 74 tomorrow, would have been very pleased.

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Rich Natole & Dennis Blair

Last week's guests on Rich Natole's Listening to the Vegas Voice radio show, were stand-up comedian/musician, Dennis Blair, on Monday, and singer/variety show host, Mark OToole on Tuesday. Host, comic impressionist Natole, features some interesting people every week on Listening to the Vegas Voice. On Monday, January 26th, Frank Sinatra tribute artist, Gary Anthony, will be Rich's guest, and Tuesday, busy Clint Holmes is in the hot seat. Listening to the Vegas Voice airs on KLAV 1230 AM radio, Mondays and Tuesdays, from 10:30 to 11 a.m., and Saturdays from 7 to 7:30 a.m. PT. The local studio call-in number is (702) 731-1230. You can also call Toll Free at 1-866-820-5528. Contact the Vegas Voice off the air at (702) 251-4441.

Rich Natole & Mark OToole

Sonny Turner & Michelle Johnson

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Michelle and Sonny Turner We are also doing a 2 back to back cruises to the Caribbean from February 1st to 15th.
Tickets for the Sam's Town show are available from $22 plus taxes and convenience fees, and can be purchased at any Boyd Gaming Box Office, by calling (702) 284-7777, or by visiting Avoid phone and internet service fees by visiting any Boyd Gaming box office to purchase your tickets in person. Local Boyd Gaming Box Offices are open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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F.I.O.R.E. Fun Seekers

For the fans of F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events), it is that time of year - time to pay your annual dues, i.e., Dues are Due. We will have all the details next Friday.
Get out your check book.

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Wizard Justin Flom & Rick Lax

From Rick Lax comes this news. Used to write for Las Vegas Weekly, then created the TV show Wizard Wars on the Syfy network. Anyway, if you didn't hear, the first season kicked butt in the ratings, so Syfy picked us up for more episodes. The new season premiers on Thursday January 29th at 10 p.m. All your Vegas favorites are back. Penn & Teller are still judging, Shimshi (the Wynn's house magician) is still battling on Team Wizard, and so is Vegas's own Justin Flom (who just starred in a Google Nexus 6 commercial). Why am I writing this today? Couple reasons: I wanted to invite you to the Season Premier party I'm hosting at the Sand Dollar. (Sand Dollar is an awesome blues bar just west of The Mirage. B.B. King and Mick Jagger used to swing by when they'd play Vegas.) We'll be watching the Wizard Wars broadcast, and then we're going to hold a LIVE WIZARD WARS COMPETITION. We've even got some magic-themed drink specials (like the "Wizard Whiskey Sour" and Magic Hat Beer). You're welcome to cover the event, if you'd like, or just come on by as a friend. It'll be fun either way--promise. Thursday Jan 29th, 9pm-1am. If you are a media person who wants to cover the new season of Wizard Wars (apart from the live party), I'm here to help. Remember, the whole show began in my apartment, a block off the Strip. From Vegas YouTube video to primetime hit in just 2 years! Anyway, I'm free to chat, or I can put you in touch with Shimshi, Justin, or the two Vegas magicians who are competing in the season premier: Fremont Street magician Sean Scott and close-up conjurer Greg Dow (who performs at the LINQ). I've got plenty of photos, too. Just tell me what you need and I'll do my best to make it happen. Thanks!
Email Rick at [email protected]

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The Dispensary Lounge schedule for the upcoming weekend and week consists of Jazz master vocalist and local favorite, JoBelle Yonely, and the Uli Geissendoerfer Trio who will play from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. tonight, Friday, January 23rd. Tomorrow, Saturday, January 24th, it's Karen Jones Live!, back with the Uli Geissendoerfer Trio. This is her last Dispensary appearance before her upcoming tour of Korea, so make sure to stop by and hear her. She too is playing from 10 to 2. Next Wednesday, January 28th, guitarist Doug MacDonald joins the Uli Geissendoerfer Quartet - Uli on keys, Ken Seiffert on bass, and Ryan Rose on drums, from 9 p.m. to midnight. Doug is a fantastic musician! The early Wednesday shows at The Dispensary have been packed lately. Stop by and find out why. The popular (for food and music) hangout is located at 2451 E. Tropicana, on the southeast corner of Eastern.

Doug MacDonald

Jackie Evancho

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Jackie Evancho, who caught the attention of TV viewers on America's Got Talent, will perform in Awakening at The Smith Center on Saturday, January 31st. Tickets start at $24. Show is at 7:30 p.m. Platinum-selling vocal sensation and America's Got Talent Season 5 runner-up, Jackie returns with her third studio album, and coinciding international tour. Awakening signals some new directions for Evancho. Without foregoing the beautiful and lush classical- crossover compositions for which Evancho has become famous, she also extends her stylistic reach with contemporary material. This new direction includes the haunting folk song "The Rains of Castamere" from HBO's hit series Game of Thrones. She also takes a bigger step forward on her version of U2's "With or Without You." Moreover, Evancho sings several original songs including the anthem "Take Me There" and "Open Fields of Grace." Whatever became of Charlotte Church?

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Stand-up comedian and actor Sinbad returns to The Orleans Showroom with his unique comedic storytelling and wit, January 30th and 31st. Sinbad is best known for various television and movie appearances throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including several HBO comedy specials. Sinbad's comedy is built more on stories than jokes, based on everyone he meets, everything he's seen and everything he does. As the son of a preacher man, he is committed to making his comedy side-splitting but not profane. He also takes the trials and tribulations of audience members and throws it back in their faces, creating a unique comedy experience. Sinbad began his career as a seven-time contestant on Star Search. He spent four years on the television show, A Different World, and starred in his own series, The Sinbad Show. Sinbad made his film debut in Necessary Roughness, and also had leading roles in Jingle All the Way, Houseguest and First Kid. His appearance on the series, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, received critical acclaim. Sinbad was named one of Comedy Central's top 100 comedians and was featured in a special program on the network in 2010. He received a NCAAP Image Award two years in a row for his annual HBO special, Sinbad's '70s Soul Music Festival. Sinbad has also participated in several USO tours. Recently, Sinbad released a new one-hour special that debuted on Comedy Central. Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla, is a stand-up special featuring a riotous original performance that took place in Detroit. Show times are at 8 p.m. Tickets are available starting from $49.95, plus tax and convenience fees, and can be purchased at any Boyd Gaming Box Office, by calling (702) 365-7075, or visiting


Martin Mancuso

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Rabbit & His Crazy Cast of Characters, starring Martin Mancuso and Carmine Mandia, takes place at the Starbright Theatre, Saturday, January 31st at 7 p.m. A talented and versatile saxophone player and comic performer, Martin has played in many jazz festivals and won many awards for his tribute shows. He is often billed as "The Man with the Singing Saxophone." Martin, a.k.a. "Rabbit," has received rave reviews for this musical comedy variety dance act and teams up with Carmine Mandia to present a celebration of music, comedy, and dance from the `40s to the present - a tribute to Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, and Sam Butera. Don't miss Rabbit & His Crazy Cast of Characters! Tickets are $13 and may now be purchased online at, as well as at the Mountain Shadows, Desert Vista and Pinnacle community centers in Sun City Summerlin. Purchases may be made online with a credit card, or pay with cash or check at the community centers (exact change required). All ticket prices include Live Entertainment Tax. Tickets are non-refundable. The Starbright Theatre is located at 2215 Thomas W. Ryan Blvd. in Sun City Summerlin. For information on Starbright Theatre shows, call (702) 240-1301.

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