|It's The Norm
Content Copyright(c) 2002-2004 It's
The Norm - Las Vegas Entertainment Events;
Internet Presentation Format
Copyright(c) Las Vegas Leisure Guide
|October 6, 2006 Freddie Bell Celebrates
|It isn't often that this writer attends a
birthday party, especially when the guy is older than me. But, then it's
not everyday that a friend of some 30 plus years actually celebrates his
birthday. Such was the case last Friday when the Bootlegger Bistro
(you know the place owned by our Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt) assembled a
bunch of Freddie Bell's old cronies and held a party.
I'm not going to tell you just how old Freddie
is, but when he was born salt had just been discovered in India. How old
is that? That's so old that Columbus was still trying to find the
Americas. Enough of that. I could go on and on, but I'll quit while I'm
The Bootlegger is where Bell hangs his hat every
Friday and Saturday night as he hosts the 10 p.m. till 2 a.m. gig, where
entertainers from all over gather,( along with just plain old friends) and
do a few minutes on the microphone. It's a great gig. The late Sonny
King, who was a friend to all of us, originated the session about
seven years ago (give or take a year or two). Freddie has been the perfect
Just being an emcee is not what the host does at
the Bootlegger. No, gang, he entertains too. Bell, for those uninformed
readers, has been working on the Las Vegas Strip for nearly 50
years. He worked all the big lounges from the Sahara to the
Tropicana. One of his many claims to fame was and is that he recorded
"Hound Dog" first and used it every night in his act at the
Sands Hotel. A young singer used to drop in after his show at the
Old Frontier and, one night asked Freddie if he could record it. Bell,
of course, agreed and the rest is history. That recording became a huge
hit for the man known as The King of Rock'n Roll, Elvis. Just a
Anyhow, it was like old home week at the
Bootlegger. Nancy and I were lucky to get a table, believe me. We
were joined by show producer Marvin Lashever and his lady, Linda.
The list of those who were in the audience or performed reads like a
who's-who of Las Vegas: Producer Maynard Sloate, Lt. Gov.
Lorraine Hunt and husband Dennis Bono, attorney Mark Risman,
Sahara Entertainment Director Ron Garrett, Kenny Kerr,
Peter Anthony, Tony Sacca, Babe Pier, magician Jason
Andrews, Linda November and Artie Schroeck, and last but
not least attorney Angela Bell (Freddie's ex-wife) and her family.
His good buddy, and one heck of a friend, Carme, was cruising the
high seas, but sent a telegram congratulating Bell for making it to yet
If you want to see some great entertainment, The
Bootlegger has something going just about every night of the week. But,
Friday and Saturday belongs to Bell and his friends. And, gang, that
spells ENTERTAINMENT like it used to be in our little Village! Do
yourself a favor (if you haven't already been there) and drive out on the
old Las Vegas Blvd., to the Bootlegger and take in the Freddie Bell show
at 10 p.m.
|September 15, 2006
The Annual CAST, Inc., Gala was held Monday
evening at the Sahara Hotel with Bill Medley of the
Righteous Brothers on hand to receive the first Louis Prima Award,
given for outstanding achievement in the entertainment industry. Lena
Prima, daughter of the great entertainer, presented the award.
And, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Medley must have
been complimented that night as impersonators Gene Sironen and
Doug Masters entertained as the Righteous Brothers at the gala.
The guys performed "Little Latin Lupe Lu," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin',"
"Unchained Melody" and "Rock and Roll Heaven." The two impersonators have
been appearing as the Righteous Brothers in "Legends in Concert" at
the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino since 1994. The duo will appear
again for a very special one-night performance this Monday (Sept. 18th )
at the I.P.
|September 1st, 2006
There was and is always a lot going on in our little
corner of the world - every day of the week. First off the bat we have the
"Las Vegas Tenors," who I refer to as the "Four Tenors,"
coming into the Suncoast Showroom every Monday evening beginning
Sept. 11th and going through Oct. 2nd. Then we have Bill Medley
being honored on the same evening by the The CAST, and of course we
have the remembrance of that day not too long ago that shook the world.
"The LV Tenors" will need our
total support during its four performances at the Suncoast, so be sure to
call and order your tickets ASAP. The new act at the Suncoast Showroom
will have a live band and special musical guests stopping by each Monday.
Bill Fayne, who is
musical conductor at Harrah's on the Strip, will not be at the
first two Monday shows in person (but will be seen via a special screen
presentation). The show will kick off at 7:30 pm. with tickets priced from
$19.95 plus tax. If you've been reading my column for any length of time
then you know what I think of Mark Giovi, Bobby Black,
Teddy Davy and Bill. They are without question the best I've
seen in Las Vegas in the 41 years I've lived here. And, gang, that covers
a lot of acts! And, if you've sorta been toying with the idea of spending
a few bucks to see a show and weren't sure of what to see, then there's no
more wondering. You have to trust this old writer one more time. Go see
the Las Vegas Tenors at the Suncoast Hotel & Casino. Call 636-7075 for
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY: On
Monday, Sept. 11th at 7:00 p.m. at the Sahara Hotel & Casino, Bill
Medley of the Righteous Brothers, will be honored by The CAST, Inc.
at a gala dinner. Bill will receive the first Louie Prima Award,
which represents outstanding achievement in the entertainment industry.
The CAST is comprised of entertainers, musicians and non-entertainers
dedicated to supporting the Las Vegas community and entertainers from the
past and present who need a helping hand. It's truly one of the best such
organization I've had the privilege of being an honorary member of (media)
and will continue to support 100 percent. Righteous Brothers'
impersonators, Gene SironenL and Doug Masters, will
entertain with dance music provided by the 10-piece Benny Bennet
Orchestra. Tickets are priced at $59.95 and include a wonderful
dinner, etc. For tickets call (702) 737-2515.
ENTERTAINMENT AT THE FOUR
QUEENS August 25, 2006
The Four Queens Hotel / Casino in downtown Las Vegas at one time
had the best lounge entertainment in Las Vegas. And that was not too long
ago either. I can remember watching Frank Sinatra, Jr., cram his
orchestra on the stage meant for about six musicians. One couldn't get
near the room for all the people jammed into the area to see and hear
Junior. The Four Lads and the Four Aces were regulars, and
Jimmie Rodgers began a comeback in the lounge following his
recovery from a near-fatal accident. And the Jazz sessions were the
best ever with stars of the Jazz world appearing every week.
The Four Queens was the place to go, have a beer or two, play the slots
and see some great entertainment. Entertainment still exists but it is
sorta secluded to a second floor convention area called The Royal
Pavilion. We, along with a cadre of media types, plus some of the
great entertainers who helped to make this town what it is today, were
invited to attend a special show featuring "Bobby Ruffin's Tribute to
'The Drifters'" and comic genius Pete Barbutti.
Barbutti is without question the best comic story teller in the
business today. He can get you wrapped up into one of his comical farces
and, before you know it, you're actually believing him. His routines are
classics today as they were 10 or 20 years ago. Pete was a favorite of
Johnny Carson, who had him on "The Tonight Show" more than 90
times - a record, I do believe. It takes a fellow like Pete to bring out
the guys and gals from the past and present: Patricia Welch (a
beautiful singer who works with Wayne Newton), Freddie Bell (who
headlines every Friday and Saturday at The Bootlegger), Frankie
Randall (who has assembled a show call the 'Four Italians' in
Palm Springs), Melinda Read (television personality in Palm
Springs), Sweet Louie and Sonny Charles ( The Checkmates
who perform at the Sahara), Linda November and Artie
Schroeck (he just finished arrangements for Frankie Valli in
New York), Poupee Boccaccio (dancer, actress and artist), Tony
Sacca (television personality), Grant Griffin (producer, singer
and actor), Bill Acosta (who will be at the Suncoast Oct
13-15) and good buddy Nelson Sardelli (who continues to wow them in
Europe) who was recovering from a severe burn injury to his leg. That was
just a smattering of who all was there.
And Pete had them rolling in the aisles. Then just as he was wrapping
up, one after another of those in the audience got on stage and began
jamming. It was a wonderful evening of great comradeship. One of those
rare nights that used to occur all the time in our little village - when
the stars would hang out at a favorite lounge (Sinatra Senior used
to hang out at the old Silver Slipper or the Sahara Lounges) and
even sit in for a song or two. They just don't seem to happen that much
anymore. Bell and his Friday and Saturday night gig at the Bootlegger is
the closest thing to the old days - working entertainers from the Strip
drop by and perform all the time and even some of the biggies have been
known to come by for a quick "hello" and a song or two. I think you
would enjoy Bell and his friends, which gets underway around 10 p.m.
Showtimes at the Four Queens are 8 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, with
a $21.00 ticket price, plus fees. You honestly will enjoy this show. Both
performers are well worth the price!
The wonderful Genevieve, who was nominated for "Best Jazz
Performer" during the Black Music Awards last weekend, won
"Best Jazz Vocalist - Female." This is a gal who earned the
recognition by doing it the hard way - she worked her butt off and is one
of the best. The girl singer will be at Josette's Bistro (on West
Flamingo) tonight (Friday) from 7 p.m. and then at the University Patio
Bar & Grill on Sept. 1st. If you want to hear some great jazz
vocalizing, as well as contemporary music plus some Broadway hits, then
drop by and say "Hello" to my friend. You'll be glad you did.
JULY 28TH, 2006
THE SCINTAS & CELEBRITY KARAOKE
|Took in the long
awaited media (and assorted VIPs) opening for
The Scintas at
the Sahara Hotel the other evening. And, as always with the Scintas,
we didn't go home disappointed. As a matter of record, this writer has
never left a Scintas show not feeling better than I did when entering the
room, be it the lounge showroom at the Hilton (where they started
their Las Vegas run towards the Strip) or the Rio showroom. They know how
to build a show and producer David Saxe (he of the "V" Theatre
inside Aladdin's Desert Passage) knows what to do off stage... promote.
It's a perfect teaming of outstanding talent.
Now to the show itself. My only complaint is that
the stage, designed originally for a magic show, is too monstrous for any
act and needs to be trimmed down a wee bit. Frankie Scinta agreed and said
that was being addressed. The opening number is "Ain't No Mountain High
Enough." That sets the show in the right direction - Upward, which
then leads the group into "Let's Get Started" followed by "Dance
to theMusic." After a few greeting words from Frankie and
brother, Joe, Frankie does his standard "spoon" performance (Joe
always pretends he thinks it's not needed), followed by his banjo
expertise. Sister Chrissi takes center stage and with a voice
created by the Man above sings a beautiful "Somewhere Over the
Rainbow." Joe and Frankie do a few spoofs, fool around with a couple
of songs and conclude this part of the show with Joe doing a great
impression of Mick Jagger with "Get Off Of My Cloud" and
"Start Me Up."
Both Joe and Frankie and of course the adopted
brother on drums, Pete O'Donnell, keep the show moving with various
impromptu jokes and impressions, which leads them into their tribute
section of the show. The tributes, where all four perform, includes The
Beatles with Chrissi doing a fabulous rendition of "My
Life," followed by Frankie as Stevie Wonder. There are tributes
to Louie Armstrong, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra,
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Chrissi returns to the stage, dressed to the
nines in a beautiful gown, and performs "Can't Live Without You"
followed by Journey's "Separate Ways." One of the highlights has
always been Frankie and the Grand Piano, where he pays tribute to
his father Joe "Bucko" Scinta, a Buffalo, New York firefighter.
Sitting in the audience (she rarely misses a performance), was Mary
"Mama" Scinta," who loves it when her baby boy (Frankie) plays
"Piano Man" and the theme songs from "The Godfather" and
"Love Story." This almost always brings on a well deserved standing
ovation. Joey gets his standing ovation too, when he does "Skeeter on
my Peter." The show is nearing the end of a great 80 plus minutes.
Frankie, as Ray Charles, does a rousing "America the Beautiful"
with the family closing out with "I've Had The Time of my Life"
from Dirty Dancing.
Another thing you should know about the show,
it's always changing. So, if you saw them six months ago, you need to see
them again. Tickets are priced from $32.00 plus tax and reservations can
be made by calling the Sahara Box Office at (702) 737-2515.
|Monday night, I decided to take a
drive out to The Bootlegger on Las Vegas Blvd, South to visit, once
again, with Kelly Clinton and her Celebrity Karaoke Night.
As usual the show she puts forth is one you'll not find anywhere else.
Kelly opens the show with a great impression of "Elvis" (she has
portrayed him on stage - costume and all - and is a dead ringer for the
young Elvis). Carmine, who does a show every Saturday called
"Shades of Sinatra" at Capozzoli's Restaurant on Maryland
Parkway, did his thing. Rita of the Marvelettes sang a
fantastic "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," who was followed
by Renee Dawn and "Make it With You." The most outstanding
performance of the night (from a non-professional stand point) was turned
in by Erika, a 17-year-old student at Sierra Vista High School.
This young lady has all the poise and charisma of a professional singer. I
can see her going very quickly up the ladder to stardom. Howie Gold,
entertainment manager for the Golden Nugget and his boss, Joe
Leone, also proved they could sing. Sitting in the audience and
applauding for every act was
Clint Holmes, who
really supports these special evenings.
Kelly, who has been introducing every act and
cracking jokes along the way (she's great as a stand-up) then got Rita to
join her along with Bobby Black (he of the Four Tenors) and
Skye from the Hilton show "Menopause The Musical" in an
outstanding rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia," one of this
writers personal favorites. By this time we (Nancy and I) were ready to
call it a night. Then Kelly introduced Gary Marshal so we stayed
for him and then left. It was another wonderful night of entertainment.
You can take it in any Monday evening. The show starts at about 10 p.m.,
but I would strongly urge you to get there early as it fills up pretty
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY: A couple of sad
notes to pass on if you didn't read about them or hear about it already
Howard Benway, (64) who was best known as "Little Lil" and who
worked with Kenny Kerr in "Boy-lesque" for a number of years, passed away
on June 29 following a long illness...
Bill Miller, pianist-accompanist for
Frank Sinatra from 1951 to Sinatra's final performance in 1995, passed
away unexpectedly while on tour with Frank Sinatra, Jr., in
Montreal at the age of 91...
Bill Fanning, a onetime cast member of
"Bottoms Up", is in a Veterans Home in Spokane, Washington, and is not
doing too well. He would love to hear from his many friends. You can write
to him at Spokane Veterans Home, 222 E. 5th Avenue, Spokane, Wa. 99202...
Speaking of Kerr, the longtime Las Vegas
entertainer will be presenting a new, surprising weekend show at the newly
opened Suede Nightclub on Paradise Road every Friday and Saturday
at 8 p.m...
Genevieve, one of this writers' personal
favorites, will be singing August 4 & 5 in the Firenze Lounge at
the Ritz Carlton, Lake Las Vegas from 8 pm...
Jon Lovitz, who is at The Orleans
Showroom this weekend will do an Open Conversation at the Suncoast
Showroom Sunday (July 30) from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and admission is free...
LAS VEGAS SINGS FOR AMERICA,
LAS VEGAS TENORS & MORE FOURTH OF JULY FUN
your July 4th celebration? Hope it was safe and sane? Mine was
terrific as we, Nancy and I, took in the Tony Sacca extravaganza
downtown on Saturday, followed by a trip to the Casbar Lounge at
the Sahara to see Kelly Clinton perform. Then Sunday
afternoon we went to the Beam Recital Hall at UNLV to take
in the "Las Vegas Tenors" (I will refer to them as the Four
Tenors) which was another highlight of the weekend. The 4th was spent
at Dr. Tali Arik and his lady Fair, Julie's, home with some
great new friends. Of course we had a ball!
Sacca continues to get better with age (just like a bottle of fine
wine), as this year he staged his Third Annual "Las Vegas Sings for
America" downtown under the Fremont Street Experience canopy. My only
complaint was that it was hot, hot, hot! I mentioned to Tony, after the
show, that next year he should make sure "misters" are used to help
keep the area cool.
The show opened with Sacca and the Nellis Honor Guard bringing
the group Spectrum to the stage to sing the National Anthem.
I have heard the Anthem sung many ways, but Spectrum's was one of the
finest I've heard in a long time. Just beautifully done!
Tony then sang his own song, "Las Vegas Sings for America," and the
show was off and running. Lisa Dawn Miller performed two patriotic
songs, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Bring Them Home,"
followed by Sacca singing "Coming to America." One of our very best
girl singers, Denise Clemente (who performs on a regular basis at
the Sahara Hotel) did a fabulous rendition of "God Bless the USA."
Jerry Tiffe, who has lived and worked in Las Vegas for more than 30
years, was next on stage and he wowed the audience, with "Yankee Doodle
Dandy" and "America." Lena Prima (yes, daughter of the
Louie) did "When the Saints Go Marching In" with Sacca
joining her to sing "Just a Gigolo." Headliners at the Greek
Isles, "The Rat Pack is Back," were next with a stirring
"Armed Forces Medley," which was followed by "Elvis," as
portrayed by Steve Connolly who performs at the Four Queens.
Spectrum returned to perform a Motown medley, followed to the stage by
"Forever Plaid" from the Gold Coast. Earl Turner,
one of this writers favorite performers dating way back and currently at
Palace Station, was the closing act with a dynamic "Living in
The Michael T. Orchestra, with special guest musicians Artie
Schroeck on piano and Linda November on synthesizer, performed
wonderfully for all the singers.
The television show will be shown locally on TV 25 (cable 14) July 22
at 2:00 p.m. and later on TV 21 (cable 12) at 2:00 a.m. and again on TV 25
on July 29 at 12:30 a.m.
|Following the downtown show a
bunch of us headed for the Sahara Hotel where another fabulous entertainer
was performing, Kelly Clinton. Now for a lot of you folks out there in
reader land, you may think Ms. Clinton is strictly a host of the weekly
Celebrity Karaoke show at the Bootlegger and hostess in the
Stirling Club at Turnberry Towers. Well, this petite gal has
been performing in Las Vegas for a long time. I first met her when she was
singing with a group at the Maxim Hotel back in the '80s. One of
her mentors during that time was a performer who was the entertainment
director and host of a Sunday night talent showcase at the hotel. One of
Frank Link's favorite songs was "Midnight Train to Georgia."
Robert Goulet, who at the time was holding forth at the Dunes
Hotel, would come over following his first show and sometimes would
sing a song or two. One of Link's final gigs was as an opening act for
Goulet. Frank died of cancer. So, here we are listening to Kelly and
remembering those evenings long ago, when she began to sing Link's
signature song. It was beautiful, gang, just wonderful. In the audience
was Bill Fayne (conductor for
Clint Holmes), who we would see Sunday Holmes, Ron Garrett
of the Sahara and a number of Kelly's close friends.
Sunday was another fabulous day of great music. The Four Tenors
(my name for them) were doing what they do best - singing some of the
greatest songs ever written, from Grand Opera to Pop to Broadway. The four
guys who have remarkable voices are Bill Fayne (who came up with the
idea), Mark Giovi and Bobby Black who are in the show
"Bite" at the Stratosphere and Teddy Davey. The recital
hall is a perfect acoustic room for their type of performance - up close
and personal. What is so unique about these four guys is there is no ego
on stage. They are there to entertain (and entertain each other as well) a
grateful audience with angelic voices that soar to the highest level of
music. The guys have been booked for four Mondays at the Suncoast Hotel
& Casino beginning the middle of September. More on this booking as
We also stopped by another friend's house on the 4th to help him
celebrate his birthday. About 150 of his closest friends, came by to wish
Denny Jones Happy Fourth and Happy Birthday. Among the well wishers
were Grant Griffin, Marilyn Monroe impressionists Janet
Valentine and many of the members of CAST.
The Animal Foundation Benefit staged
at the Mel and Marilyn Larson mansion in Sandy
Valley was a huge success. About 125 people from all walks of
life paid their $150.00 to wander through the unique home, look at
oil paintings from the brush of actor Tony Curtis, purchase
some hand-made jewelry from writer Bobbie Katz and be
amazed with the bronze sculptures of this writer. It was a
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY: Buddy
Greco and wife Lezlie Anders opened their new nightclub
in Palm Springs on March 23rd. A VIP reception preceded the
opening show at 7 pm. Of course the opening act was the two owners
of the eatery, which is aptly named Buddy Greco's Dinner Club.
It is located at 68805 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City.
Appearing there this weekend is Pete Burbutti and coming in
next week on the 12th for five nights is one of my all time
favorites, Barbara McNair. Buddy will be back on April 19th
through May 7, with Fred Travalena slated for May 10-14.
There are two dinner shows at 7 and 9:15 pm... "The Price is
Right - Live" will makes its Las Vegas debut April 25 in the
Jubilee Theatre at Bally's. The show produced by the
same people who produce "American Idol" and the television
show "Price..." will be presented Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday and Saturday at 2:30 pm., and on Fridays at 8 pm. They
are holding auditions for models to showcase the prizes from 9 am.
to 2 pm. on Wednesday, April 12 inside the Jubilee Theatre... This
is the big week for those monsters of the 1/4 mile drag strip
at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Strip is hosting the
National Hot Rod Associations (NHRA) big guns with a full
schedule beginning today (Friday) and running through Sunday. All
the stars, from John Force to Larry Dixon, will be
on the line gunning for the pot of gold... The gang (all his pals)
gathered last Sunday at the Bootlegger to bid Joey Villa
a fond farewell as he left to join some of his buddies like
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr.,
Sonny King and a slew of great guys and gals. Former radio
host Frankie Dee was one of those attending. We (this
writer) had stopped by Saturday to see Freddie Bell do his
thing at the Bootlegger (he hosts on Friday and Saturday nights
beginning at 10 pm.) and of course ran into singer Carme.
Frankie Dee was there looking as dapper as ever. And at 91, he
looked as fit-as-a-fiddle and was having a wonderful time. Well
sometime Monday Dee was struck with something serious and
supposedly tried to call his daughter. When the daughter arrived
at the home, Frankie was said to be found in his chair, phone in
hand. He had passed away. I agree with entertainer Nelson
Sardelli that a moratorium be enforced - no entertainer will
be allowed to die a physical death for the next five to 10 years.
GOOD-BYE SONNY KING
A very good friend of mine went to the Great Golden Stage in
the sky, where his buddies have been waiting for him, for oh so long.
Sonny King will be missed by all who knew him here on earth. When he
left us, he had a great big smile on his face as he stepped out of the
carrier that delivered him to the stage. The first guy to greet him was
probably his mentor of 25 plus years, Jimmy Durante. "Hey, I've
been waiting for you so darn long, my nose has shrunk. It's about time
you got here."
"Well, you know Pops, I had some unfinished business to take care of
before I could get away," was probably how Sonny replied to Jimmy.
Sonny always had something to do or somewhere to go. As his public
relations guy over many years, I can attest to the fact that Sonny never
turned down an invitation to appear at a benefit, be it small or huge.
In the early days of Las Vegas Sonny King was a star. There were stars
in the big rooms and then there were stars in the lounges. King was a
star in both rooms. His friends numbered in the thousands and his
special friends numbered in the hundreds, and he knew each one, having a
fantastic memory for names. That's why the Bootlegger hired him
to host the Friday and Saturday Night Party along with his pal, the late
Blackie Hunt. Any star worth his salt would drop by and say
"hello" and do a number or two. It was the place (and still is with his
friend of 50 some years, Freddie Bell, now hosting) to be if you
wanted to see entertainers do something "Off the Cuff."
Everyone talks or writes about the Rat Pack and Sonny. Yes,
it's true that King was the unofficial fifth man of the Pack. He would
sometimes substitute for any of the original who may be ill, working
somewhere else or just not able to perform. When the Pack was appearing
in the Sands showroom, Sonny would always be booked into the
lounge. The Man, Francis Albert Sinatra, loved Sonny King
like a brother. Dean Martin, who you know roomed with Sonny in
New York in the formative days of their careers, was as close to him as
anyone could be - without being a blood relation. Jerry Lewis and
Dean became a team because of King. Gosh, there are so many stories one
could tell and that have been told since he entered the Golden Stage
with his new solid gold microphone.
|"Hey, Pally... it's about time you got
here... Have one on me," Martin obviously said, as he handed him a
tumbler filled with his favorite brand of booze.
The line leading to the stage looked like the Who's Who of showbiz.
There was Frank and Dean with Peter Lawford
standing next to Sammy Davis, Jr. Blackie Hunt was there
with Joe Williams. Redd Foxx was smiling as were Vido
Musso, Jack E. Leonard and Sergio Franchi. The press,
who always knew they could get a good quote from Sonny, was there too:
Forrest Duke, Joe Delaney, Etta Cortez and Bill
Willard were taking notes, as were Pete Mikla and Ralph
Pearl. Totie Fields and Nancy Austin smiled as he
passed. Pepper Davis, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano
all went into a boxing stance. Louie Prima took out a golf club
and offered it to him. Gus Giuffre held a microphone in his hand
for a quick interview as did Red McIlvane and Jack Kogan.
Bernie Allen had his German costume on and Joey Villa had
finally lost all that weight. The welcome line seemed to stretch for
ever as he was greeted upon arrival. And waiting for him at the edge of
the stage was Johnny Carson.
The band struck up the first notes of "New York, New York" and
Sonny began to prance along the red carpet waving his hands in
celebration. Then in a voice distinct to King, he began to sing. The
stars of yesterday formed behind their friend as they all headed for the
gold stage, where Sonny would do his encore.
Sonny King is back where he belongs. King suffers no more
pain, thank God. Sonny will be missed by all of us who remain here. But
we're happy 'cause we know he's a happy camper. You are now home, Sonny!
|December 30, 2005
|Freddie Bell has been named to replace the great Sonny King
as host / entertainer at the Bootlegger Bistro on south Las Vegas
Blvd. His first night will be New Year's Eve (this Saturday)
beginning at 10:00 pm., and then he'll be there every Friday and Saturday
evenings beginning Jan. 6, at 10 pm.
Sonny (he became ill a few months ago) is still recovering and was
unable to return to the stage he loved so much. The Friday / Saturday
format was created by King a number of years ago and was very successful.
What makes the nights so special is you never know who will be in the
audience - stars from Hollywood, the Las Vegas Strip and various lounges
are always stopping by and often get up to perform. The late Blackie
Hunt was part of the act for a couple of years, until he fell ill. One
of the regulars at the Bootlegger is the owner, Lorraine Hunt, who
you can bet if she's in the house will sing a song or two.
For those of you who may not know exactly who Freddie Bell is, let me
give you a short version of his biography. He was born in Philadelphia
where he grew up and started entertaining at a very young age. Eventually
he was spotted by an entertainment director at the old Sands Hotel
(where the Venetian now stands) and brought to Las Vegas for a
two-week gig. The act was called "Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys"
and those two weeks were extended and eventually Bell moved here
permanently. That was over 40 some years ago and he's been going strong
ever since. Not only does he sing, but his impressions are hilarious.
Nobody will ever be able to replace Sonny King as there is only one
such performer. Bell, however, will entertain you as only he can! I would
strongly urge you to make reservations if you intend on going this
Saturday night or any future evenings.
POUPEE BOCCACCIO & ENTERTAINER SONNY KING
|There's been a lot going on and some important events taking
place. So here we go!
First there is a very talented lady who will be having a very
important press opening and reception for her "Las Vegas Neon
Icons" exhibit at the Downtown Coffee Company beginning
this coming Wednesday (28th). Poupee Boccaccio is her name and
what a talent. This is a lady who has had a varied career beginning as
an actress - singer - dancer for movies and stage. She holds a
Bachelor of Art degree in romance languages and is also a highly rated
teacher. But art has always been in her life and is her first love.
This exhibit, which will run for 30 days, is a photographic
collage. "This body of work was inspired by my love of drama and
theatre. To me the art of Las Vegas is in the neon imagery," Poupee
(pronounced Poo-Pay) said. "My background in theatre and all of my art
expresses that fact. My theatrical history and the history of these
original iconic figures are linked together."
As a visual artist, her work has been reviewed in Art America,
Art Week, the L.A. Times and San Diego Union-Tribune,
to name a few. Her work is in permanent collections of major museums
and important private collections throughout the world. She has
participated in over 50 prestigious shows, going back to 1985, when
she won Best of Show at the Long Beach Art Association Juried
Exhibition. In 1994 she was honored with the Gold Medal, the
Discovery Award by the Art of California Magazine.
The Downtown Coffee Company is located at 231 S. 3rd street (corner
of 3rd and Bridger) At 4 pm. Poupee will make a presentation to
Mayor Oscar Goodman and the City of Las Vegas in commemoration of
the 100 years of our town. Doors will open at 3 pm. For more info call
The CAST had a fantastic luncheon the other day at the
Greek Isle. Every entertainer who ever worked Las Vegas (if
they were in town) was there to honor one of their own, who is waging
a second battle against the "Big C."
Sonny King has been a fixture in Las Vegas for over 50
years. He was buddies of some of the greatest entertainers to ever
work a stage - Frank Sinatra and all the Rat Pack,
Jimmy Durante, Robert Goulet, Wayne Newton. You
name'm and he knew 'em! For over 25 years he was Durante's sidekick on
stages around the world. I first met him backstage at the Desert
Inn after a Durante Show in 1966 - a few months after arriving in
our town. Eventually I would become his Public Relations guy, along
with a few dozen others. But Sonny always had a way about him that
endeared him to everyone he met. One thing, you knew where you stood
with him. If he liked you well there was nothing he wouldn't do. If he
didn't, then you were in deep doo-doo.
Leading the show was Cast President Frankie Randall, who was
followed by Artie Schroeck who first met Sonny in 1962 in
New York. Many funny stories were told, especially the one by
fellow funny guy and singer Carme. Mark Giovi, who is a
gifted singer, remembered how Sonny helped him when he first came to
town a couple years ago - by giving him a chance to sing at the
Bootlegger one weekend. The Checkmates did a very special
tribute of two songs, followed by Grant Griffin. Errol
Desmond was terrific as was Tony Sacca, who was followed by
a member of the Society of Seven. Freddie Bell, who
possibly has known Sonny the longest (over 50 years), closed out the
live portion of the tribute.
A film showing the highlights of a fantastic career was a fitting
closer for Sonny King. The Bootlegger continues its weekend guest
shows with Bell hosting until King returns. I, personally, would like
to see the film put on a CD and put up for sale. It is a biopic of not
only Las Vegas, but of many, many famous people who are no longer with
us. It's a natural!
August 5, 2005
|As promised a few weeks ago this reporter
visited the Bootlegger to see and listen to a very wonderful
entertainer, Genevieve and ran out of space to give her a proper
review. Now I have the space and time.
This fine singer, who has a super husband that travels between here
and Los Angeles almost weekly, did two special sets this
particular Sunday evening. The first was a knockout and the second just
sealed my fate - a standing count of ten. As most of you know
Broadway songs are among my personal favorites along with the music
from the Big Band era. Well Genevieve hits them all with songs
like "Getting to Know You", "On a Clear Day",
"Summertime" and "Funny Valentine." A medley of songs by
Duke Ellington ("Don't Get Around Much Anymore". "Satin
Doll", etc) was quickly followed by her very own styled "Over the
Rainbow." Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses" was
another highlight and she closed with "Crazy," composed by
Willie Nelson and made famous by the late Patsy Cline and,
"Stand by Me." And that was just the first set.
Then it was time for set number two and what a killer this set was.
She's a great fan of Nat King Cole and his daughter, Natalie
and, starts right off with "LOVE", "Inseparable", "When
I Fall in Love," ending with "Unforgettable."
Genevieve is a star equal to any recording star of today and proves
it every time she appears on a stage. Her love song medley comprised of
"Sweet Love", "Feel Like Making Love", "At Last"
and "For Once in My Life" are just beautifully presented with a
true sense of what she's singing. She feels the lyrics of every song she
sings. Her wrap up is two great songs "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You"
by Nat King Cole and Barbara Streisand's "Don't Rain on my Parade."
The next time you read or hear that Genevieve is appearing some where
close by, do yourself a huge favor and go see what I'm talking about. I
believe you'll be pleasantly entertained by a "Singer!"
|June 17, 2005
If you weren't at the Union Plaza
last Sunday (June 12) and inside the showroom, then you obviously
missed a fabulous show dedicated to America. Produced by Tony
Sacca and Fred McLane this particular production
"Las Vegas Sings for America" was being taped for television.
Sacca was the
rubber band that kept everything moving along smoothly -
considering the 60 minute show which will be seen on television
took just about three hours to shoot. The "Entertainment
Ambassador," as he is known in certain circles, opened the
show with a very enthusiastic rendition of "Coming to America"
with the "Viva Las Vegas Dancers" (four fantastic ladies).
(he of the Hilton Hotel) came on stage and did a really
hilarious seven minutes of quick one-liners and observational
comedy. There's none better than David!
the man who throws his voice in every direction daily at the
Rio Hotel, had a youngster from the audience go through his
"Big Jaws" routine which is without question one funny routine.
The duo pianos of Mark & Clark
were just perfect, quickly followed by Jennifer Joseph (who
finished second in the Wayne Newton Reality Show) who belted out a
rousing "Living in the USA.".
did his Great Houdini Escape routine. Burton never turns
down a chance to perform at a patriotic or benefit show and is
really one of the good guys in town. The Knudson Brothers
(billed as Six Real Brothers at the Lady Luck) were
the un-questionable crowd pleasers of the afternoon. They do all
the sound effects for various instruments including drums, etc.,
and the harmony is perfect.
Sacca (who was on and off stage between
taping) returned to sing with Lena Prima (daughter of the
great Louie Prima and now appearing at the Sahara Hotel)
a great "This Land is Made for You and Me." Four of the
girls from the Helen Joy Young Entertainers, attired in
WWII WAC uniforms (calling themselves the Tonettes)
joined by Tony in an Army Uniform (he was once a Marine in real
life) performed an Andrews Sister routine of "Boogie,
Woogie Bugle Boy" that was absolutely out-of-sight. Matt
Lewis, who performs as Elvis in the
Show at the Imperial Palace, sang the famous "Dixieland
Melody" setting the scene for the final acts. The Young
Entertainers (comprised of a group of youngster ranging in age
from five to 19) performed, followed by Helen Joy receiving a
proclamation from the Mayor of Las Vegas. Tony closed out the show
with a stirring "America the Beautiful".
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
Michaelina Bellamy celebrated her birthday last Monday evening
(June 13) at Steven David's Nightclub on Sahara Avenue. It
was part of the monthly CAST get together. Accompanied by
jazz pianist Bill Moran she not only celebrated but
entertained the crowd of fellow entertainers. This gal can sing
just about anything and does she look terrific (I think some Angel
sprinkled the real stardust stuff on her a long time ago)...
|June 3rd, 2005
|And how was your Memorial Day
Weekend? Mine was kept busy going from point "A" to point "B"
with a whole bunch of stops between - Parties!
First off a good friend and a member
of the CAST tossed one of his annual Pre-Memorial Day
parties at his home in the southeast section of our village.
Denny Jones, who is semi-retired from everything but life,
opens his beautiful home four times a year for special parties.
Those attending are a mix of the men and ladies who make our
village so great and gives those attending a chance to meet new
people. As usual it was a great way to celebrate such a day as
Memorial Day - seeing old friends and making new friends!
The next day, Monday, was spent getting prepared to attend the
Annual CAST Memorial Day Party at Buddy Greco and
Lezlie Anders ranch (home) also in the southeast section of
Las Vegas. Actually the homestead is just off the old Las Vegas
Blvd.(now new) and near the old Lake Mead road (everything seems
to be getting old these days). This is very possibly the last such
party to be held on the property, as Buddy and Lezlie are selling
and moving to Palm Springs, where they will open their own
The CAST tosses one heck of a party believe me. Members chip in
by bringing various food items and then the hard stuff begins -
cooking. Freddie Bell and his dynamite wife, Angela
are in charge of cooking the various hot items. Steve Lippia
always assists Angela (You see Freddie is in charge and
immediately takes on a supervisory role) over the hot coals.
Judy Coco was in charge of the beverage department (the only
thing you had to pay for was the beer or wine at a buck a drink).
It also takes a lot of work behind the scenes to prepare an area
to accommodate the couple hundred who'll be stopping by to partake
of food, drink and good companionship. But, the Greco's always
pull it off with the assistance of club members and a small staff
of volunteers - Tables and chairs are set up under shade trees,
the huge yard is raked clean and the animal area is (do they have
animals? You bet!) spruced up. The animals which range from goats
to a pot bellied pig are perhaps the most pampered such creatures
in the area. Unfortunately they will not be making the move to
Palm Springs so Leslie is looking for good homes for her brood.
Their family of dogs are also some of the best behaved I've had
the pleasure of petting.
The party kicked into high gear when Bell, now in charge of the
stage (how does he do it all?) begins to introduce various members
(entertainers), who then joins the band for a song or two. Just
some of those who partook of the friendship and entertained
included Artie Schroeck, Linda (February) November,
Frankie Randall (he's the President so Freddie had to also
allow him to speak ), Patricia Welch, Grant Griffin,
Loretta St. John, Michaelina Bellamy, Dennis Bono,
John Kaye, Mark Giovi and Tony Sacca to name
just a few. The hosts naturally joined the group on stage, with
the party going well into the darkness of night. The final
entertainer was non-other than our very own Babe Pier. It
was a wonderful evening!
|May 6, 2005 Tropical Passions - Callback Showcase
|My good friends Ron Garrett
(he's the entertainment guy for the Sahara Hotel) and Marvin
Lashever have been telling me that I had to see the new show
"Tropicana Passions," which had been in previews and a shakedown run
for two weeks. So, naturally when I got the invitation I accepted. One can
not let your buddies down, right? Well, let me tell you, I was not
disappointed. This is a show dedicated to the era of Free Cuba and
a little reminiscent of the early days of Vegas (when you had a ton
of dancers, a big orchestra and lots of singing on a big stage). Just
imagine 30 dynamite dancers and entertainers and a 22-piece orchestra - I
think you get the point.
The costumes are absolutely out-of-sight with
vibrant colors and the gals aren't too bad either - as a matter of record
they dance their B-ts off! Produced by ReGu Productions this is a
show that stands alone and, is not a copy of another show on the strip at
the Stardust, which by the way is a fabulous show too.
The Tropicana All-Star Orchestra, under
the direction of Adalberto Lara, is a tribute to Banda Gigante
(a big band made famous by Benny More in the 50's) and was formed
for a recording project. Incidentally, the record was nominated for a
Grammy this year in the Traditional Latin Album category. It was
wonderful hearing those energy driven charts and the great trumpets -
which have always been a vital part of any Latin music.
Jesus Sanfiel's choreography is a driving
piece of history, as the dancers portray the great shows of the Cuban
casinos in the 50's and 60's. I personally remember a couple of those
shows when I visited Cuba with former Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis
prior to Castro. And what can one say about the lighting direction?
Lighting, in this particular case, is very important as you want to see
those beautiful and bright colors explode on stage. Larry Hart, who
was brought in to perform his magical touch once again, had the stage and
the performers lit perfectly.
All in all, this is a show one should see.
Showtimes are 7 pm. nightly except Tuesday, with an additional 9:30 pm.
performance on Friday and Saturday. Tickets range from $49 to $69 plus tax
Our next stop (same evening mind you) was the
Golden Nugget to see "Callback's" talent showcase in the
showroom where such performers as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra
and other greats performed. To be honest with you there were no Sinatra or
Bennett's on stage this evening. But there were some very worthwhile
performers - about 34 in total. This particular showcase is put together
by Minnie Madden (she's the publisher of the showbiz publication) and it's
supposed to bring various entertainment buyers into the room to see talent
they may be unaware of. I have no idea how many buyers showed up, but the
room was pretty full when we arrived and when we left.
It would be unfair of me to pick out any
particular act to write about; as we arrived just when a duo piano group
was ending their act and the emcee (a Tom Jones impressionist who
kept complaining about using a microphone with a cord) was preparing to
introduce the next act "Fields of Gold." We stayed for nearly 90
minutes before it was time to head for Henderson. As we left the "Blues
Brothers" were coming on (not the real ones gang). I wanted to see and
hear Linda Angeline (who was scheduled for between 9 and 9:20 pm)
but she must have been shifted to another time slot. Well, I can catch her
one of these evenings in the lounge at the Imperial Palace. I
understand the show continued into the early morning hours.
Good friend Melinda Read (she's the lady I
often refer to as Frankie Randall's Lady Fair) was honored by
Palm Springs with her very own Star in the "Walk of Stars"
a few weeks ago. She's quite a lady, being a former Mrs. California and
having her own television show "Talk of the Desert." She and
Frankie of course are two of the many entertainers who support the efforts
of the CAST. Congrats friend!...
Anders Honored, Carme and Bill Acosta April 29,2005
|Went to the Front Door (on Paradise
north of Tropicana) the other afternoon to have lunch with a good friend
and his wife - Buddy Greco and Lezlie Anders. The only
problem was there were about 200 others there too. But what does one
expect when the CAST puts out an invitation to honor one of the
greats? And believe me Buddy is one of the greats of all time and I am
proud to say he's a friend.
The luncheon started out with quick visits with a bunch of friends,
former clients and new friends. Freddy Bell (a former client and he
never lets me forget it) was there. Frankie Randall (a fabulous
talent that should be working more in our little village instead of Palm
Springs) and his lady fair showed up. Kathleen Dunbar (a comedian I
sometimes book) sat down and had lunch with us. Artie Schroeck (a
magical composer / arranger / pianist) helped out by working the ivories
prior to lunch. He joined his wife Linda November (she's known
world-wide as the Jingle Lady) at our table. It was good seeing
Patricia Welch (another beautiful singer) joining in the fun.
Buddy and Lezlie, as previously mentioned a few weeks ago, are selling
their property here and moving lock-stock-and barrel to Palm Springs.
Well, not exactly stock - see they own pigs, chickens, goats and other
wonderful animals which I do not believe they can take with them. Anyhow
this day was dedicated to the two people who have worked tirelessly to
keep the CAST going in a straight line. The above mentioned Artie will now
take over the entertainment duties for the organization. Buddy and Lezlie
entertained the crowd and naturally received a Standing Room Ovation as a
yeah, nearly forgot. A friend of some 35 years singer / comedian Carme
was telling me about the recent party he attended in honor of President
Clinton's father Dick Kelly. It was held at Hank and
Dixie Cartwright's home in Quail Estates. By the way, Carme has been
friends with the Clintons and Kelly since 1974. The President was there
with his wife, Senator Hillary and daughter Chelsea. Carme
sang a few of Kelly's favorite songs. The President and family stayed
(while here in Vegas) at Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun's home.
Whenever Carme is out of town on a cruise (where he keeps those chops in
shape on the best cruise ships in the world) he sends some of the most
interesting and funny short stories to his friends via emails (of which I
am a recipient). I told him he should publish a book comprised of those
funny letters. It would be hilarious!
and great friend Bill Acosta and his wife, Jeanne Bavaro
have been waiting for the day their son, Michael would be
returning from Iraq where he served as a member of the
United States Marines. Bill had tried, unsuccessfully I might
add, to go to Iraq as an entertainer while his son was there. Both
Las Vegans held a small, intimate welcome home party for their hero
who arrived over the weekend.
Bob Newhart & Michaelina Bellamy April 22, 2005
|Bob Newhart was right on last
Saturday night as I sat in the Golden Nugget Showroom,
remembering back to the sixties, when he, his buddy Don Rickles
and Shelley Berman were the three hottest comedians on the strip
and they all worked at the Sahara Hotel.
His delivery hasn't changed one bit - he still stammers, still grins
at his own inadequacies and tells some of the best short stories ever.
His classic Driver Instructors routine can not be copied nor will it
ever grow stale. My companion, Donna and I just sat there like everyone
else and laughed till our ribs hurt. Another classic was his Ted Mack
Amateur Hour where he becomes a Metropolitan Opera singer. And then
there's the telephone - wow he and Shelley had those routines nailed in
the great old days. And, his routine this time was just as classic.
I was a public relations director for the Del Webb Corporation
when the above three stand-ups headlined the Congo Showroom at
the Sahara. Rickles, who started his Las Vegas visitation in the 60's in
the old original Casbar Lounge and, Newhart became fast friends
during those days. I believe both men met their wives Virginia
Newhart and Barbara Rickles) at the hotel and to this day the
four vacation together every year. It was a wonderful night of laughter
and we got a chance to visit briefly backstage where we reminisced about
those early days in Las Vegas.
Opening for Bob was a personal friend of this writer and of a lot of
entertainers in our little village - Michaelina Bellamy. This
talented lady, who normally appears in the Casbar Room at the Sahara,
got the opportunity to belt out six fabulous songs before the room
became filled with laughter.
The former USAF songstress and an opening act for many top
notch entertainers didn't waste a moment either, as conductor Artie
Schroeck gave the downbeat to the nine musicians. Her first number
was "Till Love Touches Your Life" made famous by the late
Sarah Vaughn, followed quickly by "The Greatest Performance of My
Life" which was very appropriate for the occasion. Artie, who has
written and arranged music for the greats and conducted for many of
them, arranged four of the charts (the two above): "Everything I Do"
and "Here's to the Band." Her rendition of "After the Lights
Go Out" was absolutely a killer. The next time you see her name on a
marquee go in and check her out. You'll see a winner!
Grant Griffin March 11, 2005
|Went to the Grant Griffin Concert
earlier this week (March 8) to see and hear exactly what is going on
with the talented baritone and, the three dynamic ladies he was
featuring. I quickly found out when a 21 piece orchestra - including a
sizable string section - appeared on The Orleans Showroom stage.
It's been a long time since I personally saw that big of a presence of
musicians on a stage.
Anyhow, to the concert. Right off the bat Grant opens with a
wonderful "Mariah" followed by "Full Moon & Empty Arms."
Next on stage was one of the nicest persons on the universe (personal
opinion) and a terrific singer, Jeneane Marie who performs at the
Sahara on a regular basis. This gal can belt out any song there
is but picked "Stand Strong" and "At Last" for her solos,
then paired up with Griffin for a dynamite "Wind Beneath My Wings."
The concert was moving right along with Grant performing two solos
next, then bringing out the beautiful and talented Michaelina Bellamy,
who also performs at the Sahara. Michaelina performed two fantastic
numbers "Angelito Negro" in perfect Spanish and finished up with
"Hero." What really made this so special was a film she had made
showing her heros - Mom & Dad who were also entertainers and dancers
along with other family moments.
"Funny Valentine" came next by the host, who introduced the
next singer Patricia Welch. Patricia, who has performed all over
the world including Broadway just killed with a fabulous opera number,
"Sempre Libra," which got a standing ovation from the
enthusiastic crowd. This was followed by a beautiful "Summertime"
and then the host teamed up with her on "If I Loved You."
Grant stayed on stage and did a great "Danny Boy" and "Who
Can I Turn To" before introducing another singer from the audience,
his wife Poupee Boccaccio. She is a well known artist, actress
and singer who came on stage and sang "Besame Mucho" to a
surprised audience. Terrific touch!
The concert was produced by Joe Corosh and Griffin and
coordinating producer / director Larry Hart. The sound, lighting
and staging was excellent. There were 21 various musical selections
ranging from Pop to the Classics with all the stops between. It was a
wonderful 90 plus minutes and truly most enjoyable.
What makes it tough, however, is when you have to four-wall (where
the producers pay for everything) such a production. This not a cheap
show by any stretch of the imagination. The orchestra alone is very
costly. But Grant and his fellow producers gave their best, and the
audience appreciated every moment! It's about time entertainment buyers
forget the word Four-Wall
GRANT GRIFFIN IN CONCERT
If you're looking for an inexpensive night out
and, want to listen to some beautiful music then there's only one place
to be on Tuesday, March 8th and that's The Orleans Showroom where
the Annual Grant Griffin in Concert show will be staged.
What's so darn good about this show is it's not
just a man and his music. It's a man and three dynamite ladies
performing about 26 songs ranging from the Classics, Latin and Broadway
to pop with many stops between.
The three ladies, all stars in their own right,
will each be paired with Griffin in a special duet pertaining to their
specialty. Patricia Welch, who recently completed a concert tour
with Robert Goulet, will perform two beautiful classical numbers.
Michaelina Bellamy, who stars on a regular basis at the Sahara
Hotel, will sing two fabulous Latin arias. Jeneane Marie, who
has become a legendary icon of our little village (having worked just
about every hotel in town), will do two popular songs.
Another great thing about this particular show
is when was the last time you heard or saw a 26 piece concert orchestra?
Very rare these days my friends. Lon Bronson will conduct the
orchestra with Bob Rozario featured on the piano. The show is
staged and directed by Larry Hart and is produced by GPG
and Joe Corosh.
And, who is Grant Griffin you may ask? He is
considered by many as one of the finest lyric baritones in the world,
with a career that has spanned over 40 years. His ability to sing music
from Opera to Broadway to Pop has brought a new dimension to the concert
stage. Grant is a "singer's singer" there's no question about
that. He has done Presidential Command performances and for the
Royalty of England and other European heads of state. Grant and
Las Vegas are old friends - having first appeared at the Sahara Hotel in
1956. He eventually went on to star in "Casino De Paris" at the
"In order for this particular show to work,
each song must be carefully thought out. Each singer, including myself,
must perform and interpret the music in their own style," Griffin
explained. "This show spans eons of time and is like an art gallery
filled with beautiful paintings. The three ladies are my crown jewels in
Showtime for Grant Griffin in Concert,
featuring Patricia Welch, Michaelina Bellamy and Jeneane Marie is 8 pm.
at The Orleans Showroom Tuesday March 8th. Tickets, priced at $39.95 are
available by calling (702) 365-7075 and can be purchased the
night of the performance.
|THIS AND THAT
QUICKLY: It's only two weeks until the "Boys of Thunder"
invade our little village and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kurt Busch, who is defending his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship,
showed his mettle last Sunday at Daytona, when he finished second
behind Jeff Gordon. He could've tried to pass him on the last
lap, but settled for a sure finish rather than go for broke, thereby
showing he has learned to be patient. I believe our local lad will show
a lot of class this year and become a good champion. His first couple of
years were rough, but if he has learned anything it's to be a little
less demonstrative and be more gracious. It's not fun to be booed every
time one is introduced before the start of a race. Gordon used to be the
recipient of such welcomes. While on the subject of NASCAR look for
The Orleans Racing Team to capture the Craftsman Truck Series
Championship this year. Why? Brendan Gaughan is back in the
series and in charge of his team. And Brendan does not like losing. He
would have been the Champion for the 2003 season, if it hadn't been for
an accident during the waning minutes of the last race of the year. Oh,
well, another year and some new trucks. By the way I do not believe
there are any tickets left for the NASCAR weekend that gets underway
with qualifying on Friday March 11th. But there just might be a few
scattered singles remaining. If you call (702) 644-4444 they will
be able to help you...
Bob Anderson did a magnificent job of
entertaining over the last weekend at the Summerlin Library Theatre.
A lot of his buddies turned out to watch him do his own thing as only he
does - Rich Little, who is without question one of the best
impressionists in the business, was there as was
Frankie Randall, Nelson Sardelli, Grant Griffin,
Buddy Greco and Leslie Anders to name a few...
Well, gang, that's it for another week.
I'm outa here!
CONTINUE ON TO...:
>It's The Norm Article Archives
>Las Vegas News - "Heard Around Town"
Vegas Leisure Guide
|January 28, 2005
Went to the Riviera the other evening to join with a group of
friends and entertainers to bid farewell to a wonderful friend,
Marlene Ricci. Ms. Ricci was winding down a three year engagement of
performing in the Le Bistro Lounge, where she held forth singing
some of the best songs ever written.
Ms. Ricci, if you don't already know it, was a protégée of The Man
Frank Sinatra. At the time of her discovery she was working in a
casino lounge at Lake Tahoe when a very close friend of Sinatra's
spotted her. He told her that one way or another he would get The Man to
see and hear her. A few months later Jilly Rizzo kept his word
when she was appearing in the lounge at the Aladdin Hotel and
Sinatra was at Caesars Palace. A section of the lounge had been
roped off prior to her last show that evening. She received a call
backstage from Rizzo that he was on his way with some friends and could
she hold the show for a few minutes. Well, gang, that was the beginning
of a fabulous career for a young lady who has tons of talent and always
has time for her friends.
This was one of those special evenings that rarely happens anymore in
our little village: friends filling an audience to say goodbye to a nice
person. None of us had to be there, but we were! We wanted to be there
out of respect for not only her friendship but to listen to her sing,
joke around and hear her laugh. And we got all three!
Her band, consisting of six fabulous musicians (including Sheila
Marie on violin) and a backup singer were really on their mark this
evening. Unfortunately I did not get all the band names (sorry gang).
The first song she presented was a fairly new one titled A Thousand
Miles and was a great way to start the show. She followed that with
a series of songs including Under the Boardwalk, Landslide
featuring the violin and Tapestry. As the star changed into
another fabulous gown Ms. Marie did a violin solo that was absolutely
out-of-sight. The song Evolving Rocks was composed especially for
her by Ms. Ricci, and is a mix of classical, pop and jazz. Violin
players rarely get a chance to shine in a show (unless they are the
star). Musicians (all of them) spend years learning how to play that
note just right. And, let me tell you, this gal can play the heck out of
that composition: it's really a difficult instrument to play and when
done right it is fantastic. Ms. Marie did it right!
Ricci's rendition of Time to Say Goodbye sung in Italian was
just beautifully presented. The closing song for the evening seemed just
right, Troubled Waters. She'll be back in another room at another
time and I'll be there along with all her friends. Incidentally, there
were a lot of celebrities in the audience: far too many to name lest I
I would like to take this moment to say a very nice man left us
Sunday. Johnny Carson, who like everyone has said, put more
people to sleep and very possibly even increased the chances of having
more children brought into the world, will be greatly missed. As many of
you know I worked for the Del Webb
|Corporation for a few years when
Johnny was starring at the Sahara Hotel. I was not a close
friend, but I had met him and he knew who I was. He was always a
gentleman to everyone around him and was not known to ever have thrown a
temper tantrum because something was amiss. I remember also his sitting
in the back of the lounge inside the Sands Hotel (in the 60's and
70's) watching Bernie Allan do his German stick and laughing his
butt off. He also was there whenever Louis Prima was performing.
He will be greatly missed.
As previously mentioned Minnie Madden and her CallBack News
will be staging a second event for entertainers at the Golden Nugget
next month. The first was for adult entertainers of every type,
including models, etc. This one, however, will be exclusively for
children, teens and young adults ages 5-21. The date selected for this
very special event is Saturday, February 26 from 10 am. to 6 pm. The
Entertainment Expo for Kids will feature workshops, demonstrations,
and includes a trade show for parents and children desiring to learn
more about the various disciplines of the world of entertainment. The
Expo will be free to the public and a minimal fee for some of the
workshops will be charged for materials. A talent showcase will be held
throughout the day in conjunction with the Expo that will feature local
performers who will be evaluated by nationally recognized agents and
studios seeking to discover that next star. For further information
contact Randy Urgola at (702) 891-9222 or visit
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY: Bob Anderson who now has his own
theatre in Branson will be making a very special trip back to Las
Vegas in February. Bob, who last appeared at the Stardust Hotel,
will be doing his usual impressions but, this time, will be featuring
his own voice more. The Summerlin Library Theatre will be the
site for this show with the dates set for Friday-Sunday, Feb. 18-20. If
you would like to spend An Evening With Bob Anderson then make
your plans now and call the box office at Summerlin for tickets priced
at $24.95 plus tax. Vince Falcone and his trio will be featured
all three evenings. This is a must see show if you like to hear those
great oldies but goodies, plus many of the popular new sounds. And, oh,
yeah, you never know who you might hear or see on that stage... Grant
Griffin is finalizing his plans for his annual concert at the
Orleans Hotel, Tuesday March 8th. As usual Griffin has signed three
of the best female singers in Las Vegas to perform with him: Patricia
Welch, Jeneane Marie and Michaelina Bellamy. Tickets
and information may be purchased at the Orleans Box office. Folks this
is a great evening of beautiful music ranging from Opera to Pops to Jazz
and one you'll not want to miss... The 16th annual Contemporary Arts
Collective Juried Show will be held beginning March 19-April 9th.
There's a top prize of $1,000 for the Best of Show. To enter,
artists are requested to drop off (only two pieces) their artworks on
March 8-11 from noon to 4 pm at the gallery located at 101 E. Charleston
Blvd. suite 101 inside the Arts Factory on the corner of Main
street and Casino Center. I will be entering two of my sculptures...
|July 21, 2005
|Stopped by the other evening to catch up on what's happening at the
new "IN" nightclub on Sahara - Steven David, named
after its owner. We first encountered the owner / singer when he was in a
show at Boulder Station and really enjoyed his style of singing -
he's a crooner the likes of Sinatra, Bennett, Cole
and Como. Anyhow he has taken over the location where the "Plush
Horse" used to reign supreme in years past. The changes are many and
all for the good. Besides wonderful food (the filet is like butter) the
entertainment is fantastic. See, David believes in allowing anyone with
talent to get up and entertain, all except yours truly (who definitely has
His basic band consists of Larry Millonzi on piano, Rick
Morano on sax, Benny Bennet (83 years young) on drums and
Chuck Kovac on bass. But one never knows who will stop by and sit in
with their instruments or voice. This particular evening Poupee
Boccaccio got up and sang (she was wonderful). Genevieve Dew
guested with a hot "Kansas City" and "L.O.V.E." and was
followed by Grant Griffin who used that big voice of his to
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY: As usual Steve & Eydie had the
Stardust filled to the rafters during their engagement last week. You
know (and I've said this previously) they just get better and better (like
a fine wine) every time we get to visit with them. One of the things they
do (which is rarely done by anyone) is to use the runway that circles the
room. It's a time when they get to chat with each other about this and
that (and we get to eavesdrop) as they walk the ramp. The film which opens
the show has been very nicely revised and updated and truly sets the mood
for the next 90 minutes. All I can say again is to repeat, what I've
always said about these two great entertainers - You must go see them the
next time they stop by the Stardust Hotel...
The CAST held its monthly luncheon at its new location, The
Front Door on Paradise Road. Linda November (the lady
who created easily more than 2,000 television and radio jingles) and her
talented husband, arranger, conductor Artie Schroeck were
responsible for entertaining the SRO crowd, and did they entertain!
Without question the new location, the great food and the entertainment
made this particular luncheon one of the best ever!... The above mentioned
Genevieve was the entertainer for last week's mixer (Wednesday) and
Thursday at the Stirling Club and as is her forte - she killed! Her
"Funny Valentine" is one of the best ever and "On a Clear Day"
is a topper. Some of the guests during the two nights were Rita & Caz
from Harrah's, Gale Steele from the
Clint Holmes Show and Avis who imitates Tina Turner,
etc. Entertainment Director Kelly Clinton has really got the room
working and her many friends are quite proud of the job she's doing...
While on the subject of the Stirling Club many entertainers turned out to
wish "The Purple Foxes" a heartfelt thank you and a bon voyage as
the elite Marine Special Helicopter Squadron returns to Iraq...
January 7, 2005
MICHELLE ROHL-JUSTICE, BOB ANDERSON, & REGIS PHILBIN
Well, gang, went to the Stirling Club inside Turnberry
Place the other evening to see and listen to a very special
friend, Michelle Rohl-Justice who was the guest star for the
mid-week mixer hosted by Kelly Clinton with the Howie Gold
Band. Unfortunately the public is not invited, but if you're a
member or know a member ask for an invite. It's well worth it.
While there I ran into good buddy, Bob Anderson who was in
town to do a commercial and some other business. Bob, as previously
mentioned, will be performing at the Summerlin Library Feb. 17-20
along with the Vince Falcone Band. This evening he got up and
did a couple of numbers including his great impressions of Sammy
Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and of course Tony Bennett.
Sitting at the same table were the perfect hosts, The MacDonald's
along with their friend Jean Hornnes of Minneapolis, who
was in town for the CES show. Bob makes his home now in
Branson where he has his own showroom. This is my thought and mine
alone: I believe he deserves a room of his own right here in our
little village and not one where you have to four-wall! He, more than
anyone, has paid his dues as a talented singer and impressionist. Why
is it that all the great talents have to work out of town and get
little recognition in their hometown? Oh, well, what can one say or
Back to Ms. Justice. What a talented young lady. Michelle has been
working the various Las Vegas showrooms for a number of years. Most
recently she was in the
Clint Holmes Show at Harrah's as a featured singer
and will be going into the
Legends in Concert show at the Imperial Palace
later this month. Gale Steele, who is the above mentioned
Clint's sister, got up for a super-fine rendition of "I've Got to
be Me." She is now featured in her brother's show. Speaking of the
Big Guy he looked really great as he sat and watched Michelle
and his sister sing. Holmes and his best pal / conductor, Bill
Fayne are working on a completely new show for debut in February.
He told this writer that he's looking forward to returning to Harrah's
stage soon. As everyone knows he recently underwent a colon cancer
procedure and came out smelling like a rose. Can't wait to see the new
While on the subject of The Stirling Club, there is an event taking
place on January 15th that I think is super. Captain Bill
McKelvey, an airline pilot and Turnberry resident, is hosting a
special going away party for his cousin's Special Force's Squadron
"The Purple Foxes." The party (again you have to be a member of
the club or be invited) will kick off at 9 pm. Ms. Clinton (she's the
club's entertainment director) has reached out to her buddies to drop
by and entertain: Holmes,
The Scintas and Gordie Brown to name just a few.
The Marines are on their way back to Iraq and this
special party will go far to lift the spirits of all the men,
according to Purple Foxes lead pilot, Captain Philip Peache.
|THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
Lawrence & Eydie Gorme return to the Stardust Hotel and the
Wayne Newton Showroom for a four night engagement beginning
Thursday, January 12-15. If you missed them last year at the Stardust,
then you owe it to yourself to see them this time around. They are
simply the best! If you're not in a happy mood when you get there, I
promise you'll be smiling and humming a song or two as you leave the
showroom. Tickets usually go very fast for this show... The CAST,
as previously mentioned, has moved it's monthly get-together to
"The Front Door" on Paradise Road just before you get to
Tropicana (on the right side of the one-way section). This month
(Monday, Jan. 17) the audience will be treated to a very special
luncheon hosted by owners, Eric and Penny Zimmerman.
Entertainment will be extraordinary because two great entertainers
have donated their time to make sure this new venue gets off right:
Composer Artie Schroeck and his wife, the first lady of
jingles, Linda November along with a seven piece orchestra will
be swinging. The charity event (this is how they raise funds for
taking care of those in need) is open to the public. Call (702)
242-1222 for information and reservations... Television star and
entertainer, Regis Philbin will make his Golden Nugget
debut next Friday (Jan 14-15) in the Ballroom. Philbin, who co-hosts a
daily chat fest, "Live with Regis and Kelly" (locally on
channel 13 at 9 am.) with actress Kelly Ripa, is a multiple
Emmy Award winner. Tickets will go fast for this one and are priced at
$100.00, plus tax. Call (702) 386-8100 for information and
reservations... Las Vegas Motor Speedway has come up with a
great ticket for the March Nextel Cup race: a limited number of
passes allowing the purchaser to stand on the speedway surface - at
the start / finish line - during all the pre-race activities,
including driver introductions, prior to the start of the race (like
us media people get to do). These limited passes are available and
will be sold on a first-come basis for $75.00 in addition to a regular
ticket purchase. The Boys of Thunder will be at the speedway
beginning Monday, Jan. 31 for a few days of practice. Grandstand
seating will be open free of charge to the public as race drivers
prepare for the up-coming Cup and Busch season...
Well, gang, that's about it for another week. I'm outa here!
|September 24, 2004
HARVEST MOON DANCE & CHAMP, TRUCK AND CLASSIC RACES
There's a showroom in Las Vegas that is nearly as old as the
world famous Strip. It's the last of the great Vegas showrooms,
where some of the best entertainers in the world walked or danced on its
boards. The Stardust Hotel Showroom, now named the Wayne Newton
Theatre, is a beautiful room and was designed with only one thought in
Last week I mentioned the fact that I would be attending the Steve
Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Show at the Stardust. Well, to be
honest, I did a little more than merely mention it that's for sure. Let me
tell you one thing for certain. I'm very glad I did not miss Friday's
performance. It was magical!
Steve and Eydie are nearly the last of those gentlemen and ladies who
actually helped to make the title "Entertainment Capital of the World"
a reality when it really meant something. They are without question (in my
mind and the SRO crowds) the Honest-to-God Royalty of Las Vegas
entertainers. Each time they return to the Stardust (this was their second
engagement) it almost takes knowing someone in the Boyd organization to
get a ticket. And, what a show! Its two hours of beautiful music ranging
from Broadway, the movies and a few of their hit recordings thrown
in. These two wonderful entertainers know what the word actually means: to
entertain and not be boring! Steve is a jokester of the first caliber and
loves to have fun on stage. What is really neat is the opening: 15 minutes
of film highlighting brief moments in a career that has spanned nearly 50
I've said it before and I'll repeat it once again: Old is not old
unless one had no lasting talent to begin with. Steve and Eydie have
proven that quality is what matters to an audience, not the age of the
performer! Entertainment buyers should wake up and bring back more of the
great entertainers who once graced our stages. They seem to be in demand
in cities all over the world, but not in the city they helped to make
famous. It's a shame that only the Stardust, Orleans and
Suncoast seem to realize the value of the icons from the past.
When was the last time you attended a Harvest Moon Dance? Heck,
I can't remember that far back. Anyhow our local organization THE CAST
is presenting just that at the Sahara Hotel this coming Monday
night (Sept. 27th). Members and non-members are invited to attend and have
a ball. The Buddy Greco Big Band featuring Buddy and
Leslie Anders will be providing the music. And what a line-up of
special guests appearances: Frankie Randall, Freddie Bell,
Steve Lippia, Michaelina Bellamy, Tony Sacca, Mark
Giovi, Bobby Brooks, Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt,
Dennis Bono, Linda November, Artie Schroeck and the
Master of Ceremonies is Ron Garrett. It all gets underway at 8
pm. with tickets priced at $29.95 for members and $34.95 for non-members.
Tickets will be available at the door or by calling (702) 737-2878.
Admission includes two cocktails and a dessert buffet.
FEVER, LEGENDS & LORETTA ST. JOHN
|Went to see and listen to Lezlie Anders and Buddy Greco
perform in their production of "Fever" at the Judy Bayley
Theatre on the campus of UNLV the other evening. The show is a
work of art! It is a tribute dedicated to a fabulous lady of music: Ms.
Peggy Lee. I realized that Ms. Lee was a terrific performer, but what
I was not aware of (which is part of the narrative during the show) that
she was an inventor, a major song writer, a devoted wife and of course an
accomplished actress-having been nominated for an Oscar her first
time out. Can you remember what movie and who starred and directed in it
beside Ms. Lee? Answer at end of column!
During the course of the 90 plus minute show you hear Ms. Anders sing
some of the more famous songs and a few obscure ones, which were either
composed by Ms. Lee or made famous by her. The show starts out with
"Why Don't You Do Right" followed by "It's a Good Day." Anders
leaves the stage to her partner Buddy and his trio to perform a Dave
Barbour medley (Greco just gets better every time I see him) and upon
her return after changing into another beautiful gown (does this at least
five or six times during her performance) Lezlie swings into a group of
songs including "He's a Tramp." She is assisted by a group of dogs
from the Nevada SPCA No Kill Sanctuary (it receives a portion of
the proceeds). "Mr. Wonderful" and "Fever" are in the next
set with Buddy also performing "I Love Being Here With You." All in
all, gang, you get to hear some fantastic music spanning almost six
decades as played by the Benny Goodman Tribute Band and wonderfully
presented by Buddy and Leslie. Together there are some 24 plus songs
performed on stage. And, oh, yes, less we forget the great voices of
Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Jimmy
Durante in documented statements as performed by friends and
impressionist Bill Acosta, Bob Anderson and Babe Pier.
I've lived in this little village for over 39 years and have seen the
best perform during those years. I have also watched some great shows and
been witness to some very bad productions too. "Fever! The music of Ms.
Peggy Lee" belongs in a permanent home on the Las Vegas Strip, not at
UNLV! It's a beautifully produced musical by two professionals at the top
of their game. I'm not saying this show belongs in a huge room like
"Mama Mia" or the new show at the Paris Hotel, but a moderate
sized room with an entertainment director who believes in it and will give
it the proper promotion to make it a Las Vegas hit. The show closes on
schedule this Sunday afternoon. Tickets are priced at $30 and $25 and
reservations can be made by calling the UNLV box office.
|Who can "Be a Legend?" The Candy Man Can! That's
exactly what happened the other evening at the Imperial Palace when
Lambus Dean took home top honors in the monthly "Be a Legend"
Celebrity Impersonator Karaoke Contest. He portrayed the late, great
Sammy Davis, Jr. to near perfection. There were a total of 14
impersonators competing for the $500 top prize and a chance to audition
for the "Legends" show (a staple at the I.P. for over 20 some years).
Jon Bon Jovi impersonator Larry Atello claimed the $250 second
place money with Sharon Johnson picking up third place money with a
very nice rendition of Ms. Diana Ross. Karaoke is now a nightly
thing at the Imperial Palace and the contest is held every third Thursday
of a new month.
A good friend and a terrific singer, Loretta St. John will be
performing tonight (Friday Aug. 27) in a FREE Jazz Concert at
Justice Court Park in Henderson. Loretta and her band comprised
of Ed McKeta on piano, Tommy McDermott on guitar and
Clyde Duel on drums will do two 45 minute sets. Some of songs you'll
hear include "Here's That Rainy Day", "Gone With the Wind", "But Not For
Me", "Dearly Beloved" and "The Very Thought of You." This is a lady who
has performed with some of the best in the world including Billy
Eckstein, Della Reese, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vinton,
Frankie Randall to name a few. During her illustrious career Ms.
St. John also was a backup singer for Bobby Darin and Wayne
Newton and also has performed all over the world as a soloist. Loretta
has been a regular performer in Las Vegas for a number of years, but one
thing she learned early was never give up your day job (joke). During the
day she is a loan officer for Nevada Home Loans, Inc., on West Flamingo.
The first set kicks off at 8:00 pm., and be sure to bring a blanket or
lawn chairs to sit on as it is outdoors. Should be a fun evening!
Well, gang, more news next week. Oh, the answer: Pete Kelly's Blues
in 1955 starring Jack Webb who also directed the movie.
Las Vegas artist is a man of many talents
Norm Johnson enjoys auto racing, sculpting
By ELLEN ZIEGLER
VIEW STAFF WRITER
Norm Johnson might represent the 2003 version of a Renaissance man. A race
car driver, journalist, public relations representative and bronze sculptor, he
is equally dedicated to the written word, the careful stroke of his hand and an
adrenaline rush. His bronzes, some of which are on display in the Markman
Gallery inside the Rio, are the newest passion of the three, but Johnson still
makes time to enter races in his Chevrolet Camaro Z-28.
His interest in bronze work began when he was young, but
didn't develop until later in life.
"When I was in junior high, I fooled around like all kids
did with clay," he said. "There was a contest which you could create anything to
do with depicting California, and I did a bear and won third place in my school.
After the Korean War, when I got back I went to San Diego Junior College and
took up journalism and art. I learned a little bit about sculpting, but I never
actually had any formal training."
Despite his lack of instruction, Johnson's work has been
compared with well-known artist Frederic Remington. The inspiration for many of
his pieces such as "God's Hand," which depicts a large hand seemingly emerging
from water holding a dolphin, comes from dreams.
"My inspiration for doing a piece usually comes to me in my
sleep," he said. "I'll do it in clay and then I'll think about it. I'll make
changes and it'll take me a month to finish it because I'm tweaking it all the
Johnson said people are starting to accessorize their homes
with bronze statues a little more often because they are three-dimensional and
one-of-a-kind because of how they're created.
"I make a mold, do a wax from the mold, and then I really
fine-tune the wax so each piece is unique even though it comes from the same
mold, by the time I get through with it there's a slight difference. I think
people like them because they're three dimensional, I like that kind of art
Johnson said his pieces range from about $700 to more than
$1,000, depending on the piece.
"If you go to the gallery it's going to be more expensive,"
he said. "I've made arrangements with an online gallery, imageslasvegas.com, to
show my work."
Although each bronzed item takes a lot of time to prepare
and complete, Johnson said he makes time for the car races, and said he does
public relations for some Las Vegas performers. He said he's not holding his
breath waiting for the bronzes to allow him to be focused only on their
"I still do some road races, but primarily open road
racing," he said. "It's for fun, it's an adrenaline rush. I do about three or
four per year. I still do public relations for Soul Desire at New York, some
members of Cast, and Marva Scott who, opens as Donna Summer in Legends in
Concert. I still enjoy doing public relations for now. It seems so many artists
only become wealthy after they die, anyway."