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April 17, 2014

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How one Las Vegas headliner received an immaculate reception; Stirling Club still being courted

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Steve Marcus

Singer/actress Pia Zadora performs during a guest performance in “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

The Stirling Club

Launch slideshow »

A quick quiz as we embark on this latest raking of the VegasVille scene:

Name the recent performance starring a Vegas headliner where the following newsmakers were seated: NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris, former Baltimore Colts great Lydell Mitchell, legendary jazz pianist Monte Alexander and Grammy Award-winning drummer Gregg Field.

It’s something of a trick question, as the venue was not in Las Vegas. It was Cafe Carlyle in Manhattan last Saturday and the final performance of “Frank Wildhorn & Friends” featuring Clint Holmes. The small room was brimming with an eclectic group of newsmakers. Harris and Mitchell, teammates at Penn State, are not known to be Manhattan cabaret-club frequenters but were in town for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Holmes is back at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center this weekend, performing “Stop This Train,” the show he debuted last year at Cafe Carlyle that vaulted him to a BroadwayWorld.com award for Best Male Celebrity Vocalist. Holmes is onstage Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. In the show, Holmes talks and sings of all the stops on life’s long journey. Expect to be spirited away, with Holmes again ably charting the path.

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• Having been sold for $10.5 million to a group of investors led by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Carlos “Art” Nevarez, the Stirling Club at Turnberry Place remains closed with no specified time frame for reopening. There was one letter of intent issued to the new owners of the property, for about $14.5 million, delivered less than a week after the Nevarez group bought the property.

That type of quick offer leads to the possibility that the group could simply “flip” the property for a swift and healthy profit. However, Jason Abrams, the Las Vegas real-estate agent who brokered the sale of the Club in November, says the owners are still interviewing potential operating companies and reviewing proposals to reopen the club, even in scaled-back form, as soon as possible. The company has been paying salaries to on-site engineers, fees, electric bills … and none of that outgoing money is being offset by dues-paying members or activity in the club.

What does seem certain is the club will not be in a partnership with the Turnberry Place Master Homeowners’ Association, as discussions centering on how to enforce a membership-dues program with residents have stalled. Whenever and however the Stirling Club (which is still in great shape, overall) does reopen, prospective club-members will deal directly with club officials, not the HOA.

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Jonathan Warren, in his office at the "Thrilla Villa," the onetime Michael Jackson residence in Las Vegas.

• The Liberace Foundation closed the month of January with another defection of a high-ranking member, as Melanie Coffee left her post as interim director. She made the announcement on her Facebook page on Jan. 28. She leaves a significant void, as one of the few individuals who have the necessary depth of knowledge and compassion for the Liberace collection to effectively manage the exhibition.

Coffee’s departure follows that of Liberace Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Brian “Paco” Alvarez on Jan. 21, amid a rift between he and Jonathan Warren, the foundation’s vice chairman and treasurer at the time of Alverez’s decision to leave. Alvarez had worked to negotiate the bankruptcy settlement between the foundation and representatives of U.S. Bank, which was finalized on Jan. 29 and alleviated a lot of strain on the foundation.

In the meantime, Warren, who also is honorary consul of Monaco, is now listed as the Liberace Foundation’s top-ranking member.

Another longtime board member who departed the organization in January (at the same time Alvarez stepped down) was Jeffrey Koep, the UNLV Dean of the College of Fine Arts and the former Liberace Foundation chairman of the board who was at that post when the Liberace Museum closed in November 2010. Still to be sorted out are the foundation’s plans for the collection, which has long been targeting Neonopolis as its long-term home. In a phone conversation today, when I asked about who would replace Coffee as the foundation director and for plans for the collection, Warren said he could not comment on any Liberace Foundation business at this time.

In the mix of all the shuffling is a gnawing feeling (which is mine) that there might be some other idea for that collection than Neonopolis. That’s just a read of the landscape, but there are other entities that would love to display those rare and rich artifacts.

• On the topic of piano artistry …

Frankie Moreno is performing an off-schedule, no-charge show at the Stratosphere Showroom on Tuesday night. All you have to do to be admitted is show up at 7 p.m. and agree to make some noise.

The performance is for a video project featuring Moreno, violinist Joshua Bell and other to-be-revealed artists. The show begins at 8 p.m.

Pia Zadora in ‘Million Dollar Quartet’

Singer/actress Pia Zadora performs during a guest performance in Launch slideshow »

• Nobody had more fun on Tuesday night than Pia Zadora, who shook it up pretty darn good in her appearance with “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s. Zadora sang the Brenda Lee classic “Sweet Nothin’s” for a near-capacity audience. A lot of folks wearing name tags in this crowd, for sure, and they were treated to a fun performance that was sparked by a conversation between Zadora and “Quartet” cast members Rob Lyons (Carl Perkins, though Scott Hinds was in the role Tuesday) and Justin Shandor (Elvis) a while back during Zadora’s media party at Piero’s. She performs for the dinner crowd on Friday and Saturday, singing standards while backed by Vinnie Falcone, but rocked it out with great relish on Tuesday.

“I can shake it like Elvis. I have blue suede shoes like Carl Perkins. I have been married a few times like Jerry Lee Lewis,” Zadora said to the audience, “and I have a mug shot like Johnny Cash.”

Her husband, Michael Jeffries, laughed as loud as anyone at that well-delivered line.

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Randal Keith, left, and Bruce Ewing of the Phat Pack perform during "The Showbiz Roast" of former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman at the Stratosphere Theater Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Fifty percent of the show proceeds benefited Miracle League of Las Vegas.

• Where “Bite” collides with “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular” is Ragtag Entertainment’s production of “Les Miserables” at UNLV’s Ham Hall on Friday and Saturday and again Feb. 14-15.

For the first two shows, playing the role of Jean Valjean is Tim Molyneaux, who produced “Bite” at the Stratosphere for seven years and for another few weeks during an ill-fated run at the Plaza.

But beyond presenting that toothy, spank-and-tickle production, Molyneux is a fine singer who has shared the stage with David Foster during a performance at MGM Grand Garden Arena in May 2012.

In the “Les Mis” shows set for Feb. 14-15, Randal Keith, a member of the “Phantom” cast at the Venetian and also one-third of The Phat Pack, reprises his role as Valjean, which he has played hundreds of times for more than a decade on tour and Broadway. Keith has played all three leads (male, we should note) in “Phantom” and was one of the many highlights in “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at Wynn Las Vegas.

The show’s director is Ragtag’s Andrew Wright, who always puts on topnotch productions with less-than-extravagant budgets. The show’s orchestra is being conducted by Holmes’ longtime friend and music director Bill Fayne, who seems busier than ever these days, and contributing vocal artistry will be the Las Vegas Master Singers.

What else? Ellie Smith is in the show, playing Eponine. Smith was crowned 2012 Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen and is one of the city’s most popular national anthem singers. The performance is a fundraiser for UNLV’s Performing Arts Center and School of the Arts, along with Golden Rainbow, the Vegas nonprofit that provides housing and financial assistance to those with HIV and AIDS living in Southern Nevada. Tickets begin at $25; go to UNLV’s ticket website or call 895-2787.

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Honoree Amy Schumer arrives at the red carpet for Variety’s Breakthrough of the Year Awards on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at LVH in Las Vegas.

• Amy Schumer, one of the more highly regarded standups working the club and theater circuit today, is at the Mirage on Friday and Saturday nights. She is always looking to pull material from even the most mundane moments.

“It’s like, if I’m on a date and someone says something about my eyes,” she says. “It’s never been brought up before. If my eyes were like a ‘thing,’ I would have heard it by now, right? I’m 32 years old, and now my eyes are something special? I’ll use that, put it in front of an audience, and if it works, it works.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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