Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2014

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Columnist Jerry Fink: Osmond, Mr. Vegas, to return

Donny Osmond, no stranger to Las Vegas, returns to town Aug. 4-7 for an engagement at the Orleans.

"I grew up in Vegas," Osmond said during a telephone interview from somewhere on the road as he tours the nation. "Not literally, but practically."

The 47-year-old grandfather has performed in Vegas off and on throughout his long career, which began at age 6 with the Osmonds singing on "The Andy Williams Show."

His most recent engagement here was about two years ago at New York-New York.

This time around he is promoting his 54th album, "What I Meant to Say," which includes "Breeze on By," a smooth jazz vocal version of George Benson's 1976 classic "Breezin'."

Pop star Osmond doing jazz?

Jazz stations around the country are picking up on "Breeze on By" and giving it lots of airplay. It's near the top of the charts, Osmond's first Top 10 recording in more than 30 years (his last quasi-hit was in 1988, when "Soldier of Love" peaked at No. 29).

"I couldn't ask for a nicer compliment," Osmond said. "Smooth jazz is the kind of music artists take seriously."

One of the other unusual aspects of this album is that it is the first one he has written during his 42 years in the entertainment business.

Why did he wait so long?

"I don't have a good answer for that," Osmond said. "I've been writing all along, and I've always wanted to write and produce an album, but I never made a concerted effort."

He decided to take the plunge when Decca Records came to him and told him to go for it.

"They told me to do what I wanted to do," he said.

It took 2 1/2 years, but it was a labor of love that has paid off.

Girl crazy

The Sahara is bringing an adult show to the Casbar Lounge.

Karin Denise's "Sin City Angels" will premiere at 11 p.m. Aug. 9.

The free performances will be at 11 p.m. midnight and 1 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

Denise, a lead singer in "Splash!" for 10 years, is the show's producer.

The singer/dancer has produced several adult shows locally, including "Heatwave" at the Maxim from 1997-'98.

"Sin City Angels," with a cast of four, will feature singing, sexy costumes and dancing.

While the show will be sensual and provocative, the girls will keep their tops on.

New talent

Five-foot-10-inch-tall, 15-year-old Amy Rochelle is a poised, focused teenager mature beyond her years.

Since she was a child growing up in Seattle, Rochelle has wanted to be a performer, but with the guidance of her mother, Shawn Soucie, she has bided her time and waited for her moment.

"I have always wanted to be a professional, but Mom held me back to allow me to gain knowledge about myself -- to know who I was inside," Rochelle said. "This is a tough business and people can be very critical -- she wanted to make sure I had enough knowledge of who I am to handle the criticism and to handle the pressures."

A student at Basic High School, she and her mother moved to Henderson in August to launch a career from Las Vegas.

"The only thing available to me in Seattle was musical theater," Rochelle said. "That's of no benefit to my career."

She is taking voice lessons and polishing her performance skills.

Rochelle, who describes her musical interests as "new age, Motown R&B," has performed recently at the Bootlegger and at the Stirling Club at Turnberry Place.

Audiences were awed by her beauty and talent.

And her maturity.

She says she eventually will go to college, but for now she is focusing on entertainment.

"Eventually I want to be an entrepreneur, to open businesses," Rochelle said. "But my vision right now is to be a performer -- not just a singer, but an all-around performer -- acting, singing, modeling."

Her goal as an entertainer is to entertain.

"I want people to leave my performance feeling good about what I just did," she said.

Kings & Diamonds

There have been rumors for a long time that Neil Diamond eventually may become a Las Vegas headliner -- joining Celine Dion, Elton John and Barry Manilow.

If it should come to pass, no one will be happier than King Errisson, a Las Vegas resident since 1989 who has toured with Diamond for the past 30 years as a percussionist.

"I think he would like to do it, but no one knows," said Errisson, who was the No. 1 session percussionist in Los Angeles when he hooked up with Diamond in 1975. "He won't discuss anything with us till it's a done deal."

Meanwhile, the 63-year-old native of Nassau, Bahamas, keeps busy.

He just completed the international leg of Diamond's tour and is preparing for the United States tour, which kicks off July 25 in Omaha, Neb. The tour won't hit Vegas until the end of the year.

Errisson is performing at the Orleans through Sunday with his friend, pianist and composer Giovanni.

Occasionally he sits in with another friend -- Jay White, one of the top Neil Diamond impersonators in Las Vegas, who performs at the Riviera.

"It keeps my chops up," said Errisson, who, as a session musician, has performed with dozens of major recording artists -- among them Michael Jackson, Bobby Darin, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Doc Severinsen, Barbra Streisand and Barry White.

Errisson, known as a premier conga player and a master of funky disco, is in the middle of writing his autobiography.

He recently bought a new house.

And Errisson spends a lot of time in the Bahamas.

"I own a small island there, with a small hotel," he said.

Showcase

Danny Vernon has made a living impersonating Elvis in the Pacific Northwest for the past six years.

This week he was among about 20 performers who exhibited their talents at the Vegas Showcase, produced by Callback Entertainment.

The showcase was held Tuesday evening at the Golden Nugget's Theatre Ballroom.

The purpose of the event, held every few weeks, is to provide a forum for budding entertainers to show off their skills for agents and other potential buyers.

Minnie Madden, head of Callback, said she isn't sure how many buyers were at Tuesday's showcase, but at the last one of four or five performers found work.

Host(-ess) Kenny Kerr, a female impersonator, says, his Las Vegas career started with a showcase at the Sahara in 1977 -- the showcase led to a two-week engagement at the defunct Silver Slipper that turned into a 12-year gig.

For $350 the performers at Vegas Showcase are allowed seven minutes in the spotlight.

At Tuesday's event there were varying degrees of talent -- some of the performers should have saved the money for plane fare home.

But Vernon was among the exceptions.

He has the voice and the moves of Elvis, and he has a slightly different approach -- eschewing the cliched sunglasses and sequined costumes for a somewhat toned-down (but still colorful) look.

"I came down on a whim specifically for this," the Seattle resident said. "I'm hoping to get a reality check."

Vernon was in Vegas a couple of years ago to try his luck in the World Impersonator contest at the Westward Ho.

There were hundreds of entrants. Vernon came in third.

He once was offered a chance to fill in for a couple of weeks at the Imperial Palace's "Legends in Concert," but had to pass because he had another commitment.

"I believe when I make a commitment, I stick with it," Vernon said.

The fact that the 35-year-old entertainer has never had to do anything else but entertain for a living says a lot about his talent.

Before adopting the Elvis persona he did a lot of other kinds of entertaining -- folk rock, show tunes, standards.

But he has hit his stride in Elvis.

He says Elvis is extremely popular in the Northwest, and there isn't much competition.

"I only know of four or five other impersonators," Vernon said.

He gets two or three engagements a week, sometimes more, depending on the season.

He mostly performs at Indian casinos and car shows.

Vernon isn't under any pressure to move to Vegas, so he says he can be choosy about any job offers that might come out of the showcase.

"I would have to be offered something better than what I'm doing in the Northwest," he said. "It would be hard to do something in a lesser capacity -- and I'm not going to stand on a street corner and hand out tickets to my show."

Dad tribute

A group of Las Vegas entertainers made Father's Day a little more special for residents of the Nevada Veterans Home in Boulder city last week.

The troupe performing for the veterans included Linda November, Michaelina, Cork Proctor, Steven David, Peter Anthony, Vincent Falcone and Carme Pitrello.

Also performing were the great Tomsoni and Co., Babe Pier, Darin Ames, Frank Grata, Dr George Ritter, The Gary Olds Trio, The Veterans of Note, Charles Carpenter and Nelson Sardelli.

Memorial

A music memorial for longtime Las Vegas resident Billy Edwin Rogers, 67, a bass trombonist and conductor for hundreds of shows on the Strip, will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at UNLV's Beam Music Center, band room No. 160.

Rogers died May 10 at his home in Chicago.

Local musician Ralph Pressler says, "Bring pictures and your trombone!"

After the session, a gathering will move to Mount Charleston, where Rogers' ashes will be scattered.

Rogers was a lifetime member of the American Federation of Musicians.

He was orchestrator for some of America's greatest artists, including Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine and Barbra Streisand, and had a longtime association with Frank Sinatra Jr.

Rogers, who moved to Vegas in 1965, was born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1938.

Survivors include his daughter, Dana Rogers, a Las Vegas entertainer, and his son, Richard Rogers of Houston.

Vegas views

Carmen Electra will bring her dance troupe, The Bombshell Babes, to the Treasure Island's Tangerine Lounge to help celebrate the club's first anniversary starting at 10 p.m. July 1.

The search is on for Las Vegas' "100 hottest ladies."

Pimpin' Since Pimpin' Inc. is joining the Palms to host "The Pimp Candy Pole Pool Party" competition, which will be held at the Palms' Skin Pool at 9 p.m. July 8-9.

Winners will represent Pimp Candy in fashion shows, televised events and V.I.P. parties.

Pimpin' Since Pimpin' Inc. is the parent company of Pimp Candy, with holdings in the fashion, entertainment, advertising and clothing industries.

For more information contact Barry McCullers at 443-3989, Clay Clark at (617) 304-2082 or Elise Clark at 610-5635.

Teenage performers are being sought for "Menagerie, the Rhythms of Life," a variety show featuring teenagers.

Auditions begin at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Aladdin's V Theatre. Registration begins at 9 a.m.

Producers are seeking singers, dancers, musicians, rappers, vocal groups, magicians, comedians, jugglers, actors, gymnasts, ballroom dancers, cheer teams and break and street dance teams.

For information contact Torrey Russell at 597-9044.

A $4 discount for "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" at the Tropicana is being offered July 1-4.

The usual price is $15.95 to see hundreds of items salvaged from the ocean liner that sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Sea in 1912.

The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

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