Las Vegas Sun

November 1, 2014

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Columnist Jerry Fink: Rossi still swinging, popping up

Fans never know where Las Vegas entertainer Steve Rossi is going to pop up.

The tireless 73-year-old actor, singer and comedian disappeared for a few months but suddenly re-emerged this week to let us know that he had been in Palm Desert, Calif. (near Palm Springs), performing in the play "Senior Class, A Revue of The Golden Years," at Cinemas Palme d'Or.

The musical also featured other guest stars, including Anna Maria Alberghetti, Julius LaRosa, Ruta Lee, Marcia Rodd and Ronnie Schell.

"We're just breaking it in in Palm Desert," Rossi said. "We go back in October for a seven-month run, then we have the potential of going to Broadway."

He described the story as being about three men and three women who attend their 50th high school reunion, where they put on a show of their life in sketches.

"The reviews are phenomenal," Rossi said.

He says he just signed a deal to appear in the horror film "Death Ranch 2," the sequel to "Death Ranch," which was shot in and around Las Vegas last year.

Rossi and Joey Villa, another local comedian, were in the original film by Michael Tessiero.

When he isn't busy onstage or in the movies, Rossi hosts Larry Manetti's Celebrity Brunch beginning at around 10 a.m. Sundays at the Plaza.

And at 8 p.m. Mondays he can be found starring in and hosting a variety show at Fellini's, 5555 W. Charleston Blvd., where some of his entertainment friends drop by for impromptu performances.

But one of his most interesting gigs is yet to come -- a bordello in Pahrump.

Rossi said Sheri's Ranch is branching out into the entertainment field, bringing in concerts, offering guests golf and other activities in addition to its usual fare.

"The ranch is going to put on a big show there in July," Rossi said. "There's going to be 2,500 people."

Cross dressing

Speaking of bordellos, the gals at the Chicken Ranch in Pahrump didn't make a lot of money from 60 guests who visited the bordello en masse one evening last week -- cross-dressers who took a field trip while attending their annual get-together in Las Vegas.

"We had a catered dinner and drinks and then we sat around and met some of the ladies," said Annie (not "his" real name).

Annie is from Omaha, Neb. He was among the first members of Diva Las Vegas, the cross-dressers' organization that began meeting in Las Vegas in 1996.

"That first year, we had five members," he said.

This year more than 120 cross-dressers from all over the world sashayed into Vegas so that members of the organization could kick up their heels and relax in an atmosphere of acceptance.

"What's really amazing, there is nothing sleazy about the cathouse -- it's a real classy place," Annie said.

They made their first trip to the Chicken Ranch last year.

"We were making a trip to see some ghost towns and somebody suggested we stop by for a group photo," Annie said.

One of the organizers struck up a conversation with the ranch's madam and as a result there was a return visit this year.

"We (the cross-dressers and prostitutes) are two socio-sexual minorities," Annie said.

He explained that Diva Las Vegas is made up of a wide range of members -- from the hard-core to the casual cross-dresser, from drag queens to transsexuals who have gone through the sexual conversion operation.

Besides the trip to Pahrump, Annie said, one of the highlights of this year's gathering was attending a one-man show by local vocalist Michael Cagle at Steven David's.

"For several years Michael has been one of our favorite entertainers," Annie said.

More than 100 cross-dressers packed the East Sahara Avenue nightclub and restaurant Friday night.

Annie says about 20 percent of Diva Las Vegas members live in Las Vegas.

"But they are a hard group to reach," he said. "They tend to be very closeted, afraid to be seen in public.

"It's like pulling teeth to get them to come out."

Annie, technical manager for a computer company, said the annual gatherings are generally held in the spring, the week before the Interop convention -- a computer networking gathering.

"A few of us attend Diva Las Vegas and then stay for Interop," Annie said. "We haven't figured out why, but the transgender community has a lot of technical people in it."

Blue search

Do you have what it takes to be a Blue Man?

The Blue Man Group production company will hold open auditions from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday at the Luxor's Blue Man Theatre.

The company is looking for males and females 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 1 inch tall with athletic builds, solid drumming skills, excellent acting skills and a willingness to relocate.

All necessary audition equipment will be provided.

Blue Man Group has been at the Luxor for five years. It will move to the Venetian in October.

There are several Blue Man Groups in production, including companies in New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin and Toronto.

For more about the open casting call, contact Maggie Feldman at [email protected] or Sam Cannon at [email protected]

"Splash!"

Producer Jeff Kutash is busy pumping new life into the sagging topless show "Splash!", a production he created 20 years ago for the Riviera.

His deadline is May 29, when the new version is scheduled to debut.

Kutash left the production in '96.

"I had not expected that I would be coming back," he said.

But when the owners of the show asked him to do a new version, he couldn't resist the challenge.

One of the challenges is creating a new show while the old one is still going on.

"They are performing every night, and after the performances we rehearse the new show," Kutash said.

The revamping, which includes new scenery, began in March.

Kutash said having created the show to begin with, it has been easier for him to cope with a situation which might be difficult for someone else.

"Because I built the original show, I know where everything is buried," he said.

Some of the specialty acts and the opening scene, which Kutash created for the original production, will remain. There will be several new cast members.

The theme of the new show is keeping in step with Las Vegas' centennial celebration.

He said the new "Splash!" will reach back into the past, take a look at the present and delve into the future.

"I felt with all the other things going on, no one was paying attention in a theatrical format to Las Vegas entertainment," Kutash said.

Brown out

May 24 will be impressionist Gordie Brown's final performance at the Golden Nugget's Theatre Ballroom.

Brown's representative, Bernie Yuman, remained mum about his client's future.

"We signed a one-year deal at the Golden Nugget, which was a terrific platform to launch him," Yuman said. "But the year is up. Gordie has a bright future."

Yuman declined to say where that future is for the Canadian entertainer, who was an almost instant success when he premiered at the Nugget last year.

Jones for karaoke

Jack Jones attended Monday night's Celebrity Karaoke at the Bootlegger, witnessing a phenomena that has grown more phenomenal since its inception several years ago.

The restaurant/lounge is standing room only every Monday night.

Jones (who sang "The Love Boat" theme) didn't sing, but he got a kick out of a night of performances by Clint Holmes, Bill Fayne and about 20 other performers -- some professionals and some very good amateurs.

Host/performer Kelly Clinton kept the evening rolling at a fast clip with her comedy and vocal skills.

Also attending Monday's bash were Sandy Hackett and his bride, Lisa Miller, and Miller's father, Ron, a legendary songwriter with Motown.

Among those who performed were Sharon Sills, owner of Rose of Sharon Boutique; Buffy Lucas and Rashida Jordan (both with Gladys Knight); Genevieve; Willie Ray (a James Brown tribute artist); and 16-year-old Erika Avila.

Also performing were Frank Sinatra tribute artist Ryan Baker; Dave Russo (runner-up in Wayne Newton's "The Entertainer" reality TV series); Rheda Williams; Caz Solomon; and Wells Bond, former keyboardist with Elvis.

S*U*R*P*R*I*S*E

Actress Sally Kellerman made a surprise telephone call Saturday night to Valley High School teacher Patrick Shimpock moments before the curtain went up on the school's production of "M*A*S*H" at its new million-dollar theater.

Shimpock directed the play. Kellerman starred as Margaret "Hot Lips" O'Houlihan in the 1970 film.

Shimpock's cast always tries to do something special for their teacher at the end of the drama department's last show.

Cast member and senior Rai Rathor thought he could get an autographed DVD of "M*A*S*H" from Kellerman -- his mother, Gabriele, lives in Ojai, Calif., and is a close friend of Kellerman's sister.

Rai's stepmother, Diana, said her husband, Raj, set up the surprise telephone call.

"Kellerman is Mr. Shimpock's favorite actress," said Diana, a jazz vocalist who performs in a trio with her guitarist husband.

Rathor said just before the curtain went up, Kellerman called the theater and spoke to Shimpock and the audience, using a phone patched into the sound system.

"Shimpock was blown away," Rathor said.

Comedy hit

Comedians Paul Hughes and Cort McCown have a runaway hit on their hands with the monthly "Hollywood Comedy Tour" at the Palms' The Lounge.

The 150-seat room is filled wall to wall for every performance.

"We like the smaller venue," Hughes said. "We wanted to have an intimate setting."

Saturday's show will feature "Last Comic Standing "comedians Rich Vos and his fiancee, Bonnie McFarlane, as well as Hughes and McCown.

"Rich is amazing," McCown said. "He's been doing it for 23 years -- he is a veteran. He really appeals to young and old -- he spans all ages."

Showtimes in The Lounge are 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Admission is $25.

Hughes, a Boston native, and McCown, a native of Oklahoma, created "Comedy Tour" last year.

"It's been better than we had expected," McCown said. "I don't think we could have found a better hotel."

The show and the hotel appeal to the younger fans, many of whom attend the 8 p.m. performance and then head to the popular Ghostbar.

Future comics who will perform with "Tour" include Colin Quinn and Tommy Davidson.

Epicurean Affair

The Epicurean Affair at Mandalay Bay last week was a memorable affair, adopting a lounge theme and filling a room with entertainment to enhance the food and drinks.

Some 4,000 hungry and thirsty fans attended the 15th annual fundraiser by the Nevada Hotel & Lodging Association and the Nevada Restaurant Association for their education and scholarship funds.

Las Vegas' finest restaurants and lounges joined forces to put together a fantastic evening of wining and dining.

The Epicurean Affair is held each year on the first night of the Las Vegas International Hotel & Restaurant Show.

Makeover

Finola Hughes, host of the Style Network's hit series "How Do I Look?", will bring her hit show to Las Vegas Tuesday and Wednesday to make over a few Las Vegas personalities.

The first candidate will be Laura Herlovich, public relations consultant for the Hard Rock. Herlovich will be made over by two Chippendales dancers.

The second personality will be Frank Harnish, promotions director at KOMP 92.7 FM.

Passing

Las Vegas lost two of its musicians within the past month.

Jimmy Vincent, 81-year-old former drummer for Louis Prima, died of natural causes on April 15.

Big band leader Carl T. Lodico, 84, died of lung cancer Monday.

Vincent, whose real name was James Faraci Sr., joined Prima's band in New York City in 1939 at age 16. He played for Prima for 24 years, with a break in the '50s when he formed his own band, the Goofers.

Until recently Lodico was directing and performing with his 16-piece orchestra at the Italian American Club.

Vegas views

Local Elvis impersonator Donny Edwards will be singing in an episode of the soap opera "The Young and the Restless," scheduled to air at 11 a.m. May 16 on KLAS Channel 8 (CBS).

Elvis performs at the Elvis-A-Rama Museum on a rotating basis, at either 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. daily.

Grammy Award-winning performer Sheena Easton begins a four-week run on May 13 at the Aladdin.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays (dark Tuesdays) in the Aladdin Showroom (formerly Sinbad's Lounge).

Tickets range from $35 to $55.

Damon Wayans will headline at the Las Vegas Hilton from May 13-14.

The film and television star, back for a fifth season in the TV comedy series "My Wife and Kids," is best known for his Emmy Award-winning series "In Living Color."

Comedian Katt Williams opens for Wayans.

Performances begin at 9 p.m. Tickets are $55 and $70. For information call 732-5755.

Appearing at the Plaza are comedian Benny Baker, impressionist Larry G. Jones and sleight-of-hand artist Collin Foster.

Baker will be in "Hellbent 4 Humor" at 10 p.m. through Wednesday in the Plaza Showroom. Opening for Baker is Shuli, a regular guest on "The Howard Stern Show."

Tickets are $21.95.

Jones, "The Man of 1002 Voices," is part of the third-floor Comedy Zone's ongoing lineup. His show begins at 6 p.m. Saturdays through Thursdays (dark Fridays). His performances are free with the purchase of a beverage.

Foster's magic is at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Fridays (dark Mondays).

"Barbra and Frank, the Concert that Never Was" debuts at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Riviera's Le Bistro Theatre. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays.

Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzaldo bring their quirky little show to the Strip from the Tuscany.

Although Streisand and Sinatra never performed together, Owens and Sebastian make fans wonder what might have happened if the event had taken place.

Tickets are $39.95.

The late folk-singer John Denver will be remembered in an 8 p.m. concert May 13-14, "Rocky Mountain High: A John Denver Tribute," at the Silverton's Hideaway Theater.

Denver look-alike Jim Curry fronts a band that includes keyboardist Chris Nole, percussionist Richie Gajate-Garcia, bassist Alan Deremo and guitarist Peter Huttlinger.

Tickets are $20. For information call 914-8557.

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