JAZZIN' JEANNE'S VEGAS SCENE
Las Vegas is fortunate to have such a rich history of fabulous entertainers
performing here – especially since this little patch of desert’s popularity was created by a combination of gambling, drinking, and BIG stars performing both in the lounges (like Don Rickles, Louie Prima & Keely Smith, the Treniers and the Checkmates) and in the showrooms (like the Rat Pack – where the sign would read starring Dean Martin…and maybe Frank…and maybe Sammy).
Well, Dean Martin’s 100th birthday (June 7) was celebrated in style at the South Point Hotel & Casino by none other than his marvelously talented daughter, Deana Martin Griffeth. She brought Dean’s original charts to life with a fabulous eight piece band led by her musical director Rick Krive on June 23 & 24 and followed it up by hosting a Deana Martin Roast of local entertainer Dennis Bono on June 26. As a child, she had attended many of Dean’s shows (with her six siblings) and she told us that when the audience would applaud as Dean introduced his seven children in the front row, he would grin sheepishly and say, “Don’t applaud for me – it only took me seven minutes.” And then she admitted that, as a child, she had no idea what that meant. Deana’s husband, John Griffeth, put together several videos, including a photo album of Deana growing up with her father to their duet of “True Love” (available on her Destination Moon album) that was sensational. She told us that John had found the original chart and booked her in the same Capital Records recording studio that Dean had recorded the song in, so that she could record her duet in the same spot…and the result is enthralling. Deana is truly her father’s daughter – as smooth, charming, gracious and talented as he was. I’m sure he was looking down from heaven and beaming with pride.
Dean would also have enjoyed Deana’s first Roast—she amassed a wonderful panel of celebrities--some of whom had never even heard of Dennis Bono – which made the jokes that much funnier. The dais included Rich Little, a veteran of all of Dean’s original roasts, who protested that he couldn’t be mean as himself, so he did impressions of Don Rickles, Jimmy Stewart and Johnny Carson roasting Dennis. It also included “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” host Robin Leach, “French Connection” star Tony LoBianco, “License To Kill” Bond villain/singer Robert Davi along with local celebrities Clint Holmes & Kelly Clinton-Holmes, Frankie Scinta and Dennis’ wife and former Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt Bono. Major kudos to the very talented comedian and writer Dennis Blair for writing jokes for several of the roasters, including Deana, because it made the roast much funnier. And it was a three-way tie for who stole the show – since Clint Holmes’ song parody to Steve & Eydie’s “This Could Be The Start of Something Big” was fabulous, Frankie Scinta’s comedic concern over getting whacked by the other Sicilian on the dias was hilarious and Kelly Clinton-Holmes’ Ruth Buzzi impersonation brought down the house and left Dennis with black and blue bruises for his birthday. Kelly was unbilled and was introduced as Dennis’ abandoned first wife as she flailed her purse at Dennis just like Ruth Buzzi would do as Laugh-In’s spinster Gladys Ormphby. Unfortunately, I had to miss the after party at the Grandview Lounge, which Dennis Blair co-hosted with Zowie Bowie (who had to leave early). I’ve heard it was fabulous as well but how could it be anything but with the extraordinary Joey Singer band playing the gig with Bob Sachs on bass and Mike Mechem on drums. Vintage Vegas entertainment at its best!
Speaking of Vintage Vegas entertainment, coming up we have some fantastic events at The Smith Center – including July 8’s “Broadway in the Hood” benefit which will feature 300 entertainers from all over the world, including tap dancer Savion Glover, actor Antonio Fargas, Earl Turner, Reva Rice, Clint Holmes, Bubba Knight, Deneice Williams, Travis Cloer, Anthony Wayne, Moya Angela and SO many more! It’ll be a night to remember! On July 15, marvelous vocalist Michelle Johnson will be starring in “Strictly Taboo” at The Smith Center featuring the music and stories of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Bessie Smith, Etta James and more, with the Strictly Taboo Orchestra, a 17-piece big band under the direction of arranger and conductor Joe Escriba. And there’s SO many more fabulous shows at the Smith Center coming up – you won’t want to miss the extraordinary Ann Hampton Calloway doing her Ella Fitzgerald tribute (July 22), Aubrey Williams starring in the stage biography of Doris Day (July 23), An Evening with Burt Bacharach (August 4), and the hysterically funny (with 10 Tony nominations including Best Musical) “Something Rotten” (August 8-13), etc., etc. For a complete list of all the shows (after all, we didn’t mention Ronnie Foster (July 9), Lon Bronson’s band (July 29), the fabulous Keith Thompson’s next Composer Showcase (August 16) and still more yet), visit http://www.thesmithcenter.com/shows-tickets/upcoming-events/
And, as always, I recommend patronizing the venues that offer vintage entertainment all the time – so there will always be somewhere for time-travelers to go to hear the music of yesteryear. For dancers, there’s beautiful dance floors at the German American Club on Tuesdays for Marsha Ross’ A Class Act (7-10 p.m.) with a $7 cover, the Tuscany Lounge (it’s vintage music on Sundays with Nik at Night, Mondays with Laura Shaffer and Wednesdays with Kelly Clinton-Holmes) with no cover, the Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Casino with no cover (on Wednesdays from 7-8:30 – second Wednesday is the Swing City Dolls!) and the very vintage Italian American Club with music five nights a week in the lounge and frequently in the ballroom. Visit http://iacvegas.com/index.html#cal for their schedule—including Bobby Brooks Wilson (son of Jackie Wilson) on July 7, an sneak peek performance a week before her Smith Center show of Aubrey Williams starring in the stage biography of Doris Day (July 16), Michael Monge in “A Midsummer’s Night Dance” (July 19), Marc Love & Denise Clemente with the Love, Sweat & Tears band (August 4) and Dru Young in the stage biography of Ray Charles (August 6).
And for those who are looking for restaurants that have vintage Vegas entertainment, you can start with Ron DeCar’s Event Center who’s schedule includes the vintage variety show with showgirls, “A Touch of Vegas” (July 29), Kathryn Arianoff’s Second Sunday Swing, Jeannine Mason’s Variety & Comedy Night every Thursday night and A Night of Spreading "Love" Starring E.C. Adam (August 27), among others – visit www.rondecarseventcenter.com for a full list). Other fabulous entertainers and great food can be found at The Bootlegger Bistro (my favs are pianist George Bugatti on Fri/Sat., Charlie Shaffer on Sun., and Kelly Clinton-Holmes on Mondays), Casa di Amore (with the wonderful Paul Stubblefield), Ichabod’s (with Howie Gold (Sun./Mon.), Paul Stevenson (Wed./Sat.), Randy Anderson (Thurs.), Jon & Gene (Tues.) and Jim Long (Fri.), and The Dispensary (Wed., Fri., & Sat. with such wonderful singers as Toscha Comeaux, JoBelle Yonely, Windy Karigianes and more – visit www.thedispensarylounge.com/calendar.html to see who’s performing each night).
There’s still more great places to find vintage entertainment – especially in the Las Vegas libraries which have beautiful performance areas and stages – visit www.lasvegasnevada.gov and select Events under the Things To Do tab to check them out. And I hear that Mark Shunock has completed the required sprinklers system and The Space has reopened for business – with such shows as the Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards (July 25), the Moonshiners (August 2) and direct from Branson, entertainer Mario Rosales (at left) on August 4. Visit www.thespacelv.com to see their complete schedule. For the most complete list of vintage Vegas entertainment, check out entertainment maven Evan Davis’ calendar at www.evandavisjazz.com/calendar.
And consider yourself invited to my Speakeasy Swingers’ continuing themed evenings including the Bob Hope/USO/Stage Door Canteen-themed Swanky Supper Club Soiree on July 6 and the Goin’ Places/Vacation-themed show on August 3 at the Italian American Club. Prizes for best costumed couple and a free swing dance lesson beginning at 6:15. Band plays from 7-9 p.m. with a floor show featuring the Spotlight Dancers. Keep on jazzin’ and I’ll see you out on the town!
Jazzin’ Jeanne Brei produces The Swanky Supper Club Soiree with her Speakeasy Swingers at the Italian American Club on first Thursdays. She was the host of the Vintage Vegas Variety Show (which originally aired on VegasTV), the co-author of "House Party Tonight! The Career of Legendary Saxophonist Don Hill," (available on Amazon), and has written locally for The Sunday weekly magazine, LasVegaZine.com and the Sandy Valley News. Visit her website at www.JeanneBrei.com.