I helped to produced a special benefit gala for the Special Operations Warriors Foundation [www.specialops.org ] which, while I didn’t know much about prior to going down to Las Vegas to do the show, I have become a huge supporter of. Please go to their site and read up on all the good works these people do. In a nutshell, they raise money to provide an education for any child who has lost a parent in the Special Operations area in the line of duty. As I said on stage at the benefit, we cannot bring the lost parent back and we can only try to comfort the surviving spouse but we absolutely CAN provide an education to a child of a brave man or woman who has served our country and forfeited their life for our safely. Make a donation if you are so inclined.
I was also honored to have been asked to be the co-emcee for the evening along with Jon David Wells, internationally known radio/TV personality. The event was held at the beautiful Four Seasons hotel where I was put up in a suite that overlooked the entire strip. I left the drapes open at night to watch the sunset and the lights come up but equally as impressive was the sun rising and the lights dimming every morning…quite extraordinary.
The benefit, while long, as they all are, was just wonderful. I brought down my good friend Joan Crowe [www.joancrowe.com ] to perform and to be the "comic relief" and she did two very funny numbers called "Bald" and "A Simple Christmas Wish". They LOVED her but who wouldn’t she’s like 6 feet tall, slim as a rail, in a sexy red dress with auburn hair a flyin’ and, oh yeah, funny as hell! I bet that if you’re a guy you will be going directly to Joan’s website after reading the rest of this page…RIGHT?!
My other friend, Tracy Terrell came down to help us with Stage Direction and she was just brilliant at it. She literally saved the show when, you know what, hit the fan…again, as it always does in these types of shows. I also couldn’t allow her NOT to grace us with a song because she sings like an angel and then she proceeded to do just that when she sang Lina Koutrakous’ original tune, "Love Grows Here". There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Another New York gal that I actually met there in Vegas was Joan Virginia Vogel who has the most amazing legit voice and who opened our second act after a moving speech by Colonel John T. Carney Jr. of SOWF with "You’ll Never Walk Alone" and then turned her glorious voice on a dime and did this way funny show tune. I told her that we had to become chick friends on returning to New York because she was cool people on top of being so talented.
Ms. Lorraina Marro, a cabaret singer from Los Angeles who has played The Cinegrill and The Gardenia also appeared. Lorraina took some time off from performing to raise her children and is now coming back into the business and boy, will L.A. be lucky to have her back! She sang a medley of "Tonight" from West Side Story with "I Want To Be Loved" and then did "Look At That Face" which, of course was sung flawlessly but which was set up by the most charming story about her daughter.
While at APAP here in N.Y. I looked over at the booth across from ours and there were two devastatingly handsome young men [men I have bras older than!] who, it turned out, were a magic show called "Classical Magic". Jarrett Parker is the magician and Raja Rahman is a classically trained pianist the likes you just don’t see these days. Well, when I found out they were from Vegas, I asked if they were free on Monday, January 20th and if they’d be back in town and they said yes so I booked them on the spot for the Gala. Their piece was quite unique and I only had a taste of it but it left me wanting more. It was visually so beautiful complete with a lovely ballet dancer, great, original magic tricks with a flair and sense of humor, beautifully played by Raja and funny…it was everything Sigfrid and Roy WAS NOT! Don’t get me started but suffice it to say…SNORE!!! Also, what’s with the codpiece Roy…this isn’t Shakespeare…it was just wrong and a tad bit distracting…and I do mean A TAD! For my money I’d take Jarrett & Raja over them any day! NOTE: If you read that a white tiger has attacked me…you’ll all know why! [ www.classicalmagic.com ]
Another local act was a guy named Victor Moe Moea. He owns a salon down there called The New York Hair Salon and this guy was right off of a Brooklyn doo wop street corner…A-mazing! Handsome and suave and funny. A voice like Dean Martin and a mega watt personality. He had the crowd eating out of his hands with an audience participation rap number..imagine military types rapping!
We were also privileged to be able to work with two local musicians who played for all of us above, Tony Branco on piano and Nick Tipping on bass. They were both from Nevada University. If anyone is looking for great jazz musicians to hire down there, these are your guys. Contact me for their contact details. Both of them were as nice as can be too.
The headliners were all wonderful. Wayne Newton, Tony Bennett and Amanda McBroom were not able to do the show as originally hoped for but, we got great people to replace them…
Another local talent and winner of the Entertainer of the Year award there in Vegas was a guy named Jimmy Hopper. I describe him as looking like Billy Idol and singing like Sting [yummy on both counts] but he’s so much more than that. He has a 4-octave voice and he uses all of it. He can sing classically and then rock out with the best of them. His band is extraordinary and they all came to do the benefit. They played 3 songs acoustically and so purely that, for me and I’m sure for many in the house, it was a very special moment. He’s a regular at the Bellagio Hotel. If you are down in Las Vegas, yes, go see the exploding fountains because you’ll have to pass through the Fontana room where Jimmy is playing to see them and I guarantee that you will stop and take in a set or two. He was just great! [ www.jimmyhopper.com ]
I also met a gal that I have always wanted to meet…Miss Paige O’Hara, the voice of Disney’s Belle in the movie, Beauty and the Beast. WOW! Can this gal saaannnggg! She did a mini set for us of terrific show tunes and had her wonderful husband, singer/actor, Michael Piontek join her for a few tunes, one of which was an hysterical version of "Anything You Can Do". Michael, by the way, is currently starring in the Las Vegas production of Mama Mia. And, small world again…went to college with my pal Joan Crowe. I introduced one lady who came to the benefit, a local schoolteacher, to Paige as she was awaiting her entrance and the lady had tears in her eyes upon meeting Paige. I knew how she felt. Playing for Paige was in incomparable Brian Tidwell a transplant from the N.Y. scene…he was again, just extraordinary for lack of a better adjective to express this man’s talent. [ www.paigeohara.com ]
Closing the show was, get this, Wilford Brimley…yep, the Quaker Oats guy! I know, I know, he’s been in hundreds of movies but I bet this reference made him instantly recognizable to you all. Well, turns out the man can sing and swing with the best of them. He was just terrific. He just melted me when he sang, "It’s Not Easy Being Green" in that macho tough man’s voice. It was better than Kermit’s version! Mr. Brimley is also a vet and a proud American and gave a stirring tribute to the people we were all there to honor that made people rise to their feet to give him a standing ovation.
A wonderful evening. All hosted by and as a Birthday celebration for Mr. Richard Steinberg, internationally renowned and New York Times best seller for his books, "Gemini Man"; "4Phase Man" and "NoBody’s Safe". I thank Richard for the invitation to perform/host and for this wonderful opportunity to meet so many amazing people and to help raise money for such a worthy organization.
So. That was my big Vegas adventure. Joan and I did manage to sneak away one night to catch Tom Jones AND we got driven all around town in a white stretch limo donated to the Benefit by CLS Limos down there in Vegas. Our driver, Bob, was a doll and treated us like queens. I’m in the back pretending that I’m, ya know, used to such treatment but inside I’m like, "oh boy, oh boy, oh boy…look at me…I’m in a limo"! Mature…absolutely not! True…I’m afraid so! I have to say though; there is an art to getting into and out of a limo gracefully and I DIDN’T SEEM TO MASTER IT! I had better not become too famous I suppose!
Tom Jones…GREAT. Amazing pipes still. He’s got to be in his 60’s and looks fantastic although a little too much eyebrow pencil…what’s up with that?! He still has all the moves too. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun it was to watch him and hear him. His band was WOW! He sang all the old hits too and even did a pseudo rap type number. Pretty hip. It was like being in a time warp. We were originally in the ozone seats and Joan starts flipping her hair trying to woo the ticket guy into moving us up and, well, this kid is having none of it. I say to her, "he’s not buying it Joan". I then tell him, "come on, we have to be close enough to throw our panties at him". The people behind us are cracking up. Joan and I are like, "that was funny", "I know but he’s completely unimpressed with us" and then he looks up and hands us tickets in the third row. After we sat, the people who were on line behind us ended up at our table because they thought Joan and I were so funny they wanted to join us. New friends! When Joan and I left the hotel to go see Tom we debated taking a pair of panties to throw but since we each only brought enough to last the week and didn’t want to go "commando"…we didn’t. I had a great idea though, I said, "let’s get Bob to stop at a Kmart and we can buy a pair of like size 44 white cotton carter underwear and wing them at him". We decided against it because they could have caused an injury so we just behaved ourselves. Panties were thrown though ya’ll, just not by us!
So here I am back at my day job and already in rehearsals for my upcoming gigs in February and March and trying to write my new shows for their debuts in April at Odette’s in New Hope, PA and in May at the Duplex here in N.Y. so…go check out my schedule page to see where you can catch me next. I’ll be writing at the end of each month reporting on my adventures for that month. I hope you enjoy these pages and stories. Stay in touch and thanks for checking out my website.