Well, gang, how was your New Year's Eve? Mine was terrific. Went to see
"That's Italian" at Cannery East, then made it over to Mrs. Robert (Vera)
Goulet's home, where a slew of friends of the late great baritone and his
dynamite wife, gathered to celebrate the bringing in of the New Year.
But I digress a bit. First thing we, Nancy Barr and this writer, did over the past weekend was to attend another party. But this party was especially important to this writer, as a personal (and sometimes professional) friend of more than 39 years was celebrating his 75th birthday. I speak of Carme Pitrello. His lady fair, Sharon Newby, had contacted Carme's long time friend, Nelson Sardelli (another wonderful entertainer and buddy), to make arrangements for a surprise birthday party, to be held at Sergio's Italian Gardens, 1955 E. Tropicana Ave. "I wanted to be sure and invite all of Carme's closest friends, and Nelson did a perfect job," said, Ms. Newby following the party. "Everyone was there - except Sardelli, who was ill and unable to attend - We missed him."
Yes, indeed, Nelson invited the right people - I guess there were about 345 people ranging from political VIPs, entertainers and just close friends. It was a wonderful party and I'm calling the entire evening, "Vaudeville Tonight."
And, that's because, that's exactly what it was, great entertainers, many of whom helped to build this town, doing what they've done nearly all their life-entertaining!
The first guest to get up and tell a story or two or three was Peter Anthony, a fabulous stand-up comedian, who can never quite get off a stage (once he's been invited). Well, Peter kept telling story after story until we (the audience) had to tell him we were nearing overtime for the band. Cork Proctor was next and, for once, Proctor kept it straight and told some cute, personal little stories about his friend. Oh, yes, between Peter and Cork,
there was Jeanne Brei, a great jazz entertainer, who did an impromptu impression of a soft shoe dance to the music of Tommy Deering's Trio. Everyone agreed she should stick to her night job - playing jazz and blues, and leave the dancing to others. No offense Jeanne, we love ya!
Babe Pier, one of the pioneers of this little village, and very possibly one of the top impressionists in the country, was next to get up in front of his peers and perform. And, perform he did-Pier did all the greats ranging from, Kirk Douglas, to Robert DeNiro, to a really funny "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," as performed by Tony Bennett.
Comedian and magician, Fielding West, followed with a short story of how he first met the birthday boy and then turned the stage over to John Thompson (of The Great Tomsoni & Co. fame). Thompson did a neat sleight of hand trick, with three little white balls and a square mesh net - held by Ms. Barr and Julie Olds. Robert Allen (now a businessman of great talents, and a sorta retired standup comedian), told a quick story and introduced this writer, who in turn told a story regarding Carme, off-road racing and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Next to take to the stage (and piano) was, Linda November and Artie Schroeck, who absolutely killed their peers with some good "shtick," duet piano playing, and just a fantastic sense of humor. Linda took a second to recognize a leading citizen and 87-year-young musician, Don Hill, of "The Trenier's" fame. Mrs. John Thompson, Pam and her friend, Gracie, was then invited to accompany Linda and Artie, much to the delight and laughter of the diners - Gracie is a miniature Chihuahua (dog) who sang (howled).
Carme stepped up and introduced a personal friend, who had just moved to Las Vegas. Charly Raymond, a trumpet man extraordinaire, came prepared and entertained with a rousing rendition of Clyde McCoy's (another very famous trumpet player from the golden era) theme song, "Sugar Blues."
It was only proper that the Birthday Boy (if you can call a guy of 75 a boy) close out the show, since he was the headliner. After thanking everyone for coming, and then remembering his buddy of more than 40 years, the late great Freddie Bell (of the Bell Boys), Carme sang, "Bring Back the Boys."
Carme promised to come back to Las Vegas often (he now lives in Florida with Sharon), between gigs. He continues to work the Cruise Ships of the World and to entertain with that huge voice and the greatest smile in the world. We love ya Carme!
That's it for this week. I'm outa here!
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