Plus: Manny Oliveira, Louis Prima and more...
It was SRO (standing room only) last weekend in the South Point Showroom as, Shecky Greene, held court in a theater, one would think, was built just for him. If you have never been in this particular showroom, there is not a bad seat anywhere and you sense that you’re up-close-and-personal with the act—which you are.
Greene was up to the task of entertaining as only he can. He did sorta go off script (Shecky does not have a script) when he mentioned the entertainment director for the Boyd Gaming (The Orleans and Suncoast). Shecky got going on that subject when, after his successful engagement last year at the Suncoast, he asked for a larger contingent of musicians when and if he came back. Greene mentioned to the director that Don Rickles (in real life Rickles and Greene are best of friends) has a large orchestra and only really uses it for a couple of musical numbers, where as he (Shecky) can actually sing and does during his performance. I guess (Shecky never did say what really happened after that discussion) the response must have upset the comedian, for he more or less said “goodbye” in so many short words. Of course, Michael Gaughan is no fool and offered Shecky the South Point Showroom.
The first thing Greene told the packed room as he came on stage, was that the hotel told him he must do an hour-and-twenty. Heck, Shecky is just getting warmed up by that time, so, being Greene, he kept that as a running gag throughout the show, along with a few stories about various experiences he has encountered during his more than 50 plus years as a comedian. This time out, he laughed, along with the audience, about his ex-wives and how they caused him to do strange things: like driving through the Caesars Palace Fountains; overturning crap and 21 tables at the Riviera, visiting the Metro Police Departments jail a few times, etc. Shecky is a master comedian, story teller and singer, and his timing is impeccable—like Jack Benny’s great pauses between jokes.
That’s why the 83-year-old entertainer is referred to as a real, honest to God “Legend!
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
Sometime back, I went downtown to visit with a few buddies who were in town at the time. Somehow (well I know how, but I’m not going to tell), we ended up in a little bar called, “Don’t Tell Mama,” located at 517 E. Fremont. It’s a neat place and serves all the respectable booze you would ever need. This February will mark its first year of existence, and from what I’ve been told, it’s full steam ahead for 2010. The thing this particular bar has over others in the area is that all the hired help are also entertainers. Yep, gang, you may order a vodka tonic from a cute waitress, who’s wearing a pair of Levi’s, and before you get your order she’ll be up by the piano singing a song.
This premise has been done before in our little village, but never quite caught on. The owner of “Don’t Tell Mama,” Minh Pham, had operated a similar establishment in New York for 18 years, before selling and moving to Las Vegas to retire. Sandy Geier, a Las Vegas resident for 25 years, is one of the singing bartenders, with a huge vocal range. Geier is also working on her first album, which will include all original songs and is titled, “Good Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast.”
Some of the other singers include Aundra “Dre” Whitt, who sings a lot of classic rock similar to Amy Winehouse. The R&B songstress of the group is Bianca Alan as is Shannon Bond, who also likes to sing some of the more popular country songs. Savannah Smith can belt out a great Broadway tune with the best of them.
The club also employs a variety of accomplished piano players, who accompany the singers nightly. Oh, yeah, one other thing--anyone can get up and sing if they ask, know the words to a song, or can read a fake book. This is NOT a Karaoke room and there are no screens with words.
“It’s really fun place to work and helps keep my voice in good shape,” Geier said.
“Don’t Tell Mama” is open nightly from 8:00 p.m. till whatever (usually around 2:00 a.m.). The room can accommodate about 50 people at tables, and another 20 at the bar, and drinks are reasonably priced.
Bob Kephart, producer of the Comedy Stop at the Sahara Hotel, has a great line up of headliner comedians for the remainder of January, beginning Jan 18 through Jan. 24, with Louis Ramey (a semi-finalist in the sixth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing) and Quinn Dahle, who is considered to be a smart, clean and witty stand-up comic with impeccable timing. For the week of Jan 25 through Jan 31, Manny Oliveira returns to headline a stellar line-up that includes Bernadette Pauley and Andrew Norelli. Oliveira is quick with the ad-libs and is, very possibly, one of the best liked (by his peers) stand-up comedians on the circuit today. Manny can be seen in a recurring role in “Army Wives” on the Lifetime Network.
Speaking of the Sahara Hotel, which was originally named the Club Bingo when it was built in 1948, did you know that Louis Prima was the first major act to work the late night shift in the Casbar Lounge in 1954? His wife at the time, Keely Smith, was the lead singer, and the lead sax player was none other than the great, late Sam Butera. On opening night, Butera was asked by Louis what was the name of the band, and Sam ad-libbed, “The Witnesses.” That name stuck to Sam and his many bands until his death in June last year (2009). After working at the Sahara, the group was eventually lured away and landed in the old Sands Hotel Lounge. Prima remained a resident of our little village until the mid ‘70s when, because of ill health, he moved back to his native New Orleans where he passed away in 1978. Prima also built the Fairway to the Stars Golf Course near where the Bootlegger Bistro is now located. One of Prima’s greatest fans, who worked in the main showroom at the Sahara, was Johnny Carson of Tonight Show fame. Carson would finish his second act, usually around11:30 p.m. visit with a few guests, put on an old sweater and head for the Sands Hotel. The maitre d’ would have a table at the back of the lounge waiting for him and whoever he had with him. Also, working in the lounge around that same time was a former New York cab driver, Bernie Allen. I’ll write a few memories of Bernie in a future column.
Well, gang, that’s about it for this week. I’m outa here!