Thursday, July 31, 2014 | 8:10 a.m.
The First Lady of Las Vegas Jazz, more commonly known as Michelle Johnson, joins Clint Holmes during his “Duets” performances this weekend at Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts (shows are 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday, go to the Smith Center website at www.thesmithcenter.com for info.
For these performances, Holmes also is performing with invitees Elisa Fiorillo, Ronnie Rose and Joel Ferguson. The lineup is terrifically talented and impressively diverse. Fiorillo has backed Prince as part of his New Power Generation Lineup. The velvet-voiced Rose has been a favorite around Vegas for years, including his many nights at the Stirling Club and also Bootlegger Bistro. Ferguson is a wizard on steel guitar who only recently caught Holmes’ eye during a Composers Showcase performance in the spring.
For this column we’re focusing on FLOLVJ (the acronym I like to use for the First Lady of Las Vegas Jazz), long a favorite performer and a woman of vast aptitude, experience and education. Catch her most Saturday nights at the Dispensary on the southeast corner of Trop and Eastern, performing with music director Uli Geissendoerfer and (often) fellow vocalist Pascale Elia.
Not long ago we published a true-false quiz about the Lon Bronson All-Star Band, and we’re quizzical once more about Johnson and her fascinating life. These are all true or false questions. Play along, if you like:
1. She is an avid sports fan who is obsessed with Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter.
2. She once caught a Jeter foul ball during a Yankees game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
3. The first album she owned was “Machine Head” by Deep Purple.
The first album she owned was by Black Sabbath …. she won it at a raffle in 1st grade.
4. She sang at President Clinton’s inauguration in ’93.
5. She once ran for a seat on the Las Vegas City Council.
6. Her high school graduation ceremony took place at the Giza Pyramids in Egypt.
7. She can break a stack of cinder blocks with a single karate chop.
8. She is half Liberian.
9. She once managed a basketball team whose roster included future Arizona Wildcats and Chicago Bulls star, and current Golden State Warriors coach, Steve Kerr.
10. She once won $50,000 by making a half-court shot during a Suns-Sacramento Kings game in Phoenix.
11. She works for Apple and is recognized as an “uber geek.”
12. She once sang “Hey Jude” onstage at the Hollywood Bowl with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
13. She can speak and sing in French, Arabic and Swahili.
14. She sings on Elton John’s “Duets” album.
15. She conceived and drew the cover art for Elton John’s “Duets” album.
16.She graduated from Yale with a degree in English literature.
17. While at Yale, she convinced classmate Edward Norton to pursue a career in acting.
18. She smashed her Subaru Outback in an accident this week.
19. She turned 50 this year.
20. She doesn’t care that you know she is 50.
1. True, and she still wears a Manning jersey – the Broncos’ gear having supplanted the Colts jersey.
3. False. The first album she owned was actually “Master of Reality” by Black Sabbath, which she won at a raffle.
4. True, with an all-girl big band.
6. True. She lived there and attended the American School from 1st through 12th grades.
8. True. Her father was a Liberian diplomat (now retired) who worked in the United Nations, served as Ambassador to Egypt, and served in Hong Kong, Kuwait, Dubai and Iran, among other countries.
9. True. This was while she was overseas and she became friends with Kerr, whose father Malcolm was an American professor who spent years in the region and, in a story that made international headlines, was assassinated in 1984. Johnson and Kerr have stayed in touch over the years, and she once surprised him by singing the national anthem at a Phoenix Suns NBA Summer League game at Cox Pavilion in 2009.
11. True. She is a wizard with Apple products and is also a website and social media expert.
12. True. During an Earth Day all-star show in 1993, as Johnson sang backup for McCartney and hip-hop act P.M. Dawn. At the end of the concert, McCartney grabbed her hand during the full-cast take of “Hey Jude.”
13. False. But drop Swahili, and it is true.
14. True. Backup again for P.M. Dawn, and also Boy George.
17. False, but she did meet Norton while in college, and knew fellow Yale schoolmates Jennifer Beals and Jodi Foster.
18. True. Just this week. Probably totaled.