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November 21, 2018

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Las Vegas loses a star: Cancer claims ‘Folies’ beauty

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Sam Morris

Michaelina Bellamy rehearses with Bill Fayne on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011, for an upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim numbers.

Michaelina Bellamy

Michaelina Bellamy, who was undergoing chemotherapy in this photo taken Oct. 5, 2011, died Saturday, April 7. Launch slideshow »
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Michaelina Bellamy performs "Somewhere" on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, at the Suncoast.

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The benefit for Michaelina Bellamy at South Point on Oct. 16, 2011.

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The benefit for Michaelina Bellamy at South Point on Oct. 16, 2011.

One of the city’s great voices has fallen silent.

Michaelina Bellamy, the principal singer in “Folies Bergere” at Tropicana for a decade ending in 1990 and a backing vocalist who toured with such greats as Engelbert Humperdinck and the Airmen of Note, died today after a lengthy battle with cancer. Specifically, she had suffered from the form of bone cancer known as acute myeloid leukemia. She was 59.

Bellamy’s death was first noted on her Facebook page and that of her daughter, Las Vegas freelance writer Maria Kintner. Details about when and where she passed are forthcoming, as are specifics about her memorial service.

After Bellamy had struggled to survive the night, at about 2 p.m. Maria posted the note, “RIP Mommy. I love you.”

Bellamy was known in Las Vegas primarily for her role in “Folies.” She had amassed a long and distinguished career as a performer. She joined the Air Force at age 18 and during her 2-year tour of duty was a vocalist with the Airmen of Note. She performed in Vietnam on a USO Tour with Bob Hope in 1970, at 16 the youngest female in the troupe.

Over the years, she was a regular at such popular Las Vegas entertainment venues as Bootlegger Bistro, the Top of the World lounge at Stratosphere and the now-closed Casbar Lounge at Sahara. Most recently, two years ago, she helped assemble the big bands at the Trop that performed after Santa Fe & the Fat City Horns shows at her former haunt, Tiffany Theater.

Bellamy’s family was immersed in the business and arts scenes of Las Vegas for decades, having lived in the city for nearly 40 years and operating the Bel-Ami Nutrition store at Commercial Center.

Bellamy became well-known across the country and away from the entertainment culture, too. In one of the more astonishing stories ever in the city, in January 2007, Bellamy was the victim of an assault by Father George Chaanine at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church, where Bellamy served as a singer and entertainment director.

In an incident where Chaanine came to be known as the “Fugitive Priest,” Bellamy had become the focus of Chaanine’s romantic advances, which spilled over violently on the afternoon of Jan. 26, when Chaanine struck Bellamy over the head at least three times with a full wine bottle as she worked in the church offices on Alta Way, just west of Rancho Drive.

Bellamy suffered a fractured left hand and, even 3 years later, complained of pain in her neck attributed to the assault. Her head wound required 20 staples to close. Chaanine vanished for 6 days after the assault and appeared under the title "Fugitive Priest" on the nationally syndicated “America's Most Wanted.” The fugitive father was finally apprehended near Phoenix and remains behind bars while serving his 4-to-12-year sentence in Lovelock Correctional Center.

In October, Bellamy returned to the stage — her voice still robust even as she lost 50 pounds during chemotherapy treatments — to sing in her friend Bill Fayne’s Stephen Sondheim tribute show at Suncoast. A week later, she was the subject of an all-star tribute performance at South Point Showroom to help allay her rising medical bills, which at the time had exceeded $500,000; she beautifully sang “Somewhere” from “West Side Story." But her wish to return to singing regularly in Las Vegas was never realized.

Bellamy is survived by her three daughters: Andreanna, Maria and Jacqui. She had six grandchildren: Aurora, Weslee, Elijah, Isaac, Jonah and Ezra. Another baby is on the way, as Andreanna is pregnant. The child's gender is not yet known, and the name at the moment is "Baby Boston."

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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