Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2017

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Columnist Jerry Fink: Stardust turns Wayne’s room into giant lounge

Some musicians are content performing in lounges. But most would jump, jive and wail for the chance at a showroom stage.

The Stardust is going to make like a genie and grant the wishes of a handful of unsung singers, musicians, dancers and comedians starting tonight and Saturday.

The 46-year-old resort is throwing open the doors of the Wayne Newton Theater at 8 p.m. for two nights of free entertainment by a group of talented lounge performers looking for a shot at the big time.

The lounge/showroom hybrid will be a mini-production, using a number of the props and mechanical devices already in place for Newton's performances.

It will be a low-budget production with big-budget trappings.

"The idea to feature a few lounge entertainers grew into this," Terry Lovern, production manager at the Stardust, said. "Hopefully it will showcase these talented performers so people will start to take notice."

If the first-time effort is successful, there could be more showroom showcases in the future for other performers.

"We believe there is a place for this in Las Vegas," Lovern said. "I think all the hotels should be doing it."

Among those who will be performing are vocalist Gigi Allen and Mark Flippin and his Flipp Street band. Flippin will emcee the production.

Allen toured with Peabo Bryson and Kenny G in the '90s. She also performed at Disney World with a 10-piece band, at the Boomtown casino in New Orleans, at the Adams Mark Hotel in Denver and also in Monte Carlo.

Then in 2000 the native of Greenville, S.C., came to Vegas.

"I have always wanted to be here, since I was a little girl," said Allen, who sings a variety of styles, from jazz to disco.

She performed at the defunct Motown Cafe at New York-New York and then at The Mirage's Lagoon Saloon for about three years. The gig ended in September.

"I decided I was ready to do my own thing, to front my own band," Allen said.

Since then she has performed at several lounges, including venues at the Aladdin, Caesars and at the Stardust, where Lovern was won over by her high-energy style and her considerable talent when she performed at the Starlight Lounge.

"Everyone is so excited," Allen said. "Ultimately we would love to do a showroom.

"The best thing to happen would be to bring the spark back to Vegas. My thing about entertaining is is to draw the fans into our world, the way Wayne and Frank (Sinatra) have done. I want to bring that back."

Allen personalizes her performances.

"I go into the audience," she said. "I'm not afraid to put a microphone in someone's face and say, 'Sing along.' Our job is to make people feel special."

Allen performs regularly at Paris Las Vegas' Le Cabaret lounge.

Flipp Street performs at a variety of venues.

"We're the top R&B band in the city," boasted band leader/bassist Mark Flippin. "We come from the old-school style of bands -- we all play instruments and sing, without tapes. We're trying to keep away from that. We are real musicians, with no hidden tricks."

Flippin has a second band, Island Time, a reggae group that can be heard at Harrah's Carnival Court.

Flippin is a native of Long Island, where he started his music career.

"I performed all around Long Island and New York," he said. "Then I went to Los Angeles and recorded and worked with a lot of the top artists."

While living in Southern California, he toured Japan twice.

Flippin says he grew tired of traveling and the California earthquakes, and moved his family to Vegas.

"There's more of a family life here for a musician," Flippin said. "My travel now is to the Strip."

Flipp Street has been performing up and down the Strip for three years at venues such as Harrah's La Playa Lounge and the Stardust's Starlight. Its musicians include Flippin, drummer Darryl "DJ" Johnson; keyboardist Ricky Steves; guitarist Johnny Johnson (formerly with Earth, Wind and Fire) and saxophonist Dave McLaurin.

Flippin said after one of the band's recent Starlight performances, Lovern approached him about the showroom idea.

"We were happy to go along," he said. "Something like this is really needed on the Strip.

"What I like about it, it's a soulful-type thing. It's danceable. You can get up and have a good time."

Flippin says he hopes this weekend is a test.

"We want everyone to come down and support it," he said. "Hopefully it will turn into a regular production."

Lounging around

The City Lights Bistro, formerly the Kitchen Cafe, was reminiscent of its old self Wednesday night, with a dozen of Vegas' best vocalists and musicians jamming 'til 2 a.m. Blues singer/cab driver Alan Broze pleased the standing-room-only crowd with Van Morrison's "Moondance." The song was appropriate enough, since the entertainment was outdoors on the patio, a perfect spot for the warm St. Patrick's Day night. Keyboardist Dennis Mellen and drummer Paco Martin lead the music Mondays through Wednesdays.

Among the other vocalists were Heather Hudson, Lynn Ross, Pat Newell and Jon Hayes. Instrumentalists included flutist Bob Winette, alto and tenor sax and vocals, John Ofria, Rick Jones on trumpet and fluegelhorn and Ned Mills on trumpet and piano.

Capozzoli's, 3333 S. Maryland Parkway, has a mostly new lineup of entertainment. Sundays and Mondays are ladies' nights, featuring vocalist Larry Liso from 8 p.m. to midnight. Wednesdays, also 8 p.m. to midnight, is the Joel Dane Trio. Lou Martinez (Thursdays) and Jerry Tiffe (Saturdays) still have their gigs, but Friday night it's the duo "Touch of Class" and Sunday, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the Gary Rose Trio performs.

Dynamic bluesman Guitar Shorty has been known to roll and tumble while playing his guitar, using everything but his hands to coax the music out of his instrument. Shorty will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday for Boulder Station's free blues series.

The Vegas Valley Swing Band will perform a light jazz concert from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight at the Winchester Community Center.

The Cannery presents Classic Rock Tuesdays, with free entertainment in the Club by the band Yellow Brick Road. Performances begin at 9 p.m. The group pays tribute to such artists as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, Rush and Journey.