Las Vegas Sun

February 22, 2019

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Columnist Jerry Fink: Harary to ‘debut’ at Suncoast

Jerry Fink's showroom column appears on Fridays. Reach him at [email protected] at (702) 259-4058.

Illusionist Franz Harary will make his Las Vegas debut -- sort of -- at the Suncoast with two shows at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 and Feb. 12.

Franz who?

"It will be the first time, in an official capacity, that I will have performed in Vegas," Harary said.

But there was that time in 1997 when he made Luxor disappear for a live audience, an event staged for a television network from Japan.

Harary (born and raised in Ann Arbor, Mich.) is big in Japan, not to mention much of the rest of Asia.

"My career has been a series of amazing accidents," said Harary, who was in town for the National Association of Television Production Executives last week. "I broke into Asia first and my show grew larger and larger until it has become the largest touring illusion show on the planet.

"I play arenas, stadiums, of 8,000 to 15,000, but I have no celebrity status in the United States."

He said his production, which includes some of the largest illusions in the world, grew so big so quickly in Asia that he created a niche market for himself.

Early in his career in this country Harary says he designed illusions for pop concerts, including shows by Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Alice Cooper, TLC, Usher and others. And he designed tricks for such notable magicians as David Copperfield.

"When I decided to go out on my own in '87, I produced an illusion show that looked like a rock concert," he said.

He went to Asia for the first time in the early '90s.

"The whole Americana look of the show caught on," Harary said. "All of Asia is in an evolution right now. They were so suppressed for so many years, now they are booming, salivating for new technology and new entertainment.

"When I came along they quickly embraced not only the high-tech aspect of my show, but also the fact that it was American produced. It took off and went out of control so quickly."

He has been touring Asia for 17 years.

While he loves traveling the world, he says he also eventually would like to spend more time in Vegas.

"But if I came to Vegas right now I would be magician No. 50, and I don't think my ego could handle it," Harary said. "Before I came here I would have to have a venue, an outlet, that would allow me to play to a size equal to my audiences overseas -- and that means a pretty big venue."

The stage at the Suncoast Showroom is tiny compared to those Harary has performed on overseas, which means he will scale back his show.

"It's a cool little room," he said. "There's not a lot of space to do anything huge, so the tricks are going to be small -- intimate, unplugged magic that I do.

"I'm going to bring everything I can slam onto the stage, but it's going to be a far more intimate show, more pure, not so high-tech.

"That's cool."

Sand Dollar tribute

Fans of the recently defunct Sand Dollar, Vegas' premier blues venue, should go to the Emergency Room Lounge at 3550 S. Decatur Blvd. at 7 p.m. Saturday for a farewell party/reunion and benefit for the Dollar's former employees.

John Earl Williams, of John Earl and the Boogey Man Band, is organizing the event.

Williams and his wife, Shirley, were associated with the Sand Dollar from 1990 to 1999 -- with Shirley managing it and Williams performing.

The Sand Dollar, 3355 Spring Mountain Road, was padlocked last week.

Scott Rhiner, with Moanin' Blacksnakes (for years one of the venue's most popular bands on Saturday nights), said a real estate developer bought the 30 acres and plans to build 10 high-rise buildings on the site.

The bands that will perform at the Emergency Room include Monk & Po' Boys, Boogey Man Band, Shuffle-Aires, SpellCasters, Moanin' Blacksnakes, Ruffnecks and Lil' Ceasar & Hur/Kane.

'Hairspray'

A $12 million, Las Vegas-ized version of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Hairspray" will replace Blue Man Group when the group leaves Luxor and moves to the Venetian later this year.

"Hairspray," produced locally by Michael Gill and Myron Martin, will premiere in November. The initial agreement with Luxor is four years.

"This is a feel-good show," Gill said. "It's a lot of fun, with a fantastic score -- very upbeat, very well written. It caught my eye the second I saw it in New York as a possibility for Las Vegas.

"It fits the definition of Las Vegas entertainment -- in my opinion an up, fun show."

Gill should know something about fun shows. He is general manager of "Mamma Mia!" at Mandalay Bay and "We Will Rock You" at Paris Las Vegas, and will be the general manager of the upcoming production of "Phantom of the Opera," which opens at the Venetian this year.

"Hairspray" marks the first time in Vegas that he will be the general manager and the producer of a show.

He says he and Martin, his producing partner, have been looking for a show for the past three years.

"We were just looking for the right production, the right venue and the right time," Gill said.

Everything fell into place for "Hairspray," which is based on the 1988 cult-classic film directed by John Waters.

The story, a satire, is about a 16-year-old girl who sets out to integrate a local TV dance program in 1962 Baltimore. The Broadway version won eight Tonys in 2003.

The local production will last 90 minutes, about 30 minutes shorter than the Broadway version.

Gill said the Luxor Theatre won't require much renovation, except for taking out the old seats. When new ones are installed there will be 1,550 seats, compared to the current 1,200.

There will be a cast of 36, with the lead (Edna Turnblad) rotating every three or four months. Harvey Fierstein plays that part on Broadway; Divine played it in the film.

Gill said rotating stars has proven successful with such productions as "Chicago" (another show he managed).

"It brings new vitality every time you bring in a new star," he said.

Martin says bringing "Hairspray" to Vegas should further add to the city's growing reputation as a center for theater -- at least, some theater.

"The New York Times and USA Today are saying Vegas is becoming the Broadway of the West," said Martin, executive director of the Las Vegas Performing Arts Foundation, an organization whose goal is to build a performing arts center in Vegas.

Martin agrees that Vegas is becoming an image of Broadway, but he notes that "Broadway has a much broader reach of theatrical productions than we will ever see. I don't foresee Shakespeare with a two-drink minimum in the lounge.

"But in terms of the bigger-than-life Broadway musicals, there is long-term hope in Las Vegas."

Marino upstaged?

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman might have had the best line in the ceremony honoring female impersonator Frank Marino earlier this week at the Riviera, where Marino has been the headliner in "An Evening at La Cage" for 20 years.

Marino is the third Vegas celebrity to receive a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars, a path that eventually will run the length of the Strip and back. The first entertainer to be honored was Wayne Newton in October.

The late Liberace, a longtime friend of Marino's, received a posthumous star at the Riviera in a ceremony Tuesday morning. Marino's turn in the spotlight came that afternoon.

"I just came from a Playboy shoot, Frank," Goodman said as he stepped up to the microphone to declare Feb. 1 as Frank Marino Day.

"You don't know which way to turn, do you?" cooed Marino, decked out in a snug, pink sequined gown.

"Yes, I do, Frank," Goodman quipped.

Marino, famous for his Joan Rivers impression, and his cast of female impersonators perform at 7:30 p.m. nightly, except for Tuesday.

"How extremely happy and excited I am," said Marino, who was on the verge of tears several times during the fete. "If you can't tell, it's because of the Botox."

Marino thanked everyone who helped him in his career and personal life.

"I especially want to thank Joan Rivers," he said. "Without Joan Rivers, I wouldn't have a career."

Rivers, who once sued Marino for $5 million, sent the performer a bouquet of pink balloons for the induction ceremony.

Lola smokin'

She smokes cigars.

She has been painting since the age of 8.

And she has adopted Las Vegas as her home.

Artist Lola Mallea is a free spirit who was born on Long Island, N.Y., to a mother of French descent and a Chilean father, but grew up in South America.

"My father worked in the oil fields," Mallea said. "I lived in Venezuela, Peru, Paraguay, Chile."

She attended art schools in South America and Alaska.

"My main objective in my art," Mallea said, "is that I want to touch someone's thoughts through emotions -- art itself is an experience. It reaches out and touches the heart."

Mallea moved to Las Vegas in October after spending 20 years in Hawaii.

Her reason for moving, she said, was to be closer to the Art de Vignettes gallery at Fashion Show mall, which carries a lot of her work. She also is an art consultant for the salon.

Art fans can meet Mallea between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday at Art de Vignettes, where she will be painting.

In addition to her work for the gallery, Mallea is one of several Las Vegas artists chosen to paint murals around the city as part of a centennial project. They will create 100 murals.

"A lot of artists have applied for the project," she said. "I am honored that I was one of those chosen."

The paintings must be related to the 100 years of Las Vegas history.

"I want to tie into the different cultures Las Vegas is made of," Mallea said.

Mallea says she normally paints people, but much of her time since arriving in Las Vegas has been spent painting scenes of the city and cityscapes.

"I am so inspired by the view that I have on the 20th floor of the Las Vegas Country Club," she said. "Every day I see this magnificent display of lights. It is so fabulous I have to paint this."

Ray Price-less

A legend in country music will perform at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the new 532-seat Santa Fe Showroom at Santa Fe Station.

Tickets, $24.95 and $42.95, are a bargain for "Cherokee Cowboy" Ray Price. Make your reservations early or you may be left standing outside.

"This will be a new experience for me," Price said during a telephone interview from his ranch outside of Mt. Pleasant, Texas. "I'm used to playing for 1,000 or 2,000 fans."

His career spans more than five decades.

Among his huge catalog of classic country hits are "For the Good Times," "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)," "Release Me," "Make the World Go Away" and "City Lights."

Among the notable country performers whose career began in Price's band were Willie Nelson, the late Roger Miller and Johnny Paycheck.

Price has created his own independent label which recently recorded "True Country," scheduled to be released later this month.

"If you're not in New York or Hollywood you're not going to get many recording offers," Price said.

He described his latest album, "True Country," as a tribute to many of his country artist friends who have passed on. He sings songs made famous by such vocalists as Hank Williams, Ernest Tubbs, Bob Wills, Conway Twitty and Waylon Jennings.

Price's engagements take him everywhere, from Asia and Europe to Bakersfield, Calif., and Parker, Ariz.

Although he hasn't performed in Vegas much, Price has had dates here for years.

"I did a show with Roy Clark once at the old Frontier," Price recalled. "We did real well."

He has his opinion about today's country music entertainment.

"They should stop using the word 'country' in the Country Music Awards show," Price said. "It isn't country. I don't think there's anything country on it."

New Chippendales

The Chippendale dancers and the Rio unveiled their new $7 million, 21,000-square-foot, showroom-lounge-boutique with a huge bash Saturday night.

There were wall-to-wall partiers (mostly female) being waited on hand and foot by male cocktail servers who seemed to be eye candy for the gals.

Also unveiled was the Chippendales' revamped show, which has improved the production 100 percent (at least from a male's perspective).

There is more (and better) choreography, as well as more interaction with the fans (some of whom may seem familiar to those who have seen "Thunder From Down Under" at the Excalibur).

Shows are at 8 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays and on Thursdays; 8 p.m and 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The theater is dark Wednesdays.

Tickets are $34.95, $44.95 and $49.95 for general admission and $75 for the VIP Sky Lounge.

For more information call 777-7776.

Vegas Views

Hypnotist Scott Lewis and Neil Diamond tribute artist Jay White are the only two acts from the Riviera's Le Bistro Theatre who were retained when the hotel took over the room this week.

For years the room had been leased to vocalist Marlene Ricci, who performed there and also subleased the room to other entertainers.

Lewis says he and White continue to have a four-wall arrangement, but it is directly with the Riviera. His performances are at 9 p.m. Mondays. White performs at 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

At 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays the room will become an ultra lounge.

The showroom is the Keyboard Cabaret at 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Fridays, featuring dueling pianos. The cabaret will close Feb. 22.

"Dragapella," a spoof of female impersonator shows, returns to the Westin theater for one night only at 8 p.m. Feb. 9. Tickets are $30.

This is one of funniest satires I have seen.

The production, featuring "The Kinsey Sicks" (four men in '50s-style hairdos) was showcased at the Westin last year.

While the bits are hilarious, the cast members are superb vocalists who sing a capella.

Las Vegas' first gay talk radio program is on the air.

Dubbed QRadio, the one-hour show may be heard at 9 p.m. Saturdays on KLAV 1230-AM and on streaming simulcast worldwide on the Internet at klav1230am.com.

The show is hosted by QVegas magazine editor Stephen Moore. QVegas is published monthly and is the gay and lesbian voice for 27 years. The format is aimed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

A car that was once owned by Johnny Carson is on display at the Auto Collections at the Imperial Palace, complete with a goodbye wreath honoring the late host of "The Tonight Show."

Carson purchased the 1939 Chrysler Royal Sedan when he found out it was the car his father owned when Johnny was a child in Nebraska.

A videotape shows Carson telling the story of how he saw the car for sale and recognized that it was the same make and model that his father had owned.

The Auto Collections acquired the car from Carson approximately 10 years ago at the suggestion of Jay Leno.

"Forbidden Vegas" at the Westin is now offering a dinner and show package, which includes show tickets and dinner at the Silver Peak Grill for $66.90.

Janu Tornell, former "Folies Bergere" showgirl at the Tropicana, will appear in the upcoming season of CBS' "Survivor: Palau."

Tornell began her career with "Folies" in May 1995. She quit the show last November to join "Survivor."

For the past two years, Tornell was the spokesperson and poster girl for "Folies," appearing on the Tropicana marquees, several billboards, national television shows, magazines and newspapers.

The show will debut on CBS (Channel 8) at 8 p.m. Feb. 17.

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