MONTI-LICIOUS JULY 27, 2015
Rumors are flying about the possible changes at the Tommy Wind Theater. Some say it was sold, while information from the Wind "camp" is that all is going well and that additional funding is coming in. Tommy is reportedly on a two-week vacation. The Justin Tranz and Vinnie Favorito shows are doing good business. Tommy, a very talented performer, has been working hard on the Strip for the past several years along with his family who run the business aspects. The theater also rents space for other shows and events when the schedules permit. We will keep you posted on what transpires.
John Stewart, creator of "Legends In Concert," has resigned from the show at the Mirage. News is that he is reportedly bringing in two new Cuban shows. A great show featuring dancers and musicians from Cuba was one of the last shows to play at the Stardust. With the proper marketing this show would definitely have had a long run at another venue. With relations open again with Cuba we should be seeing more of the great entertainers from that country.
Donald Trump either can't or won't keep his big mouth shut regarding his feelings about the Latinos in the U.S., especially Mexico and the Mexican people. He is fast losing the Hispanic voters as well as many other groups. His uncalled for remarks about John McCain and other former prisoners of war have alienated a large group of the military and veterans. He's also damaged his position with TV networks in that all of his shows were dropped from their lineups. His latest target is Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller. He is not a fan and he makes sure that the public knows it. My feeling is that he should remain in the financial world and keep his nose out of politics. We certainly don't need someone like him in the White House.
What is the latest news on the progress of the "Downtown Project," which was originally founded by Zappo's Tony Hsieh? Has it proved successful or not? This writer would like to know. It appears that The D, except for Kevin Burke's "Defending the Caveman," and the Downtown Grand are not doing the business that was expected of them. The Golden Nugget is still Number 1 and rightfully so. Gordie Brown is a big draw with his long-running show. As noted in an earlier column, the Art District is doing well with its galleries, coffee shops, and late night clubs.
Problems not withstanding, Caesars Palace is still one of our greatest properties with Mariah and Reba holding down the fort at the Colosseum until Celine's return next month. I saw Mariah's show again last week and it does keep getting better. That voice is something else. After the show I ran into producer Adam Steck and his wife. Adam, who gives us one great show after another, is getting ready to announce his next big project.
J Lo, in addition to her show coming to Axis at Planet Hollywood in January , has a new movie opening this week co-starring Viola Davis. J Lo just happens to be underrated, as an actress, but working with Viola Davis will show how good an actress she really is. Her other business ventures, such as her clothing line, fragrances, etc. seem to be on back burners at the present time, but her relationship with Casper seems to be still going strong. One of her former love interests, Ben Affleck is divorcing Jennifer Garner after 10 years of marriage and three children. He is now living in the guest house located on the same property as the main house. Ben and Jennifer are doing what seems best for the children during these difficult times.
One of country music’s favorite and most successful couples are no longer a couple. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert have split and will go their separate ways after a 4 year marriage. Of course the rumor mills area hard at work hinting about alleged cheating, work priorities, and/or whether or not she wanted a child. Let’s hope they can work this out as they were a great couple. Blake is said to be worth $90 million and she is worth a nice sum in her own right.
Producer/director Andrew Rasmussen is producing the musical Disco Tex.....the story of Bob Crewe and Monti Rock III, who became a disco star in 1973. It's like Jersey Boys except it's a "fairytale." It's about this columnist selling 7 million albums, acting in Saturday Night Fever, and then giving it up because of the way the recording companies' manipulations and creative bookkeeping kept the profits from getting to the performers-but that's another story.
Andrew's latest production "Mrs. Smith" just opened in New York City and my spies tell me it is hilarious. This young man seems to know what the public wants and he gives it to us.
Penn and Teller have a big hit on their hands with their show on Broadway for a limited summer run. Word is that this show is not to be missed. Their comedy and magic have been filling seats at the Rio for some time. Criss Angel is a great success on tour with his cast of magicians while David Copperfield knocks them dead at the MGM.
X Comedy, the show now at Bugsy's Cafe in the Flamingo, pushes the envelope so to speak. One of the performers featured is the hysterical prop comedian, Joe Trammel, one of the best reasons to see this show.
The infamous bronze “butt” statue of “Crazy Girls” is on display on the casino floor of Planet Hollywood. The long running show which was forced to move from the defunct Riviera can now be seen at the hotel/ casino’s Sin City Theater.
Locals can see Britney Spears at the Axis in Planet Hollywood and Olivia Newton John at the Flamingo this summer season for special prices. For information and tickets check the pertinent hotel. This is a good opportunity for locals to get to see either or both of these great performers.
The SLS is making changes to overcome a rough start. The Code, the loyalty club at the venue, now has more benefits for players. Changes are also in store for their nightclub, Life. these changes will hopefully bring in more locals.
Weddings are becoming more costly in our town as the fee for a marriage license has increased to $77.00. I wonder what’s in store for the cost of a divorce.
Acclaimed actor Theodore Bikel has died of natural causes at the age of 93. Mr. Bikel is mostly remembered for his roll as Tevya in “Fiddler on The Roof” which he performed at least 2000 times. He also played Captain VonTrapp in the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music” and appeared in 150 films as well as many TV appearances. That’s quite a resume. RIP Theodore Bikel.
How about the latest feud going on in the music business? - That of Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift. Minaj says she is often overlooked for certain awards because they usually go to those who are white and extremely slim (Taylor Swift) etc., etc. I didn’t know Beyonce, for example is neither white nor slim. Some of the news media are making this a race issue, which it is not. It’s just some bad judgment on the part of these 2 divas. Grow up kids. The upcoming MTV VMA awards show Swift with 9 nominations, she and Nicki both have their share of awards so let the show go on. Miley Cyrus is host of the awards show this time around so we can expect a few surprises from this young lady.
Shows and stars keep coming and going from one venue to another. Clint Holmes went from the Golden Nugget to Harrah’s and then two weekends at Cabaret Jazz. Gordie Brown went from the Strip to the Golden Nugget, Barry Manilo from the Former HIlton to the Paris, and so on. Now we have the Blue Man Group going from the Monte Carlo to the MGM and Jabbawakeez going from the Monte Carlo back to their ”home” at the Luxor. One day here, next day there, but like yours truly, “they’re still here”.
The one thing that I feel is missing is the glamor of the old Las Vegas. The glitz, the well-dressed audiences, the show girls, are gone, (except for Jubilee) in favor of a family oriented place to go for shopping, amusement venues, restaurants, etc. As much as I love Las Vegas today, I really miss what is now gone.
Andrew Rasmussen, producer/director of the upcoming Disco Tex show has a new hit in NYC. “Mrs. Smith”, which just opened has gotten wonderful reviews. The NY Post calls it “perfect summer fare”. Great to know that I’ll be working with another “hit-maker”.
The Rev. Monti once again wishes you only the best.
The Rev. Monti once again wishes you the best.
MONTI-LICIOUS JULY 20, 2015
Not too long after coming to Las Vegas in 1997 I was hired by the late Chuck Di Rocco to write a column for Gaming Today. Well, I’m still here and loving it. I am not completely computer literate so I dictate to Wordpad from which my partner transforms my musings into the Full Monti column.
People knew me as a celebrity hairdresser, film actor, and especially from TV talk shows (Carson, Griffin, Douglas, and many more). I was invited to openings on a steady basis and then expressed my opinion about them. With the help of Ira Sternberg, I got the key of doing these columns. Through the years I got to know many stars, beginning in the late '60s with Red Foxx, Della Reese, Sarah Vaughn, Tina Turner and Diahanne Carroll to name a few. Then on to Clint Holmes, Bob Anderson, Joan Rivers, and now Mariah Carey.
I also got to know and write about the great Siegfried and Roy and the fabulous Danny Gans. Rick White, the former entertainment director of the LVH and Westgate, and Don Marandino, who was then at the Flamingo and a few other hotel execs were also there to get me on track as a columnist. Special thanks to Richard Sturm for always being there for me. Felix Rappaport, who is now on the East Coast was also a great help. Producer Adam Steck has been there for me since the beginning., as were Frank Marino and Norbert Aleman. They all helped me to make my column something to read.
Las Vegas is in the process of reinventing itself and so is Monti Rock III. I was once told I would never make it in the world of show business. And yet I’ve done TV, film, numerous club dates, had a top-selling disco recording and now I'm writing a top gossip column for Gaming Today and a food column for What’s On. As in the Stephen Sondheim lyric, “I’M STILL HERE.”
The first time I came to Vegas in 1968 there were lounge acts galore. Mary Kaye, The Checkmates, Louis Prima/Keely Smith, Don Rickles, Shecky Green and so many more.
There are no top lounge acts around except for Matt Goss. Nightclubs have taken over the late night business and the “hang-outs” are gone. Seeing some of these people come in after their shows and do impromptu performances made for the best entertainment around.
Wayne Newton, one of Las Vegas’ legendary entertainers is now just about ready to reopen Shenandoah as a sort of museum. There will be tour buses, etc., bringing in scores of locals and tourists alike to see this magnificent “palace.”
I went over to the Golden Nugget, which is one of Steve Wynn’s first big successes. He brought Frank Sinatra in and it became a tremendous success for Frank, Steve and the hotel, which is the Crown Jewel of Downtown. Clint Holmes became a big Las Vegas attraction there and now Gordie Brown has been bringing them in for the past few years. We went there last week to see Frankie Moreno. This talented, good-looking, sexy, songwriter, singer, performer is at his best when sitting at the piano and singing. Rock and roll is not his forte, but I do realize some fans want this in his show. He had been at the Stratosphere for a few years, has played in Carnegie Hall, toured several cities worldwide and would be a good addition for the Golden Nugget to expand their entertainment division.
The SLS appears to be enjoying a turn-around as some of their divisions have finally shown a profit. This hotel should be really successful when the new mega-resorts at the north end of the Strip are complete and open for business.
Downtown is still a project in the works. The D and Downtown Grand are working hard to bring the people in, but have not yet hit the mark. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is still heading up the project to reinvent Downtown into a successful tourist attraction. There is still quite a ways to go to compete with the Strip.
MGM has announced development plans for a 5000 seat theater at the Monte Carlo. The first act should be opening there by the end of 2016. The theater will offer dynamic seating which allows for easy transformation of seating configurations that could change to fill the needs of the acts performing. Blue Man Group, currently at the Monte Carlos moves back to the Luxor, their first Las Vegas home and Jabbawockeez moves to the MGM.
X Comedy, a Stabile Production is opening at the Flamingo later in July. Stabile Productions also has X Burlesque currently here at the Flamingo. This is reportedly uncensored so let the prudish and politically correct beware.
"Aussie Hunks" is the latest in male strip shows to be seen in Las Vegas,beginning later in July at The D Downtown. a cast of professionally trained world-class male dancers from Australia bringing us routines to fulfill every woman’s fantasy. For tickets and information please visit www.aussiehunks.com or call the D box office at 702-388-2111.
Latest from NYC is that Penn and Teller are wowing audiences at previews of their Broadway show which will runs for 6 weeks at the Marquis Theater. The show consists of many of their top “skits” from their long-running show here at the Rio. Working on Broadway energizes the duo and helps keep their shows fresh and alive.
The Espy Awards had a humorous Alec Rodriguez apology skit, a classy Derek Jeter acceptance speech and of course the highlight of evening, The Arthur Ashe Courage Award winner, Caitlyn Brenner. Caitlyn, a stunning and statuesque woman gave a lengthy and sometimes emotional speech about her journey and the difficult plight of transgender people. Brenner hopes that by telling her story that the public will become more understanding of the problems of this ever-growing group of people and give them the respect that they deserve.
Giuliana Rancic is leaving her daily anchor position at E!News after 14 years. She will stay on as part of the new Fashion Police team and one of the hosts of Live From the Red Carpet. This will give her more time to devote to her other business interests. Maria Menounos has been named as the new E!News anchor. Hopefully this lovely young lady will control her tendency to “giggle”.
Keep an eye out for www.weddingsbymontirock.com
Bottom line is that I've seen them come and go but again, “I’m Still Here” and I intend to stay.
The Rev. Monti once again wishes you the best.
MONTI-LICIOUS JULY 13, 2015
The first week in July brought us the passing of two iconic figures: The last cowboy sheriff, Ralph Lamb, and legendary film and TV producer Jerry Weintraub.
Lamb served as sheriff from 1947-1979. He was instrumental in keeping the mob at bay in Las Vegas. He and is two brothers were thought of as a sort of crime-fighting dynasty. Ralph was out on the street rather than sitting in his office doing paperwork or just directing his officers. He was instrumental in completing the merger of the sheriff and Las Vegas police departments into what is now the Metro Police. Some of his cases were dramatized for the TV series “Vegas,” which was based on his life as a sheriff. His favorite passion, though, was being a cowboy and teaching his celebrity friends how to ride, and rope, etc. Unfortunately he had numerous health issues in the past few years.He was also a close friend of the late Kirk Kerkorian who died June 15. Ralph was devastated by his death and some say that this loss hastened Ralph’s death. Ralph Lamb and Kirk Kerkorian are a big part of what is known as the “Las Vegas Legend” and will surely be missed.
Jerry Weintraub , film producer, TV producer and entertainment promoter, has died at the age of 77. He was probably best known for “The Karate Kid,” “Nashville,” and the “Oceans” movie franchise. As a promoter he was the first one to book marquee performers like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to national tours and Las Vegas extravaganzas. Jerry, a three-time Emmy winner, produced HBO's “Behind The Candelabra” and his most recent HBO project, “The Brink,” debuted on June 21. He was married to the great former singer, Jane Morgan, from who he separated in the '80s but never divorced. He lived with his girlfriend Susie Ekins for more than 20 years until his death. Hollywood and the entertainment world lost another “great.”
The July 4th weekend also gave us three celebrity weddings. Billy Joel /Alex Roderick , Ashton Cooper / Mila Kunis, and Jim Skrip / Vanessa Williams. Our best to these lucky people.
The Kardashians are still making noise - this time it’s Khloe. She and basketball’s James Harden are an item,( as was rumored), and were seen in Las Vegas about a week ago. Also in town, at the same time, were ex-hubby Lamar Odom, and rap star Trina, James' former squeeze. A good scenario for TV’s “Wife Swap.” Bottom line is that nobody really cares anymore.
How about The Espy Award for Courage going to Caitlyn Jenner. She will be seen on national TV and this to me is just part of a promotion for the show. Caitlyn should not make a fool of herself as she claims she made this change so she could live her life honestly. Must say she does appear more relaxed and at peace with herself.
Are the cast changes at Real Housewives of Atlanta and Beverly Hills the beginning of the end for this franchise? NeNe Leakes (Atlanta) and Brandi Glanville (Beverly Hills) are leaving or have left and rumors are flying that more changes are coming. These two women are very strong characters and will be hard to replace. NeNe is reportedly working on a project with Betty White.
Mariah is back at the Colosseum from July 8-26 . She’s here with her new boyfriend, billionaire James Packet, and rumors have it that a possible wedding just may be on the horizon. Wouldn’t we like to see the “pre-nups”!
Britney Spears is still doing great business.at Planet Hollywood’s Axis Theater, Celine will soon be back and Olivia Newton John is a hit at The Flamingo. Coming soon are Janet Jackson (two nights only), at the Axis nine shows at the Venetian with Diana Ross in November and then in January, Jennifer Lopez. Las Vegas, “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” is fast becoming “The Diva Capital of The World.” C’mon in ladies, the water’s fine!
Last week I officiated at my first two gay weddings. These nuptials were held at English Garden Flower Shop where my friend, owner/designer David Filter, will open a coffee shop in September. Imagine sipping your coffee surrounded by beautiful flowers. You soon will be able to do that. Shades of “Food Among the Flowers” in Miami back in the days. And much more news about the Rev. Monti and his gay wedding chapel, to follow soon.
The SLS (formerly the Sahara) is busy trying to bolster its lackluster business. They will be presenting stand-up comedy at the Sayers Club on Thursday-Saturday weekends in a joint venture between the hotel and Bonkerz Comedy Club. Much needed live entertainment is reportedly planned for the ailing hotel/casino.
The courts have unsealed 2005 documents which reveal Bill Cosby’s admission that he gave Quaaludes to some young women in order to have sex with them. This shows that the Cosby good boy on stage image and the Cosby bad boy “behind the curtain” image were far removed from each other. TV Land, Netflix, and Bounce TV have reportedly severed affiliations with this once beloved star.
So far, no arrests have been made and, as Whoopie Goldberg has said, a man is innocent until PROVEN guilty, and that there are only allegations so far. If guilty he should pay for the crime, if not, a public apology would be in order. However, in these cases, there will always be doubts in the public’s eye.
Another beloved TV star, Tom Selleck has been accused of “stealing “ water for his farm by the Ventura Count Water District. They allege that he had a tank truck syphon off water from a public hydrant 12 times over the last 2 years. Though not considered a crime, the count is trying to force him to stop. No comment from Selleck as yet. Ho hum.
The Rev. Monti once again wishes you the best.
MONTI-LICIOUS JULY 6, 2015
This has been quite a week what with the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriages throughout the U.S.A.This gives gays the same marriage rights as straights, rights that were never before recognized in the gay community. Survivors will now have protection of assets and power to make medical decisions, which are so important when one of the couple passes away. I do hope that gays will not jump into marriage just because it is now legal without seriously thinking of the ramifications of such a union. It is not for all of us.
Sometimes a marriage certificate is the beginning of the end of a relationship. I am not against same-sex marriages, but in my case my partner and I have been together for almost 39 years, and at this time don't feel it necessary to make any changes. What I do say is; see a lawyer and get a prenup before you do any thing else.
Gay Pride parades across the country celebrated this victory in a big way. In New York were first time attendees and grand marshals of the parade, actors Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. These two great British actors appear together in the PBS sitcom, “Vicious.”
In the middle of all the gay brouhaha is the announcement of the upcoming wedding of Las Vegas entertainer Frank Marino and log-time partner Alex Schechter. Their wedding will be held at Disney World and will air on Bravo. Frank plans to wear a white tuxedo and a veil while Alex will wear a black tux (how ordinary)-just kidding. Let’s face it, not all gay weddings will be like this one. As a gay reverend, I have officiated at several gay weddings performed in a traditional manner.
The wonderful Suzanne Somers show will return in September after she fulfills commitments for July and August made prior to her signing on at the Westgate. Her closing show last week was dedicated to Steve Lawrence who was in the audience. Suzanne and the late Edie Gorme along with Steve became good friends over the years and Suzanne sang one of Edie’s favorite songs.
Steve and Suzanne had a great time backstage, reminiscing about “the good old days” and their connection to Frank Sinatra. This was a show in itself, and my partner and I enjoyed being there to see their reunion and even at one point being part of it. Hopefully, the marketing strategy will change so as to afford Suzanne a larger audience. As I said before, it is difficult to draw an audience to a stand-alone hotel and not have the coverage that a Strip conglomerate offers. They advertise their entertainers with posters and video promos in all their venues.
Changes at the Westgate include the addition of Paragon Gaming to operate the casino and to Red Mercury Entertainment to oversee entertainment at the hotel. Suzanne Sizzles and Elvis have separate contracts and are not included in the Red Mercury deal. Paragon is hoping to increase traffic at the Westgate as it did at the Riviera just before its demise. By the way, we had wonderful dinner before that show at Sid’s Café, where the food and service are great.
Let’s hope they don’t change that.
Mariah Carey has ‘profited’ in a big way due to her friendship with Brett Ratner. Brett has directed some of her fabulous videos and recently introduced her to Australian billionaire James Packer. James and Mariah are now in what seems to be a serious relationship. Her $ millions and his $ billions make for quite a combination. Brett, a movie mogul, can now add matchmaker to his resume.
Brett’s mother, Marsha, was back in town last week and treated me to three days of breakfasts and a visit to the Claude Baruk salon. It was great to get a manicure and pedicure at this salon, considered to be one of the best. Clientele includes some of he world’s best known celebrities (and now, me). Thank you Marsha, you are a true friend.
Donald Trump has really done it this time. He made some insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants and the Latin population in the USA. Univision said they would not air the Miss Universe pageant and NBC also cut ties with Miss USA and MIss Universe, both of which are Trump owned or co-owned projects.
Other huge corporations also reportedly cutting ties with Trump are Macy’s and Televisa, to name some. He has filed a $500 million lawsuit against Univision and is considering filing a lawsuit against NBC. In my humble opinion this man will soon be known more for his “big mouth” than anything else. Stay in real estate, and finance Donald, you don’t belong in The White House and besides, you make Paula Deen seem like Mother Threresa.
Celine Dion fans have a chance to be part of her new show when she returns the Colosseum on Aug 27th. Those interested should make a video of themselves doing their rendition of “I Drove ALL Night” and submit them for consideration. Those that are accepted will be shown in a montage on the huge screen on that stage. For information please visit www.celinedion.com or www.celineinvegas.com. Maybe you’ll be noticed and a new star will be born.
Canadian entertainer, Gordie Brown, is celebrating Canada Day by offering one free pair of tickets to his show at The Golden Nugget to Canadians interested in seeing the show.during the month of July. All that is needed is a valid government issued ID. For more information please visit www.goldennugget.com of call 866-9446-5336.
One of the last of the "old school" comedians, Jack Carter . passed away at age 93. He was a comic, singer, dancer, actor, emcee and director(you name it who was a steady headliner in Las Vegas from from 1948 into the 1980’. A multi-talented performer, who appeared on Broadway and TV in his own show and worked frequently with Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
He also was a top nightclub performer and he acted in many TV series. He also made more than 50 appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. I was lucky to work with him on two occasions-a very funny man. RIP Jack Carter.
Fourth of July fever was everywhere in town with fireworks galore. More about this next week.
The Rev. Monti once again wishes you the best.