Broadway To Vegas


Copyright February 1, 1999
By: Laura Deni


I always thought when somebody asked what the Las Vegas point spread was they were talking about a sexual position. Seems it also has to do with football. As many fans flocked to Las Vegas this past week-end to attend hotel sponsored Super Bowl parties as showed up in the host city.

On Saturday at the Riviera Hotel Former NFL quarterback Joe Montana signed autographs - for a hefty price - on items such as photos, helmets, footballs and jerseys. Tickets for the autograph session were $100 and $125 for nonpersonalized autographs and $200 for personalized autographs.

The Stardust Hotel hosted a VIP party for 700 of their best bettors and another for 1,000 guests. 130 kegs of beer were tapped. No problem. At least one bathroom is in every Stardust hotel room.

The Calorie Control Council - there really is such a group - declared that the average person watching the game consumed 1,500 calories, and 50 grams of fat during the game.

The multi-billion betting industry was in overdrive. Las Vegas sizzled as over $80 million was legally wagered.


Filming of Duets the movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and directed by her father Bruce got back on track with filming in Las Vegas. Director Paltrow who has had a tough time recovering from having his tonsils removed --- no fun at any age, but even less laughs when you're an adult - managed to yell Roll Em. The film had derailed when Paltrow not only lost his tonsils but the film lost its star.When Gwyneth's engagement to Brad Pitt went into history he bowed out of both pending marriage and the movie.

The Paltrow clan seems to be over their bumpy roads. Gwyneth looked gorgeous with her hair extensions, picking up her Golden Globe Award, is giddy and relieved that both her ailing grandfather, Arnold "Buster" Paltrow, who at 85 is battling stomach cancer, and father are doing better.

As for Duets Scott Speedman who got everyone's attention opposite Keri Russell in Felicity has replaced Pitt. The comedy about a bunch of karaoke singers converging on a contest also stars Emmy winner Andre Braugher and Paul Giamatti, who has been in My Best Friend's Wedding, Saving Private Ryan, and The Truman Show.

Director Paltrow needed to film a scene at the Omaha, Nebraska airport. Using his artistic license he decided that McCarran Airport in Las Vegas looked more like the Omaha airport than the real Omaha airport, so Las Vegas became Omaha.


Don't forget to enter our free drawing for the Columbia Telecommunication Crusader Piano telephone.

When you dial, music plays "Do, Re Mi..." - can be used as a piano-electronic tone ringer with on/off switch - mute key for private conversation - full modular plugs - tone/pulse switchable - hearing aid compatible. Just E-mail us your name and mailing address. See details at end of column.


They called themselves Butterbeans and Susie, Stump and Stumpy, Bojangles, Pigmeat, Moms, The Whitman Sisters, Miller and Lyles. Kid and Coot, Hamtree, Sweet Mama Stringbean, and Black Patti and Her Troubadours.

They sang, danced and told jokes about themselves. They rode trains all night to towns where hotels offered no rooms for blacks. And they weren't surprised when another payday passed and their pockets were still empty.

These were the black practitioners of vaudeville, the live variety show that was the staple of American popular entertainment in the days before the movies.

Records of their work are fragmentary, yet their influence was strong in an ironic way.

Their essence was absorbed by the white mainstream and re-emerged as the greatest "hits" and "routines" of more than a few white film and radio stars of the next era.

Rollin On The T.O.B.A. which opened last week at the 47th Street Theatre, is a salute to the genius and stamina of these brilliant entertainers who toured the black vaudeville circuit known as the T.O.B.A. - Theatre Owners' Booking Association - in the 1920s and 1930's.

Although the T.O.B.A. housed over 80 theatres along the circuit and provided seemingly endless opportunities, it became the enemy and destroying force of black vaudeville. The association provided the bookings, then, with the white theatre owners, financially exploited the black performers.

The performers quickly referred to T.O.B.A. as "Tough On Black Asses."

Rollin On The T.O.B.A. is in honor of the many black vaudevillians that made vaudeville an integral part of American culture. Conceived and written by Ronald "Smokey" Stevens and Jaye Stewart, Rollin On The T.O.B.A. stars Sandra Reaves-Phillips, Rudy Roberson and Jeffrey V. Thompson. David Alan Bunn serves as musical director. Last Thursday Gregory Hines caught the show.


Olympia Dukakis
When The Hamptons International Film Festival staged a winter showing at the Directors' Guild Theatre in New York two weeks ago, panel discussions featured Olympia Dukakis, Roy Scheider, Peter Bogdanovich, Steve Buscemi and Griffin Dunne.

Dukakis and Scheider star in Better Living a highly acclaimed independent film that is a film version of the play by the same name. Canadian playwright George F. Walker penned the play and co-wrote the screenplay.

I spoke with him by telephone from his home in Canada.

"It's an independent film starring Roy Scheider, Olympia Dukakis, Edward Hermann and Deborah Hedwell," he explained.
Roy Scheider
"It hasn't been released yet, but I've seen the final cut of it. They did it cheap and I like that. It's independent, so who knows what the audiences will be. It was filmed in New York, but it's going to Europe first.

The stellar movie cast had been aware of the script through the stage play. "Olympia had done the play, so she knew the story," explained Walker. "They got her first and then they got Roy.

This is Walker's first venture into the world of celluloid. His new play The End of Civilization opened January 22 at the Sightline Stage Co.

It's easier to become a star than a successful playwright. Walker, who is considered Canada's most successful playwright, discussed his road to success.

"I have a working class background - a blue collar background. My father was a laborer. All that means is that I wasn't destined to have a life in the arts. But people reached out and said - we're trying to start a theater culture here in Canada and wanted people from all type of backgrounds - to see what they do and how they interpret. Because it was inviting like that, I grabbed it!" explained the playwright.
George Walker
Photo by: David Laurence
"There is what is called the Canada Council for the Arts. They give individual grants - especially for emerging artists. So, there is an operation in place to help artists. Everyone has benefited from that to some extent. I have, for sure. When I was younger, in particular.

Walker's works have included both comedy and drama. "They all have a common tone," he explained. "I call them serious comedies. They all have a comic tone to some degree I suppose, but they are serious. Sometimes they call them dark comedies. That just means that people are still getting used to them. More and more they are entwined.

"I kind of live in the world," he continued. "Everything that bothers and concerns most people, bothers me, perhaps to a greater degree or more intensely, but I have an outlet for it. So the things that can move a play can be the minute thing - a moment can be amplified in a play. It can underpin your whole life. Mostly the characters just start to talk in my head."

From his head to a note pad. "I write in longhand. Then I enter it into a computer and then re-write on a computer. But, the first draft is in longhand. I write anywhere, any time," he laughed.

Plays rest in the hands of directors and Walker has been blessed with directors who view his scripts from the same emotional eyes. "You have licensing rights, if you are that concerned about how they are going to interpret the script," responded Walker. "You get to know the people who want to do your plays. You don't give the rights over to people," he said then admitted "sometimes I just close my eyes and just give them to anyone. You have to consider the things that are out there. It's getting to know the people who are going to do them. You can't do it yourself. You can't travel the road. There has to be some sort of freedom of interpretation. You have to think that the director only enhances.
Photo by: Carol Rosegg
Walker's current New York production The End of Civilization is being directed by Randy White. Possessing an extensive background, White was a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab in 1997 and 1998 and is a reader-dramaturg for the Development Program at The Joseph Papp Public Theater. Next season White will be the Resident Staff Director at The Acting Company.

"He's done my work before. And, I've known him for three years," said Walker about White.

Commenting on The End of Civilization Walker reflected that he "noticed when it was up here in Canada The End of Civilization could reach people. It's about a middle class couple in deep deep distress. There is a big heart there, in the work, I think. And, a lot of concern. It's very much an actor's play. So, there is a lot of room for them to feel things and pass that feeling on.

"Again, I'm considered a working class writer - blue collar writer- and there aren't many of us around. Not many people wrote about those characters. I don't write about professionals. "

Walker spent a year as playwright in-residence at the NY Shakespeare Festival during which time his play Zastrozzi had its NY premiere. Recalling those days Walker commented, "Joe (Papp) was around and it was okay. I made some good friends living in New York for most of the year. I always though that Papp was more interesting than most of the things that made it to the stage. He was a fascinating guy."

As to the changing American theatre scene Walker observed that "it's kind of got a wider spectrum, a more political tone coming. I used to think that American theatre was almost void of a political conscious. And, I think it's starting to work it's way in. People are kind of taking a stand on something."

Walker has recently completed a new play. "It's called Heaven about religion, race, crime betrayal and love. It all takes place in a big city park."

"The play was commissioned by the Canadian Stage Company. I guess the parallel would be the Lincoln Center. So, I just give it to them and they do with it whatever they want, because they own it. It has a home already. I just had to go do it," he said referring to writing the piece. "But, other than that, it has a place to go to."

"A Canadian publisher publishes it and then eventually other people start to become involved." Walker speaks modestly about the situation that would be any playwright's dream - being paid to write whatever you wanted to write and knowing that the work would be published and produced.

Walker acknowledged, "having a home for a play is a good thing."

Walker , who lives in Canada with his second wife and their daughters ages seven and 13, also has a 31 year old daughter from a first marriage. "I started early," he laughed. "The oldest was born when I was 19." He chuckled again when he admitted that his children "have given me a lot to write about."

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SIEGFRIED AND ROY tonight, February 1st, celebrate their 10th year at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas and their 4,000th performance by premiering their new finale, followed by a press reception.

RED BUTTONS celebrates his 80th birthday Friday, February 5, by working. He's cast as Bruce Willis' father and Betty White's husband in the Rob Reiner film The Story of Us. If that's not enough to keep him busy, Buttons, who spent decades complaining that he never got a dinner- finally gets one. He'll be fed and feted at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Among the many singing Happy Birthday; Candy and Aaron Spelling, Betty and Gerald Ford, Anthony Quinn, and Larry King.


WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION plans to demolish the former Debbie Reynolds Hotel in Las Vegas and build a 1,000 room wrestling themed resort in its place. The slam to the ground will begin late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter pending approval by time share holders in the Debbie Reynolds Hotel. The new resort will open about a year later.

HILTON HOTELS filed a $5 million lawsuit Friday, January 29, against North Carolina based Paramount Parks, Inc., the company that helped build the Hilton's new Star Trek: The Experience attraction, claiming major redesigns of the project delayed the opening and cost the Hilton resort money.

FOUR SEASONS RESORT opening March 2 in Las Vegas transferring 150 of their top employees from other Four Seasons properties to help staff the Las Vegas resort. The 424 room non gaming hotel will have private entrances, restaurants and spas located on floors 35 to 39 of the Mandalay Bay Resort.

ANNIE GET YOUR GUN the much anticipated rewritten musical revival starring the multi-talented Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopak begins previews tomorrow February 2 in NYC.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN starring Brian Dennehy in previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre NYC for a February 10th opening - the 50th anniversary of the first performance of this Arthur Miller classic.

THE BRIDE OF OLNEYVILLE SQUARE presented by The Montauk Project, is a new play by Edward Allan Baker, directed by Robert Castle, which opened yesterday, January 31, at The Pantheon Theatre. Set in Providence, Rhode Island, the play centers around Grace Burke, a woman who has learned to survive being married to men.

MATTHEW BRODERICK has returned to Broadway for the first time since his 1996 Tony Award-winning performance in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. The husband of Sarah Jessica Parker can be found at the Lyceum Theatre starring in the 1936 Emlyn Willliams thriller Night Must Fall, in which he plays a charming psychopathic killer who carries round a hatbox containing the head of one of his victims. The play has also had two film versions; one in 1937 with Robert Montgomery, the other in 1964 with Albert Finney. Broderick's stage version runs through April 11.

JAMES NAUGHTON who was a sensation in City of Angels opens his one-man show at the Promenade Theater on February 4. One of the investors/producers is Mike Nichols. Naughton is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama. He made his New York debut in Arvin Brown's production of Long Day's Journey Into Night His association with Nichols goes back to when Naughton was appearing at the Long Warf regional theater in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Nichols and his then comedy partner Elaine May. The multi-talented Naughton previously performed his one man song fest at the Manhattan Theater Club.

PRESENT LAUGHTER the frothy comedy by Noel Coward has a February 4-21 run at Theatre Charlotte in North Carolina.

THE RUSSIAN NATIONAL BALLET will perform Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty February 9 and 10 at the Art Ham Hall, Las Vegas. The artistic director of the Russian National Ballet is Sergei Radchenko, who was previously principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet. He also is the founder and artistic director of the Moscow Festival Ballet.


NATALIE COLE for the first time ever performs with her uncle, piano and singer Freddy Cole, at the Blue Note in NYC February 2,3 and February 5-8.

DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGAS the original New York Mimi in Rent has joined the touring company. Rent is at the Shubert in Los Angeles.

JEFFREY SOLIS takes over as Managing Director of The Vineyard Theatre today, February 1, after four and a half years as Producing Associate at the Producer Circle Co., which co-produced on Broadway the Tony Award winning musical, The Life. Prior to Producer Circle, Solis was Managing Director of the Atlantic Theater Company for three seasons. His extensive background includes Dramaturg/Casting Director for the Paper Mill Playhouse, N.J., and four seasons as Assistant General Manager at the historic Cape Playhouse on Cape Cod. Solis replaces Jon Nakagawa who has been appointed Producer of Contemporary Programming at Lincoln Center.

BOB DYLAN performs a midnight concert March 2 to kick off the new House of Blues in Las Vegas.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG was given the star treatment by Nev. Senator Harry Reid. He took a breather from the Clinton impeachment hearings to host a juice and bagel reception in his Senate office for Goldberg and her steady - actor Frank Langella. Seems the couple has been in Washington, D.C. watching the impeachment circus. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. provided the couple with the coveted impeachment tickets with Reid hosting the nosh.

THE MCGUIRE SISTERS entertained at the Governor's Ball honoring newly elected Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn and his wife, Dema.

When the Guinn's were married 42 years ago the McGuire Sisters were performing at the Riverside Hotel in Reno. The honeymooners saw the show, which was the first time Dema had ever seen the singing trio. The Guinn's have remained McGuire Sisters fans, and specifically requested that the singing sisters perform at the inaugural ball.

The McGuire Sisters surprised the newly elected governor by singing Anniversary Waltz.

While none of the McGuire Sisters' marriages lasted 42 years, Phyllis has had some interesting dating affiliations. She gained infamous stature with her long time relationship with Sam Giancana. The blonde beauty also had a long romance with Dan Rowan of Rowan and Martin fame.

HALLMARK CARDS is gearing up to shoot a new commercial and needs to construct a family. Males and females, any age or ethnicity to play family members reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting - comedic ability preferred. In addition to a great resume' addition, you'll be paid. Shooting starts in late March in Los Angeles. Send pictures and resume' to; Jean Cochrane, 3656 Sunswept Dr., Studio City, CA 91604


Remember to enter our free Valentine drawing for the piano telephone. When you dial, music plays "Do, Re, Mi..." Can be used as a piano. Hearing aid compatible. Just E-mail us your name and post office mailing address. One entry per person per week. See Jan. 11th column for complete rules and regulations.

Next Column: February 8, 1999
Copyright: February 1, 1999. All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary, Photographs or Graphics from any Broadway To Vegas (TM) columns may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, utilized as leads, or used in any manner without permission, compensation and/or credit.
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Laura Deni

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