If it hadn't been for Louis Prima and Keely Smith there never would have been a Sonny and Cher.
Last Saturday AMC aired Louis Prima: The Wildest which covered the discovery of Prima
of the lady who would become Keely Smith and her transformation into a superstar.
Often referred to as "The Mona Lisa of Song," the Indian-Irish lass whose devotion to her
younger brother was a touching part of the movie, has had a lifetime devotion to good music.
Louis and Keely married in 1953 and for the next eight years reigned as one of the all time great
entertainment teams. "Still, the fame never sank in," said Keely. "I never dreamed we were that
big, even though I saw the filled concert halls and clubs week after week. Many years later I
appreciated everything even more."
LOUIS PRIMA and KEELY SMITH starring in the
Sahara Hotel, Las Vegas lounge in 1956.
During the lounge heydays of the 50's and 60's Louis Prima and Keely Smith were the
strongest package on the Las Vegas Strip. His wildness coupled with her deadpan barbs
and that marvelous singing voice catapulted them into icons.
Something to be copied.
Rumors surfaced that Sonny Bono, as half of Sonny and Cher, virtually stole the act.
"Well, I don't know if they stole it, but they copied it - yeah," answered Keely, "but it wasn't that
simple. We had a young man working with us, who today is still with Cher. And, he is my dearest
male friend in the world. And, he told Sonny and Cher what to do and how to do it. Yes, they did
copy us, because he told me that. Yeah, that's true."
SONNY and CHER took their cue
from LOUIS and KEELY
As to whether that was a violation of what is now called intellectual property law Kelly
responded, "No, not really. Actually, they look at it as a form of flattery. And, you know what it
did, too, because at the time sonny and Cher came out, Louie and I had broken up - people really
didn't know who we were. They knew who Sonny and Cher were. When I say people I mean
young people. I would go places and I'd have a 16 or 17 year old come up and ask me for an
autograph. It would amaze me."
"I mean, not places where I sang, but places where I would be.
For instance, the Indianapolis 500 race. I was in the back and a young girl came up and asked me
for an autograph. I asked her how in the world do you know who I am? I said - I'm thrilled that
you do, but how do you know? She said - When Sonny and Cher came along my mother and
father went back and dug out all of the Louie and Keely albums. I'm sure there are a lot of families
who are doing that."
"You know," added the amazed Smith, "it was true. A lot of kids knew who I was because of
Sonny and Cher."
The lady who looks decades younger that her years neither drinks nor smokes. "I never did
smoke. When Louie and I broke up I started drinking a little bit, but I can't handle it. I'm not a
good drinker. I also don't like the taste of it, so I stopped."
What the five-foot-three-inch bundle of talent hasn't stopped doing is recording and performing.
Her voice has lost none of its artistic, romantic, almost flawless voice. If you see Keely Smith on a
marquee - buy a ticket. You won't be disappointed.
BREWING UP SOME
It's art imitating life for Lucie Arnaz who is going to star in the musical stage production of
Witches of Eastwick, based on the movie which starred Cher and Jack Nicholson.
LUCIE ARNAZ will cast spells
In that picture three modern-day witches, to brighten up their lives, innocently plot and conjure
over a heady brew of weak Martinis and peanut butter brownies. What arrives in "Daryl Van
Horne," played by Nicholson, in whom their fantasies are made flesh.
Lucie admits that her role in this new musical is art imitating like. The talented daughter of Lucille
Ball, confessed that people would be shocked if they knew how close this theatrical role was to
her own past. Years ago Lucie gave permission for a New York based "psychic consultant" to list
her name in ads as a "client."
The musical stage version of Witches of Eastwick, begins previews beginning June 24
officially opening July 18 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London, welcoming Ian McShane
back to the West End after a 30-year absence. He'll be making his musical debut as Van
McShane who gave many an unforgettable performance in numerous forgettable motion pictures,
gained worldwide fame as the star of Lovejoy. He won the Van Horne part after an year
long world wide search with rumors circulating that Michael Crawford was in the lead.
"The part requires a very experienced comic actor with spellbinding sexy charm and, having a
large number of songs to sing, the panache of a Broadway musical star," announced the producer
Cameron Mackintosh. "That we have found all these qualities in Ian McShane, who has always
sung but has never been tempted to do a musical before, is a wonderful stroke of fate and I owe it
to Lionel Bart for once tipping me off that Ian sang."
Also casting their spells in this musical are Oliver Award winning actresses Maria Friedman as
Sukie and Joanne Riding as Jane. Arnaz, who will be making her London stage debut plays
The Witches of Eastwick is by John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe and is based on the
novel by John Updike and the Warner Bros. Motion Picture. Orchestrations are by William David
Brohn, musical supervision by David Caddick, sound design by Andrew Bruce and lighting design
by Howard Harrison. The show will be designed by Bob Crowley, with choreography by Bob
Avian and Stephen Mear, and Eric Schaeffer directs the Macintosh
SIEGFRIED AND ROY; A NEW
KNEE AND A NEW AWARD
SIEGFRIED AND ROY being congratulated by their
producer KENNETH FELD Photo By; Laura Deni
Completing a decade of performances at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, Siegfried & Roy have
become the most lucrative production in the history of live performance.
At a reception following their February 1st performance hotel mogul Steve Wynn didn't mince
words when he lauded the accomplishments of his stellar attraction. "When we were getting ready
to build the Mirage, Siegfried and Roy was the safest entertainment show we could pick because
they were already Las Vegas' all-time greatest attendance attraction.
"By orders of magnitude, nobody has ever drawn the kind of attendance that they have. In terms
of numbers of people who have witnessed their performance, no one has come close - Elvis
Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme and
Wayne Newton all put together don't approach Siegfried and Roy.
STEVE WYNN trumpeting Siegfried and Roy as
having better house counts than Elvis. Photo By: Laura Deni
Not all exotic creatures are of the four legged variety.
Two beauties passed out stuffed white tigers to those attending the ceremony. Photo By: Laura
"When Elvis Presley worked in Las Vegas two months a year, he had empty seats," added Wynn.
"Siegfried and Roy have years of full capacity attendance on a regular basis. Anyone who thinks
they can do what Siegfried & Roy have achieved will simply discover that it's
"When Siegfried & Roy first arrived in Las Vegas, they were told that magic doesn't work in
this town," continued the hotel mogul. "Not a single marquee had the word magic or a magician's
name. Today, due to Siegfried & Roy, it's difficult to find one that doesn't."
Wynn emphasized that in completing a decade of performing at The Mirage, Siegfried & Roy
have become the most popular and lucrative production in the history of live performance,
stressing that "sold-out nightly audiences have skyrocketed Siegfried and Roy box office to the
Both Siegfried & Roy as well as Wynn lauded John Napier who is co-creator, co-director and
designer of the Mirage production. Napier designed many of the biggest theatrical successes of
the last decade including Cats, Starlight Express, Les Miserables and Miss
LYNETTE CHAPPELL watches the presentation
Photo By; Laura Deni
His other credits include Time, Equus, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas
Nickelby and numerous productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has created
award-winning designs for ballet and opera, and was the art director for Captain EO, the 3-D film
starring Michael Jackson and the film Hook for Steven Spielberg.
Also singled out was the Lynette Chappell, who has been Siegfried and Roy's alluring sorcerers
apprentice for more than 25 years.
Wynn also surprised Roy by announcing that the magician would have to undergo a knee
replacement within the next two years - due to injuries suffered during the performance. Roy had
been keeping his medical condition a secret. (NOTE: In actuality, the surgery and recovery had
already taken place).
During the reception the illusionists were named Magicians of the Century by their fellow
magicians - member of the International Magicians Society (I.M.S.)
Awarding them the
prestigious Millennium Merlin Award, was IMS Chairman Tony Hassini. In magic, the Merlin
statuette is the equivalent of the Oscar, Emmy or Tony.
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COMEDY FEST SPAWNS STRANGE
Internet CEO's and TV Network executives will cuddle up and talk to each other during the U.S.
Comedy Arts Festival, Feb. 9-13 in Aspen, Co.
For the first time a platform discussion will take place about the future of communications.
Lending their thoughts will be ABC's Stu Bloomberg, Fox's Peter Chernin, CBS's Leslie Mooves
and Warner Brothers' Jamie Kellner, Internet executives Jim Banister of Warner's On Line,
Margaret Heffernan of iCast and Leo Hindery of Global Center round out the panel.
It's not all serious at the comedy fest. A special feature will include a tribute to Jerry Lewis and a
celebration of the Smothers Brothers, famed for more than 30 years for their humorous biting
Robin Williams will receive the AFI Star Award for his work in films and TV. Writer, director and
producer Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam, Diner, Analyze This,) will
be honored with the festival's Filmmaker Award.
HANDEL MAKES A JOYFUL
In 1741, Georg Friedreich Handel's career was at its lowest point. The son of a barber-surgeon
was suffering from a chronic illness - bouts of anxiety and depression and possibly strokes, some
have theorized that he suffered central nervous system lead poisoning associated with his
imbibing of cheap port! His operas were failing, his debts mounting, his royal champion, Queen
Caroline, was dead. Then a remarkable manuscript arrived at his door.
Messiah marked an important turning point in Handel's composing career.
Joyful Noise, a new two act play with music, which begins previews Saturday at the
Lamb's Players Theatre, New York, presents the passion, the politics and the true story of the
conspiracy that nearly prevented the first London production of Handel's
To mount the production, Handel had to overcome a sex scandal involving his chosen soprano,
the loss of King George II's patronage, and strong opposition.Although Handel had suffered a
stroke at 52, his Messiah was debuted when he was 57. While Messiah was
enthusiastically received following its in aid of charities premiere in Dublin in 1741-42, in
England there were problems. There was opposition by influential Bishops who were appalled at a
sacred work being performed in a secular theatre by "lewd" actors and singers.
Performed on a simple set by an elaborately costumed cast, Joyful Noise includes snippets
of Handel's music and the famed Hallelujah Chorus.
Joyful Noise marks Lamb's Players Theatre's
New York debut
Joyful Noise is directed by Robert Smyth and features Tom Stephenson as Handel. Mary
Miller, Deborah Gilmour Smith, Susannah Cibber and Kitty Clive are featured.
Written by Tom Slover, the cast includes David Cochran Heath, Paul Eggington, Doren Elias and
Linda Bush. The design team includes David Thayer (Set and Lighting), Jeanne Reith (Costume
Design) and Greg Campbell (Sound Design.)
Joyful Noise marks Lamb's Players Theatre's New York debut. Since its beginning in
1971, Lamb's Players has become one of Southern California's leading performing arts
The San Diego based non-profit theatre has produced over 200 productions, 28 San
Diego premiers and 31 world premieres. It is the region's third largest theatre company with
8,000 season subscribers and remains Southern California's only year-round repertory company.
Joyful Noise was discovered in 1998 at the Lamb's Players Writer's Week - an annual
script development program now in its 5th year.
Joyful Noise at the Lamb's Theatre, New York officially opens February 17 for a
OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY
had his Hamilton Cigar Bar at New York-New York Resort in Las Vegas snuffed out. The 25 employees
were given no notice that the ash trays were dumped for the last time on Monday.
The totally charming and terminally tan actor was frequently seen in the cigar bar.
attention priorities shifted when he began dating author Danielle Steele at about the
same time a
former girlfriend announced she was pregnant with his child. She has
recently given birth.
gossips wag that the Hamilton/Steele romance may also be headed for the ash can. At one point
insiders had Steele and Hamilton planning to wed in Las Vegas with Hamiltons hosting the
wedding reception - something that frequently happened until New York-New York divorced itself
from the wedding chapel business.
which opens Monday, February 14 at the Blue Heron Arts Center is staging an opening night benefit for The
Willow Cabin Theatre Company.
Written by Lynn Rosen and directed by Miriam Weiner, the production stars; Cynthia Besteman,
John Billeci, Ken Forman, Larry Gleason, Christina Kirk, Kathryn Langwell, Angella Nevard, and
Joel Van Liew.
Performances continue through March 5 at the Blue Heron Arts Center,
NATHAN LANE AND CHRISTINE BARANSKI in a revival of The Man Who Came To Dinner. Jerry Saks will
direct the production at the Selwyn Theater, new home for the Roundabout.
A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTEN written by Eugene O'Neill continues at the Goodman Theater, Chicago
through February 14 and then opens on Broadway March 18 at the Kerr Theatre. The production
stars the magnificent Cherry Jones, portraying the ruined Josie Hogan, with Roy Dotrice cast as
her scheming father. Gabriel Byrne plays James Tyron, Jr., the alcoholic cynic haunted by his
mother's death. This marks Byrne's American stage debut.
SONG & DANCE is Andrew
Lloyd Webber's musical about coming of age in an urban setting. Song & Dance follows a
young Latin American woman's journey of misadventure as she takes on New York. Set to a
pulsating Latin beat, the first act focuses on song, while the second one focuses on dance. Two
high-profile leads are the highlight of the performance. Splitting the role of Marta are pop star
Lisette and ballerina Myrna Kamara. Lissette, a top-10 Latin-American artist whose newest CD is
"Amor de Luna, plays Marta in the "song" half of the evening; Kamara, formerly with the
Miami City Ballet and New York City Ballet, dances Marta in the second half. February 8 - March 12.
Coconut Grove Playhouse, Miami, Fl.
ALVIN ALLEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER Broward Center-Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida February
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS has
joined the cast of Sweeney Todd a concert version presented by the New York
after an absence
of more than a decade returned to Las Vegas and brought the star studded audience to their
collective feet. So many times - in fact - that it was a wonder she could perform at all. Jumping
to their feet and clapping were Siegfried and Roy, Lynette Chappell, Carl Ichan, Rich Little, Vera
and Robert Goulet and Phylis McGuire, among other.
Shirley may have set a standing ovation record for the MGM-Grand. That wouldn't come as a
shock, since the song sylist routinely places her mark. She set the still unequaled record for live
performances in London's Royal Festival Hall, SRO for nine consecutive nights and in 1995 she
sold out Carnegie Hall for 12 consecutive nights.
The elegant lady - youngest of seven children - who worked in a sausage factory as a teenager -
knows the benefits of a live orchestra and utilized 30 of the best to her advantage. With an
age-defying beauty and a voice nothing beneath sensational, she appears to pick and choose her
venues carefully. If Vegas gets lucky, she'll opt to return. She's at the MGM-Las Vegas through
February 9. If you can get a ticket, it may be worth the effort to fly in.
MICHAEL FEINSTEIN returns to
Carnegie Hall, February 10 for his second in a series of three Weill Recital Hall concerts. The third one
takes place April 6.
ALAN KING the "Master of
Humor" performs his stand up act February 9. Coral Springs City Centre, Coral Springs, Florida.
KANDER & EBB in the Lyrics &
Lyricists Program. The 92nd St Y, NYC February 12,13,14. Tickets $40.
AUDRA MC DONALD guests with
Seth Rudetsky in the celebrity interview section at Don't Tell Mama, NYC on February 10.
LUIS MIGUEL February 12, Orpheum
ROBERT GOULET opens at
Feinstein's in the Regency Hotel, NYC on February 28.
BETTY BUCKLEY Tuesday at the
Art Ham Hall, Las Vegas. Expect her to remain in Las Vegas to see Wayne Newton's show at the
REBA MC ENTIRE takes the stage
Feb. 15 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville. Her show The Singer's Diary
permits the audience to follow her life from 1974 to the present.
K C AND THE SUNSHINE BAND
closes February 6 at the Desert Inn, Las Vegas, performing February 11-12 at Caesars Tahoe, Nevada. KC
is really Henry Cacey. When forming the popular group he took used the initials that sounded like
his last name, without really identifying himself. Reason? He was afraid that if he became
famous and he went into a store to purchase something - if his real name was used as the band
name - he'd be charged more.
BLEEDING HEARTS forget the
chocolates and flowers this coming Valentine's Day week and give your loved one a gift that
really hurts: the truth. Standout stand-up performances by Kathy Griffin, Laura Kightlinger, Julia
Sweeney, and Judy Toll. Skirball Center, L.A. February 11.
THIS AND THAT
JEKYLL & HYDE BLOOD DRIVE
took place last Friday in Salt Lake City. In a clever alliance, The Red
Cross teamed up with the touring company of Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical to suck some
blood. Jekyll & Hyde at Salt Lake's Capitol Theatre closes tonight. The Red Cross' need
for blood is ongoing.
LAWMAKERS AND MENTAL HEALTH which could be an oxymoron. Regardless, in Albany, New York legislators
will supply the ingredients and prepare their favorite recipes - billed as Lawmakers Who Cook -
sponsored by the Foundation for Mental Health, Inc. The event takes place tomorrow, Feb. 7. No
word as to whether ambulances will be standing by.
STIFLE, STIFLE, STIFLE last
Tuesday some bore yawned so "hippopotamus-like" during Dinner With Friends
that it was all Matthew Arkin and Lisa Emery could do not to
break character. However, she was
shaken by the oaf and none of the cast was pleased - so displeased in fact that they refused to take
their curtain calls. Blockheads who leave cell phones on, talk, unwrap anything or don't
have public manners should stay at home in the privacy of their own rudeness and rent a movie.
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Next Column: February 12, 2000
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