Broadway To Vegas


Copyright: November 7, 1999
By: Laura Deni


They may have been slow to learn, but classical performers have finally discovered that sex sells. The result is a new generation of performers who have melded glam and Bach - who wrote the most famous works for violin and cello solo. The pedestrian crowd has gotten turned on to both the performers and the music.

Performers of classical music are taking a cue from the pop/rock performers and using a slick sex sells approach to win fans. While some classical appearance purists are getting their Bach up about this, many are discovering that it isn't a crime for a good looking classical performer to flaunt the personal assets.

Singapore born violinist Vannessa-Mae has the passion of a punk rocker and the skilled training and musical acumen of the classical techno acoustic violinist that she is. Her album The Violin Player ran up the charts in over twenty countries. She was the first instrumentalist and classical musician to be nominated for Best Female Artist in the United Kingdom's BRIT Awards, which is a mainstream pop award.

The Ahn Trio was highlighted in a Vogue layout titled "Sister Acts," in which the comely threesome showed off their sex appeal. Wearing cream colored Christian Dior creations, Vogue commented: "They adore things like jackets filched from their mothers' seventies closet, side-split skirts picked up from quirky stores in the Village and fur-trimmed, zebra-print shoes from Dolce & Gabbana."

Wendy Warner, a protege of cellist Mstislav Rostropovich is a beauty with a look's savvy agency, CHL Artists of Beverly Hills. They had sensual photographs shot of her.

Classical artists are not after a younger, more hip audience, as much as they are simply after - any audience. Classical music was created with the flaunting statement of not appealing to the masses. Chamber music wasn't for everyone, which meant almost no one. It was originally played in chambers - or private rooms - rather than in churches or public halls. Although there are some stuffed shirts who are becoming unstrung at the thought of classical performers taking theirs off, most stodgy devotees are dying out or forgetting how to run the gramophone. Music that was once intended for only small groups has gone mainstream. Youth and beauty are keeping the tune, but changing the beat.

A wonderful zest has developed to attract audiences and CD buyers. That means money, power and popularity for those who want to turn the classics into a living above the poverty line.

Lara St. John, a prodigy who made her European debut at age 10, is pictured nude from the navel up with her violin strategically placed across her breasts. The album sold 2,000 copies during its first two weeks. She is also booked to play between 50-90 concerts a year in America and Canada. Not a box office threat to Ricky Martin, but considerably better than the usual raked in by a classical violinist.

Traditionally, classical female musicians were outfitted in the staid and boring black to the floor skirts, and a frilly white blouse. Then somebody discovered that the players didn't forget how to read music if they were fashionably outfitted.

The Mediaeval Baebes, are a dozen young women, dressed in flimsy white costumes. They talk about sex and the occult, while singing classical music. Their debut album Salva Nos, a New Age take on Gregorian chants, sold 60,000 copies in the United Kingdom during the first six months of release. That earned the album a Silver Record.

Not bad.

Granted, the new classical generation isn't the first to discover that sex sells. Cellist Charlotte Moorman performed topless during the 60's and 70's. During that same time frame, when every Las Vegas showroom had a live orchestra, there was a standing joke told by the performer. The comedian or singer would glance backwards, notice the cello held between the female player's thighs and quip: "When I die I want to be reincarnated as a cello." The audience always laughed.

These aren't crass strippers using a musical instrument as a gimmick, ala the You Gotta Have a Gimmick song from Gypsy. Rather, these are the child proteges, the highly trained, accomplished classical artists who are utilizing slick promotion, and a hipper image to break through the "we play classical music, so don't tell anybody" mind set.

Finnish violinist Linda Brava is a Pamela Anderson Lee look alike - before Pamela had her implants yanked out. Brava does her stuff on stage wearing hot pants and a halter top. Helene Grimaud is a French born piano sensation; Sarah Chang and Leila Josefowicz are violinists who are beautiful and know when you've been blessed with pulchritude - flaunt it.


More than 250,000 conventioneers are about to descend upon Las Vegas. Eighty per cent of the cities in the world don't have a population of 250,000. The multitude is migrating to Las Vegas to attend COMDEX, the world's largest trade show.

The computer gurus bring with them an interest in computers and girlie shows.

Deciding to cater to what the traffic demands, the Riviera Hotel once again turns on a sensuous allure for COMDEX conventioneers with the Crazy Girls Fantasy Revue. This year the normally R-rated Crazy Girls becomes XXX stars with special guest adult film stars Jenna Jameson, Las Vegas' very own home grown; magazine supermodel Nikki Tyler and recording artist/model Heather Hunter.

Nobody under 21 will be admitted to the shows.

Executive Vice President Robert Vannucci of the Riviera explained, "Some of the best known adult film stars will join the Crazy Girls on stage during COMDEX Week, Nov. 13-Nov. 18. This is the fifth year that we are changing our entertainment policy to accommodate the 225,000-plus people attending COMDEX."

We're the only hotel in Las Vegas that caters to the tastes of gentlemen who attend COMDEX," continued Vannucci. "We have classy and tasteful entertainment. We produce a theatrical production with some of the sexiest women in the world."

Vanucci added, "While a dozen shows had to close their doors for the week last year, we addressed the tastes of COMDEX conventioneers. The crowds were extremely enthusiastic. All eight shows were sold out over four nights so this year we are doing a dozen shows over six nights."

Jenna Jameson has done 43 XXX films and Private Parts. The 5'4" blue-eyed beauty was once a ballerina, who traded her tights and point shoes for fishnet pantyhose and pumps.

Nikki Tyler turned to nude modeling to subsidize her college studies in clinical psychology. She quickly analyzed her own situation, crossed over into films and became a XXX mega star. Nikki starred in Bobby Sox which was voted Adult Film of the Year in 1996. She was a Penthouse Pet in December of 1995 Her latest DVD, titled Virtual Sex With Nikki Tyler, will be out soon. Another new release, Hell on Heels, co-starring with Jameson, is due for release this month.


An unusual combination of music and poetry from Italy will be staged at the Harvard University Club in NYC on Nov 12.
The spoken voice of Edoardo Sanguineti coupled with the double bass of Stefano Scodanibbio begins the evening. Sanguineti has been a driving force in Italian avant-guarde poetry since the early Sixties. Scodanibbio's name has been linked with the renaissance of the double bass.

Also on the program are Umberto Fiori and Tommy Leddi. Fiori is a poet, lyricist and singer, who has collaborated with progressive rock musicians - Italy's Stormy Six and England's Chris Cutler. He also wrote the libretto for Luca Francesconi's Ballata, the opera based on Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Tommy Leddi is a composer of acoustic and electronic music, and his collaboration with Fiori dates back to the Seventies, when they were members of Stormy Six. He has recently released a CD of computer music Algoritmo Ballabile.

The performances are part of the Binding of the Lands: Present Day Poets, Present Day Poetry. The conferences and performances are free and open to the public.


As part of the Cultural Affairs Department's millennium festivities, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan used the Geffen Playhouse as the location yesterday to proclaim "Theatre Week" in Los Angeles through Nov. 14.

The event coincides with Monday's Ovation Awards, the Edge of the World Theater Festival and the Mark Taper Forum's New World Festival.

In Chicago nominations for the 1999 Joseph Jefferson Awards have been announced. The Goodman Theatre topped the list with a total of 18 nominations for its Tony award winning revival of Death of a Salesman. The Drury Lane Oakbook and Drury Lane Theatre brought in l6 and 12 nominations, respectively. The Lookingglass Theatre Company received 12 nominations, the most the innovative company has ever received.

The 31st annual "Jeff" awards will be presented Nov. 8 at the Park West.


HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY ITCH premiere in Los Angeles at the Henry Fonda Theatre raised more than $750,000 for the Neil Bogart Memorial Fund, which supports cancer research at Los Angeles Children's Hospital. Celebrities attending includes; Ben Affleck, Tracey Ullman, Neil Simon, Paul Reiser, Steven Segal and Rebecca DeMornay.


DAME EDNA Photo By: Joan Marcus
"Australia's First Lady with natural wisteria hair" starring in The Royal Tour at the Booth Theatre is breaking house records.

At the end of October Dame Edna with a daily ticket sales of $90, 654 tickets broke the previous record for the Booth Theatre.

On November 2 Dame Edna again broke the record with $92,741.

On its way to becoming one of the first critical and financial hits of the theatre season, Dame Edna - in her beloved bitchy style - jabbed; "Each week the grosses have been climbing and climbing, while other shows have been dragging a little."

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BLAKE EDWARDS is the subject of a film tribute at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through Nov. 27. The 77-year-old filmmaker will appear in person Nov. 13 for a screening of S.O.B.

BARBRA STREISAND will receive the 2000 Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Press Assn. For her "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field." She will be presented with the award at the 57th Annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony on Jan 23 in Beverly Hills. Streisand has won 10 Golden Globes, more than any other entertainer, including being the first woman to ever win a Golden Globe for best director for her 1983 movie Yentl.


MADELINE KAHN the delightful Tony Award winning actress who announced she is battling ovarian cancer. There isn't a performer who has ever worked with her that doesn't adore this talented lady.

ANDY WILLIAMS has a non life threatening throat problem which has forced him off the stage. His physicians have placed him on "a strict non verbal regime for the next several weeks." Stepping in for the crooner are Pat Boone and his daughter, Debby. They opened their Christmas Show at the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Mo. this past week end and will pinch hit for their friend until the throat docs give Williams the okay to sing. Williams is one of the artists on a new record package called "The Crooners," that Pat Boon's recording company will soon release.

NESBITT BLAISDELL, CYNTHIA HAYDEN, and CHRISTOPHER MURNEY in Frank D. Gilroy's Contact With The Enemy Photo By: Dave Cross
who won the Pulitzer, the Tony Award and the Drama Critics' Circle Award for his play The Subject Was Roses, which was presented on Broadway in 1964 and revived at the Roundabout Theatre in 1991, premieres Contact With the Enemy at the Ensemble Studio Theatre beginning Nov. 10.

Gilroy's play centers around two American combat veterans of WWII, accidentally reunited at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. As the two tour the museum, an uneasy reunion unfolds. Both bore witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust, but each carried a different perspective on the horrors they encountered.

Chris Smith directs Paul Bartholomew, Nesbitt Blaisdell, Kathryn Gayner, Cynthia Hayden, and Christopher Murney.

Sets by Kert Lundell, costumes by Julie Doyle, the lighting by Michael Lincoln, and the sound by Beatrice Terry.

GUTHRIE THEATER TOUR the long defunct Minneapolis based regional touring tradition is being revived. The tour will cover 17 cities in seven states over 12 weeks, beginning Feb. 26 in St. Cloud, MN, with a traveling ensemble of 39. First on the boards A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Guthrie Theater tour is made possible through a gift from Dayton's and Target department stores. Support is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts through the Heartland Arts Fund, a collaboration of Arts Midwest and the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and the Blandin Foundation.

AIDA the new Disney Broadway bound musical, begins previews Nov. 12, with an official opening of December 9 in the refurbished Palace Theatre, Chicago. Now dubbed "the Cadillac of theaters" the theater, which was built in 1926 has been spruced up. Originally a vaudeville venue, the building began falling apart in the 70s. The renovation was geared to be finished to coincide with the Aida opening.

SAIL AWAY Elaine Stritch recreates the role that was written especially for her 38 years ago - that of the delightful cruise director Mimi Paragon - in Noel Coward's musical Sail Away at Carnegie Hall only through November 13. The production is part of the celebration that honors what would have been Coward's 100th birthday on Dec. 16.

IT AIN'T NOTHING BUT THE BLUES Geffen Playhouse Nov. 13-Dec. 19.


ELTON JOHN is traveling across country putting on a show stopping tour. The secret of his success seems to be not to over extend his welcome by performing too often at one location. His performance Wednesday in Omaha, NE was his first there is 17 years. Tickets for the show at the Civic Auditorium Arena - which holds 10, 079 - sold out in less than one hour. Wearing a fire engine red suit and sipping Diet Coke, John delivered a three-hour show that drew standing ovations from the cheering crowd and rave reviews from critics.The rocker even went to the front of the stage to sign autographs.

whose voice could make angels rejoice is in the midst of her Out of Eden Tour.

The ex-wife of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who pocketed a mega million dollar divorce settlement while managing to remain friends with her ex, combines talent, sex appeal, and drama to enthrall and captivate an audience.

Her Las Vegas engagement was a standing ovation sell out.

She performs November 13 in Hamilton, ON in the Copps Coliseum. On December 4 she's in Phoenix, AZ at the Arizona Memorial Coliseum.

TOM JONES delivers the pelvic thrusts on stage at John Ascuaga's Nugget, Sparks, NV November 11-12

GILBERT GOTTFRIED headlines the Catch A Rising Star Comedy Las Vegas, NV on New Year's Eve. The comedian was recently nominated for an Ace Award for hosting his own series Up All Night, on USA where he provides the "relief" in wraparound for the campy B-movies featured there every weekend. He is also a contributing editor for The National Lampoon as well as authoring a recent issue of the comic book, The Adventures of Superboy.

CLAY WALKER the four-time platinum country music star, will perform December 9-10 at the Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas.

ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK slated to make his only 1999 appearance in Las Vegas, performing November 2-6 at the Monte Carlo Hotel, canceled a couple of shows.


THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL continues through Nov. 18th. The 43rd annual festival is showcasing 159 feature, 12 archival and 66 short films from the United Kingdom and 48 countries around the world. The British premieres include Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil, Tim Robbins Cradle will Rock, and Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvey.

WAX MUSEUMS The good folk in New Orleans would like it known that Madame Tussaud's Wax museum in Las Vegas isn't the only wax showcase. The Musee Conti Wax Museum of Louisiana Legends features a tableaux of "Louisiana Legends," including Andrew Jackson, Marie Laveau, Louis Armstrong, Pete Fountain and a haunted dungeon. Guided tours, open daily. New Orleans, LA.

JASON HERVEY who played Wayne Arnold in the TV series The Wonder Years has sued The Little White Chapel in Las Vegas. That's where he and his wife, Shannon, were married Feb. 6, 1998. Their lawsuit claims that the Little White Wedding Chapel sold - without permission - photos of their nuptials to The National Enquirer for $20,000. The wedding chapel operators deny all accusations.

DON RICKLES is going to have his mug pictured on a commemorative $25 gambling chip issued by the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas, where the 73-year old barbed tongued comedian has been signed to perform for another two years. "People can save them, use them at the tables, or give them to me so I can pay off my house," Rickles joked. The chips will be issued when Rickles opens his Dec. 29-31 engagement.

BEANIE BABIES COLLECTION became a custody issue in a Las Vegas divorce this past week. Family Court Judge Gerald Hardcastle ruled that Frances and Harold Mountain should divide up their Beanie Babies collection - valued at between $2,500 to $5,000 - under his supervision in his courtroom. The ex-mates, who have been fighting for months over the stuffed toys, squatted on the courtroom floor, Beanie Babies scattered around them. Under the watchful eye of attorneys, the District Court judge, a bailiff and a court reporter, each picked a Beanie Babies until the collection was divided.

AL CAPP the famed cartoonist of Lil' Abner, created Sadie Hawkins Day on Nov. 9, 1938.

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Next Column: November 14,1999
Copyright: November 7, 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