Broadway To Vegas


Copyright: October 12, 1998
By: Laura Deni


Nicole Kidman is about to not only make her Broadway debut, but do so minus her bloomers.

The gorgeous star made her London stage debut September 23 in The Blue Room starring opposite Iain Glenn. The two actors play five couples in complex sexual entanglements, in a production loosely adapted by British playwright David Hare from La Ronde, the classic play by Austrian Arthur Schnitzler. (See broadwaytovegas Sept. 7 Column)

Nicole, aka Mrs. Tom Cruise, wanted to do this play so badly she agreed to be paid the same as scale - roughly $417.50 per week.

The play demands that she stretch - portraying a teenage hooker, a drug addicted model and a saucy French maid. It's an arduous undertaking that requires her to appear nude in several scenes. Her gamble paid off. She not only received rave reviews, the critics complimented her acting as well as her body.


Jack Wrangler, entertainer Charles Pierce and Margaret Whiting
Ex-porn star Jack Wrangler, 51, husband of 73 year old singer Margaret Whiting, has filed a multi million lawsuit against New York City, Consolidated Edison and City Wide Asphalt Paving, Co. for loss of his wife's conjugal fellowship and championship - i.e. no sex.

Whiting, who has recorded more than 500 songs and was at the top of the record charts in the 40's and 50's filed court papers claiming that she suffered a broken knee April 24 in Manhattan when a pothole caused her to fall into a crosswalk.

Whiting is asking $2 million in damages for her injuries, while Wrangler is seeking $1 million.

It's easier to win the negligence portion. While Loss of Consortium lawsuits have been around since women were considered property, it's a tough win and an embarrassing burden of proof. Legal buffs can take a gander at Roseberry v. Starkovich, Countryman v. Winnebago County and Peeples v. Sargent. It isn't enough to complain - She says; Not tonight, honey. My knee hurts. That won't cut it with the judge. The party has to provide extremely intimate details of all aspects of the sexual activities they did but are no longer enjoying. Presumably with Wrangler's porn background, embarrassment in providing graphic details won't be an issue.

Whiting and Wrangler met in 1977 at a Broadway eatery. At that time Wrangler was doing "a tongue-in-cheek one-man show about the X-rated film industry," he said in an interview discussing their meeting and romance. While he starred in both gay and straight films, Wrangler emphasized, "I could do anything, but in my personal life I was almost asexual; a loner confused about what my future was going to be."

Whiting had been "unhappily married and divorced three times to men with big careers and egos."

So there they were in this diner sitting in booths across from each other.

"In one booth across from me was a lady with all this blond hair, a robust laugh, and lots of fur. I said - I gotta meet her, she looks like so much fun."

As for Whiting, she recalled that she was "physically attracted, and thought he was very funny. When I went to see one of his adult films, it was - like a ballet."

Johnny Mercer
The two have been together ever since.

Whiting is the daughter of the late Richard Whiting, author of, among others; My Ideal, Japanese Sandman, Good Ship Lollypop, Ain't We Got Fun, Sleepy Time Gal, and Too Marvelous For Words. She was virtually raised by her father's collaborator, composer Johnny Mercer.

Her father died when Margaret was 11 and Mercer became "the man in the Whiting family. He later became my grown-up friend, mentor and inspiration." Whiting owns the rights to Mercer songs. She has headed up the Mercer Foundation, which aides up-and-coming songwriters.

Whiting starred in her tribute to Mercer, Dream, which opened at the Royale Theater in 1997.

Since convincing Wrangler to give up the porn movie business, he has managed, directed and written the scripts for Whiting's cabaret act.


Edward R. Murrow
Legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow's career and turbulent relationship with CBS Chairman William Paley is the subject of a new play, A Question of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Edward R. Murrow.

The cast of characters includes Marilyn Monroe, Senator Joseph McCarthy, TV producer Fred Friendly and other notables of the era.

The production, which begins performances Thursday, Oct. 15, at The Producers' Club, is written and directed by Michael Hickey. Employed by Paramount Pictures, Hickey who has authored several screenplays, is making his debut as a playwright.

The play stars Joseph Lustig as Murrow and features; Susan Brandner, John Canary, Don Creech, Michele Fulves, Chris Gannon, Michael Barry Greer, Melinda Lane, Ronert Mason, John C. Muntone, Kimberly "Q" Purnell and Victor Warren.


Harry Houdini
George Segal star of the hit TV sitcom Just Shoot Me and the talented Rhea Perlman star in Turner Network Television's new original film Houdini. Segal is cast as talent agent Martin Beck while Perlman plays Houdini's wife, Bess. Portraying the magician is Johnathan Schaech.

Supposedly Bess Houdini put the handcuff and leg iron keys into her mouth and gave her husband a passionate, lingering kiss before he attempted each trick. That lip lock enabled her to pass the keys from her mouth into his, permitting him to magically "escape."

Houdini always maintained that his tricks could be explained so that anyone of normal intelligence could understand them. Claims by spiritualists that they, and he, had supernatural powers, made him angry.

Houdini spent much of his life trying to discredit spiritualists. In 1924 he published the results of his investigations of their practices in A Magician Among the Spirits. Houdini was born Ehrich Weiss, the son of a Budapest rabbi. He took his stage name from Jean Robert Houdini (1805-1871), the great French magician, and later made Houdini his legal name.

He died of peritonitis - oddly enough on Halloween, the day when the veil between worlds of the living and the deceased is thought to be the thinnest.

The legendary master of escape always vowed to "come back."

A movie preview will precede the 62nd annual Official Houdini Seance, which will begin when the midnight hour strikes on Halloween. The location is the MGM-Grand hotel, Las Vegas. The preview and seance are open to invited guests only.

Those with the magical invitation will participate in an attempt to communicate with Houdini.

Houdini's only living grandnephew, George Hardeen and daughter will be among the seance participants, as well as Dorothy Young, the only living member of the Houdini show who toured with him in 1925, and Anna Crankshow, the great-granddaughter of Margarie the famous 1920s medium.

Producers of the event include; Geno Munari, owner of Houdini's Magic Shops; Sidney Radner, owner of the largest Houdini collection in the world; Henry Muller, owner and president of Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada and Tom Bolt of the Houdini Historical Society.


Four of America's leading cartoonists Jules Feiffer, Art Spiegelman, Mel Lazarus and Nicole Hollander will reflect upon their own work and explore the cultural impact of their work upon society in a special lecture series called Cartoon Art.

Jules Feiffer
This unique series will take place October 28 through January 30th at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

First up will be Pulitzer Prize winner Jules Feiffer on October 28th. He has been breaking precedents and presidents since l956. From Eisenhower to Clinton, Feiffer has given us a political interpersonal history of our time. His weekly strip Feiffer, which he terms "a comic conversation with my readers," has created an audience of passionate fans and passionate enemies.

One of the few cartoonists to expand into theater and film, Feiffer's most celebrated works include the plays Little Murders, Hold Me, and Knock Knock and the films Carnal Knowledge, Popeye and most recently, I Want To Go Home, winner of the Venice Film Festival's Best Screen writing award.

For information contact the Skirball Cultural Center at (310) 440-4500. The Cartoon Art series is sponsored by The Comic Journal and Comic-Con International.


COLLECTED STORIES which stars Uta Hagan, will stage a benefit performance and cocktail reception Oct. 15 for The Authors Guild. Hosts includes: Roger Angell, Susan Cheever, E.L. Doctorow, Dominick Dunne, Erica Jong and Lillian Ross.


The newest gem shinning on the Las Vegas Strip, the Bellagio Hotel, is catering to two forms of customers - VIP's and super-duper VIP's. How VIP you are depends upon your credit rating and/or celebrity status.

The Bellagio is reversing a recent trend that encourages families to use casinos as pseudo babysitters. In many casinos, gaming areas have been transformed into obstacle courses, where players have to be wary of their swinging arms slamming into a toddler's head.

The Bellagio has said - enough already. They are catering to affluent adults who, if they don't have breeding, at least have manners.

Children under the age of 18 are discouraged. Baby strollers are not permitted in the casino.

There is a hidden tunnel which can deliver the really VIP customers to their own private entrance, because hob nobbing with the ordinary VIP can be so declasse. The upper crusts of the VIP world have their own elevator, registration area and private entrances into their high stakes rooms.

Your credit line determines where you are permitted to play.

To be admitted to the High Stakes Poker room you need a half million-dollar credit line. If that's you, you'll find you're pampered while your money flows into the casino coffers. Nobody said the odds of winning were better - just a more elegant way to lose.

There are three levels for Baccarat play. A $25,000 credit line gets you admitted to the Salon Preve. The sports book is constructed like a race track starting gate. The back friendly chairs are leather and each console contains it's own television set.

The casino even smells good. Air flowing through the ducts is infused with marvelous aromas. The days I was there the air smelled of a jasmine type mixture. As for hotel accommodations, there are rooms, deluxe rooms, suites and villas. If you're trying to stay on a budget and make do in a regular room, you will have both a bath tub and a shower, but the tub won't have a Jacuzzi.

Deluxe rooms have the Jacuzzi bathtub, a bidet, and will cost you $150 - $450 per night, depending upon the day of the week and the season of the year. The carpet is Berber, the wall paper, raw silk.

The suites have his and hers bathrooms, plus a guest bathroom. There is a living room and a formal dining area.You'll ante up between $750 - $4500 per night.

The villas come with their own butler. Don't ask the price. If you aim to drop a million in the casino, then you'll be comped the villa experience.

The 38 pool cabanas are air conditioned, have a wet bar, television, a personal attendant and a private sun tan area "so they aren't exposed to the other people." Prices for the cabanas are still being decided, but hotel officials speculate a rental fee of about $185.00 per day.

Elaine and Steve Wynn have constructed a place with an eye for the wealthy with manners. People who think it's okay to use furniture as a napkin are encouraged to take their grubby fingers elsewhere.

The floors are one of a kind - literally. It seems that Steve Wynn took a fancy to some marble from India. So much so that he bought the entire quarry. Then he had the marble shipped to Italy to be cut and polished. Named Colonial Dream, it can only be found in the Bellagio. Interspersed with the marble is intricate mosaic tile which had to be laid one itty-bitty piece at a time. The effect is exquisite.

On my first view of the massive chandelier in the hotel's registration area, I was nonplused. ( See Broadway To Vegas column of October 5, 1998 ) A second view resulted in a different opinion - possibly because the modern carpet in shades of citron and apricot, coupled with the marble and tile provides perfect harmony for the Dale Chihuly creation.

I counted 12 comfortable chairs covered in plush blue, enabling a guest to wait in comfort for one's party. Modern paintings behind the two concierge stations, urns and plants, provide an atmosphere of both warmth and dignity.

The million-dollar Chihuly chandelier is still a work in progress. More flowers are to be added. Each flower is 3' in diameter and each costs $20,000. The particular type of flower, fleur-de-Como, was picked because, when Elaine and Steve Wynn visited the tiny Italian town of Bellagio, they fell in love with the native bloom.

Across from the registration area is a lounge where High Tea will be served. Adjacent to that is a 16-century fountain which the Wynns spied in England and decided they couldn't live without. They bought it and shipped it here. It's grandeur leads into the breathtaking, Botanical Gardens with its wrought iron beams and glass ceiling, where I watched the Horn of Plenty, 20' in diameter, being readied. It's a focal point of Harvest Theme - first of four annual decor changes.

Behind the Botanical Gardens is the climate controlled 2,000 sq. ft. art gallery. On October 6 the Nevada Tax Commission voted 5-3 that Wynn could not charge admission to the Museum and still receive tax breaks. An irritated Wynn snapped back, "Why this turned into a populist - Don't let the rich guy get away with something - is inexplicable to me."

Wynn indicated that when the Bellagio opens on October 17th he'll charge $10 admission to the Art Museum. Wynn expects 1800 people a day to que up for a look-see at the masterpieces. If his estimate is correct, the museum's admission will generate $6.5 million a year.

How classy is this dump?

Consider the uniform of warehouse personnel - monogrammed blazers covering long sleeve, button down, blue and white pinstripe dress shirts.


The Accidentals, who in 1997 received both the MAC and Back Stage Bistro Awards as Best Vocal Group, beginning October 21 will perform four Wednesday evenings at Don't Tell Mama.

Spooky songs and Halloween treats will highlight the Oct. 28 performance.

Their first CD won two contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards for Best Contemporary Song, You Win and Best Humorous Song, Rudiana.

Formed in 1987 to sing in a benefit for a homeless shelter at The Bottom Line, this unique mixed-voice octet sings an eclectic set of pop originals, ranging from the haunting You Win to their outrageous take on Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer to The Sinister Urge, a comic tribute to Hollywood's worst movie director, Ed Wood, Jr.

Members of The Accidentals are: Margaret Dorn, Emily Bindiger, Dennis Deal, Todd Johnson, Bill Mitchell, Marcia Pelletiere, Rosie Vallese, and Jim Vincent.


Prince Charles and Princess Diana
It's tough enough to try to get a starring role. Most actors expect the audition and rehearsals to be stressful. None of the stars of the off-Broadway musical Queen of Hearts expected to be caught in the crossfire that erupted before this production finally opened last week at the Grove Street Playhouse.

It's suppose to be a play about Princess Diana. See Broadway To Vegas column of September 7, 1998 and See Broadway To Vegas column of September 14, 1998

It turned into a battle royal between the producers, author and director. Michael Riedel of the New York Daily News devoted his entire September 16 column to the fracas, headlining it "Queen of Hearts."

Kendra Munger as Princess Diana and James A. Walsh as Prince Charles in Queen of Hearts Photo By: Carol Rosegg
Threats and lawsuits were thrown and filed. A new director was brought in and the show had some recasting. From day-to-day nobody was sure if the show would follow the Broadway tradition of "going on." This show floundered in such a dysfunctional fashion one would have suspected they really were royal.

Keeping a stiff upper lip through it all was Kendra Munger, who stars as Princess Diana. I caught up with the sensible actor who had enough pluck to weather the storm. She comes by her strong spine naturally - both of her parents, Doris and Richard, have been known to make their own headlines.

"My mother is still a flight attendant for United," explained Kendra, whose unusual name means The Knowing One. "She's been a flight attendant for 33 years. She was one of the people who filed the lawsuit that made it possible for flight attendants to be married."

When airlines first started hauling passengers airline attendants, as they are now labeled, were called hostesses. They were required to be female, single, good looking, and vivacious. They spawned numerous jokes, books, movies and slogans such as; "Fly Delta. We Move Our Tail For You." Then there was Coffee, Tea or Me? If a hostess got married she was grounded.

Doris Munger broke down barriers. A vivacious blonde, Doris fell in love and married, Richard, a handsome United pilot. He was permitted to remain in the cockpit. Doris got sacked.

Doris Munger and Kendra
"When she got married she was forced to retire," continued her daughter. "They weren't allowed to have married flight attendants. She was one of the people who brought the lawsuit about not being allowed to be married."

Winning that lawsuit forever changed the commercial aviation industry.

"When the lawsuit was won she was suppose to be reinstated, but there was some odd technicality where they reinstated everyone whose paperwork was at the office. Hers was in transit and everyone else went back to work, except her. She had to wait a bunch more months before she was allowed to go back. Because her paperwork was in transfer," said Kendra explaining the real life situation that sounds more like a bad movie script.

Finally the paperwork hit the desk and Doris took off.

Then along came Kendra and a year-and-a-half later, her brother Jeffrey, who is in law school.

"I know after I was born, she and my dad had to plan their schedules, on big trips, opposite each other, so that somebody would be home to take care of the kid. My dad learned how to do diapers and all of that long before men did all that."

Not surprising, considering Richard Munger has blazed his own frontiers.
Kendra with her father, Richard

"My mother flies a lot of New York to Los Angeles runs and New York to San Francisco. She flies domestic. My father flies international. He's actually quite a bit older that her."

"He's 71, and now he flies as a flight engineer. He flew as Captain until he was 60," she said referring to a rule that requires all Captains to give up the first seat - Captain - on their 60th birthday. After the age of 60 they can fly as co-pilot and/or flight engineer as long as they have the qualifications and can pass the semiannual medical exam.

Kendra's father is the oldest pilot/flight engineer currently on duty. "If he's not the oldest up in the air, he's one of the oldest," Kendra proudly stated, adding, "He's very healthy."

Richard Munger also flies for Project Orbis. "That is a flying hospital and he's allowed to fly Captain on that," continued Kendra. "He moves the airplane to different third world countries where they teach doctors new methods."

"I was on his last flight as Captain for United and he made an announcement over the PA system saying - Since I'm unqualified to fly as of tomorrow ..." I asked Kendra if her father ever landed a plane in New York telling the passengers - We are about to land at JFK and by the way, you can see my daughter performing at - "No," she laughed. "But, that would be something he would do."

"The reason he's so supportive of me is that his dream, since he was a kid, was to be either a pilot or a fireman. And, he's actually the Fire Commissioner of my town," Kendra proudly related, referring to New Canan, Conn.

"So, he reached both of his goals and he wants me to reach mine."

Since Kendra was a child she's wanted to be an actor. Her role as Princess Diana in Queen of Hearts required her to cut and have her hair colored the Diana shade of blonde. It also casts the never married Kendra as the wife of a man who has another love. With the British Royal family going through divorces and our own White House under sexual turmoil, I asked Kendra what she'd do if she had a husband who cheated.

"I think that probably I have thought about it, but my conclusion would be that it would have to be something that I'd have to work out in the situation. Because, you always say - Oh, I'd leave him. - But, then you know, love does funny things. If you really want to work it out, maybe that's the best thing."

"It would probably also depend upon whether you had kids or not. I would think that would be a situation that I really wouldn't know what I'd do unless it happened. And, hopefully it never will."

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ON SATURDAY THE DISNEY CHANNEL debuts an original movie starring Debbie Reynolds. Halloweentown is where witches and warlocks, ghosts and goblins live the 365 days of the year when it isn't Halloween. Debbie Reynolds stars as the magical Grandma Aggie.

NATHAN LANE Tony award winner and Tony Awards' host, who currently stars on the sitcom Encore! Encore! is set to emcee Theatre LA's annual Ovation Awards ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Shubert Theatre.

BOB DYLAN AND JONI MITCHELL team up for a Nov. 1 engagement at Madison Square Garden. Tickets priced from $37 to $77.

TOMMY TUNE set to move to Las Vegas where he will replace David Cassidy, starring at the MGM Hotel in EFX. That's the part that was originated by Michael Crawford. More on Tommy Tune next week.

Next Column: October 19, 1998
Copyright: October 12, 1998. 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