This scene needs some serious raking. Pronto, Tonto. Let’s have at it:
• The Smith Center exec Paul Beard had this to say of Clint Holmes this past weekend: “I am running out of superlatives.” It seems that everyone feels that way about Holmes. “Superlative-defying” might be the most apt to describe his performances held the first weekend of each month at Cabaret Jazz.
Holmes’ most recent show, the loosely defined “acoustic-ish” showcases, were once again expertly delivered. Holmes performed one of the more moving renditions of “Eleanor Rigby,” with Jeff Neiman on piano, that you will ever experience.
Holmes has an amazing gift of pacing, where even his silent moments are vital to the power of his performances. Let’s hear it for silence, right? Give it up for silence! Woot!
As he announced from the stage in Saturday’s show, Holmes is planning to record a live CD from Cab Jazz during his April shows. That live recording is a first for the year-old venue, and there also is talk of recording shows on DVD.
Holmes has been busy away from Vegas, too. On March 4, he was honored at the Gotham in New York with a Bistro Award, a distinguished cabaret performance award established by Back Stage trade publication writer Bob Harrington in his “Bistro Bits” column. Holmes was recognized for his "This Thing Called Love: Cole Porter & Paul Simon" show at Cafe Carlyle. The show also has been a favorite at Cabaret Jazz and is planned for The Smith Center live recording. Larry Moss, Holmes' close friend and collaborator on Holmes' autobiographical play, now titled "How High the Moon?," handled the introduction, reportedly with great aplomb.
Holmes is rare in many regards, especially in how he is admired in New York, which he had been warned was often lethal in its opinion of Las Vegas artists. Holmes and his wife, Kelly Clinton-Holmes, now have an apartment in New Jersey for their frequent visits to the East Coast. But he’s not changing his schedule at Cabaret Jazz, where it’s a different show — but the same great star — each time out.
• An audience member Holmes introduced for her great voice is recovering from surgery on that voice. Chrissi Scinta, the youngest member of the Scintas’ family show, underwent surgery last June to repair serious damage to her vocal chord. This is similar to the operation Adele underwent a couple of years ago to stop bleeding from a benign polyp.
Having been away from the stage for about two years, Scinta has been cautious in her recovery and schedule for returning to live performance. But on Saturday night, she said that she does plan to be back onstage this spring. It is a comeback a lot of fans of the Scintas, who opened in Vegas at Shimmer Cabaret more than a decade ago, have long awaited.
• One of the city’s great resort restaurants, and great restaurants of any kind, Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino at Venetian, is closing. This is verified. Check, please.
James Beard Award-winning chef Luciano Pellegrini said today that the restaurant would be closed by the end of June, as its lease with the hotel expires. Valentino opened 14 years ago as the Venetian began welcoming guests and has been one of the more lauded restaurants in Vegas during that span. Bon Apetit, Wine Spectator and Forbes have all lavished praise and honors on Valentino. On a recent visit to Valentino with the inimitable Carla Pellegrino, I was struck by Pelligrini’s magnanimity and quick wit. The food was terrific, too. All it needed was a pinch more profit.
“Ultimately it comes down to dollars and cents,” Pelligrini said. “We were losing money.” As for his plans, the spirited chef said, “I’m going to regroup, refresh, see who calls and see what I want to be when I grow up.”
• The man himself admits, “My act is deceased.” So give credit to Rich Little, who has become mayor of Shimmer Cabaret with his “Jimmy Stewart & Friends” impression-fest.
It’s tempting to refer to the show as a traipse down memory lane, but gosh if I have no memory of many of these entertainers exhumed by Little in his 90-minute show. He understands this, saying near the end of the performance, “You’d have to be 100 to know them all,” which would seem to disqualify most — but not all — of the fans in attendance Tuesday night.
No matter. Little and his producer, comedy great Steve Rossi, have invested $50,000 in a new video display and photos of those Little is impersonating as he tells the life story of Jimmy Stewart as Jimmy Stewart. Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant, George Burns, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, Jack Benny and Henry Fonda are in the mix. I mean, we’re going waaaaaay back. Little stops short of a Charlie Chaplin impression, though he does take on Laurel & Hardy.
But this is an entertaining experience, in a surreal sort of way, as if episodes of the “Dean Martin Celebrity Roast” or “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” have leaped to life. Yep, Little does Martin and Carson, too, and his bit as Carnac the Magnificent is at once funny and sentimental. A sample: "Clop-clop, clop-clop, bang-bang, clop-clop, clop-clop." "Describe an Amish drive-by shooting."
Shimmer has lacked a true identity for years now. Maybe Little is the man to give it a real sense of self, especially if these statements by Rossi that the room might one day be named for him are realized. In a line that would be best delivered by Stewart: It’s a little room, and now it’s Little’s room.
• We have to close on a sad note involving my friend for many years, and one of the first people I met when moving to Las Vegas nearly 17 years ago, Mark Alden. A member of the Nevada Board of Regents for 18 years, Alden lost his son, Mark Hastings Alden, on March 1. The younger Alden died in an assisted-living facility, and the cause of his death has not been disclosed. He was just 43 and long suffered from a disabling condition.
Mark H. Alden was known to be a great musician, a saxophone player, and his father is asking that donations be made to the Mark H. Alden Scholarship Fund for Music with the UNLV Alumni Association, 4505 South Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, 89154. Memorial services are scheduled for Palm Mortuary at 7600 South Eastern Ave. at 10 a.m. Thursday. Deacon Tim O’Callaghan will conduct the service.
Mark Alden is recovering from throat cancer and reports that he is cancer-free, sleeping well, working full time at his law firm and “focusing only on the positive.” We can only offer to do the same and think of young Mark whenever we hear the rich, warm notes of a saxophone.