Column notes are not unlike Christmas presents. They stack up in the days leading to the holiday. Time for some early unwrapping, as we take a break from warming our toes by the fire in the Gate City, which of course is Pocatello, Idaho:
• A date has been set for the PBS bio segment on Las Vegas trumpet ace and master music director David Perrico. He is the focus of a report on the show “artScene” airing at 9 p.m. Jan. 18 on Vegas PBS. Vegas PBS producer Matt Christensen was turned on to Perrico during an appearance by Perrico’s Pop Evolution show band at the Lounge at the Palms in October. A PBS crew spent several weeks tailing Perrico during his performances, while composing music and in the classroom at UNLV. Perrico teaches in the school’s jazz studies department, a position that lured him to Las Vegas about a decade ago.
Pop Evolution returns to the Lounge at the Palms at 11 p.m. Jan. 26, with Savannah Smith of “Vegas! the Show” on vocals in place of Naomi Mauro, who is taking a break from the act to have a baby. And we segue into more information involving Smith and singing in front of an audience …
• Smith is one-third of a triangularly appealing vocal ensemble that debuted Friday on Kelly Clinton’s holiday edition of the webcast “Talktails.” It’s Smith, “Bite” vocalist (when “Bite” is actually onstage) Ann Barr and “Vegas! the Show” performer Tara Palsha. The group is called BBR. Why? Because Smith is a brunette, Martinez a blonde and Palsha a redhead. They could’ve gone with BRB or RBB, too … but I was not invited to the naming meeting.
Palsha’s inclusion in this high-caliber act is particularly noteworthy. It was once simple to refer to Palsha as the principal dancer in “Vegas!” But she has developed into a very good singer and is making that talent known publicly, having studied with Bill Fayne and taken the stage at such small haunts as the Dispensary on East Trop (where you can find a very cool little show called Jazz Jam headed up by pianist and composer Uli Geissendoerfer) and Fayne’s “Showstoppers” production last month at LVH Theater.
BBR might well join Zowie Bowie as Chris Phillips expands the vocal contributions to the act after Marley Taylor snapped up the bassist and cut outta Dodge a couple months ago. We’ll see, but Palsha is stepping up ... and not just as a dancer.
• Tony Clifton’s appearance at the Las Vegas Wranglers midnight game last weekend against the Bakersfield Condors was a rousing success. Rousing in that he was almost booed off the ice between the second and third periods. He toted an admirably flexible dancer named Phoenix to his Orleans Arena gig, opened with a few racially themed jokes, then tumbled into a very obviously lip-synched version of “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
In interacting with Clifton in the second period of the Wranglers’ 5-1 victory, he seemed to share many of the same physical characteristics as comedy writer Bob Zmuda.
Zmuda has portrayed Clifton over the years, picking up the character invented by the late comic Andy Kaufman after Kaufman happened to catch a bellicose lounge comic on Fremont Street during a 1969 pilgrimage to meet Elvis Presley at the International. To make that famous summit possible, a teenage Kaufman sneaked into the service entrance of the International in the afternoon, hiding in a supply closet until Presley and his bodyguards (Red and Sonny West, in this instance) cut through the kitchen to the stage. Kaufman had with him a box of crackers and an empty plastic bottle, which he used as a urinal for what would be a five-hour stakeout.
As Elvis and the boys made their way past, Kaufman emerged from his hiding spot and introduced himself. Kaufman said, “Mr. Presley, I am your biggest fan, and some day, I want to be famous like you.” Elvis put his hand on Kaufman’s shoulder and said, “I believe it will happen.” Bang. A career is born.
Then, Kaufman hit Fremont Street because he couldn’t afford to actually see Elvis perform. But within two years, Kaufman was the hottest cabaret act in New York.
As for Clifton’s show, the entertainer is looking for a room in Las Vegas to put on a production that has played to sold-out audiences for 15 weeks this year at the Comedy Store in L.A. Clifton is joined by a 24-member cast and crew, including a full band and backing dancers. His friend and Palace Station headliner Louie Anderson has been trying to get Clifton connected in the city, and UD Factory founder Seth Yudof was at Clifton’s side during Clifton’s appearance at the Wranglers’ game. Yudof is working on booking acts into the Sin City Comedy Theater at Planet Hollywood.
Clifton's best prospects for moving his show to a Las Vegas also is the least appealing: leasing the space himself. But he says that he wants to put a bunch of Vegas musicians and dancers in his act if he can find such a venue. If he can stage such a production, it would be an effort to applaud.
• The touring production of “Anything Goes” (aka, my life before 2001) touches down at Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 5-10. A pair of performers who are, or have been, connected to Las Vegas are in that production’s cast. Erich Bergen, who portrayed Bob Gaudio for a time in “Jersey Boys” during its run at Palazzo, plays Billy Crocker in the touring show. Joyce Chittick, wife of another former “J.B.” cast member (Rick Faugno, who played Frankie Valli in the original Las Vegas production), plays the role of Erma. Chittick was a member of the “Anything Goes” cast on Broadway and performed live during the 2011 Tony Awards telecast. She sometimes joined her hubby onstage during his eight-week run at the Palms, too.
During his stint in “Jersey Boys,” Bergen was an active performer away from the production, frequently appearing at Composers Showcase in the days it was held at Liberace Museum. The February Showcase at Cabaret Jazz falls during the “Anything Goes” run at Reynolds Hall, on Feb. 6. Showcase co-founder, emcee and regular performer Keith Thompson (music director of “Jersey Boys”) says Bergen has agreed to participate in that February show, which starts at 10:30 p.m., just after “Anything Goes” takes its final bow. Bergen has always been a lot of fun at these events, and he is a really talented performer. As they say, born for the stage. Or in this instance, stages.
• While away from Las Vegas, I have continued my thus-far feeble attempt to help Holly Madison and Pasquale Rotella name their baby. I texted “Exit” as a possibility. I like “Exit” more than the couple does, apparently. “Dash” has been rejected. “Inkom” is the name of a little Idaho town. “Tater” would be funny. And somewhat lame. The couple are looking for something unusual, yet appropriate. It is not an easy task. Maybe “Task” can be on the list ...
• Every few weeks, I hear something new and strange about the Lounge at the Palms. I use the Lounge as something of a barometer for live entertainment, as it is one of the city’s more satisfying small venues and a haven for all variety of acts and artists. Last month, the rumor was that the space was being pulled apart for a bingo room. Then, this week, it was that the Lounge would be closed to make room for retail space. But hotel officials say there are no plans in place at this time to change that space — then passed along a schedule of shows through January. Sounds good. I hope not to shop, or play bingo, in that space, ever.
• After a dalliance downtown at the D Las Vegas, Prince tribute act Purple Reign has returned to Hooters. The wildly entertaining act fronted by Jason Tenner is scheduled to perform 9:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The opener is the acutely un-Princelike comic Geechy Guy, whose "Dirty Jokes Show" also was once staged at Hooters. There is a lot happening at Hooters is the point here.