SHOWGIRL LEGACY / CAST AND CREW REUNIONS
 

 

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Below are articles and stories about the Reunion and cast members.

I will continue to add write ups as they appear.

Displaying keen perception and great insight.
She’s a little bit naughty. She’s a little bit nice.
She calls ‘em like she sees (and hears) ‘em.
She’s...
Claire Voyant

Note: This is a past column from September 15, 2006

 

Cousin Claire attended the Cast and Crew Reunion at the Stardust on Sunday, September 10. It would be impossible to mention all of the people who were there (almost 700), but it was definitely a Who’s Who of Las Vegas entertainment. Produced by Lou Anne Harrison Chessik with assistance by Stardust Hotel & Casino Production Stage Manager Terry Lovern, Five Decades of Entertainment - 1958-68, 1968-78, 1978-88, 1988-98 and 1998-2006 was memorialized in song, dance and people sharing memories. From Enter the Night, the program opened with This Joint is Jumping, and the joint was definitely jumping. The high fashion parade, accompanied by the music, Notorious, featured former legendary showgirls from Lido de Paris and Enter the Night. The crowd cheered. The "boy singers... - Austin Ray, Carl Lindstrom and Doug Gardner - showed they still have the right stuff. The Volantes, a comedy/unicycle act with Scott Beldin and Don Thompson, displayed some of their old gimmicks, and Kenny Kerr (whose Boy-lesque played the Stardust in the 1990s), along with the Showgirl for the 21st Century, blonde and still beautiful Aki, who is now a wife, mother and attorney, also contributed to the evening’s entertainment. There were also appearances, speeches and performances by "Little" Peggy March (of I Will Follow Him fame), Jennifer Page, Jim Hodge, Wayne Albritton (now a cast member of the fabulous Palm Springs Follies), Heather Victorson, Shirley Allen, Donna Browning, Barbara Beverly, Dawnie Gulbranson Sachs, Gordon Cornish and Chairman of Boyd Gaming Corp, William "Bill" Boyd. The real showstopper of the evening, though, was Kenny Mazlow who earned a standing ovation following his parody of Cole Porter’s Night & Day, where he portrays men and women auditioning for a position as a production show singer. While living in Las Vegas, Mazlow, a native of Winnipeg, was the principal singer in Ice Fantasy at the Hacienda (now buried somewhere under Mandalay Bay), a singer/dancer in the Lido and a lead actor in the Las Vegas version of Beach Blanket Babylon at the Sands. These days, Mazlow serves as Artistic Director for the late Steve Silver’s pride and joy, and San Francisco favorite, Beach Blanket Babylon.

Some of those taking in the festivities included Robin Leach (who must not have heard that cocktail or evening attire was requested, and looked like he would rather be having root canal), Jim and Jan Seagrave (he’s VP of Marketing & Advertising at the Stardust), Howard Jochsberger (former VP of Marketing for Boyd Gaming’s downtown Fremont Hotel & Casino), Ronald LaBarbera, Boyd Gaming Entertainment Director Terry Jenkins, famed fashion/costume designer Stephen Yearick, and Lani DeJesus (Stardust Marketing Assistant). At the Ice Skaters table and scattered at other tables around the Stardust Ballroom, were old and new friends including Lindsay Fitzpatrick Warkmeister, Patti Haley-Sarena, Denise McDonald, Mindy Hall, Linda Crossley-Meads, Jane Valle Tacker, Susan Meinhold Sobel, Susie Lease Fajardo, Suzanne Speich and Nancy Lee Parker Andrews.

Some of the other faces we spotted that night belonged to Ray Jarvis, Jerry Ritholz-Jarvis, Diana Saunders Bellomo, Maureen "Hoppy" Hopkins Little, George and Gerty Verbiwski, B.J. Allen, John Momot, Bill Sewers, Terry and Gisela Head, Robbie Colvin, Fernando Quevedo, Clem Zeleski, Michelle Shensky-Silva (proud mother of nine-month-old Gracie), Blair Farrington, Bill Moore, Rene DeHaven, Garold Gardner, Michael Ashton, Lon Hall, Jack Campbell and John Wertz. We were told that Wilfred and Fe Halliwell, better known as The Jolly Jovers, were there. We never saw them that night, but wish we had. They were one of Cousin Claire’s favorite comedy acts in days of yore and she would have loved to let them know that.

We missed seeing some folks we thought would be there but either weren’t or we didn’t find them - Lucy Lucille Shropshire, Doug Breniser, Berri Lee, Babe Pier, Gail Donaldson Lucas, Sarasue Essenpreis, Gail Parlette Brumbaugh, Jacqueline Douguet, Siegfried Fischbacher, Roy Horn, Wayne Newton, Billy Chapel, Peter Gordon and Toni Andrews. Also missing, but not missed, the Berosinis and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal. Maybe they were having dinner together at the Tony Roma’s on East Sahara.

It was a very sad reminder to see the list of those that are no longer with us, except in spirit and our memories. In addition to many that Cousin Claire didn’t know personally, there were too many friends of years ago who should have been at this event and weren’t, through no fault of their own - Jack Townzen, Jerry Grasse, Forrest Duke, Ricky Reed, Jeb Stuart, Bill Willard, Jerry Norman, Barclay Shaw, Bart Carroll, Joey Skilbred, Trisha Boswell, Pepper Davis, Joe Delaney, Mark Tan and Robin Timm. The lyrics to Michael Jackson’s beautiful Gone Too Soon come to mind, "Like a comet blazing 'cross the evening sky, gone too soon. Like a rainbow fading in the twinkling of an eye, gone too soon. Shiny and sparkly and splendidly bright, here one day, gone one night. Like the loss of sunlight on a cloudy afternoon, gone too soon. Like a castle built upon a sandy beach, gone too soon. Like a perfect flower that is just beyond your reach, gone too soon. Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight, here one day, gone one night. Like a sunset dying with the rising of the moon, gone too soon. Gone too soon."

Ahhh, pleasant and not so pleasant Stardust Memories. (Forgive any and many missed names.)

 

 

   

                                         

JANE ANN MORRISON

         Ex-showgirl trades fame for life as lawyer with prominent Las Vegas firm

              (Las Vegas Review Journal)   http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Jul-01-Sat-2006/news/8269167.html

 

If you lived here or visited Las Vegas regularly from 1995 to 2000, you should remember Aki, the tall, lithe blonde whose face and figure were on billboards, even the tails of planes, as a "Showgirl for the 21st Century."

She was the most highly promoted showgirl in the city, courtesy of the Stardust, where she performed topless in "Enter the Night." She sizzled in the "Some Like It Hot" number created especially for her. Red and black, seemingly Las Vegas' favorite colors, were her colors. Her face graced magazines, and she was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for The New Yorker. She acted and modeled.


Aki was a celebrity showgirl whose identity wasn't lost among the feathers.

When "Enter the Night" closed in 2000, her high-profile status disappeared, too. Which begs the question: What happens to showgirls when they retire?

Aki, who today goes by Akke Levin, wore a brown pinstriped suit when interviewed recently in her downtown Las Vegas office. Her hair was blond but straight; her makeup was for the office, not the stage. At 40, she is gorgeous, articulate and enthusiastic, much like she was when she began dancing topless 19 years ago in Monte Carlo.

Today, the showgirl is a lawyer, working for one of Las Vegas' top law firms, Morris Pickering Peterson & Trachok. She's a commercial litigator who graduated third in her class at UNLV's Boyd School of Law in May 2004. Her age is a plus, Levin said. "I'm new to this, but I don't look like I'm new to this."

She's married to Ari Levin, director of entertainment at the Tropicana, who had a drink thrown on him when he first asked his date, another showgirl, to introduce him to "Aki." They have a 2-year-old son, Jonah.

And except for the 1998 head shot of Levin as a showgirl that covers one wall of her office, one wouldn't know that the lawyer was a showgirl six years ago.

But as the Stardust prepares to close, the memories are due for a refresher course.

Levin is participating in an upcoming cast and crew reunion planned for Sept. 10. Former "Lido de Paris" dancer Lou Anne Harrison Chessick is organizing the event, inviting people from the "Lido," "Enter the Night" and "Havana Nights" shows. More information is available at  www.castandcrewreunion.com  The cost is between $100 and $125.

Levin hopes to see people she's lost track of over the years, share pictures and videos with them, and recall that exciting period of her life when she was Las Vegas' most recognizable showgirl.

Born and raised in Holland before moving to Las Vegas in 1994, she had worked in Monte Carlo and Paris, where she danced at the famous Crazy Horse (which she emphasizes is not Las Vegas' infamous strip club, Crazy Horse Too). She was vacationing in Las Vegas and went to talk to producer Terry Lovern, company manager for "Enter the Night." He asked her to audition and surprised her by putting her through a classical ballet audition, but because that was her training, it wasn't a problem. He offered her the job, and the Stardust began featuring her in its advertising, at one point putting her portrait on Western Pacific Airlines planes.

Even then, she was thinking about her future, studying Dutch law through a correspondence program, thinking she might return to her country and practice there.

"A lot of dancers don't think about what to do next, but there comes a time when you can't do it anymore," Levin said. "I knew I didn't want to be a dance teacher. I knew I was going to do something brainy."

So was she happiest as the showgirl Aki or as the lawyer-wife-mother Akke?

"I really enjoyed everything, but I don't dwell on those days. Those days are gone. I love going to work just as much as dancing, but in a different way," she said with her faint Dutch accent.

But as a memory returned, Levin smiled and said, "But there is nothing like backstage in a show."

When she was in Paris at the Crazy Horse, she was often a spokeswoman because of her ability to speak English, French, Dutch, Spanish and German.

"Journalists portrayed me as stupid and ditzy," she said matter-of-factly with just the tiniest hint of a threat.

Dumb blonde? No way.

Jane Ann Morrison's column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0275.

 

 

 

 

Direct link to Las Vegas Sun:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sun/2006/jul/06/566651904.html

Story from Sun:

Stardust memories

'Lido' performers gather as hotel set for implosion

By Kristen Peterson <kristen@lasvegassun.com>
Las Vegas Sun

Carl Lindstrom's milky baritone voice warms the room as he breaks into "La Vie en Rose" on request. Wearing a tight-fitting shirt, jean shorts and brown sandals, he grabs the hand of his wife, Henriette, and they begin to dance.

Like the Edith Piaf song, Henriette is quintessentially French. She came to Las Vegas in 1959 to perform in "La Nouvelle Eve" at El Rancho and later in the Stardust's "Lido de Paris," which imported hand-picked Europeans to perform on elaborate stages.

"These were the halcyon days of Las Vegas - the days of French revues," Lindstrom says of the shows that turned the Parisian showgirl into a Las Vegas trademark. "They were a class unto themselves."

Still gorgeous and fit, the Lindstroms are digging through the special collections department at UNLV's Lied Library with a dozen other former dancers, singers and backstage workers - most now in their 60s - who worked Stardust shows. They're here to identify past cast members in the old "Lido de Paris" programs for an upcoming reunion at the soon-to-be-imploded Stardust.

"We'll all need to come with our eyelashes on. Otherwise we won't recognize one another," says Lou Anne Chessik, a former "Lido" and "Enter the Night" dancer, who is producing the Sept. 10 reunion of five decades of Las Vegas performers.

The event at the Stardust convention center will celebrate musical numbers from Stardust shows and feature old costumes that weren't burned as was required by contract when "Lido" closed in 1991.

"We were part of a special era," Lindstrom says. "You were proud to be 'Lido.' "

Lindstrom marvels at the Cirque du Soleil shows taking over the Strip, but says they just don't have the same panache as the French revues. Although chorus lines had been staged in Las Vegas, large production shows with topless dancers didn't arrive until "Minsky's Follies" opened in 1957 at the Dunes. "Lido de Paris" opened a year later and helped launch the flurry of Parisian topless shows that would follow.

Early "Lido" dancers, recruited by Donn Arden and Margaret Kelly, came from France along with the sets. Kelly was affectionately known as Miss Bluebell because she had created the famous Parisian chorus line known as the Bluebells.

For many dancers, Las Vegas was to be a temporary gig. Decades later, they call Las Vegas home and regale each other with stories of Las Vegas' European invasion when they get together.

Looking over old photos and magazine covers in the Special Collection, Jillian Hrushowy says, "We're going crazy wondering, 'Did we look like that?' " Hrushowy was part of the first wave of dancers from Europe. She began dancing as a child in what was then Rhodesia and was dancing professionally at age 16 in London theaters. She came to Las Vegas in 1959 for "La Nouvelle Eve." She eventually landed a role in "Lido" and married a singer from the show.

"We were very lucky to work in Las Vegas when it was fun," says Jill Rader, a former "Lido" dancer. Her husband Lenny, who was a stagehand in the show, refers to the era as "B.C." - for "before corporations," which pared down shows and changed theaters and theater etiquette.

Rader arrived in Las Vegas in 1959, but didn't want to be here. Miss Bluebell asked her to come to Las Vegas while she was on tour in Italy.

Rader says she scoffed at the idea of a dusty town with "six or seven hotels and a lot of dirt," but agreed to give it a chance for a couple of months.

"Forty-seven years later, here I am," Rader says. "It took me two years to get used to Las Vegas."

Heather Victorson wasn't looking for a trip to Las Vegas, either. She hoped to work for Miss Bluebell in Rome, but when she auditioned, they asked her if she had a passport. She did, and they told her, "You're going to Las Vegas."

"Within a week I got a call," she says. "We all came over together - scenery, actors and dancers."

Her "Lido" contract forbade her to marry, she says, and it required that she stay in Las Vegas for two years and work seven days a week.

Dressing rooms were packed with elegant and glamorous, yet topless costumes. Live animals, including elephants, marched the proscenium. Elaborate sets were built and dancers who fit Miss Bluebell's criteria of height and beauty moved to Arden's intimidating command.

From 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. backstage was a madhouse.

"No two shows are ever the same when people and animals are in elevators," says Nancy Belian, a dresser for 17 years who mastered the art of the quick change and last-minute stitches. "You've got scenery moving, people moving. Something always happens."

Dancers from the old days have visited the showroom over the years - even walking the proscenium in the dark, empty theater filled with memories of shows past.

"That's when it gets real eerie," says Terry Lovern, stage manager at Stardust Theater, who has been working with Chessik to find old names and numbers.

Eerie is a good way to describe the staid backstage atmosphere once ringing with feathers and chaos. First-floor dressing rooms are now offices. Main dressing rooms, once stuffed with elaborate costumes, are used by dancers for "Headlights and Tailpipes," a topless revue of women and cars that - by comparison with the French revues - has only a sliver of cast.

"I was so used to handling hundreds of people back here," says Lovern, a former ice skater and "Lido" dancer. "Now it's so strange because it's so quiet."

But the past remains embedded in the floor of the stairway where sequins from years past are still visible, still sparkling. Somehow they've managed to linger.

More information can be found at the Web site, www.castandcrewreunion.com or by calling 243-6329 .

Kristen Peterson can be reached at 259-2317 or at kristen@lasvegassun.com.


PHOTO

 

 

 

 

 

LOU Anne Harrison Chessik, a former dancer in “Lido de Paris” at the Stardust, goes through old show costumes backstage at the hotel in preparation for a September reunion of cast and crew members that she is planning.

R. Marsh Starks / LAS VEGAS SUN


 

 

PHOTO

 

 

EX-DANCER Henriette Lindstrom is serenaded by her husband, Carl, at the UNLV Lied Library special collections department.

Steve Marcus / LAS VEGAS SUN


 

 

 

 

PHOTO

   FORMER Stardust dancers look through old photos and programs at the UNLV Lied Library special collections department on thursday.  A reunion in September will feature five decades of performers and crew in shows at the hotel.

   Steve Marcus / LAS VEGAS SUN


PHOTO

 

 

 

 

 "LIDO de Paris" programs from the 1960s are displayed at the Lied Library.

  Steve Marcus / LAS VEGAS SUN

 

ARTS / DANCE   | August 13, 2006
Dance:  The Twilight of the Ostrich-Plumed, Rhinestone-Brassiered Las Vegas Showgirl
By ERIKA KINETZ
Now 25, “Jubilee!” is older than many of the women who dance in it, remarkable longevity in a town that so frequently dynamites its cherished landmarks.

 

Thursday, September 7, 2006

"Las Vegas Review Journal"  Beauty, fashion and Style

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Sep-07-Thu-2006/fashion/9391016.html

 

 

Paragraph from Las Vegas Review Journal Article:
 
On January 3rd 2006 Boyd Gaming Corp. Chairman Bill Boyd announced the Stardust Hotel and Casino would be closing its doors and making way for its new project, Echelon Place. Boughner the new president and chief executive officer of Echelon Resorts said the Stardust will operate through most of 2006 and be demolished in early 2007. Plans for a 4,000-seat theater with stadium seating designed to accommodate concerts and production shows and a 1,500-seat theater for smaller shows and touring acts will replace the showroom that now seats 850.

 

From Las Vegas, Nevada, USA:
LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMANN
To men and women who danced!
 
In the immortal words of Noel Coward, "I have been to a marvellous party....................."
 
The Stardust reunion on Sept 10th was a truly wonderful event with all generations of dancers, acts, crew and creative teams represented from 1958 to the present!  It's really difficult to describe what happened because I spent the entire evening talking and laughing to people I hadn't seen for years, (with the occasional glass of vino thrown in, which could possibly account for my lack of cohesive recollections.  It must be awful to be a reporter.  One has to stay sober and focused.)  Here's what I do remember:
 
2PM - Began spackling the face and concocting 3 different hair do's non of which worked.  Thank goodness for hair spray, gel and mousse abuse.
 
5 PM - Arrived at The Stardust with one completely irritated husband who had spent the last hour or so trying to assure me I looked 'fine' and doing up my jewelry clasps that I can't see to do up.  No wonder rich people have maids....it takes SO long to get dressed.
 
The evening began with a cocktail reception in the foyer of the ballroom.  When I arrived (early, or so I thought), it was a log jam of laughter and ''Oh my God, is that really you?" and "Darling, you look fab.  Who's your Dr.?"  Many familiar faces, some old, some completely brand new!!
 
I mustn't forget to tell Rodford that the first person I saw was Aaron Shave so I am directing him to the web site.  He was thrilled to be remembered by you.  Also, caught up later in the evening with Heather Belbin in the Ladies loo where we had a good old gossip and let our stomachs hang out!  Saw my old boss Fluff Le Coque in a corner quitely puffing away on a fag...(to the American's reading this...a cigarette)  She looks fantastic and was so happy to see so many of her former dancers.  Breck Wall had a picture of Fluff, Jillian Hrushowy and myself for Call Back magazine so look forward to seeing that.  I think around 6 pm the doors opened and we flooded into the ballroom as 'This Joint is Jumpin' from Enter the Night was re-created by Terry Lovern and Sandi Ross.  (the dancers were actually from ETN, and they were very agile!!).
 
The food was really delicious and the Mariano Longo Quartet played whilst we stuffed ourselves, in between photo ops and much chatter. Lou Anne and Terry Loverne welcomed everyone (I believe there were almost 700 people) and Jen Paige and Austin Ray sang "We're Still here."   The 'Notorious' fashion show number was also recreated and among the performers were Heather Victorson,Valerie Chapman Elliot, Liz Larkin and Pam Langevin.  They all looked so beautiful.  (note to show directors.....please can we have some more elegance like that on the Strip....this 'in your face, bump and grind' is getting OLD!). OK Liz shut up. 
 
The 5 decades of entertainment were represented by guest speakers as follows:
 
1958 -68  -  Gillian Kabet &Jim Hodge and Jill & Lenny Raider
 
1968-78   -  Wayne Albritten & Heather Victorson, Stan Melvin & Shirley Allen and The Volontes Don Thompson & Scott Beldin
 
1978-88   -  Barbara Beverly, Dawnie Sachs, Gordon Cornish (at piano), Carl Lindstrom & Kenny Maslow (of Beach Blanket Babylon fame)
 
1988-98   -  Aki Levin, Austin Ray and Kenny Kerr (who was in fine form!)
 
1998-06   -  'Little' Peggy March sang and the Chairman of Boyd Gaming Group, Bill Boyd made a  lovely speech about the contribution that all present had made to the growth of Las Vegas and to it's future. 
 
I don't think he mentioned the contribution of 'Lefty' Rosenthal and Tony 'the ant' Spilotro but I have friends who remember certain performers being marched out of the casino at gun point, and of course, the lovely moment when Frank Rosenthal told Miss Bluebell to put the "fat British cows back on the plane to England!"  Yes, she did have a tendency to the more buxom lasses from the Yorkshire moors now didn't she?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
From then on the night remains a bit of a blur save for Sal Angelica passing me and saying, "Why is everyone talking so lovingly about Donn Arden?  They all hated him when he was alive!"  I do hope I'm not repeating too much gossip!  Oh well.  As Sir Noel later reminisced,
"We knew the fun was about to begin when Doris got blind on Dubonnet and gin
 And scratched her veneer with a Cartier pin.................
I couldn't have liked it more!"
 
Congratulations to Lou Anne.  She made it a night to remember and let's hope we do it again soon!!!
P.S.  Lesley Bandy won the raffle....an original Terry Ritter painting.
P.P.S.  My pal Su Kim Chung was there from Special Collections at UNLV (ed: University of Nevada, Las Vegas).   She has been so instrumental in cataloging, caring for and championing the great showgirl collection in the library.  That era is a large part of our culture and history.  I know that some of the proceeds were being donated to this collection. 
 
Toodle Ooh!
Liz
 
(ed: amongst her credits, Liz, was principal dancer at London's Talk of the Town,
and no, Liz, you didn't gossip too much, and yes, everyone  but everyone  loathed Donn Arden's little ways (and to those here who were amongst his friends, no disrespect is intended. Anyway, it sounds like

 

Here's the article I wrote for the Metromode magazine here in Denver. Hope you enjoy it

 

“STARDUST IN MY EYES”

In my heart, and in my memories

A SHOWBIZ REUNION

By Ron Marriott

 

From 1958 until 1991 the Stardust Hotel and Casino was the American home of the Paris spectacular, “Lido de Paris.” I had the privilege and honor of performing in the shows as principle singer/dancer for the great Donn Arden in three versions of the show, “Tout Paris!”, “Pourquoi Pas?” and “Merci Beaucoup!” The hotel is about to be imploded (blown up) around the first of November to make way for yet again, another giant hotel/resort/casino as Las Vegas progresses to even greater heights, and it’s sad for many of us to see it go, but life goes on and the memories will go on forever.

This past September 10h the Stardust hosted a cast and crew reunion for anyone who performed or worked in the legendary showroom for the 50 years it existed, and was indeed a great part of entertainment history in Las Vegas. It was an honor to be invited to the event, and the experience was probably one of the most exciting, fulfilling and emotional happenings I have ever lived through, and I am honored to have the opportunity to share it with you.

This amazing event was coordinated by a former dancer, Lou Anne Harrison Chessik with the help of many others, too numerous to name, but  I must say, it was beautifully done, with cocktails, an amazing buffet, live performances by past cast members, a video presentation, and most moving of all, a tribute to all of those who have since passed. The highlights for most of us however, were meeting friends and fellow cast mates that some of us haven’t seen for up to 30 years! Having the opportunity to catch up and reconnect with old friends and sharing many memories was at times tearful but so very rewarding. It was wonderful but at times a bit disconcerting seeing how much we have aged over the years, making me realize that I am now a proud older man! My good friend Robert who was my guest made the comment: “I’ve never seen so many beautiful and handsome older people in my life!” That’s dancers for you, and even with some added weight and wrinkles with some of them, the carriage, elegance, class and overall bearings were all prevalent in hoards. I was indeed proud to be a part of all of it, and honored to be included within this extremely talented group of individuals.

My good friend, Sal Angelica was also my date for the event. He has known me since I was 18 years old, and is still to this day a “dancing legend” in Las Vegas. As soon as we arrived to register for the reunion, the meetings of old friends began. Everywhere we went and from every direction, people started recognizing each other, and the hugging, kissing and reconnecting began. It was amazing what people remember, and I was constantly reminded of many events that occurred over those years that I had forgotten, but gladly reminded of. Oh the stories flew through the air, and I haven’t laughed that much in years! It’s wonderful that most of the stories shared were those of happy times, but occasionally, tears were shed over some sad times as well. Donn Arden, the producer, creator, and director of the Las Vegas Lido, as well as the Paris Lido was the subject of many memorable stories. Donn was a true genius, but could be a difficult and demanding man to work for. He was never satisfied until his vision of what he wanted to see and hear was met. He did drink a bit, and Donn’s hangovers were legendary, especially during rehearsals of a new show. He could be down right brutal and mean at times, but for some reason most of us put up with it, because the end results were so brilliant, and for the most part he was always right.

The following is a true story, and the only time that Donn yelled at me during a rehearsal. He was famous for screaming into a microphone, especially during the final tech and dress rehearsals. When he did, everything came to a grinding halt, and you literally prayed that you were not his next victim! I was singing “Her Heart Belongs to Daddy” coming down a huge staircase with our two lead nudes on each arm. They were Valerie Perrine (yes the actress) and Mario Lenaro, and both covered in furs, feathers and beads. All of a sudden, Donn screams, Ron Marriott, get off the stage and go and remove some of your makeup. You look prettier and a lot younger than those two old broads you’re singing to, and it looks incestuous and indecent! I didn’t know whether to be flattered or horrified, but I did tone it down, and needless to say teased relentlessly from then on, not only by the cast, but the crew as well! There are hundreds of stories about Donn and someday, hopefully someone will write a story of his life, make a movie of it starring Nathan Lane, and hopefully allow his legacy go on forever.

In my mind, saying goodbye to the showroom, stage and dressings rooms was the most difficult, but moving experience for me. The stage with it’s revolving disks, elevators, swimming pool, ice skating rink, waterfalls and more was truly a remarkable venue in it’s heyday, and still impressive today. It was almost eerie walking though it all, smelling the same backstage smells (a lot of sweat!), and almost hearing once again the chatter, laughter and feeling the spirits and ghosts of a time gone by. I swear I heard, “ Five minutes, five minutes, all on stage for the prologue please!” I could also swear that I still smelled Siegfried and Roy’s cats, and remember the night I brought my 5 year old nephew Vance backstage to pet them, and watched his uncle on stage from the wings. He still remembers it and I will never forget it. I’ll never forget as well performing the night after my wonderful father passed away. When people asked me how I could do it, I just said to them, “That’s what my dad would want me to do…………”.

Thank God I have these memories and wonderful people in my life. Yes we all worked hard, that’s the nature of the Showbiz Beast, but God were we all lucky to be a part of it.

 

Note: The last two segments of Cruise out of Control will be in the November and December issues. In January, I will begin a series entitled “Showboy!”……the real behind the scenes of what goes on in a Las Vegas show.

Until then,

RM