By Judy Thorburn
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - Las Vegas Round The Clock
Entertainment Reporter/Film Critic - Las Vegas Tribune
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - The Flick Chicks
Celebrity Lookalikes Make An Impression at the 18th Annual Reel Awards
On May 24th, the 18th annual Reel Awards which honors the best celebrity impersonators and tribute artists in the world was held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Celebrity Impersonator Convention that kicked off the following day at the Imperial Palace. This year the prestigious award ceremonies and festivities took place inside the Flamingo Showroom at the Flamingo Las Vegas rather than The Imperial Palace, which was the former home to the original Legends in Concert.
Although this year the number of look-alikes attendees appeared to be down there were a few “new” recognizable faces in the crowd including those of President and Mrs. Obama, entertainers Justin Timberlake, L.L. Cool J, Stevie Nicks, actors Alan Alda, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Patrick Stewart and golf champ Tiger Woods who mingled among the array of other celebrity clones.
Before the evening’s live entertainment filled ceremonies got underway, several of the faux celebrities walked a Red Carpet near the showroom where they posed for photo and gave brief interviews. I was able to chat with Britney Spears impersonator, 24 year old blonde beauty, Kimberley Dayle, who traveled all the way from her home in England, hoping to garner attention and to make her mark on U.S. soil with her dead on impersonations of Britney Spears as well as Christina Aguillera. Kimberley told me that before she became a tribute artist, she was a film director. When she was just 20 she wrote, directed and produced a 23 minute short film that was screened at the Cannes Film festival. The career turnaround came about after her agent said she looked like Britney and sounded like Christina. Since then, Kimberley has made a name for herself in the U.K. and she has been featured in many national and international newspapers for her tribute to the princess of pop.
Scott Jordan and Kimberley Dayle
I seemed apropos that Kimberley as Britney was accompanied by Scott Jordan, who showed up as Britney’s former boyfriend Justin Timberlake. Thirty one year old, tall and hunky Scott informed me that he is a member of the renowned Chippendales male eye candy dancers which features his impersonation of Timberlake. When not working with the Chippendales, he has appeared as Timberlake in the ultimate celebrity tribute show, Legends In Concert. Justin said that he will be performing in the newest Legends show at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut that will be opening June 30.
Once inside the showroom the sea of faces that surrounded me was a paparazzi’s dream come true as the audience was filled with the likes (notice I say likes) of Dr. Phil and Martha Stewart, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Arnold Schwarzenegger (in Terminator mode), Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former President George Bush, David Caruso, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Sophia Loren, Jack Nicholson, Willie Nelson, Jay Leno, George Clooney, and the list goes on.
Acting as host for the 2009 Reel Awards was Dee Dee Hanson doing her dead on impression as Joan Rivers with Susan Griffiths as Marilyn Monroe and Andy DiMino as Dean Martin as co-hosts and Dawn Behrens in Anna Nicole Smith mode as awards hostess. Sixteen awards as voted by industry members were presented in categories such as Best Actor and Actress,” “Rising Star” and “Lifetime Achievement Award” as well as live vocal performances (absolutely free of lip syncing) by several of the best tribute artists in the world.
Presenters were Joe Manuella as Robert de Niro; Samira as Tina Turner; Dan Schneid as Dr. Phil; Sharon Holmes as Martha Stewart; Craig Janos as Jack Nicholson; Bernadotte Larson as Whoppie Goldberg; Carol Woodle as Oprah Winfrey; Lynn Roberts as Bob Hope; Bob Pasch as Bing Crosby; Dennis Keogh as Sean Connery; Carla Del Villaggio as Barbra Streisand; Deborah Smith Ford as Trinity; Krista Blondin as Janis Joplin; Jimmie Ray and Cyndi Cantrell as Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash; Ron Butler and Vernetta Jenkins as President and Mrs. Obama; Billy Scadlock as Charlie Chaplin; Ron Rodriguez as Johnny Depp; Craig Meyer as Elton John; JeRon Rayam as LL Cool J; Ralph Chelli as Clark Cable; Charlie Franks as Elvis; William Peterson as Rodney Dangerfield, Brent Mendenhall as George Bush; and not one but two Angelina Jolies – Tiffany Claus and Tatiana Turan (who was accompanied by Brad Pitt lookalike Ryan Fraley).
Featured performers included Joshua Harraway in a tribute to Tupac Shakur; Richard Hampton as Kenny Rogers; Nick D’Egidio as Frank Sinatra; Gene Seronin as Bill Medley of the Righteous Bros; Heidi Thmpson as Cher and Hollie Vest as Tina Turner. But for this reporter, there were two who stood out as personal favorites; Kimberly Dale as Britney Spears for her sound a like voice and dance moves; and Elisa Furr. Although Furr is no dead ringer for Celine Dion, she more than makes up for her lack of physical resemble to the superstar singer with her incredibly amazing soundalike vocals, mannerisms and overall stage presence that caused a standing ovation from the audience.
To much surprise, just as last year, several award winners were not present to accept their awards. No reasons were given for their lack of attendance, but no shows included Pop’N Rock for Reel winner Chris America as Madonna; Comedy winner Annie Kissel as Rosanne Barr; Most Professional Impersonator winner Greg Thompson as Austin Powers; Director/Producer award Bernard Koos for his Stars in Concert show; Country’s Hottest Hitter winner C.J. King as Patsy Cline; and Classic Crooner award Suzanne Goulet as Liza Minnelli.
In attendance to accept their prestigious award were honorees: Barbra Streisand double Carla Del Villaggio won Rising Star award; Johnny Depp impersonator Ron Rodriguez for Impersonator You Love to Work With; Carleen Mitchell, as Diana Ross in the Dream Girls for Best Tribute Band; Samira as Tina Turner with R & B Feeling Good award; John Allen as Sean Connery accepted the News Hound award; Print Media award went to Hollie Vest as Tina Turner and Best Actress and Best Actor award went to Dawn Berens as Anna Nicole Smith and Brent Mendenhall as George Bush, respectively. In celebration of the best celebrity impersonators who have set the bar since the beginning of the original Legends in Concert in 1983, the John Stewart Legendary Performance award was presented to Susan Griffiths as Marilyn Monroe.
Sadly, Bea Fogelman was not able to accept The Peter Banks Humanitarian award which was posthumously presented to her. Fogelman had passed away but her daughter, Bette Midler impersonator, Sherie Rae Parker, accepted the award on her behalf via an audio announcement. Named in Bea’s honor is The Bea Fogelman Lifetime Achievement award which was presented to Bob Hope impersonator Lynn Roberts.
I guess it pays to look like a famous person. Just ask any of the award winners. They may not be the real thing, but as the next best thing with talent to match, they certainly will do, as audiences all over the world will agree. And for the celebrity impersonators, The Reel Awards, which recognizes their contribution to the world of entertainment, is the topping on the cake.
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn
Human Nature Performs "Ultimate Celebration of Motown" at the Imperial Palace
I have been a big fan of Motown music ever since I was a kid. So when I was invited to see the new show, “Smokey Robinson Presents Human Nature: the Ultimate Motown Celebration” at the Imperial Palace, I was more than a bit skeptical about listening to four young white guys from Australia performing the music of legendary soul groups such as The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, the Miracles and others. That skepticism flew right out the door once they started performing a repertoire of Motown’s classic hits that have become a part of music history. I should have realized if legendary Motown music icon Smokey Robinson was so blown away by their talent to bring them to the states and produce their Las Vegas show at the newly remodeled Imperial Palace Showroom, they must be extraordinary. And he was right. After watching them perform, I can now understand why Human Nature is the most popular vocal group in Australia with consistent chart topping hits and four consecutive best selling number one albums that have all gone platinum.
The quartet consisting of Toby Allen, Phil Burton, and brothers Andrew and Michael Tierney are great showmen who not only deliver dynamic harmonies accompanied by terrific choreography, they have fabulous stage presence and know how to entertain a crowd.
Their high energy show also consists of interaction with the audience, invitations to sing along, and a lesson on cool hand moves, a required element that goes along with singing Motown, that is, if you want to do it right.
“Human Nature has certainly proven that they have the talent to perform with some of the biggest names in the music business and we are excited to bring them to a Las Vegas stage,” said Don Marrandino, President of Imperial Palace. “The Imperial Palace Showroom has been upgraded with a top-of-the-line sound system that will really highlight the guys’ incredible voices.”
Human Nature is the first musical act from Australia to ever have their own show on the strip. They have signed a one year deal to headline at the Imperial Palace, but, with much deserving strong word of mouth raves that should draw nightly full houses, I wouldn’t be surprised if the group’s contract is extended.
Showtimes for “Smokey Robinson Presents Human Nature - The Ultimate Motown Celebration” are 8 p.m. Saturday through Thursday, dark on Friday.
RA Sushi's Bartender Mix Off Battle Raises Approximately $1,200 for Children's Cancer Research
On Thursday, May 28 RA Sushi Bar Restaurant hosted the 2009 Nicky’s Week Bartender Mix-Off Battle from 6 – 7 p.m. Las Vegas Weekly’s nightlife writer Xania Woodman battled it out with Q Vegas’ Earl Shelton in a mixologist showdown. For one hour, Woodman and Shelton made as many drinks as possible for the thirsty patrons, with all sales and tips from the hour going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of the Nicky’s Week fundraiser. In the end, Woodman was the winner by raising approximately $750 for the charity.
The Nicky’s Week fundraiser was developed in memory of Nicholas “Nicky” Mailliard, of Scottsdale, longtime St. Jude patient who lost a long battle with brain cancer in February 2005 at the young age of 13. A nephew of one of RA’s founders, Nicky held a special place in the hearts of RA associates throughout the organization. RA initiated the fundraiser in honor of Nicky as a way to further promote the exceptional attention and support provided at no cost to families of children receiving care at St. Jude. All donations from the weeklong effort will help pay for St. Jude’s development of treatment and cures for diseases such as brain tumors, leukemia, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses in children.
Iconic Artist John Van Hamersveld Officially Unveils Hippie Nation™ Gallery & Records at Fremont Street Experience
On Friday, June 5 Hippie Nation™ Gallery & Records opened its doors to the public on Fremont Street as part of the “Summer of ’69: Vegas or Bust” concert and event series that celebrates the summer of 1969.
The gallery features the work of iconic artist John Van Hamersveld, the “Official Artist of Summer of ’69” including his famous concert posters, album covers and custom portraits of Eric Clapton and Bono of U2 which are available for purchase along with digital prints, original drawings and hand pulled silk screens. In addition, Jerry Keogh, owner of the largest poster store in Canada is displaying his amazing collection of iconic posters and vintage records from the 60’s, which are also on sale.
John Van Hamersveld
Hippie Nation Gallery and Records is located in downtown Las Vegas at the Fremont Street Experience and will be open by appointment only throughout the summer in conjunction to “Summer of ’69: Vegas or Bust.”
Additional recent and upcoming “happenings” in and around Las Vegas include:
On Saturday, June 6 Mario Lopez hosted the Grand Opening of the new luxury pool Azure at the Palazzo. Las Vegas. Joined by girlfriend Courtney Mazza and his cousins, the group relaxed by the AZURE Pool in their very own private air conditioned cabana. Mario and his girlfriend sipped on ABSOLUT® Vodka cranberry and pineapple and enjoyed poolside couples Champagne on the Rocks massages together by the Canyon Ranch SpaClub in the secluded gazebo overlooking the Las Vegas Strip.
My Name is Earl’s Nadine Valezquez also attended the AZURE opening at The Palazzo Las Vegas with one of her close girlfriends and her lil’ dog, Kiki (who was sporting an adorable phohawk).
Melora Hardin, who stars in TV's The Office, was also in Vegas for the weekend with her two adorable young daughters and her husband to promote her new film YOU. After hearing about the official AZURE opening at The Palazzo Las Vegas she stopped by because she had heard it was the best and most glamorous pool to be at in Vegas.
Due to the property’s current $750 million expansion, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is hiring a total of 1,200 employees before the end of the year to fill a variety of positions. 400 employees were recently hired and approximately 800 more are needed to fill position in all areas including on call dealers, housekeeping staff, bellmen, front desk agents, room reservation agents and EVS attendants before the end of 2009. A series of job fairs will be held on property throughout the summer. Specific dates and times will be announced soon.
The Palazzo and The Venetian are now host to three of The Strip’s first certified green restaurants which have proven to be a true eco-friendly property. Celebrity chef Mario Batali and Partner/Winemaker Joe Bastianich’s remarkable line-up of restaurants, Carnevino at The Palazzo and B&B Ristorante and Enoteca San Marco at The Venetian have officially been certified by the Green Restaurant Association. Being the largest LEED certified building in the world, The Palazzo worked closely with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) consultants to establish an array of strategies in developing a truly “green” building. As a result of the green technology, the total annual environmental savings generated creates a positive impact now and for generations to come. The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.
Beginning Tuesday, June 2, Hawaiian Tropic Zone inside Miracle Mile Shops hosts a movie night every Tuesday and Sunday at 10 p.m. Catch the biggest blockbusters and beloved classics on Hawaiian Tropic Zone’s 36-foot tall plasma screen wall while snacking on complimentary popcorn. Tuesday nights feature newer releases while some of the most popular flicks from the past couple years are screened on Sunday. Guests must be 21 years of age or older.
Sierra Gold ultra-taverns located at 1341 W. Warm Springs Rd., 6929 Aliante Pkwy and 6515 S. Jones Rd.in Las Vegas is now hosting a new weekly event “Ladies Night at Sierra Gold” every Saturday night from 6 to 9 p.m. The new party at all three Sierra Gold locations is sponsored by Sobe, Belvedere Vodka, MGD 64, and Gold’s Gym. “Ladies Night” will also feature Swarovski Crystal Necklace giveaways from Belvedere Vodka and Gold’s Gym membership giveaways from Gold’s Gym and MGD 64.
On Saturday, June 13 at 8 p.m. legendary singer Bobby Vinton will perform his greatest songs at The Club inside the Cannery Casino & Hotel. Tickets start at $14.95 plus tax and fees
The American Superstars show at the Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower has introduced a Carrie Underwood tribute with Felice Garcia filling the role.
Husband and wife comedy magic team The Dymonds bring their unique theatrical magic to the stage at the Royal Resort. Herkimer and Zirconia Dymond combine offbeat comedy with magic, mentalism and escapes in the intimate 75-seat Royal Theater Lounge.
The Dymonds expect to include a special guest performer in the show each week. Upcoming performers include sleight-of-hand magician Chris Randal (June 7-9), magician Luna Shimada (June 14-16), and Illusionist Losander (June 21-23).
The Happenings will be performing their international hit song, “See You in September,” at Marilyn’s Lounge inside the Eastside Cannery Casino & Hotel on Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10 available for purchase at the front desk prior to the show.
The group Kaminari Taiko will take the ancient art of Japanese drumming to a thrilling level when it perform at 2 p.m. June 21 at the Winchester Cultural Center Theater, 3130 S. McLeod Drive as part of The World Vibration Concert Series. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for children and seniors.
Comedian Russ Rivas headlines the award winning Riviera Comedy Club June 29 – July 5. Joining in on the week’s fun is fellow funnyman Gary Cannon and Boris Hamilton. Show times for the Riviera Comedy Club are 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $24.99 plus tax and fee.
Nat & Alex Wolff, stars of Nickelodeon’s Naked Brothers Band, will perform at House of Blues Saturday, July 25th. Tickets are priced at $19.50. The concert is one stop in a series of summer concerts scheduled as part of their Summer Road Trip Tour across the U.S.
From June 26 - 28, The Venetian Las Vegas will host The Hardbat Classic, the largest US Table Tennis Tournament with participants competing for the first place cash prize of $100,000. Weekend festivities will include celebrities, VIP’s, world class table tennis all-stars and table tennis fanatics from all over the country. Anyone can sign-up to compete in the tournament at http://www.hardbatclassic.com/
The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) returns to the entertainment capital of the world as the top darts competitors from Europe and North America compete in the Eighth Annual The PartyPoker.net Las Vegas Desert Classic July 1-5 inside Mandalay Bay’s Islander Ballroom. The event, which begins daily at 11 a.m., guarantees to bring the world’s best dart players to Las Vegas including four-time winner and defending champion Phil Taylor of England. Tickets are priced at $22 per day and $55 for an all-session pass (five days of competition), not including applicable service charges and fees. The qualifying events are open to all interested dart players who can register by visiting www.bullseyenews.com.
Grammy Award-winning, wife-and-husband recording artists Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., lead vocalists of the popular chart topping group from the 60’s and 70’s, The 5th Dimension will perform the hits that defined their careers in a musical tribute at the Suncoast Showroom, July 3-5. Tickets are now available starting from $29.95, plus tax. Showtime is 8 p.m.
Tuesday, June 2…
Actress/TV icon Julie Newmar, known for her portrayal of Bat Woman on the 1960’s TV series Batman, was spotted by yours truly checking out the Christian Audigier line of Ed Hardy clothing and accessories at the Licensing Expo at Mandalay Bay.
I also bumped into actor Wilmer Valderamma at the Licensing Expo after he had made an appearance at the Disney booth to help promote the animated children TV series Handy Manny, to which he lends his voice.
Judy Thorburn and Wilmer Valderamma
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan
Thursday, June 4…
Rapper and TV star Flavor Flav dined at Nove Italiano inside Palms Casino Resort with his lady friend.
Bette Midler attended George Wallace’s show at The Flamingo. Afterwards she was very gracious to fans that wanted autographs or photos.
At the Taste of the Nation at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Holly Madison donated her time and helped raise the stakes during the live auction part of the evening. A bid of $5,500 won a lucky attendee a party for 25 people in their home complete with Madison in attendance, unique culinary creations prepared by AGO’s chef de cuisine Marco Porceddu, beverage models and professional event photography by Night Visions.
At TAO, adult film star Tera Patrick returned to the hot spot to host Lingeriegasm, a $1000 contest for the sexiest lady in lingerie. Comedian Eddie Griffin and UK footballer Wes Brown were among the many club goers witnessing the contest, which resulted in a tie between Shannon Kelly and the petite Lupe Fuentes.
Friday, June 5…
In the afternoon, Ditch Friday, the weekly pool party at Palms Pool & Bungalows, hosted a Hawaiian Tropic Luau featuring special guest, DJ Jazzy Jeff (best known for his early career with Will Smith as DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince). Several English football stars were in attendance including Danny Simpson right back for Manchester United, Wes Brown defender for Manchester United, Jermaine Pennant right winger for Liverpool, Jonathan Fortune defender for Charlton Athletic, Graham Stack goal keeper for Plymouth Argyle and Adam Lallana attacking midfielder for Southampton.
Friday night boxer Evander Holyfield was spotted in the nightclub, mingling among the masses at TAO.
Dining at LAVO Melora Hardin from NBC’s The Office was spotted dining at LAVO with friends and family.
British musician Gavin Rossdale, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Bush, brought his solo sounds to the Friday Night Live concert series at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Over at Wasted Space, System Of A Down drummer John Dolmayan spotted hanging out with friends and at a separate VIP table, adult film stars Puma Swede and Tory Lane.
Bob Burnquist, professional skateboarder, was spotted at Playboy Club with a group of friends.
English football star Wes Brown from Manchester United was spotted at N9NE Steakhouse, inside the Palms Casino Resort, A group of fellow players and friends joined him for dinner in the private dining room of the restaurant as part of his bachelor party weekend.
Saturday, June 6…
Mario Lopez hosted the Grand Opening of the new luxury pool Azure at the Palazzo. Las Vegas. He was joined by girlfriend Courtney Mazza and his cousins, and the group relaxed by the AZURE Pool in their very own private air conditioned cabana. Mario and his girlfriend sipped on ABSOLUT® Vodka cranberry and pineapple and enjoyed poolside couples Champagne on the Rocks massages together by the Canyon Ranch SpaClub in the secluded gazebo overlooking the Las Vegas Strip.
My Name is Earl’s Nadine Valezquez also attended the AZURE opening at The Palazzo Las Vegas with one of her close girlfriends and her lil’ dog, Kiki (who was sporting an adorable phohawk).
Actress Melora Hardin, who is featured on TV’ The Office, was also in Vegas for the weekend with her two adorable young daughters and her husband to promote her new film YOU. After hearing about the official AZURE opening at The Palazzo Las Vegas she stopped by because she had heard it was the best and most glamorous pool to be at in Vegas.
Audrina Patridge of MTV’s hit The Hills brought her family to Las Vegas for a weekend trip in celebration of her brother Mark’s birthday. Joined by their father, Mark Patridge Sr., Audrina’s ex-boyfriend Corey Bohan and twenty of Mark Jr.’s friends, the large group started their day at TAO Beach.
Also spotted at TAO Beach on Saturday was casino mogul Steve Wynn, who toured the hot spot before settling into a cabana.
Later in the evening clad in a beige strapless pantsuit, Audrina brought the group to TAO. Audrina surprised her brother with a cake as the entire restaurant sang happy birthday before they headed to a sky box in the nightclub.
Over at LAVO, another birthday celebration was taking place, as Dancing with the Stars season seven champion Mark Ballas and his cast mate Derek Hough held a belated party for their May birthdays. Ballas who recently turned 23, and Hough who turned 24, dined on the Italian offerings before blowing out the candles on individual birthday cakes. Ballas’ mother and his girlfriend were thrilled to be a part of the celebration.
Over from England, members of the famed Manchester, United soccer club, including Wes Brown and Danny Webber dined at LAVO.
Music icon Billy Idol partied at Rain Nightclub inside Palms Casino Resort.
I will be back next week with more of what’s “happening” in and around Las Vegas.