‘Unicus Manufactus’ – Muscle Up to the City’s Healthiest Food Truck


…or “What happens when two Las Vegas heroes launch a business during a pandemic”…

Once again, the challenges of 2020 have resulted in new, innovative and positive changes for our community. From daring music performances to the resurrection of old-school supper clubs and modern upgrades to the hospitality industry, Las Vegas has hit the “reset” button and is experiencing a fast-paced rebirth.

While some changes happened overnight, a pair of hometown heroes has been carefully curating a new approach to food trucks, those roadside food emporiums that soared in popularity during the “NO INDOOR DINING ALLOWED” madness of last year. But instead of the usual taco platters and BBQ’d ribs, this mobile kitchen promises an American-fusion menu with healthy flair.

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UNICUS MANUFACTUS aka U.M Trailer Bistro, is a curious name for an enterprise by first responders Daniel Sauls and Gunnar Walcavich. These two heroic friends protect the city’s citizens when the sun goes down and the bad guys come out. In the light of day, they’re whipping up creative new dishes to tickle the taste buds and build healthier bodies. That’s when they’re not hitting the gym to keep their own physiques in superhero condition.

The boys came up with the UNICUS MANUFACTUS moniker to acknowledge their mission statement, one that promises healthy, delicious dishes at the lowest possible price…all while never compromising quality. The Latin word Unicus means sole/unique/uncommon:

We didn’t pick the name “Unicus” because it sounded good. We picked it because Unicus is what we are. Our trailer looks different. Our food tastes different. Even our prices are different. We can guarantee there is nobody like us in the industry, that’s simply because we try harder. 

 You can tell that our nature is humanitarian, from the attention we give each customer to the prices across our menu. We ran through finance scenarios over and over to find the lowest numbers we could use on our menu BEFORE the pandemic. We want it to be apparent that we care.

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We are constantly thinking of ways, current and future, that we might be able to better Vegas with our existence. Our entire menu consists of items at $5 or less. We are (to my knowledge) the first mobile food business that provides not only caloric dietary information but MACROS as well!

We want to make ourselves available to those that need us most, as our mission is first and foremost to serve. We will diligently search for areas that service medical workers, first responders, and essential personnel during these trying times, in hopes to bring the most delicious food with a price that makes the most sense.

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The truth of that was most apparent recently when kitchen wizard Daniel had to undergo emergency surgery to save his life. Mere days later, he and Gunnar were back at that same hospital with UM Trailer Bistro to thank the hospital workers with their creations. They comped meals for anyone who wore scrubs:

We held a surprise service for the hospital that saved my life a little over a week ago. We always have so many hurdles to jump to try and accomplish things because of how new and small we are. We are a couple of persistent guys though, and yesterday was proof NOTHING CAN STOP US.

Persistence is a quality that Gunnar Walcavich exemplifies in spades. Vegas Unfiltered Blog readers first met this towering Russian boxer in my piece on ‘Quarantine Fitness‘, where I described his achievements and skills at getting people motivated.

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The formerly-overweight (and always-mugging) Gunnar recently earned a certification in Food Handling/Safety to accompany his personal training and nutritionist certifications. And his jacked physique makes the perfect canvas for Unicus Fitness Apparel that’s now available in the “Merch Market” section of their website.

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The menu at UM Trailer Bistro is a taste-tempting collection of recipes that Daniel has gathered from family members in Hawaii, along with others that he’s perfected through multiple trials. Pan-Asian influences are reflected in dishes like Agedashi Tofu, Ramen, Udon and Chashu bowl, and a Hawaiian Toast Breakfast plate.

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Daniel is especially proud of his freshly-made Shrimp and Grits and Fresh Pour-over Hot Chicory, a nutty, cajun-influenced alternative to traditional coffee beverages. And every item is served with style and a smile, accompanied by fun music from their vintage-style Victrola sound system.

We care about your enjoyment down to each bite and sip, and you can taste it every time. When you pay, you want to know that you got real ingredients, made WHEN you asked not before, and made with the care that we all desire our own food and drink to be handled with; and that’s our guarantee.

We promise that EVERY time you come by you will receive our best attempt at perfect service. Your food hits your hand hot, and your drink is either perfectly cold or has steam coming from it. You see us make each part of your drink, and even shake/stir it to make sure even your first sip is perfectly mixed and chilled. We actually care, and we care THAT much; and if you don’t believe us, come call our delicious bluff. 

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Along with the regular (and growing) menu, there is always a featured daily special to tempt you away from established favorites. And Unicus Manufactus has launched a 3-level loyalty program that can reward you with discounts and giveaways, one free item per month, up to a free item with every visit (purchase required).

The boys just announced a partnership with Tempo Ultra Lounge at 1000 East Sahara Avenue, where they’ll be every Friday and Saturday night beginning April 2nd. To learn where else to visit the UM Bistro Trailer, follow them on Facebook, check out the YouTube Channel, or subscribe at the official website.

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“Unique Handmade Culinary Creations & Libations for just $5. Need I say more???” – Unicus Manufactus

Photos: Sam Novak, Daniel Sauls, Gunnar Walcavich

The Nevada Room

‘The Vegas Room’ Supper Club inspires an ambitious spinoff… (excerpt from CHIC Compass magazine)


Last year, a small but dedicated group of entrepreneurs and artists came together to create The Vegas Room Supper Club. Their goal was to give back to the city they love. As fate would have it, launching their retro-cool “listening room” happened to coincide with a worldwide pandemic, yet they pressed on. It’s fair to say that business endeavors don’t get more daring than that.

“Don’t you mean ‘crazy’?” laughs Thomas Michel, the establishment’s de facto spokesman. Whether you credit madness or inspiration, the timing was right for a much-needed retreat from COVID-19 isolation. Bolstered by its intimate setting and extensive protective measures, The Vegas Room was an instant success. It also became a beacon for entertainers eager to step back into the spotlight.

Inspired by the supper club’s loyal following, General Manager Sean Stephenson and the rest of The Vegas Room team are preparing to deliver two dazzling spin-offs under one roof.

Click HERE to continue reading via CHIC Compass magazine.

Small Spaces, Towering Talent

Intimate Venues are the Hottest Ticket to Sin City’s Rebirth…


The times, they are a changing’. Gone for now are the concert tours, superstar residencies and spectacular mega-productions. As Sin City eases into a new comfort zone, the smart money is on smaller spaces, where performers and audiences can connect on an intimate level. In other words, a pure entertainment experience.

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Lounge acts and supper clubs harken a return to the days that put Las Vegas on the map…a time when true talent was the star. Their resurgence is evidence that tourists and locals alike are yearning for live music, despite concerns of gathering in public spaces. Perhaps that’s why The Vegas Room, less than a year old, is already prepping a more elaborate sister club just down the block. Look for The Nevada Room to debut in April.

NOTORIETY Live on Fremont Street is another small performance space experiencing a wave of popularity. Located in a former movie theater at Fremont Street’s NEONOPOLIS complex, NOTORIETY has attracted a number of notable names from a wide variety of Strip productions.

“Tenors of Rock” performed a special July 4th show at NOTORIETY

Spearheaded by Ken Henderson of Best Agency, the colorful NOTORIETY nightspot has been safely hosting magic shows, burlesque revues from Lucie May, rock concerts and comedy acts for months while others have remained shuttered. With its full bar service and available dining options, the 21-and-over clientele have been returning week after week for top-notch excitement (there’s a big-name residency slated to begin there soon, but I’m sworn to secrecy for now).

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While contracted productions are on hiatus, individual performers have been able to create scaled-down solo shows. Bucky Heard of The Righteous Brothers (see my Las Vegas Magazine article here) is launching “The Heart of Rock & Roll”, a concert series. Bucky tells me that it’s an intimate duo presentation with accomplished guitarist John Wedemeyer, who’s worked with legendary acts such as Donny and Marie, Bonnie Raitt, Wayne Newton and Clint Holmes.

Bucky and John’s “The Heart of Rock and Roll” premieres February 17th at Italian American Club on East Sahara Avenue. An amazing dinner is included, which starts at 6:30pm. Showtime is 8pm sharp. Tickets are available by clicking here

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If you’ve never visited Italian American Club, you owe it to yourself to discover it. Thanks to a dear friend, I’ve experienced the joys of this old-school gem and their rotating roster of talent, both established and rising. Stunning hunks like Jonathan Karrant and Chadwick Johnson performed incredible pre-Christmas shows, and they’ll be back on the IAC stage very soon.  Other favorites include Craig Canter, Chase Brown, and Frankie Scinta

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Travis Cloer, best known for his l0ng-running role in the Jersey Boys musical, has been super-busy during the pandemic. He’s had gigs at The Vegas Room and Italian American Club, among others. This weekend he’s at Chianti Restaurant with Christopher Lash for a special Valentine-themed performance. Showtime is 6 pm on February 13th, and tickets can be purchased here

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Crooners, Inc. at THE MINT Lounge…

Also this weekend is the debut of Crooners, Inc. at The Mint Lounge on East Sahara Avenue. Described as “an hour and a half of pure, classic Vegas entertainment on Valentine’s Day with music, mayhem and memories”, the production features a full band and a cast that includes Miss Mala, Tony Felicetta, Jonny Bird, JC Lopez and Dean Perry. Showtimes are 7pm and 9pm, with tickets available here

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Tuscany Resort on East Flamingo Avenue has been another go-to for superb lounge acts. Kenny Davidsen’s Bowtie Cabaret is a weekly Friday event with rotating hosts and guests. Stars like Ruby Lewis, Ian Ward, Anne Martinez, Kelly Vohnn, and Cassie Stone have recently joined Davidsen on stage. Performers Rita Lim, Ashley Fuller and Michael Grimm all have ongoing residencies there as well. 

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Harrah’s outdoor lounge Carnival Court has been playing host to a number of familiar faces, albeit under aliases. The father/son duo of Vinny Adinolfi and son Vin A. (The Bronx Wanderers) hit the C.C. stage on the weekends, operating as…well, it seems to depend on the week. Let’s stick with “VINdemic” for now. The guys also hit Italian American Club with the full band in January, and will be back there on February 18th.

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Another effect of the pandemic has been the formation of “super groups”. What you get is a superlative combination of artists from various other productions working together under a new moniker. ORIGINAL CHAOS boasts TENORS OF ROCK members Dai Richards, Chris Cicchino and Tim Sorbs (The Black Donnellys), along with vocalist Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show). Together they’ve been doing gigs at Carnival Court, along with the two Vin’s

NOTORIETY Live hit the ground running in November with Vin and Jimmy’s DOWNTOWN HOOTENANY. An irreverent collection of music, comedy, and hysterical video segments, the show featured Jimmy Denning of TENORS OF ROCK, Vin A. (him again), Tim Sorbs on drums, and guest stars Bucky Heard and Colin Cahill (do you see a trend here?). Expect another edition of DOWNTOWN HOOTENANY in the coming months.

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Broadway stage and screen star Ruby Lewis, a recurring guest at The Vegas Room, will have her own showcase at NOTORIETY on February 25th. The one-night performance will celebrate both her birthday and the release of her first original song “Shock Value“. Tickets are $40 and can be reserved here

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Speaking of The Vegas Room, the classy supper club has a great line-up of acts in the coming weeks. Entertainment director Jassen Allen has booked The Doo-Wop Kings, Christopher Lash, Savannah Smith, Elisa Fiorillo (with Barry Manilow’s musical director Joey Melotti), Skye Dee Miles and many more. Click here for performance schedules and to make reservations. 

 

Rant: I Don’t Need Your Approval To Have An Opinion


There’s always a price to pay for being honest…

For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to write for a couple of different publications. One is an online ticketing site that publishes show articles and helpful visitor information (currently it’s in limbo). The other is a well-regarded print magazine found in the majority of Las Vegas hotel rooms, pre-COVID. It’s only available online for now.

When the pandemic upheaval is over and tourists return en masse (with luck), I hope to regain those freelance positions. They gave me the opportunity to learn, reach larger audiences, research unfamiliar artists and discover subjects that might otherwise have dodged my radar. They were also gainful employment, since this blog is a passion project, not a revenue generator.

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Please read all precautions before proceeding…

Before accepting those jobs, I made it clear that I would continue maintaining Vegas Unfiltered Blog, which doesn’t always present things through rose-colored glasses. It felt necessary to make one thing clear: as a hired writer, I’d be wearing a different hat for them, separate from my personal site. When I’m paid to write for you, I work for you.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. The arrangement was working well for all involved (at least to my knowledge) until Cirque du Soleil decided to follow Criss Angel – Mindfreak Live with an even worse abomination called R.U.N. It premiered in Luxor‘s showroom in the fall of 2019 to horrendous reviews from critics and audiences alike.

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As the fates would have it, I  was assigned articles on R.U.N. for each of my paid gigs. Having seen this travesty, I decided to delay my own review until the others were submitted. The paid pieces didn’t require my opinion…just descriptions, what the production involved, types of acts, specifics on the plot, where it was located, etc.

The funny thing about this is the subsequent negative feedback I received. For instance, some dim bulb going by the name of @butterpunker tweeted “I’ll be honest. After reading the online reviews and then reading your review, I’m less inclined to trust anything you write about shows anymore.”

Guess what, genius…they weren’t reviews!

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Then I published an actual opinion piece, which you can see here. And yes, it was so scathing that I called R.U.N. “an epic disaster. An ugly, inconsistent, poorly-planned and sloppily-executed mess that lies there like a dead body in a ditch.”

So, my question to you is this…are people so stupid that they can’t tell the difference between a review and a so-called “puff piece”? A tourism magazine/website is there to present you with vacation options, then YOU decide what to spend your money on. A blog is a whole different ball of wax. But in this day of internet courage, emboldened armchair critics can hop onto Yelp and eviscerate a business from the safety of their laptop. Or call a critic out for doing the very thing he/she is meant to do.

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After that stupid scene went down, a marvelous and professional editor at one of the freelance outlets expressed concern. He/she asked a few sensible questions and we discussed shows/celebrities/subjects to avoid in order to prevent future backlash. Very considerate and supportive, they were. And it felt wonderful.

There have been many times when I’ve been confronted, either online or in person, after publishing an unflattering review. I’ve been accused of causing harm to livelihoods, putting people out of work, and threatening the security of entire productions. Somehow the blame for a bad show often gets put on little old me.

Show business is one of high risk. The chances of being a part of something successful are very slim. For every thirty or so television programs that debut each fall, only a handful get a second season. Movie studios can spend upwards of $300 million on a film that ends up playing to empty theater auditoriums. Nothing is a guaranteed hit. That’s just the way show business works.

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In Las Vegas, it’s not unusual for twenty or more shows to give their final bows in any given year (2020 was a bloodbath, but that was different). When a production shuts down, it’s not the fault of the actors, set designers, lighting technicians or costumers. But small-scale blogger Sam Novak often gets the blame.

Yesterday, a colleague in the entertainment industry attacked me for my opinions on the terrible Star Trek: Discovery television series. He accused me of causing harm to the industry, the actors, the directors and the entire CBS All-Access platform. Wow, who knew I was this powerful? Yeah, right…

His next words were what got to me the most: “You better hope that you don’t rely on Paramount, Warner Bros, or CBS for anything, because they won’t like what you wrote”. To which I responded “Don’t put out shit, and you won’t get shit from me. Especially on a fledgling, failing pay site that’s already in its death throes and about to be re-branded.”

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Apparently, I upset the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery…

I won’t compromise my integrity to please people in the entertainment industry. There are plenty of critics in Las Vegas who already do that. Most of them are high-profile names that attend nearly every function, often get onto the microphone themselves, and walk the line between journalist and celebrity. And they RARELY give an unflattering review.

I personally don’t care if people like my published critiques. They’re honest and brutal, whether favorable or not. I like what I like, hate things that suck to me, and I speak out to praise or warn. It’s my responsibility as an entertainment writer to share the emotions, reactions, and thought processes experienced from a meal/hotel stay/performer/activity.

In 2017, I was offered a position at an established tourism site. I accepted on the condition of full autonomy, so that I could be truthful about subjects that personally mattered and would hopefully have value to my readers. The webmaster agreed to that condition, yet of my first three articles, two were considered “too controversial” and she refused to publish them.

“We supposed to be encouraging people to come here and spend money” this Pollyana told me. My response was something along the lines of “You also have a responsibility to paint an authentic picture…and to honor your arrangement with your writers.” She scoffed, I walked, and within two hours, VegasUnfilteredBlog was born.

When I relocated from Oregon to Las Vegas, I promised to continue this column from the perspective of a visitor. Your discretionary income is too hard to come by, and you deserve to spend it wisely. I have no problem saying that The Vegas Room is an awesome supper club, The Garage is the best value for your cocktail budget, and Magic Mike Live is the worst pile of feces since….R.U.N. 

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“Hey, over here! We’re the worst show on the Strip” – MAGIC MIKE LIVE

The late media personality Robin Leach was guilty of publishing lots of flattery and fluff in his final years. Public relations firms knew to give Robin an “exclusive” when they needed a boost for their client. I’m not Robin, although I certainly appreciated his flair when it came to arm candy. The guy never went anywhere without a babe on each arm. A cool and iconic man, but not an objective critic. May he rest in peace.

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Robin referred to me as “The gay guy from Oregon”. Funny man…

No amount of money is going to make me switch to autopilot. If you want your reviews and opinions to be thoroughly researched, deeply detailed and backed up by facts, Vegas Unfiltered Blog is the place to be. Thanks for being a loyal reader. Best wishes in 2021.

BALLET 120 presents ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ For Today’s World


innovative Dance Troupe Re-imagines The Holiday Classic for a New Generation

This year has been unquestionably devastating to live entertainment. Sadly, things just took another grim turn. Nevada’s Governor Sisolak has announced an extension of the state’s three week “pause” into mid-January of next year. Say farewell to another round of shows, jobs, businesses and more.

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As we continue to adjust, some entertainers have turned to virtual performances to keep their craft alive. Ballet hasn’t necessarily been one of the fortunate genres. In the midst of worldwide chaos, this style of dance has been all but forgotten by some. But a troupe of talented, young performers who call themselves BALLET 120 isn’t about to let their beloved dance form fade away. 

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Vegas entertainers across the city have described to me how the pandemic has motivated them to become more innovative, prolific artists. BALLET 120 was formed three years ago, long before COVID-19 impacted our daily lives. Yet their group seems to have been affected by the same phenomenon.

The guiding force behind BALLET 120 is Benjamin Tucker. You might remember Tucker from this cast announcement of A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS. He and fiance Emma McGirr, both from Nevada Ballet Theater, have been delighting guests all through December as they spin, dip and sail throughout the intimate dinner theater.

“We have shorter attention spans these days” says Tucker. “And people tend to think of ballet as being ‘stuffy’. They have images in their mind of tutus and pointe shoes. There’s often an emotional detachment between the performers and the audience, so ballet has had a hard time remaining relevant in the 21st century. BALLET 120 hopes to change all of that.”

Short self-made dance videos became a rage during the pandemic. But while COVID-weary people were creating “TikTok” clips and “Instagram Reels” to lift their spirits, BALLET 120 had already adopted these platforms as a legitimate extension of their art.

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A delicate caress. Meaningful gazes. Sweeping camera movements that capture every subtlety. Glorious outdoor settings and contemporary clothing. These are some of the relatable elements that BALLET 120 uses to draw their audience into the world of ballet. And it appears to be working fabulously. BALLET 120 continues to grow, explore new avenues and inject familiar properties with a dazzling dose of immediacy.

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During any “normal” Christmas season, Tucker and McGirr would be filling concert halls with fans eager to see their annual The Nutcracker Suite performance. But this year’s holiday season plays by a different set of rules. So BALLET 120 has given the classic a contemporary twist. 

Even if COVID-19 hadn’t canceled holiday performances from coast to coast, chances are that BALLET 120 would have eventually sprinkled their fairy dust on The Nutcracker Suite. But fans of the troupe won’t have to wait, as three new installments of the cleverly-named BALLET12020 Nutcracker have already hit the internet.

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The first, entitled “How the Grinch Stole Nutcracker”, is awash in color and beauty. Click this link to view it in its entirety. It’s followed by “Have You Heard The Tea?” and “Dancing In The Coffee Grounds”. 

The final entry “Put A Little Peppermint in Your Step” was released on December 22nd.

“2020 has been weird. So we will be bringing you “Ballet12020 Nutcracker” videos that are a little different than you might be expecting.” – BALLET 120

Saying that the past several months have been “weird” might be putting things mildly. The events of 2020 will undoubtedly echo through our lives for years to come. And BALLET 120 will continue to be a powerful force, inspiring change and forever influencing our view of the arts. 

To learn about BALLET 120 and view their creations, head to the BALLET 120 website, visit them via Instagram, or “like” them on Facebook

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Studs of Song


Harvesting a Crop of New Music from The Sexiest Men of the Season…

Earlier this year, I interviewed a number of artists regarding the pandemic shutdown…and how it affected their creativity. 98 Degrees hunk Jeff Timmons found comfort in technological advances which allowed him to write, record, and network from the safety of home. Of course, he also doubled down on workouts to relieve stress and keep those famous muscles ready for the return of live shows.

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Ever-smiling Vin A. transformed into a Tasmanian devil of activity during the shutdown. Simultaneously recording at least two albums, the musical director and breakout star of The Bronx Wanderers teamed up with father Vinny Adinolfi to form VINdemic, a father-son musical duo. And he may have shot a few music videos and done a whole lotta other stuff, too (I’ve lost track).

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This month, Vin and close pal Jimmy Denning (Tenors of Rock) launched Vin & Jimmy’s DOWNTOWN HOOTENANNY, a monthly showcase at NOTORIETY. The sold-out crowd was physically spaced, and safety protocols were carefully observed.

Uproarious, irreverent and full of guest stars, HOOTENANY was a welcome return to the fun times we desperately need.  You’ll want to reserve your tickets as soon as December’s date is announced. Click here to be notified of upcoming events at NOTORIETY.

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Many local celebrities lent their talents to Downtown HOOTENANNY, but among them, only Colin Cahill has graced the virtual pages of HOT GUYS OF VEGAS at least twice. The ATOMIC SALOON SHOW star is best known for performing shirtless wherever he goes. Once the pandemic hit, he stopped revealing that fabulous body due to what he and wife Makenzie Fly call “The Quarantine Fifteen”.

After eight long months of hiding, Cahill finally caved to requests and undid some shirt buttons for “Under Pressure” with Jimmy Denning. Three nights later, the hunk was back in the spotlight for the debut of ORIGINAL CHAOS.

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The band, consisting of Cahill, drummer Tim Sorbs, vocalist Dai Richards and guitarist Chris Cicchino (both from Tenors of Rock) took over Harrah’s Carnival Court for a fabulous first night of their weekly Saturday residency. Fans, friends, and celebs turned out to support the boys. As fate would have it, they were preceded that evening by a lengthy set from the tireless VINDemic. Click here to follow ORIGINAL CHAOS on Instagram.

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Several years ago on New Year’s Eve, I met the cast of a new Planet Hollywood show called PIANO MAN (not to be confused with the one currently playing at MOSAIC Theater). Singer Brett Pruneau had come to Las Vegas just to join the cast. As luck would have it, he and I attended the same New Year’s Eve party that evening…and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

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Brett Pruneau

Brett remained in Sin City after PIANO MAN folded, joined the cast of world-famous JUBILEE, and made a name for himself in this crazy city. Sadly, a stress-related condition traumatized the singer’s vocal chords and threatened to end his career. Lots of therapy later, the former New Yorker is back, better than ever, and just released a stirring collection entitled “The Real Thing”.

Like many artists, Brett used the pandemic situation as an opportunity to create, grow, and share his emotions. That’s what “The Real Thing” is about. As he recently told The Hollywood Digest, “I choose to interpret music that fulfills me and enriches my soul. This particular project was born out of pure necessity, to be honest. Given the current climate of the world during the COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t bare the thought of not having a creative outlet for this indefinite season we are in.”

In addition to getting his vocal chords back into shape, Brett began a fitness routine that he’s proudly showing off on social media. If that angelic face wasn’t enough for him to make HOT GUYS OF VEGAS (it is), Brett’s newly-chiseled physique would guarantee him a spot. Expect more great things from Brett Pruneau in the future. You can purchase “The Real Thing” collection here or listen to it via Spotify here.

Travis Cloer

If all the world is a stage, then super-talented Travis Cloer is its Emperor. There’s nothing that the super-popular actor/singer can’t do. Scheduled to return to The Vegas Room this weekend after a wildly-successful showcase in July, the supper club’s press release sums up Cloer this way:

From classic to jazz, musical theatre to rock-n-roll, and everything in between, there isn’t a genre of music that can escape Travis Cloer’s masterful ability to grab a song and make it his very own.

Among his credits are West Side Story, Damn Yankees, Starlight Express, and – most notably – his record-setting performance as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys – with over 2,200 appearances around the world to his credit. This portrayal earned him several Best Actor nominations from BroadwayWorld.com and much acclaim and respect in Las Vegas and on Broadway. 

In addition to his artistic talents, the great-looking Cloer has an infectious energy that makes every song a party. His latest recording is “Holiday With Me”, a doo-wop ditty that you can’t get enough of. The song was written by Cloer and produced by Vegas headliner Frankie Moreno. After only one week in release, the song is rising up the charts and is sure to be a perennial favorite.

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You can order “Holiday With Me” by following this link. Then make your reservations to see Travis Cloer on November 27th and 28th at The Vegas Room by clicking here.

‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ – An Updated Forecast


lastest news on the season’s cheeriest holiday dinner and show…

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It’s often said that in Las Vegas, the only constant is “change”. From entertainment offerings to the temperatures, you never know what to expect from week to week. And so it seems that the winds of change have shuffled the playbook at The Vegas Room. I’ve got the latest updates for fans and newbies alike.

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If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up with A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS show announcement here, then cast bios here and here. As is the norm in the entertainment world, things tend to evolve during creative processes. And so it is that Eric Jordan Young, Brent Barrett, Bernie Blanks and Lisa Marie will no longer be appearing in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS.

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The announced cast of 20 performers has been revised with additional Las Vegas favorites. Each is a respected entertainer with their own legacy and fan base. Let’s take a look at the gentlemen who will now don stocking caps and mittens to celebrate Irving Berlin‘s WHITE CHRISTMAS:

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CARNELL JOHNSON – Familiar to thousands of Golden Knights fans…and people around the world…as “Mr. Golden Pipes”, Carnell Johnson unifies the nation regularly with his stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Born in Las Vegas, the gentle giant is known for entertaining enormous crowds at T-Mobile Arena and enhancing intimate moments as a singing gondolier at Venetian‘s GRAND CANAL.

A compassionate individual, Mr. Johnson regularly lends his time and talent to Ronald McDonald House and social equality movements.  He also participated in the MaskUpForNevada (#MaskUp4NV) campaign at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign that I covered in June. Carnell spent much of this summer doing small outdoor gigs, and is a professional actor and voice-over artist.

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Robert Hyatt

ROBERT HYATT – Who could ever guess that the gondolas floating on Venetian‘s canals could deliver so much talent. Such is the case with Oregonian Robert Hyatt. Like castmate Carnell Johnson, Hyatt also spent time on the fabled waters, serenading the city’s visitors in his own unique style.

Rob is just as skilled at music arranging as he is on the microphone. The husband and father is founder of the amazing Fifth Avenue jazz quartet, a managing member of E3 Digital Entertainment and was musical director/pianist for Riviera Hotel‘s long-running Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was.

Ian Ward

IAN WARD – Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog know my admiration for California boy Ian Ward. Check out this profile piece to see what I mean. It’s rare to find such explosive talent in someone so young. Poised to detonate the national scene any day now, Ian had a featured showcase at The Vegas Room in August. Naturally, I attended every evening.

For the past three weeks, he and partner Ruby Lewis (who also appears in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS) presented a musical journey highlighting their ability to blend, harmonize and compliment one another. Here’s just one of the unforgettable moments:

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Ben Tucker

In addition to casting changes, dancer/choreographer Benjamin Tucker has taken on the role of Stage Director. Ben told me that he plans an immersive experience that will evoke the warmth of a holiday ski lodge. Guests will briefly leave Las Vegas behind and enter the world of White Christmas. Once you’ve enjoyed a bountiful Christmas-style dinner, The Vegas Room cast will commemorate the perennial movie classic via song and dance.

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Throughout December, guests of The Vegas Room will experience the fragrances and tastes of the season, too. Chef David James Robinson has crafted a glorious holiday menu to compliment and accompany the onstage presentation:

Savory Gingerbread with Vanilla Butter

Mini Lobster Quiche

Borscht with Sour Cream

Holiday Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding or 

Turkey and Sage Dressing with Green Beans & Pomegranate or 

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Dressing and Sweet Potato Puree (vegan)

Egg Nog and Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

The Vegas Room Dessert That Snows!

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In preparation for upcoming festivities and to allow patrons to remain safely at home during increased COVID-19 concerns, The Vegas Room will be dark through November 26th (Thanksgiving). Shows will return on November 27th and 28th with dinner performances by Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys).

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Sunday brunch returns on Sunday, November 29th with international dazzler Nieve Malandra. Chef Robinson has prepared a multi-course brunch to accompany Nieve’s songs from Japan, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.

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A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS launches its first of 20 performances on December 2nd. Join them for what is sure to become an annual holiday tradition. Click here for reservations to any performance at The Vegas Room.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Phone (725) 206-7059 for more information.

‘Stealing Chaplain’ – Las Vegas Indie Headed for the Big Screen

Locally-produced comedy benefits from sHortage of Hollywood theatrical releases…


“Keep digging. Otherwise the next grave we’re digging is our own”. So says ‘Cal’, a con man desperate to stay alive while embroiled in a daring Las Vegas scam. That’s the premise of STEALING CHAPLAIN, a brand-new comedy filmed on location in Sin City.

STEALING CHAPLAIN is an independent production that’s about to hit big screens across the country. It’s being released at a time when theater chains are starving for new titles. For local producer Ken Bressers of Dystopian Films, this came as a stroke of luck, one that he swiftly pounced upon.

After the relative failure of director Christopher Nolan’s expensive (and downright awful, IMHO) TENET on U.S. screens, tentpole features like Pixar’s SOUL, Disney’s MULAN remake, WONDER WOMAN 84 and the latest James Bond film have either been postponed or diverted to streaming services. As a result, chains like AMC, Cinemark and Regal have relied on running retro classic titles…or have shut down altogether.

“Knowing we’ve got a quality movie ready to deliver and that theaters are drying up, we approached several theater chains directly, and they loved the idea” said Bressers. “Beginning November 13, we will be opening in over a hundred movie theaters across six major chains, and we’re still in talks with several others.” Stealing Chaplain is currently in theatrical release in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Stealing Chaplin is a comic caper focused on two British con men who dig up and ransom the corpse of legendary comic actor Charlie Chaplin. It’s inspired by the true story of a pair of crooks actually exhuming and stealing the body of the silent comedy star. Ken oversaw a production also starring The Sopranos star Al Sapienza and The Patriot actor Peter Woodward.

Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize a number of local performers who are featured in Stealing Chaplain. It even includes a cameo appearance from “Mr. Las Vegas” himself, Wayne Newton. Dani Elizabeth, fiance of comedic magician Murray SawChuck, is the popular emcee of CRAZY GIRLS at Planet Hollywood. Handsome Brent Barret of PHANTOM – The Las Vegas Spectacular (and former entertainment director for THE VEGAS ROOM) is on hand, as is sultry Cheryl Prater, a frequent host and guest at ROCKING COMEDY SHOW with Jay Bird

  Cheryl Prater has been in numerous Vegas-centric films and TV series

It was at a Halloween day private screening of the 1984 classic Nightmare on Elm Street (hosted by Jay) that Cheryl Prater first told me the STEALING CHAPLAIN news. She was undoubtedly excited by the chance to reach a large-scale audience in her latest role. In a year filled with endless bad news, this was a solid reason for cast, crew and friends to celebrate.

Bressers echoed those sentiments: “If Charlie Chaplin taught us anything; it was that laughing in times of difficulty sometimes is the best medicine. In light of everything going on in the world at the moment, we are very pleased to be partnering with Cinemark Theatres, Marcus Theatres, Malco, Starlights, and more to deliver Stealing Chaplin to an audience in need of an escape!”

Escaping to movie theaters has long been a popular Las Vegas pastime. Fremont Street’s historic El Portal Theater, built in the 1920s, was the city’s very first air-conditioned structure. Casinos throughout the valley have multi-screen theaters under their roofs, and the West Wind 6 Drive-in is filled with hundreds of cars every evening.

Several local movie producers and directors have turned Las Vegas into their own private Hollywood. Directors Joe Lujan and brothers Sonny and Michael Mahal use local talent and locations for outrageous cult horror films like Art of the Dead, Bus Party to Hell and the Immortal Wars franchise. Along with Sharknado actress Tara Reid, their films feature handsome future stars like Mark Justice, Ben Stobber, and burlesque performer Ronnie Nanos.

Even Gregory Popovich of David Saxe‘s POPOVICH COMEDY PET THEATER got bit by the movie-making bug. His endearing “Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West” had an exclusive run at Brenden Theaters at The Palms Casino Hotel. So, it’s no surprise that Stealing Chaplain benefits from the talent of many Las Vegas entertainers.

With all of the new precautions that have been standardized to make your movie-going experience safe and enjoyable, there’s no better time to head out and experience a new film. Enjoy this trailer for STEALING CHAPLAIN and see it on theater screens beginning November 13th. Visit the official Facebook page for more information and showtimes. 

Chestnuts, Snowfall and Stars: ‘A Vegas Room Christmas Cast’ Pt. 2


Conclusion of my two-part look at casting the brightest event of the holiday season….


Remember that feeling you had as a child? All through the month of December you stared at the calendar, counting down the days until Christmas vacation. Then came the unbearable anticipation of the big morning under the tree, with all of gifts, hugs from family and friends…and of course, a fabulous meal.

Now that we’ve gotten older, those emotions tend to be forgotten. But this year, more than ever before, our inner child is longing for those feelings of joy, comfort, and celebration. The one place in Las Vegas that you’re sure to find them this holiday season is at The Vegas Room.

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If you’ve missed my previous articles on A Vegas Room Christmas, you can read them by clicking here and here. You’ll learn about this magnificent production and the fabulous brunch or dinner that accompanies each performance. But let’s continue with the remaining members of the stellar cast, picking up where we left off last week.

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                                                                      Ruby Lewis

RUBY LEWIS – Is it unfair of me to state in this section that Ruby Lewis is one of my favorite performers of all time? Probably….but there are really no words to describe my affection for this gifted young woman. No matter where she goes or what she’s doing, you’ll most likely see me in the audience.

In a city full of inflated egos and self-importance, only a performer as humble and genuine as Ruby Lewis would prepare a pre-show feast of home-cooked greens, black-eyed peas and ham for her fans. This is one southern gal whose mama raised her right (thanks, Eve).

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                 I had the honor of sharing the BAZ stage with Ms. Lewis for a day…

I first encountered Ms. Lewis when she came to Mandalay Bay for the brief initial run of BAZ. Ruby’s stunning vocals brought audiences to their feet through her portrayal of “Daisy Buchanan”, debutante and heartbroken soulmate of one “Jay Gatsby”. I challenge you to watch this clip without getting goosebumps…and some tears in your eyes.

After a stunning leap to Broadway, Ms. Lewis returned to BAZ at Palazzo, played the lead in Marilyn! The New Musical at Paris Hotel Casino and hosted her one-woman show at The Space. You can catch Ruby and partner Ian Ward when they grace The Vegas Room stage for three consecutive Thursdays beginning October 29th.

Luke Striffler

Luke Striffler – If Ruby Lewis is the star atop the Vegas Room Christmas tree, then actor/singer/comedian Luke Striffler is the holiday eggnog. Smooth and bright with great body and a little kick, this is one Christmas cocktail you’ll want to sip all season long.

Luke charmed audience at Fremont Street’s D Hotel Casino in the popular Friends: The Musical Parody. He’s also created excitement with roles in Hairspray, Avenue Q. and Forever Plaid. Although born Stateside, Luke’s career took hold when he moved to London, where he starred in the featurette The Morning After with husband Joshua Berg. Two of Luke’s biggest breakthroughs were a role in the famed EastEnders BBC series and a semi-final placing on Britain’s Got Talent as part of The Kingdom Tenors.

Sin City gained more than just another handsome face when the multi-talented activist returned to the U.S. Once the pandemic shut down all live entertainment, it was Luke who created Performers Outlet: Covid-19, a support group for entertainers. The initiative provides encouragement, ideas, and opportunities for artistic collaboration while weathering this seemingly endless pandemic.

Janien Valentine

Janien Valentine – You know that you’ve achieved “entertainment royalty” when you’ve been immortalized by artist Neal Portnoy. That’s why people around the Valley wake up to a cup of Janien Valentine every day. Janien was “Portnoyed” by the famed caricaturist artist, who created a line of fundraising products to assist out-of-work entertainers (learn more by clicking here).

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Ms. Valentine plants her boots firmly in a variety of musical periods. She can belt out today’s top hits, pay tribute to ballads of years past, then roar back in time to the Strip’s Golden Era. An all-around entertainer with incredible dynamic range, Janien blends the flavors of Ann-Margaret and Celine Dion with a sprinkle of Lola Falana and a dash of Tina Turner.

The native of East Amherst, NY is well-known to audiences through her work with The Scintas. She’s the principal vocalist of the musical trio Poperazzi, and you can drink in her scintillating energy at Bellagio‘s Mayfair Supper Club. Ms. Valentine returns this Christmas season to The Vegas Room after a splendid showcase in August. 

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                                                                 Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson – If the warm, fuzzy feelings of the holidays could take human form, I suspect they’d look a lot like Michelle Johnson. There’s something about the style, elegance, and comforting voice of the “First Lady of Jazz” that makes you want to reach for a brandy snifter and settle in by the fireplace for a crackling-good show.

The multi-award winner has graced Broadway stages, television screens and venues throughout Las Vegas. She’s collaborated with artists as varied as Barbra Streisand, Sheena Easton, Elton John, Clint Holmes, PM Dawn and Josh Groban. 

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For many, a Michelle Johnson performance is synonymous with the holiday season. That’s why her “Vintage Christmas” at The Smith Center quickly sold out last December. Alas, that amazing venue for the arts has been shuttered indefinitely due to the pandemic. Fortunately, fans can still get their Christmas fix of the starlet at The Vegas Room all through December.

A self-described “introvert” who confesses to wrestling with stage fright, the accomplished singer/songwriter/producer/author nevertheless exudes confidence and charisma with every pitch-perfect note. Ms. Johnson’s solo shows are teeming with  humorous anecdotes and honest reflection that somehow make her feel like an old friend. In other words, she’s exactly the kind of person that you’d want to spend the holidays with.

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Ben Tucker and Emma McGirr –

What’s a musical production without a pair of professional dancers? The Vegas Room has broadened their vision for “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” with the addition of Emma McGirr and Ben Tucker. The real-life couple is part of Nevada Ballet Theatre, and have performed “The Nutcracker” both locally and for the Schrader Youth Ballet Company in Parkersburg, WV.

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Two years ago, McGirr and Tucker founded Ballet 120, an innovative dance company whose goal is to make the artform of dance accessible to larger audiences via social media platform. They do so by creating brief, innovative video performances like the one below.

Emma and Ben plan to marry on January 2nd of next year. A Vegas Room Christmas marks their first professional appearance at the venue.

Check back with Vegas Unfiltered Blog in the weeks ahead for more information on A Vegas Room Christmas, including community efforts related to the event. Follow this link for complete information on pricing, schedules and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18 in the historic Commercial Center complex. 

Chestnuts, Snowfall and Stars: ‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ Cast Revealed

A powerhouse roster promises the brightest holiday event of the season…


Last week I shared the exciting news that The Vegas Room would be producing a month-long salute to the sights, sounds and flavors of Irving Berlin’s “WHITE CHRISTMAS”. In our current state of shutdowns…along with the latest blow of Broadway being shuttered until mid-2021…an announcement of this magnitude was most welcome.

The dream team that’s been assembled for A Vegas Room Christmas is nothing short of amazing. Entertainment Director Brent Barrett (Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me, Kate), Stage Director Eric Jordan Young (BAZ, Cocktail Cabaret) and Musical Director Keith Thompson (Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, We Will Rock You) have decades of experience and thousands of performances to draw on. So with everyone that A Vegas Room Christmas already has in place, the production was sure to attract an incredible line-up of singers and dancers. And indeed it has. 

In a follow-up meeting with the creative team this weekend, I was able to get an advance peek at the official cast announcement, along with the performance schedule of each player. As mentioned in the previous article, A Vegas Room Christmas will feature four rotating casts of top-caliber artists. 

Anne Martinez Can’t Slow Down To Be “The Next Big Thing”

Anne Martinez – The crimson-haired goddess known as Anne Martinez has been a personal favorite of mine for many years. I became acquainted with Anne when she joined the cast of BAZ at Palazzo, taking on the Moulin Rouge role of “Satine” made famous by Nicole Kidman. A long list of Vegas productions includes World’s Greatest Rock Show, Showstoppers, FANTASYZombie Burlesque and her own remarkable creation Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy

Anne and husband John Martinez (Cirque du Soleil’s “O”) are very active in the community, especially when it comes to animal charities and rescue. She fronts the band Red Penny Arcade which can currently be seen at The Venetian and downtown’s NOTORIETY LIVE. Click here for my profile on Ms. Martinez from 2017. 

Sam Holder – If I’m going to comment on the glamour of the ladies in this cast, then it’s only fair to point out the “heartthrob status” of Sam Holder. The square-jawed, broad-shouldered Mississippi native is poised to set hearts aflutter at The Vegas Room with his matinee-idol looks and sexy swagger.

Equally at home performing classic rock, Motown-era standards and sultry jazz, Mr. Holder combines pop sensibilities and wit with the classic stylings of Sin City’s Golden Era. Sam’s powerful showmanship comes through even when his tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. I’m eager to see what the rugged hunk has in store for White Christmas roles made famous by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

Amanda King – There’s a reason why visitors to The Vegas Room return time and again for Amanda King. The vibrant songstress from Indiana always has something new for devoted fans…and a dazzling showcase for those discovering Ms. King for the very first time.

A classically-trained actor and singer, Ms. King wraps her arms tightly around the “Great American Songbook”, embracing the works of pioneers like Sophie Tucker, Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne. This month, the glamorous chanteuse debuted an ambitious two-part salute to legends of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s at The Vegas Room.

Randal Keith – If vocals could be harnessed for energy, the powerful voice of Randal Keith would light up every neon sign and LED screen on the Strip. At the age of 13, Randal’s unique timbre was already striking, and he continues to astound audiences today. A favorite at The Vegas Room, Mr. Keith has performed two weekend showcases there and continues to draw in dedicated fans.

Mr. Keith spent several years on Broadway and on tour with iconic roles in Les Miserables, Spamalot, Man of La Mancha and Sunset Boulevard. Currently residing in Las Vegas, the handsome star delighted Sin City audiences with roles in Phantom – The Vegas Spectacular, BAZ, Marilyn, and Showstoppers.

Lisa Marie – Sexy, sassy, modern and classy…all words to describe the sultry Lisa Marie. Like our other red-tressed beauty Anne Martinez, Ms. Marie also graced the Palazzo stage for BAZ. Before that, her retro-chic persona was perfectly featured in the long-running musical Pin-Up at Stratosphere.

When not performing at Bellagio‘s Mayfair Supper Club, Lisa Marie spends some of her rare free time in the recording studio. Her songs are available on iTunes, YouTube, and Spotify. She’s also a staple at Kenny Davidsen‘s Bowtie Cabaret and numerous charitable events at The Space

Bernie Blanks – “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather III

Bernie Blanks might have convinced himself at some point that he’d left show business behind. After a long run in the legendary Starlight Express, Mr. Blanks became involved in numerous productions before undertaking a career in healthcare and aesthetic medicine. Of course, the call of the stage becomes louder once you’ve married back into the business. 

On Labor Day Weekend, the husband of The Vegas Room‘s Entertainment Director Brent Barrett joined his spouse onstage for “Islands In the Stream”, a personal evening of duets and reflection. Mr. Barrett referred to their show as “Sonny and Cher…but with two men. And since I’m taller, guess who gets to play Cher?”.

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The happy couple will team up once more for A Vegas Room Christmas. This writer can’t help but wonder if either of these gentlemen plans to take on Rosemary Clooney or Vera-Ellen…that would definitely put an  uproarious twist on White Christmas. You’ll have to order your tickets early to find out. 

Next week I’ll tell you about the rest of the Vegas Room Christmas cast, including Michelle Johnson, Ruby Lewis, Luke Striffler and dancers Ben Tucker and Emma McGirr. With luck, there might be some behind-the-scenes photos on the way…