Las Vegas Backstage Talk

Jeff Tracta, David Brenner

April 17, 2014 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & The Web

Jeff Tracta

Master Impressionist Jeff Tracta guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong to promote his upcoming One Night Only Extravaganza With Rising Country A Cappella Quintet Home Free, Recent Winners of NBC’s “The Sing-Off” at LVH on April 24, to benefit St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, a non-profit organization that transforms the lives of abused, neglected and homeless children and young adults in Southern Nevada. Tracta’s funny, cutting edge multi-media show, “A Journey Through Pop Culture” at the LVH Theatre at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino will benefit St. Jude’s Ranch for Children

Tracta, whose 100+ hilarious, spot on impressions include Bruno Mars, Usher, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, the entire cast of “Family Guy,” Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel and Elton John, is sharing the one night only musical and comedy extravaganza with five piece country a cappella powerhouse Home Free, winners of Season 4 of NBC’s “The Sing-Off” who just released their major label debut Crazy Life.

.”A Journey Through Pop Culture” is co-created and produced by John McEntee, President and Founder of TEI Entertainment, who is one of the nation’s leading talent buyers and producers.  For more info: (www.jefftracta.com)

Tickets can also be purchased at the box office or over the phone at (800) 222-5361.

David Brenner

Due to popular demand, I will re-air my interview with David Brenner that aired in 2012.

“Legendary stand-up comedian and long time Tonight Show favorite, David Brenner, passed away at the age of 78 after a courageous battle with his final dragon, cancer,” his rep Jeff Abraham.  “Brenner died peacefully at his home in NYC surrounded by his family at his side. David is survived by his wife, Ruth, his three sons, Cole, Wyatt, Slade and his grandson, Wesley.”

Brenner has made 158 appearances on “The Tonight Show” over the course of his career, making him the most frequent guest in the show’s history. Known for basing his routine on current events, Brenner was a popular TV political pundit, with regular appearances on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News.

Prior to stepping on stage, Brenner wrote, produced and directed 115 television documentaries, which earned him nearly 30 awards, including an Emmy®. He has written numerous books, including “I Think There’s a Terrorist in My Soup” and the best-seller “Soft Pretzels With Mustard.”

Brenner has four HBO specials to his credit, including “David Brenner: Back With A Vengeance,” which was one of the cable network’s highest-rated specials. In 2010, he appeared as himself on the ABC show “Modern Family.”

More about David Brenner here–>

 

 

 

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Larry Stewart, John Pinette-LVBST w/Comedian Michele LaFong

April 10, 2014 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & The Web

Restless Heart

 

 

 

 

 

Larry Stewart, Lead Singer of Restless Heart guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong to promote their upcoming engagement with Sawyer Brown on April 19, at The Eastside Cannery.

With over 27 years of musical history to their credit, the 5 original members of Restless Heart continue to thrill audiences nightly with their award-winning talent, showmanship and flawless harmonies on hits including “I’ll Still Be Loving You”, “Why Does It Have to Be (Wrong or Right)”, “Bluest Eyes in Texas”, and “Dancy’s Dream,” to name a few.

Led by Larry Stewart, with Dave Innis on keyboards, Greg Jennings on lead guitar, Paul Gregg on bass and drummer, John Dittrich, they brought a new, contemporary sound to Nashville—a sound with a touch of pop and country rock—the sound which so strongly influences popular country acts of today, including Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, and Little Big Town.

 Gold became the standard for the group with the release of their self-titled album. Three more gold albums followed between 1986 and 1991. With an additional six albums released through the years, Restless Heart has put 26 hits on the country charts with six climbing to #1 and nine others in the Top Ten. Cross-over success, rare in the music world, was also theirs with six songs making the adult contemporary charts. “When She Cries”, named BMI Song of the Year in 1993, was followed by another top ten crossover single, “Tell Me What You Dream”. Early career Grammy, CMA and ACM nominations culminated in Restless Heart being named ACM’s Vocal Group of the Year.

 John Pinette

John Pinette, a favorite recurring guest on Las Vegas Backstage Talk passed away on April 5, in Pittsburgh. He was 50.

The apparent cause was a pulmonary embolism, his manager, Larry Schapiro, said. Mr. Pinette, who had homes in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, was found dead in a hotel room in Pittsburgh, where he was attending a family function.

Known for his high-pitched voice, broad Massachusetts accent and trademark two-word condemnation (“Nay-nay!”) of all manner of deplorable things, Mr. Pinette toured widely and was a guest on “The Tonight Show” and “The View.” He dealt most often in comedy rooted in his own life — “the funniest thing that I can think of,” he often said.

He was also known for his brief but memorable turn in the series finale of “Seinfeld” in 1998 as the hapless victim of a carjacking. In that episode, seen by an estimated 76 million viewers, Mr. Seinfeld and his friends observe the crime but do nothing, leading to their arrest on charges of violating good Samaritan laws.

Mr. Pinette, whose first comedy album, “Show Me the Buffet,” was released in 1998, stood about 5 feet 11 and weighed, at his heaviest, some 450 pounds.

“I don’t do fat jokes per se,” he told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2001. He added, “I’d rather talk about the trials and tribulations of a large mammal in our society.”

He was due to return on LVBST to promote his engagement at The Orleans Showroom next month.  John will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

 

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April Las Vegas Backstage Talk column by Michele LaFong

April Las Vegas Backstage Talk column in Casino Player Magazine, and Gaming Today.

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(click on article to read)

 

Remembering David Brenner

It doesn’t get much than better listening to show-biz stories from David Brenner and Shecky Green in a Las Vegas coffee shop.  It wasn’t that long ago I was doing just that.  I was shocked when I heard that David Brenner lost his battle with cancer at age 78. II was fortunate enough to have interviewed him when he was promoting his last engagement at The Suncoast Showroom.  In that interview Brenner talked about how his father taught him to always leave the audience laughing.  And he did…even till the very end.  I reran that interview on March 20, in David’s memory.  The audio is archived on lasvegasbackstagetalk.com.

After interviewing countless comedians and singers on LVBST for almost three years and following up to watch their shows, I started to realize that artists and audiences often have very different agendas. Audiences always want to be entertained and look forward to hearing their favorite bits or hits of the artist that they pay to go see…and artists want to entertain but also want to grow and continue to evolve, develop and explore.  With the double-edged sword of name recognition and fame come expectations from fans of what that artist often perceives as keeping them stuck in the past, and pigeon-holed.  Finding that perfect balance of “old” and “new” is the answer to satisfying both the audience and artist whether a comedian, or singer.  Tom Jones is a perfect example of someone who has mastered not only combining old with new, but also in re-inventing his band and updating his bluesy arrangements, keeping his material fresh yet in-step with his brand which also keeps him relevant.  A crowd-pleaser like Tony Orlando, who is known for opening his show with his biggest hits right off the bat then following up with everything from Led Zeppelin, to The Beatles, always delivers a feel-good contemporary show, is always “on,” and has that special connection with his loyal audience which explains his lasting popularity and sell-out performances. Bill Maher, and Jerry Seinfeld are examples of comedians that are committed to keeping their material updated, presentation smooth, and take pride in the quality of their shows without sacrificing laughs.  Paula Poundstone, Chuck Negron, Mickey Gilley, Marty Allen, Rich Little, Gallagher, Gary Puckett, Carlos Mencia, and Judy Tenuta are all examples of artists that not only embrace their audience but also include a Meet & Greet following every show.  Another performer that is very pro-audience and eager to please was Burton Cummings, former lead singer for The Guess Who.  Cummings sang hit after hit when headlining at The Orleans in January, and received several standing ovations throughout.  He even allowed flash photography during his performance and went as far as inviting fans to videotape the show!  However not all artists are even close to being as giving and grateful on and off stage, committed to taking the audience up as high as they can.  70’s Pop Star Helen Reddy had a packed house.  Before the show began at The Orleans Theatre, I over-heard audience members anticipating which hit Reddy might open with.  But no one called it right!  She didn’t sing any hits until forty minutes into the show.  Although her voice sounded as good ever, the fans that came out expecting to hear her many, many hits were clearly out of luck, as I counted three hits in total including the iconic and mandatory “I am Woman.” Oh…And of course, no pictures, nor autographs for anyone with no exceptions, and certainly no backstage passes!  I can’t say I was that surprised because when I interviewed Reddy a couple of weeks prior to the show, and asked her why she had quit the business and stopped singing for over ten years, her reply was “I was bored.  I was tired of singing the same songs over and over again.”  I asked why she decided to return, her reply was “I was at my older sister’s 80th birthday party, and she asked me to do her a favor and sing a duet with her …and you don’t turn down your big sister…so I sang… got a huge standing ovation, and I heard my voice coming out of the monitor and thought “gee, that’s not so bad…maybe I should go out and do that again…and here I am.”  Before my interview, I asked her if she will be gambling while in Vegas?  Her reply? “I don’t gamble, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I’m a celibate!” (Not exactly what I was expecting!) I immediately recalled a videotaped interview I did with Comedian Sal Richards in which I asked if there was a celebrity he worked with that wasn’t what he expected them to be.  His immediate reply was “yes Helen Reddy!” And the story he told about her was pretty outrageous and shocking!  It really shows what can go on behind the scenes in Show Business.  It is posted on casinocenter.com and promises not to disappoint!

Singing funnyman Michael Shane was such a hit at Bootlegger Bistro on Thursday nights that he is “back by popular demand” on every Friday & Saturday in April from 6:30PM on.  He will be taking your requests and is very difficult to stump!  The food is great, especially the pizza, and you’ll be thoroughly entertained.

My picks for April are Ray Romano/Kevin James, April 4 & 6, Mirage, Brian McKnight, April 5, Eastside Cannery, Rob Thomas, April 4, Palms, DL Hughley, Orleans, April 4 & 5, Palms,  Gary Lewis & The Playboys, April 4 & 5, Suncoast, Jeff Ross, April 5, Mirage, Olivia Newton-John, April 8- 12, Flamingo, Jason Alexander, April 11-May 4, Harrah’s, Wayne Brady, April 11, Mirage, Bryan Ferry, April 12, Palms, Jay Leno, April 12, Mirage, Foghat, April 12, Cannery, Las Vegas Soul Festival, April 12, UNLV, Megadeth and Motorhead, April 17, Palms, The Bronx Wanderers, April 18-20, South Point, Gabriel Iglesias, Mirage, April 18 & 19, Jim Belushi & Chicago Board of Comedy, April 18 & 19, Venetian, Robert Cray, April 18, Cannery, Restless Heart/Sawyer Brown, April 19, Eastside Cannery, Jeff Tracta, April 24, LVH, Tony Orlando, April 25-27, South Point, Bobby Rydell, April 25-27, Suncoast, Tracy Morgan, April 25, TI, Little River Band, April 26, Cannery, Temptations, April 26 & 27, Orleans, Rod Stewart, April 30-May 17, Caesars Palace

 

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Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier-LVBST

March 13, 2014 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & The Web

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Tommy Davidson and David Alan Grier guest on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong to promote their upcoming one night only “In Living Color Reunion Tour” at Aliante Casino on March 21, 8pm and 10:30pm.

Tommy’s elasticity as a performer has led him through a diverse array of roles including the lead in the Disney animated series The Proud Family and his hilarious character in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Tommy has starred in four successful Showtime specials to date (On Strength of New York, Illin’ in Philly and Takin’ it to DC and Chocolate Sundaes).  Most recently, Tommy has been working on the just-renewed second season of his hit series, Black Dynamite, Adult Swim’s #1 top-rated show. Next up on the feature film front is the extraordinary story of the international celebrity Sammy Davis Jr. whose outsize talent couldn’t save him from himself in, “Deconstructing Sammy,” which Tommy bought the rights to last year and is in development on.  

 Known for the indelible characters he created on the iconic variety show and spot-on impersonations from iconic figures like Sammy Davis Jr. and President Obama, Tommy is truly the ultimate all-around performer. Selling out every venue in which he performs, Tommy Davidson promises an unforgettable in-studio of incisive wit, hilarious panel, memorable takeaways and big laughs. 

David Alan Grier

David Alan Grier

The three-time Tony and GRAMMY Award nominee was trained in Shakespeare at Yale where he received an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.  Grier has enjoyed many accolades and awards throughout his career, not the least of which was his inclusion on Comedy Central’s list of the “100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.”

On the big screen, David Alan Grier was recently seen starring in WE THE PEEPLES, produced by Tyler Perry, opposite Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson. Grier made his film debut in STREAMERS (1983), directed by Robert Altman for which he won the Golden Lion for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. He also appeared in the Wayans Brothers’ spoof movie DANCE FLICK (2009).

Grier’s television work is highlighted by a turn as principal cast member on the Emmy Award winning In Living Color (1990–1994) where he helped to create some of the show’s most memorable characters, DAG (2000–2001) and Life with Bonnie (2003) which earned an Image and Golden Satellite nomination. David created, wrote and executive produced a show for Comedy Central called Chocolate News (2008). Last fall, David starred in THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, a Hallmark Channel adaptation of Paul Curtis’ 1996 Newbery Award-winning novel by the same name.  Grier recently wrapped shooting a starring role as ‘Principal Carl Gaines’ in a new series for CBS, Bad Teacher.

Grier began his professional career on Broadway as Jackie Robinson in The First, for which he earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and won the Theatre World Award (1981). He then joined the cast of Dreamgirls before going on to star opposite Denzel Washington in A Soldier’s Play, for which both actors reprised their roles in the film adaptation, A SOLDIER’S STORY (1984).

In 2009/2010 Grier starred in David Mamet’s acclaimed play RACE opposite James Spader and Kerry Washington at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway for which he received his second Tony Award nomination. Grier received the third Tony Award nomination of his career in 2012 for his performance in the “stand-out role of the rakish, drug-dealing Sporting Life” (NY Times) in The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess. Grier received his first GRAMMY nomination when the cast recording of The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess received a 2013 GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album.

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Bill Engvall, Pia Zadora-LVBST w-Comedian Michele LaFong

March 6, 2014 6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & The Web

Bill Engvall returns on Las Vegas Backstage Talk Radio Show with Comedian Michele LaFong and gives his take on how he made it to the finals this year on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

In a backstage videotaped interview, Bill reflects on his some-what competitive spirit on keeping up with Jeff Foxworthy’s exploding career, and how it affected his ability to enjoy himself for the first two years of The Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

You know Bill from his TBS sitcom “The Bill Engvall Show”, as host of “Country Fried Home Videos”, and one of the four on the original Blue Collar Comedy Tour along with Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, and Larry the Cable Guy.

Bill Engvall is featured in Michele LaFong’s monthly syndicated column  “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” in Gaming Today, and in Casino Player Magazine.

LaFong interviews Engvall backstage at The T.I (Treasure Island) on video posted on site. Go to VIDEO on menu bar.

For more about Bill Engvall, click here–

Treasure Island Theatre, Friday March 6, 9:00pm

Pia Zadora

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Pia Zadora guests in-studio on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong.

Golden Globe winner, GRAMMY Award® nominee, ShoWest winner, accomplished singer, film and Broadway star all describe Pia Zadora. Performing since the age of six, for those who have seen her in concert, what comes to mind first and describes this multi-talented performer is simply this: Pia Zadora is the complete entertainer. For more information, visit http://piazadora.com or follow her on Twitter @OfficialPiaZ.

Consummate performer and Las Vegas resident Pia Zadora joins forces with another notable mainstay, Piero’s Italian Cuisine, with the opening of “Pia’s Place,” a space long known as the “Monkey Bar.”  Zadora will perform in the intimate room Friday and Saturday evenings indefinitely at 9 p.m.

At “Pia’s Place,” the chanteuse reunites with legendary Sinatra pianist and musical director Vincent Falcone rounding out a quartet. Zadora will showcase her versions of standards such as “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Old Black Magic,” and “All of Me,” as well as a variety

Pia Zadora performs in “Pia’s Place” at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, 355 Convention Center Drive, on  Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 9 p.m. beginning September 19. A cover of $30 includes two drinks. Must be 21 and over with a valid ID.

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