Singing in Las Vegas and L A

Free Circus at Teenbeat club

Free Circus at Teenbeat club

Our family move to Las Vegas, was traumatic for my sister and I. Being raised in Los Angeles, you get used to a certain culture, access to the beach, and the mountains. We lived in North Hollywood, then Northridge, Sherman Oaks, and Van Nuys.. I went to Van Nuys Jr. Hi.  This was a real blow,, I was only 3, when we left New York for L A, so  this was HUGE.  My sister and I were never closer and we clung to each other for survival. I was lost when she went off to live in San Fransisco for the rest of her teen years with my aunt and uncle.

Not long after the move to Vegas, I found that my record was a little popular there, and Dennis Hunt on KENO Radio had given it a lot of play.  I went to Odyssey Records and even found my record in the sale bin!!!!! Talk about a blow to your ego!

I found out, I was to open for Johnny Crawford of the TV show The Rifleman at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Odyssey Records

Odyssey Records

His hit song ‘Today is Cindy’s Birthday’ was huge at the time  and this was the biggest venue in Las Vegas, where The Beatles played.  I was to lip-sync my 4 songs, because the last two were not really mixed, and completed  when I was dropped from the label. I still have the demos,  the vinyl, but they didn’t make it to the radio.

I was so nervous!  All these young girls screaming Johnny… Johnny… and I come out!  They were polite enough, but bored stiff until my set was over. Whew, my first big concert. Alone! Over with! I think if my opening song hadn’t been ‘Johnny Let Me Go’ they would have killed me!

I was  at Valley High , here in Las Vegas. High school started  at 9th grade, for four years. in Los Angeles it was 3 years. So here I was in high school, after a half semester at Roy Martin Middle school.

The bands were all male dominated. NO chick singers. A band, ‘The Little People‘ asked me to join them.  YES, after doing that concert alone, being IN a band was a great thrill for me.  This was when I honed my performing skills, and we worked every weekend.  We even did the  Jerry Lewis Telethon, during MORNING PRIME TIME!!!! After a  few personality issues, we morphed into another band, ‘London Fog’, adding on more talent.

teenbeat-clubThat band was an improvement; we were getting older, and working better places, The Teenbeat Club and many frat parties. We even played the only casino in Searchlight, Nevada, a mining town, about an hour outside Las Vegas.

Then the best thing happened to me. A college band called ‘Free Circus’ asked me to come aboard. Wow, I was so excited to do originals, and songs by Traffic, Yes, and Jefferson Airplane. The band had great musicians,, and two singers in addition to me.

Roby Bennet wrote a lot of great songs and Danny Barnett was on B3 organ, a rare sound for local Vegas bands. We were so good, concert promoters hired us to be opening act for Santana, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, Electric Prunes, Sweetwater, and others, I can’t even recall!

We were stars now, when we would load in, kids would crowd around to watch us, just to be around us because we were going to be close to these headline bands backstage; acts they all loved, and admired. This was a great time in my life.

So, after we were really on a roll, and I was in my senior year, The Viet Nam war was calling our pianist! Yes , Danny had to go, and we just could not replace him. He played B3 for goodness sakes, and that was our sound! When Danny left, I knew my next move had to be for ME, for my career.

Program cover: Los Angeles Hair

Program cover: Los Angeles Hair

So, I went to Los Angeles with an agent that my sister had met at the Stardust Hotel. He was quite well known, Bill Loeb agency, and you would think someone that big would behave themselves?  After he read my bio, he just took a shot and took me to Hollywood, and checked me in at the Bel Air Motel.  That’s when my world started to get pretty scary!

I have to add, that years later (which I’ll cover in another post), Las Vegas wasn’t so forgiving to female singers, and I have some horror stories there also. But as a teen, it treated me well. As I made my journey with this complete Stranger to Los Angeles, the rest of my life begins a whole new chapter!

I had a cute room at the motel, with a little fridge.  Mr. Loeb was well behaved up to this point. I had my first audition set for the following week, the Love Rock Musical HAIR, I was preparing my song and dance.  I bought some vintage satin pants at a thrift store,,, a madras blanket and I sewed it into a top,,,that was my Hippie outfit,,,     I auditioned for Teddy Neely, and Kay Cole, Armand Coulet, and I got a callback,,,,,   Then I was called without the callback,,I was to start right AWAY!!!!  I was thrown into the most popular Broadway show in decades,,

I was a vegetarian, and made frequent trips to the market,

On one such trip, a very dark hairy hippie approached me in the produce section, and started chatting me up, said he was a songwriter, come to my car, I will play you a song.

Well, I did, and it was a smelly, beat up old car. He was smelly, too, and seemed a bit crazy… The hair stood up on my arms, so when Charlie, that was his name, asked to to go to his ranch, I declined.

Yes, my friends,, The Spahn Ranch and CHARLIE MANSON was his name.  Welcome to L A

Third installment coming soon.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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When the Mafia Ran Vegas: Glory Days

I was fortunate enough to work Las Vegas lounges in the 70’s, just before corporate interests took over most hotels. I worked with “Company’s Company” at The Stardust Hotel. When the lounge had no dressing room to speak of, just a backstage, I was given a room… an actual hotel room. That was how they treated us.

The entertainment directer, Frank “Lefty”Rosenthal was wonderful to me. A truly nice man, to me anyway. Robert De Niros‘s character in the movie Casino, Ace Rothstein, was based on Rosenthal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I want to tell you about experience with the Sands Hotel and SUMMA.

When I worked for  SUMMA Corporation’s hotels , Walter Kane was in charge. The old man really liked me, and not only was I given a publicist and dressing room, but he had me perform for his private events on our nights off.

My name was on the marquee,  ” JESSICA AND FANTASY” we were always in the paper, and the valet staff put my car right by the front door at 3am, when I got off work, with the keys in it.

Our first show was at 10pm when people were lined up wrapped around the regency lounge in line for the main showroom. We alternated one-hour sets and one-hour breaks, ending at 3am.. That way we caught the people leaving the showroom after it ended, and it kept the casino lively with music while people gambled or came in the lounge and drank.

Bob Hope‘s wife, Dolores, would come in and warble a tune, Lee Majors wanted me to sit by him while he played Baccarat, thinking I was his lucky charm. Cary Grant was introduced to me by Walter Kane. I was speechless at the beauty of this handsomely aging gentleman!!! What a face!

I made friends with Stig Edgren who was a lighting designer for Dionne Warwick, Stig is head of  Seg/events and has designed stage lighting for  everyone from Natalie Cole to  Earth Wind and Fire and even the POPE!! I shared Won Ton soup in the coffee shop with the late Fred Travalena many times, while he shared his stories about having a fling with Shirley MacLaine. Also , wanting me to join that club!

Book by Jerry Van

Book by Jerry Van

There was a local celebrity (whose name I cannot mention) showering me with jewelry. I also hired my own  P. R lady  Judy wolf.. She was wonderful, keeping me in the paper.

But, there is one story out there in a book titled, Underworld Secrets, that I must clear up. The author, Jerry Van (not his full name), wrote the book while in prison. He was in the Mafia, I suppose. I thought he was just a pimp.

Very flashy and persistent, I would hide from him, in the ladies room. He gave me a painting of a dark haired lady. He said it reminded him of me. He was obsessed. I really was not interested in him.

He wrote Underworld Secrets about his association with the mob and working for Tony Spilotro. Joe Pesci‘s character in the movie, Casino, Nicky Santoro, was based on Tony Spilotro.In Van’s book, he says that he came to Las Vegas to make conquests with the most beautiful woman there. I should be flattered I suppose that he wanted me as one of them.

He said in the book that he came to the lounge, whispered something to me, to join him after my set, and asked the cocktail waitress what I drank, she said, “coffee”.  I have never been a coffee drinker or never owned a coffee maker. I’m am a tea drinker.

So, in this book,  he says that a got a girl for Tony Spilotro, who joined him while I was singing, and Tony and his “date”and I went to breakfast. Then he says that he took me home.

Didn’t need a ride. I always had my little blue Datsun 280Z. I would have remembered breakfast with Spilotro, had it actually happened!! Vann said I was a “conquest” I remember himwell and he was nice, too nice. I was put off by his flashy ways and he was not my type. But, there I am, in his book that I hope no one reads.

I’m very pleased to make a public disclaimer about the erroneous mention in Van’s book. 🙂

Those were glorious days!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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