When good is good enough

I always thought you had to be a great singer to make it in this crazy business.  Perhaps that is because when I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, there were few bad singers. Most of the singers were Great! Amazing! Then the 60’s came along, and they put special effects on Lesley Gore, who is a great songwriter, not singer, and  special effects on Carole King, who I love, but not considered a great singer.

The rock groups just had to look hot. Mick jagger, Herman’s Hermits… They couldn’t sing.  Loved Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick. Lot’s of others were not singers but stylists or just screaming.

So, have we lowered our standards? Or is the average public who are swooning over Aaron on American Idol, are they just tone deaf?  It is sad that you can be spotted by a producer because you have an exposed belly button {Shakira}  and they make you a big star. She has vibrato you can surf on, yes she is in tune, and I’m being picky.

I just miss the old days when you could go any where and hear real talent. Singers such as  Jerry Tiffe, Bob Anderson, Denise Clemente, Jeaneane Marie, Jerry Lopez, Tony Davich, Lenny Lopez, Jamie Hosmer, of Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns. These guys can sing. The hotels don’t seem to care enough to give us quality entertainment.

The Chef Michael at Tommasino’s where I work now, said “Jazz never brings money in, they sit and order water or coffee” So, I said, “Charge a cover?” There is a demand or there would be no coffee and water orders. maybe they are twelve steppers?   People, Charge a Cover, I will pay to hear good jazz, funk, R&B or really good anything. At Tommasino’s when I work with  Mike Shane we make great tips, because we talk to the audience, we do their songs, we are funny.

When working with the “Jazz” pianists, brilliant pianists, we make minimal tips, perhaps $5-15.  People want personality, and they want variety.  Driving out to Pahrump to this dream job is heaven, they appreciate me, and I feel like I am pleasing them.

In Vegas lounges, the tourists are getting off their feet, have not slept, and could care less about what you do. This wasn’t the case 20 years ago, we did lounge SHOWS  we entertained, we connected, now they are dance bands.  When did good become good enough?

I miss the old days, when after work at 2am you could catch a dozen or so great acts still playing til 6am. Then you could drive up to Mt. Charleston, watch the sun come up, grab breakfast and sleep til 2pm.  I have to say, I am glad that I am the age I am so i was there in those days.

When I met Cary Grant at valet parking with Walter Kane.  My car was kept out front waiting for me: Star Treatment.

What a memory. I’ll cherish those days forever.  Yes, you needed juice to get a gig, but you better be GREAT not GOOD to keep it.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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

It’s all about the ‘juice’ – Wayne Newton and more

In the 60’s and 70’s, you had to know someone to work in Las Vegas. In the 60’s. I was too young for casinos  and didn’t care, because I was rocking the concert scene as an opening act, in big arenas.We were the “FREE CIRCUS” and quite good. Performed mostly originals, some covers. Opening for Santana, Three Dog Night, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Steppenwolf, Electric Prunes, Sweetwater, and every super-group that played Las Vegas.

Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton

Then I was in plenty of lounge groups as the “chick singer”, The Sunshine Company, Spiral Starecase, and Commonwealth, the best group that toured the Playboy clubs. I got plenty of life lessons from living on the road, touring all the clubs, and living out of a suitcase.

When my bass player boyfriend in Commonwealth, Jorge Casas wanted to go back to Miami to finish his college degree, I was opening for Gallagher at the Marina Hotel, and we kept getting held over week after week after week. I just didn’t want to leave. He went to Miami, got his degree, paid his dues and in the 80’s was discovered by Emiio and Gloria. Jorge has been with Gloria Estefan ever since!!!

After the Marina showroom engagement ended, it was time to really roll up my sleeves, and make a name for myself. Ha! I couldn’t get arrested. No One would even give me an audition.

The entertainment directors were not interested in me at all. At that time, my dad , Irv Kluger, was the vice president of the musicians union.  He suggested I call Wayne Newton for “juice.” That is what we call a connection, in the biz.

Wayne had wanted to import a musician from out of state, and dad gave him the OK, so he owed daddy one. And he liked daddy. I called Wayne using dad’s name. He told me to come see his show that night , visit his dressing room with a demo and he would see what he could do.

I was 26 or 27 and dressed up pretty hot, and played him my demos. He called in Walter Kane (Howard Hughes’ right-hand man), then in charge of all Summa hotels. Walter loved me, and told me he wanted to see my group on Monday at the Frontier Hotel. I put together a quartet, rehearsed a few tunes, and voila!, an open ended contract with Summa. We worked mostly at the Sands Hotel as “Jessica and Fantasy” I hired a public relations representative, Judy Gold. We worked non-stop for 2 years. My name in lights, and even on the Sands postcard!

Even with all that publicity, tv, radio, news print, when Summa started selling off the hotels, we were let go, and guess what, I couldnt get arrested!!!  AGAIN!!

I wound up auditioning for Donn Arden and driving to Reno for the big production show “Hello Hollywood Hello” at the MGM Grand Reno. After that, “Casino De Paris” at the Dunes.

Without juice, my name was never in lights again.

When you hear the term: show business, the business can be nasty. It is all business and don’t ever forget it. Learn from it and remember that who you know is often more important than what you know.

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