Talking With Lavell Crawford – June 12, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Lavell Crawford

This week, Ira spoke with Lavell Crawford. To listen to the interview click below.

Lavell Crawford, performing at the Suncoast Showroom June 14-15, is an award-winning comic, actor, writer and producer.

Crawford’s career took off after his national exposure on NBC’s hit reality series “Last Comic Standing,” and he has been quickly climbing the comedic ranks ever since. The rising comedy star has repeatedly guest-hosted the “Steve Harvey Radio Show” and has regular appearances on “Chelsea Lately,” “Tosh.0” and “Workaholics.”

On television, Crawford is best known for playing Saul Goodman’s bodyguard, “Huell Babineaux” on AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Additional well known appearances include “Shaquille O’Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam,” “Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam” on HBO, “Showtime at the Apollo,” “Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment,” “Comic’s Unleashed with Byron Allen,” “Steve Harvey’s Big Time” “Comedy Central’s Premium Blend,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Motown Live, ” Adult Swim’s “Squidbillies” and BET’s “Comic View.”

Crawford has also held roles in numerous films including, “Baby’s Mama Drama,” “Beverlyhood” and “Ghetto South Problems.” In the near future, Crawford will hit the big screen alongside popular film stars Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, and Uma Thurman in “American Ultra” for Lionsgate.

Crawford’s other recent projects include a series regular role on Adult Swim’s new series, “Sperm Whale” as well as his on-going recurring roles on “The Crazy Ones,” “Super Fun Night,” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Crawford’s second one-hour special “Lavell Crawford: Can A Brother Get Some Love” recently premiered on Comedy Central.

Talking With Fielding West – June 5, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Fielding West Website

This week, Ira spoke with Fielding West. To listen to the interview click below.

Fielding West, performing at the Laugh Factory through June 8 at 8:30 and 10:30, along with Mike Pace and KT Tatara, was introduced to magic by his grandfather who was an amateur magician. After high school, Fielding put himself through college, paying for his degree by performing in a band as a drummer and doing magic shows for children.

In 1973 while selling cars and going to graduate school at night in Tallahassee, Florida, he met an unknown comedy magician named Steve Martin. After seeing Martin perform, he knew that he wanted to be in show business for the rest of his life. The concept of a comedy act began.

Three years later West moved to Jacksonville, Florida and started his own Saturday morning children’s show on television with a Post/Newsweek station, WJXT. The show. “Magic Gang,” was the highest rated kids show in its time slot for two years. Not being satisfied with entertaining only children, Fielding pursued a nightclub act.

A year and a half after leaving television, he put together a successful touring show called the Amazing Fielding And Company, which included illusions and hypnosis. The act, after two years, led him to Las Vegas. There West met Liberace, who helped him get his first break by showcasing his act at the Sahara Hotel. Since then he has been working all over the world as a featured star in large production shows and as an opening act for major stars.

Fielding’s career has now come full circle. He has appeared on a multitude of comedy specials and popular sitcoms. He is also a successful comedy writer for other magicians and comedians. West is well-known in the corporate market and for a course he created, called Stagecraft 101; he manages speaking seminars for young performers that teach how to speak more effectively.

Talking With Steve Tyrell – May 29, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Steve Tyrell

This week, Ira spoke with Steve Tyrell. To listen to the interview click below.

Steve Tyrell will be performing It’s Magic: The Songs of Sammy Cahn” in Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center, Friday and Saturday, May 30 and 31 at 7 p.m.

With his breakthrough performances in “Father of the Bride” and “Father of the Bride II,” Tyrell reinvented and re-popularized classic pop standards for a modern-day audience.

Tyrell’s hits, “The Way You Look Tonight,” “The Simple Life,” “Crush On You” and “The Sunny Side of The Street,” have launched thousands of weddings and millions of romances.

At the request of the Sinatra family and Quincy Jones, Tyrell was the featured performer with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at their season opening concert in which Frank Sinatra was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. Also at the request of the Sinatra family, he reprised that performance at Carnegie Hall. This is one of the rare times the family has reached into the vault of original Sinatra arrangements to share them with another artist.

In 2005, after the passing of the legendary Bobby Short, Tyrell was asked by New York City’s Café Carlyle to take over their revered Holiday Season of November and December, which Mr. Short had not missed for 36 years. In 2013 Tyrell’s contract was extended through his 11th season, starting a new Carlyle legacy that now also includes performances in May.

His work in the studio as a record producer has included collaborations with such diverse and legendary artists as Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Blood Sweat and Tears, Mary J Blidge, Chris Botti, Dave Koz, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, Burt Bacharach, Bette Midler, and Stevie Wonder.

As an artist, all 9 of his American Standards albums have achieved top 10 status on Billboard’s Jazz charts, 7 of which have achieved top 5, and his first album “A New Standard” was amongst the best-selling jazz albums for over 5 years.

His songs have been recorded by such artists as Ray Charles, Diana Ross, LL Cool J and Elvis Presley, and his song “How Do You Talk To An Angel,” written and produced for Aaron Spelling’s Fox television series “The Heights,” was a No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop Charts.

Aside from being a Grammy Award winner, Tyrell has earned 2 Emmy nominations, received a daytime Emmy, 3 Ace Nominations, 2004 American Society of Young Musician’s “All That Jazz Award,” 2004 The Wellness Community “Human Spirit Award,” 2006 Society of Singers “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and 2008 Los Angeles Jazz Society’s “Jazz Vocalist of the Year.”

Talking With Richard N. “Rick” Velotta – May 22, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Rick Velotta

This week, Ira spoke with Richard N. “Rick” Velotta. To listen to the interview click below.

Richard N. “Rick” Velotta is a tourism and transportation business reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and has been a professional journalist for more than 40 years.

He produces the weekly “Road Warrior” column on transportation issues for the Review-Journal.

Velotta spent more than 23 years at the Las Vegas Sun as a business writer and editor and wrote a weekly column on tourism in its VEGAS INC business publication.

He also has worked as news editor of the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah; managing editor of the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff, Ariz., and as a photographer and sports writer for the Aurora Advocate, the Aurora Advocate-Sentinel and the Aurora Sun, in Aurora, Colorado.

Velotta has won numerous awards from the Nevada Press Association and the Arizona Press Association and was with the Las Vegas Sun when it won a Pulitzer Prize.
On Twitter: @ RickVelotta

Talking With Ben Vereen and Jane Monheit – May 15, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Combo Ben and Jane

This week, Ira spoke with Ben Vereen and Jane Monheit . To listen to the interview click below.

Few entertainers today are as accomplished or versatile as Ben Vereen. His first love and passion is and always will be the stage. “The theater was my first training ground. It taught me discipline, dedication and appreciation of hard work and values that will stay with me a lifetime,” says Vereen..” The stage sharpens the creative instrument and encourages you to go deeper inside and try new things.”

On Broadway, Ben Vereen has appeared in Wicked, Fosse, I’m Not Rappaport, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grind, Pippin, Jelly’s Last Jam and A Christmas Carol. Off-Broadway credits include the award-winning original production of The Exonerated. His role in Pippin garnered him both the prestigious Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for “Best Actor in a Musical.”
Vereen’s acting credits include the unforgettable Chicken George in Roots and Louis Armstrong in Louis Armstrong – Chicago Style. His television guest appearances include Grey’s Anatomy, for which he won the Prism Award, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, OZ, Touched By An Angel, Second Noah, New York Undercover, The Nanny, Star Trek – The Next Generation, The Jamie Fox Show, The Promised Land, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as recurring roles on Silk Stalkings, Webster, J.J. Starbuck and Booker.

“Everything I’m singing now is a reflection of my truest self,” says Jane Monheit. “After all this time in the industry, after touring for 13 years, it’s time to just be me, with complete and utter freedom.”

Monheit’s sense of liberation is apparent throughout “The Heart Of The Matter,” the acclaimed, Grammy-nominated vocalist’s ninth studio album. It can be felt in her wide- ranging choice of material, in the unique arrangements, and in her own fearless performances and interpretations. The diverse and very personal set of songs includes both familiar standards and compositions by Lennon/McCartney, Randy Newman, two songs by Ivan Lins, recorded in the original Portuguese, and, for the first time, a Monheit original.

Talking With LeAnn Rimes and Gary Puckett – May 8, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Composite LeAnn and Gary

This week, Ira spoke with LeAnn Rimes and Gary Puckett . To listen to the interview click below.

LeAnn Rimes is one of the most successful entertainers with a career spanning more than 20 years. With album sales of more than 40 million, two GRAMMY Awards, three Academy of Country Music Awards and 12 Billboard Music Awards, Rimes has made her mark in the world of music. She was the youngest person to ever win a GRAMMY Award and was the first country artist to win the GRAMMY Best New Artist trophy. Widely regarded as one of the finest vocalists in music in the last three decades, Rimes is known for her powerful and flawless voice and a sound that is simultaneously fresh and timeless.

Gary Puckett and The Union Gap was one of the most successful musical groups of the sixties. Gary’s unmistakable signature voice garnered six consecutive gold records and top ten Billboard hits, including “Young Girl,” “Woman Woman,” “Lady Willpower,” and “Over You.” Puckett has performed on more than 30 network television shows and prime time specials during his career, even adding a command performance for the President and Prince Charles at the White House. He continues to tour nationally and internationally.

Talking With Frank Cullotta – May 1, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Frank Cullotta

This week, Ira spoke with Frank Cullotta . To listen to the interview click below.

Frank Cullotta was born in Chicago in 1938. He began his decades-long criminal career as a teenager, graduating from petty theft to burglary, armed robbery, arson and murder. While growing up he met another young tough on the streets of the Windy City: Tony Spilotro. The two boys became friends and criminal allies. Spilotro went on to become a made man and feared enforcer of the Chicago Outfit. The Outfit bosses sent him to Las Vegas in 1971 to keep an eye on their casino interests.

After getting established in Sin City, Spilotro invited Cullotta to join him. Cullotta accepted and functioned as Spilotro’s lieutenant. He watched his friend’s back and formed and ran a crew of burglars, robbers, arsonists, and killers that became known as the “Hole in the Wall Gang.”

The two men had a falling out in 1982; and at Spilotro’s request the Chicago bosses approved a contract to have Cullotta killed. Facing either life in prison for his myriad crimes or death at the hands of Outfit hit men, he rolled and became a government witness. His subsequent testimony resulted in the convictions of several of his former associates. He was preparing to testify against Spilotro in June 1986, but Spilotro himself was murdered by the Outfit just prior to the trial getting underway.

Under a new identity, Cullotta opened and ran a small business and became one of the Witness Protection Program’s success stories. In 1995 he was contacted by screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi regarding the Martin Scorsese film, “Casino.” He was hired as a technical consultant to the movie in which actor Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro; and Frank Vincent played “Frankie,” a character based on Cullotta. In the film he appeared in several scenes as a killer, including one that was a fictionalized version of a murder he actually committed in Las Vegas in 1979.

Since then, Cullotta has appeared in several organized crime documentaries and given talks before law enforcement and college groups. In 2007, he wrote his biography titled “CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.” His second book, “Hole in the Wall Gang,” was published in December 2013.

In February 2014, Frank launched the Las Vegas-based bus tour Casino — The Real Story Behind The Movie. He is also a consultant to the Las Vegas Mob Tour and is co-producer of Mob-Con.

Talking With Andy Martello – April 24, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Andy Martello 4-17-14

This week, Ira spoke with Andy Martello . To listen to the interview click below.

Andy Martello, a professional comedian, variety performer, and freelance writer, is the author of “The King of Casinos, Willie Martello and the El Rey Club.”.

About the book:
After a horrific blaze destroyed Willie Martello’s El Rey Club in 1962, nearly 50 years would pass before anyone knew of how that tiny casino provided a template for present-day gambling resorts, upset the Las Vegas mob, and inadvertently launched the career of Francis Ford Coppola. Were it not for the discovery of a single photo in a Las Vegas museum, the history of the El Rey Club and Willie Martello would not have been written.

About the Author:
Martello began juggling at age ten and performing professionally by age fifteen, when he won his first talent contest. His first professional booking was in 1985 and it paid him a whopping $15.00…for eight hours work.

In 1988, Martello attended Ringling Bros. Clown College and toured the world performing at theme parks, theaters, and festivals. Since then he’s appeared at numerous comedy clubs and performed for major corporations such as Microsoft & Coca-Cola.

Martello has eaten fire on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and spun plates on national television. He’s opened for legends like Gladys Knight and performed for President George Bush

In 2010 he began his career as a Las Vegas headliner as part of the comedy magic duo, Spike & Hammer.

Talking With Ben Jaffe – April 10, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Ben Jaffe 1

This week, Ira spoke with Ben Jaffe . To listen to the interview click below.

Ben Jaffe, the son of Hall founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, was raised in and around Preservation Hall. Jaffe marched in his first Carnival parade at the age of nine alongside his father and parrain (godfather) Harold “Duke” Dejan. When he was thirteen, the lease on the building that housed the Hall was up for renewal. His father sat the family down and asked Ben whether they should continue. By 1984, many of the original musicians who had played at the Hall in its early days had passed away, yet the soul of the Hall remained the same. The young Jaffe replied, “Of course, you continue!”

Less than ten years later, the day after graduating from Oberlin College, Jaffe flew off to play upright bass with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in France and began overseeing operations at the Hall. He now serves as the Hall’s creative director and plays tuba (sousaphone), upright bass, and banjo in the band. Jaffe remastered and released several archival recordings of the early Preservation Hall Jazz Band, including some by Sweet Emma Barrett and Sister Gertrude Morgan. The band’s newer recordings include collaborations with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Pete Seeger, Tom Waits, Trombone Shorty, Mos Def, Lenny Kravitz, the Edge, and many others.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band returns to The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. celebrating its 50th Anniversary, April 11-12.

Talking With Bill Boyd – April 3, 2014

FotoFlexer_Photo Bill Boyd

This week, Ira spoke with Bill Boyd . To listen to the interview click below.

Bill Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming Corporation. He co-founded the company with his father, Sam. Bill has been a respected gaming figure for decades, and recognized for his extensive community philanthropy.

Bill’s father, Sam A. Boyd, came to Las Vegas in 1941 as a dealer. Through hard work and a keen business acumen, he became a stockholder in the Sahara, the Mint, and the Union Plaza hotels in Las Vegas. Bill practiced law in Las Vegas for over 15 years and was a partner with his father and others in the Union Plaza Hotel & Casino and the Eldorado Casino in Henderson. In 1973, Bill left his legal practice and began his full-time career in the gaming industry when he and his father co-founded Boyd Gaming Corporation. The Company’s first property, the California Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas, opened in January, 1975.

Sam passed away in January, 1993. Bill served as chief executive officer of Boyd Gaming until January, 2008, when he was succeeded by current Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith.

Bill has been an active philanthropist and civic leader for decades. He was on the board of directors of the Las Vegas Downtown Progress Association and a past president of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Nevada. He was president of the Nevada Resort Association, served on the board of directors of Nevada State Bank for 20 years, founded Bank West (now Bank of Nevada) and presently serves on the board of directors for Western Alliance Bancorporation.

Bill and his wife, Judy,  Boyd Gaming and the Boyd Foundation have been major donors to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Boys and Girls Club, Boy’s Town of Nevada, National Judicial College, St. Rose de Lima Hospital, the United Way of Southern Nevada, D.A.R.E., and Nevada Blood Services, among many others. Through a significant $30 million gift that will benefit generations of future legal scholars, Bill Boyd provided funding for the creation of the nationally-ranked William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV.