Producer accuses Burton of financial vanishing act

I’m not sure if Judge Linda Riegle is a fan of magic shows, but I can say she is a tough crowd.

Nathan Burton is the latest entertainer to find himself in front of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge, who has also hosted magician Steve Wyrick and veteran producer John Stuart. Hearings began Monday related to Burton’s Chapter 7 filing, a legal process that stems from ongoing litigation with producer Bill Voelkner.

Burton held off speaking about the issue while it is under litigation. But both sides agree the bankruptcy filing for the first time admits a $183,265 debt to Voelkner, by citing him as the creditor who represents the most substantial part of $344,464 listed in debt.

That’s a major change from Burton disputing and countersuing in response to Voelkner’s original filing in May 2011. Voelkner’s camp says Burton’s case crumbled when he gave a deposition.

Attorney Raffi Nahabedian resigned from representing Burton in March, after the deposition, citing nonpayment and “a severe breakdown in the attorney-client relationship” and saying “representation has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the Defendants.”

Voelkner — who also manages operations for comedy-magician Mac King at Harrah’s Las Vegas and comedian Vinnie Favorito at the Flamingo — contends he brokered the deal for Burton to perform at the Flamingo, negotiated the contract and helped market the show.

In return, Voelkner says that instead of a flat fee, Burton agreed to pay him $1 per ticket sold (with some exceptions).

The agreement became contentious as Burton’s show counts grew and as the two argued about how to tabulate a promotion that gave away free tickets with the goal of upgrading seating for a surcharge.

“They tried to make it all personal,” Voelkner says, when Burton’s mother, Nancy, sought a restraining order against Voelkner last year. Voelkner calls it a publicity ploy, attempting to exploit a separate battery charge against Voelkner that stemmed from an altercation with a former employee.

“I had to win my reputation back,” Voelkner says of pursuing litigation that will probably cost $100,000. “That’s what I’m fighting for. I couldn’t get out of this case if I wanted to once he made it personal like that. He put me in a position.”

Voelkner says that if Burton ends up paying any of the debt, he will donate it to breast cancer research (the disease claimed his first wife).

Burton was asked to produce tax records and to clarify how the family business is divided between him and his mother in the next bankruptcy court hearing July 15. ...

Are there some shows you can’t even give away? Hypnotist Marshall Sylver put the notion to a practical business test recently, giving away most tickets for his showcase at Planet Hollywood in hopes of attracting paying customers for product and self-help seminars.

But after 13 shows, Sylver is out and looking to reopen elsewhere. Sylver says his contract was month to month and his shows there were interrupted by his mother’s death.

He says his numbers were respectable, but the room has a difficult layout for the show he does and he chose to consider it a showcase — one that appears to have paid off with a new home — rather than a long-term proposition. ...

TV roundup: Two Las Vegas dancers have made the top 20 of Fox’s competition show “So You Think You Can Dance.” As announced Tuesday, the locals are 18-year-old hip-hop dancer Dushaunt “Fikshun” Stegall and 25-year-old tap dancer Aaron Turner, son of Las Vegas entertainer Earl Turner.

And Las Vegas native Baron Vaughn is one of the stand-up comedians featured on “The Half Hour,” taped in Boston but airing on Comedy Central at midnight Friday. ...

Show producer Nannette Barbera wants to clarify her role in “iCandy The Show,” which closed recently after its cast decided it could no longer perform in lieu of a written commitment to be paid.

Barbera says she came on as a hired party to stage and operate the show, but it was John Stuart and his partners at Silver Entertainment who were to recruit investors and meet payroll. She says she, too, is owed money, after agreeing to delay her normal fee until the show was profitable and continuing to pay for costume and other maintenance expenses. ...

On July 3, Boyd Gaming will move Big Al’s Comedy Club from The Orleans to sister property the Gold Coast, a short move that will pick up about 100 seats for the stand-up shows.

Comedians at Big Al’s had a head start with the crowd because the decor and furnishings from the former Sazio restaurant gave the place a cheery feel.

“It’s a nice space,” says Terry Jenkins, who oversees Boyd’s entertainment venues, “but we just need more space because we’re filling it up.”

The Gold Coast space holds about 260 people and hosted long runs by “Forever Plaid” and “Honky Tonk Angels” but hasn’t had good luck with ticketed shows in recent years.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ or 702-383-0288.

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