Psychic Tanya, we see solo act in future

If you saw The Amazing Johnathan in Las Vegas during the past 13 years, you surely saw Psychic Tanya, too.

With health problems causing Johnathan (Szeles) to officially retire after late June shows at Hollywood’s Magic Castle, you might assume we’ve seen the last of the ditzy sidekick who sabotages the comedy magician’s act and eventually gets the better of him.

But Friday, Tanya flies solo to host “She-Nanigans,” an all-female variety show that just happens to be produced by Tanya’s alter-ego, Penny Wiggins.

Wiggins will also perform stand-up in the Inspire Theater show that includes magicians Circe and Juliana Chen, Cher impersonator Heidi Thompson and others. She hopes this showcase will lead to return bookings at the Inspire or other venues. Tickets are $15, or two for $25, for the 8 p.m. show Friday at 107 Las Vegas Blvd. South.

Wiggins says she sometimes warmed up Amazing Johnathan audiences with a stand-up set before changing into her Tanya get-up.

Because Tanya is “kind of well-known as far as the magic community goes,” she tested the solo act at a magician convention, comically bungling some magic tricks she developed with Johnathan’s offstage input.

The comedy magician is “one of my best friends in life,” Wiggins says. “We worked together 13 years. That’s longer than a lot of people have been married.” Their time together includes a 2003 stage accident, when a new stage manager accidentally swapped a full staple gun for the empty one Johnathan used to “staple” cards to Wiggins’ eyes.

“He stapled me in one eye and was about to staple me in the other, when I realized something was very wrong and ran offstage,” she says. “I finished the show, did the T-shirts (sales) and then went to the hospital. … They said if I’d waited even two hours I might have lost sight in the eye.”

Wiggins is helping organize Johnathan’s June 7 wedding to Anastasia Synn, a soiree at the Plaza billed as “the craziest Las Vegas wedding ever.” It will be officated by Gallagher and promises “special guests” David Copperfield, Carrot Top, Louis Anderson, Cirque du Soleil performers, pro wrestlers and even zombies. …

Spiegelworld, the company that produces “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace and operates Rose.Rabbit.Lie at The Cosmopolitan of LasVegas, is moving its headquarters from New York to Las Vegas.

The company headed by Ross Mollison probably won’t need as much office space as Cirque du Soleil’s resident shows division, but plans to rehearse and manage future productions from Las Vegas. Those include “Empire,” which played in Melbourne, Australia, on the roof of the Crown Casino in the same tent first used by “Absinthe,” before it switched to a more permanent structure. That one soon heads to Japan.

Spiegelworld has appointed three new executives: David J. Foster, chief executive officer; John McCoy, chief marketing officer; and Mike Bauder, senior vice president of production. …

It’s not as Guinness World Records-dramatic, but sounds a lot saner. For the first time in its Las Vegas history, the one-man show “Defending the Caveman” will have two men performing it.

Those who missed Kevin Burke, who became synonymous with the title from 2007 through last year, can see him again starting July 7, says local producer John Bentham.

But this time, Burke — who holds the Guinness record for “Most theatrical performances in 50 days” — will perform the comic monologue in five- to six-week stretches. He will alternate with John Venable, another experienced “Caveman” who takes over May 29 at Harrah’s.

The alternating actors replace Chris Allen, who bows out Wednesday after performing the show for a year.

A small world addendum: Burke recently ended up on the same cruise ship with comedian Jeff “Big Daddy” Wayne, who also has a one-man show, “Big Daddy’s Barbecue.” He has performed as a straight-talking mail carrier more than 1,000 times since the mid-’90s, and of course would love to place it on the Strip. In the meantime, Wayne will be doing his regular stand-up act at the Riviera Comedy Club next week. …

The Billboard Music Awards detoured me from localizing Jerry Vale’s wire obituary last Sunday, but the singer was a “local” at two points in his career.

The Bronx, N.Y.-born crooner, best known for his Italian ballads and the hits “Innamorata” and “Pretend You Don’t See Her,” had Las Vegas ties back to the early 1960s, when Frank Sinatra talked him up for a gig in the Sands’ lounge.

Recent years have revived and revised the term “residency” for recurring headliners such as Celine Dion. But it’s a model that dates back to the late 1960s and Vale’s contract with Hughes Nevada Operations to rotate showroom dates at the company’s three properties, the Sands, Frontier and Desert Inn.

“My name was on the marquee 20 weeks per year,” Vale once recalled. He and wife Rita raised children Robert and Pamela in a ranch house in the Sierra Vista Rancho neighborhood.

When the Strip started to dry up for headliners in the early 1980s, Vale moved to California. “I saw that eventually the situation where guys like myself … working big hotels was going to be very short-lived,” he later explained.

But starting in 1997, Vale helped Station Casinos get on the map with locals-oriented venues. A sold-out Boulder Station date that year made him an off-Strip regular until a 2002 stroke ended his singing career.

Two other recent passings of 1950s era television actors had local ties: Barbara Knudsen Henry, known as Barbara Ann Knudsen, was a native Nevadan and Las Vegas High School graduate who died May 11. And Judi Nelson, a skater turned film and TV actor, died April 30 after settling in Las Vegas in 2002.

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

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