Longtime Las Vegan Anton to make Cabaret Jazz debut

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy Gale eventually discovered that — but had to visit Oz first.

Susan Anton needs no such extended excursion, as she demonstrates with this weekend’s “Already Home,” which marks her debut at The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz.

“I wasn’t born in Vegas,” Anton says, “but when I think of my life as an entertainer, this is my home.”

Anton and her husband, writer-director Jeff Lester, have lived in Las Vegas for about 20 years. (As an actor, Lester was a familiar face on TV in the 1980s and ’90s; you may remember his 1991 “Seinfeld” turn as a masseur who makes George Costanza extremely uncomfortable.)

Anton and Lester moved to Las Vegas when Anton began her seven-year run with the Rockettes in “The Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular” at the Flamingo.

“We never dreamed we would be living in Las Vegas,” Anton says. “But here we are.”

At the moment, Anton’s settled into a chair at Sambalatte in Boca Park, a favorite hangout near her Summerlin home. Lester’s a few tables away, working on a screenplay, as Anton ponders her Cabaret Jazz debut.

She’s always had an in at the intimate Smith Center club.

After all, Smith Center president Myron Martin was one of the producers of the Luxor’s “Hairspray,” in which Anton played TV producer — and scheming stage mother — Velma Von Tussle. (She reprised the role at the Hollywood Bowl in 2011.)

Despite her Smith Center connections (including two short films about The Smith Center that Lester directed), Anton just wasn’t ready to perform at Cabaret Jazz. Until now.

“I just loved, loved, loved the room,” she says. “But the Cabaret Jazz” name “threw me,” Anton adds, because “I didn’t do cabaret and I didn’t do jazz.”

Since the intimate club opened in 2012, however, the wide “spectrum of musical artists” who have played there convinced Anton that she’d be at home. So did recent gigs in Palm Springs, Calif., and at Herb Alpert’s Los Angeles club, Vibrato.

So she called Martin and told him, ” ‘It’s time for me to play Cabaret Jazz.’ “

She’ll be performing material that’s “all very special to me,” from the Beatles to Bob Dylan, from Neil Diamond to Kenny Loggins. And a Marc Cohn song supplies “Already Home” with its title.

“It’s the music of my life,” explains Anton, who’s now 65. (And still 6 feet tall.)

“There’s not much difference between the ’60s and today” when it comes to using “the art form to examine” contemporary issues, she says. “There’s a little bit of social comment.”

Along with that social comment, “I love to feel like I can have a conversation with an audience,” she notes. “If a lyric touches my heart, it will probably connect to your heart.”

Using music to connect with an audience is something Anton’s been doing since her childhood in small-town Southern California, where she won the third-grade talent show.

A few years later, Anton progressed from talent show to beauty pageant, winning the Miss California crown in 1969 and going on to the 1970 Miss America pageant.

Anton finished as second runner-up, but her showbiz career was off and running, from TV commercials (she inherited the Muriel Cigar Girl role from singer Edie Adams) to her first appearance on the Las Vegas Strip, in “Turn It On” at the now-imploded Hacienda. (Mandalay Bay now occupies the site.)

That show, a takeoff on TV’s “Laugh-In,” didn’t last, but Anton did, becoming the singing star of the Hacienda’s next production, an ice-skating show.

Movies (“Goldengirl”) and TV (“Presenting Susan Anton,” “Cliffhangers”) followed, along with recordings (“Foxy”) and stadium tours alongside Kenny Rogers.

And “during the ’80s, I was playing Vegas almost nonstop,” she recalls, citing opening gigs for such Strip fixtures as Paul Anka, George Burns and Sammy Davis Jr.

But even before Anton worked with the legendary Davis, he’d already made an impression on her — as the star of the first Vegas show she ever saw.

“I was 18 years old, on New Year’s Eve,” watching Davis and singer Mel Torme. “I will never forget sitting in that audience,” Anton says. “Mel was amazing, but Sammy … I thought, ‘Whatever that is, I want to be in that business.’ “

That business has taken Anton from Broadway (in everything from “Hurlyburly,” directed by Mike Nichols, to “The Will Rogers Follies,” directed by Tommy Tune) to producing (from Lester’s short “The Last Real Cowboys” to the documentary “Speed of Life,” about 2014 Paralympic snowboarding medalist — and “Dancing With the Stars” contestant — Amy Purdy) to infomercials (Remember “Perfect Buns”?).

When it comes to Anton’s memories, however, Las Vegas claims a fair share.

“I was lucky to be able to see the last little bit of the way it was,” she acknowledges, recalling the days — or nights — when, between the 8 p.m. and midnight shows, she would have dinner at the Dunes’ Dome of the Sea with comedians Don Adams, Shecky Greene and Corbett Monica, “all trying to one-up each other.” (Followed, of course, by 2 a.m. lounge forays to see Louis Prima or the Treniers, followed by visits to Jasper’s Leaning Tower of Pizza to cap off the night.)

Anton’s Vegas memories extend to the night Elvis Presley joined Tom Jones (then playing Caesars Palace) to sing the “American Trilogy” finale, then invited Jones’ dressing-room visitors, including Anton, back to his Hilton suite.

“I was 19 and I didn’t know what to make of it,” she says — especially when Presley asked her to join him in his bedroom. “I thought, ‘This is bad, I’d better start running.’ ” That is, until Presley began reading to Anton from Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” later inscribing the book to her with the words ” ‘I wish for you a life of love.’ “

It’s that personal touch Anton hopes to bring to her Cabaret Jazz shows this weekend.

“I don’t need to run up and down stairs and put on a big sparkly ball gown” to impress audiences, she says. “I’ve played giant arenas with Kenny Rogers at his peak. But you can’t beat a small, intimate room. The audience is right there. You can see their faces.”

— Read more from Carol Cling at reviewjournal.com. Contact her at ccling@reviewjournal.com and follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of theatre talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N interactive exhibit
The new exhibit features original and recreated props and plenty of interactive features. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ice cream shop offers everything in the kitchen sink
Have you ever wanted to eat an ice cream sundae out of a kitchen sink? Who hasn't, right? At Sloan's, located inside the Venetian, you can do just that. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Maxie’s in Las Vegas puts eggs Benedict in a box
Chef David Mangual at Maxie’s in The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas makes his eggs Benedict in a brioche “box” layered with spinach, bacon and tomatoes and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caviar Twinkie Served at Stripsteak in Las Vegas
Stripsteak Executive Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and Chef Gerald Chin create a novel savory food item that looks like a familiar sweet treat at the restaurant in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
NAB attendees battle to qualify for Fortnite event
NAB is sponsoring an online video game event with Epic Games’ Fortnite allowing attendees to qualify to go head to head with top players. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Arctic Shrimp Sandwich at Saga near Las Vegas
Chef Gert Kvalsund, a native of Norway, founded Saga Pastry + Sandwich in Henderson to give Scandinavians a taste of home. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk UNLVino
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk about the upcoming UNLVino vent. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christie Brinkley at Smith & Wollensky
Christie Brinkley, in town for her run in “Chicago” at the Venetian Theatre, paid a visit to the Grand Canal Shoppes’ still-under-construction Smith Wollensky on Monday for a ceremonial first toast at the bar. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas
2 artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside Kaos nightclub and dayclub
A look at new club at Palms.
CinemaCon Brings Theater Professionals To Caesars
CinemaCon is not just celebs, it's also a place where theater owners can browse the latest in seats, projectors and concessions. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas restaurants provide a taste of ballpark food
The Las Vegas Ballpark, home to the Las Vegas Aviators, will serve food from Giada De Laurentiis and a team of favorite local restaurants. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Taste of the Town: Bobby Flay Opens Shark at the Palms - VIDEO
Bobby Flay opens Shark at the Palms; his first high-end restaurant in 15 years.
Chef Marc Marrone at T-Mobile Arena
Chef Marc Marrone has opened a bao cart at T-Mobile Arena. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio fountains celebrate 'Game of Thrones'
A medley of the theme for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the song “Winter Is Here” from the show premiered at the Bellagio Fountains water show on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The new number will run in rotation through April 13. The series premieres its eighth and final series on April 14. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan Aunt Chippy talks about being on Jimmy Kimmel's show
Concetta Potenza, Aunt “Chippy” to Jimmy Kimmel, talks about her first time being featured on her nephew’s show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro at Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro At Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cotton candy crowns pancakes in Las Vegas
At Maxie’s at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, executive chef David Mangual fills pancakes with fruit and cream cheese and piles on pastel cotton candy, which is melted in a stream of chocolate syrup. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Bananas Foster Pancakes go up in flames at The Stove near Las Vegas
Chef Antonio Nunez at The Stove in Henderson, near Las Vegas, flames the pancakes tableside for a fiery presentation. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
El Loco Rollercoaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome
The El Loco rollercoaster opened at the Circus Circus' Adventuredome in February 2014. It features a 90-foot ascent, followed by a drop that produces a negative 1.5 "verticle G," a 180-degree turn, and reverse 240-degree roll that turns into an inverted drop. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph and is the only indoor coaster of it's kind in the U.S., and is the second indoor El Loco coaster in the world, according to MGM Resorts.
Bartending flair competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show
Highlights from the ten contestants who competed for the Shake It Up Flair and Classic Competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Justin Kingsley Hall shares details on his next gig
Chef Justin Kinglsey hall shares some details about the newArts District restaurant he's developing with Kim Owens. (Al Mancini/Las Vegs Review-Journal)
Film prompted Carrie Hogan to found 2 farmers markets in Las Vegas
Carrie Hogan founded Fresh 52 Farmers and Artisan Market in Las Vegas after realizing she had to do something about the influence of factory farms on the food supply. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seafood dishes being made at Pasta Shop near Las Vegas
Executive chef Edwin Martinez incorporates fresh pasta into Lobster Salmon and Saffron Shrimp Sauté at Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson, near Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Home Front Page Footer Listing