Former Strip headliner Pia Zadora was back on a big stage in Las Vegas on Sunday for the first time in 15 years.
Zadora, a former Broadway child star and opening act for Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett in the 1980s, had a cameo as a presenter during Golden Rainbow’s “Ribbon of Life” fundraiser in Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center.
Her official return is scheduled for July 27-28 at Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center. She has put together a cabaret show featuring the standards that Sinatra suggested for her when they worked at the Riviera.
A year in the making, her show caught the eye of Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center, while she was performing in San Francisco’s Hotel Nikko Rrazz Room.
Since moving back to Las Vegas 18 months ago, after raising a family in Los Angeles, “I feel like I’m coming back to myself,” she said in an interview last week. “I felt like part of myself I left behind.”
She has been performing at jazz clubs around the country to prepare for her Las Vegas return.
“I got my credibility back after all the crappy movies,” she said, referring to a controversial chapter in her career.
She took some hits in 1981 when she won a Golden Globe from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for newcomer of the year for her performance in “Butterfly,” beating out Elizabeth McGovern for “Ragtime” and Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat.”
Protests erupted when it came to light that Zadora’s wealthy husband, Riviera owner Meshulam Riklis, flew a dozen voting members to Las Vegas to see her headliner act. Six weeks later, some of the voting writers attended a lavish lunch at Riklis’ home for a showing of the film.
Critics flew into a rage, suggesting the foreign press was bought off and noting the film had not been released in the United States before the awards.
Riklis defended his actions by pointing out that Bo Derek, who starred in “10,” would be “nowhere without her husband,” director John Derek, who had also boosted the film careers of previous wives Ursula Andress and Linda Evans.
Zadora, who was 23 when she married Riklis, then 54, on Sept. 18, 1977, was headlining at the Riviera when Sinatra saw her show.
He sent her a bouquet of white roses and wrote on the card, “You knocked ’em dead kid.” He signed it, “The guy with the blue eyes.”
That afternoon she got a call from Sinatra’s camp, with an offer to open for him.
Wyclef Jean, spraying 12 bottles of Cristal champagne into the Rehab crowd of about 7,000 on Sunday at the Hard Rock Hotel pools. … Former “American Idol” contestants Taylor Hicks and Elliott Yamin partying at Tao (Venetian) on Saturday night. … Justin Bartha, who played the groom-to-be in “The Hangover,” dining with friends at Tao Asian Bistro (Venetian) before heading over to Marquee (Cosmopolitan) on Saturday. … Los Angeles Clipppers star Chris Paul, unwinding at Tao Beach (Venetian) on Saturday. … Rapper Flavor Flav, MMA personality Frank Trigg and friends, in a cabana at Marquee Dayclub (Cosmopolitan) on Saturday.
THE PUNCH LINE
Zadora told the “Ribbon of Life” crowd that she’s married to a Las Vegas cop and that he “brings his work home with him. If I act up, he puts me in handcuffs. If you’re married to someone in law enforcement there’s no need to read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ ”
Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email@example.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.