It is what it is … |

It is what it is …

Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports

By Susan Wood

Tribune staff writer

Horizon Casino Resort’s long-running Carnival Cabaret impersonator show plans to have its last call Jan. 11.

The Stateline casino has decided to replace the nearly four-year show featuring the likes of Shirley MacLaine, Cher and Carol Channing with three months of headliner comedians. Zephyr Cove entertainment consultant Paul Reder has booked Bobby Slayton, Kevin Nealon, Kevin Pollak and Ralphie May, among other stars. Celebrity Winterfest begins Jan. 16.

Producer Dan Gore expects the last Carnival Cabaret to be emotional for the capacity crowd in the 210-seat room.

Quasi-groupie and friend Leroy Hardy of Incline Village intends to bring in a busload of couples dressed in drag.

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“I’ve never dressed in drag before. I don’t know what I’m going to wear, but I know it’s going to be flamboyant. I’m the host for the night,” he said.

Hardy wants to use the occasion to show his appreciation for the show and for Gypsy, his friend of 23 years.

“It’s been a nice long run. We’ve had a wonderful time in Tahoe. The people have been great,” said James “Gypsy” Haake, master of ceremonies.

The inaugural show was on Feb. 14, 2000 – Haake’s birthday.

Now 68, Haake was discovered by Mel Brooks while hosting the original night club production of La Cage Aux Folles that took Hollywood by storm in the mid-1980s.

Haake later appeared on the big and little screens – including “Troop Beverly Hills” and “Married with Children,” respectively.

In Carnival Cabaret, Haake is known to turn on a dime with his quick wit and compassion for an unsuspecting audience coming to terms with a man in his 60s dressed up in luxurious gowns and cutting-edge costumes. Gypsy saunters out on the stage with one that looks like a cross between Twiggy and an airline attendant with poor taste.

“Welcome to Southwest Airlines,” he says while strutting out on stage as if it were the first time. The audience reciprocates, laughing as if the display is original. Some people have seen the show dozens of times.

Sidestreet Boutique owner Barbara Parina, who assembles Gypsy’s wardrobe, said she’ll miss the performer. Gypsy gives her a plug during each show. The gig has enhanced Parina’s creativity.

Gypsy said he “got used to the heels,” but “hated all the makeup.”

The performer hopes to create a new image for himself. He plans to meet with his agent to perhaps line up some film work. He has homes in New York and Los Angeles.

The great-grandfather also wants to spend time with the latest addition to his family – 1-year-old Brandon.

As he reflects, Gypsy believes the show brought good will to the Horizon, adding he’s not surprised by the reception from the enlightened audience.

“They embraced the show because it’s entertainment. It’s not a social statement,” he said. “Every night was a vivid memory for me. When I’m on stage, no matter what the comedy routine – the audience is different.”

Gore, who met Gypsy during the La Cage production, thinks impersonator shows are turning into a dying breed of performance art.

“It seems they’re going in that direction,” he said. “I’ll miss the show. It’s not every day a show stays this successful for so long,” he said.

And he’d like to hold on to the fantasy. Gore, who sought out Gypsy for the Carnival Cabaret, has been working on finding a venue in Reno. He’d ultimately like to return to Tahoe.

“Everyone needs a change,” he said.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at