Danza in the dark 

Sometimes in the lull between auto shows and Super Bowls, or when not squabbling over stadium and casino construction sites, Detroiters tend to forget that our dowdy rust-bucket metropolis has a cultural life as rich and deep as a three-tiered German chocolate cake. And much of that richness happens far away from the nexus of downtown, on property not actually owned by the Ilitch family.

There are even entertainment options to dazzle and delight all sorts of demographic groups not served by the postmodern vaginas of The Dirty Show. Tucked away in a nondescript, semi-industrial corner of Warren, for instance, lies a hidden treasure trove of glamour and refinement, a veritable portal to a bygone age of showbiz glory. Or it could just be a suburban dinner theater where C-list has-beens try to squeeze a few more shekels out of senior citizens' retirement portfolios. This magical pleasure palace is known as the Celebrity Showroom at Andiamo Italia restaurant: a longtime destination for lovers of fine dining with a touch of Vegas-style glitz right in the bosom of Macomb County.

The joint is a throwback to a time before arena seating and strip mall comedy clubs, when big-name entertainers would tour the country, booking week- or even month-long engagements at smoky, gin-soaked nightclubs, knocking 'em dead with two shows a night. Spots like the 1,000-seat Andiamo showroom offer a more intimate experience, where audiences can feel the excitement of being up close and personal with their idols; and it's easier on the cataracts too.

Quality doesn't come cheap, however, and the types of acts featured, along with the hefty price tags, make this a choice locale for nostalgia buffs, with a roster of boomer-friendly entertainment that is simultaneously impressive and faintly depressing.

Case in point: Here's a look at this season's schedule.

Last Saturday saw the mighty '60s icons the Beach Boys — or at least what's left of them — rock the house. Unfortunately, audiences had to live without music mastermind Brian Wilson, who keeps his kooky genius in a sandbox in California. No John Stamos sightings were reported.

Do you like to laugh? Well you've come to the right place. You may know Joy Behar as the annoying yenta on ABC's The View. No, no the other one. Ms. Behar is taking a break from her day job playing amen chorus to Rosie O'Donnell and wiping drool off Elizabeth Hasselbeck's bib to drop some yuk-yuks in her trademark bold and sassy style. She's at the Showroom on Friday, Feb. 23.

Saturday, March 3, brings another aging master of chuckles who should have them rolling in the aisle: Pat Cooper. The original comedy loudmouth, the hilariously combustible Cooper was a staple of vintage TV variety like The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, but is more familiar to modern audiences for his regular bat-shit crazy appearances on Howard Stern's radio program.

On Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, we may be able to answer one of the great imponderable issues of television history: When Tony Danza comes to town, will we finally learn just who the boss is? You bet your ass we will. We don't know what his live show consists of, but it's gotta be great. Nobody thrills 'em like Tony Danza, who is perhaps the world's greatest portrayer of feathered-haired, thick-skulled former athletes-turned-day laborers also named Tony. Yeah, his daytime talk show bit the big one, but it lasted almost two whole years, which is a lifetime longer than most pathetic attempts to enter that dangerous afternoon quagmire. So, suck it, Megan Mullaly. Truth is, if you don't have a soft spot for the lovable Mr. Danza, then check your pulse, you may be deader than Barbaro.

Offering a proto-feminist rebuttal to the rampaging sausage-fest is the one and only jiggle queen herself, Suzanne Somers. On Saturday, April 21, she'll take the stage. Let's pause 10 seconds for you to come up with your own Thigh Master joke here. Done? Good.

Another noted whack-packer and direct descendant of the aforementioned Cooper's outrageous energy is the one and only Andrew Dice Clay. Yep, the immortal comedy bad boy will hickory-dickory-dock his way back into your heart. Still rowdy, still controversial and as filthy as ever, Clay has honed his arcane artistry of dick-and-pussy jokes to a razor's edge. From selling out Madison Square Garden to playing second fiddle to spaghetti dinners in just over a decade, the Dice Man has still got it. He's in the house on Thursday, May 17, and Friday, May 18.

Jackie Mason will be making them spit their borscht all over the room when he lights up the stage Friday June 15, and Saturday, June 16. You can count on Mason to preserve the ancient Talmudic tradition of mother-in-law jokes and wry and innovative material about monogamy, cell phones, messhugah gentiles and other "tings" that aggravate him. Oy, stop already, my sides are splitting. I'm not asking, I am telling with this!

Mason's fellow septuagenarian Regis Philbin will be on hand Thursday, Sept. 27, and Friday, Sept. 28, to do just whatever it is that he does. A true existentialist hero, no one has ever gotten more mileage out of absolute nothingness than Philbin.

If Reeg disappoints, then just wait until Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20, when one of the true legends of laughter will gracefully saunter on stage and insult everybody in the room. Known as "Mr. Warmth" the grandfatherly looking Don Rickles has become a legend simply by calling people names. The kiddies might have heard him as Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story, but the old folks know he is a vicious comedic pit bull, ready to lash out at anyone in earshot.


Andiamo Italia Showroom is located at 7096 E. 14 Mile, Warren; 586-268-3200. Visit andiamoshowroom.com for more information.

Corey Hall is a freelance writer. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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