George Knapp: TV host’s past catches up with him?

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Fans of Let’s Talk News Now, a locally produced morning TV gabfest, must be wondering what happened to their show. Until last week, the breezy production aired daily at 6 a.m. on KTUD Vegas TV. Not anymore.

As far as I can tell, there’s been little in the way of public explanation from the station or former hosts, but I have a pretty good idea what led to the cancellation, and it’s not pretty.

One of the two co-hosts, a bald, bespectacled smooth-talker who went by the name of Rick Singer, turns out to have what you might call a checkered past. For one thing, Rick Singer isn’t his name, though it is one of many he has used. For a time, he went by the improbable moniker of R.J. Vegas and supposedly worked as a high-flying casino host. At another point, he used Richard Wright. He’s also been Rich Lester, and before that Richard Senninger.

Why so many names? Before he became a silky-voiced TV guy in Nevada, he was a successful radio host and producer in Florida. His show, Outside the Wire, espoused now-familiar pro-conservative themes, and particularly catered to veterans issues and causes. Host Rick Senninger and his colleagues solicited veterans, veterans organizations and even active-duty military personnel for donations and advertising buys, but investigators believe much of the money raised under the guise of patriotism went into Rick’s pockets instead.

The full story of Singer/Senninger/Lester/Wright/Vegas’ exploits could fill a book. Suffice to say, he was taken off the air in Florida after numerous stories of financial improprieties arose, including allegations that Rick failed to pay employees and vendors, bounced checks, committed outright larceny. At about the same time, he was arrested under a warrant from Michigan, where he was wanted for failure to pay child support. Some might say the crimes are not that heinous, but if you read comments posted online by people who claim they were victimized by Singer — lives ruined, homes lost, bank accounts fleeced — it paints a very grim picture.

I can only imagine what KTUD execs thought when they got their first look at the websites created by his alleged victims to track and expose Rick’s exploits. The name of one is RickTheConMan.com, which pretty much spells out what a lot of people think of him.

How did he think he could hide from his creditors and alleged victims by shaving his head, putting on glasses and hosting a TV show five days a week? I have not spoken to him about the cancellation, but I am guessing that one thing Rick doesn’t lack is confidence.

NAMES/FACES/PLACES

The Labor Day holiday marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Ned Day, easily the most fearless muckraking journalist in modern Nevada history. If you weren’t here back in the ’80s, it is hard to explain the kind of influence Ned had, or the amazing, larger-than-life character he became. He was no Boy Scout, and reveled in his fondness for naughty women and late-night temptations, but he is remembered primarily for his courage — he taunted, tortured and humiliated the last vestiges of the Mafia in Las Vegas, practically begging the mob to whack him — and his genuine compassion for the powerless. This guy was the real deal, and though I no longer think about him every day, not a week goes by without someone bringing him up as an example of what reporters are supposed to be. … The BLM has finally taken off the kid gloves when it comes to wild horses. The bureau has announced that it plans to wipe the mustangs off the face of the Earth, at least within the vast confines of — ironically — the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Never mind that millions of Americans demanded the creation of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, which passed Congress without a single dissenting vote, or that this law establishes that the mustangs are to be forever preserved and protected on the lands where they roamed at the time the act became law — the BLM says the horses need to go because the Sheldon Refuge is really a place for antelope, not mustangs. This time, instead of pretending they just want to round up a few unfortunate horses, and, characteristically, kill a few during the process, the agency is simply going to grab every last one of them and never let them return to an area of 575,000 acres. If the public is ever going to get riled up about BLM’s audacity, this would seem to be the catalyst. … In Las Vegas, posh restaurants come and go. Celebrity chefs rise and fall. But there is one constant: Piero’s. Knappster and the Viking made one of our rare visits to the off-Strip eatery during Restaurant Week and were reminded of what a cool joint it still is. The ageless Freddie Glusman was holding court, as always. The night before, he had introduced boxer Mike Tyson to showbiz legend Jerry Lewis, and then stood back as the two swapped stories and posed for photos. On the night we visited, the still-dazzling Pia Zadora popped into the booth next to us and introductions were made. A few of the old-style wiseguys made famous in Casino (which was filmed in Piero’s) still crave the osso buco or stone crab. It is the only eatery in a town of great restaurants where the clientele is as important a draw as the food. Glusman could write a book, but would be better as the host of a reality TV show, a program drenched with celebs, power-brokers, athletes and a mobster or two. … Friends of brothel baron Joe Conforte, who’s been living in Brazil for 20 years and is still wanted here by the feds, say they have not heard from him in quite a while and have been unable to make contact. If something happened to the notorious father of the legal bordello industry, it might be weeks before anyone here found out. … Sources at the Boyd School of Law tell me that prominent attorneys Tom Pitaro and Stan Hunterton are in fine form these days, as quick-witted and devastating as the sharpest Strip comedians, striking fear into their audiences — who happen to be law students. Pitaro and Hunterton teamed up to teach a course in trial law, and from the reviews I’ve heard, their performances are so entertaining that tickets should be sold. … The deadly accident involving an ambulance this week is likely the catalyst needed to reopen public scrutiny of the “ambulance wars” that generated so much attention two years ago. … Congratulations to Lt. Ken Young of the Clark County School District police. He’s not only celebrating his promotion to captain, but has also released a soulful album titled Healing Rain. Young regularly moonlights as a Strip singer. I sampled the album online. His voice is kind of a mix of Barry White, Peabo Bryson and Lionel Richie, and — it’s only a guess here — but the songs might cause people’s underwear to come off. Just saying.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at gknapp@klastv.com.