Many wonderful and musically prolific years after her performances of “Maybe This Time” and “My Man” wowed the judges and earned her talent awards at the world famous Miss America Pageant, former Miss Nevada Sandy Kastel is back in action, participating in numerous exciting events surrounding the 2007 Miss America Pageant, airing from the Las Vegas Aladdin Monday, January 29 on CMT.
The year she represented her beloved home state, the multi-talented entertainer shared the stage with 49 other hopefuls at the pageant’s longtime home in Atlantic City. Thanks to CMT’s new agreement with the event, the Miss America Pageant is now in its second year as yet another crown jewel on Vegas’ famous strip. And Kastel, a well-beloved presence on the local entertainment scene, is only too happy to assume her new role as an ambassador for the city she’s lived in since her dad, an acclaimed saxophonist, joined Harry James’ band there when she was a little girl.
On Friday, she attended a special luncheon geared around raising money for the Miss America Organization’s scholarship fund; the organization is one of the nation's leading achievement programs and the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. On Sunday night at the Planet Hollywood Aladdin, she is attending as a donor a black tie fundraiser for The Children’s Miracle Network, the alliance of premier hospitals for children that has been aligned with Miss America for 18 years. Kastel, who was involved in preparing this year’s Miss Nevada, Caydi Cole, for her judge’s interview, will be attending the pageant itself on Monday night.
“I think it’s wonderful that Miss America is now part of the Entertainment Capital of the World,” she says. “While I came of age in what people call the ‘old Vegas,’ I think all of the wonderful new hotels and casinos we have, from the Bellagio to the Venetian to the Wynn, really give visitors a taste of what the world is like by representing so many unique European cultures. It’s exciting for me personally to be part of the pageant again after having had the opportunity to represent Nevada as a contestant.”
Kastel, whose dad worked with everyone from Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand to Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Prowse and Ann Margret, has been part of the Vegas entertainment scene since her earliest high school days, when she performed in shows like “Sweet Charity” and “Funny Girl.” Over the years, she has performed at many of the major hotels (Sahara, Hilton, MGM Grand, Stardust) and was part of a popular spoof of musicals of the 30’s called “Pinups At The Movies” that was the longest running show of its time. Several years ago, she created and performed her own production show at the Blue Note, which is now the Planet Hollywood Aladdin; she penned its theme song, calling it—what else?—“Only In Las Vegas.”
Kastel is currently putting the finishing touches on her first recording, a tribute to the glorious entertainers who have defined the legend of her hometown. Putting her own unique spins on songs that continue to transfix our imaginations decades after we first heard them, the singer pays homage to, among others, Frank Sinatra (a medley of “All Of Me,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Just One Of Those Things,” plus “Luck Be A Lady”), Bobby Darin (“Beyond The Sea”), Wayne Newton (“Danke Schoen”), Peggy Lee (“Fever,” “Come Back To Me”), Johnny Mathis (“Misty”), Dinah Washington/Celine Dion (“When I Fall In Love”) and Judy Garland (“Over The Rainbow”).
Ironically for a project that’s so Vegas-centric, it was recorded in Nashville with some of that city’s top session musicians under the guidance of multiple Dove Award winning producer Dan Posthuma, well known in the Contemporary Christian and Gospel music worlds for his work with Debby Boone, Bryan Duncan, Shirley Caesar and Crytal Lewis. Posthuma was introduced to Kastel by renown booking agent Miles Bell (Kool and the Gang, Commodores, Menudo) and played a key role to the launch of Kastel's musical career.
“I met my husband Harold Stout in Las Vegas,” Kastel says, “but we’d travel back quite a bit to his hometown in Indiana, and each time we did, I’d go down to Nashville for different songwriting workshops put on by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. I did a lot of networking with other writers and musicians hanging out at the Bluebird Café and was excited about meeting Dan, who loved my history and suggested the idea of doing a Vegas-oriented album. Even as I develop as a songwriter, I loved the idea of recording so many of my favorite songs which I have sung and performed over the years.”
Kastel’s first single will be shipped to commercial AC radio stations beginning in late February, followed by the album’s release in late spring.
“As we considered my background and the material that has influenced my life, we came up with a concept that honors the town where I grew up, Las Vegas,” she says. “A true part of Americana, Las Vegas has been a place where people go to celebrate 21st birthdays, graduations and weddings, even divorces. It is a place where people try their luck at winning at games of chance. It is a place full of hopes and dreams, and is a big part of the ongoing craze surrounding poker tournaments. Hip new places like The Palms are attracting not only young Hollywood starlets but also rock stars that want to record at its state of the art studio. The world has an endless fascination with Vegas, and it’s exciting now to have so many great opportunities, with Miss America and my new album, to proudly represent its ongoing sense of history, progress and magic.”