It's The Norm
November 29-December 5, 2001 ARCHIVES
"It's The Norm" - Recent Entertainment Events in Las Vegas

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Volunteering


by Norm Johnson
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I think what Wayne Newton, Siegfried & Roy and others were able to put together to benefit the USO was absolutely fantastic. There were a lot of stars on that Mandalay Bay stage giving of themselves with no other reason than they truly wanted to be there for the USO. I personally took exception to what has been said about a particular performer, one who has been known to boost other entertainers and to give of himself to many a worthy cause. More on this later in the column.

This was a benefit by volunteers ranging from the event center to the stage crew to the musicians. Like Joe Delaney, a fellow journalist always says, "It matters not how you give just as long as you give." Joe, and many of us who have been here for a few years, remember when this town had as many as five telethons a year and a couple of really huge dinner benefits. And, Joe who was the entertainment columnist for the Sun (and still is) produced a number of those events in conjunction with the late Forrest Duke, who was the entertainment columnist for the Review Journal. Every star on the strip, be it a main showroom or lounge entertainer, was always invited to participate and they would show up for Joe and Forrest. Stars like the real "Rat Pack", Debbie, Goulet, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahan (who emceed many of them) would make a point to be in town if there was anyway possible.

I can remember one year during the biggest benefit of them all, the annual "Night of Stars" for Saint Jude's, when our buddy, the late journalist Pete Mikla was asked by Delaney to escort one of the biggest stars in the galaxy (at that time) to the Hilton's Grand Ballroom. The star was Charlton Heston. He had flown in from Hollywood to just say a few words. I, like many of us old timers, can remember when such regulars as Freddie Bell, Sonny King, Bernie Allen, Jerry Vale, Pat Cooper, Cork Proctor, Bob Anderson, Louie Prima, Keeley, Blackie Hunt and Laurie Perry (Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt to you new in town), to name just a few, were the hard core of every benefit. They were always a sure "Yes!" They could care less if they saw their name in the paper, on the news or in a photograph. Most of the time they did not!

One thing I thought was sorta tacky was how a few participants in the benefit and some writers, lashed out publicly at a particular entertainer for not being one of the "volunteers." Danny Gans, who has very possibly donated more money and time to various causes in this town than some of those complainers earn in a year, had his reasons for not being on the list. There were already enough high-powered stars signed up for the show that was for sure. They certainly did not need Danny Gans to make it a hit. And, to my knowledge, there was nothing personal between him and some of those participating that would keep him from being on that stage. If he thought it would have made a difference you couldn't have kept him away. What was not mentioned by those same people, at the time, was that on September 13th Danny pledged $75,000 to the American Red Cross. Oh, by the way, as of when this column was written he had sent two checks amounting to $45,000.

Those complainers should remember how many times Danny has been the first to volunteer his time for a well-deserved cause. And God only knows how much money he has shelled out without a single word being printed or said about it. Danny Gans does not need me, or anyone, to defend his actions.

Gans, I believe, was wrongly accused. After all the appropriate word here, and one everyone fails to remember is "Volunteering." For whatever reason he chose not to volunteer that is his right! The last time I remember when the word volunteer actually meant mandatory was when I was in the United States Air Force. And gang, I'm personally proud of the fact that Danny picked Las Vegas to be his home. Just remember there are three sides to every story.

I'm outa here!

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