Authors note: I wrote this article for Las Vegas Style Magazine, prior to Danny Gans' opening at the Mirage Resort in April of that year. This was one of the first in depth interviews granted by Danny. Over the years, since this interview, I had talked to him on numerous occasions. I remember when he was chastised for not appearing at a particular benefit. What the public was not told, until I wrote about it, was that Danny Gans donated a big check to the cause. He was a true champion of the people and he loved Las Vegas! Danny Gans will be missed by everyone. Norm Johnson
REMEMBERING A FRIEND... PART TWO
The "big break" came in Las Vegas when he opened for Bill Cosby at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel in 1993. Gans was scheduled to do 30 minutes. The audience response was overwhelming, and as he was taking his bow, Cosby sauntered out, put his arms around Gans and looked at the audience. "I believe we're looking at the Sammy Davis of the nineties," he said, grinning. Bill turned and began to walk off stage, stopped and smiled. "Go for it babe, I'm walking off stage. You keep going!" Danny went on for another half-hour.
"The next day, Mr. Cosby had the marquee changed to equal billing in size. From that point on I did an hour in front of Bill, and he did an hour," Danny explained. After that he and his manager, Chip Lightman, made a promise to each other: The next time Gans came back to Las Vegas, it would not be as an opening act or co-headliner. It would have to be with his own show. "However long it took, we were determined to wait for it," Lightman added.
All along Danny Gans had been building a reputation in the corporate world. For ten years, he worked steady and kept improving the act as he obtained feedback from various show producers. They wanted clean comedy and music by artists who have hits. And, that was exactly what he gave them.
"I combined comedy with the greatest singers of all times and it worked." Gans found himself booked for about 125 corporate dates a year. He also began to gain fame on television as a regular on the Fox-TV hit, "Open House," and had a recurring role on the CBS drama series, "Silk Stockings." He starred as Dean Martin in the Emmy Award-winning mini series, "Sinatra," and made his big screen debut as shortstop, Deke Rivers, in "Bull Durham." "It was a little type casting you might say," Gans laughed.
December 1994, found the team of Gans and Lightman, taking yet another gamble towards the future. "The Man With a Thousand Voices," decided to do a one-man show at the Coast Playhouse in Los Angeles, a 200-seat venue. After the first week, a reviewer from Variety caught the show. "You would've thought my mother wrote the review," Gans said. "It was absolutely wonderful!" The Nederlander Organization (one of the biggest booking and producing agencies in North America), sent a representative to check out this young man they were hearing so much about. Soon, Danny was on the stage of the 1400-seat Neil Simon theatre on Broadway, for a special three-week engagement. Nederlander offered the young man a year's extension. He and Lightman declined the offer, so they could fulfill a goal they had set in 1993.
On May 16, 1996, Danny Gans opened as the headliner at the new Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas.
Soon, Gans was being wooed by the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Flamingo Road. He inked a deal to star in the Copacabana showroom. It was a wonderful marriage for a time. Gans was drawing capacity crowds, and soon the Rio management began raising ticket prices. That's when Gans balked. The marriage became strained. "Even if I was happy with the Rio, as my contract came to an end, I wouldn't have stayed. I wanted to be on the Strip!"
TOP OF NEXT COLUMN
The Las Vegas "Entertainer of the Year," signed a long-term contract with Wynn and the Mirage Hotel. "I'll be doing a lot more, Danny Gans, with an emphasis on variety. Of course I'll continue to do comedy and impressions," he explained. "The band will be increased to seven musicians and more production is being added."
Danny Gans has reached that ultimate goal he and Lightman set many years ago. Gans and his wife of 18-years, Julie, and their two daughters, Amy 12, Emily 5 and son Andrew 9, have settled down to living a normal life (if being an entertainer is ever normal), in a community that has opened its soul to them. In return, Danny is one of the first to appear at local charity events, and to lend his name and talent to worthwhile community causes.
The future is bright, having just finished recording his first pop-contemporary album for Sony's Epic label, and the Christian pop label, Myrrh for Word Records. Award-winning Michael O'Martian produced the album.
"We feel the single that could possibly be a hit, will be a song written by Mathew West titled, 'Be Strong," Gans said. Lightman and Danny have has also been negotiating a television series with Hollywood producer, Aaron Spelling, and his production company. "It'll be shot here in Las Vegas, and will be loosely based on my experiences," Danny explained. "You might say it's a modern version of 'Make Room For Daddy,' that starred Danny Thomas."
"I've found a home in Las Vegas, and I love what I'm doing. I don't have to travel anymore than I want to. I can spend more time with my family and watch Andrew play Little League baseball. What more could I ask for?"
And, Las Vegas is in love with the, "Man of Many Voices!"
Danny Gans: October 25, 1956... May 1, 2009.
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY -- Just a quick reminder that the big benefit show, "An Affair of the Heart... To Italy With Love," will take place Sunday, May 17th., in The Orleans showroom. Doors will open at noon, with the show set to kick off at 1 p.m. More than 35 wonderful entertainers, including Shecky Greene, Clint Holmes, and Rich Little, etc., have signed on for the cause. Tickets are only $35.00... Speaking of Mr. Greene, I made a boo-boo last week. Shecky will be performing this weekend at SunCoast Hotel/Casino, not The Orleans with show time set for 7:30 p.m. with tickets starting at $19.95. This is a legend, gang, and is a "must see."
Well, that's it for this week.
I'm outa here!
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