It's The Norm
January 31-February 6, 2002 ARCHIVES
"It's The Norm" - Recent Entertainment Events in Las Vegas

Frank Sinatra's Protege

by Norm Johnson
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We touched a little bit last week on the talents of one Ms. Marlene Ricci who opened this week in the newly refurbished Le Bistro Showroom at the Riviera Hotel.

Now we will try to bring you up to speed on the girl who Mr. Frank Sinatra once said had the best pair of lungs in the business" "Pure and as sweet as sugar!"

It's not hard to understand why The Man, after watching Ms. Ricci perform in a lounge at the Aladdin, hired her as his opening act for 2 1/2 years once you hear and see her on stage.

"This is a lady with a big voice and an abundance of talent. I'm so glad to see her finally getting a room of her own in Las Vegas," said Danny Gans, who has his own showroom at the Mirage. "I personally want to welcome her back to the strip!"

Marlene sang her first song in public at the age of five when she went with her dad, Nick, to a local Moose Lodge in her hometown of Angola, New York. "My dad, who passed away in 1986, worked in a local steel mill and we (the family) would go to the lodge every week," she explained. Later she entered a talent contest singing "I don't Know How to Love Him," where she won $200.00 "That was it. I was determined to become a professional entertainer."

Guess who her mother, Bianca, hired to be her first vocal coach when she was 10 years of age? Audrey Helene Holmes. That's right the mother of another great entertainer who has his own room at Harrah's on the strip, Clint Holmes! "She was my only vocal coach until I was 16, when I decided to go for broke and begin a professional career."

Like most entertainers Ms. Ricci bounced back and forth across the country with various bands honing her skills as a singer. In 1974, while auditioning for another band in Detroit, she met her future husband Jim Burgett. After a lengthy courtship, that took them around the world, they decided to get married in 1985 while she was appearing at the Four Queens downtown.

The actual discovery of Marlene by Sinatra began in early 1978 when she was appearing in Lake Tahoe. Jilly Rizzo, who was with Sinatra for years, became a fan and promised her that one night he would get Frank to come in and see her. "It didn't happen up there, but I kept in touch with Jilly," she smiled. "Then while I was working at the Aladdin and Mr. Sinatra was working across the street, Jilly called one-day and said they were coming in that night. A large entourage that included Danny Thomas and Angie Dickinson accompanied Sinatra. "Talk about pressure, wow! The nerves were really jumping that night," she laughed.

Those nerves are not jumping anymore. She has been mentored over the years by some of the greats of showbiz. "I was so lucky to have gained the confidence, tutoring and to have worked with such wonderful people like Mr. Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Merv Griffin, George Burns and Paul Anka." In a tribute to those many mentors over the years, she does a fantastic rendition of "There You'll Be."

Ms. Ricci performs one show a night in the Le Bistro Showroom at the Riviera Hotel at 8:30 pm. And it's worth every penny believe me! That's it for now. I'm outa here!

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