Authors note: I wrote this article for Las Vegas Style Magazine in February, 2000, 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 ONE
It's ironic that two men with many similarities would meet and become partners of sorts Danny Gans, the entertainer and, Steve Wynn, the entrepreneur. Gans has a new boss and a new home at, Wynn's Mirage Resort on the Strip. Once one meets and gets to know Gans and Wynn, it's easy to understand why it was inevitable. Both men are goal setters and dreamers.
Wynn set many goals during his lifetime, especially when he moved to Las Vegas from Maine, with his wife, Elaine, and family. Gans had set a number of goals after a brilliant future in baseball went kaput. The two men were determined to become stars on the Las Vegas Strip. Wynn, without question, is today the star of resort owners in Las Vegas. Gans, at the age of 39, will open in a specially constructed showroom in the Mirage Resort, April 4. Danny has reached the plateau, which was his ultimate goal-to become a headliner on the Las Vegas Strip. Both men had the talent to accomplish those goals! Gans as an entertainer, and Wynn as a builder and dreamer! One could go on and on with similarities. Needless to say, they have accomplished just about everything they ever dreamed about.
Gans' dream, as a young boy growing up in Southern California, was to become a major league ballplayer. He was a standout third baseman throughout his teens, and was drafted (while still in high school) by the Kansas City Royals. While in collage, Gans was again drafted, this time by the Chicago White Sox. He declined both offers. Just before graduation Danny was offered, and signed, a contract with his dream team -- the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"That was my goal all along to one day play in Dodger Blue," Gans smiled as he thought back to those early days.
While playing in the Northwest League, he tore his Achilles heel. "That was it. I was no longer going to be a baseball player," Gans frowned. At the age of 19, Danny no longer had a future, or so he thought.
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Fortunately, Gans did have another talent lying dormant within him. Gans could sing! He was also considered a funny guy to be around. Danny had one other bit of raw talent-an uncanny ability to do impressions of people and famous singers. While hobbling around in a walking cast, one night Gans and a teammate stopped in at Mitzi Shore's Comedy Club in San Diego.
"My pal said I was funnier than them (having often entertained on the team bus during minor league trips) and should give it a shot." With encouragement from family and friends, the one time power hitting third baseman, changed direction and charged towards the future. He put together a few minutes of "A" material (based on his experiences in baseball) and began to work, "Open Mic Nights," at various comedy clubs. "That's when I began to believe I could have a career as an entertainer."
Slowly, offers to work at various comedy clubs began to trickle in. For the next few years, Gans was a regular act on the Comedy Club circuit. He gained a reputation as a "clean working" comic, who also did great impressions. "I really never liked the clubs because of the smoke (everyone smoked in those days), and I didn't like the 'blue' language many comics used. I'm not a prude, but I believe in working clean. You could describe me as the guy you'd like to have a beer with," Danny said.
In a previous interview Gans said: "From the day I stepped on a stage, I've never had more than a week off... unless I chose to." Soon he was bouncing around doing theater, singing in bands, and various other things to keep the money coming in, while gaining valuable experience. "I met my wife, Julie, about this time and we both wanted to have a family. So I kept honing my act and waiting for the big break."
Around 1986, his father, Sid, brought him to Las Vegas to watch a master at work. "I want you to see him because I know even though he's in the twilight of his career, I guarantee you, all your answers will be clear tonight," his dad said. Danny watched Sammy Davis, Jr., perform. It was like magic. "After I saw Sammy, I knew my lot was to be an entertainer! I set a new goal that night. I would evoke the full range of emotions by doing all the disciplines: comedy, impressions, singing, dancing and playing an instrument."
Part two will run next week.
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