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Remembrances

Danny Gans: Las Vegas Legacy

Danny Gans was the ultimate entertainer a singer, impressionist, comedian, actor and inspirational speaker. His impressions covered an incredibly wide range of male and female celebrities Dr. Ruth Westheimer, John Travolta, Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Wayne Newton, Woody Allen, Robin Leach, Bill Cosby and countless others.


Gans brought the Rat Pack back to the Strip as he performed Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., and even included Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop in his nearly perfect sounding impressions of each, complete with facial expressions, body postures and unmistakable gestures.


He also included an intricate, dual impression of father-daughter singers, Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole. As a skillful singer, Gans was able to imitate the sounds of vocal superstars, such as Michael Bolton, Michael Jackson and Michael McDonald.

He will be missed, but his spirit of love and laughter and his outpouring of philanthropy will remain legend in the city of glitz and glamour. His shocking, sudden death recently was deemed accidental: he succumbed to a toxic reaction to a prescription painkiller. Gans, 52, was a husband and father of three, as well as a man of faith and a community activist who freely contributed his time and support to help many local charities. The Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Danny Gans Junior Golf Academy were just two beneficiaries of his tremendous fundraising efforts to aid children.

He Truly Lived the Perfect Success Story

Born Daniel Davies Gans in Torrance, Calif., in 1956, his first career was in sports baseball from college through the minors leagues as Rookie of the Year. Gans, at the time, thought he was in his major career, but his calling to another field was on the horizon. Gans suffered an Achilles heel tendon injury during a game and took two years off to recuperate. He never returned to baseball when a limp from the injury ended his sports hopes.


"I thought by the year 2000, I'd be closing in on 600 home runs and the hall of fame," Gans had told an interviewer.


It was time for him to try another occupation. So Gans began to perform songs and worked out some stage impressions by working in comedy clubs and traveling the club circuit. In time, that meant he spent a lot of time away from his young family.

For more than 20 years starting at small venues and working his way up to major corporate events and private functions Gans honed the skills that ultimately resulted in his headlining on the Las Vegas Strip. Before settling in the place where he would make a legacy, Gans' acting skills landed him a memorable role, Deke Rivers in "Bull Durham," the 1980s baseball-themed movie starring Kevin Kostner. Gans also appeared in several TV commercials and had a recurring part on a sitcom, "Open House."


Just before heading to Las Vegas, where his career would skyrocket, Gans had been offered a long-term, well-paying contract to perform at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in Manhattan, following his run in a self-titled, one-man show to rave reviews at the Neil Simon Theater.


In a fateful decision, he turned the offer down and headed back to the West. Gans' most important role to him was husband and father, being with his family.

He relocated to Las Vegas in the late 1990s and soon opened at the Stratosphere with his multifaceted act. His show grew so successful that it wasn't long before he received an offer and began headlining in the showroom at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.


His show was received so well by locals and visitors that the ticket price more than doubled due to his immense popularity. Although it was sound reasoning on the business side of entertainment, Gans was inclined to keep the cost lower than the near-$100 admission, so he eventually moved his show.


Gans had formed a growing, close relationship with gaming resort mogul Steve Wynn, one of his many admirers. This led to Gans' ten-year run and reported $100 million contract to perform at the Mirage Resort where Wynn made him namesake of his own showroom, which regularly sold out.


It was a victory run that most entertainers could only hope to accomplish.In February, Gans left the Mirage and opened at Wynn's newest mega-resort, Encore. In addition to his career as a performer, Gans' expanded his business endeavors to include a management partnership with his own manager, Chip Lightman, and they promoted Donny and Marie Osmond, headlining at the Flamingo Resort.


Gans inspired us, motivated so many and touched lives positively. He leaves a legacy that Las Vegans and people around the world can look to for guidance on how to live well, give back and love life to the fullest.