Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Las Vegas columnist who suggested Danny Gans used "supplements" continues to avoid the subject but returns to the story to crown Gans' successor

Of all the journalists in Las Vegas, entertainment columnist John Katsilometes of the Sun held out the greatest hope as the one who'd take an inquisitive, hardboiled look into the mysterious death of Strip headliner Danny Gans. Katsilometes' column, written hours after the announcement that the musical impressionist had died mysteriously of a stopped heart at the age of 52, was an unblinking appreciation of the artist as well as an unfiltered assessment of Gans' reputation and what could have killed him.

"Danny Gans was a gifted, unique figure in Las Vegas entertainment history" also portrayed Danny Gans as:

"a man I honestly did not know well. Few did, I feel...
"so corny...
"everyone, and no one... benignly pleasant... unfailingly nice, but I was always ready for him to slip into the cloak of someone else...
"fiercely protective of his image -- especially as it pertained to his value as an entertainer...
"a consummate entertainer, even as he appealed to the great mean. He was also a solid citizen, a born-again Christian who was always said to have lived a Christian existence."

Katsilometes also revealed Gans to be a man who "protected his voice to the point where he would spend entire days not talking, writing notes and using hand movements to communicate with his family," and stated that though "he was said to be an egg-white-favoring health nut... Gans’ physical appearance started to seem unnatural, his bulk suggesting the use of supplements."

"And he was not always Mr. Sunshine, either. Gans could be biting when dealing with his contemporaries... A couple of years ago, I asked him for comment about fellow impressionist Gordie Brown, who had just opened at The Venetian. Any advice for Gordie? I asked Gans. Through a spokeswoman, he replied: 'My advice to Gordie is to do something unique and different that the Strip has never seen before. For example, while doing his trademark Garry Shandling impression, have a sad clown walk by while three midgets on pogo sticks juggle pink French poodles on a high wire. I’d also change the name of his show to Cirque du Gordie.'

"I tried to reach Brown, now at the Golden Nugget, today for comment about Gans’ death. Nothing."

Katsilometes was alone among Las Vegas journalists in writing something approaching criticism of Gans, and with his suggestion that he had used "supplements" promised to push closer to something of an understanding of what may have happened before the release of a delayed and potentially sullied "official" toxicology report.

But after that piece, he went silent on the story. Katsilometes ignored our emails (we contacted his editor saying we were trying to get in touch) and moved onto other subjects, despite the speculation that increased as we continued our reportage.

And today, more than a fortnight on (inside joke), Katsilometes writes about Danny Gans. Well, he steps around the story of Danny Gans with a piece about musical impressionist Gordie Brown, the Gans competitor whom he reported was the target of Gans' dark side.

It seems that Gordie Brown is preparing a tribute to Danny Gans in his act, a song that is so touching it makes him cry every time he sings it:
"The moment arrives without warning, and it surfaces whenever the mood strikes Gordie Brown. But there is a point in his show at the Golden Nugget when he speaks of the late Danny Gans, softly saying that Gans will be terribly missed and was one of the true pioneers among Las Vegas entertainers. Then Brown’s voice shifts to its power gear and sings the Louis Armstrong favored by Gans, 'What a Wonderful World'...

"There is no pattern, and the improv-embracing Brown had actually lopped the number from his routine until returning it to the stage on May 1, the day Gans died. Also on that day, Brown crafted a song he plans to dedicate to Gans titled 'Live Today.' He’s working on the tune on an acoustic guitar now and plans to teach it to his backing band at Golden Nugget. Brown isn’t sure when he’ll be confident enough to unveil the song, which he describes as a positive message of what can be learned through tragedy, in public. 'I can’t get through it without crying, he says."

Katsilometes offers Brown a chance to explain why he didn't join the chorus of praise after Gans' death:
"'When this happened, I felt it was the family’s place, and I didn’t want media publicity or anything like that,' Brown said. 'It’s the saddest thing in the world. I just wanted to have him, his family, manager and friends start to get through it.'"
Brown professes his "deep respect" for Danny Gans. And in the process, appears to offer himself in Katsilometes' column as the next-best thing.

Katsilometes repeats the news that "a celebration of Gans’ life is set for the Encore Theater on Thursday but is invitation-only and not open to the public. Many of the Strip’s top headliners are expected to attend."

Somewhere there is a story between the lines, but it doesn't bring us any closer to understanding who Danny Gans was or what could have led to his death.

There are no Danny Gans stories in today's (or yesterday's) Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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