Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tabloid Baby's 2009 Story of The Year

The Death of Danny Gans

The tragic, sudden death of Las Vegas Strip headliner Danny Gans in his bed on May 1st would seem to have closed the book on an unlikely, inspirational, only-in-America success story of a would-be Major League ballplayer who fell back on his natural charm and talents as an impressionist to become the biggest star in the entertainment capital’s history. The fact that Gans had supposedly finished his autobiography the day before he died, combined with the mystery surrounding the death of this sturdy, clean-living family man and the stubborn, bizarre refusal of the Las Vegas news media to investigate the police blotter incident meant that the story was only beginning to get underway.

Danny Gans was an enigma in Las Vegas, a Born Again Christian who shunned his fellow entertainers and was involved with an evangelical megachurch on the edge of town. He was an athlete and avid golfer whose history of physical injuries and missed shows led to whispers of steroid and painkiller abuse. He had just recently begun a residency at the new Wynn Encore resort in a theatre said to be “cursed” by failure.

Yet, after paramedics arrived to find Danny Gans lifeless in his bedroom, the Las Vegas news media—as a group—showed little interest in the story. They dutifully copied the paramedic and police reports, took quotes from Gans’ manager and fellow celebs, and, amid shock and surprise that Danny Gans would go anywhere near a drug, waited for the coroner’s report. When the coroner finally tiptoed around the conclusion that Gans had died due to an overdose of the powerful opiate hydromorphone (aka "drugstore heroin"), the news was reported, one local paper printed a doctor’s suggestion that he had swallowed a single, out-of-date tablet and the promised in-depth coverage never materialized. In subsequent months, news that Gans was part owner of a pharmacy, and that the pharmacy manufactured an erection pill and marketed it with the promise it would make the user “F*** like a pornstar” still failed to pique the curiosity or a responsibility of the Las Vegas news media.

As facts dribbled out, the official story slowly morphed into something new. The entertainer who would never go near a drug only took the drugs he was prescribed If he was on steroids, it was to help his ravaged vocal cords. If his company sold a porn-promising erection pill, he didn't know about it.

Most recently, Gans’ manager spoke with the Las Vegas Sun and contradicted the official version of Gans’ death that the news media had accepted as gospel. Chip Lightman claimed that he had been phoned by Gans’ wife Julie at 3:15 a.m. on May 1st— a half hour before she dialed 911— and that she told him Gans had been dead "a couple of hours.”

We don’t expect the Las Vegas news media to find this latest twist newsworthy either.

We do see the Danny Gans story as the great, unexamined story of 2009, one that encompasses show business, corporate America, religion, sports, Las Vegas’ economic woes, the casino industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the justice system, hypocricy— and the sad state of American journalism.

By our count, Tabloid Baby has posted 137 Danny Gans-related stories.

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