Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Rio, the casino that Gans built, turns 20

The Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas celebrates its twentieth anniversary this weekend, and the spirit of Danny Gans hangs heavy over the raucous celebration.

The Rio is the big suite hotel just off the Strip on West Flamingo Road that for years was best known for its very sexy waitresses in their low-cut outfits, later for the residency of New York hipster magicians Penn & Teller and recently the big police raid over the summer for prostitution and drug activity around the swimming pool. But it will go down in Las Vegas and show business history as the place where cleancut, Christian musical impressionist Danny Gans planted his flag and really made his name when he moved there after a residency at the more downmarket Stupak's Stratosphere that began in 1996. It was the place where management raised his ticket prices to a then unheard-of $99, whereupon Gans raised a stink about it and where he itched to move on and find a room in the Big Show, on the Strip.

Danny Gans left for Steve Wynn and the Mirage in 2000, a sequence of events that's recounted in his autobiography, The Voices In My Head, which was published posthumously, months after his untimely death on May 1st due to an overdose of the powerful opiate hydromorphone, at 52, a death-- and life-- that has gone woefully and shamefully unreported by the members of the Las Vegas news media-- print, television, Internet and Twitter-- for reasons they know best, or perhaps because, as one local stringer for national publications who doesn't know one should dress to the nines when offered an aftershow backstage meet-and-greet with the legendary Wayne Newton (though he was probably "making a statement") actually put in print, "in Las Vegas, when left to our own devices, we do things a little differently.”

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