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Final encore

A fleeting Roy, a key to the city, a fond farewell: at the Danny Gans memorial

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People head toward the Encore Theatre for a memorial for Danny Gans last Thursday.
Photo: Sam Morris

Siegfried & Roy entered the Encore Theatre quietly, after the ceremony commemorating Danny Gans had begun. Roy was in a wheelchair next to the last row and his partner took a seat a few feet away. They stayed for a few minutes, then were gone. For years the duo shared a home with Gans at the Mirage, and both of their shows had come to shocking and unexpected ends. And if there was at one time controversy over how quickly Gans’ management wanted to invoke a contractual right to Mirage’s marquee after Roy was savaged, that did not stop the duo from coming to say goodbye. Roy Horn and Danny Gans had stage careers that ended in very different ways, but in both cases the surprise and shock was such that both entertainers will forever be connected in the public mind. Just don’t go looking on the web for photos of Siegfried or Roy at the memorial. They skipped the press line. Few saw them enter and no report even mentioned Roy’s presence. But he was there, expressionless in his wheelchair for a few minutes before he and his partner disappeared. Donny Osmond referred to the memorial as “surreal,” and the brief presence of Siegfried & Roy certainly encapsulated that aspect of the occasion best.

Danny Gans Remembered

But there was little surreal about Danny Gans’ art or life. He did impersonations and was known as a perfectionist, a slick crowd-pleaser for people who wanted easy laughs without the controversies of the day or the adult qualities that marked so much else in Vegas. So it was no surprise to see Donny and Marie Osmond coming to pay tribute. However, some may have been surprised to see Criss Angel there. But, like Gans, Angel had come to Vegas with some experience and a little renown, and then used the town to become a star. “When I first came to Las Vegas,” Angel says, “I remember seeing Danny Gans three times. The man was just literally amazing. He created the ultimate illusion, capturing the essence of such a wide spectrum of celebrities. He was a master at it. Las Vegas will miss him tremendously. ... I never met him, and I am flattered the family invited me today.”

Mayor Oscar Goodman brought a commemorative citation and a key to the city. The family, he said, did not want a public ceremony onstage and so he planned to present them to Gans’ survivors in private. Goodman recalled all the good works Gans did for various charities in the city: “There are certain entertainers who exceed any expectation you have for them. Danny Gans was one of those entertainers. He is irreplaceable. Nobody is indispensable, but his talent can not be replicated.”

Farewell, Danny Gans

Few sentiments sum up Las Vegas better than being both irreplaceable and dispensable. A few days after the memorial, Encore Theatre was open for business, this time with Whoopi Goldberg. Beyonce is scheduled for some shows soon, and Larry King, too. A spokeswoman for Encore said there are no plans for another resident headliner, but a series of short-term headliners will likely do stints in the theater. Vegas is a city that even on its saddest days still moves forward.

As for Gans, he probably would not mind. He believed in immortality and eternity. He just never thought they came from a performance on a Vegas stage. But according to his preacher, Gans felt eternity came from his religion and how he lived his life up until the last of it no matter how long or brief.

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Richard Abowitz

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