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Strip Scribbles: My most memorable moments with Danny Gans

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Danny Gans performs Friday, March 20, 2009, at the Encore Theater.
Photo: Leila Navidi

*Check out this story with accompanying photos and a photo gallery at VegasDeLuxe.com.*

Like many, I’d never heard of Danny Gans until I came to Las Vegas. All I knew was that everyone talked about him and said he had the best act in the celebrity impersonation business. Every time I was here on business, a shooting assignment or attending a convention during the past 13 years, I tried to buy a ticket, but he was always sold out weeks in advance. It was only when I moved to Vegas nearly a decade ago that I was able to see Danny after his move from The Rio to The Mirage.

Imagine my surprise when in the middle of listening to his bang-on impersonations of Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Wayne Newton and John Travolta, I found myself listening to myself! Yes, Danny had nailed my English accent down to a tee! He featured me in a fun spoof version of Twelve Days of Christmas.

Eventually, I got to meet Danny, and he told me he’d watched many episodes of my old show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous to duplicate me so perfectly. When I went to see his show a second time, I discovered he’d made me the Minister of Housing in the President George W. Bush cabinet, and he was humorously describing mega-million-dollar mansions in my voice!

People magazine’s Mark Grey is writing a tribute piece from Las Vegas for the next issue. When he asked me for my favorite memorable moment about Danny, I recalled those two visits to his Mirage theater when he impersonated me. I didn’t know Danny well, but he was always gracious, polite and cordial when it came time to interviews -- and he always said how happy he’d been to impersonate me.

Danny won’t be forgotten!

Meantime, although Danny’s family is keeping funeral plans private, his manager Chip Lightman has said that sometime in the next two weeks, there will be a celebration of his life. When plans are finalized, the decision will be made as to how to share it with friends and fans.

*Congratulations to Wynn chef Paul Bartolotta of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, who won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Southwest yesterday at a gala ceremony in New York’s Lincoln Center. Paul was presented with his award by chefs and hosts Cat Cora and Emeril Lagasse and actor Stanley Tucci. Paul previously won the 1994 Best Chef Midwest James Beard Award when he helmed the kitchen of Chicago’s Spiaggia.

*Newly crowned Miss USA 2009 Kristen Dalton of North Carolina returns to Las Vegas less than three weeks after her coronation to join with some of our Strip’s top chefs in a charity effort for the Three Square Food Bank. On Thursday morning, Kristen will lead their fight to end hunger by assisting with the food bank’s “Backpack for Kids” weekend feeding program. Decked out in their chef whites, the culinary all-stars will be stuffing backpacks for Three Square to send to needy children at schools across our valley.

The 20 chefs include Anthony Amoroso from Michael Mina at Bellagio, Akira Back from Yellowtail Sushi Restaurant & Bar at Bellagio, Paul Bartolotta from Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn, Carlos Buscaglia from Fiamma at MGM Grand, Rene Lenger from The Country Club at Wynn, Rick Moonen from RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, Bradley Ogden from Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace, Carla Pellegrino from Rao’s at Caesars Palace, Megan Romano from Aureole at Mandalay Bay and Cat Cora, Iron Chef winner and Bon Appetit executive chef. The event serves as an unofficial kick-off to the 3rd Annual Vegas Uncork’d culinary festival presented by Bon Appetit magazine. We’ll have all the events and all the chefs in a Royal Robin Rundown format Thursday.

*For the second time, Las Vegas will play host to the Latin Grammy Awards, this time in November. The 10th annual show, which has previously been held in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, will be broadcast on Univision from Mandalay Bay Events Center. Nominations for the 10th Annual Latin Grammy Awards will be announced in mid-September.

Star surveillance

It doesn’t look as if British boxer Ricky Hatton is in a hurry to leave town and return home to Manchester, England. He was spotted at the Strip’s ultra dive bar, the Rockhouse Bar & Nightclub, enjoying Bud Light Lime, while his entourage shared a bottle of Ketel One. … Comedian Bobby Slayton, who opens his new show in his own cabaret room at the Tropicana tonight, turned up at hypnotist Anthony Cools show with Kevin Burke of Defending the Caveman. … Grammy Award-winning Naughty by Nature -- Treach and Vin Rock -- brought old school hip-hop to MGM’s Wet Republic. The bikini-clad crowd danced to “Hip Hop Hooray” and “O.P.P.,” and then many of them jumped onstage for the finale! … Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden spun a special set at Carey Hart’s Wasted Space in the Hard Rock Hotel, with supercross star Chad Reed, skateboard legend Tony Hawk and model Caprice all partying away. … Pro skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, star of MTV’s Life of Ryan, was back at N9NE Steakhouse for a third consecutive night, but this time he brought his mom and manager, Gretchen Sheckler, to the Palms. … Upstairs in The Playboy Club, Floyd Mayweather Jr. enjoyed the scene from a VIP table with eight friends; Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell was accompanied by another group of eight; rapper Too Short and Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson played blackjack; Benji Madden was joined by six friends; and new 2009 Playmate of the Year Ida Ljungqvist also played blackjack.

Tonight’s tips

No mariachis at Wasted Space as ByDeathsDesign performs with Lydia Vance, Searchlight and The Closer. … It’s a triple punch with the comedy lineup of Willie Barcena, Larry Omaha and Brandon Hahn at the Improv in Harrah’s for the next six nights, with my Tonight Show announcer pal John Melendez, from I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here joining them Friday and Saturday to make it a four pack!

Tomorrow’s teases

Mel B puts down her Peepshow sequins to lead a fight against conscripted child soldiers in Africa, and we go racing with master motorcycle stuntman Mike Metzger, who reveals his next fantastic feat of completing the highest jump in the world! Mayor Oscar Goodman puts a twist on the largest martini ever made in Las Vegas, and the Sin City Bad Girls add sizzle to their provocative new topless show.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground. Read more of Robin's stories at VegasDeLuxe.com.

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