Artist (and newlywed) Michael Godard is Frankie Moreno’s No. 1 fan
Wed, Aug 1, 2012 (11:28 p.m.)
While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation in sunny San Diego and La Jolla, many of our Strip and Las Vegas personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. Our thanks to them all. We continue today with artist Michael Godard, who paints pop-art olives with legs and arms at his Planet Hollywood and Rio galleries. We asked him to write about himself, but his column is all about somebody else. How’s that for a tip of the hat!
A few months ago, my friend Carrot Top invited my new bride and me to have dinner with his brother and a few friends at his place. Naturally, I was very excited by the mere mention of food (being a starving artist and all) and the fact that between my constant tour traveling and Carrot Top’s busy schedule, we were looking forward to some hang time.
Dinner was awesome, as expected, and we moved the party to the living room. I had brought a new game with me that I had picked up while taking a few days off in Big Bear. The game was very similar to the newest app craze “Draw Something,” and it was hilarious fun.
The player next to me, Frankie, was someone I’d never met before. Sometime during the game, he mentioned that he was a musician. We hit it off right away. I love all things music and had the misconceived notion from an early age that playing rock and roll was not only my calling, but also my destiny.
Unfortunately, reality was closer to “what do you call a musician without a girlfriend?” “Homeless.” In fact, although I began playing the drums at 12, the last time I picked up a pair of drumsticks was probably at Kentucky Fried Chicken about five years ago.
I played music actively for more than 20 years and was a mechanical engineer by day. My ultimate destiny, though, was to paint whimsical olives diving into martini glasses. Who would have guessed that one? OK, back to my story. …
So, between pauses in the drawing game while deciphering Carrot Top’s artistic masterpieces and talking with Frankie about music, I was really struck by how genuine he was (rare for many Las Vegas entertainers) and cool, humorous and easygoing.
Another thing I found interesting was the type of music Frankie was into. I have many close friends that are gods of rock, like Vince Neil, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne and DJ Ashba of Guns ’n’ Roses, to name a few. But Frankie described his music as blues, swing, big band, horns and “Sinatra-style” cool.
Within a few days, Frankie sent me a text inviting my then fiance and me to his show at the Stratosphere. Unfortunately, my schedule was slammed with shows because my wedding was coming soon.
Now, every week, I’m flying and every time I’m going to or leaving the airport, I see these huge billboards with Frankie Moreno’s face. I began taking photos of the billboards and texting them to him saying it must be a sign that I need to see his show.
The last time I was at the Stratosphere, I was attending UNLV, so it had been a while. Even more interesting was the fact that I had been physically removed because I had spent 10 hours playing a nickel machine and within a few seconds of losing my money watched someone hit the big jackpot on my machine. You can finish that story with your imagination.
Finally, I had a night off, and it was on. The theater was super-cool old school, with upscale, classy, lounge-style decor and tables with seating like something you’d see in “Casino.” The lighting, sound and ambiance were amazing. From the first note played, I was hooked. No joke, Frankie and his band knocked the socks off my feet and blew the roof off with energy so high it felt like a thunderstorm of music.
Song after song, I found myself standing and clapping and howling like a teenager, absolutely mesmerized by the talent. I watched him play at least five instruments, every one of them as I’d never seen anyone play before.
So check this out. When he played piano, he didn’t just play piano. He played with his arms crossed, then behind his head, with feet, elbows, even in a reverse limbo. Seriously, it was like watching Jerry Lee Lewis. It was mind-blowing. His fingers were a blur of speed, but all throughout, Frankie made it look effortless.
At one point, Frankie broke out a harmonica, and I heard notes and blues and sounds I did not think were possible. Guitar, drums, it never ended. Now keep in mind that this was like icing on the cake, and the cake was the music; it was so good. The way he moved onstage and that voice, he really didn’t need to do anything else.
All the while, the room shook with excitement and the audience hung on every move or flick of Frankie’s wrist, as he held us all in his spell. His band is some serious talent. It was so cool because every one of the 10 band members had their moment to shine. The solos included violin, saxophone, trombone, drums, guitar, trumpet, piano and more.
The music is incredible, and so is the show. I really enjoyed Frankie’s suave charisma and the way he interacted with the audience. The humor was hilarious and at other times subtle, and he knew how to use his body language to make people laugh. I also enjoyed the variety of music the band played. It was like a roller-coaster ride from swing to somber to dance. Frankie really controlled that room.
Since that night, we have seen his show many times. From my 14-year-old brother to my grandmother in her 70s, no joke, this show is for everyone. Like I do with Carrot Top’s show, I tell everyone it is truly one you can’t miss because you and anyone you go with will have a night to remember. Check this out: Tickets for Frankie are $20 for locals. How’s that for a bargain?
I told Frankie that he’s the best-kept secret in Las Vegas, but not for too long. So do yourself a favor and see Frankie Moreno. Oh, and tell them your friend Godard sent ya. If they say “who?” -- tell ’em that crazy artist who paints olives with arms and legs at Planet Hollywood and the Rio.
Our thanks to Michael Godard for his salute to Frankie Moreno. Be sure to check out our other guest column today from the hunks of Thunder From Down Under at Excalibur, and join us Thursday when our guest columnists are Louis Prima Jr. and the head honcho of Sky Combat Ace.
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.
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