Longtime Las Vegas entertainer Gans, 52

The New York TimesMay 3, 2009 

Danny Gans, whose seemingly bottomless repertory of impressions, some of them spoken but most of them sung, made him one of the top headliners on the Las Vegas Strip, died Friday at his home in Henderson, Nev. He was 52.

The death was confirmed by Jennifer Dunne, a spokeswoman for Wynn Resorts, which hired Gans early this year to perform at its new Encore resort.

A Clark County coroner's spokeswoman told The Associated Press that an autopsy was pending, but a police spokesman, Todd Rasmussen, said foul play was not suspected.

Gans was a show business anomaly, virtually unknown outside Las Vegas but a superstar on the Strip, performing to capacity crowds at one hotel-casino after another since being hired by the Stratosphere in 1996.

Aggressively promoted on billboards, taxi-top advertisements and a marquee at the Encore measuring 70 feet by 70 feet, Gans was an inescapable name and face for the millions of tourists and gamblers who visit the Strip each year, and one of the hottest tickets in town.

Five nights a week, 46 weeks a year, he took the stage and treated audiences to a carefully calibrated mixture of song and comedy, delivering, like a human iPod, as many as 60 vocal impersonations of singers as varied as Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart and Anita Baker.

"In his performance uniform of dark suit, red socks and black-and-white spectator shoes, Gans comes across as a friendly, eager-to-please fella, with a bright perma-grin," The Las Vegas Sun wrote in a review of his act at the Encore in March. "His niche is comfort-zone entertainment, avoiding anything even faintly controversial, usually aiming for the sentimental jugular."

That combination earned him an estimated $15 million to $20 million a year.

Gans grew up in Torrance, Calif., and set his sights on becoming a third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While playing third base for the now-defunct Victoria Mussels in British Columbia, he was spiked in the Achilles tendon and, hobbled, gave up on baseball. His father, Sid, who had once entertained in the Catskills, encouraged him to use his talent for mimicry to develop a stage act.

Gans tried his luck in stand-up clubs, but he hated the hours and the dirty jokes, which did not square with the Christian beliefs he had embraced while recuperating from his injury. Instead he began offering his blend of comedy and impressions to audiences at corporate events. He appeared in small roles in films and on television, most visibly as Dean Martin (and the singing voice for Sammy Davis Jr.) in the 1992 CBS miniseries "Sinatra." On film, he finally realized his baseball ambitions by playing the role of Deke, third baseman for the Durham Bulls, in "Bull Durham."

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