Danny Gans, the Star You Never Heard Of

ByABC News
April 24, 2002, 2:03 PM

April 24 -- Danny Gans has his own 1,250-seat theater on the Las Vegas Strip, where he sells out night after night.

He has been voted Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year six years running and has a multi-year contract reportedly worth $150 million putting him in the same league as the highest-paid stars of sport, music and Hollywood.

But Gans remains virtually unknown outside the casino circuit. Part of the reason is his musical specialty: he is a singing impressionist, singing other people's songs in their voice, not his.

In his show, he does skillful impressions of dozens of entertainers, ranging from Las Vegas legends like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. to newer stars like Garth Brooks, Bono and even Kermit the Frog. In one number, he takes on the voices of Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie.

Gans says the breadth of his repertoire guarantees that there's something for everyone. "I joke and say that my show is like the weather in Hawaii. You don't like it, wait five minutes, it's going to change."

Bringing Back the Classics

But the heart of Gans's show is the classic Vegas entertainment of Sinatra, Davis and the other members of the Rat Pack, whose suave casino-hopping cool held sway over the city in the 1960s. Gans has a picture of the Rat Pack in his dressing room and says Davis is his favorite act to portray. "When I do it it's a real moment, because I think he was the best at what he did. He was such a great entertainer."

The hotels of the Rat Pack era were torn down during Las Vegas's building boom in the 1990s, as the city tried to reinvent itself as a general entertainment destination for families. Gans has helped revive some of the spirit of the old Las Vegas, according to Mike Weatherford, entertainment reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

"Danny Gans reinvented the old school entertainer, the old headliners that were gone," Weatherford says. "You can't bring back Frank Sinatra, but you can have Danny Gans imitate him."