On Sunday, Josh Strickland will sing the national anthem at Aid For Aids of Nevada’s AIDS Walk, thus launching 24,000 feet on their way to raise money to help people live and overcome challenges.
To give you an insider’s perspective, Strickland is one of the friendliest performers I’ve met in Vegas, and possibly the Strip’s prettiest male star. We caught up the other day. Here’s what we talked about.
■ We both grew up in the South, so we have a certain perspective on how America has become more LGBT-friendly.
“I was raised Southern Baptist, where you couldn’t wear shorts to church,” Strickland said. “Could you believe when a gay boy got up there to sing? It was very, very strange.
“I’m almost 31, and I see the change that has happened, and how quick it has been, and how much more comfortable I have become because of what’s going on in our country.”
■ Unlike my youth in the South, in Vegas, I never hear homophobic or racist jabs in the circles I travel. I always say, “The color of Vegas is green.”
“Vegas breaks down walls,” Strickland said. “Everybody comes here, and their inhibitions go away. So they don’t think about their thoughts on religion, or their thoughts on race, or their thoughts on sexual orientation. That’s nice because everybody’s having a good time.
“I’ve been to pool parties where you meet straight people, and they go, ‘Oh my gosh, everybody’s so cool. I’m from Kentucky, or Indiana, or Ohio, and we just don’t have these kinds of things.’ It’s cool, because they actually talk to gay people even though they may not have gay friends” back home, Strickland said.
“I have also seen the ugly side of it, too,” he said. “Some people just don’t like you. But I haven’t gotten that in a really long time. That’s kudos to what’s happening in America, too. But yeah, I think that’s why I have stayed here in Vegas.”
■ Strickland performs in “Vegas! The Show” at Planet Hollywood. He still meets tourists who say they traveled here because they watched the Vegas TV show he used to be on, “Holly’s World.”
“It’s exciting to hear Australian accents saying they came just because they saw us on TV.”
■ In “Vegas! The Show,” Strickland performs homages to Elvis, Elton and Sinatra. Has he unearthed insights into them by performing their work?
“Yeah. It’s really interesting to look at artists of today. You look at Britney Spears, who just kind of plopped herself down here. But these guys and ladies, back in the day, were hard workers.
“A showman cannot stay away from the stage. I really, really appreciate that kind of artistry that was back then,” and this includes living legends who likely will never retire, like Cher.
“She’s gonna put on that black unitard and be put in her coffin. You live, breathe and die your music. That’s definitely something I look up to, because that’s how I want to be, too.”
■ AFAN does a lot with the money raised at AIDS Walk.
“I love AFAN because they break down the stigma of AIDS,” Strickland said.
“And AIDS Walk is so fun. You get to walk around downtown. There were some parts of Vegas I had never seen before when I did it” for the first time.
If you love crawfish, today brings the annual LSU crawfish boil, noon to 5 p.m. at Fremont Street Experience ($40). Michael Clayton will be there with his championship rings and jerseys from LSU and the New York Giants.
Clayton wrote an inspirational book, “Chasing My Rookie Year,” about how he went from a stellar NFL rookie year to overcoming his own mistakes as well as media ridicule about his production.
“Just because one person writes it doesn’t mean everybody believes it to be true,” Clayton said.
So now, Clayton does a weekly podcast called “Beat the Press,” giving athletes a place to talk in real ways so fans can understand how they feel as human beings.
“Most media sportswriters don’t do that. They jump at the first sign of negativity because they assume that’s what people want to hear about,” Clayton said.
His wife would get upset at how Clayton was beat up in the media.
“She was reading the papers. She would walk into a room and feel that people thought that way about me,” he said.
By the way, his wife, a doctor, couldn’t come to Vegas with him.
“She’s already downloaded Skype on my phone. My leash will be short in Vegas,” he joked.
“After I got married, I think I got subliminally banned from coming to Vegas. She didn’t say it. But I know how she feels about it.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/entertainment/reel.