There’s a guy in town named Jay White, who sometimes sings the national anthem at Wranglers games. He also is the team’s emergency goaltender. But he’s known mostly for impersonating Neil Diamond. If you’ve been to a lot of Wranglers game, or the old Legends in Concert show at Imperial Palace, or on a cruise ship, then you’ve probably seen and heard him.
I’m told he’s only average as a goalie, but he’s a way better singer than Patrick Roy.
So I’m killing time with my wife Thursday on Fremont Street near the Las Vegas Club, when my highly trained ear for free live music detects the chorus of “Cherry Cherry” being sung. It seems to be coming from down by Binion’s. And it doesn’t sound exactly like Neil Diamond, because Neil is getting old and doesn’t hit the high notes anymore, and this voice still is hitting them.
So I figure it’s gotta be Jay White.
It was, and the music was free, because it was only a soundcheck for a “private” birthday party out on the street that night. And that would explain the picket fence, and why you had to walk almost all the way to Ogden just to get around it if you were headed to The Fitz, er, D Las Vegas.
A few dozen people had gathered, and they cheered after White finished “Cherry Cherry,” and then Jay explained this only was a soundcheck. But the people wanted more, one more, and so Jay White entertained the people, though he was under no obligation to do so.
And then hands were touchin’ hands ... reachin’ out ... touchin’ me ... touchin’ you.
(I was hoping for “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” or something from the “Beautiful Noise” album, but the chance of that happening was less than the chance of Jay White getting between the pipes for the Montreal Canadiens.)
Jay as Neil encouraged the people to come out of the casinos. A lot of them heard the music and did, and suddenly there were a hundred people, maybe even 200, touchin’ me, touchin’ you.
Jay White took a bow after he sang “Sweet Caroline” for the bazillionth time, and if this wasn’t exactly like the Beatles and Billy Preston jamming on “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down” on the roof of the Apple records building at 3 Savile Row in London on Jan. 30, 1969, it still was pretty cool for a Thursday at 3:45 p.m.
It was one of those Vegas moments, the kind that seem to happen here with neither rhyme nor reason, the kind that people tell their friends about when they get home to Iowa, and there’s still snow on the ground.
■ San Diego State vs. UNLV (men). Any time, anywhere.
■ Bishop Gorman vs. Centennial (boys). Any time, anywhere.
■ Bishop Gorman vs. Centennial (girls). Any time, anywhere. Any year.
■ Last month I wrote about Blake Leeper, a paralympic “blade runner” from Tennessee who during a Las Vegas visit said he was “coming to get” the original Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. But it may prove difficult to challenge Pistorius to a 100-meter dash in one of those visitors booths at a maximum security prison.
■ Austin “Chumlee” Russell of TV’s “Pawn Stars,” who had a better seat than 98 percent of the media at Saturday night’s San Diego State-UNLV basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center (and was dressed just as shabbily), exchanged heated words with the Aztecs’ Chase Tapley as the players were leaving the court. It was sort of like Spike Lee and Reggie Miller, except for when Tapley told Chumlee there was no way he was paying that much for a used guitar.
■ Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Houston reminded me of Eva Longoria, when she still was married to the Spurs’ Tony Parker, walking into the Thomas & Mack Center before the 2007 All-Star Game on stiletto heels. It also reminded me that lots of Las Vegas bartenders and cocktail waitresses still are waiting to be tipped.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.