Master impressionist onstage, Danny Gans left lasting impressions offstage as well inside the Las Vegas entertainment community.
Gans was fondly remembered by fellow performers left shocked and saddened by the headliner’s sudden death Friday at age 52.
“My immediate thoughts when my wife walked in and told me the news were that Las Vegas has lost an incredible entertainer and a Las Vegas legend way too short,” said Gordie Brown, an impressionist at the Golden Nugget. “I saw his second to last show at The Mirage and I thought it was fantastic. He gave more than what they came to see, he always kept surprising them. He truly owned his skills.”
Brown also fondly recalled the first time he and Gans met, under formal circumstances. “I remember handing Danny the (Best All-Around Performer award) for the (Review-Journal’s annual) Best of Las Vegas and I was so proud to do that, so honored to meet him that way.”
Ventriloquist Terry Fator, who replaced Gans at The Mirage, seemed especially affected by Gans’ passing, noting that in his autobiography, Fator credits Gans for inspiring him to revamp his show and come to Las Vegas. “I absolutely loved him, I’m just heartsick,” Fator said.
“I saw his show four times. I only met him once and the thing I’m most crushed about is that I was truly looking forward to becoming a colleague of his, and a friend. ... He was a born entertainer and he had a presence. It’s rare to find someone who is natural onstage and he had that,” Fator said. “With some great entertainers, you can walk in the room and feel you’re with a great presence, and he was one.”
An elder statesman of impersonators, Rich Little said he didn’t know Gans, having met him only when Little went backstage after a Gans show to congratulate him, but said he admired him. “He’s been a superstar in Vegas. ... No one’s ever been as successful doing impressions — thanks to Steve Wynn,” Little said. “He was the most successful in reaching the pinnacle. In Butte, Mont., they never heard of him, but in Vegas he was a superstar.”
Headliner Louie Anderson said that beyond his “spot-on” impressions, Gans would be remembered for “the impression he left as an entertainer, a humanitarian, and family man and friend.”
Tennis great Andre Agassi said he never met anyone more grateful for life than Gans. “He was so thankful every day for his family and the gifts that God had given him,” Agassi said. “He worked tirelessly to entertain his audience and even harder ... to help the underprivileged in Las Vegas. With his loss, the world is a sadder place.”
Former Caesars headliner Celine Dion said Gans was the best in his field and a kind and loving person. “About a month before my last show at Caesars, Danny and his wife Julie, and their daughters came to see us. We talked and laughed for over an hour. I can’t believe he’s not with us anymore, and our heart goes out to his family. I wish them God’s strength.”
Donny and Marie Osmond, whose show at the Flamingo Gans produced, said in a joint statement that they “would routinely call him for advice and direction regarding our production. We’ve lost an amazing entertainer. His friendship, charisma and talent will be greatly missed.”
Magician Lance Burton said that the city “has lost one of its best ambassadors. In my 27 years in Las Vegas, I have never seen anyone better. He was a dear friend and I am profoundly sad.” Variety performers The Scintas called Gans a pioneer “who blazed the trail for entertainers like us in Las Vegas.”
And fellow ex-Mirage headliners Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, calling Gans a great entertainer, said “we were blessed to be touched by his generous spirit, kind heart and insurmountable talent. ... The Las Vegas Strip is better for having had Danny Gans’ light shine so brightly, and will be forever impacted by his loss.”