An impressionist, by nature of the craft, makes himself nearly a blank canvas to create other personas. But it was Danny Gans, the offstage man, who was revealed in a memorial service Thursday.
Friends, fans and fellow performers gathered in the Encore Theater, where Gans performed about 12 weeks as the Encore resort's signature headliner before he died at home on May 1 at age 52.
A cause of death has not been established, pending toxicology test results from the Clark County coroner's office.
Donny Osmond, the one entertainer to address the crowd of 1,048, spoke amid reflections from three pastors — two in person, one on video — and poignant memories from Gans' three children: Andrew, Amy and Emily.
"It doesn't seem real, does it? It's a very surreal experience," Osmond noted.
Wynn Resorts director Elaine Wynn promised, "Today, sorrow and joy will share the same stage."
It was a promise fulfilled when Amy Gans, 21, choked up while trying to read a joke about her dad, ever the perfectionist, telling her "not to make this speech too long or else I'm going to lose my audience."
The children painted pictures of everyday life. Amy talked of her dad coming home with bags — "and I mean bags" — of stuff from Walgreens, full of everything except what he was sent there to buy.
Emily, 14, remembered "family nights where he would stop a movie every five minutes to do an Ed Sullivan joke. "Or tucking her in every night and "putting magic in my pillow."
"Anyone can be a father, but it takes a special kind of person to be a daddy," Emily said.
Andrew, 19, said he would "deeply miss not being able to look up from the outfield and see my dad sitting in the stands watching me play ball. But it helps a little knowing he is standing right there beside me. He is my angel in the outfield."
"He never gave up on his dreams, and neither will I," Andrew said, adding, "His biggest dream was to have a happy family waiting for him when he got home."
The children all wore red accents, and Andrew duplicated his father's signature red socks and black and white spectator shoes.
A photo montage consisted almost entirely of family snapshots of "The 5 G's," with the only photo of Gans onstage depicting him taking bows with his band, their arms joined.
Steve Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, called the most attention to Gans as a performer.
Wynn ran through highlights of the act as he recalled attending the show with movie director Brett Ratner, who had agreed to helm a music video for an album of '70s pop covers Gans completed before his death.
"The notion that someone could do that completely, totally, perfectly, with absolute credibility is actually beyond belief. And yet he could move like Michael Jackson and did," Wynn said.
The service was punctuated by performances from The Victory Choir from Victory Missionary Baptist Church and occasional "Amens" from audience members.
The memorial frequently touched on Gans' Christian faith, and never lost its sense of humor for long.
Osmond said he became friends with Gans through the impressionist and his manager, Chip Lightman, producing his Flamingo show with sister Marie under the name GansLight Entertainment.
Osmond drew laughs by relaying Gans' last text message (from April 3), which proposed the two would record a rock song together — "the kind of song they play at sporting events to get the crowd really going" — and bill it as "D&D."
"That way we both get top billing."
But Osmond choked up reading the final words: "There's no rush. It's just a fun idea for the future."
Amy Gans made the only reference to the unresolved cause of her father's death.
"In these past few weeks, I have asked the Lord, 'Why?' so many times," she said. "I thought that if I knew the Lord's reasonings behind taking my dad away, it would make it easier and give me peace. What I recently realized was no amount of answers would give me peace. The only way I can be at peace is have faith in the Lord and know he is in control."
But that, too, was followed by lighter sentiment, as she pictured her father arriving in heaven, making "mental notes of things he would change," and being greeted by God: "Before I let you in, do Al Pacino. Do Woody Allen. Do Elvis."
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at email@example.com or 702-383-0288.