Admirers say she could sing the blues right up there with Etta James, could play just about any musical instrument, and that she was one of the finest dancers in town. A real showgirl.
Among her long list of accomplishments: named Las Vegas Ensemble Girl of the Year twice during the 1970s; appeared on the Johnny Carson show; performed alongside legends such as Bob Hope, Liza Minelli and Sammy Davis Jr.
When she wasn’t dancing, she was choreographing her own shows, the most memorable among them “Five Shameless Hussies” at the Maxim and Hacienda, a pair of casinos that have since fallen or changed hands.
In a day and age when musical talent is randomly plucked from obscurity, or largely determined by reality television or “America’s Got Talent,” Janice “Cinnamon” Steen Fahey was old school.
She was a girl who earned her stardom the old-fashioned way: through sheer determination and natural-born talent, at a time when the big call-up came by rotary telephone, when the screens were black-and-white, not to mention the photographs.
Fahey, who died Monday after a six-year fight with colon cancer at the age of 67, might be gone, a mere blip on the radar of Las Vegas entertainment.
But her talent, her courage, her lively spirit, her bright star will certainly live on, family members say.
And for some, she wasn’t just an entertainer .
“She was not your ordinary mom,” said Zack Fahey, 34, an actor who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., her only child, who is following in his mom’s footsteps. “You know how some people just can’t focus? Well, my mom wasn’t one of them.
“When she put her mind to something, she did it. From the age of 6 she knew she wanted to be a dancer, so she went from a small town in Texas to the absolute heights of Vegas.”
She was born on March 6, 1946, in Port Arthur, Texas, the birthplace of rock singer Janis Joplin. She was the lead baton twirler and drum majorette in high school and college. Then she looked west to the lights of Las Vegas, moving here in 1969 and never looking back.
It took her very little time to launch her career. She joined the Al Bello Show and went on world tour with Issac Hayes, the man who wrote the hit, “Soul Man” and authored the musical score for “Shaft,” a popular movie in the early 1970s.
She performed for U.S. troops in Vietnam before the fall of Saigon, singing with Sammy, earning a special Certificate of Esteem from the then-U.S. secretary of defense.
Tom Kresky fell in love with her when he met her 24 years ago.
“She was just slowing down, on the verge of retirement, although she had her own show then, called the ‘Shameless Hussies,’ ” said Kresky, her longtime companion, who moved to Las Vegas from Wisconsin . “But I’ll give you a tip: She was one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard. She could sing as good as Etta James, one of the most famous blues singers of all times.”
What’s more, Fahey could play just about any instrument: the drums, the piano, the guitar, the saxophone, he said.
“She was just one of those people who were truly talented,” he said.
But then the cancer came, and she showed another side of herself: the fighting side.
“She fought it for the last six years,” Kresky, a business owner, said. “God’s final curtain call came Monday.”
She is also survived by a brother, Jim Steen, and sister, Barbara Mouton.
Fahey was cremated. Visitation was held Saturday.
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.