MGM Grand fire scared musician


Singer-songwriter Mac Davis has kept a framed page of sheet music on a wall at his home for three decades.

It's a somber reminder of Nov. 21, 1980, the day several members of his band nearly died in the MGM Grand fire.

"Probably one of the scariest days of my life," he recalled Thursday during the Camelot fundraiser at Opportunity Village.

Davis had opened his headliner engagement at the MGM Grand the night before.

An early morning telephone call came from his assistant in Los Angeles.

Had he heard the news? What news, said Davis, who, along with his wife, Lise, was staying at a villa behind the Desert Inn in Engelbert Humperdinck's home.

"Look out your window and (you'll) see the MGM on fire," his assistant said.

It was frightening news.

"I had several people from my band, my road manager, my conductor, and a couple friends were staying there," he said.

His wife, a registered nurse, knew what she had to do.

"She went down and did triage at the Convention Center," Davis said. "She was there all day."

Agonizing hours passed before Davis got the news. They had all survived the fire that killed 85 and injured hundreds.

His conductor and a friend had walked out of their room, only to realize it had locked behind them and they left the key inside. With smoke so thick they couldn't see, they had tied a necktie around their wrists as a lifeline.

"When they realized they weren't going to make it, they started crawling and banging on doors but people wouldn't let 'em in because they thought there were flames out there," he recalled.

They decided to make a run for it. "When they stood up in the smoke, there was an exit," Davis said.

Everyone got out safely.

As they left on a chartered plane later that day, the pilot circled over the still-smoking hotel, now Bally's.

"We saw all those sheets hanging out the windows and all the curtains flowing out the windows," Davis said.

Later, his conductor gave him the framed sheet music retrieved from the showroom stage after the fire.

"It was covered with wet soot from the sprinklers and the smoke combined. It was our last song. It was laying open on the stand."

The song: "I Believe in Music."

Davis and his wife were at the fundraiser as special guests of Bill Walters, the evening's honoree for his philanthropic support. At Walters' request, Davis, 70, wrote and performed an anthem for the nonprofit organization.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Las Vegas chef Carla Pellegrino says she is looking into insuring her hands after suffering a serious knife cut in last week's episode of "Top Chef Seattle." She told me her attorney called her after seeing the episode, which was filmed last summer. It was the worst kitchen accident of her career, she said, with five stitches required. "I was lucky," she said. A different kind of knife and it could have been a career threatening cut, she said. ...

Former R-J reporter Major Garrett is joining CBS News as chief White House correspondent. Two years ago, he left Fox News as chief White House correspondent to work for the National Journal. Garrett, 50, worked for the R-J from 1986 to 1988. His wife, Julie Kirtz, was a reporter and anchor at KLAS-TV, Channel 8.

SIGHTINGS

Steve and Andrea Wynn at Betty Buckley's show Sunday at The Smith Center. ... Rapper 50 Cent, dining at Society Café (Encore) on Saturday. ... Actor Mickey Rourke and Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, at Haze nightclub (Aria) on Saturday.

THE PUNCH LINE

"Last night we had a rough audience, very unpleasant. And then halfway through the show they voted to secede." - David Letterman

Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. His weekly segment, "Norm Clarke's Vegas," airs during the "Morning Blend" on KTNV-TV, Channel 13 every Thursday.

 

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