Danny Gans

In show business, exaggeration and hyperbole are par for the course. Every kid who can hire a publicist is "the greatest show-stopping sensation since ..." whoever.

The words become devalued. But Danny Gans, named "Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year" 11 years in a row, had the kind of talents -- multiple talents -- that could send mere wannabes shuffling home for more lessons.

Drafted by the Chicago White Sox after being named an All-American at California Poly, he played the minor role of a third baseman in the Kevin Costner baseball film "Bull Durham." But -- still in the minors -- he suffered a career-ending injury when another player's cleats tore his Achilles tendon as he fielded a ground ball.

Danny Gans needed another career. He could sing, he could make people laugh, he did dead-on impressions. He decided to try show business, starting out mostly at private, corporate functions. In 1992, he was cast as Dean Martin in the CBS miniseries "Sinatra."

In 1995, he played Broadway with a well-received one-man show, but decided to move to Las Vegas to be closer to his family in Los Angeles.

With entertainment ranking as a "second-choice" career, most guys would have been happy to rise to the level of weekday fill-in dates, or part of some "tribute" review. That an ex-ballplayer could become an actual Las Vegas headliner sounded, at first, like something out of one of those potboiler novels from Jackie Collins or Olivia Goldsmith.

But Danny Gans became more than just a headliner. He became that rare draw that set major casinos bidding against one another for his talents. Starting at the Stratosphere in 1996, he moved quickly to the Rio, then to The Mirage in 2000, and finally, this winter, to Steve Wynn's Encore.

They didn't just hire Danny Gans to play a showroom. They built new showrooms to hold him. They named the theaters for him.

Danny Gans, 52, the "man of many voices," died at his Roma Hills Estate in Henderson May 1. His wife, Julie, called 911 in the early morning hours, reporting he was having trouble breathing. Unresponsive, Danny Gans was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death not immediately known.

Eighty years ago, a talent the size of Danny Gans would most likely have chosen New York's Broadway as his final destination, the best place to showcase his multiple talents.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the place he chose to prove he was the best was Las Vegas. And all Las Vegans can be thankful he did so, making us the beneficiaries of those unique talents.

Others will play the theaters. They may even fill the rooms. But Danny Gans will not be "replaced," anytime soon.