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Elvis tribute artist Trent Carlini’s celebration of life elicits laughter, tears

Updated January 9, 2020 - 9:03 am

Trent Carlini was remembered on the king of rock ‘n’ roll’s birthday as being very Elvis, very Vegas and very Italian.

“He was always there when I needed to vent and always had such unique advice, to say the least,” Carlini’s daughter Thalia Trentacarlini said Wednesday night from the stage at The Space, site of Carlini’s celebration of life. “ ‘Eating pasta in the morning is the best diet, because you will be full of energy for the rest of the day,’ he would say. Not true. But I appreciated the advice.”

Flanked by her sisters, Isabella and Sophia, and Carlini’s lone son, Gabriel, Thalia added, “I will miss his hugs the most, his crazy texts and videos he would send to me almost every day, his witty sense of humor and his out-of-the-box way of thinking. … I will also miss getting our eyebrows done together.”

The last line drew a hearty laugh from the crowd dotted with friends, family and some of Carlini’s entertainment contemporaries.

Carlini, whose legal name was Roberto Romolo Sfasciapagliari Trentacarlini, died Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, a little more than two weeks after suffering a stroke and falling into a coma at his Las Vegas home. He was 57. A famous Elvis tribute artist for three decades, Carlini had planned to develop a touring show on the date of Presley’s 85th birthday, which was Wednesday.

Throughout the ceremony, video of Carlini’s performances were played on a big screen at the side of the stage. The audience was reminded of his talent as his voice, moves and physical appearance were remarkably similar to Presley’s.

Those qualities led Carlini to a lengthy stage career in Las Vegas and across the country.

Carlini moved to Las Vegas from Chicago in 1990 to join “Legends In Concert” at Imperial Palace. He performed more then 2,000 shows at Presley’s former theater at Las Vegas Hilton and also at the hotel’s Shimmer Cabaret. He also headlined the since-imploded Boardwalk and Riviera, the Sahara, Steve Wyrick Theater (now Saxe Theater) at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and Hooters (now OYO Hotel). His final Las Vegas production show, “The King,” closed at Hooters in January 2017. Carlini had been booked on road dates at the time of his death.

Carlini’s sister, singer/songwriter Laura Trent, organized the event along with the daughters but opted not to speak. She does plan to return to the family’s original hometown of Porto San Giorgio, Italy, so his ashes can be buried at the gravesite of his mother, Aloisia Sfasciapagliari.

In her time onstage, Carlini’s daughter Isabella, said she marked her own birthday the day after her father’s passing.

“On the last day of my 23rd year I lost my dad. On the first day of my 24th year I got to reflect a little bit,” Isabella said. “He was more than an artist and more than a performer to me. … I will treasure all of the late nights we had, watching movies and our tickle fights. I will smile at every Elvis song in memory of him.”

Bob Ashman, Carlini’s music director and keyboard player for 15 years (and nearly 3,000 shows), was coerced into speaking by the Trentacarlini sisters.

“Trent Carlini had stones, he had eggs, he had cajones, whatever you call them in Italian,” Ashman said. “In the music business, you either go big or just leave the room. Carlini went big. When he succeeded, it was spectacular. When he failed, there were crashes and burning involved.”

A pair of Carlini sidekicks, Paula Maggio and Richie Valdivia, recalled working such Vegas resorts as the Boardwalk, where the showroom curtain was raised for his “Viva Las Vegas” finale. He played to the entire casino to help boost ticket sales for the next night’s show.

Carlini consistently resisted taking part in Elvis tribute artist competitions, but the organizers of the international festival in Montreal in 1997 sweetened his appearance fee — adding first-class tickets for Carlini and his stage partners — that he could not resist.

Carlini spotted a Canadian flag near the stage, then moved to the back of the 15,000-seat arena. When the band unleashed “C.C. Rider,” Carlini cut through the middle of the crowd, surrounded by 12 security officers and waving the iconic maple leaf flag. The crowd roared.

“He won the contest before he stepped onstage,” said Valdivia, whose assignment was to remove Carlini’s cape. “I stood there and I was in amazement. I’d never seen so many people at a concert … the best part was when I got off stage, there were two guys who were also in the contest, both Elvis guys. One says to the other, ‘We all had to enter from the back of the stage, and here comes this guy through the whole crowd, waving the flag. That’s B.S.’

“The other guy looked at him, shook his head and said, ‘Nope. That’s Trent Carlini.’ ”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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