weather icon Clear

Las Vegas Strip icon Frank Marino joining ‘Legends in Concert’

Frank Marino says it himself: “It’s been a really strange year.”

This, from a man who has worn ball gowns to work for 33 years.

Away from the stage for more than 13 months, the long-running star of “Divas Las Vegas” is returning to performance with “Legends in Concert” at Tropicana. Marino will emcee the show in his famous Joan Rivers role from Sept. 11-Nov. 19.

Marino’s portrayal is a classic limited engagement. He’s leaving in “Legends” in November with plans to revive “Divas” in February on a new venue on the Strip. And this run will close the curtain for Marino’s Rivers character.

“It just made sense to retire it with ‘Legends,’ to do it with their show,” Marino said during a conversation at his Las Vegas home Friday afternoon. “Ever since Joan passed, it’s been more a tribute than an impersonation. I’ll be doing Joan between the acts, with new material. It’s been killing me not to be able to do my new Donald Trump jokes, not being political but just funny lines that deal with him being in Washington, and having to move into a smaller house in a very bad neighborhood.”

Twenty-five years ago, Marino actually joked with Rivers on her late-night talk show about taking the character to “Legends.” As Rivers interviewed a quartet of impersonators, she asked the group, “What happens when I die? You can continue, can’t you?” Marino answered, “We’re doing ‘Legends in Concert!’”

Rivers herself appeared onstage at the old Tiffany Theater at Trop, early in her career. She died Sept. 4, 2014, and Marino has continued his portrayal.

Marino joins the “Legends” fall lineup of Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Lady Gaga and Elvis. Mercury and Benatar (who is performed herself at Encore Theater on Friday and Saturday night) are new to the Vegas cast. “Legends” is in its 36th year on the Strip, the longest-running stage show currently in production in Las Vegas.

“Legends” officials and hotel execs are welcoming the 55-year-old Marino to the show.

“Legends in Concert continues to evolve with each new incredible cast, and we are very excited to bring legendary comedy to our fans with the talents of the one and only Frank Marino,” said “Legends” Corporate Marketing Director Mark Mercer. “It is truly fitting that he will perform his tribute to Joan Rivers in the same showroom she once headlined.”

“Since its debut at Tropicana Las Vegas, Legends in Concert has been a hit amongst our locals and guests on property,” said Tropicana General Manager Aaron Rosenthal. “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Las Vegas legend, Frank Marino in the new tribute show this fall season.”

The “Legends” run marks Marino’s first performance in a ticketed show since “Divas” was forced to close abruptly after its performance at The Linq Hotel on June 26, 2018, after an internal Caesars Entertainment investigation found that the show had mishandled funds intended to be delivered to Make-A-Wish of Southern Nevada. Marino made financial restitution to Make-A-Wish, exceeding six figures, and publicly apologized for what he described as his “negligence” in the episode. The two sides thus agreed to end their partnership.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board also launched its own investigation into the matter beginning in July 2018. The board announced in January it had closed its review, without revealing any of its findings. Marino says he has never heard from anyone at the Gaming Control Board regarding the incident that led to his show’s closing; Caesars Entertainment has declined further comment on the matter.

“It’s been tough, I’m not going to lie, and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” said Marino, who has been treated for anxiety during his time away from the stage. “I never saw it coming.”

Marino has been in talks with several properties over the past year. Among them: Mirage’s 1 Oak Nightclub (before it staged “Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox Hideaway), SLS Las Vegas (before it brought “Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch” to The Sayers Club), under-development Notoriety at Neonopolis (Marino says he did not want to be a “guinea pig” in a new downtown venue), the Stratosphere (where Marino had actually approved a news release announcing “Divas 2.0” before the hotel backed out of the deal without explanation), and — just last month — Hooters’ Night Owl Showroom (where the hotel’s ownership lineup is expected to change, soon).

The result left Marino with one sensible option: Perform as Rivers once more in “Legends” and set up for a return with “Frank Marino’s Divas Cabaret,” in 2020. He says he wants to be onstage before the long-anticipated “RuPaul’s Drag Race” show rolls into Flamingo this fall.

Marino is also finishing his latest book, “Drags to Riches,” which he plans to self-publish next year.

“It’s pretty much written now, except for the last chapter,” says the man who opened in “Evening at La Cage” at the Riviera in 1985. “The book will explain everything that has been read, or misread, about me. I just want a big, triumphant ending.”

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.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas celebrates National Fajita Day
Cook Ruben Fuentes and general manager Taylor Pulliam of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas prepare steak and shrimp fajitas with the restaurant’s signature fiery treatment. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pasta Shop Ristorante serves a watermelon-shrimp salad
Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson serves a summer salad that combines watermelon with greens, feta and shrimp. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Factory Kitchen in Las Vegas makes classic affogato
Jorge Luque, pastry chef at The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes affogato with two simple ingredients - house-made gelato and fresh espresso. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review Journal with image from The Factory Kitchen)
The Cereal Killerz Kitchen serves over 100 cereals
Christopher Burns, owner of The Cereal Killerz Kitchen at Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, makes a Milk & Cookies Shake from his more than 100 varieties of cereal. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in Las Vegas makes a State Fair CrazyShake
Bianca Zepeva, a shaker at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes a State Fair CrazyShake with a kettle corn rim, caramel, corn-based ice cream, popcorn brittle, crushed kettle corn, sprinkles and a cherry. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Balboa Pizza Company makes Thai peanut chicken wings
Irma Perez, kitchen manager at Balboa Pizza Company at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, near Las Vegas, brines chicken wings for 24 hours before roasting and frying them and finishing them in various styles such as Thai peanut. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
New Venetian pool deck
Final touches are currently being added to the hotel’s main tower pool deck, which consists of five pools. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who is Vegas Vic? (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride explains the origins of the Vegas icon.
Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas serves a 4-pound Big Island Feast Burger
Cindy Sun, general manager of Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas, makes the Big Island Feast Burger with 2 1/2 pounds of the house bacon/beef blend, Napa-cilantro slaw, six slices of American cheese, a can of grilled Spam, six slices of chargrilled pineapple, four fried eggs and a drizzle of teriyaki and serves it with macaroni salad. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
Shark Week cupcakes at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas
Brittnee Klinger, a cake decorator at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas, makes Shark Week cupcakes with ocean-blue buttercream, fondant fins and a blood-red strawberry filling. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fans and friends recall Elvis opening in Las Vegas
Fifty years ago on July 31st 1969, Elvis Presley opened at the International hotel in Las Vegas. He went on to do 837 consecutive sold-out shows at the property.
Hot peach cobbler at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station
Michael Ross, room chef/pitmaster at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station in Las Vegas, makes peach cobbler by baking peaches in a cast-iron pan with batter and crumble, then topping with Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and bourbon-caramel sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Water Grill opens at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas
Water Grill, from a 30-year-old California company opening its first Las Vegas location, specializes is fresh seafood including 16 types of oysters. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cat's Meow comes to Las Vegas
New Orleans-based karaoke chain opens new location in Neonopolis. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas
Manny Menina, line cook at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas, stacks 8 ounces of beef, 2 strips of bacon, hash browns, caramelized onions and 2 fried eggs on 4 King’s Hawaiian slider buns to make the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
SecretBurger at China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Carlos Cruz, executive chef of Jose Andres’ China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, makes the SecretBurger off-menu, one-night-only ‘All Quacked Up’ with a kimchi pancake, Peking duck, house-made hoisin sauce, a fried duck egg, pickled micro-vegetables, caviar and gold flakes and serves it with a Stillwater Artisanal Ale. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Famous Blue Angel statue commemorated in downtown Las Vegas mural
The 16-foot tall Blue Angel statue that stood above the Blue Angel Motel for six decades is featured in a mural spanning three walls at a downtown Las Vegas building. James Stanford designed the “A Phalanx of Angels Ascending" mural based on his photography, and Cliff Morris painted the mural at 705 Las Vegas Blvd. North, near the Neon Museum. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Making Castle Frites at the new Frites at Excalibur
Tom McGrath, district manager/executive chef at Frites at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, tops his beef-tallow fries like a loaded baked potato - with white and yellow cheddar, sour cream, bacon and chives. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hello Kitty Cafe on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The Hello Kitty Cafe opens Friday, July 12th, 2019, between New York, New York and Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Amano Las Vegas' Fat Baby Sandwich
Chef Jason Weber of Amano Las Vegas has created a sandwich stuffed with pasta, and it's a hit. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A class at Melissa Coppel Chocolate and Pastry School in Las Vegas.
Melissa Coppel, who teaches classes in various countries around the world, attracts students from far and wide to her eponymous school in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Havana Lobster at Boteco in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marcus Fortunato, co-owner of Boteco in Las Vegas, learned to make Havana Lobster from the chef at El Figaro, a favorite of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Chef Gustav Mauler Is retiring
Las Vegas chef Gustav Mauler announces his retirement on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Bellagio Conservatory unveils Italian summer exhibit
The Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have opened the gates to its summer display. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
A.D. Hopkins on his debut novel
Veteran journalist introduces readers to “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seven Magic Mountains restoration complete
Artist Ugo Rondinone’s iconic Seven Magic Mountains receives a complete painting restoration in June 2019.
Making off-the-menu bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow in Las Vegas
Senior chef tournant Cesar Laran has created secret bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. To make them, he rolls bean curd sheets around a filling of carrots, celery and shiitake mushrooms, then smokes them with oolong tea and sugar. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Bread Pudding French Toast at Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas
James Trees, chef/owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, slices house-made blueberry bread pudding, coats it in egg yolks and mascarpone, fries it and tops it with spiced walnuts, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and creme fraiche. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Celine Dion closes 1,141-show residency on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Hear from Celine Dion about her 16 years on the Las Vegas Strip and what the future has in store for her. (Caesars Entertainment)