Updated May 25, 2023 - 9:33 am
Larry Edwards has dedicated the balance of his professional life to Tina Turner. The Las Vegas entertainment icon has paid tribute to Turner for more than 40 years, including a long run in two Strip stage shows.
“Just being able to do a tribute to her for years, and to have heard this happened is just devastating,” Edwards said Wednesday, shortly after learning of Turner’s death at age 83 in Switzerland. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had suffered from a long illness.
Edwards said Turner’s positive energy inspired a portrayal that has spanned decades.
“I feed off her energy, her way of life. I love her Buddhism — I’m also Buddhist — and the way she thought of life as a way to bring enjoyment and happiness to others,” the entertainer said. “Her whole persona on stage, the level of energy in her performance. I studied her movements, her expressions, her mannerisms for many years.”
Edwards’ first formal performance as Turner was in 1982, at Houston’s Windmill Theater. He soon moved on to “Evening at La Cage” at Bally’s in Atlantic City. Edwards then relocated to the Strip version of the show at the Riviera in 1985, moving with the cast to “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas” at Linq Hotel through 2018.
Edwards has continued the act occasionally at Piranha nightclub in Las Vegas. He had a bit part in the Turner biopic, “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” when Angela Bassett’s Turner character, having just split with Ike Turner, is singing, “Disco Inferno.”
Edwards plays a fan in the front row dressed as Turner.
Edwards also receives an occasional royalty check for “Miss Congeniality 2,” when he again donned the Turner costume.
Edwards was in the audience as Turner appeared on the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in Chicago in February 2005. He’s show seated in the studio on the 2021 documentary “Tina.” After that show, Edwards randomly ran into the superstar at the United Airlines VIP lounge at O’Hare International Airport.
In a stroke of good fortune, Edwards’ friend who attended the “Oprah” show was the manager of that lounge and introduced Edwards to his idol before they flew out.
“What are the odds, right? I was so honored. I thanked her for allowing me to do the portrayal of her,” Edwards said. “She was just so wonderful.”
Edwards most recently saw Turner at the Broadway opening of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” in November 2019.
“Her energy on stage and her aura were just really, really great,” Edwards said. “She was a genuine legend.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.