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Longtime Elvis tribute artist Trent Carlini dies in Las Vegas

Updated December 9, 2019 - 3:45 pm

Trent Carlini, a renowned Elvis Presley tribute artist who performed at several Las Vegas resorts dating to the early 1990s, has died. He was 57.

Clark County officials confirmed Carlini died at 1:20 p.m. Sunday at Centennial Hills Hospital in Las Vegas. No cause has been announced. Carlini’s former producer Joey Battig said Sunday afternoon that Carlini had suffered a major stroke on Saturday. Details of a tribute being planned for him in Las Vegas are pending.

A Chicago native who also spent much of his youth in his parents’ homeland of Italy, Carlini opened his Las Vegas stage career in 1990 in “Legends In Concert” at Imperial Palace. Over the years he also performed at Shimmer Cabaret at Las Vegas Hilton (later LVH), the since-imploded Boardwalk and Riviera, the Sahara, Steve Wyrick Theater (now Saxe Theater) at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and Hooters, where his stage show “The King” closed in January 2017.

Carlini had also been headlining as an Elvis tribute artist — known as ETAs in the entertainment culture — in resorts across the country.

In 2007, while headlining Sahara, Carlini won the ABC contest show The Next Best Thing,” which assembled tribute artists across the country. The viewing audience was 5 million, and Carlini’s winning prize was $100,000.

“It was really difficult, because there was so much great talent,” Carlini said of the finals. “It was probably the closest call I’ve ever gone through. I’ve never lost a competition. It would be kind of like my first knockout. I’m glad it didn’t happen, especially on national television.”

Battig, who produces Dionne Warwick’s show at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace and who has also worked with such stars as Wayne Newton, Engelbert Humperdinck, Gladys Knight, Jerry Lee Lewis and Sheena Easton, said of Carlini, “Trent had as much talent if not more than anyone I’ve worked with.”

Carlini’s tribute artist contemporary Rob Garrett, who portrays Neil Diamond and is a devout Elvis fan, saw Presley perform 18 times at the International and L.V. Hilton. Garrett posted a Facebook message about Carlini Sunday night: “Rest in peace to one of the best ETA’s to ever grace the tribute artist industry. No one could touch you when you were at the top of your game.”

Carlini varied his shows by performing with a simple backing band and also with a full horn section and video complements while re-creating such famed Elvis scenes as the King’s 1968 comeback special.

A decade ago, Carlini said he wanted to be known as an Elvis “stylist,” remarking, “I didn’t want to impersonate him. I wanted to do his music, but still be myself.”

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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