Singing legend Dionne Warwick opens Las Vegas Strip run

Updated April 4, 2019 - 8:20 am

Abruptly, the conversation with Dionne Warwick turns into a research mission on the topic of … Dionne Warwick.

The entertainment legend is recalling a comic she once worked with a long time ago in Las Vegas. But this person’s name is elusive.

We determine that he was a comic who made funny sounds.

“I worked with Rodney Dangerfield a lot, but it was not him,” says Warwick, opening a monthlong residency Thursday night at Jubilee Theater at Bally’s.

“Was it Victor Borge?” I ask.

“No, not Victor Borge,” she says.

“Who else did that?” I ask. “Was it Charlie Callas? I will find this person …”

“No, not him,” she says, laughing.

“This is what the internet is for,” I say. “Let’s do a search of your name and see what we come up with …

“OK!” she says.

“You always match Burt Bacharach,” I say. “It’s funny when you do a search for your name. Isaac Hayes, you’ve performed with … Do you ever research yourself, punch your name into the internet?

“No,” she says, again chuckling. “I know me.”

Consider that search tabled — for now. Warwick has other matters to tend to. She is bringing greatest hits show, “Ms. Dionne Warwick,” to the theater that was for 35 years home to the famed feather show “Jubilee.”

Warwick is onstage for 12 dates, starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, through April 27. Word of her seeking such a residency first surfaced this year at Westgate’s International Theater, but Bally’s fell conveniently open. The show initially announced to open there this spring — “Nitro Circus” — has not gotten of the mark and has not set an opening date.

As a result, we get soaring vocals instead of flying motorcycles. Warwick certainly owns the hit catalog to carry a greatest-hits show. She’s sold upwards of 100 million records with six Grammy Awards and a string of 18 straight top 100 singles on the Billboard charts. “Walk on By,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Message to Michael,” “Promises Promises,” “A House Is Not a Home,” “Alfie,” “Say a Little Prayer,” “This Girl’s in Love with You,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” served as a radio soundtrack through the 1960 and ’70s.

Warwick has a fond memory of performing those songs, when they were current hits, in Las Vegas. But she allows that the city has changed from the days when she was a young star hanging with the Strip’s famed headliners.

“It’s not the Vegas that I knew and kind of grew up in and had the luxury of getting to know, and become friends, with the absolute icons of that era and of those particular hotels,” she says. “Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Diahann Carroll, Lena Horne … The list goes on and on and on. I feel so so very lucky, and so privileged, to be in that kind of company.”

Warwick and Sinatra share a birthday, Dec. 12. She met Sinatra when he was working at the Sands, on his birthday in 1969, which coincided with Warwick’s first appearance on the Strip. Ol’ Blue Eyes took the moment to sing, “Happy birthday to me!”

“I kinda yelled out, ‘And me, too!’” Warwick says, laughing. “After the show I had the opportunity to go back to meet him and he kinda just decided I was going be his surrogate daughter and you now, he just embraced me and just kept me very close to him … which was wonderful. I felt like, ‘oh boy, have I arrived? Yes I have.’”

Warwick adds, “I had affectionately gave him the name of ‘Poppy,’ that’s how was known to me. He accepted that very readily.”

Warwick has returned to the recording studio, working on a new CD coming out on Mother’s Day, “She’s Back.” The new album is produced by her son, Damon Elliott, who has worked with such stars as Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

“It’s chock full of the most incredible music, songs written by Ashford & Simpson, Brenda Russell,” Warwick says. “It’s a CD I think everybody is going to want to have.”

What we will not see from a Warwick show is a tribute to her late cousin and pop-music superstar, Whitney Houston.

“I leave that out of my set, and out of interviews, too.” I mention that Houston remains a force in Las Vegas entertainment, as a figure in such tribute productions as “Legends In Concert.”

“She is quite relevant, I’m sure,” she says.

Warwick has a few items left on her career t0-do list. She has never worked with her favorite band ever, one that just capped a residency at The Venetian Theatre: Earth, Wind & Fire.

“Yeah, we’ve been procrastinating about getting this done over many many years,” she says. “I love them. You know, it would be really a lot of fun to hang out with them and get in that city and sing with them. They’re incredible.”

At age 78, Warwick remarks that she is marking her 58th year in show business.

“I get chills when I hear you say that,” I say.

“I know!” says the singing legend. “So do I!”

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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