‘One rhinestone at a time’: Marino marks 25,000 shows on the Strip

He made a career out of impersonating America’s top celebrities, and now Frank Marino, star and producer of “Divas Las Vegas” at The Quad, has a claim no other Las Vegas entertainer has achieved: 25,000 shows on the Strip.

The big day was May 31. He began his shows in 1985. What was his vision when it started?

“I knew there were other shows like it, but I just wanted to make it the biggest and the best one there ever was,” Marino, a Summerlin-area resident, said. “I knew in my head I had the ability to do that and built it one rhinestone at a time. I believe you have to spend money to make money.”

It wasn’t until the show left the Riviera that he was able to take over as producer and put his stamp on it. That included using larger male dancers instead of female dancers, which helped the male impersonators better resemble the size of the female celebrities they’re impersonating. He also realized the show receives a lot of repeat business, so he changes it, keeping up with current events.

“If you’re doing a Lady Gaga or a Madonna, and they have a new hit, you make sure you’re doing the most current stuff,” he said.

He said updating the show is what makes it so successful. He’s changed the costumes, the music and the monologue. Marino said that makes it more fun for the performers and allows them to keep things fresh, too. The newest “character” to join the show is an impersonation of Pink, whose set includes “So What (I’m Still a Rock Star).”

Before adding a new celebrity to the show, Marino waits until they are known to every age group. Miley Cyrus, for example, previously was just a teen celebrity but now her outrageous, headline-hitting antics have made her known to older generations as well. She likely will be the next celebrity Marino adds to the show, he said.

“She’s at a point now where everybody knows her, and she’s had a lot of hits on the radio,” Marino said. “She’s the latest hot mess.”

Larry Edwards has been portraying Tina Turner in the show for more than 20 years. Edwards said it was rewarding to see audiences respond so well, especially husbands who obviously had to be dragged there by their wives but end up enjoying themselves.

He said the only thing he won’t get used to are the high heels.

“Those high heels, I don’t know how you girls do it,” he said. “After my diva number, I come back stage, and my calves are sore, my legs are sore. And the wigs, the wigs are so hot.”

After 25,000 shows, Marino said his favorite memory was seeing his face on the side of The Quad building, a la Times Square. He will have been at that venue, previously the Imperial Palace, for five years in September. He said he’s looking forward to his 30th year in Las Vegas, a milestone he’ll hit in October 2015. He said the show has allowed him to have a life he never could have imagined.

“At 19, to think I’d know the Rat Pack and Liberace and all those people,” he said. “Back then, I was too young to appreciate it, but looking back, it’s history, and it’s really exciting to me.”

Part of being an impersonator is looking the part. Marino readily admits to getting plastic surgery. He even introduced his surgeon, Dr. Goesel Anson, when Anson came to The Quad’s first show.

He said plastic surgery is addictive.

“I had a nose job at age 16, and because of that, I realized if there was something you didn’t like, you could change it,” Marino said. “… I’m not an advocate for it for everyone, but it makes me happy. It means I can hang on to the last minute to the fountain of youth. Out of drag, I look like Michael Jackson, and in drag, I look like Joan Rivers.”

He said he’s spent more than $100,000 on plastic surgery.

He recently was set to film the reality show “Tanked.” He also recently filmed a piece with Theresa Caputo of “Long Island Medium.”

He said appearing on the reality show “The Millionaire Matchmaker” a few years ago gave him a lot of exposure.

“I hid behind a mask for almost 30 years, with all the makeup,” he said, “so, the fact that they did this show with me as a man, and people saw me, I go places now … and people go, ‘I know you from Millionaire Matchmaker.’ ” Marino said. “So, it’s kind of funny that one TV show gave me more (publicity) than all the articles and stories that have been done on me in the last 30 years. My dream is to have my own reality show … I shake my head and go, ‘Nobody would ever believe this.’ ”

Marino said he sees himself continuing in the show for another five years, then handing it to someone else. He said he will remain its producer.

Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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