Presley and Gans linked by Dilaudid

Danny Gans and Elvis Presley had something else in common, besides dying young.

Both entertainers were linked after their deaths with Dilaudid, a highly addictive opiate nicknamed "drug store heroin."

Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy ruled Tuesday that Gans’ death on May 1 was caused by toxic levels of the painkiller, officially known as hydromorphone. Murphy characterized it as an accidental death.

According to numerous published reports, Dilaudid, said to be two to eight times more potent than morphine, was Elvis’ favorite drug.

Gans, a vocal impressionist, included a karate-kicking overweight Elvis among his spoofs of musical greats.

Gans, a Las Vegas headliner since 1996, was 52.

Elvis was 42 when he died Aug. 16, 1977, in Memphis, Tenn.

While Dilaudid was not found among the many drugs discovered in Elvis’ system after he died, he was quoted in the book "Elvis: The Final Years" as telling the wife of Red West, a member of his inner circle, "I’ve tried them all, honey, and believe me, Dilaudid is the best."

A Las Vegas physician expressed shock Tuesday that the drug showed up as a contributing factor in Gans’ death.

"It’s not considered normal practice," said the physician, for an internist to prescribe Dilaudid. "It’s a restricted drug that’s not meant for long-term usage."

Dilaudid is so potent, the physician said, "it’s against the law for a doctor to call it in. It has to be handwritten."

"In 25 years, at most I’ve written for it just once. The theory is, if someone is in that much pain they should be in the hospital."

THE SCENE AND HEARD

So what’s the story behind Garth Brooks‘ surprise concert for 600 to 800 VIP guests Monday at the Encore Theater? That deal with Steve Wynn that we hinted at here two weeks ago looks like it might happen. "Garth has a contract in his hands," a spy said. "The holdup is ticket prices." Brooks, like Bruce Springsteen before him, apparently isn’t comfortable with "Vegas" tickets. Wynn had a hint for his guests when they arrived at the 1,600-seat theater Monday: they found black hats on their seats. Out came Brooks, who put on a full concert without a band behind him. Near the end, he took questions and when someone asked why he didn’t sing a certain song, Brooks sang it. The country star retired in 2000 at the height of his career. …

Mike Tyson married longtime girlfriend Lakiha "KiKi" Spicer over the weekend. They took out a marriage license early Saturday night and were by themselves when they exchanged vows at La Bella Wedding Chapel at the Las Vegas Hilton on Saturday night. Spicer, in her 30s, was linked to Tyson at the time his second marriage ended in divorce. She was in the news in 2002 when he was charged, along with her mother and brother, on allegations of defrauding $224,000 from a Philadelphia community college. The marriage, Tyson’s third, came less than two weeks after his 4-year-old daughter by another woman died accidentally after she hanged herself on a treadmill in Phoenix. …

Celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn‘s ordeal ends today when she flies back to Las Vegas, after spending more than 100 days in a South American jail. She received a full acquittal Tuesday after being accused of a conspiracy to pass herself off as Toni Braxton at a concert in Suriname. "She’s ecstatic, knowing there’s finally a rainbow at the end of her day," said her husband, Raymond Finn. …

The singing duo known as Zowie Bowie is leaving the Palms Lounge at the end of August and has an announcement coming up soon about a new home on the Strip, according to publicist Steve Honig. …

Spice Girl Melanie Brown will be replaced in "Peepshow" (Planet Hollywood Resort) by Broadway star Shosana Bean of "Wicked" when Brown’s contract ends June 21. Brown was offered an extension but declined, according to "Peepshow" producer Scott Zeiger. Bean will join Holly Madison as co-leads. Madison takes over for Kelly Monaco, who also chose to leave.

SIGHTINGS

Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, having lunch at Society Café at Encore on Monday. She is in town to film "America’s Got Talent," which included a shoot at a hangar at McCarran International Airport on Monday with fellow judges David Hasselhoff and Piers Morgan and host Nick Cannon. … Broadway star Ben Vereen, in the audience Sunday at "Human Nature," Smokey Robinson‘s new Motown show at the Imperial Palace.

THE PUNCH LINE

"Second assistant in charge of applying sunscreen to Rush Limbaugh." — From David Letterman‘s "Top Ten Worst Summer Jobs"

Norm Clarke can be reached at (702) 383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

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