Michael Grimm’s road to fame went through Las Vegas, but it was no easy street. It’s a story of perseverance and close calls that put him on the brink before a shot of 100-proof Vegas luck kicked in.
Five years ago, Grimm, who won "America’s Got Talent" on Wednesday, was working as a singer when a Las Vegas opportunity arose. An off-Strip steakhouse had a baby grand piano and was looking for a great voice.
"Right after we opened Hank’s, (Green Valley Ranch co-owner) Frank Fertitta wanted something contemporary to go with it," recalled Judy Alberti, vice president of entertainment for Station Casinos.
Grimm’s manager sent a video or audio or both, Alberti said. "When we heard the voice, it was just unbelievable. Perfect for the environment."
Grimm, in his mid-20s, had his foot in the door. It wasn’t just Alberti who thought Grimm’s voice was special.
"We’d have Toby Keith and Journey in Hank’s for dinner, and you’d always get a reaction," Alberti said. "They’d pause and say, ‘This guy is unbelievable.’ "
A couple of record producers got wind of his talent. One was Rick Rubin, who produced Johnny Cash’s last record and produced for Kid Rock as well.
"He’s been on the cusp of going to the next level several times," she added.
Green Valley Ranch moved Grimm into their showroom, Ovation, as an early shift act. He also worked at MarkT Sea and Land, a steak/seafood restaurant at Aliante Station.
A big break, although he didn’t know at the time, came two years ago at Palace Station during auditions for the 2009 "America’s Got Talent."
He didn’t make the cut, but a year later, during auditions at Bonkerz Comedy Club at Palace Station, producer Roz Taylor-Jordan remembered him and "he went sailing through every level," said Alberti, who had sent Taylor-Jordan 10-15 candidates, including Grimm.
Everyone at Green Valley Ranch is ecstatic that one of their own reached the top.
"It just seems like it was fate that he was performing with us, we were holding the private audition and I sent him to the producers. All of these cards fell into place. The question is would it have happened had he gone to an open cattle call."
It’s all part of an amazing Cinderella show biz story: Grimm, whose mother was preparing to put him and his sister up for adoption, was raised by his grandparents, who lost almost everything in the Katrina disaster.
"We’re all so proud," Alberti said. "We feel like we had something to do with it."
MAY I RECOMMEND …
The San Gennaro Feast runs through Sunday at the Silverton. Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight today; 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. General admission: $9 for adults, $8 seniors, and kids 54 inches and under free. Go to the SanGennaroFeast.com website for the two adults for $14 deal. For $30, kids get unlimited rides.
Tough-guy character actor Frank Vincent, who played the mobster in "Casino" who whacked the character played by Joe Pesci (a role based on Las Vegas hitman Tony Spilotro) at the San Gennaro Feast on Thursday. He’ll be at the Las Vegas Mob Experience booth through Saturday, signing autographs and taking photos as a rep for the Mob Experience, which opens in December at the Tropicana. … Comedy legends Rich Little and Steve Rossi, at the opening of "Nunsense" (Hilton) on Wednesday. … Brad Garrett at the Fryers Club late-night party Sept. 10 at the Hooters Hotel; he bought a round of drinks for a crowd of show people.
THE PUNCH LINE
"Lady Gaga won eight awards on the VMAs and accepted them in a dress made of meat. She’s also getting ready to launch her new fragrance. It’s called ‘A-1 Steak Sauce.’ " — Jimmy Kimmel
Norm Clarke can be reached at (702) 383-0244 or email@example.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.