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Choosing a casino show is a bit like choosing your dinner.
Sometimes you want a fine dining experience with soup, salad, steak and
lobster and a bottle of wine. Other times, only a thick, messy sub
sandwich will do.
Likewise, sometimes you want your casino shows to be over-the-top
affairs complete with set changes, outrageous costumes, big dance
numbers and sequin-gowned divas. Other times, a one-man show is all the
entertainment you need.
Gordie Brown fits into the latter category, and like any good
sandwich, he offers a bit of everything. He doesn’t need all that pomp
and spectacle, because he’s got it all inside of him. Brown sings,
dances, impersonates and satirizes. If you’ve ever driven down Center
Street and glanced at the Harrah’s Reno sign at the corner of Second
Street, he’s lauded as “funny, hysterical, etc.” He’s certainly not
boring, and perhaps the good buzz is what keeps crowds lined up in front
of Sammy’s Showroom every week.
I tried to attend his show last Friday, but it was sold out.
Perhaps the place was packed because of last weekend’s Great Reno
Balloon Race, or maybe it’s just that he’s a popular entertainer.
Whatever the case may be, I returned to the same long line of people
Sunday night. This time, however, I had reserved my ticket.
I was seated in front of the stage and shared the table with a
group of retirees on vacation. One of them noticed my dateless self and
warned me that Brown just might pick on me that night. I was tempted to
ask for another table farther back, not because I was worried about
being singled out, but because I was too close to the stage and my neck
was strained from looking up.
A few minutes after 7:30 p.m., Brown hit the stage accompanied by
a live band. Wearing a black velvet shirt and black pants, he quickly
launched into a series of musical parodies of songs by Tom Jones, Randy
Travis, Vanilla Ice and Hootie & The Blowfish. The only costume
changes for his performance were a couple of hats, a curly black wig and
several pairs of sunglasses, which he used to transform himself from
Elvis Presley to Elton John. His Michael Jackson and Sammy Davis Jr.
impersonations were very believable, despite his obvious white guy
Although I managed not to get singled out, a psychologist from
Illinois became the butt of a few jokes. A young man up front was
nicknamed “Sparky” after Brown took on a Jimmy Stewart impression and
cracked jokes about getting old.
But in between the jokes and parodies, Brown would sing a few
straight-up renditions of popular songs. He sang Louie Armstrong’s “What
a Wonderful World” in that distinctive froggy voice and did an
energetic medley of Elvis tunes, including “Suspicious Minds.” My only
complaint about the show was that it seemed too short, clocking in at
just over an hour. But I guess all that singing and impersonating can
wear you out, and the adult revue, Whisper, followed Brown’s show.
It’s interesting to note that Brown started out as a political
cartoonist for the Ottawa Sunday Herald. When his co-workers entered the
Montreal native in an industry talent contest, he won first place, and
his career took a completely different turn. He went to Las Vegas and
was discovered by Paul Anka and Rich Little, who signed him as an
opening act. The gigs led to other performances with entertainers such
as Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow and Jerry Seinfeld. He has also made TV
appearances on shows like Hollywood Squares and PAX TV’s series Twice in a Lifetime.
Wow. The guy can sing, act and draw cartoons. Is there anything he can’t do?