Gordie Brown left with nothing but a repertoire of impressions and chutzpah.
Now he's a hot item on the big-time comedy circuit.
By Tony Lofaro - The Ottawa Citizens

Ottawa's Gordie Brown drove out to Las Vegas in 1987 in his trusted Ford Tempo with a repertoire of voices, some raw talent and plenty of chutzpah.

His dream was to shine in the bright lights of Vegas, the town that Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin built into a legendary gambling oasis. For a bright-eyed kid from Montreal who moved to Ottawa in 1983, Las Vegas was thousands of kilometres away, but close to his heart as a showbiz mecca.

If you can make it in Vegas, you can make it anywhere.

The former newspaper cartoonist had played the Ottawa club and hotel circuit and attracted a loyal following for his uncanny impersonations of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. After four years of playing to the same crowds, Mr. Brown wanted to reach the next level of show business, which he thought Ottawa could never provide.

He drove to Las Vegas and never looked back. He's opened for Barry Manilow, Randy Travis and Jerry Seinfeld, and also become known as a "corporate comic" playing dozens of shows a year to employees of such corporations as Ford, IBM, AT&T and Pepsico. The gigs are lucrative -- $15,000 (U.S.) a pop.

Mr. Brown, who appears tonight at the Corel Centre's WordPerfect Theatre, opening for Kenny Rogers, said the corporate circuit is a bonus to his showbiz career.

"I guess I made a name for myself in the corporate-entertainment market, which to me was very exciting," said Mr. Brown, 36, from his new home in Las Vegas."

The corporate gigs were always available in case other bookings dried up, he said.

"I always thought of it in this way: I would make as strong an act as I could, and then promote and market myself through my agency and develop the corporate market because it is something to always fall back on," said Mr. Brown, who during a telephone interview can easily slip into the voices of Marlon Brando, Michael J. Fox, and my favourite, Jack Nicholson.

"If I just did the corporate shows, it would be a great life. I would do one show and then come back home, or do three shows in a row and then come home for a week."

Indeed, the impressionist/singer/actor seems to have the best of both worlds. While pursuing the dream of hitting it big, he was always intent on maintaining some semblance of a normal household with his wife and kids. He still keeps in touch with his many friends in Ottawa and his parents still live here.

He has not performed in Ottawa in more than 10 years, although last summer he played Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy festival.

Today, Mr. Brown is seeking to branch out and recently had discussions with legendary TV producer Fred Silverman and producers from Dick Clark Productions about developing a television show.

"I came up with a concept for a show and pitched it to them. They really liked the concept and we're moving along in the right direction. But you know these things take a long time to actually be finalized."

He is purposely vague about the concept of the show other than to say he would be the host of a variety show.

"This is the next logical step for me. I want to keep evolving and I want to focus on the acting thing to get the right kind of television exposure."

In the competitive world of show business, Mr. Brown thinks he can succeed where others have failed.

"I honestly think it's because of the professional way I've developed my act. I have evolved over the years, I'm different and I have a very defined persona. The characters I do show that I have acting skills and an ability to do impressions.

"I think those kinds of skills are what producers are always in search of and that makes me a little different from other comedians."

He said timing is everything in show business, and his time is now.

"Timing is important, but you have to believe in a project strongly enough that you can find other people who get it. You have to find people who can take your concept to the next level. That is what I'm hoping for."


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