Ten candidates for ‘Rat Pack’ status

Jan 8, 2002 7:47 AM

It’s generally accepted that the “Headliner Era” no longer exists, as once it did in Las Vegas showrooms. Headliners, who came here with worldwide recognition, have given way to headliners who attained that title in Las Vegas and are primarily stars just in Las Vegas! (Siegfried & Roy, though they made their mark here, might certainly be an exception since they are now recognized as international stars.)

The Rat Pack Era is long over and even though some have tried to recreate that magic here, no one has been successful.

So, if the previous generations look back to The Rat Pack (Frank, Dean and Sammy), Danny Thomas, George Burns, Elvis, Wayne Newton, Shecky Greene and Liberace, who will today’s generation look back on as those they will tell their kids and grandkids that they “shoulda seen ’em when,” 25 years from now?

Here’s a little Top-10 of the next decade’s Vegas performers, who may be the ones our kids will be reminiscing about.

In no particular order:

*Wayne Newton. That’s right. The Midnight Idol has some good years left in him. And, since he’s the only one of the Golden Era still performing here regularly, the older generations are taking their kids and grandkids to see him and imbedding the concept that he is the quintessential all-around variety performer. And though he’s lost some of his vocal prowess, the kids are agreeing with the quintessential entertainer part.

*Melinda (Saxe). Some bad professional decisions and rough spots in her personal life have kept her from reaching the level she should have long ago. After quitting the biz, she polished up her act in Branson, added some “grown up” magic and returned. She can still turn “notoriety” into star status.

*Siegfried & Roy. When Liberace died and Wayne abandoned us for Branson for a spell, they became THE stars of Vegas. As long as they desire to perform, they will remain so. And millions are getting to see them as stars of their own show, rather than as the “Grand Illusion” act in production shows that they started out as.

*Lance Burton. He’s already reached star level and proven he can sustain. With many TV specials, his visibility is as high as anyone. He’s also one who deserves every ounce of success he has earned. The magician’s true magic is in his character.

*Danny Gans. This ground-breaking artist, with the gimmick audiences love””impersonation, was the first to go straight to a main showroom without having to star in a production show or lounge.

*Clint Holmes. With lots of perseverance after a failure downtown, this classy, jazzy, song and dance man, has proven there is room for sophistication on the Strip. If he doesn’t leave Vegas for the legitimate stage, he’ll be a long-standing superstar here.

*Earl Turner. After busting onto the scene as a huge lounge attraction at the Dunes in the late 1980s, and then a self-inflicted exile back to Texas, this energetic vocalist returned with a vengeance a few years ago. This time his rising star should keep going vertically.

*Jimmy Hopper. With the Wayner’s years dwindling, there is no other singer, musician, impressionist of this man’s calibre to reign as the town’s top all-around musical entertainment attraction. If he gets his own showroom, it should be for a long time.

*The Scintas. A throwback to the musical variety groups of yesteryear like the Treniers, Goofers, Nelson Sardelli, Mary Kaye Trio, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, etc., this family is entertaining and lovable on all levels. Their music and “fun” transcends generations.

*Number 10 is that performer who hasn’t yet arrived; who will be so unique, he or she cannot help but become a showroom staple. There are already enough magicians; way too many impressionists; Elvis impersonators are finally on the wane; production shows now star water, effects and surrealistic clowns; and, there aren’t enough lounges left to serve as proving grounds for new talent. So, just where that person will come from is anyone’s guess.