Friday, Feb. 28, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
THOMAS WOODWARD was born in the tiny town of Pontypridd, Wales, 57 years ago come this June 7. ... Henry Fielding wrote a best-selling novel in the 1950s about a robust British lad who cut quite a figure in his time. ... The film, with the same title, "Tom Jones," made a star of Albert Finney.
Young Woodward was rechristened Tom Jones by a very bright fellow named Gordon Mills. ... Mills was also responsible for renaming Arnold George Dorsey as Engelbert Humperdinck. ... Woodward became Tom Jones a few years before. ... Mills managed both performers.
Gordon Mills made an early exit, but both his clients have enjoyed great success ever since, particularly in Las Vegas, since the mid- and late-1960s. ... Tom Jones first international hit record, "It's Not Unusual," dates back to 1964. ... We were there when he came here.
Bill Miller, now in his 90s, living in retirement in Palm Springs, was one of our most creative entertainment directors. ... He introduced Tom to Las Vegas at the old Flamingo in its pre-Hilton days. ... The showroom then sat less than 450. ... Miller knew that the showroom was too small and the overflow would create excitement. ... It did.
Jones took Las Vegas by storm. ... The ladies went wild. ... There may have been a ringer or two at the start but those room keys and panties came flying on to the stage every performance. ... Comedian Jack E. Leonard had a 58-inch waist.
One frenzied night, Leonard was hidden in the wings. ... At a key moment, he threw his size-58 shorts, white with large red polka dots onto the stage. ... Tom ignored the incident, whereupon "Fat Jack" walked out, picked them up without a word and stalked off, indignant.
Today, at the MGM Grand, robust, voice intact, nicely mature, Tom Jones still favors the ladies, but this is a new, energized Tom Jones who got through to the youngsters before Tony Bennett did via MTV. ... His musical series was a hit on VH1. ... He has been a factor on "The Simpsons" Fox show and is appearing in the film "Mars Attacks."
Jones still reprises his hits but he has also recorded and performs a cover version of Prince's "Kiss" and others such as EMF's "Unbelievable" with top response in-person and via record sales. ... He has also recorded with the Chieftains and Van Morrison.
Quoting Tom: "If you can physically and emotionally do it, and do it honestly, it shows. It's got to be right. It's got to be hot." ... Tom Jones, today, is a performer for all age groups. ... He continues to grow as an artist and as a person who still has more to contribute.
Variety Club, Tent 39, The Children's Charity, continues to do great work in the community. ... Variety's annual award dinner, 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Riviera's Top of the Riv, would be an ideal place and time to meet the people of Variety and join in our efforts. ... Don't miss the superb Alvin Ailey Dancers in Artemus Ham Hall this weekend. ... See you next Thursday.