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September 2, 2014

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Ecstatically, Tom Jones tribute artist breaks ground

If You Go

Who: Harmik starring as Tom Jones

When: 7 p.m. Sundays; 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays

Where: Canyon Club at the Four Queens

Tickets: $24.50; 385-4011

Elvis Presley performed regularly in Las Vegas for eight years , from 1969 until his death in 1977.

Tom Jones began performing here in 1967 and has been doing so fairly regularly for 40 years.

Elvis remains an icon of the Entertainment Capital, so legendary that Cirque du Soleil is creating a show around his image similar to its Beatles tribute "Love." There's a Presley impersonator on almost every street corner in town. Put on a Presley costume and you can make a living having your picture taken with tourists.

But where are the performers paying homage to the singer whose long list of hits include s the classics "It's Not Unusual," "What's New Pussycat?" and "Delilah"?

For those Jones fans who have been wondering, one of the top tribute artists in the country is now the headliner at the 600-seat Canyon Club in the Four Queens.

Harmik (one name only please) premieres Sunday, performing four nights a week with his seven-piece backup band.

Harmik is ecstatic about his good fortune, finding a regular gig as Jones.

"As far as I know , no one's ever done a solo headlining gig as Tom Jones," Harmik said. "Not like this. I'm breaking brand - new ground."

Harmik was born in Queens in New York City.

In the '70s he tried his hand at being Jones, to whom he has an uncanny resemblance. He says he was one of the original imitators.

"But back then the corporate market wasn't really open to impersonators, by and large, not like today," Harmik said. "Basically you ended up doing impersonations in bars and clubs and you couldn't make a living doing that."

So , after graduating from college in 1982 , he moved to Las Vegas with his wife to become an equities trader, escaping the cold weather of the East Coast.

By the mid-'90s he wasn't happy in equities and his wife persuaded him to return to doing the Tom Jones character.

"The corporate world had opened up and I ended up putting on great performances all over the world," Harmik said. "There's so much work out there you gotta say, you know I got just so much time. Which direction am I going in?"

He's done his fair share of weddings and other venues.

"But I've never had an arrangement like this," Harmik said. "The situation is pretty good. It couldn't have been better than this. I'm not getting any younger. I'll be 47 in September. I've always wanted to do this sort of thing to keep me home, in one place. If I'm not going to do it now, when am I going to do it?"

He's confident his show will have staying power.

"If it doesn't work, what can I say? But most times if you can hang in there long enough, it will ultimately succeed," he said. "But the question is, is it for three months? Two years? Five? You don't know."

He's hoping for a long-term engagement.

"But you don't know until you do it," Harmik said. "No one's ever done a solo Tom Jones before."

Does he think there is a big demand for a Jones impressionist?

"I try so hard to sound humble in my interviews but no matter how you say it , it comes out arrogant, but I believe that by and large I created the demand for the character in the impersonation world," Harmik said. "When I came along most corporations didn't use Tom Jones - now they do. So for me the demand has gotten stronger . It's grown. I can't speak for the Tom Jones community."

He's amazed that Jones isn't right up there with Elvis.

"The character is so important there's no reason it should be bombing. He should only be second to Elvis. The guy's been here 40 years. He's had tons of hits. He's world-renowned. He's a great character to imitate. He's colorful, he's sexy - all the things you would need to make a great character is there. But prior to me doing it most of the impressionists were viewed as a joke, not someone you could actually look at and say , 'Wow, that is Tom,' as opposed to something to be laughed at."

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