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December 20, 2014

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Las Vegas headliner Danny Gans dies

Wynn remembers Gans as ‘talented and loving friend’

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Steve Marcus

Danny Gans relaxes earlier this year in his dressing room at the Encore Theatre. Gans, a Las Vegas headliner since 1996, signed on to perform there at Steve Wynn’s urging.

Updated Friday, May 1, 2009 | 6:37 p.m.

Danny Gans

Singer, impressionist and comedian Danny Gans, shown performing at the Encore Theatre on March 20, died suddenly Friday at his home in Henderson. Launch slideshow »

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  • Russ Fons, Las Vegas Broadcast Center Bureau Chief, interviews Danny Gans in 1996
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  • Gans talks about leaving the Mirage for Encore and working for Steve Wynn. (Jan. 2009)
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  • Gans talks about how the show's format allows for flexibility. (Jan. 2009)
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  • Danny Gans on how the economy is affecting the show. (Jan. 2009)
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Danny Gans at Encore

Las Vegas Strip performer Danny Gans died Friday morning at age 52.

Wynn Resorts spokeswoman Jennifer Dunne said Gans died at his Henderson home off Horizon Ridge Parkway. She called the death sudden.

The Clark County Coroner's Office on Friday afternoon said the cause and manner of death are pending. Henderson Police Department detectives are conducting a death investigation, but preliminary results have not turned up any evidence of foul play, authorities said.

In a statement Friday morning, Steve Wynn said the death was unexpected and devastating.

"Elaine and I and all of us in the Company are devastated at the loss of our brilliant, talented and loving friend. One of the most unique human beings and entertainers in the world has been taken from us in an unexpected moment. A profoundly tragic event that leaves us all sad and speechless. The loss of Danny to his wife Julie, his children Amy, Andrew & Emily is at this moment impossible to comprehend. We will all try to go on with our lives without our dear friend. At this moment it seems almost impossible," Wynn said.

After stints at the Stratosphere and the Rio and eight years at the Mirage, where he reigned in his self-titled theater, Gans recently moved across the street and into the new Encore Theatre.

He was a quick-change artist, using his supple voice, elastic face and body English to jump from character to character.

In his 90-minute-plus program, Gans delivered a buffet of impressions: Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin — in self-duet with Jerry Lewis, and the inevitable Elvis and George Burns.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Las Vegas was made better with Gans as a performer.

“Danny Gans brought joy to the lives of the millions of Nevadans and tourists who came to Las Vegas to see his show. He was a talented performer who used his celebrity to give back to our community and those in need. Las Vegas is a better place because of Danny Gans. He will truly be missed," Reid said in a statement.

Sen. John Ensign echoed those sentiments: “Danny Gans was a talented entertainer and a valuable member of our community whose contributions to help those in need will be greatly missed. Darlene and I will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers as they mourn such a sudden loss.”

Henderson dispatchers received a 911 call at 3:44 a.m. Friday that a man was having difficulty breathing at his home, said Todd Rasmussen, spokesman for the Henderson Police Department.

Police officers and paramedics were dispatched to his Henderson home two minutes later and arrived at 3:51 a.m. When paramedics arrived they pronounced Gans dead at the scene and he was not taken to a hospital, Rasmussen said.

Rose Marie Scelfo, who was visiting Las Vegas from New Jersey, said she saw Gans’ last show Wednesday night.

“We were shocked when we saw it on television today,” she said about the news of his death. “Your heart goes out to the family. They seem like such a nice family.”

Lyle Merrick, who was visiting from Delaware, learned about Gans’ death as she looked across the street at the Encore marquee on Friday.

She and her husband, Larry, also saw Gans’ final performance Wednesday. They had center seats in the theater and wanted to see him again after watching his performance last year at the Mirage.

“He just put everything he had into what he was trying to give to his audience,” Lyle Merrick said. “It was wonderful. He was the best I had even seen in an entertainer.”

Friends and fellow Strip performers remembered Gans as a man who loved his family and his work.

"Danny Gans will not only be remembered as a Las Vegas entertainer, but as a man who loved his family, loved God and loved the city of Las Vegas," Gans' manager, Chip Lightman, said in a statement. "Danny has been my partner and dear friend for over 18 years. I will truly miss him. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife of 28 years, Julie, and his three children, Amy, Andrew and Emily."

Laura Herlovich, co owner of PR Plus, worked with Gans on and off over the years since his days at the Mirage.

"Danny is a major personality and an iconic Las Vegas entertainer and a really compassionate, caring and wonderful man," she said, adding he will be remembered for working with charities including the Make A Wish Foundation and children's golf charities.

Gans was mourned Friday at Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which is the owner of the Rio hotel-casino just off the Las Vegas Strip where Gans performed for years.

"The entire Harrah's Entertainment family is deeply saddened by the loss of Danny Gans," Harrah's Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman said. "He was not only an incredibly talented performer, but was also a devoted family man and an important contributor to our community. We are proud that he entertained thousands of guests at our Rio property over many years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, children, friends and fans. Danny will never be forgotten.''

Magician Lance Burton said: "The news of Danny Gans' passing is unbelievably shocking. Las Vegas has lost one of its best ambassadors. He was quite simply one of the greatest entertainers ever to step foot onto the stage. In my 27 years in Las Vegas, I have never seen anyone better."

Wayne Newton, a Las Vegas icon for five decades, commented on the death through a spokeswoman.

"I would like to extend my sympathy to Danny’s wife and family. Danny was an immense talent and a great friend," Newton said. "He brought so much to Las Vegas, both on and off the stage. He gave his time and talent to local charities, and can be credited with creating an era of impressionist entertainers on the Strip. I will miss him."

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