The Smith Center
Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016 | 2:02 p.m.
She is a real golden girl, a multitalented star standing statuesque at just under 6 feet tall with a sensational smile and majestic mane of platinum-blonde hair. For more than 35 years, she has dazzled as an actress and singer since she won a Golden Globe for her first film, “Golden Girl,” then landed her NBC series.
Born in the apple orchards of Yucaipa, Calif., Susan Anton now calls Las Vegas home where she’s lived with filmmaker husband Jeff Lester the past 20 years. She co-starred with Harvey Fierstein in “Hairspray” on the Strip. She also starred for seven years with The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
Susan was executive producer of the documentary “Speed of Life” on 2014 Winter Olympics bronze medalist Amy Purdy, the “Dancing With the Stars” finalist who grew up here and lost her legs at age 19 from bacterial meningitis.
I tell you this background on Susan, the 1969 Miss California who went on to become second runner-up at the Miss America Pageant, because she doesn’t shy away from sharing that she’s led an extraordinary life in her 65 years.
With her stunning looks, tall stature and effervescent personality, nobody believes that she’s in her 60s. She puts younger singers to shame with her energy and deep, husky voice.
It’s infectious because she uses the times of her life as a message in the songs she chooses to sing for her audience. She says the songs she selects are the ones that shaped her life and key moments for many others, too.
They are songs that marked our own timelines, forced us to think, exchange opinions, strengthen our backbone and continue the forward march through life, however challenging the odds might be.
Last weekend, Susan returned home to sing for the first time at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center. Her bold, brave, take-no-prisoners song style won over the crowd who gave her a standing ovation. When Susan sings, she lets loose with a powerful, emotional blast of vocal magic.
She clearly lets herself go with raw, unleashed energy inside these songs, enjoying every moment of her performance. It’s a win-win for her fans and her.
Susan’s setlist: “Conviction of the Heart,” Kenny Loggins; “Already Home,” Marc Cohn; “Love’s in Need of Love,” Stevie Wonder; “Stop This Train,” John Mayer; “Men Are So Easy,” Neil Diamond; “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles;
“There’s Hope,” India.Arie; “You’re Missing,” Bruce Springsteen; “Why Can’t We Live Together,” Timmy Thomas; “Life Holds On,” Beth Nielsen Chapman; “It’s a Man’s World,” James Brown; “Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac; “True Companion,” Marc Cohen; “Woodstock,” Joni Mitchell; “Get Together,” The Youngbloods; “Love the One You’re With,” Stephen Stills; and “Forever Young,” Bob Dylan.
It was a tour de force. She captivated, enthralled and mesmerized. Susan was at full throttle rocking the nearly two hours of nonstop songs. Her marriage with the band of Las Vegas musicians was rock solid, a match that made for maximum musical pleasure.
These are not easy songs. The poetry is complicated, but Susan’s memory was so good, there wasn’t one stumble. She didn’t have a TelePrompTer or song sheets. She sang from the heart with meaningful interpretation. She is a troubadour temptress because the audience was spellbound and impressed.
It won over Smith Center President Myron Martin, who agreed to her show. Our thanks to Myron for his photos he captured during her show at Cabaret Jazz.
He promptly said she’ll be back for a second concert as soon as they can schedule the dates. First, though, Susan returns to Herb Alpert’s Bel Air jazz club Vibrato where she’s been performing the last three years.
On Jan. 26, she will sing there with Pat Senatore’s trio and trumpet. Pat was Herb’s original bass player from The Tijuana Brass. Susan will be guest artist with songs from The Great American Songbook.
“It will be something totally different and fun without even a rehearsal. We’ll just get the keys and see what happens,” Susan told me and added in a reference to her five-year romance with diminutive Dudley Moore. “That’s the way Dudley loved to play.”
I talked with Susan post-show, and she told me: “It was so much fun to be singing the songs that shaped our lives. I loved that you totally got it. The message is everything to me.”
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.