I first met Gene Ferrari back in the ‘80s when he was starring at the Aladdin Hotel. At that time he was really making a name for himself. He had just finished a tour with Don Rickles (with whom he would be his opening act for the next seven years) and was on his own for a few months before Rickles went back on the road. He had the energy of a youngster and was comfortable on his stage, as he approached the microphone. I remember the contagious grin he had as he greeted his eager audience. I liked him right away.
That’s the man I remembered when I first met him backstage at the Dunes Hotel when I was with Robert Goulet, and Gene was Robert’s guest one night. Now flash forward to last month when I saw him at the South Point Hotel, where he was a guest on the Dennis Bono show. He had hardly changed. Gene has the same mature good looks, Continental charm and supple voice of a proud Italian-American. It is no wonder he has been a favorite, both as a headliner and an opening act, in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and a multitude of venues large and small from coast to coast. Gene will be opening at the Italian American Club, 2333 E. Sahara, on Saturday, Oct 3.
Gene’s classically elegant style, both in performance and in attire, begs comparison to such great romantic singers as Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. But, even though Humperdinck was a mentor and early influence, Gene’s way of delighting audiences with the music they love, and some they are enjoying for the first time, is distinctively his own.
Everyone, once they see and hear him, has wanted him as an opening act, and Ferrari has accepted by opening for some of the greatest entertainers in the world, including Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason, Dom DeLuise, Rich Little, David Brenner, Pat Cooper, Bob Hope and more. He’s come a long way from Catania, Sicily, the tiny town of his birth. By the time he came to America in 1972, with $100 in his pocket, not speaking a word of English, he had clocked thousands of miles throughout the Middle East and Europe, singing for his supper.
“At the Top of the Hilton in Rome, two American promoters and their wives caught the Gene Ferrari Show and offered to bring him to the United States. A year later, Gene and company were playing the lounge of the Executive Inn in Buffalo, N.Y., at a time during the summer when Engelbert Humperdinck was appearing at a local outdoor music fair. Humperdinck and his manager, Andy Anka (Paul’s Dad) were staying at the hotel. They came to the show a couple of times, Gene remembers fondly, and Englebert did something very generous: “he sent for me, sat me down, and explained to me everything I was doing wrong. He taught me how to be polished, which I learned quickly was not easy to accomplish.”
Gene soon became a solo act, and had worked his way to Las Vegas, as the headliner in the Aladdin Hotel show lounge. Soon thereafter, he was opening for Don Rickles, and had the amazing experience of seeing his name under Rickles’ on the neon marquee of the Stardust Hotel. In the 80s, Gene’s stature grew as a well-known and well-loved opening act.
Gene says his show is “a musical conversation between me and the audience. I don’t insult their taste by giving them clichés. You’ll never hear me sing ‘Feelings.’ Ten songs don’t make it a show. You have to establish rapport, a mutual liking of each other, and sustain it. “
His repertoire is vast – when he is the headliner, he does two hours easily – and highly eclectic. He has a two and a half octave range and, thanks to his world travels, is fluent in several languages. On any given night, he might range from Bon Jovi to Nat ‘King’ Cole. Or he might segue from an Italian standard like “Il Mondo” to a less familiar song from a Broadway show. Musical mastery coupled with European charisma and old-fashioned dignity has earned Gene a loyal following and a reputation for excellence that endures into this fourth decade as an American. Recently he has been on a national tour, making guest appearance at fund raisers for various “American Veterans” charities.
The Gene Ferrari Show will be at the Italian American Club on October 3rd, for one night only with show time set for 8:00 p.m. With the 12-piece Mariano Logo Orchestra on stage, Ferrari will perform songs from ballads to classics that everyone wants to hear. Tickets are $20.00, and can be purchased in advance by calling 702-457-3866.
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
The 18th Annual Advertising Community Talent Show (A.C.T.S.) returns to Las Vegas on Friday, Sept. 11 at Chrome Showroom inside Santa Fe Station. Hosted by some of Las Vegas’ top media personalities, including KLAS Ch. 8’s Sherry Swensk, KTNV Ch. 13’s Shawn Tempesta and Mark DiCiero & Aimee Montgomery from “Mornings with Mark & Aimee” on Star 107.9 FM. The 18th Annual A.C.T.S. will once again feature acts from the Southern Nevada advertising and media community, including a special performance from Kim and Dana Wagner from “Wake Up With the Wagners” on KSNV Ch. 3. Doors open at 6 p.m. and all proceeds raised will benefit Safe Nest, a local charity dedicated to providing temporary assistance for those going through domestic crisis in Southern Nevada.
Tickets are $25 for general admission and can be purchased at any Station Casinos Reward Center and The Fiestas, by logging onto www.sclv.com/concerts or through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com. The silent auction begins at 6:00 p.m., with the show beginning at 7:00 p.m. Guests must be 21 years or older. The talent portion of the show is non-competitive. For more information on how to submit an application, general rules and sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.actslv.org. A.C.T.S. has been an annual tradition in Las Vegas, raising more than $300,000 for Safe Nest., a non-profit organization geared toward the prevention and elimination of domestic violence. The talent show is a way for members of the media to show off their fun side, with singing, dancing, comedy, juggling, magic and bands. A.C.T.S. is a volunteer event – all staff, performers, board members and venues donate their time and services for the event each year. This year, A.C.T.S. has set a fundraising goal of $35,000 which will be used to purchase a new playground for the children at the Safe Nest Shelter. In past years, items such as computers and playground equipment for the children have been purchased with the money raised.
The Laugh Factory, located on the mezzanine level of the New Tropicana Hotel, has headliner, Andrew Norelli, along with Jason Stuart, and hosted by Jill Bryan this week (Sept. 7-13). Show times are 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., nightly with tickets priced at $34.95 and $44.95.
Andrew Norelli uses comedy to navigate his way through confusion and dismay. Whatever happens to him in life, he brings to the stage and lets the crowd in on his frustration and excitement. Credits include “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Byron Allen Show,” “Live at Gotham” on Comedy Central, “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and the nationally syndicated show “Comics Unleashed,” where he also worked as a monologue joke writer. Norelli was also the first winner of the annual Las Vegas World Series of Comedy
When you think of one of the most prolific character actors who is also an outrageous, openly gay stand-up comedian, one name comes to mind – Jason Stuart. Stuart has been making people laugh all over the country with his hysterical performances since 1993. He has accomplished what few other gay comics have ever achieved – brutal honesty with humor in a world that’s not always kind. Stuart has wowed audiences on the TV screen with guest roles on hit shows such as “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “The Closer,” “Will & Grace,” “George Lopez,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “House,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Charmed.” However, he is best known for playing Dr. Thomas, the gay family therapist, on “My Wife and Kids.” Stuart currently hosts a chat show on RadioTitans.com, “Name-Dropping with Jason Stuart.”
Jill Bryan is a loud but loveable woman who doesn’t mind telling you every crazy detail about her life. She will have you laughing and wondering if she’s been reading your (or your wife’s) journal. This married mother of two takes you on a happily disgruntled journey of life as a wife, mother and sarcastic superhero. From weight loss woes to the joy and pain of raising kids, she leaves the audience feeling like they’ve met her somewhere before. Just back from her second tour of performing for the US military stationed in Europe, Bryan is the best friend women wish they had and the wife men are scared to piss off!
Well, gang, that’s about it for this week.