Comedy impressionist Gordie Brown doesn’t do the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia in his fast-paced, one-man variety show. But he should probably consider adding the late front man to his repertoire, if only for one line from one song.
There’s a seven-word catch phrase in the band’s best-known hit single, “Truckin’” that pretty much sums up the circuitous journey the 50-year-old Canadian has taken to achieve success as an entertainer: What a long strange trip it’s been.
Brown, a native of Montreal, was a political cartoonist for an Ottawa daily newspaper when be began moonlighting in comedy clubs nearly 30 years ago with spot-on impressions of stars like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.
He fantasized about hitting it big in Las Vegas, but he knew that wasn’t going to happen if he was living in Ottawa.
So, in true Vegas fashion, he rolled the dice. At 25, and after winning a talent contest, he drew one final cartoon for the newspaper — a self-portrait of him leaving town. Then he set out for Las Vegas armed with his raw talent and chutzpah.
He struggled for a couple of years, and the story could have just as easily ended here had it not been for a chance meeting one night with fellow Canadian Paul Anka.
The legendary singer and songwriter, who has helped launch the careers of other Canadian-born artists — most notably singer Michel Bublé — was one of Brown’s idols and became his mentor.
“I met him in the dressing room at the Golden Nugget,” Brown said during a 2011 radio interview. “Little did I realize that his dressing room would one day become my dressing room.”
But that’s getting a little ahead of the story.
Brown began opening shows for Anka and another fellow Canadian, Rich Little, who at the time was the gold standard for comedy impressionists.
Pretty soon, Brown was opening for Barry Manilow, Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld.
Emboldened and encouraged by his progress, Brown rolled the dice again and relocated to Los Angeles to try and make it as a comedian on a national level, not just in Las Vegas.
He landed spots on television shows like An Evening at The Improv and Hollywood Squares and caught the attention of Harrah’s casino properties in Reno and Lake Tahoe, which signed him to develop a one-man show for its Reno property.
The show was such a hit it earned him a one-way ticket back to where he came from. He returned to Las Vegas to headline at the Venetian and Planet Hollywood hotels before being asked to open for chanteuse Celine Dion during her world tour.
When the tour ended, Brown signed on with the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas and has been there ever since as the casino’s resident headliner. That association brings him to the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City to perform in The Showroom now through July 8.
Brown is often compared to Las Vegas headliner Danny Gans, also a comedy impressionist who was in the middle of a long-term headliner deal with the Mirage Hotel when he died three years ago at age 52 from an adverse reaction to a prescribed medication.
“Danny opened the door for people like myself,” Brown said. “I loved him, and to even be mentioned in the same breath (as Gans) is something I really appreciate.”
Any notion that the Golden Nugget intended to sit back in the shadows and allow Revel to bask in the limelight alone is one that will be thoroughly dispelled this weekend.
Golden Nugget encouraged its guests, through a variety of construction-related promotions, to be part of the sweeping makeover that actually began a few weeks before the casino’s parent company, hospitality industry giant Landry’s Inc., purchased the former Trump Marina for $38 million.
A one-off U.S. concert, Wood's first-ever solo show in the United States, smoked from start to finish Saturday night in Atlantic City.
How does it feel — to be a Rolling Stone? “Feels great,” says Wood. “It’s an unbelievable thing that’s been going on for this length of time and we’re certainly covering new ground by being the first rock and roll band to be 50 years old.”
Promotions and other special offers at the Golden Nugget.