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Las Vegas Headliner Danny Gans


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Las Vegas Headliner Danny Gans

by Ashley Powers

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Las Vegas Headliner Danny Gans

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Multi-talented Entertainer Danny Gans, whose breadth of celebrity impressions made him a popular mainstay on the ever-changing Las Vegas Strip, died Friday, May 1, at his home in Henderson, Nevada. He was 52.

A family member called authorities at 3:44 a.m. and said Gans was struggling to breathe, Henderson police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and police said there were no signs of foul play. The Clark County coroner's office has not released a cause of death.

"One of the most unique human beings and entertainers in the world has been taken from us in an unexpected moment," casino mogul Steve Wynn, who hired Gans when he owned The Mirage and brought him to the 1,500-seat Encore Theater in February, said a statement.

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Vegas Star Danny Gans puts the final polish on his theatre sign

Wynn continued, ". . . We will all try to go on with our lives without our dear friend. At this moment it seems almost impossible." On Friday, the Encore marquee mourned: "Our friend forever, Danny Gans. 1956 - 2009."

Over a dozen years and at several hotel-casinos, Gans gained a following for whizzing through dozens of impressions -- including Frank Sinatra, Forrest Gump and brief sensation Hootie & the Blowfish. In 2002, The Times described his act as "impersonation not as satire but as a breathtaking achievement -- entertainers of the last 50 years put in a blender and presented as a mass-culture smoothie."

"I know, especially now in this economy, what it costs people to come see that show," Gans told CNN's Larry King in March. "And I feel obligated to give them the greatest night that they've ever seen." Relatively unknown outside Las Vegas, Gans was mourned by gaming titans and Strip legends such as Entertainer Wayne Newton.

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Las Vegas Entertainer Danny Gans

In addition, even U.S. Senate Majority Leader Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid reflected, "He was a talented performer who used his celebrity to give back to our community and those in need," Reid said in a statement. "Las Vegas is a better place because of Danny Gans."

Las Vegas residents hailed Gans for his array of charity work, including a children's golf program and an annual 5K run for a cancer foundation, the Associated Press reported. Friends were shocked that the health-conscious entertainer had died so suddenly.

Daniel Davies Gans was born in October 1956 in Torrance, California. His father, Sid, was a television salesman who had worked as a drummer and comedian in the Catskills. He and his wife, Alta, named their son Danny, Sid revealed recently, "because you can't be mad with a person when you say 'Danny.'"

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The many faces and voices of Danny Gans

As a youngster, Gans aspired to play third base for the Dodgers. Baseball took him to Mount San Antonio College in Walnut; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he met his wife, Julie; and, for a short time, the minor leagues. He also had a small role as Deke in the 1988 baseball film, "Bull Durham."

After a career-ending injury, he dedicated his life to Christianity and his career path to entertainment, honing impressions at corporate events. In 1995, his one-man show in New York, "Danny Gans on Broadway: The Man of Many Voices," closed after six performances.

He ended up in Las Vegas as the Stratosphere's resident headliner and steadily climbed the casino hierarchy. He jumped from the Rio to the Mirage, where he spent eight years in a showroom built specifically for him.

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Danny Gans performs one of his numerous

impressions during his act in Las Vegas

Gans then made the largest leap of all to Encore, Las Vegas Boulevard's newest luxury behemoth. Though the Strip morphed repeatedly, and some critics panned his show as predictable, Gans remained a family-friendly success.

"I think his death is going to leave a real gap in entertainment here," said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. "He really struck a nerve with people. There will eventually be someone else, but there won't be another Danny Gans."

Gans is survived by his wife and their children, Amy, Andrew and Emily. Information about services was not available.

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Las Vegas Headliner Danny Gans

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Entertainer Danny Gans

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas entertainer Danny Gans died accidentally because of a toxic reaction to a pain killer, the Clark County coroner released a statement today. Coroner Mike Murphy claimed an autopsy, toxicology and microscopic samples showed the 52-year-old Gans' death was not an issue of drug abuse.

Murphy said Gans had toxic levels of hydromorphone in his system when he died. The opiate drug is used to treat chronic pain, which Gans suffered from, Murphy explained. Gans had a toxic reaction to the drug because of an existing heart condition and a blood condition.

"Mr. Gans' health conditions placed him at greater risk for heart irregularities, and the hydromorphone was a factor in exacerbating those risks," Murphy said. Murphy said Gans had hypertensive cardiovascular disease, a condition that causes increased blood pressure and makes the heart work overtime, which left him more susceptible to heart irregularities.

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Entertainer Danny Gans

Gans also had a condition that caused his red blood cell count to go up, Murphy said. Polycythemia is the opposite of anemia. Police say Gans was found dead in bed at home in Henderson early May 1 after his wife, Julie, reported she couldn't rouse him.

At his death, his manager Chip Lightman described Gans as an energetic health nut who watched his diet, loved to perform and relished his involvement in Las Vegas-area fundraisers and philanthropic causes.

"I managed him 18 years and health was never an issue," Lightman told The Associated Press at the time. "Danny lived a good, clean Christian life. He was not a drug user. He would have a glass of wine because they say red wine is good for you. He didn't smoke."

Gans was a singer, actor and impressionist who spent more than a decade working his way to top billing on the Las Vegas Strip. His show brought impressions in rapid-fire succession

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