Sherman James might not be onstage when he arrives for work at 6 each morning at MGM Grand’s Skylofts, but he’s still the star of the show.
He’s been a concierge at the 51-loft hotel within a hotel since it opened in 2005, and he brings a different kind of experience than most employees of the ultra-luxury guest boutique: Long before he was a concierge, the sprightly 62-year-old had a career singing professionally and touring with groups like the Platters, the Coasters and the Imperials.
From the age of 18, James, who sings tenor, baritone and falsetto, spent a good part of each year on the road. Touring with revues such as Dick Clark’s Rock and Roll Revival and backing singers from Aretha Franklin to Loretta Lynn, he learned to be versatile and gained an appreciation of the world beyond the stage.
“It’s got to be the adventure of seeing other countries,” he says. “Just seeing the lifestyles, you can learn a lot about what we take for granted here. Everyone should travel outside their home country at least once, just to see how different things can be.”
More importantly, show business gave him insight into human behavior.
“You see people at their meanest and at their sweetest. You learn pretty quickly how to read people, how to anticipate their reactions.”
James, who still sings on cruise ships every now and then (he describes it as his “working vacation”), is always volunteering to do a little bit more, whether it’s finding the perfect spot for dinner for Skylofts guests or acting as an impromptu tour guide when his ship drops anchor. In fact, sometimes the two come together.
“There was one time when I was showing a group of people from the ship around Puerta Plata,” he says, recalls a cruise stopover at the Dominican resort city. “When suddenly someone yelled, ‘Sherman, what are you doing here?’ It was one of my Skylofts guests. He invited me and my group up to his suite to say hello.”
The singer decided to settle down in Las Vegas in 1997 so he could spend more time with his daughters. He sang at New York-New York’s Motown Café and Roxy’s Diner at the Stratosphere before moving over to MGM Grand in an (officially) nonperforming capacity.
For James, the job is an adventure; Skyloft rooms start at $1,500 a night, and guests arrive expecting their wishes to be fulfilled. Each morning, James checks the profiles of arriving guests and scans his e-mail for special requests. No matter how difficult, these are taken care of before the guest arrives. He might be making show reservations, arranging a ride in one of Skylofts’ chauffeur-driven Maybachs, or planning a special meal that’s waiting in the suite. Then there are the really special requests, which could be for a certain brand of shampoo in the shower or a culinary delicacy not found on the Strip.
“If it’s legal and they want it,” he says, “we’ll get it.”
There are limits, though. One guest inspired by The Hangover requested a live chicken for his loft. Request denied, though James pointed out that the Skylofts kitchen, located just steps from his room, would be happy to prepare any chicken recipe he could name.
“Sherman is extremely professional,” says Tim Kelly, vice president of hotel operations for MGM Grand. “He has an impeccable style and he contributes enormously to the five-star service offered at Skylofts. … More than a few times, the first question from our guests on arrival is, ‘Is Sherman working today?’”
James loves working with people both on the job and in his free time. He regularly does volunteer work, feeding the homeless with his church and participating in Skylofts’ Adopt-a-Family program, in which employees and the company donate money and Christmas presents to a Valley family in need.
“This hotel gives a lot,” James says. “It makes me feel good that I’m working for a place that gives back.”