Dawdling at the Flamingo Showroom … ten minutes till curtain-up on the 30th anniversary performance of Legends in Concert … fiddling with my phone … minding my own beeswax. … “Can I tell you an interesting story, sir?”
“Sure,” I tell the soft-spoken gentleman seated to my left.
“In this show? The one who plays Michael Jackson? He’s my son,” says the man who introduces himself as Junior Brantley. “And I used to play Little Richard.”
Dads and sons. Pride ever connects them. Dads yearn to feel it. Sons want to earn it. Especially sons succeeding dads in the family business, whether it’s running the corner grocery store or performing in the impersonator show at the corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.
Once, the elder Brantley, a veteran Vegas jazz/blues pianist, did his Good-Golly-Miss-Molly act at this hotel in American Superstars. It closed in 2011. Now he sits in the audience while his son, Damian, commands the same attention in the same hotel—ferociously.
Exploding onto the stage after Rod Stewart and Britney Spears impersonators, Damian—decked out in the signature militaristic Jax uniform—sends an electric charge through the crowd. Moonwalking to claps, hoots and hollers. Leading some dancing zombies in a killer “Thriller.” Pulling off blazing moves while re-creating “Billie Jean” from the landmark Motown 25 special that rocketed Jackson into the pantheon of legends.
The son is on fire.
Six rows back, gazing up at him, Dad does not join the screaming, the shouting, the whooping around him. He wears a small, unshakable smile. Clearly, this isn’t a man given to grand emotional displays. A half-grin tells you everything.
I lean in to comment on the fans’ appreciation of his son’s talent. “He is pretty good, isn’t he?” Junior Brantley says. “Most important thing is he’s got a job and he’s out of the house!” Giggling, he pats my arm—he’s joking, but only because a joke keeps his pride from turning into bragging.
Outside the showroom, as fans crowd around performers to pose for pictures, I jostle through the throng surrounding Damian Brantley. “I sat next to your dad,” I shout over the din. His eyes open wide.
“He’s very proud of you.”
Damian’s smile reaches both ears. His face crinkles. His eyes moisten.
“Thank you so much for telling me that, brother,” he says, squeezing my hand in both of his, as if I had given him a precious gem.
A dad’s pride is, indeed, priceless.
STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Extensions galore … OK, just two: Over at Vinyl at the Hard Rock, that bastion of comic gentility, Andrew Dice Clay, has extended his original March-through-May run for another 28 shows, carrying him through September 1. Meanwhile, at Planet Hollywood’s Peepshow, Coco Austin has, well, extended her extension. Debuting last December with a contract that took her through March, the Ice Loves Coco reality-show star re-upped through July, and now has re-re-upped, also until … September 1.
Curiously coincidental, don’cha think? … On September 2, perhaps Austin and Clay will unveil a brand-new show: Dice Loves Coco. Then its spinoff: Ice Hates Dice.
What Legends would you like to see in Concert? Tell us in the comments or email your nominees to Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.