Photo by Anthony Mair
They’re giggling. They’ve been giggling for 35 years.
Either they’re escapees from what was once colloquially called the Giggle Factory or they’re Kimberly Glennie and Beth Lano. Both longtime stalkers of Las Vegas stages. One still a-pluckin’ (a harp, that is). One still a-blowin’ (a horn, that is). Both still … giggling.
“Oooh, do you remember …” says Lano (she’s the horn player) to Glennie (she’s the harpist), then whispers in her ear, this time to a full chortle. Turning back to this reporter, Lano recalls a shared road trip to a recording session years ago in which an ill Lano, bolting from the car as Glennie pulled to the side of the road … well, let’s just say Lano learned not to upchuck in a stiff crosswind.
Don’t let their sophisticated status as anchors of the Las Vegas Philharmonic—opening its first full season at The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall on Oct. 20—mislead you. Reveling in each other’s company, they’re frisky teenagers—even if they’re teenagers in their 50s.
How high school is it, after all, when 54-year-old Lano totes her jammies to 56-year-old Glennie’s home every Christmas for a yuletide sleepover?
“We both have a way of looking at the world and we’re kind of balls-to-the-wall kind of girls, ya know what I mean?” Glennie says.
“We’ve seen each other through relationships, marriages, divorces, raising children, even though I don’t have children,” Lano says. “I claim Kim’s kids, they’re like surrogate daughters to me, I love them very much. They know they can call me if they need someone—or if there’s something they don’t want their mom to know!”
Busy babes, these two, as the French horn-blowing Lano is often the only female in a five-person Philharmonic horn section, while Glennie rules as sole harp strummer. Beyond those classical boundaries, they’ve contributed to movie and TV soundtracks, prowled the pits of production shows and backed up a cadre of Vegas headliners.
Only a fraction of their marquee-name employers: Alicia Keys, Cher, Faith Hill, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti. (Add some warbler named Barbra Streisand when Lano plays Babs’ Nov. 2 gig at the MGM Grand.)
“We’ve had a lot of firsts together: We both started playing with Johnny Mathis around the same time,” says Glennie, whose conversational rhythm with Lano is like a comfy hubby and wife, zeroing in on each other’s thoughts, completing each other’s sentences. “What blows [Mathis] away is not only that it’s been so long, but the fact we’re still so young,” says Lano, as Glennie chimes in: “It’s like we’re his children! We’re grown up, and he feels old.”
Off the Philharmonic clock, Glennie, a harp instructor at UNLV and CSN, performs regularly at Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Longtime multitasker Lano—well, what doesn’t she do? Standouts on her résumé: local radio personality (now on KNPR-FM, and formerly with fellow FM stations KSTJ, KJUL and KQOL) and ex-TV show host (KTNV Channel 13’s Political Insiders). However, that’s when she’s not toiling as a publicist, voice actor, talent booker and crisis management consultant.
Best buds since they connected at Indiana University in the late-1970s, they discovered in each other not only laughter and camaraderie, but strength and solidarity.
“In the late-’70s, early-’80s, there were lots of women in the music business, but it was a tough business and you had to be tough yourself,” Lano says. “The guys loved us but that doesn’t mean we’re pushovers. We banded together, often being the only two women in orchestras we played in.”
Lured to Las Vegas in 1982, they were hired together for Wayne Newton’s band. “We loved playing with Wayne, it was glorious, but we had some issues during the Wayne years that we very much hung together on,” Glennie says. “Sometimes everybody is looking to save a dime and we have certain responses that keep us from getting thrown under the bus.”
Prod them for juicy backstage insights on famous names and you get near-unanimous praise, given that they still perform—and book gigs—in this town. Loose lips sink long careers. Even when a negative memory surfaces, so does a measure of discretion. “There’s this one big name, a really big deal in town, and he just runs his musicians down,” Glennie says. “Runs them through a sausage factory.”
Who? Who? Drop one teensy-weensy name! … Nope. Lady’s too much of a, well, lady.
Compared to the va-va-voom of Strip showrooms, hanging with the Philharmonic was initially a secondary gig for the pair. “We did the orchestra when we had time,” Glennie says. “We thought, it was the least-paying thing, you’re lucky to have us, blah, blah, blah. But as the years have gone by, that’s very much shifted because the orchestra is a different ball game, much more prominent.”
Reflecting on their decades-long, through-thick-and-thin alliance, Lano notes: “It’s not an act. Our friendship is so strong that we are really strong together. She’s always there for me. When I got a divorce, she pulled my butt out of the fire.”
Tossing in a here-here!, Glennie admits that “there have been strains and stresses, but we got past those and we’re in the golden years of our friendship. It’s a lot deeper. This 30-year knowledge of somebody is as meaningful as it gets.”
Even onstage—in the midst of the music—this tight twosome manages to communicate. “We can talk to each other with our eyes,” Glennie says.
Scan the Reynolds Hall stage. See the brunette harpist and the blond horn player? That’s them. Hey, ladies!
Conductor’s baton is heading toward the downbeat. … Horn up, Beth. … Fingers poised, Kim. … Shhh. No giggling.
3 Concerts not to miss
Opening night for the Las Vegas Philharmonic season at The Smith Center should also interest cinephiles on Oct. 20. In the indie film Downtown Express, guest violinist Philippe Quint plays … a violinist. Elsewhere on the Philharmonic docket, we recommend these departures from the musical norm. (See full schedule at LVPhil.org or TheSmithCenter.com.):
• Phil folks will accompany a screening of Charlie Chaplin playing his iconic Little Tramp character in the silent classic City Lights, performing the score composed by Chaplin himself. (Nov. 3)
• How’s this for novel casting? Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh will narrate Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. Don’t Zap(pos) that one from your schedule. (Nov. 17)
• How much more Christmas-y can it get when the Mayors Goodman—Oscar and Carolyn—narrate A Very Vegas Holiday, with guest artists including Jersey Boys’ Travis Cloer. (Dec. 8)