Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas hits a high note with 1,000th show at Imperial Palace
By Susan Stapleton
Photos by Christopher DeVargas
Frank Marino wants Vegas visitors to know that Divas Las Vegas may be a female impersonation show featuring the music and the songstresses who captivated the world, but each walks in a man and leaves the same.
“In my home, there’s not an eyelash or a sequin,” Marino says. “It’s just a job. It’s a Middle-America show.”
Just last month, the show celebrated its 1,000 performance at Imperial Palace, a feat topped only by the 20,000-plus shows Marino has performed as Joan Rivers in Las Vegas over the past 27 years. That means more than 350,000 costume changes for the diva, who typically dons 17 different dresses every night with Bob Mackie the designer of choice. “That means I’ve taken my clothes off more than Lindsay Lohan,” Marino quips. The show is always evolving, and there have been some new additions—Rihanna and Katy Perry, to name two—but Marino is the bedrock, the diva that keeps on diva-ing. “We’ve always been the first show to have the new rising star,” Marino says. “We were the first to have Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Rihanna, the latest being Katy Perry.”
That doesn’t mean Divas Las Vegas is just a show for those who want to tap their feet to the rising stars. Liza Minnelli, Cher, Donna Summer, Celine Dion, Bette Midler, Diana Ross and Dolly Parton make the show, giving fans a shot at experiencing a range of musical talents. Each character is dressed to the nines, looking uncannily like the original. And, Marino says, 90 percent of the real divas have come in to see their likeness onstage. Dolly Parton’s impersonator will come out in the crowd to greet fans, while Beyoncé is a jokey poke at the real diva. In all, nine drag queens make an appearance throughout the night, with Marino popping in between acts with quips and introductions.
Some characters have become stronger after their real-life counterparts’ passing. “It gets really tough when you lose a character in real life,” Marino says of singers such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse. “It’s really tough to perform. It could go either way.”
Marino earlier this year took his impersonation of Joan Rivers out of Divas Las Vegas, only to have fans clamor to have the raunchy comedian back in the show. The host says that now he still kicks off the show as Rivers and returns between each act in a different over-the-top dress with a head of blond hair and glamorous shoes. “I got so many letters, I had to put her back in the show.”
With all the fame that has come Marino’s way—two stars on the Las Vegas Walk of Fame, a street named in his honor (Frank Marino Drive), his own official day on Feb. 1, a key to the city, his own betting wheel at Imperial Palace, a building wrap on the Strip and being named Entertainer of the Century—he still has one goal.
“I want a wax figure in Madame Tussauds. If they don’t do it soon I’ll do my own and put it in the lobby.”
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