Q&A: Frank Marino
Two Las Vegas entertainment institutions are currently colliding at the Tropicana. Longtime headliner Frank Marino, famous for his impersonation of Joan Rivers and others in An Evening at La Cage at the Riviera and Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas at The Linq, is gearing up for a new show with a special guest appearance in Legends in Concert, the longest-running show on the Strip. Marino plays Rivers through Nov. 19 at Tropicana Las Vegas. I recently checked in with this unique Vegas icon to find out how this landmark collaboration was born and what tricks he has up his sleeves for the new show.
How did this run in Legends in Concert come about?
Believe it or not, we’ve been working on it for over 10 years, but every time we wanted to do it the timing wasn’t right. I was available, then they were available, and back and forth, and finally we figured it out. This is the longest-running show on the Strip and I’m the longest-running headliner, so the marriage is perfect. I’ve always been a huge fan and I’m constantly going to see Legends.
So you’ve seen it since it opened at the Tropicana?
Oh yes, I like to go a couple times every time the lineup changes. It’s really the same business I’m in, so I like to see how they do things, and it’s just a fun evening. Not to sound hokey, but we like to think of it as three legends together for the first time, the show, the hotel and me.
This is going to be the last time you perform as Joan Rivers. How difficult will it be for you to say goodbye to this iconic character?
I tried to take Joan out of my Divas show a few times and every time I took it out, people would write letters: “Oh, we love it. Just do a little bit.” I think Legends is where it needs to be. There’s actually a clip from 27 years ago on Joan Rivers’ show where I predicted this. She said, “What would you do if I died?” And I said, “I guess I would have to join Legends in Concert.” And she fell off her chair laughing. So, of course, I saved that clip. To me, she will always be the queen of comedy. All that said, it’s a great honor to close the character in Legends. And I think after 35 years I’ve actually made a name for myself, so in the next show, I’ll be the star I’m impersonating.
What can you tell us about your new Divas Las Vegas show?
It will be the same type of show I’m always doing, in a smaller cabaret venue in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. I don’t want to say where yet. My plan is to announce it on my birthday, the day after my last night in Legends, Nov. 20. I’m all about Legends right now and what I’m really excited about is going in stress-free and only having to worry about my own act. But my new Divas show is going to be something new that has not been done before and I’m excited about that. It’s so out of the box. When people see it they’re going to ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
You’ve been performing here for more than 30 years. What’s it like to be a pioneering performer of drag, an art form that is surging lately?
Unfortunately, I see a lot of people trying to do it but then they close. It really takes a lot more than a pretty face to make it work; you need backing and a talented cast and a lot of different things working together. I’ve been very lucky to be able to gather these things over 35 years. You’ve got to put your time in and take your knocks. It’s a tough business.