Friday, May 1, 2009

Danny Gans On His Own Mortality And Legacy

I've just reissued the March 2, 2006 interview on "The Strip" podcast with the late impressionist Danny Gans, which you can hear by clicking here or download by right-clicking on here. It's a now-poignant half-hour that ranges from his views on his critics to his health regimen to his memories of how his ticket prices escalated over the years.

But the part that was so interesting was this exchange in which he explained what he wanted to be remembered for and why he didn't mind not being more famous. Here's the transcript of what he said, responding to that very question:

No, it doesn’t [bother me] because it is by choice. For someone listening, that might be a hard thing to understand, but I have times, if I elaborated on it, you’d think I’d be making up all the things that have been offered my way from sitcoms to motion pictures to talk shows. I don’t want that. I’m a family guy and I really treasure my privacy. So it is more important for me to be home with my wife and kids and be able to play golf and be with my friends than be on the cover of TV Guide? I really love doing my show but I don’t step out and say, "OK, I’m going to do that sitcom and that movie and that thing." It’s going to take away from the time I have with my kids while they’re growing up.

A conscious decision that Garth Brooks made several years ago to pull back so he could be with his children, I made that decision 15 years ago when no one knew who I was and I stepped into an opportunity where I was offered a one-man show on Broadway for a limited engagement for three weeks. I did the three weeks and I was offered a year on Broadway. I had already started doing some of the TV stuff and I turned down a lot of it but since I was in New York I said I’d do it so I did “Regis and Kathie Lee” and I didn’t like it. I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like the attention that goes along with it.

I had friends in the business who said, "You have no idea how lucky you are to be able to do what you do and not have to worry when I go outside because there’s going to be paparazzi every place. Hold on to that because you’re going to regret the fact that 50 years from now, when you’re about ready to go on to the next side, you look back at your life and you can say, 'I had a fulfilling life because I had a successful marriage and had raised three wonderful children and I had a career that I loved to go to every day or my marriage didn’t last and I don’t even know what the heck happened to my kids but hey, man, I was on three sitcoms and I did 17 films, people are gonna remember me forever now.'

What’s more important? Well, to me, honestly, from the bottom of my heart, it’s the family and being able to get up every morning and living my life as opposed to being the guy on the cover of People magazine. I have absolutely zero interest in that.

Here’s just one example. Just before I came to the Mirage, Aaron Spelling was a friend of mine and he said, "Look you gotta do a sitcom for me." I said, "Aaron, I don’t have the time, what am I gonna do?" He said, "Look, sign a contract that you won’t do another sitcom for anyone except for me." I said, "OK, I’ll do that for you." So we signed this contract and he gives me a ridiculous amount of money just to not do anything. And he writes the treatment, we start getting a casting call together the whole thing. He wants to do a pilot. I said, “Aaron, let’s really talk about this. Let’s talk about the day in the life of a sitcom actor. You can’t film it in Vegas so I’ll have to go to L.A.” He said, "Oh, we’ll private jet you up and back and I guarantee you it will make it on the air, it’ll have at least 13 episodes, I’ll put millions of dollars behind this, everyone will know who you are, you’ll be on the cover of every magazine, it’ll be huge, believe me, it’ll be a huge hit."

To make a long story short, Steve, a typical day would have been on Monday morning fly to L.A., do a table reading for four hours. Then I would rehearse, jump on a plane, fly to Las Vegas, take a cab to the Mirage, do the sound check, do the show, by the time I get home it’s 2 o’clock. … Do that five days a week, then on Friday, which would be my day off in Vegas, fly to Los Angeles and film two shows in L.A., then they have the weekend off but I have to go work at the Mirage on Sat or Sunday. And then Monday, it starts all over again. In other words, what is your motivation here. If I was single, I would do that, but I’m not.

Well, Mr. Gans, if you are measuring your life based on your devotion to your family, you were certainly a success. I bet you were a heckuva dad.


willie watters said...

Thanks, Steve.

BobbyG said...


Terribly sad today.

mike_ch said...

He talked about a sitcom deal he didn't agree to in an interview in 2006? That's a bit odd, since two years later you wrote:
I asked if that incident soured some in the company on Gans, whose career has hit a bizarre glass ceiling in Vegas. (Seriously, how is it that he's never had a sitcom? An HBO special? A guest role on "The Simpsons"? This lack of broader success has strained the Gans-Lightman link in the past.)


There's a perfectly reasonable explanation... I have a terrible terrible memory. When I wrote that I didn't remember that he had discussed that with me. But very good eye!!!

Susanna said...


I read your article on Danny, and the last lines you wrote were, "Well, Mr. Gans, if you are measuring your life based on your devotion to your family, you were certainly a success. I bet you were a heckuva dad."

He was.

I had the pleasure of being involved in the Gans family for awhile as I cared for two of his and Julie's children in the early 90's; Amy, a bright kindergartener at the time, and Andrew, who was an expert toddler. Emily wasn't yet a twinkle in her daddy's eye.
They were still living in La Canada, and I had the privilege of seeing what a true marriage partnership entailed. They were respectful, loving and patient with each other, and fantastic parents! Danny so loved those children, and everything he did was for his family - his wife, children, parents, sister - he believed he had a gift from God and tried every day to use that gift the ways he thought the Lord and his family would be proud of, and in the ways in which he could take care of all of them. He was devoted to them, driven for them, and so wise.
When I was ready to become a mother, they both offered me a way to live my life as secure and blessed as theirs was.
The two of them were amazing together, and I'm heartbroken for them.

All the articles since his death speak of his legacy being his tremendous talent, but I believe his greatest legacy became the love he gave to all his family, and the way he lived his life with God.