Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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Columnist Joe Delaney: A tale of two singers

HUMPERDINCK I was an obscure 19th century composer, best known for his opera, "Hansel and Gretel," popular with children, still performed every Christmas in Germany just as "The Nutcracker" is the U.S. perennial Yuletide attraction. ... His mentor, the composer Richard Wagner. ... Engelbert Humperdinck II was born Arnold George Dorsey in Madras, India.

The first Tom Jones was a fictional wayward young English lad, central figure in Henry Fielding's best-selling novel. ... That Tom Jones cut a wide swath through the nubile young maidens within the covers of the book. ... The second Tom Jones was born George Woodward in Pontypridd, Wales.

The young entrepreneur Gordon Mills mentored and re-christened both the latter-day Humperdinck and the more recent Tom Jones before they made their LV debuts. ... Jones came first, at the Flamingo; Humperdinck, shortly after, at the Riviera.

In Las Vegas

Tom Jones was the more primitive, aggressive. ... Humperdinck was more romantic, a throwback to an earlier, less aggressive era. ... Jones was demanding; Humperdinck a much less physical presence. ... Jones sang and kept talk at a minimum. ... Engelbert was prone to tell a story, do a joke or indulge in a few well-known impressions.

Each was a huge success here, first time out. ... It took a while to accept Enge's penchant for humor although the first impressions -- Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis Jr. -- were right on the mark, excellent satire.

Recent additions to Humperdinck's list of impressions include a brilliant take-off on Tom Jones but the piece de resistance, best appreciated by its subject, Julio Iglesias, a good friend, is a classic of the impressionist's art, and hilarious.

Down to date

Tom Jones was just here in his bailiwick, the MGM Grand Hollywood Theatre, Aug. 14-27. ... Humperdinck opened Thursday night for a seven-day stint in Bally's Celebrity Room. ... Each works LV three or four times a year. ... Jones and Humperdinck went their separate ways early, even before mentor Gordon Mills' untimely demise.

Reviewing Tom Jones' recent MGM opening, we noted that he sang 15 "closing songs" in one hour and 15 minutes, a bravura performance. ... He still comes to sing with minimal talk. ... Engelbert prefers a much more intimate relationship with his audience.

Rumors have suggested that the duo might appear together in concert. ... Nothing concrete so far, although a recent chat with Enge indicated the matter was up to Tom. ... They do have one other thing in common today; each has his son as his manager, a la Tony Bennett.

Sad story

Alexander Mednikov and his wife Fatima, both born into circus families, once performed a top high wire act. ... They visited Las Vegas and stayed at the home of a friend. ... During the night, Alexander tripped over a step in the dark, fell, and has been in a coma ever since. ... More details on this when we see you here next Thursday.

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