GORDIE BROWN: ‘BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS'
Elvis Presley’s pinkie ring stole the stole during Saturday’s “Conversations with Norm” at Myron’s Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
My guest was Gordie Brown and at one point in the show he left the stage and went into the audience to show it up close and personal. (That’s it on the pinkie finger of my assistant, Joanne Downey).You can see it clearly in photos and video during his Hilton years. Gordie bought it in 1999.
He shared some fabulous memories. Among them: He toured with Celine Dion for eight months after she and her husband Rene Angelil saw him perform on David Letterman in 2008. Gordie said Celine’s a huge Elvis fan and a very funny person in her own right.
Being raised in Montreal -- not far from Celine-- he talked about his childhood hero, legendary goalie Ken Dryden, No. 29 and reminded us that Dryden was also Marc-Andre Fleury's hero (hence No. 29 as his jersey number). Gordie named one of his sons Dryden and the other Presley.
Gordie performed some of his favorite material for about 25 minutes to wild applause. He received major career boosts from Paul Anka and Rich Little, who were also from Ottawa (where Gordie was a popular political cartoonist before he decided to pursue his passion: entertainment.
He headed for Las Vegas in 1987 via Nashville and Memphis (to see Graceland). He had so much stuff in his car he decided to sleep in it under a bridge in Nashville rather than risk having someone breaking into his car. During his side trip, he bought a karaoke machine for $500 to rehearse with since he couldn't to take his band to Vegas.
His first gig was opening for Melinda the First Lady of Magic. He spent a number of years in Reno as a headliner and when he landed back in Las Vegas more than a decade ago, he headlined at the Golden Nugget, where Anka had performed (and Sinatra too).
At 17 or 18, he appeared in the movie "Hey Babe" with Vegas legend Buddy Hackett. He brought donuts and coffee to Buddy on the first day and Buddy thought was the coffee boy. He was mopping floors and cleaning toilets for an aircraft company at age 20. He would draw cartoons of an unpopular boss (without signing it) and they were hugely popular among the staff. One day a "hard-ass guy" took him aside and said "what are you doing here, wasting your talents. You should be doing political cartoons." Gordie said he "relentlessly" pursued that and it paid off in a big way.
But he loved the thrill of performing and decided "you have to be brave enough to follow your dreams."