Since the mid-1980s, Frank Marino has made a name for himself on the Las Vegas Strip, as one of the nation’s leading female impersonators. He says he has done approximately 26,000 live performances during his career. Most known for impersonating the late, great comic Joan Rivers, few in the history of Las Vegas can claim the success that Frank Marino has had.
Few can also talk about some of Las Vegas’s greatest headliners, but Frank was there with them and can tell you stories about Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liberace, among others. Reflecting on that time in the 1980s when he was on the Strip performing at the Riviera in An Evening at La Cage, he tells us this:
“My dream, I’ll be honest with you, is to do a documentary. Because when I first got here as a teenager, I didn’t realize, like meeting The Rat Pack, becoming friends with Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace, people like that, I didn’t realize how important that would be later on in history. And when I, even myself do a television show with Milton Berle, when I look back, it’s like a dream and oh my God, I was there.”
Fast forward more than 30 years, Frank Marino is now pairing up with Legends in Concert which is the longest running show on the Las Vegas Strip. Currently at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, the production has been around for more than 35 years. The female impersonator will be reprising his role as Joan Rivers. He has signed a two-year contract to be the shows lead host. At the end of 2019, Mr. Marino had a test run with Legends in Concert before the long-term contract was signed. He reflects back, saying how much he enjoyed working for someone else as opposed to putting on his own show and production:
“It was so nice to go in and just concentrate on what I had to do for my act as opposed to worrying about 35 different people. You know, ‘cause it was like, having 35 children. I could have a dancer that maybe twisted his ankle or an impersonator that maybe lost their wig and didn’t bring it in. I mean, there was so many things that could happen that it was just a relief not to have to worry about anything but myself.”
In recent years, we have seen female impersonators and drag queens receive greater national media coverage. One of the vehicles that has brought the art of drag into the mainstream, is RuPaul’s Drag Race. On January 30th, a show at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino titled RuPaul’s Drag Race Live will open and feature some of the TV show’s past contestants. As someone who has impersonated famous female celebrities for more than 30 years, on the Las Vegas Strip, arguably no one is more qualified to comment on if this show can work than Frank Marino. He told us this:
“I wish them much luck, but in this new landscape, I personally would not risk putting a brand new show in. … I have investments in like lots of other shows. I see what’s going on and everybody, I’m gonna say the entire Strip is basically down about 30 percent. So, it’s really taking a risk to educate the ticket brokers and the timeshares and everybody that pushes your ticket on the street. So to let them know about this show is gonna be difficult and the fact that RuPaul himself who’s head of this whole thing is not gonna be in it is going to put a strain on it. … So, I think they’re gonna have an uphill battle. But you know, if they do do well, it will be because RuPaul is such a genius.”
This period in Frank Marino’s life, with Legends in Concert, is a moment of redemption for him. There were many rumors and allegations relating to him, after his show Divas closed at The Linq on the Las Vegas Strip in 2018.
During a legal process related to Divas, Frank Marino says he was not able to tell his side of the story. This April 1st, people will have a chance to read his account of what happened in a new book titled Drags to Riche$. The book is his second biography and will be of interest to anyone who has followed his career in particular or the Las Vegas entertainment scene in general.
People will be able to purchase Frank Marino’s book, on his website www.frankmarino.com. Giving us a preview of the book, The Queen of Las Vegas tells us about the new autobiography and what he hopes people take away from it:
“That’s gonna tell a lot of the story of why I stopped the Divas show and why we were, had a little bit of a break. I didn’t change names to protect the innocent. So, it will be very interesting. … It’s a scandal that never happened. I had no involvement with and it was really a shame that it happened that way. But I finally get to tell my side of the story and that’s basically what I need to do. Whether it be therapy or just to fill in the blanks, that’s what it will be there for. … I hope it makes a lot of people say I’m sorry to be honest with you.”
Our CYInterview with Frank Marino is over 30 minutes. You can listen to it in its entirety to find out more about one of Las Vegas’s entertainment legends below:
Listen to the entire Frank Marino CYInterview: