Monday, June 24, 2024

Gladys Knight, Returns to Las Vegas Strip

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud
The new Gladys Knight Theatre inside the Tropicana hotel is full to capacity. As the audience waits for the curtains to part for the legendary name etched on the marquee. The lights dim and an electric voice enters from the side of the stage. It belongs to Craig Knight — Gladys’ nephew and general manager of local radio station KCEP 88.1 FM — who is setting the stage with energy, and preparing the crowd for what he calls the “Gladys Knight experience.”

As he exits, the curtains open to display a beautiful, multilevel stage occupied by an explosive-sounding full band. The spotlight gleams on center stage, where Gladys Knight appears, greeting her audience in song.
Gladys Knight — along with the Pips, perhaps the most famous backup singers in history — is a veritable showbiz icon, internationally recognized for such timeless songs as “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” “The Way We Were” and “Love Overboard.”

Having been a performer since the age of 4 in her hometown of Atlanta, Knight is ecstatic about returning to the Las Vegas Strip.

“Wow! I love what I do as a performer and I do it for the people who enjoy my music,” she said. “It feels good to be back on the Strip, and I am so honored to have the showroom theater in the Tropicana hotel named in my honor — it has been a dream of mine forever. I have been performing in Las Vegas since 1966, and I have always considered Vegas as the entertainment mecca of the world. All the years I have been performing here with such greats as Sammy Davis Jr. — this is the first time in all those years we have been given the honor of having a showroom theater in ‘our’ name. For a very long time African-American entertainers have been overlooked in this industry. Nevertheless, we have a visionary in Mr. Alex Yemenidijan, CEO of the Tropicana hotel, who is appreciative of entertainment and knows what he wants his property to represent. People are entertainment-friendly here in Las Vegas, and you don’t have to necessarily have a hit record to perform. People just want a great show.”

Knight is not alone at the Tropicana. She is accompanied by her brother, Bubba, a onetime Pip who gives a dance-heavy solo performance that breathes new life into such songs such as the Prince classic “Baby I’m a Star.” a regular presence on the Strip at the Flamingo hotel — an engagement that, to some, ended abruptly. “I could have stayed longer at the Flamingo when I was doing a show there, but I started to feel guilty about my other performing obligations,” Knight explained. “I routinely perform at other casinos in Atlantic City and at some of the Indian reservations. I had to put those shows on hold to perform at the Flamingo hotel. Usually, casino properties cooperate with one another when an artist is working, and they did. But a lot of time had passed, and the other casinos were getting impatient. Some of the entertainment directors for those other properties kept asking when I would come back to perform, and I also had two unfinished albums that my record company wanted me to complete. So I had so many things on the table that I left undone when I was performing at the Flamingo, and after a while I had to make a decision. I realized I couldn’t do all things, so I left the Flamingo and went back on the road and finished my albums.”

With many women today challenged by the growing demands of their multitasked lives, Knight offers a special message to mothers faced with obstacles and challenges. “I would tell any mother who is faced with hard times and challenges to look at me,” she said. “I have been singing for over 60-something years, and we have to be patient. We have always been a resilient people. Just be careful not to get caught up in that other stuff. When you get depressed, don’t let anybody send you to the drug thing. Stay there with your children. My mother told me when I was very young, when I started my family, ‘When you start having children your life is not your own anymore. So, that dance you thought you were going to — forget about it.’ We can’t do everything. We have to realize that when we have families, we have certain responsibilities. You can’t dress like your children. There are so many things I want to say, and that is why I want to start my school to talk to young girls. I want that so badly, and it is my next step for Las Vegas.”

Knight also revealed that her namesake theater is being considered to serve as a meeting place for young women to showcase their talents and participate in developmental forums.
In conversation, Knight exudes passion and charisma. Her success, she says, is nestled in strong faith and grace.
“It is all about my God and my savior,” she said. “I allow Him to lead me and guide me. Sometimes when you get to talking about Him, some people get uncomfortable. I do a gospel medley in my show at the Tropicana, and when I first did a gospel tribute in some of my other shows I performed at other hotels, the hotel executives didn’t like it. I said, ‘You know what? If I can’t take (God) with me, then I can’t go either.’ My show at the Tropicana embraces the gospel medley and it is the part of the show I receive the most comments about. Some people don’t realize that people are hungry for it.”


One Response to “Gladys Knight, Returns to Las Vegas Strip”
  1. Hello.This article was really fascinating, especially since I was looking for thoughts on this matter last Friday.

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