In his time, Dean Martin was the definition of cool. Even when flanked by legendary crooners Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., Dean still came out on top as the king of cool in an effortless way. Dean Martin impersonator Johnny Edwards is channelling that same cool when I call him, informing me “I'm sitting in my office in my house in Las Vegas. And I even have a cigar in the ashtray”.
It’s this cool Johnny will be bringing to the stage when he visits Australia for ‘The Rat Pack From Vegas’; a show which sees him joined by impersonators of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. as they recreate the songs, jokes, and drinking of a night at the famous Sands Hotel.
Although Dean Martin was always Johnny’s idol, Johnny actually got his start impersonating celebrities with another king, Elvis Presley.
“From an early part of my childhood, I was basically a natural-born ham when it came to performing in front of people. I wanted to go the next level: every singer I idolised, I wanted to try to be. At the time, Elvis’ movies were very inspirational when you’re a little, fat, Italian kid growing up in Brooklyn. He was just a good looking guy: always in perfectly tailored clothes, singing and playing the guitar, fighting karate, and winning the girl at the end of the movie. I said, 'this guy’s got something here'.”
In a strange twist of fate, Johnny began doing his impersonation “when Elvis passed away. It was on my 15th birthday. My gift from my parents was tickets to see him the following week at the National Colosseum in Long Island. But, I never got a chance to see him.”
As great as Elvis was, for Johnny it was always about Dean Martin. Johnny waited before he swapped his blue suede shoes for a martini glass so he could “put on a little more age and maturity”. The chance to finally become the man who entertained Johnny through over 20 years of television was a dream come true.
“Just watching him, all dressed up, this guy had everything going for him: he was good looking, he could sing, he could tell jokes, he had every celebrity as his friend. But he was such a regular guy – just a big kid in a tuxedo who just wanted to have fun, never took it too serious.”
Despite his love for Dean Martin and Elvis, Johnny cites two particular people for giving him his start in showbiz: his wife, and his cousin, pop-icon Cyndi Lauper.
“Growing up, having [Cyndi] as your older cousin, and basically having her mentor you when you’re a kid, she introduced me to being artistic, being creative, taking chances. So, when I had opportunity to give it a go, I thought, 'why not?' The best part about being a performer in Vegas is that every time she comes to town to perform, I have to tell her I can’t come to her show because I’m doing my own show, but I’ll see her afterwards. It’s kind of cool – I’m nowhere near what she’s done, but I’m right behind her, in a way.”
As our conversation concluded, Johnny channelled that Dean-Martin-cool one more time. “I hope to see you at the show. I’ll probably be the guy in the tuxedo you’re going to have to step over on the floor. Just in case, I’ll save you a spot next to me.”
TOUR DATESWednesday 16 November – The Glasshouse (Port Macquarie)
Thursday 17 November – Ballina RSL (New South Wales)
Friday 18 November – The Tivoli (Brisbane)
Saturday 19 November – Twin Towns (New South Wales)
Sunday 20 November – Norths Leagues (New South Wales)
Wednesday 23 November – Brothers Leagues Club (Cairns)
Thursday 24 November – Canberra Southern Cross Club
Friday 25 November – Lizotte's Restaurant (New South Wales)
Saturday 26 November – Revesby Workers Club (New South Wales)
Sunday 27 November – Wrest Point Casino (Hobart)
Wednesday 30 November – Cardinia Cultural Centre (Victoria)
Friday 2 December – The Palms At Crown (Victoria)
Saturday 3 December – Her Majesty's Theatre (Adelaide)
Sunday 4 December – Middleback Theatre (Adelaide)
Friday 9 December – Penrith Panthers (New South Wales)
Saturday 10 December – The Juniors (New South Wales)
Sunday 11 December – Mittagong RSL (New South Wales)
Wednesday 14 December – Anita's Theatre (New South Wales)
Friday 16 December – Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre (Western Australia)
Saturday 17 December – Astor Theare (Western Australia)