Beginning in 1934, and continuing until his death in 1946, it was Major Bowes introducing hopeful entertainers to the public via the radio airwaves. Two years later, The Original Amateur Hour hosting duties were taken over by Bowes director/talent scout, Ted Mack. Moving from radio to television in 1952, the Original Amateur Hour lasted until the late 1960s. While from 1948 to ’58, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts also showcased up and coming performers. Thus began the public’s fascination with listening and watching virtual unknowns reach for the stars.
Hundreds of talented and not so talented performers were seen and heard on both the radio and television versions of these early types of programs, with a few going on to fame and fortune - among them Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, the McGuire Sisters, Connie Francis, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Steve Lawrence, Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, Paul Winchell, Teresa Brewer, and Las Vegas’ own, Gladys Knight - although it’s interesting to note that both Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly auditioned for the Godfrey show but failed to make the cut.
In the 1980s and into the ‘90s, it was Star Search, hosted by Ed McMahon, that captured the attention of TV viewers. In the last few years, the monster hit American Idol has opened the door for a handful of additional televised talent competitions - Fame; Last Comic Standing; American Juniors; a newer, but not better, version of Star Search hosted by Arsenio Hall; and America’s Most Talented Kid. More than likely, most of these recent copycat shows will not be back for a second season and only time will tell how long the winners and runners-up of these secondary shows’ fame will last.
The media exposure garnered by someone seeking a career in show business, whether bad or good, can change the life of the participant - maybe for minutes, maybe for a lifetime. Take Joey Gian, for example. In 1985, the handsome and charming Gian was a competitor in the Male Vocalist category during the third season of Star Search. He did well for himself, winning five weeks in a row and winding up in the semi-finals but it was singer Kenny James who won the big money. Gian has not been idle. Over the past 19 years, he has accumulated an impressive list of credits.
As an actor, Joey Gian, or Joseph Gian or Joe Gian as he is sometimes billed, has appeared in more than a hundred television episodes. Among his credits are roles on the FOX network’s police drama, DEA-Special Task Force, and Aaron Spelling‘s Beverly Hills 90210. Joey was a series regular on Stephen Bochco‘s critically acclaimed ABC “dramedy,” Hooperman, starring the late John Ritter; and portrayed mysterious detective Tom Ryan on CBS’s long-running nighttime drama, Knots Landing. There were also guest-starring parts in L.A. Law, Lois & Clark, Highway to Heaven, It’s a Living and Pamela Anderson’s V.I.P.
Combing film and music, some years back, Gian appeared in two Diana Ross music videos - Eaten Alive, produced by Michael Jackson, and Experience, produced by Barry Gibb. Miss Ross specifically chose Gian to play her leading man in those videos. Movie roles also dot this multi-talented man’s resume, with 1988’s Mad About You, directed by Las Vegan Lorenzo Doumani, among them. In MGM’s Return to Me, a 2000 motion picture featuring writer/director Bonnie Hunt along with David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Robert Loggia, Jim Belushi and Carroll O’Connor, in a bit of typecasting, Joey Gian plays himself. Not only does he sing in the film, two of his original songs, What If I Loved You and Here I Am, are included in the movie and on the soundtrack. As a songwriter, Gian is very pleased with the fact that in Music From the Movies, Hal Leonard, who also authored The Best Songs Ever, included What If I Loved You among 46 favorites from contemporary films. Gian joins a diverse and impressive list of tunesmiths in the book, including Charles Aznavour, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Marvin Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand, Smokey Robinson, Sting, Dianne Warren, John Williams, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder and even Johann Sebastian Bach…not bad company to be in.
Although acting may provide fulfillment and a paycheck, the Florida native’s real love and interest has always been music. As a singer, he has performed in nightclubs and showrooms from coast-to-coast, among them House of Blues, RIX, The Bitter End, Chasen’s, the Roxy, Whiskey, Harrah’s at Lake Tahoe and the Stone Pony. Only months after the death of the man many consider to be the world’s greatest entertainer, Gian was invited to participate in a Las Vegas tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. Gian shared the Riviera stage with Liza Minnelli, and had the opportunity to meet Davis’s widow, Altovise. He has also worked with Don Rickles, jazz legend Little Jimmy Scott, Bob Newhart and, one of his idols, the late Ray Charles. In July of 2001, Gian was invited to sing at Milton Berle’s last birthday party. Berle died eight months later at the age of 93. You can also hear Gian’s voice singing the praises of products such as Cadillac, Miller Beer, Taco Bell, Budweiser and Old Spice Body Spray and Cool Contact in national television commercials. Last October, Gian made a guest appearance on ABC’s “Life With Bonnie.” Portraying cruise ship entertainer Joey Knuckles, Gian had the opportunity to sing as well as act with the show’s star Bonnie Hunt and veteran entertainer, Ruta Lee. In addition to Hunt, performers including Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli, Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Diana Ross and Aaron Spelling sing this man’s praises.
About a year ago, Joey Gian changed zip codes, leaving behind his Southern California 901-something for Southern Nevada. Desiring to devote more time to his singing, Gian took a one night a week engagement at the popular Bootlegger Bistro. He used those months to acclimate his voice to the desert climate and get acquainted with local musicians. The schedule allowed Gian the freedom to leave Las Vegas for acting and other singing jobs, among them his annual appearance at Los Angeles’s San Gennaro Festival.
This young man loves a great song, especially songs with lyrics that speak of faith, love and romance. To affirm that fact, he joins performers including Debby Boone, Megan Mullally, Gretchen Wyler, Linda Purl, David Hyde Pierce and Joely Fisher on the 1997 recording, Cole Porter: A Musical Toast. Describing himself as a soul singer, Gian favors mostly jazz, blues and standards. He offers an eclectic mix of tunes such as Time After Time, (If It Takes Forever) I Will Wait For You, The Way You Look Tonight, What a Wonderful World, At Last, You Don’t Know Me, I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), Over the Rainbow, She’s Out of My Life, Hallelujah I Love Her So, Straighten Up And Fly Right, A Kiss To Build a Dream On, Buona Sera/When You’re Smiling, Come Rain or Come Shine, Fly Me To the Moon and Everybody Loves Somebody. If gently coaxed, audience members can usually get Gian to perform some of his self-penned material. Among his favorite song stylists are Louis Armstrong, who Gian calls a messenger and “the ambassador of love,” Ella Fitzgerald, blues legend Big Joe Turner, Etta James, and Las Vegas icon Louis Prima. Gian also enjoys listening to the music of a number of more contemporary artists and groups, among them Linkin Park, Van Morrison, Andrea Bocelli, Evanescence and Norah Jones.
Just as Gian’s taste in listening music runs the gamut from decade-to-decade and style-to-style, so does the music he performs. He dances between the tunes of yesterday and today, tipping his hat to the great singers and songwriters of the last 70 years. It is his fondest hope that, one day, it will be his songs that inspire the next generation as they step into the spotlight.
Joey Gian has succeeded in parlaying his big break of almost two decades ago into a an ongoing singing and acting career. On a recent evening at a Las Vegas supper club, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Tony and Grammy award-winning blues singer Ruth Brown announced, “Joey is a wonderful singer and storyteller. He knows how to work a lyric.“ Visit the Stardust Resort & Casino’s Starlight Lounge and hear for yourself.