Part I of Jen Bush’s exposé on legendary cabaret icon, Brian Alejandro
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless you’re Brian Alejandro with some Vegas vignettes that will ring the bell on your slot machine! You can hear his velvet voice as he croons the tunes at Pangea on August 27th. He was entertaining and schmoozing during the heyday of Vegas and boy does he have some stories!
Brian Alejandro is the consummate charismatic entertainer with a captivating stage presence. He wants to use his artistic gifts to bring joy to his audiences. “My greatest joy as an artist is watching people laugh, smile and look happy. No matter what is going on in their lives I want them to forget about their troubles and become fully engaged in enjoying themselves. If I am able to do that, then it makes me very happy.”
Mr. Alejandro literally sailed into the arts. He had amazing teachers and mentors who guided him along his successful path. He is a multi-instrumentalist who is proficient in many aspects of the performing arts. “My family came to the U.S, on the QEII and there was a fancy dress party and I was dressed as a sailor. At the time I didn’t know there was also a talent portion of the night I participated in but I had no clue what I was going to do, so I just told a joke and everyone laughed. It was at that moment that I began to contemplate pursuing a career in show business, but I wasn’t sure what my forte was. My aunt was a classical pianist and she started teaching me how to play the piano, although I wasn’t very good at it, I did learn how to read music. I later learned to play the clarinet in junior high school under the guidance of Mr. Fishkind, and quickly became first seat 1st clarinet, which was a big deal. He is still alive today and I am always thanking him for encouraging me to play in the band (Clarinet and the tuba). At the same time I began singing with different choruses in the NYC area and landed a solo for a Bicentennial Performance that was to be held at Carnegie Hall. As for dance, that came to me under the recommendation of my Gymnastics coach and I started studying ballet and for many years the Katherine Dunham technique performing all around the NY area. It was then that I revisited singing on a more professional level.”
Throughout his career, Mr. Alejandro has met and worked with some very impressive artists. “Indeed I have met many great entertainers. The most surprising person I met was Mitzi Gaynor. Her being a dancer gave me a lot of tips and ideas and few contacts. Meeting Joan Collins several times was memorable because we both came from England, the best advice she gave me was “always have a proper pen to sign an autograph.”
“I had a great opportunity to work with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. I danced back up and sang back up with the Vandellas. I couldn’t believe it. It was so surreal because it just happened by chance. Throughout the years Lois Reeves who has been a Vandella since 1967 has coached me, helped me develop my voice, my movements and how to understand the feel of a song. She also taught me that not everything you do everyone is going to like, so just give it your best and move on to the next gig. She has given me a lot of life lessons and moral support. We speak on the phone at least once a month.”
Mr. Alejandro’s most powerful moment on stage was not Dancing in the Street. It was dancing for the group who made that song famous. “My most powerful moment on stage: That would definitely be when I danced backup for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and Martha Reeves when she needed dancers for a special event in NYC. I never danced so hard and so fast in my life!!! I also can’t forget another special moment which was being called to dance on stage with Sarah Dash as her “Sinner Man ” which was a big hit for her. After that, whenever she sang it, I was asked to dance.”
The candy man can…and he did touch the life of Mr. Alejandro along with some other notable people in the industry. “That is a very tricky question because so many people have played a part in touching my life. I’d have to say Sammy Davis Jr. for taking a chance on me and teaching me things about show business that I would not have learned without having a mentor. Miss Gloria Lynne who sang the 1965 hit “I Wish you Love, for teaching me how to take a song and make it yours, and to follow my instinct and pick songs that work for my voice; she later gave me lessons and became a mentor as well. My dance teachers Eugene James and Joan Peters Dunham Master Teacher) taught me discipline, to be on time (15-30 minutes before a rehearsal), to be prepared, to be patient and to work hard. Believe it or not Lana Turner, she always spoke about having your look together whether you were on or off the set. She also said that people want to see fantasy and glam, the same is true for men. The minute you set foot on the stage the entertainment begins.”