By Bobbie Katz
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and thousands of people planning to spend it in Las Vegas just can’t get over The Hump.
Nor will they have to. That’s because we’re referring to Engelbert Hunperdinck, the legendary artist long ago given the moniker “The King of Romance,” who will be appearing in the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in the city on Sunday, February 15th. The perfect Valentine’s Day weekend “date,” he’s handsome, sexy, and has a great personality. But can he “cook?” Audiences will see for themselves that after 48 years in show business, he still sizzles on the stage as he serves up romantic reverie -- both before and “After The Lovin’.”
“Show business is in my blood,” says the youthful, dynamic entertainer, talking about what keeps him going and going and going. “I love to entertain. I love to sing. I love portraying something on stage. I am a ‘thespian of song’ – I love that expression. I get fired up when I walk out on stage. The audience charges my batteries and sometimes I overflow with energy when the crowd is overly enthusiastic. And no matter how tired I am, the audience can pick me right up.
“After all these years, I haven’t lost my enthusiasm,” he adds. “Even when I’m at home, I’ll call up Jeff, my arranger, and tell him that we’ve got to fix this and fix that – we’re always fixing to get things right and perfect the show. I am a perfectionist. It takes thought on a daily basis and time to keep the show fresh. There are a lot of repeat people in my audiences. I work on the show on a gradual basis – my shows have been all over the world and they contain the kind of music that people want to hear from me. I change my show here, there, and everywhere and add new things. I just put in a contemporary song that was a massive hit by a singer in England. It’s called ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and I do it with my interpretation. People like it so much that I’m being asked to record it.”
Live performance and an international touring schedule aside, the iconic international superstar couldn’t have more on his plate at the moment. His latest and first-ever duets CD (his 80th), Engelbert Calling, was released in the U.S. on September 30, 2014 and he will soon be unveiling on TV his new upscale jewelry line by Zales Jewelers and a documentary about his life along with doing national TV appearances, including a major interview on the Hallmark network.
In addition, he enjoyed a number one hit in his native England over the holidays as a major voice on a collaborative recording of The Farm’s anti-war anthem, “All Together Now,” to benefit the Red Cross/Red Crescent (the record, consisting of a host of big names in England, beat out Iron Maiden for the number one spot) and had an audience with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace stemming from his role in another British charity that he is a longtime member of.
Engelbert credits Engelbert Calling with giving him new avenues to explore. Renowned for his powerful and versatile vocal ability and possessing a reputation for never resting on his laurels or “phoning in” a performance, the respect that he has garnered from his peers in the industry is reflected in the list of 22 major names on the CD, which was recorded in London, New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Canada, France, and South America.
The artists cross every musical genre from pop to country, rock, soul, classics, and Latin and include Sir Elton John, Gene Simmons, Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Neil Sedaka, Wynonna Judd, Johnny Mathis, Dionne Warwick, Luis Fonsi, Johnny Reid, Charles Aznavour, Il Divo and more. The album’s success in England, where it was first released, even spawned a hit single, “Since I Lost My Baby” with Sir Cliff Richard, which charted at Number 3 and stayed there for several weeks.
“This album gave me the satisfaction, for the first time in my life, to be able to work with legendary artists that I have looked up to and admired all these years,” Engelbert humbly states. “Gene Simmons has been very instrumental in promoting me – he always puts my name in his Tweets. And Elton John has been absolutely magnificent. He has agreed to do anything he’s asked to do to promote the CD. It will take a year of work to promote the album and get it out there the way I want to.”
Part of that promotion, of course, happens during his touring and while he has sailed through nearly five decades with his career never waning, the business today, for almost every entertainer, has become a mass of one-nighters. Engelbert often finds himself on his tour bus or in an airplane traveling between different cities, countries, or time zones following his show.
“The thing about it is that it’s hard to keep my diet on the road – I eat a lot of fast food – and getting proper rest or exercising is also difficult because I’m traveling all night and sleeping late the next day,” he admits. “I do enjoy visiting nice restaurants -- I like Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food and oysters and seafood. I’d love to do Vegas for a couple of months at a time. The city has changed but it stills has its charm. People come here from all over the world and being an international performer, my music is all over the world so there would always be an audience.
“While being in a different place every night has changed some things, my routine before a show hasn’t changed,” he adds. “I do a sound check and a rehearsal then I have an early dinner, which is my sustenance and gives me the energy to explode on stage. Afterwards, I’ll take a 20- to 30- minute nap and then I’ll shower, during which I’ll hum to warm up my vocal chords, and following that, I’ll put on makeup and get dressed. Then I walk out on stage.”
Engelbert says that he is still hard on himself if he is not satisfied with his performance, which he admits is usually due to a sound problem or an issue with the performance of someone in his band. He feels that the most important thing when one is a good artist is to have a good manager and a good agent because they determine the quality of the places an entertainer plays and the things he does.
“Gordon Mills created me from the git-go,” Engelbert acknowledges. “He was my one good manager with maybe one other, Alan Margulies, coming later on. Now I’m being managed by my son Scott, who is doing one heck of a job. He is responsible for a lot of the things that are happening in my life. He got me my record company, Ok! Good Records, and I’m thankful to them for what they are doing for my recording career.”
Surprisingly, the down-to-earth star admits that he is genuinely amazed by how much he has achieved in his life. He comes from a large family (he is the youngest male and second youngest of 10 children) and expresses that he is so glad that his parents, who were very proud of his world-renowned status, got to see his success before they left this world. As for how he has kept his feet on the ground through all his fame, accomplishments, and honors, he relates that when he walks out on stage, he is a celebrity, but offstage he is “a very down-to-earth homebody.”
“I like to play golf and tennis and go water-skiing,” Engelbert relates. “And I have a gym in my home. I like to watch Seinfeld before I go to sleep. It puts my mind at ease and the humor allows me to go to bed with a smile on my face. I also enjoy doing crossword puzzles and writing original quotes and poetry. I do take pride in my appearance – I’ve been coloring my hair since the age of 20 because I can’t afford to walk out on stage with gray hair. I don’t want to look in the mirror and see someone who’s growing old. I want to see someone who is not changing – I want to look at myself the way I did years ago.”
What, then, is the one thing that he wants in life after all is said and done?
“Good health,” he responds. “I don’t wish for any material wealth. I just wish for good health so that I can maintain what I’m doing.”
Valentine’s Day and every day, it’s love that makes Engelbert’s world go round.
This article appears by courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.