By Bobbie Katz
Three men -- an older gentleman, an L.A. entertainment reporter, and a Baby Boomer -- are standing side by side at stalls in the men’s room in a theater after having seen a show.
The older gentleman to the reporter’s left says out loud, “Man, he still has it!”
The Baby Boomer on the reporter’s right adds, “Does he ever! I want whatever he’s using that keeps him that young and energetic!”
To which the reporter and the two gentleman, as well as a couple of guys in line behind them, say in unison: “We all do!”
While that off-the-cuff male repartee definitely has a “punch,” if you’re waiting for the joke, there is none. Rather, these guys, strangers in the night who are letting it all hang out conversationally in the john, have just been “Humperdincked” by the wallop that the iconic artist, who will appear at The Smith Center in Las Vegas on March 19th, still packs on stage time after time, adding to the steady stream of rave reviews he receives from all over the globe.
In fact, the conversation above actually took place and was taken from L.A. Daily Times reporter Steve Smith’s review of Engelbert’s performance at the 2000-seat packed house at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills last month. Smith also wrote, “At age 79, Engelbert still brings it. At a time when even big name stars have been known to employ lip-syncing, Engelbert sang live and he did it for a full hour and 40 minutes…utilizing a voice that remains as strong and on-pitch as ever and with just the right amount of vibrato — a remarkable feat for a man his age.”
Ok, our inquiring minds want to know, too -- how does he do it?
“Show business is in my blood,” explains the handsome, dynamic entertainer, who looks at least 20 years younger than his chronological years and whose beautiful and powerful voice, magnetic presence, and energy just don’t quit. “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. “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. While maintaining the standards, I change my show every year and also here, there, and everywhere and add new things.”
Still performing 90 concerts a year all over the globe, as well as doing corporate and private dates, Engelbert, who long ago was given the moniker “the King of Romance” by the press and the public, has a new CD out called “Runaway Country.” The album takes him back to his roots when his first hit, January 1967’s “Release Me,” which was of that genre, gave him a global career and put him in the Guinness Book of World Records, the song selling 127,000 records a day at its peak. Today, with more than 150 million records sold (including 63 gold and 24 platinum albums) and a career that has never waned over the last 49 years, he has never allowed himself to rest on his laurels and is always exploring new avenues and looking towards the future.
“I push the message of love; what’s better than that?” the down-to-earth star maintains. “Love makes the world go round. I stay in the romantic vein -- romance is the blood of excitement. While I’ve learned how to do my business, I never say I’m perfect. I never stop learning -- every show is a learning experience for me. I pick little things up and store the good pieces of my show and utilize them in my next performance.
“There are so many things involved in being a performer – music, lighting, body language, facial expression,” he continues. “I sing with honesty and really feel the lyrics. The audience and I are one through my communicating the emotion of the song to them – it’s hitting the back wall. The honesty comes through a performer’s eyes.”
To anyone observing, what makes Engelbert even more of an anomaly is his unique “rock star” appeal and the magic that exists between him and his audiences. Females, males, young and old alike, rush the stage and stand 10-deep or better for the his last few numbers of his show, watching him from up close, taking pictures, hoping to shake his hand or to catch one of the red handkerchiefs he traditionally throws out at the end of his performance. Although this adulation has been going on for the last five decades, it is something that Engelbert chooses not to delve into.
“Analyzing a performance in terms of what magic is in it is not good,” he expresses. ”If you start to analyze your success, you will lose it. I’m lucky enough to have people come to the stage – it’s almost a cult thing and something that’s happened for years and years and years. My fans are the sparkplugs of my career. They are my cheerleaders.”
Surprisingly, the down-to-earth star, who says that he loves to make people smile, admits that he is genuinely amazed by how much he has achieved in his life.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I have been a dreamer,” he reveals. “I used to get in trouble in school for looking out the window. I suffered a lot getting my dreams to fruition. But all my creative work steams from a dream – I wake up and write things down. Dreams are the blueprint of reality.”
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 so that I can maintain what I’m doing,” he responds.
Which, besides much more, will include keeping men and women alike flush with excitement in familiar after-the-show gathering spots all over the world.
This article appears courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.