Impersonator Bobby Barrett nails Sinatra on the screws
His mother's due date was Dec. 12, the same day his idol, Francis Albert Sinatra, was born.
In another twist of fate, Bobby Barrett's debut on the famed Las Vegas Strip -- at the now-defunct Brown Derby at the MGM Grand -- took place the last night of Sinatra's life. Close to six years later, Barrett, the longest-running Sinatra stylist in Vegas, is still performing his tribute to the Chairman of the Board in the city he and his Rat Pack made famous.
"I've had offers from other cities, but Vegas has been good to me," said Barrett, a native of Massachusetts who has lived in Sin City for close to six years. "Vegas and Frank are so synonymous. (It's special) because he loved it here so much. Him and Elvis built it. He made Vegas Vegas."
Barrett, who has close to 300 songs in his repertoire, now performs from 8 p.m. to midnight, Mondays through Thursdays, at the Casa Di Amore Italian restaurant on East Tropicana Ave., a short cab ride from his old stomping grounds at the MGM Grand, located less than two miles away.
Barrett's schedule gives him plenty of time to work on his golf game, and he usually plays two or three times a week. A 15-handicap, the Summerlin resident's favorite courses include the Siena Golf Club, TPC Canyons, the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort and the Angel Park Golf Club.
While Barrett, 43, has loved Sinatra since his ears could hear The Voice, he didn't become passionate about golf until his mid-20s.
"I started watching it on TV and me and my friends started playing it on Nintendo for money," he said. "Then we said 'let's try it' and we went to the driving range and started playing. After the first round, I was hooked."
Barrett was hooked on Ole Blue Eyes, a former golfer himself, since birth.
"I grew up listening to him. My mother was a fanatic, but I think I was more of a fanatic," he said. "She said I used to go crazy when I was listening to him."
After overcoming a severe case of stage fright, Barrett, began singing karaoke at a local chinese restaurant, where he was approached by the producers of Joey & Maria's comedy Italian wedding.
"They asked me to do a part in their show, and I ended up being the bride's brother, best man, and emcee," he said. "I was petrified at first, but when the shell came off and I got over my fear, I loved it. I'm pretty natural at improv, so it was easy for me."
Barrett played the part of a Sinatra wannabe, which he admitted wasn't much of a stretch, and sang five songs a night during the dinner show.
After a few years of doing the show in Boston, he went with the cast to Vegas, where they did a month-long stretch at the now-defunct Italian-American club on East Sahara Ave.
Their stay was extended by a couple hotels and Barrett was then approached by a local restaurant owner to perform on his own. Soon thereafter, Barrett was offered a job at the Brown Derby and he's been singing Sinatra in Vegas ever since, resigning from his job at the post office after 14 years.
"I thought I'd stay here for a month and that would be it, but I never left," Barrett said. "I got a good reputation and things worked out. A lot of good things have happened to me out here, a lot of things I'd never dreamed of before."
Noted entertainers Tom Jones and Tony Curtis became regulars at the Brown Derby, and Barrett even performed at Curtis' wedding reception.
"I can actually call them friends," Barrett said. "Tony Curtis was the best. He told me (Sinatra and my) personalities were very similar, and he loves the way I sing.
"He was really good friends with Frank. He was one of the Rat Pack, even though he was not on stage. He was real young. Those guys were in their 40s and he was 28. Frank called him Boinie, because his real name was Bernie."
Barrett, whose successful run ended at the Brown Derby after a new restaurant took its place, has performed for a plethora of celebrities, including Joe Pesci, on his birthday, Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, Gregory Peck, Robert Goulet, who he sang with, and others, including none other than Frank Sinatra Jr.
"Frank Jr. came in one night with 20 people after one of his shows, and I was told he enjoyed it, although I didn't get a chance to talk to him," he said.
The male cast of The Sopranos certainly enjoyed the show. After Barrett sang during an autograph session with the actors, he was summoned to perform in a private room for the cast, at the behest of James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano himself.
"All of them were sitting around a big table full of pasta and meatballs, and they all cheered when I came in, and they made me sing," he said. "I didn't have any music, so Gandolfini told them to get a boom box and I put my CD in and sang."
After a five-year run at the Brown Derby, Barrett -- the 2003 celebrity pick for best lounge performer in the Best of Las Vegas poll in the Las Vegas Review-Journal -- bounced around to a few different venues, including Treasure Island, Bally's and the Tropicana.
Barrett, who has performed in 42 states the past six years, and is booked years in advance for weddings and corporate events (568-9000), enjoys the atmosphere at Casa Di Amore, where his regulars include Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers.
"It's great. There are a lot of locals and people who have been following me since the MGM there," he said. "It's a great place -- it's a joint -- and they have great food and a great atmosphere."
Casa Di Amore (433-4967), which serves dinner 24 hours a day, is a place straight out of Goodfellas, with Barrett's Sinatra stylings the perfect complement to a veal parmesan or linguine with clams dish.
While Sinatra recorded 1,414 songs and more than 70 original albums -- not to mention earning credits in 63 films and winning two Academy Awards -- Barrett said New York, New York and My Way remain his two most requested songs.
Barrett said being able to do it his way on the links is one of the lures of the game.
"I like being in the open air by myself. The game challenges yourself," he said. "You totally have to rely on yourself."
February 9, 2004