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The entertainment “icon” shares his story through others’ voices—for now.
Greg London, master impressionist, actor, comedian, musician, and star of ICONMAN, one of the longest-running shows in the history of Sammy’s Showroom at Harrah’s Reno, is fast becoming just that—an icon.
ICONMAN is a comedic story about an entertainer who wants to find his own voice but has other voices inside him. London’s wife, Monika, says the show was created around London’s talents for impersonation, singing, and playing the piano, trumpet, and harmonica.
A loosely autobiographical satire, ICONMAN is about London’s rise to fame—embellished and made larger than life. Take, for example, the show’s opening sequence featuring a young London doing musical impressions in his bedroom, much to the chagrin of his eccentric British mother. “We were tripping along this path in the entertainment world, and I woke up one day and said, ‘This is really funny,’” Monika says. “The whole premise is really endearing.”
London’s show-business odyssey is on the upswing: Harrah’s Reno has renewed ICONMAN through November 28. London has entertained there since July 2007. Last fall, London made an appearance as a doo-wop singer in the movie “The Dukes.” And this spring, his cover of the classic ’70s ballad “Everything I Own,” originally recorded by Bread, peaked at No. 5 on Friday Morning Quarterback’s adult contemporary Top-40 list. It also landed on the Mediabase AC chart at No. 25 and Radio & Record’s AC chart at No. 26, earning it the title of highest charting new artist single and independent label release of 2009. In June, London released a follow-up single, a remake of The Little River Band’s “Cool Change,” which also rose to Top-40 status on the charts.
London’s success has come at no small cost. Usually, the London family resides wherever he is performing, but right now, Monika and their daughter, Jessika, live in the family’s 16th-century chateau in France, and London and their son, Jason, live in Reno. London spends Mondays and Tuesdays in Los Angeles, recording songs for an upcoming album release. Wednesdays through Sundays he performs his musical mimicry in Sammy’s Showroom. “Greg is a positively charged human being,” Monika says. “He doesn’t have down time.” When he’s not performing, London and son join the rest of the family at the chateau.
Despite owning a home in Europe, London is ardently patriotic. In 2002, he released his CD of traditional American melodies, “Song of America,” and personally delivered 125,000 copies to military bases across the United States, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “I wanted to go myself to tell them we are proud of them,” he says.
To his delight, London was invited to sing the national anthem at the Reno Aces Ballpark in May. “The opportunity to share that amazing piece of music with so many people was incredible,” Monika says. London also sang “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch on July 4 at the Reno ballpark.
London’s love of all things American applies to Nevada as well. “The terrain here is so terrific—what a great setup. Mountains, lakes, flatlands, and deserts…there’s something here that’s just magical. Out of all the places in the world I’ve been—London, France, Switzerland—this is just as beautiful. I like the lifestyle. What can’t I do here?”
He admits Reno surprised him. “I thought I’d have to change my show, but there’s a sophistication [here],” he says, gesturing toward the black chandeliers overhead at the Chocolate Bar at The Summit Reno mall. “I love Reno. It’s fabulous. One minute it can be raining, the next it’s snowing. Then the sun is shining. Lake Tahoe is the most beautiful lake in the world.”
London is most impressed with how Nevada, Reno in particular, pulls together in a crisis. “Reno takes care of its own,” he says. He is very involved in children’s charities and will perform at the Midnight Garden Gala benefit in the fall for Reno’s Addi and Cassi Fund to fight Niemann Pick Type C, or children’s Alzheimer’s. The fund is named for the twin girls living in Reno who are afflicted with the disease. London made a personal appearance at the Give Hope Foundation’s June 19 fundraiser in Reno, and he has chosen Children’s Miracle Network to benefit from his album sales.
The irony for London is that the quest to find his own voice has so far been through the voice of others—yet it is his talent for impersonating others that sets him apart. Take, for example, his goose bump-raising rendition of Sammy Davis Jr.’s “I’ve Gotta Be Me.” While he writes his own music, he does not use his own songs in ICONMAN. “My songs are not big enough [yet],” he says. London’s story is hurtling toward its apex: stardom through his own voice. “The whole thing is like a train,” he says. “And I’m just holding on.”