By Charlene Dean
The Amargosa Opera House will become the house of comedy when impersonator Brian Hoffman takes the stage at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 and 18 as Red Skelton.
Skelton, who passed away in 1997, was a stand-up comedian of the 1940s through the early 70s. He was on radio, TV, made appearances and starred in movies and his popular character skits would be remembered by those 50 and over.
Hoffman, originally from South Dakota, was a Red Skelton fan even though Skelton left “the air waves” when Hoffman was 10.
Hoffman’s website redskeltoncomedyshow.com, states he got his start in comedy by participating in an amateur night in Ohio.
“One night after a show at Hilarities one of their regular couples came up to me and said the words that would eventually change me into what I do now. They said, ‘Do you know who you remind us of?… Red Skelton. You look and seem to act like him, you are very funny.’
“I’m very thankful that I was chosen to do this. I believe Red’s humor should live on forever in all of us.”
Hoffman performs three days per week at the Westin Las Vegas Hotel Casino.
There is a closer connection to Red Skelton at the opera house than a stage performance or two. He and “Queen of the Desert,” Marta Becket, were friends. Skelton often visited Becket there.
Opera house director Rich Regnell said, “She’s talked about her friendship with Red Skelton and his frequent trips to see her.”
Regnell said he was at the opera house hotel often enough for Becket to decorate a room for him.
“Room 22 is the Red Skelton room,” Regnell said. “It has clowns on the walls and a big ball. There are acrobats on the ceiling. Marta painted it herself.”
The painted walls would have been appreciated by Skelton as he was secretly an artist himself. His very collectible pieces sell for $80,000 and up.
Regnell said when Hoffman performs Jan. 11 and 18, he will stay in the room set aside for his namesake.
The Amargosa Opera House has hosted various types of performers since Becket retired. Not everyone is acceptable as entertainment for the historical landmark and must meet with Becket’s approval.
“Brian came out here just visiting Red Skelton’s haunts,” Regnell said. “I asked him if he’d like to meet Marta. Brian looks so much like Red Skelton and as I understand it, acts like him, too.
“When they met, Marta’s eyes lit up. Afterwards, she told me, ‘If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was Red.’”
Obviously, Becket approved the performances.
Regnell said the hotel is doing a brisk business and those wanting to spend the night should make reservations early. The cafe will be open all day on those dates.
Tickets are $25 per person. Doors for the shows will open at 6:45 p.m.