Utica’s Neil Diamond Steals Stage in Vegas


Utica’s Neil Diamond steals stage in Vegas: Singer once sold life insurance
Sunday, September 23, 2007; Posted: 07:25 AM

Sep 23, 2007 (Detroit Free Press – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)

From Sunday through Thursday, Jay White transforms into his alter ego and entertains as Neil Diamond. For more than 25 years, White has fine-tuned his Neil Diamond tribute performance, which originally began at a supper club in Sterling Heights. It’s now led him to the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where he is a headliner. White began performing as a hobby while he sold life insurance during the day. White and wife, Pam, lived in Utica for seven years before the family headed to Las Vegas in 1989. They have three children, Jason, 29, Neil, 24, and Stephanie, 21. White is working on scheduling a date to perform at a Detroit Red Wings game in the upcoming season.

QUESTION: How did your career as a performer begin?
ANSWER: In college, a friend of mine was auditioning for a local play and she said, ‘Why don’t you come and watch?’ I ended up going and they had an opening for the chorus. I thought, ‘This is a lot of fun.’ It was something fun I could do at night. … Before I got married, I ran into a friend at a party and he was in an a cappella group and they were doing stuff from the late 1950s and early 1960s. He asked if I wanted to be the fourth voice. The more I did it, the more fun I had. I never thought it would be a career.

Q: Why did you decide to perform Neil Diamond’s songs?
A: I went to an audition to be the lead in a Top 40 production and a guy told me I sounded a lot like Neil Diamond. The more I heard myself, the more I understood it. I was already a fan of Neil Diamond. In 1978, I went to his concert at Pine Knob.

Q: When did you start performing his songs on a regular basis? A: I was performing about two or three of Neil’s songs a night at Mr. F’s in Sterling Heights when the club owner had heard about a guy performing Kenny Rogers songs. The club owner wanted to put together an impersonator show. Six months later I was Neil Diamond, the other guy was Kenny Rogers and we had Elvis. There were three of us, and we were the only acts. … I ended up doing it for five years.

Q: How did you end up in Las Vegas?
A: The “Legends in Concert,” producer John Stuart heard about my performance, and I was brought out to Las Vegas for an audition. It was 1989, and he gave me a 1-year contract. My wife and I decided to move to Vegas because it was good money and a good opportunity. After working with Legends for 10 years at the Imperial Palace … I began working on a full-length Diamond show and performed at parties before opening at the Riviera Hotel and Casino.

Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: One thing that I don’t think most people get is applause at the end of a performance. … It feels good because you give enjoyment to other people. One of the fun things is … some times I do corporate shows and people there didn’t know who the entertainment would be. So when I come out they think I am Neil Diamond; they scream and try to jump on the stage.

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