The lights dim. Rock music blasts. Slides of Mary Hart—Entertainment Tonight’s effervescent hostess—flash on an overhead screen as offstage voices chant, “Hot legs! Hot legs!” Smoke fills the stage then clears to reveal Hart with her back to the audience, flanked by two dancers. She turns. She smiles. Costumed in a slinky white dress designed to show off those heralded gams, she percolates across the stage, belting out a rock song called “Smokin’.” And, she is smoking. “I am your entertainment tonight!” she exclaims to the cheering Las Vegas crowd. A star is born?
Not so fast. The best has yet to come: Hart in sequins doing a conga. Hart discussing her musical influences (“Elvis and the Beatles”). Hart going into the audience to stroke a bald man’s head while sitting on his lap. “This was her dream. To do a show like this. And it’s come true,” says stand-up comic David Brenner, who shares the bill in the sold-out, 500-seat Cabaret room of the Golden Nugget casino.
It’s no secret that the 35-year-old former Miss South Dakota has been trying to prove to the world that she can do more than cross her legs and read showbiz items. Two years ago she sang and danced on the Emmys. She even walked a tightrope on Circus of the Stars. Lately she’s been showing up at L.A. sporting events to sing the national anthem. But when her manager, star-maker Jay (Farrah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers) Bernstein, could not match her to a sitcom, Hart dropped him to be on her own. In five years, she says, “I’d like to have a feature film or two under my belt, some kind of a series, maybe even a Broadway show.”
But for now let the glitter ball spin. Let the backup dancers hoist Hart high, her arms extended outward in triumphant glee. This is the new Mary Hart, who’ll be playing Atlantic City this July with Don Rickles. Belt ’em, Mary. Whaddya rate her, Leonard, a 10?