May 18, 2009 12:00 PM

To prep for a new headlining stint at the Encore theater in Las Vegas last February, Danny Gans, the Man of Many Voices, got to work on President Obama. “He talks with pauses—it’s a wonderful voice,” Gans, whose repertoire ran from Elvis to Al Pacino, said at the time. “It doesn’t get any better. [The Encore] is my final stop.”

Tragically, he was right. On May 1 the modern-day Rich Little died in his sleep. Two days earlier the seemingly healthy 52-year-old was in top form for his sold-out show. At press time the cause of death was unknown, but authorities do not suspect foul play. Says Robin Leach: “We lost a piece of Vegas history.”

Once a minor-league baseball player from Torrance, Calif., Gans suffered a career-ending injury in 1978. So he took his casual dugout impressions on the road, playing corporate events and Broadway before Vegas beckoned. Offstage, the married dad of three hosted charity golf tournaments. “He was one of the most admired guys in Vegas,” says Regis Philbin. Adds Gans’s pal Celine Dion: “Not only was he the best in his field, but he was such a kind and loving person.”

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