There are those who lament the golden era of Vegas, a time when tuxedos, gowns and roses were the norm. Visitors sipped champagne while enjoying the lush entertainment of glamorous singers and musicians. While times have changed, the timeless elegance of Whitney Phoenix and his music remain.
For more than two decades, Mr. Phoenix has been creating memories at Petrossian Bar and Lounge. Situated just off Bellagio's main lobby near the famed Fiori di Como ceiling, this refined gathering spot welcomes new arrivals and serves as a gateway to the gaming floor. And with Whitney on the stunning one-of-a-kind Steinway grand, atmospheric music is elevated to world-class entertainment.
You might think that fans of Pitbull and Calvin Harris might not have an appreciation for the stylings of a piano maestro, but that is far from the case. Whenever Mr. Phoenix plays, young and old alike gather to listen. Crowds form all around the circular lounge, often lining up six deep. Even bustling travelers stop to relish what they're hearing, applauding after each song, medley and concerto.
With his silver hair and custom tuxedo jackets, Mr. Phoenix presents a striking figure. His poised elegance and gentle smile are even more intriguing when you learn of his military background in the Marines. He also served as an instructor in the Armed Forces School of Music. Expressive and engaging, the maestro inhabits each piece, giving it life and heart in a way that few artists can.
Much like fellow prodigy Elton John, Phoenix began formal instruction at the age of eight. Four years later he was performing solo concerts on his way to a lifetime of success and noteworthy achievements. He became popular in Las Vegas through regular appearances at Imperial Palace (now LINQ Hotel), Caesars Palace and MGM Grand.
Marianne LeMoine Phoenix has been Whitney's wife and collaborator for 24 years. The two met in 1993 when she hired him to do vocal arrangements. "I ran out of money to pay him, so we made other arrangements," she jokes. An accomplished vocalist and comedienne, Marianne's current production 50 Pounds From Stardom is a labor of love for which Whitney serves as musical director.
A former back-up singer for Dolly Parton, Debbie Reynolds and one very special night with Diana Ross, Marianne laughs about the days when she hung out with Wayne Newton and his entourage, raising cane in places like the New Frontier and Stardust. She's proud that her husband continues the quality of classy, elegant entertainment that Vegas was founded on.
As Whitney drew applause for a stunning full-length rendition of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mrs. Phoenix recounted how her husband began playing here "not on the very first day, but the day before." The pair had arrived, elegantly dressed for his initial shift and expecting him to play at the grand opening gala. Instead, workers were still laying mosaic tiles on the lobby floor and the lounge's staff was organizing glassware and bottles.
Despite the flurry of activity and chaos, the maestro sat on his bench and began to perform for the workers. After a few songs, Marianne set off to explore the empty resort clad in her flowing, beaded gown. It was an unforgettable and very unique evening that began the couple's love affair with Bellagio, one that continues even as his twenty-second year with the resort approaches.
This month, Petrossian Lounge will undergo temporary closure and a major renovation. Their custom Steinway is to be moved underneath the hand-blown glass flowers of the new Chihuly Lounge. As construction commences around him once more, the maestro's fans around the world have no reason to be concerned. The Whitney Phoenix piano show will indeed go on.