By Kiko Miyasato
Photography by Christopher DeVargas
Hair and styling by Joey Gonnello
As a writer, I never know exactly what to expect when I am invited to the home of the person that I’m going to be interviewing. Interviews usually take place by phone, in a hotel room, a Strip venue or backstage in the star’s green room. Pia Zadora, though, invited Las Vegas Magazine to her home. When invited to a star’s home, the dynamics change; you catch a glimpse of the subject in a different light and a more personal situation takes place. As a writer, you adjust accordingly, making sure the subject feels at ease with inviting a stranger into his or her home. With Zadora, it was, in fact, her who made me feel at ease from the moment she opened her door. I immediately picked up on her sunny disposition, her ease in her own skin and her genuine sincerity. This was a star who conveyed years of life experience—both privately and in the spotlight—but takes it all in stride with a Zen-like quality that one can’t help but admire.
It’s been 15 years since an audience has seen the Grammy nominee and Golden Globe winner perform. And it’s been more than 25 years since she headlined a Vegas show. But that changes this week when Zadora presents Pia Zadora: Back Again and Standing Tall, a 75-minute performance at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. The cabaret-style show includes timeless hits like “Come Rain or Shine,” “Young at Heart” and “All of Me.” Onstage with Zadora is musical director Vinnie Falcone and his orchestra (Falcone was Sinatra’s pianist). Zadora’s connection to Sinatra is a special one. Mid-career, Zadora garnered a fan in Ol’ Blue Eyes when he saw her perform. “Sinatra kind of nabbed me. The next day, I received this beautiful bouquet of white roses with a note saying, ‘You knocked them dead, kid. From the guy with the blue eyes.’ … And that same afternoon I got a phone call from his people saying, ‘Frank would like you to tour with him,’” she said.
And so she did, opening for him around the country, including his Las Vegas shows. “(Frank) showed me the ropes, and he taught me the work ethics of this type of music, interpretation of the songs. He was a tough master, and no pun intended, but he wanted things his way. … Every night before going onstage he would call me over, take me by the hand and look me in the eye and give me my three-word pep talk: ‘Don’t screw up!’ But, he was great; it was a great part of my life.” And Zadora will be performing many of Sinatra’s songs and jazz standards at The Smith Center. In a way, she is the perfect person to keep her mentor’s flame burning bright.
In our interview, Zadora revealed a confidence that one has to admire in a star who has been away from the spotlight for a while. Zadora stepped out of the spotlight of her own volition, though. She took that time to raise a family, get married to the love of her life and focus on herself. “I feel like when I stopped I had to make a big transition into being a mom and a ‘normal’ person … It was a hard transition, but it made me much more complete as a person.” Zadora has slowly entered the performance arena again, breaking in her cabaret show at intimate venues on both the East and West coasts. But her Vegas return marks a fuller reentry into entertainment—she says she’s come full circle here and feels more sure-footed now, both personally and professionally. “The thing is, I never realized how much fun it was performing until I started performing again. And now I feel like it completes me, because that was a big part of who I was and I left it behind. Now I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I’ve reconnected with my inner diva.”
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