CAÑON CITY • Gary Bennett is a Sybil on steroids.
Instead of 16 personalities, he has 626.
The showy silver fox is a human jukebox. No quarters needed.
“I impersonate 132 people,” he says in his nasal Gary voice. “I know 626 songs.”
I heard at least 26 of those songs over lunch at Big Daddy’s Diner on 25-cent hamburger Tuesday. We sat in a booth behind a life-size Elvis statue and under the seductive eyes of a Marilyn Monroe cardboard cutout.
Gary wasn’t there to entertain. He was there to eat with wife, Burletta, after a rousing morning of Bible study. But the 69-year-old Cañon City crooner can’t keep the voices inside his head.
He did Johnny Cash with choo-choo train sounds. Sang like Sinatra. Warbled some Simple Minds.
Diners within earshot gave polite, and approving, looks. (Lucky for us, he didn’t sing with food in his mouth.)
Burletta hid behind her burger basket. The waltzing widow met the singing widower at a Pueblo dance hall. She married him and his multiple personas five years ago.
She spins the music discs when he puts on shows at events and nursing homes. She helps promote his CD of song impersonations. Not only that, she stands by her man at the supermarket when fans stop him in the cereal aisle to request: “Give me some Elvis. Can you do Willie Nelson?”
He says he was named after Gary Cooper and given a voice like Tony Bennett. He has been a fool for music since he was 9-year-old boy of the Big Band era.
In real life, Bennett was a jack-of-all-trades: a salesman; construction; advertising. And he was a waiter, a job where carrying a tune with a tray came in handy.
“I worked for Charlie’s Pit BBQ. I was the Singing Waiter,” he says. “I made tips off of other girls’ tables. They’d say, ‘Give it to that guy over there.’ ”
Do people ever try to put duct tape over his mouth?
Funny I should ask.
“I was walking with my daughter and singing on the 16th Street Mall in Denver and she was so embarrassed. Some guy tossed me some quarters and then she was really embarrassed. He said: ‘I meant that strictly as a compliment. You should be thrilled your dad can sing like that.’ ”
Good thing she wasn’t with us at Big Daddy’s.
On the way out, Gary gave Marilyn the wink and then carried on a lengthy one-sided conversation with the plastic Elvis statue.
You’d be surprised to know the only place he doesn’t sing. You guessed it, in the shower.
Blog me on my blog: