Bally’s AC headliner combines wrestling, Michael Jackson impersonation; Jon Stewart, pals coming to Hard Rock
It’s not unusual for someone to hold down two jobs. But the two jobs Santana Jackson holds down are definitely out of the ordinary.
The Brooklyn-born Jackson has spent the past couple months starring in MJ Live, the flashy, high-energy tribute to Michael Jackson that runs at Bally’s Atlantic City Tuesdays through Sundays through Sept. 3.
And when he returns to his current home, Las Vegas, he’ll not only continue to perform as “The King of Pop,” but he’ll also resume his other career as a professional wrestler.
According to the 36-year-old entertainer, the two realms have taken him on parallel paths for most of his life.
“I had a passion for wrestling since I was a kid,” he explained during a recent, backstage pre-show chat. I used to watch The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Goldberg—I can name a whole bunch [of wrestlers].
“But I loved Michael [Jackson] as well. I heard his music as a kid. I didn't really understand the lyrics to the songs, but the music always moved me. I would go to school and my show-and-tell was dancing to ‘Billie Jean.’ I've been doing the ‘moonwalk’ since I was 6 years old.”
Show business beckoned first for Jackson, whose stage name is a combination of his real last name and that of his immortal subject.
“I was living with a friend of mine who told me about a talent show with prize money,” he recalled. “I was young at the time. I was trying to make any bit of money I could make. And I was already dancing to Michael Jackson's music and kind of trying to imitate him.
“I eventually [competed]. I did a ‘Billie Jean’ routine and got pretty good at it. I started doing more songs and being on the stage, getting more familiar with the crowds and what they like. That's when I really pursued it a little harder.”
Santana’s talent as a Jackson impersonator—which he described as completely self-taught--took him out of New York and ultimately to Clearwater Beach, Fla., where he began to seriously hone his craft.
“I was performing there nightly on a pier,” he continued. “I was always learning from other entertainers. And of course I watched Michael on YouTube.”
Eventually, he left Clearwater for Las Vegas where he was certain stardom awaited. While his early days there were less-than-successful, they did put him on the wrestling track.
“I was homeless in Vegas for a year, working off tips and donations doing charity events,” he offered, adding he also served as a companion for special-needs people. Eventually, he found his way onto the radar of the producers of MJ Live.
“MJ Live pretty much took me off of the street and I was able to get my own apartment. When I got that going, my brother moved in with me.”
One day, his brother informed Jackson about the existence of a wrestling school. “I I never knew there was such a thing,” he said. His brother eventually convinced Jackson to check out the school. “So, I went one day and started training with these guys and my brother and I signed up, and we started training.”
The school’s owner eventually learned of Jackson’s performing talents, and approached him with an idea. “He said, ‘You should come in as Michael Jackson and wrestle.’”
There was some hesitation on Jackson’s part; he said he was afraid of making the real Michael Jackson “look bad.” But he wound up accepting the offer. Today, he’s known in wrestling circles for his “moonwalk DDT” (“DDT” is a move in which the wrestler forces an opponent's head into the mat).
Although Santana works in two dramatically different areas of the entertainment business, he noted there are some similarities.
“Performing as Michael takes a lot of work and passion and the heart to put it together with the dancing,” he reasoned. “And you have to get into that ‘zone.’
“And with wrestling, it's the same thing. You have to really be in the zone and, of course, you're gonna take a lot more hits wrestling--you're gonna get hit a little more; you're gonna hurt here and there.
“But, I get hurt and I still come into work and dance the next day.”
For tickets, click here.
Hard Rock gets funny—in triplicate
Tickets are on sale for a Sept. 10 bill showcasing three of the comedy realm’s brightest lights at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
Jon Stewart, John Mulaney and Pete Davidson are scheduled to bring their Jon, John & Pete mini-tour to The Rock’s Etess Arena for performances at 3 and 7 p.m.
Actually, to call the series of dates a “tour” is probably stretching it: The only other shows the trio are doing are Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass. and the next evening in Bethlehem, Pa.
Adult swim at Bally’s
Due to popular demand, Bally’s Atlantic City has permanently kicked kids out of its Pool and Fitness Center: As of this month, you must be 21 or older to use those facilities at the midtown gambling den.
“The pool is an amenity for our hotel guests,” said Bally’s General Manager Michael Monty in a statement. “After receiving many complaints, Bally’s changed its pool accessibility to guests 21 years or older, and it has been well received.”