When ETAs Justin Shandor and Di Diogo Light shared the Greg Frewin Theatre stage at the NFEF, it was magic times two! Photo Credit: Lori-Anne Crewe, LA Photography.
Based on all that I heard about ETA and entertainer Dean Z, I was looking forward to The Dean Z Show with eager anticipation. From the moment Dean stepped onto the Greg Frewin Theatre stage, it was apparent that he was going to live up to all expectations. Dean was born to perform. Handsome and talented, Dean Z, the Ultimate Elvis contest winner in Memphis, 2013, is the ultimate performer. Wearing a dazzling sea blue sequined jacket with black trim in his first appearance, Dean provided non-stop entertainment of the highest calibre for the duration of his show.
Singing, dancing, playing guitar, and engaging the audience with banter—and a twist contest, Dean demonstrated why he is one of the most popular ETAs in the business. At the end of his show, Dean received a well-deserved standing ovation. I had the pleasure of meeting Dean Z at a post show party where I learned first hand why he is a fan favourite.
Dean has natural charm. In a room full of people waiting to talk to him, he possesses an amazing ability to make the individual with whom he is speaking feel as if they are the only person in the room. While having his photo taken with a fan, he remains attentive and focused. Dean displays an appreciation for the fans who come to his show that is expressed in the way he takes time to chat with each person, never seeming hurried. He is extremely likeable.
In an industry that can easily inflate egos, it is an admirable trait to remain so grounded. Dean and his wife, Stefi Z, singer, choreographer, and creative director of The Dean Z Show, often share their lives in YouTube videos and podcasts. Their open and honest approach makes them a well-liked couple. From my own experiences at the NFEF, I can understand why everyone I have talked to speaks so fondly of Dean Z.
I was trying to hold my business cards in one hand while balancing my camera in the other to take a photo of the fans attending the Q&A. The cards slipped out of my hand, and as I was about to gather them up, I saw a beautifully manicured masculine hand picking them up. As I straightened up, and locked eyes with my rescuer, I realized it was Dean Z. If a cartoon was drawn to describe the moment, hearts and stars would be fluttering from my eyes. I was star struck! Dean, who was having a conversation with Collingwood Elvis Festival's General Manager, Rosemarie Garrity-O’Brien, didn’t miss a beat. He maintained his focus on her, while helping me.
On Sunday morning, after Gospel Hour, I took a lot of photos for SIDEBURNS of Dean with other people. I am also an ETA fan, so I wanted a photo of me with Dean for my own collection. I casually took his hand as he was talking to some people, and once again, he kept his concentration on them while comfortably holding my hand--so kind of him.
It you have not seen Dean Z perform, or if you want to see him again, he will be returning to Ontario for a performance at the River Run Centre, Guelph on June 12th, 2018. Ticket information about the Guelph show and other locations can be found through Paquette Productions.
In a weekend full of special moments, I must mention my interactions with award winning ETA Justin Shandor. Justin, who won the Ultimate Elvis in Memphis in 2010, was a featured guest performer at the Niagara Falls Elvis Festival, 2018. I had the good fortune of meeting Justin prior to his evening performance when he dropped by at the end of the Round Two competition. From under the rim of his black cowboy hat, I could not help but notice his piercing blue eyes. Justin kindly posed for a few photos, but then had to leave to get ready for his evening performance. Justin is well known for his appearance on the David Letterman Show where he showed viewers, and Letterman, why he is a champion ETA, and I was very excited about seeing him perform.
Justin delivered a stellar performance on Saturday night. He did a great tribute to Elvis, looking, sounding, and moving like the King of Rock N Roll. Justin also heated up the stage during a performance with Di Diogo Light.
Justin was not originally scheduled as part of the Sunday morning Gospel show; however, in the absence of an ill Tim E Hendry, Justin surprised everyone by filling in on Sunday morning. Justin beautifully sang gospel songs with Dean Z, Jim Yorifido, Sandy Vine, and Connor Russo. Justin, an accomplished pianist, performed a breath-taking solo number at the piano. After the show, Justin and the other performers posed for photos, signed autographs, and mingled with the crowd. I was able to have a brief conversation with Justin, which led to an amusing moment.
I approached Justin to congratulate him on his stunning performance during the gospel show. He responded with a polite, “Thank you.” I said, “I guess you have heard that a lot this morning.” “Yes, I have.” With mocked disdain, I interjected, “Well, you weren’t that good.” He was briefly taken aback by my statement, but realized by my bemused expression that I was joking. When Justin smiled, I cajoled with “You were, of course, amazing!”
I asked Justin if he would allow me to take photos of him at the B&K Enterprises Costume Co. Inc. display. In informal shots, I captured Justin shopping and trying on a jacket he selected. I learned from our moments together that an award winning ETA, television performer, and show headliner can be a good sport and a lot of fun. Dean Z, friends with Justin since their teen years, said of Justin, " He is a great friend and a great father to his three sons."
Di Diogo Light
I wasn’t at the inaugural Niagara Falls Elvis Festival last year, so I missed seeing Brazil’s ETA Di Diogo Light win his ticket to Memphis. I watched videos on YouTube to catch up, and as demonstrated in the video below, Di Light, with his impassioned performance, deservedly won his ticket to the 2017 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, representing the Niagara Falls Elvis Festival. I knew from what I observed online, Di's performance as a featured guest at the 2nd Annual NFEF was sure to be exciting.
Di Diogo Light’s vocals and movements in his live performance were outstanding. Di delighted the audience by generously handing out some very nice teddy bears and making his way around the audience during his performance stopping for a photo or a kiss on the cheek with some lucky ladies. "Di Light", who is taking a break from his lawyer duties in Brazil to pursue his ETA career, delivered a stunning performance.
In a Daily Journal article, "Brazilian Lawyer is this Year’s Winner", June 8th, 2018, written by Riley Manning, Di Light (Diogo Leichtweis) talks about the charisma, voice, and look of Elvis as the greatest entertainer of all time. While no one will ever be a carbon copy of Elvis Presley, ETAs who do a true tribute to bring many of Elvis's qualities to the stage during their performance. The charismatic and handsome Di Diogo Light paid excellent tribute to Elvis during his performances at the NFEF. At the meet and greet afterwards, the delightful Di Diogo Light was a popular figure, posing for sought after photos. Di is obviously very comfortable with fan interactions, as he didn't flinch when I cradled his face in both hands and told him how very handsome he is in person...handsome, and very nice.
We all look forward to seeing award winning ETA Di Diogo Light on his next visit to Canada.
Tributes and Tales to be continued…