Lorena Peril swept through her old digs last week. She cleaned house in a gig that was on her bucket list for years, waxing nostalgic as her audience took a shine to the Vegas headliner.
The “Fantasy” singer and her sound man husband, Ray Jon Narbaitz, trekked to the Arden Wood Christian Science Nursing Care facility in San Francisco. The assisted-living residence figures prominently in Peril’s life. She spent four years working there as a housekeeper, beginning when she was 18.
Peril’s mother, Ofelia Baker, also worked at the residence.
She had not returned until Tuesday, on a West Coast tour of her “Vegas On Wheels” rolling show, in which she and Ray Jon set up “truckeoke” performances in the middle of a street. Or, in this case, a nursing-home propety. The locals billed this particular show as “Housekeeper to Headliner,” which is exactly right. The show was performed in that fabled entertainment venue, Isabel Garden Parking Lot.
“I worked there full time, every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., scrubbing toilets and cleaning bedrooms,” Peril said during a phone chat Wednesday, as the couple was on its way back to Vegas. “We had people watching from the balcony, out of their windows. It was crazy.”
The couple thought to contact the facility as they have driven the trusty Dodge Ram 1500 through Northern and Central California. Both have Northern California roots and had performed a few shows in Ray Jon’s home town of Chico. The return to S.F., Peril’s hometown, was a natural.
“It was my first full-time job,” Peril said. “It’s really where I started singing, while I was working. I sang for the residents on my lunch break.”
Peril was “discovered” one day while on duty. A co-worker, the late musician Phil Serrano “heard me singing while I was cleaning a bathroom,” as Peril recalls. An accomplished guitarist (and also able maintenance man), Serrano suggested the two collaborate on a few classics, among them “Blue Bayou” and “Crazy.”
The two formed an act called Perilous Partners.
“I never liked that name,” Peril said. “It sounded like an insurance company.”
The two performed at taverns and small clubs until Peril took a Carnival Cruise Line trip with her mother. Peril took part in a talent show on the ship, and the cruise director told her she should be a professional singer, a production singer specifically. She then recorded a song in one of those recording kiosks for ship passengers and submitted it to the company.
“Six months later, I got the call,” Peril said. “They wanted to hire me.”
Peril would soon move to Las Vegas, staying for a time at Motel 6 on Tropicana Avenue, just east of the Strip. She would work at “American Superstars,” portraying Christina Aguilera, and in the bands Sunset Strip and Sin City Bad Girls at the then-Shimmer Cabaret at Las Vegas Hilton. She was hired at “Fantasy” in 2010, took a break three years later to tour in “Grease” in Europe and travel with Ray Jon, and returned to the adult revue in 2016.
Most of the crew Peril worked with at Arden Wood have either left or are no longer with us. But Peril recognized one friend from long ago.
“There was one employee who was a good friend of mine, Chester,” Peril said. “He walked by when I was singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,’ and I just lost it. That song was for him, and the 40 or so people who worked with me.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.