Updated January 18, 2022 - 8:27 am
If you’re wanna be startin’ something, don’t start it with Santana Jackson.
The Michael Jackson tribute artist was bum-rushed on the Fremont Street Experience on Friday night. The unidentified interloper punched the Jackson tribute artist, evidently unaware this Jackson impressionist was a trained fighter.
The aggressor couldn’t have known, either, that the entertainer had just gone through a breakup earlier in the day and was running pretty hot anyway.
It all added up to Jackson, featured in “MJ Live” at the Tropicana and dressed as the King of Pop, taking down the assailant within about 20 seconds.
The backstory to this beat-down began when Jackson had appeared on a local news telecast Friday morning in his Jackson costume to promote “MJ Live.” The popular production reopens Feb. 7 at the Trop. The show had previously headlined at The Strat.
Jalles Franca is the show’s primary Jackson performer. Jackson (Santana) has filled one night a week, usually the Saturday slot.
Still in his attire from the Friday TV appearance, Jackson later hit the Fremont Street Experience for a sidewalk performance. Armed with a mic and a speaker, he took up one of the buskers’ circles, set aside for such entertainment, and was singing “Smooth Criminal.”
Midway through the song, a guy approached and started throwing punches. At least one landed before Jackson realized he was in a conflict.
“He was on something,” Jackson said in a phone chat Monday. “He wasn’t right.”
This individual was wearing a green T-shirt reading, “You Can’t Fix Stupid.” As Jackson reminded, “You can’t fix stupid, but you can put it in a headline.”
Jackson added that guy was hauled away be Metro officers, and was again throwing punches (at this writing, Metro public information office has not responded to a request for a report about the incident, including the man’s identity).
Jackson grew up a chubby kid, and began studying karate, jiu-jitsu and boxing at an early age. He’s bad, as the song says. He’d also just ended a relationship Friday.
“I was dealing with this breakup and a guy comes up and hits me in the face,” Jackson said. “I just wanted to wrestle him down, but the mood I was in … it could have been worse.”
Jackson has extensive mixed-martial art and boxing training, and has also appeared on several small-scale wrestling cards in Vegas and across the country.
Jackson is actually performing a duel headlining gig this weekend at Turnbuckle Bar & Grille in Ringgold, Ga. this weekend. He’s appearing onstage in a Jackson tribute show on Friday, and wrestling a Ric Flair impressionist on Sunday (I hear the sharps have made Jackson a minus-200 favorite).
With that training, Jackson dealt with this guy on Fremont Street in short order. The Strip entertainer tripped him to the ground, then applied an arm , then a bulldog choke to close the contest. A video of the incident wound up in the hands of former “Thunder From Down Under” host Marcus Deegan (who has interviewed Jackson for his “Marcus Deegan Show” podcast relaunching Jan. 28). That social media post went crazy Monday, with TMZ jumping into the ring by noon.
“MJ Live” producer Dick Feeney watched the video of the incident during a phone chat Monday afternoon.
“Who attacks a Michael Jackson impressionist in Las Vegas?” Feeney said while viewing the footage. “But hey, I always love this type of publicity. It’s good for the show.”
Feeney recalls being invited to a pro-wrestling card in Vegas a couple of years ago. Jackson was on the card.
“I was standing near the entrance, and he’s introduced and is walking to the ring,” Feeney said. “I said, ‘Santana?’ and he says, ‘Dick?’ Neither of us knew we would be there. We were just shocked.”
Jackson said the FSE altercation could have easily turned ugly. Or maybe uglier.
“I didn’t want to start punching him, because he would have been a bloody mess,” Jackson said. “I just wanted him to tap out.”
“No,” Jackson said, “but the people around did it for him.”
Cool Hang Alert
On the topic of tribute artists, longtime Rod Stewart impressionist John Anthony headlines Italian American Club Showroom at 6:30 p.m. (dinner) 8 p.m. (performance) Wednesday. Tickets are $65 for all of it. Anthony is spot-on, one of the best tribute artists in VegasVille. Hit iacvegas.com for details.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.