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Vegas broadcaster Bart Torres of ‘Highway Vibe’ dies at 54

Updated July 21, 2020 - 3:02 pm

Even on the radio, you could feel Bart Torres’ smile over the airwaves.

“I always remember that smile, and how much he loved Las Vegas,” former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said Monday of Torres, who died Sunday morning of a heart attack at his Las Vegas home. He was 54. “I always enjoyed being with Bart, who was a really good guy in a tough, tough business.”

Plans for a service for Torres are pending.

For 20 years ending in December 2018, Torres was host of the “Highway Vibe” radio show on The Highway Radio Network, KYYZ-FM, 99.7, in Las Vegas. He was inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame in September 2018 and by then had become very well-known in Las Vegas entertainment circles.

Torres spent a few years as a videographer for Ronald Reagan, after Reagan left office, and some of his work is presented at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

“Bart adored him. He was such a kind man,” Torres’s wife, Ricki, says. “He always asked about me and our new son. Bart had a lot of great memories working for Reagan. At events, he would most always get to meet the best of the best. So we have lots of video and pics with so many important people. And Nancy was very sweet to him as well, and always made sure he had eaten at the event since he’d be working. They were such kind people.”

In his youth, Torres also befriended Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s legendary manager, an early radio guest. “He insisted Bart call him ‘Uncle Colonel,’” Ricki Torres said. “Our middle son is actually named for him, Cole Parker Torres … We always promised the colonel if we had another son, it would be his namesake.”

For decades in Las Vegas, Torres’ voice, and zeal for the city, often accompanied tourists as they drove in from Southern California. Originally called “Highway Radio,” it was the only Vegas FM station motorists could tune in to on the drive from Barstow.

Goodman was a favored and frequent guest, and the two became close friends.

“Whenever Carolyn and I would drive to Coronado, we would stop at Peggy Sue’s Diner on our way there, and on our way back,” Goodman said, referring to the ’50s-styled diner near Barstow on Interstate 15. “Whenever we’d stop there, the staff would tell us, ‘We heard you on the radio with Bart!’ ”

Torres interviewed dozens of performers and newsmakers over the years, headliners ranging from Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Celine Dion and George Carlin. He sat with such Vegas resort icons as Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn. Torres’ show broadcast from several Las Vegas venues, and from Los Angeles.

Torres had a recent history of heart problems and had suffered a heart attack in July 2019. He had a pacemaker implanted in March. He and his wife, Ricki, visited Laughlin on Saturday, riding a wave runner along the Colorado River.

“We had fantastic fun. He was doing great, he had been to the doctor on Tuesday and everything seemed perfect,” Ricki Torres said. “He was eating healthy, walking 8 miles a day.”

But on Sunday, Torres awoke at 5 a.m. with chest pains and asked his wife to call an ambulance.

“He passed before he ever left our driveway,” Ricki Torres said. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye, or be with him at the end.”

The couple celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on June 9. “It was a big deal for him, and for us,” Ricki Torres said, adding that Torres was looking forward to turning 55 in August and had been cleared to vacation in Hawaii in November.

Torres is survived by three sons, Conner, 26; Cole, 22; and Cameron, 19.

Asked how her husband would want to be remembered, Ricki Torres said, “I think he would want to be remembered as a good guy, a good person. He worked hard at being a good person.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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