What began for Dana Douin as a singer in a 1950s and 60s rock ‘n roll band in Maine, grew into live impersonation acts in Las Vegas.
Five years ago, he brought his love of performing to Ajijic, and is enjoying every minute of it. Douin’s shows at La Bodega usually sell out, and fans can’t get seem to get enough of him, with audience members singing and clapping while he impersonates the legendary Neil Diamond.
Douin first saw Diamond perform in Las Vegas. “The audience was singing along,” he says. “They knew the words to every song. The energy was unbelievable.”
Douin had moved to Las Vegas in 1986, after his divorce from a 15-year marriage. “I always wanted to live in a warmer climate and be in a city with more going on. In Las Vegas, I got involved in community theater, ran a design company, and my two daughters visited me every summer.”
The man who “discovered” Douin was his rent collector. “I had a karaoke system and was singing a Neil Diamond song as he approached my front door. He said after I opened the door, ‘Don’t tell me that was you singing! I’m a musician on the ‘strip’ and know producers who can get you into a show tomorrow if you can make yourself look like Neil Diamond.’”
To look the part, Douin bought black clothes and a black wig. The rent collector set up a meeting with two producers for an audition. The producers didn’t skip a beat in telling Douin that they wanted to place him in a show.
Meanwhile, he’d become a single parent because his 13-year-old daughter decided she wanted to live with him.
Says Douin: “To be in a Las Vegas show, performers have to work six nights a week, with one matinee. I couldn’t take care of a teenage daughter and be gone all that time. That’s not what I became a dad for.”
Not wanting to take no for an answer, the producers worked out part-time gigs for Douin. “I’d open for a band or sing in between gigs, and always got positive responses. After performing, people would say, is that really your voice? They thought I was lip singing.”
Busy with his design company, Douin stoped singing for a few years. “I gained a lot of weight and figured I could never do that act again, even though I knew I still had it in me. I couldn’t fit into my tight-fitting, sequined outfit.”
In 2010, his business took a big hit from the “crash” and he lost everything, including his house.
“A friend had just moved to lakeside and said that I belonged there,” he says. “I came for a visit and loved it. I returned for two months, then returned to Las Vegas, sold everything and moved to Ajijic five years ago. I couldn’t be happier.
“Las Vegas is huge and no one really knew me there. In Ajijic, I’m the big fish in the little pond. I started doing all kinds of things and found I could manifest anything I wanted, including losing weight, doing papier-mâché art and impersonating Neil Diamond again, which I could never quite get out of my system.”
Douin believes in putting on high quality shows, so he hires a professional sound man. Although he never does the same show twice, he makes sure to include audience favorite “Sweet Caroline” in each show. He also throws in some Elvis tunes for die-hard Elvis fans.
During his Ajijic shows, Douin, who turns 63 this month, sings around 15 songs. “Performing gives me energy. After the show, I feel so pumped up, I could easily do another one.
“I greet ever guest as they come through the door and continually ‘work’ the audience during the show. I encourage everyone to participate. At one show, a woman brought up a karaoke version of ‘Sweet Caroline’ on her phone and there she was, singing along with me, the audience and her phone.
“While impersonating Neil Diamond in Las Vegas, I was fine with the singing part but not so much with working the audience. At La Bodega, my comfort with the audience comes across. People seem to enjoy my shows and many keep coming back. Some months ago we had 107 reservations and that was during the ‘slow’ season. Seeing that I’m doing a show every five to six weeks, I feel honored to have such a large fan base.”
Douin’s next show is on Sunday, January 14, 3 p.m. at La Bodega,16 de Septiembre 124, Ajijic. Call for reservations: (376) 766-1002.