Las Vegas Style - June 2003

Can a pop diva who rode the "Morning Train" to fame and fortune in the 1980s find happiness jumping track and ending up living and working in Las Vegas?


Just ask Sheena Easton, for whom, over the past few years, the city has become a permanent stop. The songstress, who has become a mainstay at the Las Vegas Hilton, will be appearing there June 3-July 14 (dark June20-24) and Sept. 23-Oct. 26. The change in scenery coincides with a change in her overall life direction.

She's enjoys spending more time at home as opposed to travelling the world, taking the opportunity to write her own ticket.

"Any time I have to get on a plane and leave my kids for a few days, it's kind of tortuous," says Easton. "I don't enjoy that aspect at all. My priorities have changed like night and day for me. My whole focus has shifted greatly. I've scheduled my life so I have a lot more time at home. But if I'm not going to work six nights a week in Vegas, other places are asking me to come in for one night, two nights or a weekend. The last few dates like that have felt so weird. It's so strange to get off a plane and look at my watch and be aware of what my kids are doing at that moment. It's weird doing homework with them on the phone."

Easton, 44, has become a resident of Las Vegas with her two adopted children, Jake, 7, and Skylar, 8, and her husband, plastic surgeon John Minoli, whom she married last November. In show business since the age of 19, her life change started to come about when she hit 30 and discovered being at the pinnacle career-wise was not the be-all, end-all. She needed something more meaningful in her life, which is when her children entered the picture.

"Being a mother had just never crossed my mind. It was just not in the radar," Easton admits. "My sole focus as far back as I can remember was all about my dream to become a singer. I was blessed in the sense that I got handed so much early on in life. I got a lot of the things people go through their 20s and 30s craving. That success, that exposure, that being on the road, the concerts — I was doing that stuff so young that by the time I hit 30,1 felt I had lived a couple of lifetimes. I was almost at that jaded stage where you go, 'Is that all there is? Is that it?' It wasn't making me emotionally happy."

Easton says if she were wired differently, where the social life of the industry and being on everyone's A-list was important to her, it might have been a different story. But she found that packing and unpacking her bags, constantly traveling from one strange city to another, living on room service, got old fast. That left her realizing she had to do two things in her life. First, she had to make it about doing the work she enjoyed as opposed to just doing what yielded her financial reward. Second, she had to incorporate something else in her life that was going to give her satisfaction.

"It all boils down to the fact that after enough therapy and enough looking at your life, you realize that if it ain't making you happy — even though other people think it should be making you happy — you need to find what's genuinely going to make you happy," Easton acknowledges. "That's when I started to pursue Broadway, doing 'Man of La Mancha' opposite Raoul Julia, as well as TV and the cartoon voiceovers. It was doing things that were exciting and new. It was a learning curve.

"That's also when I realized what I needed to do was nurture someone in my life," she continues. "I had never done that. My life had been about me. It was like the biological clock exploded. I needed to be a mother. That was what I was supposed to be doing."

Easton says if she had been in a steady, serious relationship at 34 or 35, she would have just gone ahead and had kids. At that time, however, she was coming out of yet another relationship that wasn't working, with someone she didn't wanted to have children with.

"So it was a case of, 'Well, you can go out there and get pregnant or you can buy some sperm — all the different options — or you can adopt,'" she says.

When she really thought about, however, she found that it wasn't important to her that her children have 50 percent her DNA. DNA or not, they would be her kids, period. Once she realized that, adoption became the way for her to go. Easton admits that one of the main things that having her kids has changed the most for her is that she has a vulnerability she never had before. Before Jake and Skylar came along, there was nothing in her life she thought could destroy her. Easton says she was raised to be a survivor, which is what she thinks made her an overachiever and so successful at an early age, so determined and driven.

By the time Easton turned 36, she had changed so things were all falling into place. She was sitting down in one place, realizing she could do long stints in Vegas, on Broadway and other gigs here and there. She maintains that at 38 or 39, she was experiencing the happiest years of her life.

"I realized I didn't have to have a life that depended on my making an album and promoting it, touring, and doing those kinds of shows," she says. "Even though I pretty much made my own decisions early on, when I was younger I tended to overbook my life. If I opened my planner in the begin- ning of the year, it was booked with things for the next 18 months that, at the time, were a good idea. But nine months later, when you're working on fumes and have 12 more commitments that month, you go, 'Oh, God, I'm only doing this because I said I would. So the pleasure factor drops."

Easton says she's learned not to be such a people-pleaser. When her schedule gets overloaded, she can nicely say no. There can be a load of gratification in this business, both financially and emotionally, but artists have jobs that constantly invite comment, both positive and negative. As a result, she learned the adulation she has received is not as important as the true one-on-one connections she has made in her life. Friends, family and her kids have become her anchor.

Easton met Minoli about three years ago. They became an item. Quipping that she was married many times for 10 minutes, she admits she was the queen of the drive-thru marriages and that the union was always over by the time the french fries were cold. While she had married for all the wrong reasons, she and Minoli married as two mature adults. Easton decided to marry him when she realized he was as committed to being a father to her kids as much as he was to being in her life.

"We were together for a little over three years. We never lived together because if I was going to live with someone, I was going to get married. We didn't tie the knot on a cloud of romance and idealism like you do when you're 20," Easton muses. "We looked at the pros and cons and decided we wanted to commit to each other and work at a relationship. This is my kids' first experience with an honest-to-goodness for- ever dad. I see the difference it makes to them and how invested they are in it. A family has been made here and good, bad, or indifferent, this family is going to stay together if I have anything to do with it."

As for her future career, Easton says she still has a big enough ego to enjoy the gratification of knowing she can still do her job well. She enjoys performing at the Las Vegas Hilton and this year has moved from The Nightclub, where she debuted two years ago, to the main room. She says that it is no secret that a performer like herself enjoys the intimacy of a small room, liking the feeling of being able to see everyone in the room and of having the audience wrapped around her. She's getting used to the main showroom, however, and says that her show works in any size venue.

In her performance, Easton does a number of her hits as well as cover tunes and personalized songs that reflect what she feels and what's going on in her life. She says that she feels a great level of comfort on stage and doesn't feel pressure to be what she thinks the audience is expecting. She doesn't feel any pressure to please anyone but herself, the upshot being that by doing what makes her happy, her audiences seem to be happy, too.

"I think the audience is responding to the fact that they see I'm authentic now, that I'm just me," Easton claims. "I'm not someone who's trying to be part of the latest trend. It gives me a great sense of freedom. It's also nice to have been around long enough to be a part of people's lives. I enjoy that. A lot of people who come to my show are real nostalgic for the '80s."

If she could, would she like to have another hit record to her credit?

"I wouldn't consciously pursue trying to make something for the charts," she responds. "It's just not in my scope now. Will I change my mind in 10 years? Maybe. I can't see it but who knows. I've learned never to say never. But right now I'd rather stick needles in my eyes."

"When I was working with David Cassidy at the Rio, I made an album of updated versions of some 1970s disco tunes," she adds. "The songs were so much fun. The guys I worked with were fabulous. I was able to record the album on my own schedule, on my days off. I had a blast. Then I had to pay the piper — what I call the dog and pony show. The record company said they needed me to come to Europe — Britain, Holland, Germany, etc. — and do all the talk shows, radio shows, all the record stuff, plus make a video, which I hadn't done in years. Halfway through the first week of promotion, I looked at Harriet, my manager, and said, 'Don't ever ask me to do this again.' It was everything I hated."

If she could write her own ticket recording-wise, she'd like the luxury to of being able to record music she enjoys without having to worry about it being commercial. She cites the fact that a Christmas album, which she would like to do, never makes the charts and an artist doesn't have to worry about promotion or touring.

She doesn't worry about getting older either. The fact that she is married to a plastic surgeon aside, she enthuses that she's happier as she gets older.

"I look forward to the next stage of my life," she states.

It's one that will allow her to continue taking charge of her own direction — the "Train" stops here.