Dynamic Duo

Two rock legends came together for the first time in 1981, both with gravelly voices and high-energy stage performances that melded together for an electric duo when Tina Turner joined Rod Stewart to perform his song “Hot Legs” on “Saturday Night Live.”

Turner was making a comeback at the time as a solo act and Stewart was at the height of his career, pouring out hits. After the SNL outing, Turner joined Stewart again for his concert at the Los Angeles Forum two months later, again performing “Hot Legs” and a cover of the Beatles’ “Get Back.” The two were a power pairing, and fans loved their charisma on stage.

They collaborated again for Stewart’s lead single off his 1991 album ‘Vagabond,’ with “It Takes Two.’ They made a corresponding video for the song and it was used in a Pepsi commercial.

However, despite their popular duets, aside from a few concert appearances the two never toured together. One special tribute brings that dream to life when Cookie Watkins and John Anthony perform as Turner and Stewart in It Takes Two.

Both Watkins and Anthony have their own solo tribute shows, but it’s their collaborative tribute that they will bring back to the Riverside Resort July 7-10.

Watkins’ professional career began in New York, where she was performing live and drawing comparisons to Turner, from her voice to her fiery energy.

“You know what, I really don’t have to channel her, because I was always told that I was like her,” Watkins said. “I met her because I sang on a couple of demo songs for her when they were trying to get songs together for her album. She requested to meet me because she said, ‘Oh my goodness, who is this girl singing? She sounds just like me!’

“I do study her mannerisms and things from the videos and concerts. I have a lot of the costumes that she’s worn redone for myself. I have the two ladies who back me up and we have a lot of similar choreography. So I try to give people the closest thing to Tina as if you were going to see Tina Turner.”

Watkins began playing Turner in a New York production, then continued the show in Las Vegas.

“I came to Las Vegas about 28 years ago to do a show that I did in New York, called ‘Bee Hive,’” Watkins said. “Originally, I portrayed Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin, but when I got to Vegas, they said, ‘Let’s take a little break and just do Tina.’ So the show started at the Sahara, then we moved to the Luxor. After the show closed, I got a call from John Stuart with Legends in Concert and he said, ‘I heard you do a mean Tina Turner. I’d like to see you.’ So then I went and auditioned and they hired me on the spot and I did Legends on and off for about 20 years.”

It was during her time with Legends in Concert that Watkins would meet her It Takes Two costar, John Anthony, whose career began similarly, with comparisons to a big rockstar.

“I’ve always been in bands since I was young, growing up in Boston,” Anthony said. “Then in the late ‘90s, it was kind of strange, everybody started telling me I look like Rod Stewart. So at the time I was in a band, so I thought I’d try a couple Rod songs and it just went over really well. Everybody that came out to watch the band said, ‘That’s great! You should add more Rod Stewart songs.’ So I kept adding more Stewart songs and next thing I knew, we turned into a tribute band.”

Anthony was in Las Vegas and came across Legends in Concert, which seemed like a perfect fit for him as well.

“I came out to Las Vegas on a trip and I saw a show called Legends in Concert,” Anthony recalled. “I said, ‘Wow, that looks like a fun show! That’s for me.’ So I had an agent back in Boston and he sent them tapes and they called me and said, ‘Do you want to come out to Las Vegas and try out for us.’ So I came out to Las Vegas and tried out for the show and next thing I knew I was working for them.”

From there, both Watkins and Anthony began touring as solo tribute acts, but both were also part of a show put together by Kurt Brown Productions at South Point Casino in Las Vegas. Brown developed It Takes Two: A Tribute to Rod Stewart and Tina Turner to feature the two popular performers.

“They complement each other because their music is very similar and therefore their audience is too,” Watkins said. “John and I get along great onstage and we have fun doing it.”

“Well Rod and Tina had a few tunes they did together,” Anthony added. “Like when Rod was in concert he’d have her up as a guest singer and Tina would do the same. So we thought that’s just a great little matchup for a show. And Cookie is a blast. She’s upbeat and fun.  She’s got a lot of energy and she’s just an amazing vocalist.”

For their stop in Laughlin, guests will get to hear the very best of both performers.

“It’s great crowds down there at the Riverside. They really enjoy the show,” Anthony said. “So we usually open the show with a duet, then I’ll do about 20 minutes of Rod’s stuff, then call her back out to do another duet, then she’ll do Tina’s stuff and back and forth, so it changes up the vibe a little bit. It’s going to be exciting!”