Living Las Vegas:
The music man: Longtime Excalibur porter treats guests to old Vegas tunes
Listen to the whistle
Listen to the Song
Clanging slot machines. Gamblers chatting over cards. The rumble of a carpet cleaning machine rolling through the Excalibur.
Then, a whistle cuts through the noise. It sounds like Sinatra.
It’s Henry Moore, working the graveyard shift.
A fixture at the Excalibur for 23 of his 77 years, Moore makes his money cleaning carpets. But his passion is music.
In the dead of night, he whistles and sings to passing guests, plucking songs from a repertoire that includes Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and his favorite, Nat King Cole.
The Mississippi native has worked as a shampoo porter since the Excalibur opened June 19, 1990.
“I’m relaxed when I whistle,” Moore said on a recent night, sitting on a bench near the bell desk just past midnight, when his shift starts. “It makes my work very easy.”
MGM Resorts International executives recently named Moore Excalibur’s Employee of the Year.
The recognition surprised Moore, who says music and people have been constants in his life since childhood.
Born Dec. 26, 1935, in the tiny, green town of Forest, Miss., Moore spent his early years listening to his mother teach neighborhood kids how to play the piano.
Moore never cared much about playing; he preferred to listen and whistle the songs he liked most. When he was old enough to join, he sang in a choir.
“I’ve always loved music,” said Moore, who can’t remember when he learned how to whistle because he has been doing it so long. “It’s natural. … Just growing up as a kid, most everybody whistled.”
The music of Moore’s youth never left him.
Not after he left home at 18 to work as a house hand for a wealthy family in Paterson, N.J. Nor when he took his next job at a bread factory down the road.
And not after his 41-year-old brother returned from a second stint in the Vietnam War and died of pneumonia just two months before his final discharge. That was in November 1970. Moore traveled to Pomona, Calif., for the funeral.
He decided to stay and start a new life out West. The decision turned out to be the best of his life, he says now.
Moore landed a job as a janitor for the Los Angeles Unified School District, fell in love with a woman and got married.
He sang and whistled show tunes and church songs for the students, which they enjoyed. They eventually asked him to perform a small, musical role in a stage production.
“I was always whistling,” Moore said.
Those same students funded Moore’s first trip to Las Vegas, giving him a newspaper-wrapped package filled with enough money to pay for a short vacation.
Moore and his wife soon realized houses were cheaper in Nevada.
“An old house in California cost more than a new house here,” Moore said.
They packed up and moved to Las Vegas in 1990.
Moore set out to find a job. He applied to be a janitor with the Clark County School District but couldn’t get much traction.
His luck changed with the opening of the Excalibur.
“I’ve been here since Day One,” Moore said.
The job hasn’t changed much over the years.
Moore still waits until 3 a.m. to clean the carpets because the casino floor is typically too busy with customers before then. He still mixes chemicals with water while he waits, dumping the concoction into his motorized cleaning machine, called a “commodore.”
But his machine is a little lighter and runs on batteries these days. It used to require extension cords.
When Moore gets started, his co-workers know it.
“I could always hear him whistling,” said Dean Ommen, a 54-year-old bellman who works the 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift. “He’s good.”
Standing with a slight hunch, Moore is tall and rail thin, a physique he attributes to years of pushing his carpet cleaner.
“I eat what two people eat, and I don’t gain a pound,” Moore said. “They say I got a lot of hot air.”
Moore leaps into a long, operatic howl to prove the point.
The old-timer says the payoff for his songs comes the moment a guest stops and says, “Good job,” or, “You made my day.”
“That’s a feeling that’s almost indescribable,” said Moore, who has no plans to retire. “Some people don’t want to be concerned with their fellow man. … But you can’t be happy by yourself.”
One of his favorite songs is Sinatra’s “You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You.”
“Gold won’t bring you happiness when you’re growing old,” Moore sings. “You’re nobody 'til somebody loves you.”
Moore said music has allowed him to connect with people from all walks of life. It’s often the best way to cheer them up, too.
“It’s all about attitude,” Moore said. “I can get along with the devil … because if he gets out of line, I’ll sing to him.”