SHERIDAN — Alex Banks learned at an early age that the show must go on. From starting as a young boy in show business to being whisked off stage by the draft, Banks has put that idea into practice. As an 88-year-old man who still wows the crowds in Sheridan, Banks took the phrase to an entirely new level recently.
His name hit the marquee at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center for “Alex Banks & Friends: Just a Singin’ and a Dancin’” in what was scheduled as two nights of performing. Banks had completed about six or seven numbers before coming out to do a comedy act. Following the comedy act, Banks slipped and cracked his hip. The unexplainable agonizing pain did not stop him from completing the rest of the show.
“I wouldn’t leave the stage,” Banks said. “I’m 88, almost 89, and they ran a stool out there, one that was padded, and they put me on that, and I sat straight up and Jane (Perkins) came out and did her (numbers).”
Two joint numbers with Perkins, eight additional numbers and a rendition of “God Bless America” all came before Banks bid adieu to his fans and was taken off stage by an emergency medical response team from Rocky Mountain Ambulance.
“The adrenaline was there, and I just couldn’t disappoint that audience,” Banks said. “They were all there and friends of mine and everything. I just couldn’t do it, so I just wouldn’t let them take me off (stage).”
Melissa Butcher, who performed earlier numbers with Banks, befriended Banks much earlier and always admires his gusto.
“He does everything with absolute style,” Butcher said of Banks. “I’ve never met anyone who was more comfortable showing how much he loves people. He has no need to hide anything, no need to posture, and he loves unconditionally.”
At the end of the show, the audience of around 50 to 70 people, instead of retreating out of the theater, they instead moved toward the stage and began a receiving line with Banks while an ambulance crew waited until the right moment to carry him off stage.
The resilience of the 88-year-old man did not stop after the incident. Three weeks after his surgery, Banks is back at home and marching around the house free of any assistance.
The incident Sept. 7 was not the first time Banks had fought through adversity. In 1951, he was drafted into the military, breaking up he and his sister’s dual dancing act.
“I did a floor show with my sister the night before twice, and then the next morning she’s sitting on the end of the bed crying with my draft notice,” Banks said. “That broke us up as a dance team. We’d been dancing together since I was 9, but we went professional when I was 15.”
He served in Berlin and experienced life with a German family. Two years later, he was back in show business but this time with a girlfriend.
Banks eventually made his way to Sheridan, where he took an early retirement but ended up teaching the senior center tap class.
“I got to Sheridan through friends,” Banks said. “They invested up here and I invested; everybody died off and I ended up with it and I fell in love with the people.”
Living in Hollywood during its golden era led Banks to despise the current version of the star-studded city, so Sheridan’s people fit him better, he said.
“He’s just an incredible person living life to the absolute fullest,” Butcher said.
Banks refuses to let ailments, war deployments or old age keep him from doing what he loves best — performing for an audience. Because, of course, the show must go on.