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A Killer of a night at the Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame

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Clint Holmes, onstage at Ham Hall.
Photo: Aaron Mayes

One of the inductees said of her posthumously honored husband, “I miss him with every breath I take, but how lucky was I to have spent 28 years with such a wonderful man.”

Another ended his speech with an enthusiastic, “Hell yeah!”

The first comment was made by Vera Goulet, widow of Robert Goulet. The second was by Ronnie Vannucci, drummer of The Killers. The statements from the stage revealed the wide range of inductees at Thursday night’s Nevada Entertainment/Artist Hall of Fame. Honored before an audience of a few hundred at Ham Hall were late entertainment giant Robert Goulet, The Killers, Nevada Dance Theatre (what evolved to become Nevada Ballet Theatre) co-founder Vassili Sulich, casino construction and architecture visionary Tony Marnell, and longtime Strip headliner Clint Holmes.

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The odd coupling of Ronnie Vannucci, left, and UNLV College of Fine Arts Dean Jeff Koep.

The awards are known as “The Sidneys,” for three-time Oscar-winning director George Sidney, who was the first recipient, honored posthumously in 2003. Since, the list of inductees has included such Vegas-connected entertainment icons as Tony Curtis, Phyllis McGuire, Wayne Newton, Rich Little, Mary Healy Hayes and Anthony Zuiker. Among local trailblazers on the list are NBT co-founder Nancy Houssels and production-show pioneer Frederic Apcar. Others whose artistry is not wed to stage and screen include architects Thomas Schoeman and John Klai II.

2008 UNLV Hall of Fame

Goulet was to be a recipient last year, but was in concert in Syracuse, N.Y., at the time, so his award was pushed back to this year so he could actually attend. That performance, on Sept. 20, 2007, nearly a year ago to the day of his induction, would be his last. He died of pulmonary fibrosis on Oct. 30, at age 73. As Vera said, “It’s surreal to be standing up here now, without him.” At a reception after the program, she said, “Bob loved Las Vegas and he loved the arts. He did it all. He would have been thrilled to be here.” Vannucci is actually a product of UNLV’s music department, about a semester short of a degree in music education.

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Vera Goulet is cheered by the Ham Hall audience.

“It’s hard to see that degree so close and not have it, but we have tours, we have an album we’re finishing,” Vannucci said, referring to The Killers’ upcoming release, Day And Age, set for a Nov. 25 release. “I’m almost there.” Vannucci was joined by bassist Mark Stoermer; Dave Keuning could not make it because his son was celebrating his birthday, and Flowers was adding vocal tracks to the final song on Day And Age. The band is set to begin a U.S. tour next week, and Vannucci said the band is planning an Oct. 20 or Oct. 21 in Vegas at a still-to-be-determined Venue.

Other randomly scrawled notes from the program:

*Vannucci recalled The Killers’ first gig in Vegas, which he put at “2001 or 2002” at the Junkyard on West Sahara Avenue. “I don’t think it’s even around anymore.” Correct. The band took off at Café Roma from 2002 and 2003. That place, too, is shuttered.

*College of Fine Arts Dean Jeffrey Koep joked from the stage that The Killers were offered space at UNLV, off-hours, to rehearse. “We weren’t really allowed to practice, but we did have a lot of our gear in a giant room here and we kind of just showed up to play,” Vannucci said. “That’s how it worked out.” And, after a lengthy video introducing The Killers, he said, “Wow. I’ve really learned a lot about our band.”

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Construction and architecture trailblazer Tony Marnell of Marnell Carrao accepts his "Sidney."

*Marnell, whose Marnell Corrao Associates have built many of the Strip’s most ambitious and lavish hotel-casinos (the Rio, Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and the new M Resort among them), said he’s most proud of Bellagio. “I think because it’s the most recognizable and identifiable around the world, for its entire composition. I think that it’s greatly attributable by the way Steve Wynn and I had the fortunate experience to try to interpret that idea, that vision. Architects sometimes build buildings for themselves. Sometimes we forget that we should be building buildings for people.” The 59-year-old Marnell also said he plans to spend time working with young people as his career winds down. “I want to do some work with children. How that will happen, what form it will take, but the thing that I have missed in my life is working with young people,” he said. “I would like to be connected in a non-financial, direct way, and hopefully in the next 10 years or so I will be able to do that. I have to figure out a way to explore that in my life.”

*Marnell is a product of Clark County public edication, having graduated from Ranch High School. He also said, from the stage, “I learned a lot from the streets. A lot of people on the streets took care of me.”

*Holmes still plans to take his autobiographical play, Just Another Man to Broadway. Though he’s been tweaking the story, the story essentially was completed two years ago. Since, he’s gotten married (to Kelly Clinton, whose birthday was Thursday) and been honored in the Hall of Fame. But he said he’s finished adding material about himself for the stage. “This won’t be in the play,” he said, laughing.

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Vasili Sulich -- greeting the audience in a theatrical manner.

*Sulich, who began his career with the Ballet de Francede Janine Charrat in Paris, made his debut on Broadway in 1964 in Folies Bergere. He moved to Las Vegas for the Trop’s Folies production, and began holding dance concerts at UNLV. His free ballet performances were jammed with spectators, and soon he and Houssels formed the troupe that would become Nevada Dance Theatre. Sulich, whose vision helped form one of Las Vegas’ enduring entertainment institutions, now lives in Rio de Janeiro and still choreographs ballet productions.

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