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Elaine Wynn recalls Thomas & Mack's opening gala


Elaine Wynn remembers Frank Sinatra was slightly miffed and Diana Ross was at her “superstar divadom” best.

It was 30 years ago tonight that Las Vegas celebrated the opening of the Thomas &Mack Center with a sold-out gala billed as “Christmas with Class.”

Framed posters featuring Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., still adorn the arena walls, along with a collection of photos of the many performers who packed the building over the decades.

“Sammy was ill. It was a terrible disappointment but Diana came to the rescue,” said Wynn, who chaired the event.

“It was a two-act opening,” recalled Wynn, who remembered it clearly because it was her first of many chairing roles. “Dean opened then Frank came out. Then there was a break. We did some ceremonial things. Jerry Tarkanian and the Rebels were onstage. We honored Parry Thomas and Jerry Mack. They were the founding fathers.”

Remarkably, all three of the headliners performed for free.

“Frank had a warm spot in his heart for UNLV. Steve (her then-husband Steve Wynn, chairman of the Golden Nugget) reached his long arm out and invited them to do this.

“I established a one-hour call time and when Frank got there, he was a little miffed (over the wait). We had his Jack Daniel’s (in his dressing room.)

“I said, ‘Forgive me, Frank. I’m new at this’ and he was just fine.”

“It was a quintessential Las Vegas night. Everybody knew Frank and Dean were the main guys behind our city’s glamor. Diana was in her superstar divadom. Everybody loved it.”

The event raised several million for the UNLV Foundation, Nathan Adelson Hospice and “some money went to pay off some of the building,” she said.

Built for $30 million, the building officially opened Sept. 16, 1983.

VEGAS SPOOFED ON ‘SNL’

Las Vegas celebrities Guy Fieri, Criss Angel and the “Pawn Stars” were spoofed during a “Saturday Night Live” Christmas show.

They were impersonated in a skit titled “Guy Fieri’s Full Throttle Christmas Special.”

“Saturday Night Live” veteran Bobby Moynihan not only played Fieri, the UNLV grad and Food Network star, but he portrayed all four cast members of the “Pawns Stars.”

Moynihan’s Richard “Old Man” Harrison ended his appearance by toppling off a bench in a stupor. “SNL” cast member Kyle Mooney appeared as an Angel look-alike, walking out from behind a curtain in the rapid-fire cameo impressions.

Adding to the Las Vegas flavor, Kenan Thompson impersonated the fake sign language interpreter who stood near President Barack Obama last week at a memorial service for former South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Thompson, a Lake Las Vegas resident for more than a decade, is in his 11th year on “SNL.”

John Goodman hosted the show for the 13th time.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Kelly Clinton has holiday shows planned at Anthem and the Suncoast. Friday’s show at Anthem’s Freedom Hall will include the “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas” collaboration between her husband, Clint Holmes, and Antonio Fargas of “Starsky and Hutch” fame. Clinton’s Dec. 31 show at the Suncoast starts at noon and features special guests.

SIGHTINGS

Miss Nevada USA and Miss Nevada Teen USA hopefuls, taking self-defense lessons on Saturday during a pageant orientation session at Life Time Athletic in Summerlin. The contestants also got advice from current Miss Nevada USA Chelsea Caswell and former Miss USA title winners Shanna Moakler (1995) and Alyssa Campanella (2011). Moakler is the executive state director of the Miss USA organization.

THE PUNCH LINE

“According to CNN, 200,000 Americans are signed up for a one-way trip to Mars to colonize Mars. Unfortunately, none of them are Kardashians.” — Jay Leno

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more at normclarke.com. Follow @Norm_Clarke on Twitter. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.