LeRoy Neiman had love for Las Vegas


Mike Tyson, UNLV basketball great Larry Johnson and longtime gaming host Gene Kilroy are among the locals heading for artist LeRoy Neiman's funeral this week in New York City.

Kilroy is an honorary pallbearer and has been asked to speak about a friendship with Neiman that dated to 1965.

They met in New York when Kilroy helped run Muhammad Ali's training camps.

"He loved sports people," and he didn't just pay attention to the upper strata of celebrities, Kilroy said.

"He'd sketch fighters who were just getting by and give 'em the sketch so they could sell it and make some money," Kilroy said.

Neiman loved Las Vegas and lived it to the hilt with Kilroy, the king of connections.

It was a life well lived, said Kilroy, one of Neiman's favorite characters, based on the mentions in Neiman's 2012 book: "All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies and Provocateurs."

Neiman, who died Wednesday at the age of 91, refined his skills as an Army artist during WWII.

He was 23 years and 4 days old when he came ashore at Omaha Beach on June 12, 1944, D-Day plus six.

Neiman's introduction to Las Vegas came in the 1950s, about the same time he befriended Hugh Hefner and became Playboy's artist in residence. That's your definition of a marriage made in heaven.

Las Vegas represented "an entire world of freaks, fanatics, operators, suckers, sex, money and frothy make-believe," he wrote in his book.

When he wasn't sketching boxing title fights here, he roamed the casinos to capture the excitement and essence of Las Vegas with his keen observations.

Neiman found European gambling temples too "stiff, sedate."

In Las Vegas, he wrote, "you could stand right at the roulette table and barely hear the dealer's call over the din. My kind of town."

To kick off the Las Vegas centennial celebration in 2005, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority commissioned Neiman to incorporate such icons as the showgirl, Vegas Vic and hotel signage in a painting awash in neon.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Horse racing trainer Doug O'Neill will be in Primm on Monday to cash in his 200-1 win and sign autographs. O'Neill put $20 down on I'll Have Another on Feb. 3, the day before the California horse won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita at 43-1. O'Neill didn't bet that one. I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. ...

When Las Vegas-based opera star Luana DeVol set up her son, Brian Noble, on a date in 2001, it turned out to be a case of mother knows best. DeVol had met Emily Magee two years earlier while performing together at La Scala, the fabled opera house in Milan, Italy. "I admit to doing a bit of matchmaking," said DeVol, who was one of five Metropolitan Opera performers who took part last weekend in "Don Giovanni" at Artemus Ham Concert Hall at UNLV. Magee and Noble got married in 2003 at The Little Church of the West. Magee has become an international star.

SIGHTINGS

Comedian Bill Engvall and his wife, Gail, swimming with the wildlife at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat (Mirage) on Saturday. ... Reality show sweetheart Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett, and her husband, former NFL receiver Hank Baskett, at Pure (Caesars Palace) on Friday, celebrating her 27th birthday and the launch of her new show "Kendra On Top." ... Mixed martial arts legend Randy Couture, having lunch at the Country Club (Wynn) on Saturday. ... Former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, soaking up some sun at Tao Beach (Venetian) on Friday. ... Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, at Marquee (Cosmopolitan) and STK on Friday. ... Former Sheffield United soccer star James Beattie, partying at Marquee (Cosmopolitan) with former teammates and friends on Friday. ... Steve Wynn and Larry Ruvo, dining at Gordon Ramsay Steak (Paris). ... Bert Kreischer, host of the Travel Channel's "Trip Flip," was in town last week shooting an episode with tourists.

THE PUNCH LINE

"No shortage of starter pistols." - From David Letterman's Top 10 Reasons New York City Would've Been a Good Site for the Olympics.

Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.

 

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