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Carrot Top, Mac King, Lady Gaga’s bandleader among UNLV honorees

Updated February 8, 2020 - 10:18 am

The LVCVA has just uncorked its new tourism campaign, “What Happens Here, Only Happens Here.” UNLV’s College of Fine Arts could make that phrase the subtitle of its 2020 Hall of Fame lineup.

UNLV is honorings a genius, a master magician, a famous prop comic and Lady Gaga’s favorite trumpeter.

Dave Hickey, a former UNLV English professor and Las Vegan, heads up the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees for the dinner set for April 7 at the school’s Student Union Ballroom. Harrah’s headlining magician Mac King and Luxor mainstay Carrot Top join Hickey on the formal Hall of Fame list.

Mixed-media artist Justin Favela and Smith Center Vice President of Education and Outreach Candy Schneider receive the Dean’s Medal of Distinction honor. Giovanna Sardelli, a top stage director and daughter of Vegas entertainment icon Nelson Sardelli, receives the Alumna of the Year honor. And Lady Gaga’s bandleader and trumpet great Brian Newman is to be honored with the Las Vegas Newcomer award, the first such honor in the event’s 17-year history.

The photo ops alone (Hickey with Carrot Top, for starters) should make this year’s event something special.

“We are so very fortunate to be living in Las Vegas, with its openness to a diverse range of talents and artistic expression,” UNLV College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy Uscher said in a statement Thursday. “In Las Vegas we have the opportunity to honor stellar artists and entertainers who reflect the dynamic and vital artistic environment of our unique city.”

Hickey is an acclaimed art critic who in 2001 won the MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “genius grant,” and in 2003 was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame by UNR. His 2006 PBS documentary centering on Andy Warhol won a Peabody Award. Hickey’s wife, historian Libby Lumpkin, is the former curator of Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and executive director of the former Las Vegas Art Museum.

The couple moved in the summer of 2010 to accept positions at the University of New Mexico.

King marked his 20th anniversary at Harrah’s in January. His afternoon show runs 1 and 3 p.m. daily (dark Sundays and Mondays), the longest unbroken run currently among Las Vegas headliners. Last month he was inducted into the Society of American Magicians Hall of Fame during the organization’s convention at Golden Nugget.

King was also skewered at the hotel’s Grand Ballroom during a roast emceed by Four Queens headliner Mike Hammer featuring such magic luminaries as Penn Jillette, The Amazing Johnathan, Fielding West, Chris Kenner, Michael Carbonaro, Derek Hughes, Harrison Greenbaum and Nick Diffatte.

Carrot Top, whose legal name is Scott Thompson, notched his 15th anniversary at Luxor in October. He also signed a five-year extension carrying through to 2025. Thompson has been a national name since he appeared on “Star Search” more than 25 years ago.

The prop comic has made more than 30 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” most when the show was hosted by his friend Jay Leno. The Topper also shares the all-time record for most appearances on “Live With Kelly and Ryan” with the late Joan Rivers, with 33. His relationship with “Live” dates to the days when Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford co-hosted the morning show.

Newman heads up Gaga’s band in “Jazz + Piano” at Park Theater and also the “After Dark” series at NoMad Restaurant. The trumpet virtuoso and bandleader out of Cleveland, by way of Brooklyn, has forged a link between a superstar headliner and UNLVs own jazz studies program. Newman hired the players from from Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns (a 2019 Dean’s Medal recipient) for the “Jazz + Piano” orchestra, among them UNLV Jazz Studies professor and trombone player Nathan Tanouye.

Newman opens his shows escorted by a pair of “Jubilee” dancers and has filled the bill with an array of vocalists, dancers and burlesque performers — many from Las Vegas. Newman also appears in the “Only Happens Here” commercials, looking like a guy at home in the scene.

Cool Hang Alert

Val Witherspoon of “Friends A Musical Parody” and Sarah Lowe of “Atomic Saloon Show” (she swings as host Boozy Skunkton) host a post-Oscar show at 9 p.m. Sunday night at Copa Room at Tuscany Suites. “And The Funniest Song Goes To” is a lineup of songs to make you laugh, or if you will, guffaw. Kenny Davidsen hosts, with support from several Vegas favorites, among them Enoch Augustus Scott of “Zombie Burlesque,” master impressionist John Di Domenico and comedy great (and longtime George Carlin opener) Dennis Blair. Several others in the lineup, including this scribe (tentative by every definition of the word). No cover charge, but the drinks aren’t free.

Great Moments in Social Media

Comedy icon and Westgate Las Vegas headliner George Wallace is a great Twitter follow. His pinned tweet: “I grew up so poor our dog could only get one rabie.” And, “Shout out to the top 5 villes in the world, Nash Louis, Margarita, vaud and Cruela de.’ If you don’t get that, Google it. Funny.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts.

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