E. Parry Thomas ponied up the cash and Wynn went on a ride

Steve Wynn noted that when E. Parry Thomas passed away Friday at his ranch in Hailey, Idaho, the legendary Las Vegas banking magnate was surrounded by his wife and children.

“I am with my family now,” Wynn said during a phone interview Friday night from Los Angeles, where he had made a brief stop as he returned from the opening of Wynn Palace in Macau. “I was just telling my grandson what a great man Parry Thomas was.”

Thomas famously helped Wynn assemble the cornerstone of the Wynn empire on the Strip, lending him $1.2 million from Thomas’ Valley Bank for a sliver of property next to Caesars Palace. Wary of the potential competition, Caesars bought that land from Wynn for $2.2 million in 1971. Wynn used the profits to open Golden Nugget downtown, setting himself up to spearhead the megaresort boom in Las Vegas.

Wynn said Thomas was “an incredibly generous man,” adding: “I asked him once, ‘Why would you help me?’ I was just 24 or 25 at the time, an absolute nobody. And he said, ‘You should help a young person if you are in a position to do that. Walter Cosgriff helped me in Salt Lake City, and I’m helping you.”

Cosgriff was the famed banking magnate who brought Thomas on as an executive in Salt Lake City and sent him to Las Vegas to explore investment possibilities. Thomas wound up replacing Cosgriff as president of Valley Bank when Cosgriff died in a car accident in 1961.

It was Thomas and his partner, Jerry Mack, who gave a boost to Wynn and helped create the template for today’s Las Vegas. Such practice has become known as “paying it forward,” and Wynn has never forgotten.

“He was just a great man,” Wynn said. “There were many of us he touched.”

NBT TO HONOR WILLIAMS

Vanessa Williams is being honored as Nevada Ballet Theatre Woman of the Year at the 33rd NBT charity gala on Jan. 28 at Aria. The actress, recording star and author has a long list of artistic achievements: She was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as the Witch in “Into The Woods” and has appeared in the feature films “Eraser,” “Shaft” and “Dance With Me.” She has appeared in myriad TV movies (“Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “The Boy Who Loved Christmas,” “The Jacksons: An American Dream” among them). Her debut album, “The Right Stuff,” went gold and the single “Save the Best for Last” topped the Billboard charts in 1992.

Williams’ affiliation with Las Vegas is her long friendship with Howard Hughes Corp. CEO David R. Weinreb, the 2017 presenting sponsor of the NBT gala. Weinreb and Williams have been friends since they met at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y. She joins a list of NBT Women of the Year honorees that includes Chita Rivera (2002), Celine Dion (2004), Paula Abdul (2007), Twyla Tharp (2008), Marie Osmond (2009), Bette Midler (2010), Eva Longoria (2012), Florence Henderson (2014), Debbie Allen (2015), and Olivia Newton-John (2016).

Williams, we remember, is the original 1984 Miss America titleholder who last year reconciled with the organization after ceding her crown to Suzette Charles. Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell apologized to her during the telecast from Atlantic City in September, putting that long issue to rest.

BEAUTIFUL DEVELOPMENT

The Carole King musical “Beautiful” being staged at Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center on Sept. 20-Oct. 2 is a preview of residency of the production on the Strip. A version of the show is expected to move into The Venetian Theater next spring, an attempt to spark a long-running show in the spirit of “Jersey Boys.” That show opened at Palazzo before moving to Paris Las Vegas and enjoyed an eight-year run on the Strip before announcing its closing on Sept. 18.

THE DEACON JUGGLES

Flamingo Las Vegas headliner and expert juggler Jeff Civillico hosts a “60 Second Wedding” each week on his new TV/live-stream show “The Weekend In Vegas.” The show tapes each Thursday night at 8 p.m. at Linq promenade. Civillico is to perform some services himself, as an ordained minister of the nonreligious sect the United Church of Bacon.

“The people at Clark County almost don’t want to accept the certificate,” Civillico said during Wednesday’s episode of Kats! On The Radio on KUNV 91.5-FM. “I said, ‘I am the Deacon of Bacon!’ and they just stare at me.”

There is an irony, too, of the aggressively single Civillico presiding over wedding ceremonies, which is another story for another time.

John Katsilometes’ column runs Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the A section, and Fridays in Neon. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and appears Wednesdays at 11 a.m. with Dayna Roselli on KTNV Channel 13. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter.

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