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Iconic comic, actor, magician to be honored at UNLV

Updated March 20, 2023 - 11:45 am

UNLV College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy Uscher says, “There is opportunity here that one doesn’t find in other places.”

That is true of the many students who have come out of UNLV and entered into the Las Vegas entertainment workforce and creative community. It is also the case, also, for the inductees into the UNLV College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame, all with a unique Las Vegas affiliation.

This year’s event is Tuesday night at the school’s Student Union Ballroom. Those being honored:

Brad Garrett, co-star of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and proprietor of his eponymous club at MGM Grand. Garrett opened for Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., among many superstars, early in his Las Vegas career.

— The late Clarence Gilyard, acclaimed actor and professor at UNLV, famous for his roles as computer-terror expert Theo in “Die Hard” Conrad McMasters on “Matlock” and as Jimmy Trivette on “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Gilyard died in November at age 66.

— The late Gloria Dea, the trailblazing magician who just passed away over the weekend at age 100. Dea was the first person to perform magic on what would be the Strip, in May 1941 at 18 years old at the El Rancho Hotel. Magic legend David Copperfield is following through on his commitment to present Dea’s award, in a ceremony prior to the main dinner.

Virko Baley, a Jacyk Fellow at Harvard Ukranian Research Institute and distinguished professor of music, composer-in-residence and co-director of NEON, an annual composers’ conference at UNLV.

James Stanford, the multimedia artist well known for transforming historic neon signage and architectural elements of Las Vegas into modern mandalas.

Those receiving the Koep Dean’s Medal, chosen specifically by Uscher:

Nelson Sardelli, the Vegas lounge legend who entertained on the Strip, opening shows for Judy Garland and many other superstars. Sardelli still lords over the F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) at Italian American Club.

And, honored as Alumni of the Year:

Cecilia Schafler, landscape architect, designer, educator, founder, and president of Lage Design, named in honor of her grandmother, her first design instructor.

Dwayne Eshenbaugh, the award-winning, Las Vegas-based architect and ardent humanitarian whose firm, NOVUS Architecture, employs 10 UNLV alumni.

Gilyard is the first inductee to be honored with both Hall of Fame awards, with the Koep’s Dean Medal added after his passing.

“Shortly before Clarence died, I had the chance to tell him that we were really excited about honoring him,” Uscher says. “He’s someone who really warms my heart because he was in TV shows, he was very well-connected, he directed, he did lots of things in the industry, but he loved teaching. He loved his students. I think that that gave him as much satisfaction as anything.”

UNLV covers seven academic disciplines in its College of Fine Arts.

“We have a real range of disciplinary honors, and this year of course, we have the architecture represented through the Alumni of the Year,” Uscher says. “We are a multigeneratioanal, broadly based college.”

Past inductees into the UNLV Hall include entertainment legends Tony Curtis; Phyllis McGuire; Robert Goulet; The Killers; Wayne Newton; Liberace; Clint Holmes; Rich Little; Penn & Teller; Lance Burton; Siegfried & Roy; Ann-Margret; Carrot Top; Dionne Warwick and Paul Anka; and architects Tony Marnell; John Klai; Tom Schoeman and William Snyder.

This year’s event is sold out, with 320 in attendance. Garrett is unable to attend because of his shooting schedule for the new Peacock series “Bupkis,” based on Pete Davidson’s life. Garrett continues to headline a couple weekends a month at his MGM Grand club.

Of being honored by an institution of higher learning, Garrett says, “I am incredibly honored, Especially for a guy who went to college for six weeks. Any way to bump this up to a doctorate?”

Cool Hang Alert

On the topic of Garrett’s club, the star actor and comic always a hankerin’ for a solid live-music scene. Ashley Fuller and the Collective is the house band at the club entrance, from 7-8 p.m. and 9:30-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The band smokes, the place jumps, and the club comics bring the ha-ha. Go to bradgarrettcomedy.com for intel.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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