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Day of the Dad

Ten prominent Las Vegas men talk about their most important job: being a dad.
Updated June 16, 2019 - 3:58 am

They’re known as entertainers, chefs, business people and Nevada’s governor.

But their most significant role is as a father.

For Father’s Day, we asked several prominent Las Vegans to share what’s most important to them about being a dad.

Because, as everyone knows, it’s the most difficult job there is. Aside from motherhood.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak with daughters Ashley, left, and Carley, right.
(Photo courtesy Steve Sisolak)

Steve Sisolak

Governor of Nevada

Daughters Ashley, 30, and Carley, 27

Governor Sisolak raised his daughters as a single parent from the time they were about 9 and 11. “The most important thing is just showing the love that you have for (your) kids and encouraging them, being honest with them, telling them how proud you are of them as adults — and the young women my daughters have become — and sharing in their successes and trying to soften the issues that have been negative.”

— John Przybys

Chef Khai Vu and his daughter, Audrey, 5, at District One Kitchen & Bar in Las Vegas Monday, June 10, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto

Khai Vu

Chef/partner at Mordeo Wine Bar and District One

Daughter Audrey, 5

“I just try to be there for her most of the time, if I can, and just make sure she has everything that she needs growing up. Family time, I think, is the most important thing. Because the first few years I was working, building restaurants, and staying away from the family a little bit. (And now) she’s started asking a lot of questions. So I just want to be there more, so she doesn’t have to ask questions like ‘Oh, are you leaving again?’ ‘Where are you going?’ and stuff like that.”

— Al Mancini

Jeff Leibow and daughter

Jeff Leibow

Performer, former star of “Jersey Boys,” founder of NF Hope Benefit Concert

Daughter Emma, 9

Emma was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis when she was just 9 months old, prompting her dad to start the NF Hope Benefit Concert series. “Being able to take care of another human being in the way that you are when you’re a parent is something that just can’t be compared with anything else that I’ve experienced in life. It’s an amazing responsibility. It’s moments like hearing ‘Daddy I love you,’ or when I come home from work and she wants to give me a hug. You sort of see the results of all the efforts that you put in to make this good person out of this little, tiny thing that you created. It’s an amazing journey.”

— Al Mancini

Penn Jillette with his children

Penn Jillette

Magician, juggler, comedian, writer, director, author, podcaster

Daughter Moxie CrimeFighter, 14, and son Zolten, 13, with his wife, Emily

“I think a lot about how cute they were, and how it felt to play on the floor with them when they were very, very young. And during all of that, I try to remember the three seconds, the approximate three seconds we experience as ‘now,’ will never come again. The more time I spend in the future and in the past, the less I’m really sucking up what’s happening now. So, to me, the most important thing is to try to relax and enjoy those chunks of ‘now,’ and to really be here so that I’m not holding my daughter’s hand while thinking about what she’ll be doing next week or next decade. Or to be able to sit with my arm around my son and watch ‘Adventure Time’ right there in real time instead of wondering if he should be spending some of that time doing homework.”

— Christopher Lawrence

Wayne Sermon (Jesse DeFlorio)

Wayne Sermon

Guitarist in Imagine Dragons

Sons River, 4, Wolfgang, 3, and daughter Sunnie, 8 months, with his wife, Alexandra

“I’m a very lucky person for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the privilege of a constant father figure in my life. … I worry a great deal about meeting the standards that were set for me — through the example of my own loving and supportive dad. I was able to mitigate a portion of that anxiety when I finally came to realize that there are many different kinds of fathers and a lot of ways to raise them effectively — that I can be my own kind of father to my kids. And these differences have little to do with toys, trips and college funds. Above all, the greatest gift a dad can give is the gift of his own time. It’s hard to balance a crazy work and touring schedule with the demands of being a proper father. But in truth, those moments spent with my kids are far more important than anything else I do.”

— Jason Bracelin

Earl Turner and his family, from left, Derrick, Earl, Marcus, Christine, Christina, Aaron, Katherine. (Earl Turner)

Earl Turner

Singer-performer/comedian

Sons Derrick, Marcus and Aaron, and daughters Katherine and Christina, with his wife, Christine

“I think the most important thing is watching your kids grow into their own, best individual selves. Each and every one is going to be an individual and they’re going to hopefully pursue their dreams toward happiness in whatever field they choose. You hope that they’re happy and that they’re good people. That’s the main thing. You want them to be good to others. … I always tell them, ‘Don’t chase money, chase your dreams.’ I think that if you’re living your dream, like I am, you realize that money doesn’t really matter. … My oldest son has just come to the realization that he wants to pursue something that makes him really happy. He makes a good income, but it’s a job, not a passion. He recently started his own business to pursue something that he really, really enjoys. I think that’s great.”

— Jason Bracelin

Khloe, Kevin and Kane Churko (Churkos)

Kevin Churko

Music producer

Son Kane, 33, and daughter Khloe, 27, with his wife, Kemnay

Churko’s son Kane is also a producer who works at The Hideout Recording Studio they own together. Daughter Khloe manages The Hideout and her father’s production career. “The most important part of being a father is not friendship. Friendship is the benefit of the most important parental task, which is teaching a child to survive and prosper as a adult, without you. The most important part about being a father is knowing when to push or to pull. Every child is different and you only want to help and never hurt. Sometimes kids need to fail a couple of times before they’re able to succeed. They need to build their spiritual muscle to keep them resilient for later years. That only comes from breaking down that muscle and then growing it stronger.”

— Jason Bracelin

Julian Serrano with daughter

Julian Serrano

Chef

Daughter Estefania, 33

Serrano’s wife Susan was diagnosed with cancer when his daughter was 12, and died when Estefania was 23. The most important thing about being a father was “to be a father when my wife was very sick. Being a father was really important because I had to be 100 percent for her every day. The child, the only one she has is you. You have to focus. There’s constant pressure to make the right decisions for her; you become more like police.” Serrano said Estefania was a tennis player and uninterested in things like fake IDs and going out to clubs. “You want to be so much policing her that we got in trouble. We have similar personalities; we clash.” Estefania moved to San Francisco when she was 20, and Serrano said it was difficult if she didn’t answer the phone. “I love her more than anything in the world. We worked together through a lot of things. She has a family; she understands now.”

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

Chutima family
Bill Chutima with his daughters

Suchay “Bill” Chutima

Restaurateur

Daughters, Penny, 31, and Sabrina, 23

“The most important thing about being a dad is to see my kids happy, healthy, doing the things they love and to never have to depend on anyone but themselves and us. As a parent, my kids’ happiness is my most important goal, especially from where we started, it was difficult to give them everything, when we didn’t have much. Penny figured out on her own to try to make things work and was happy even with the not-so-latest items as a kid; she loved books at the time and if we couldn’t afford a certain toy for her, she would be OK with it and say, ‘It’s OK, one day I will buy you guys a red Mercedes so you and mom can go on a drive together all the time and I can buy my own toys when I grow up.’ As young as she was, she had (that) mentality as a child to move forward and work harder, so I couldn’t fail as a father when my daughter is like that. She pushed herself and I had to push myself. … The main part (of being a father) is being there for them when they need me. … My kids and my wife are my first priority and it’s always been like that, we work hard together as a family, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of my girls.”

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

Joe Oddo, right, and husband, Tim, left, with son Zayn, 11, and daughter Malaya, 12.
Photo courtesy Joe Oddo

Joe Oddo

Board president, Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada

Son Zayn, 11, and daughter Malaya, 12

“I’ve always wanted to be a father since I was a kid. When we’d get asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I always answered, ‘A good dad.’ I didn’t know what I wanted to do career-wise, but I just knew I wanted to be a good father. When I came out of the closet, I didn’t think that was ever in my future. With getting my children later in life (they were adopted four years ago), I have such a responsibility now — my husband (Tim) and I both — not only to be great parents to them but to show them a loving family is possible and that their future isn’t defined by their past.”

— John Przybys

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