Heroes rush in where other passers-by might fear to tread

Sitting behind the wheel of his well-kept 1984 Honda Prelude, Norman Manitta was startled by the approach of two men as he waited at a stop sign at Tenaya Way and Alexander Road near his apartment.

Though initially confused, Manitta quickly got the message: His car was on fire.

Problem is, Norman is weakened from chemotherapy and radiation treatments for his lung cancer and has difficulty using his 83-year-old legs. The retired CAT bus driver simply couldn’t move faster than the fire.

With the flames rising rapidly, the two men forced open the Prelude’s door and pulled Manitta free. They carried him across the street and out of harm’s way as the fire engulfed the Honda and burned it down to the frame in less than a minute.

“The car was gone in 35 seconds,” Manitta says. “If these guys didn’t pull me out, I wouldn’t be talking to you. They said, ‘You have to hurry up.’ They just picked me up and carried me. I said, ‘My God, my car’s on fire.’ “

Manitta, who suffered slight burns in the July 5 incident, continues his cancer treatment. But he has a special place for the two men, Lance Davis and John Zamberlan, who acted quickly and saved his life.

Norman misses his Honda.

“I took good care of it,” he says. “I was going to leave it to my grandchildren.”

Tony Manitta knows cars can be replaced. He only has one dad, who suffers enough these days.

“Most people would just drive by and look and say, ‘There’s a car on fire,’ ” Tony Manitta says. “These guys were heroes.”

Someone in authority should thank these good Samaritans, who risked their safety to save a stranger.

IRISH SHOWMAN: Local newspaper readers probably know William Fuller best for his association with Sandy Murphy and the Ted Binion case, but friends say the Irishman’s life was far more colorful and complex.

Fuller, who died Monday at age 91, operated nightclubs and ballrooms in Ireland and England after World War II.

He eventually opened clubs in Boston, New York and Chicago. He brought the Irish Show Band to America and promoted many of the major music acts to emerge from the Emerald Isle, including U2.

Betty Lamy was a teenager singing in Dublin when she first met Fuller, who hired her to perform at his Crystal Ballroom.

“It was big time,” longtime Las Vegan Lamy recalls. “Everyone in Ireland wanted to sing, and it was the most famous ballroom.”

A retired casino marketing executive, Lamy says Fuller jump-started many careers.

“He was just a good man and kind,” she says.

COWBOY DUSTUP: Cowboy County Commissioner Tom Collins, chairman of the state Democratic Party, takes umbrage with a recent column in which I referred to Republican “Cowboy Gov. Jim Gibbons.”

“He’s no cowboy,” Collins says. “He’s all hat and no cattle.”

DUNCAN’S HONOR: Longtime civil rights activist Ruby Duncan has won the Margaret Chase Smith Award from the National Association of Secretaries of State. Past winners include Rosa Parks, President Carter, and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.

Nominated by Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, Duncan is the daughter of a Louisiana sharecropper.

DAILY GRIND: Java giant Starbucks has announced it’s closing 17 local stores, but not every coffee franchise in Southern Nevada is cutting back. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf President and CEO Philip Patent says his company plans to increase its 14 local locations.

STEWART’S SHOW: Rod Stewart wowed attendees in a private concert Monday at the World Market Center Las Vegas Summer Market.

Even Stewart must have been impressed with Building C’s 2.1 million square feet of show space.

ON THE BOULEVARD: University Chancellor Jim Rogers and wife Beverly will receive the ACLU’s Emilie Wanderer Civil Libertarian award at a Sept. 5 ceremony at Cili restaurant. … After 32 years of spiritual service at Sunrise Hospital, Pastor Jerry Blankinship is retiring. … TeleSphere, the network services provider, is donating $20,000 in services to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada to create a 24-hour “Wish Family Emergency Hotline.”

BOULEVARD II: Complaints are surfacing about the admission policy at a certain Strip nightclub, which is suspected of racial discrimination. … Tough times for a pair of up-and-coming attorneys, who I’m told are close to declaring bankruptcy.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to or call (702) 383-0295.

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