While everyone agrees that Marlena Shaw is a national treasure, it’s difficult to categorize her. Both Downbeat and Record World have named her “Best Female Singer,” and many have compared her range, class, and swing to eternal jazz lights like Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, and Nancy Wilson. She’s also been called a “soul legend,” both before and after her successful detour into disco. Marlena’s a lyricist and composer as well — for example, her ballad “You” was recorded by both Stanley Turrentine and Benny Golson.
Given her 40+ year boundary-busting career, such labeling confusion is inevitable. It’s easier and more descriptive to think of Marlena as a natural element: like water, which we recognize in a gleaming dewdrop or clear mountain stream. Marlena’s music is unmistakable. Whether she’s singing jazz, R&B, pop, rock, soul, disco, blues or gospel, her originality makes such distinctions irrelevant, and each song becomes intimate and new. Marlena is a soulful survivor who’s been there, and more than once. But her music is never heavy — where others might communicate pain or despair, she offers wisdom and hope, laced with humor.
Born in Valhalla, New York and raised on gospel and jazz, Marlena’s first public performance was at the age of 10, at the legendary Apollo Theater. Her activities since then have been as diverse as her legions of fans. Marlena has fronted big bands and orchestras, including Basie’s (both original and new), Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Band, the Cologne Big Band, the Smithsonian and Seattle Repertory Orchestras, and the US Army Blues Band. She’s performed and recorded with Ray Brown, Benny Carter, and Joe Williams, toured with Sammy Davis Jr. for four years, and graced every major jazz festival in the world, as well as top venues like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. It’s not unusual for Marlena to be on the road more than 200 days a year.
The first woman vocalist ever signed to Blue Note Records, where she made five albums and several singles, Marlena’s recording career actually began in 1966 with Cadet Records (a subsidiary of the ground-breaking Chess Records). Along with hit singles like “Wade in the Water,” “California Soul,” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (which she co-wrote, and which first brought her to Count Basie’s attention), she made two well-received albums. At Columbia Records there were four more, including the disco smash, “Take a Bite!,” and “Verve” and “Concord” followed.
Marlena is universally admired for her warm, supple voice and relaxed charm. A natural storyteller, her spoken words before, during, and between songs are often hilarious. In fact, the set-up to her signature tune, “Go Away, Little Boy” has become a famous monologue in itself, entitled “Yu-Ma.” Marlena’s smiling, spontaneous interplay with both her band and her audience invites the listener in like a valued friend.
In 2000, her tremendous overseas popularity led to “Anthology,” a splendid collection from London’s Soul Brother Records, and two hits for Sony Japan: “Live in Tokyo” (2002) and “Lookin’ for Love” (2003, both released in the US by 441 Records). The critics use words like “astonishing,” “peerless,” “radiant,” and “powerful,” and marvel at her “soaring sensuality.” Marlena Shaw is one of the most sampled singers of the day, most from her self-penned “Woman of the Ghetto.” It's Marlena's voice you hear in the Docker's commercial, singing "California Soul" in the KFC commercial, Paramount Film’s "The Italian Job," and, during the NBA Playoffs 2009 and NFL Playoffs in 2008.
In 2009, Marlena received the Lifetime Achievement Award presented in London by World Wide Music. Using the experience she received with the Count Basie Band, Marlena has become a favorite singer for big bands. Witness her work with Frank Foster at Lincoln Center and with Diva. But despite her long experience, there’s no slickness or pretense in Marlena’s style. Communicating directly from her heart and soul to yours, her undiminished creative vitality has no artificial ingredients. Like water — or a welcome breath of fresh air – Marlena is an all-natural element.
Hugh E. Taylor was born on September 24, 1924 in Milford, Utah to Gerald and Thelma (Williams) Taylor. His father’s family came from Ogden, Utah and a long line of Taylors who were prominent in the Mormon Church. Among these was John Taylor, the third president of the Mormon Church, whose predecessor was Brigham Young.
When Mr. Taylor was two-years-old, his mother and father divorced. Thelma took Hugh with her to Los Angeles where she also gave birth to Hugh’s younger brother Gerald. Once in Los Angeles, Hugh and Gerald lived in a boys’ home, as it was difficult for their mother to work and take care of two small children. For many years, Hugh saw his mother about once a month. When Thelma remarried, the boys moved in with their mother and stepfather, but retained the last name of Taylor.
Hugh lived in Los Angeles for sometime. In both junior high and high school, he took drafting classes and designed a few homes, including one called the “Modern House.” In February of 1943, Hugh joined the military. He spent most of World War II training to be a fighter pilot. However, just as he was about to be called in to fly for the military, the war came to an end.
From there, he returned to Los Angeles where he took a job as a draftsman. After a few years, he and a fellow draftsman decided to go into business for themselves. They pieced together work, but it barely kept his growing family and wife Charlotte comfortable. Eventually, the pair started getting more regular work and it was on one of these projects — a large apartment building — that a friend of Wilbur Clark’s approached Hugh about a project in Las Vegas.
Mr. Taylor was flown to Las Vegas in Mr. Clark’s plane — probably the Lulu C. — and put up at the El Rancho. He got to know both Wilbur and Toni Clark and soon he brought his family out to Las Vegas and began working on the Desert Inn Casino. He took over the position after Wayne McAllister and Clark had come to some artistic differences. Mr. Taylor was just 25 when the Desert Inn Casino opened.
The Desert Inn Casino project marked the beginning of Mr. Taylor’s career in Las Vegas architecture spanning four decades. Mr. Taylor went on to design approximately two-thirds of the homes in the Desert Inn Estates, Sunrise Hospital, as well as many homes in the Scotch 80s, McNeil Estates, Southridge, Beverly Green and Paradise Palms. In all, Mr. Taylor designed about 1,000 projects from chicken coops and moveable storage bins, to custom homes for individuals such as Eddie Fisher and Antonio Morelli.
In the 1980s, Mr. Taylor retired and moved with his wife Priscilla — Charlotte had passed away in 1971 from cancer — into a home at The Greens. They spent their retirement traveling in a motorhome and taking cruises to see the world. Their children – all from their previous marriages — live in Las Vegas, Utah, and California and are often visiting. Mr. Taylor passed away on October 3, 2015 at the age of 91.
When asked what is his most important contribution to architecture, Mr. Taylor replied that despite the fame of the Desert Inn Casino, he saw residential architecture as the most important part of his life’s work. He went on to say that he designed homes that were affordable for regular people and that he hoped were spaces that made them feel welcome and comfortable.
Mr. Taylor was one of the most influential architects in Las Vegas. There is almost no neighborhood built in the 1950s and 60s that did not have at least one Hugh Taylor home and many that were designed almost entirely by him. With such a far-reaching career, it is clear that the face of Las Vegas as a place in which people live their lives was immensely influenced by Mr. Taylor’s work. In many ways, he shaped how early Las Vegans saw residential architecture and thought about house and home.
— biography provided by the Nevada Preservation Foundation
Johnny Thompson is a versatile performer with a background of music, magic, comedy and drama.
Known as “The Great Tomsoni,” Thompson got his start in show business as a musician and musical arranger. He is the leading exponent of his instrument, the bass harmonica, and has toured and recorded with "Jerry Murad's Harmonicats." Recordings with the Harmonicats include Mercury Records' 20-million seller, "Peg O’ My Heart." His first Las Vegas appearance was with the Harmonicats in 1951 at The Last Frontier. He also toured with "Johnny Puleo's Harmonica Gang," and toured and recorded with "The Hi-Fimonics" and "The Harmonica Jazz Quartet." He later joined forces with the comedy team of Lewis & Christie with whom he co-authored and co-performed three record breaking revues for the New York and Chicago Playboy Clubs. It was during this period that he developed his successful comedy magic act, "The Great Tomsoni." The act is a parody of serious magical performers, but unlike most parody acts, the magic in Thompson's act worked, and worked well.
Of Polish ancestry, he began using the billing "Poland's Finest Magician" and later "The Great Tomsoni, The Warsaw Wizard."
He began his comedy magic career in the Nevada casino venues as a supporting act for such stars as Carol Channing, Eddie Fisher, and Ed Ames. When wife and partner, Pamela Hayes, actress and comedienne and student of thespian teacher, Lee Strasberg, joined the act, the billing became "The Great Tomsoni and Company" — Pam being "And Company," playing the bored and dizzy assistant to the hilt. As a team they have opened for the Pointer Sisters, Jose Feliciano, Robert Goulet, Brenda Lee, B.J. Thomas, Barbara Eden, Vic Damone, and Diahann Carroll.
In the years since, they have become known as one of the top revue show acts in show business, having starred in the Las Vegas "Folies Bergere" at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino, the "Lido de Paris" at the Stardust Hotel & Casino, the Las Vegas Flamingo Hilton, Steve Wynn’s Golden Nugget, Don Arden's "Jubilee" at Bally's Las Vegas, the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino, the Aladdin Hotel & Casino, the Sands Hotel & Casino, Caesar's Tahoe, Fitzgerald's Hotel & Casino in Reno and John Asquaga's Nugget Hotel & Casino in Sparks, Nevada. Atlantic City casino appearances included Trump’s Castle, Trump's Plaza, Trump’s Taj Mahal, The Showboat, the Tropicana, and Bally's Park Place.
As international artists, they played the London Palladium, the Theatre Princess Grace in Monte Carlo, Le Caberet at the Casino in Monte Carlo, the Casino Ruhl in Nice, France, and the Scala Melia Castilla in Madrid, Spain.
The Great Tomsoni and Company's television credits include multiple appearances on "The Tonight Show," as well as appearances on NBC's "Magic With The Stars," ABC's "It's Magic" and "Enter The Night," "The Magic Show," BBC, London England, "The Paul Daniels' Show," BBC, London, England, "Magic At The Olympia," Paris, France, Rai TV's "Fantastico," Rome, Italy, Shari Lewis' "Magic," Canadian cable special and video cassette release, HBO's "Hocus Pokus, It's Magic,” cable special and video cassette release with Dick Cavett, "Two Top Bananas" with Don Rickles and Don Adams, "The Red Fox Show," Norm Crosby's "Comedy Shop," "The Oak Ridge Boys Live In Las Vegas," "Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular," A&E's Criss Angel "MindFreak" series, The Donny and Marie Show, The Osmond Brothers Special, "Grand Illusion," Canadian magic series and in earlier years, multiple performances on The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show and The Dinah Shore Show. Johnny was featured as a performer and magical historian and the PBS special "The Art of Magic" and he's currently the magic consultant for the CW Network's "Penn & Teller Fool Us" television series.
In addition to his stage work, Thompson is a noted close-up magic performer, illusion inventor, mentalist, and a highly respected trade show spokesman. He is considered to be the first GP (General Practitioner) in professional magic and while many other performers become accomplished in one of the above areas, Thompson is regarded as a virtuoso at all of them. Both he and his wife are also experienced actors in film, theatre, and television.
The Thompsons are two-time recipients of the "Stage Magician of the Year" award from the Hollywood-based Magic Castle, The International Magician's Society's "Merlin Award" for "Best Comedy Magic," The Society of American Magician's "Magicians of the Year Award" and Tannen's Magic "Looie Award.” Johnny has also received the Society of American Magician’s “Superstar of Magic Award,” The Edinburgh International Festival's "The Great Lafayette Award," and England's Magic Circle's highest award, the "Masters Fellowship." In addition, both he and his wife are recipients of Prince Rainer's "Prix S.B.M." Ives Gran Prix, Magiques de Monte-Carlo, Europe's most prestigious magic award which has only bestowed upon four performers.
Thompson, in the capacity of magic technical advisor, has provided material for several television productions including "Hart to Hart," "Fantasy Island," "One Day At A Time," and "Beyond Westworld." His film credits include Michael Ritchie's film version of off - Broadway's longest running musical, "The Fantastiks," Norman Jewison's family film, "Bogus," Turner Broadcasting's cable release, "Houdini-Believe," and the Siegfried & Roy 3-D IMAX film, "The Magic Box."
As a magical consultant and illusion designer he has written, developed and provided material for magicians Siegfried and Roy, Penn and Teller, Doug Henning, Lance Burton, The Amazing Jonathan, David Blaine and magic's newest Las Vegas star, "America's Got Talent" winner, Mat Franco. He was the magic consultant, technical advisor and a featured performer for Criss Angel's, A&E television series, "Mindfreak," the magic consultant for the off-Broadway production of "Play Dead," written and directed by Teller and, in conjunction with Teller, he designed the magic effects for "The Exorcist," which premiered at the Los Angeles’ Geffen Theatre. Johnny also designed all of the magic effects and illusions for Teller and Aron Posner's production of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest," which had its premier performance at the Las Vegas Smith Center. He received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for both "Play Dead" and "The Tempest."
As a theatrical special effects designer, he has invented and presented a variety of unique optical illusions for industrial shows and theme parks. Bush Garden’s Williamsburg production of "The Ghost Of The GLOBE," a Shakespearean fantasy with over 35 unique special effects and illusions was Thompson's initial venture into theme park attractions. A great many of his original optical illusions and special effects techniques have been featured in the Smithsonian Institute, Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and hundreds of trades shows, including President Nixon's White House conference on "The Industrial World Ahead Congress."
Johnny was a member of the magic staff for the FX cable channel's "Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectaculars" and, along with his writing partner, Fielding West, he was one of the writers for the Lance Burton magic specials. He's penned the instruction sheet for Marshal Brodien's TV Magic Cards and TV Magic Sets and in recent years he completed the writing, illusion designing, consulting and directing for the Sun City, South Africa extravaganza, "Beyond Belief," which ran for and unprecedented two-year run.
(Compiled in part, from T. A. Water's 'The Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians" and Hyla Clark's The World's Greatest Magic.)
Patrick C. Duffy melds a love for art, giving and entrepreneurship in a community that he cherishes: Las Vegas.
A dedicated executive by day, intent on improving the customer experience for guests of Diamond Resorts International, Duffy spends much of his non-working hours participating in a variety of nonprofit organizations in the Las Vegas community and out-of-state philanthropic efforts. Having built a long-standing and respected professional sales and marketing career in fine jewelry and hospitality, Patrick Duffy motivates and mentors artists, colleagues and customers, and can address and engage public audiences on a variety of best-practice topics including: Priceless Customer Service; Have to/Want to; and the Five Spices of Life.
Duffy’s passion and commitment for the arts, complete with gifts placed in museums from London, New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. to Las Vegas, Santa Fe, San Francisco and Honolulu, have garnered both national and international recognition for his philanthropic efforts to the arts. His sense of design and style coupled with a keen eye for museum quality art reflect in the Goodman-Duffy Collection. The legacy of the Goodman-Duffy Collection is currently part of the Smithsonian Institute, Archives of American Art.
Duffy currently serves as the chair of the UNLV Galleries Board; has served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts; former board Vice President of The NEON Museum; and independent curator in 2013 & 2014 for the Visual Art Experience at the annual Life Is Beautiful festival in Downtown Las Vegas. As President of the Las Vegas Art Museum (LVAM), Duffy constructed a relationship between the museum and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to preserve the integrity of the LVAM collection, a portion of which is currently on display at The Smith Center.
Additionally, as a member of the Foundation Board of Directors for Opportunity Village, Duffy took a steering role in developing the Opportunity Village Art and Enrichment program and previously served as an appointed Arts Commissioner for the City of Las Vegas. An accomplished motivational and inspirational speaker, Duffy has been featured at Leadership Las Vegas on Art and Culture and as an Inspire speaker at ‘Delivering Happiness Inspire!’ sponsored by Zappos. His talent finds him featured nationally by multi-industry trade groups in roles of keynote speeches about “Why and How” to build Client/Customer dynamics from the ground up, and from the C-suite down.
Patrick Duffy is a dynamic leader who enjoys seeking the very best in every relationship, both professional and personal, and participates in the Las Vegas community as a transformer with every step forward. With grace and style, Duffy’s welcoming nature leaves a lasting and meaningful impact, no matter the topic or the audience.
Danielle Kelly, '07 MFA Art, is currently the executive director of Surface Design Association and formerly the executive director of Las Vegas’ Neon Museum.
Under her guidance, Kelly helped the Neon Museum transition from a small grassroots entity with 500 monthly visitors to one that hosts more than 7,000 visitors per month and is a USA Todayeditor’s pick for best Las Vegas attractions. She was the project manager for the rehabilitation of the historic La Concha Motel Lobby into the Neon Museum’s visitor center and also oversaw the restoration and installation of six iconic signs as public art on Las Vegas Boulevard. She also led the curation and installation of the Neon Museum’s Boneyard.
Since graduating from UNLV, Kelly has helped UNLV graduates attain valuable internship experiences and jobs in the field. She has been a visiting artist and/or lecturer at a variety of institutions, including the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland Community College, Whittier College, the Clark County Government Center, and the Wildlife Divide, a Southern Nevada Conservancy initiative at Mt. Charleston. In 2010, she was awarded a Jackpot Grant by the Nevada Arts Council and a Cirque du Soleil Support for the Cultural Milieu Grant. She’s a 2015 graduate of the Las Vegas Chamber’s Leadership Institute.
Danielle’s sculpture and performance-based work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. She is a contributing writer to a variety of regional publications.