Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees

Lance Burton

Lance Burton

Lance Burton is widely considered by his peers to be the greatest stage magician of the past century. As magic historian Mike Caveney has stated, “Take every magician in the world, line them up, and give them each 12 minutes… Lance wins!”

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Mr. Burton burst onto the national stage on October 28, 1981 by making his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. So impressed was Carson while watching the rehearsal, he allowed Lance to do an unprecedented 12-minute routine. He returned 10 times and made another 10 appearances with host Jay Leno.

In 1996 his first TV special, Lance Burton Master Magician-The Legend Begins, aired on NBC. Annual TV specials followed: Lance Burton Master Magician-The Encounter, Lance Burton Master Magician-Top Secret, Lance Burton Master Magician-On The Road, Lance Burton Master Magician-Young Magician’s Showcase.

Burton’s greatest accomplishments, however, were in live performance. Working primarily in Las Vegas, he performed an astounding 15,000 shows throughout his 30-year career. His first Vegas job was as a featured act in “The Folies Bergere” at The Tropicana Hotel. In 1991 he opened his own show, “Lance Burton World Champion Magician” at the Hacienda Hotel.

In 1996 “Lance Burton Master Magician” opened at the brand new Monte Carlo Lance Burton Theater. This was the first time an entertainer in Las Vegas had a theater built and named for him. His contract was for an unprecedented 13 years - the longest contract ever given to a performer. Burton stayed at the Monte Carlo for a total of 14 years, performing over 5,000 shows for over five-million fans. His last performance was September 4, 2010.

Today Mr. Burton is happily retired in Las Vegas and supports several local charities.

He recently debuted as feature film director for “Billy Topit Master Magician” shown at the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival in Des Moines, winning six awards including Best Family Film. Mr. Burton was also the magic advisor on “Oz the Great and Powerful.” He is currently working on a number of documentary and narrative film projects.

Matthew Gray Gubler

Matthew Gray Gubler

Matthew Gray Gubler is an Emmy Award-winning actor, director, producer, painter, voiceover actor, and Las Vegas native. While studying film directing at NYU, he interned for Wes Anderson who gave him his first feature film role as Bill Murray’s loyal intern “Nico” in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).

For the past 11 years, Gubler has starred as the lovable genius Dr. Spencer Reid on the internationally popular crime drama Criminal Minds (2005).

Some of his other film acting credits include 500 Days of Summer (2009), Life After Beth (2014), and the cult hit comedy Suburban Gothic (2014), for which he was awarded the 2015 Best Actor Award by Screamfest.

In 2014 he won an Emmy for his participation in Drake Doremus’ mini-series The Beauty Inside (2012).

He has provided the voice of Simon the chipmunk in the wildly popular Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) film franchise and recently voiced the Riddler for DC comic’s animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014).

As of 2015, Gubler has directed 8 episodes of Criminal Minds, a behind the scenes documentary of the making of “The Life Aquatic,” two music videos for “The Killers,” videos for “Whirlwind Heat,” and “Soko,” as well as a fake mockumentary entitled Matthew Gray Gubler: The Unauthorized Documentary (2006) which lampoons his behavior behind the scenes on “Criminal Minds.”

Also an accomplished painter, Gubler is known for his vivid and expressionistic portraits of people, animals, and imaginary monsters.

Willie Harris

Willie Harris

Willie Harris’ career began when he, having lost his way in North Hollywood, unwittingly asked actor Elliot Gould for directions back to the highway. Taken in by Harris’ towering height (at 6’8”), Gould not only arranged for him to meet with legendary director Robert Altman, but provided him with the introductory membership funds for the Screen Actors Guild. SAG then referred Harris to Calvin Brown, the premier African American stuntman, who oversaw his training. His big break came with the film Dirty Harry in 1971 when he was featured in a bank robbery scene. Additional credits include They Call Me Mister Tibbs, Trader Horn, and the Carol Burnett Show. He was also used for a magazine layout for Pan American Airlines, photographed stretched out to show how much seating the new aircraft had.

During his career, Willie Harris was president of the Black Stuntmen’s Association (BSA), which formed in 1967 to give black men and women a shot at the lucrative, and in some ways, glamorous Hollywood jobs that involved jumping from trains or rolling down stairs.

Harris and other stuntmen and women launched their careers at a time when Hollywood engaged in the practice of “painting down” white men and women so they could be the stunt doubles for black actors. That practice was first challenged by actor and comedian Bill Cosby at the height of his successful 1960s action-adventure TV series, “I Spy.” Harris recalls Cosby told the show’s producers that “no white guy is going to double me painted down.”

Willie Harris and the Black Stuntmen’s Association have been advocating for themselves and others for almost 50 years.

After a series of injuries, Harris retired from the industry. He currently resides in Las Vegas.

Carol Channing

Carol Channing

By Michael Davis

Since her Broadway debut in Blitzsteins' For An Answer and a Time Magazine cover story, which hailed her performance as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Ms. Channing has been a star of international acclaim.  Her Broadway credits include some of the most memorable characters in theatrical history, winning three Tony Awards, including one for her legendary portrayal of Dolly Levi in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!, as well as one for Lifetime Achievement.

During her first film role in The First Traveling Saleslady, starring opposite Ginger Rogers, she gave newcomer, Clint Eastwood, his first on-screen kiss.

Among her numerous TV and film successes is the madcap Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, which earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination. She has recorded 10 gold albums and, as one of the most easily recognized and highly imitated voices in the world, Ms. Channing has contributed to characters and narrative for both TV series and documentaries, as well as 20 children's albums of classic stories including Winnie The Pooh and Madeline.

In 2009, Carol was one of the first legendary ladies of stage and screen inducted into the Smithsonian Institution.

Ms. Channing's 2010 NY engagement prompted The New York Times to say "Back Where She Belongs... The audience jumped to it's feet more than once.  We were watching a master performer" and the Associated Press declared, "The audience clearly was there to worship, and Channing did not disappoint."

In 2012, mutli-Tony winning director/producer, Dori Berinstein, released the critically-acclaimed and award-winning documentary entitled “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life,” highlighting Carol's 70+ year career.

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds

Born April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, Debbie Reynolds was an actress, singer, businesswoman, film historian, and humanitarian. Known for an array of musicals in the 1950s, she made her star turn in Singin' in the Rain (1952), in which she offered a spirited performance opposite Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. The following decade, Reynolds won the respect of her peers with her title role in the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown, for which she received an Academy Award nomination.

Reynolds also had several business ventures, including ownership of the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in North Hollywood and a Las Vegas hotel and casino. She was an avid collector of film memorabilia, and also served as president of The Thalians, an organization dedicated to mental health causes.

Reynolds continued to perform successfully on stage, television, and film into her 80s. In 1969, she starred on television in the eponymous The Debbie Reynolds Show, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. In 1973, Reynolds starred in a Broadway revival of the musical Irene and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical. She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance in A Gift of Love (1999) and an Emmy Award for playing Grace's mother Bobbi on the popular television show Will & Grace. At the turn of the millennium, Reynolds reached a new, younger generation with her role as Aggie Cromwell in Disney's Halloweentown series. In 1988 she released her autobiography titled, Debbie: My Life. In 2013, she released a second autobiography, Unsinkable: A Memoir.

In January 2015, Reynolds received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2016. she received the Academy Award's Jean Hershold Humanitarian Award. In the same year, a documentary about her life was released titled Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

On December 28, 2016, Reynolds died at the age of 84, just one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

George Grove

George Grove

George Grove was born on October 9, 1947 in Hickory, North Carolina. The mountains of North Carolina boasted a regional music that was both exhilarating and honest, and it was a stimulating region in which to be raised. Many of the songs in those mountains have remained unchanged since they were brought over from the Scottish Highlands, and many of the instruments played were made by the players themselves – too poor to purchase a guitar, fiddle or banjo.

The 1950s was a peaceful decade where a young person could devote himself, if desired, to learning music without worrying about world politics and dangers. Such was how George Grove lived, growing up learning how to play each instrument he chose, with its place in music and its place in his life, from Chopin to Earl Scruggs.

In 1969, Mr. Grove graduated from Wake Forest University with an undergraduate degree in applied music, emphasizing piano and trumpet. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted into the US Army. An injury prevented him from serving in Vietnam, so he finished out his military service playing the trumpet and piano in the Army Band.

After the military, Grove continued performing and taught music to private clients, winding up in Nashville. Performing at Opryland USA allowed him access to the backstage of the Grand Ole Opry where he made many contacts and friendships, and learned valuable music lessons. After spending a few years in Nashville, he answered a call to audition for The Kingston Trio, and the rest is history. He has remained with the Trio since October, 1976.

Throughout the 1980s and early 90s, Grove lived in Atlanta and Southern California. In 1996, he moved to Las Vegas to share his life with his wife Cindy. With his wife’s encouragement, Grove went back to school at UNLV, and earned his Masters of Music degree in jazz composition in December, 2001. “With the knowledge gained from wonderful UNLV teachers, I have written musical and entertaining orchestral scores for Pops concerts for artists such as The Kingston Trio and The Association.”

George Grove spent his career on the road because of his love of performance and his respect for American folk music. On a personal level, The Kingston Trio provided stability throughout an enormous period of growth. Professionally, the group allowed him to become and stay involved with music and musicians of considerable abilities.