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By Dianne R. Davis
Photos by Dianne or Burt Davis

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What a great day it was. On Friday March 2, The Smith Center opened its doors to the press for a first look at the Center that many describe as “a gift to the community.” From the moment you enter the facility, you sense the hugeness of the project.

My guide for my visit was no less an integral component of the Center than Krista Darnold, co-director for The Smith Center’s corporate partnerships efforts which serve as a critical element of the Center's long term success. Sculpture Victor Benjamin, a sculptor whose bronze winged victory, inspired by the sculptures by Oskar Hansen at Hoover Dam, was also commissioned and his work will be featured in the Reynolds Pavilion grand lobby.


We came into the spacious lobby where we saw Sculptor Benjamin Victor's bronzed winged victory figure which was inspired by The Hoover Dam. The sculpture is standing up and moving forward, representing progress.

Looking outside, we saw workmen putting the finishing touches in to secure Tim Bavington's sculpture in the 1.7 acre Symphony Park. Inside, you are paintings by Bavington which draw their inspiration from American Composer Aaron Copeland's “Fanfare for the Common Man.”


And right there, in the selection of the music, is the message to the Las Vegas area community. The Smith Center was built for locals. Yes, tourists will eventually find their way to the remarkable programs that will be offered at the Center, but it was built to serve the community.

The literature says, “ The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a public/private partnership that will become the centerpiece of cultural life in Las Vegas, offering a blend of performances by resident companies, as well as first-run touring attractions. The 5-acre cultural campus will feature three performance spaces, the 2,050-seat main performance area in Reynolds Hall and Boman Pavilion’s 258-seat cabaret-jazz theater and 250-seat Troesh Studio Theater and will also be home to a two acre park, which can be used for outdoor concerts. Additionally, the new Discovery Children’s Museum will be located on the campus. The Smith Center will be a place that will educate, entertain and excite the citizens of our great community."

Ground was broken for the $470 million project in May 2009 and the completion was on schedule and within budget. For more information about The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, please visit” Official Opening To Feature Big Name Stars The long awaited official opening of the Smith Center will be Saturday March 10 with a concert featuring stars from the worlds of Country-Western, Broadway, and Classical music. For a list and more information on coming events , check out Judy Thorburn's column.

World Class Facility

Initial plans called for the Smith Center to be a world class facility and I can report that it certainly is.  The lobby is brand new, yet with an art deco feeling mixed with antiquity. It seemed to favor a more traditional approach in its architecture, an homage to the past but with a modern feel.

As our tour progressed, we discovered that world renowned architect David M. Schwarz created the art deco designed facility.   As expressed by CEO Myron Martin, “The board wanted to create a facility that would not look ultra modern and would last far beyond our lifetimes.”  I personally had exactly that feeling.


Candy Schneider

The Children Matter

In the Boman Pavilion we met Candy Schneider a woman with a mission. “How can we support teaching in and through the arts,” she asked rhetorically. “We want the children involved with their whole body.” Schneider photo     And there will be workshops for the parents as well. This will be a center where parents can learn how to engage their children in creative ways she told us. “I believe we have reached the goals we set for the opening,” she said. They don't want to replicate other programs in the community, she told us, but rather they ask, “how can we enhance what they are doing. How can we support and plan together.”


The Design Team Had Their Job Cut Out for Them

We were ushered into the 2050 seat Reynolds Hall to meet with the design team. They spoke with pride about how they overcame the issue of a freight train line just 300 feet away from the building. Simply put, the solution was a three foot slap of concrete. The men described their trips to between one hundred and two hundred halls around the world. Kind of a “if its Tuesday it must be Belgium” trip.


(l-r) Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates, David Schwarz of David Schwarz Architects, Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks, and Russell Todd of Akustiks.

They explained that they traveled the world looking at great facilities such as the Budapest and Paris Opera houses as well as Carnegie Hall.   As Schwarz said, “Our job was to make it pretty.” They explained their reasons for utilizing a horseshoe design for the impressive auditorium.   Special sound deadening insulation was placed under the floor and on the auditorium roof  to block noise from trains and planes. The team proudly told us that there were no obstructed views or bad seats in the auditorium. As they put it, “There really not a bad seat in the house.”

I attended a preopening concert by Randy Travis, sat in the third level balcony and can verify their statements.  The sound was perfect. The view excellent. Of course opera glasses might be handy in the upper areas, but there is no obstruction and I didn't have to bend or sway to see over the folks in front of me. It was a positive experience.

Attention Ladies While it may seem a minor point to some, I for one was impressed to learn that that are more than twice the nimber (67%) of ladies restrooms versus men's restrooms throught the campus. Reynolds Hall has 66 ladies rooms and 38 men's rooms at the front of the house. Guess we'll be able to make it there and back to our seats during intermissions.

Myron Martin, President and CEO of the Smith Center greeted us in one of the boxes which will seat some very special contributors. What, no carpet? That's right. It's about the sound quality. They thought of everything it seems. For anywhere from $1.5 to $5 million, people can have their name on a box in the theater. “Future generations will see your name and know that you helped make this possible,” he said.


Martin is the real deal. His enthusiasm shows through as he tells us that, “I want kids throughout the valley to get some opportunity for goosebumps.” And by the way, the air conditioning – completely silent. Go and not hear it for yourself.   I asked Martin how his day was going. “Can it get any better than this!” he exclaimed. “The reality is better than any dream we had..This is too exciting. I don't want to miss a second of it. It's a lot like giving birth. There will be time to breath later. Right now, it's so exciting.”

COO and Vice President of Operation, Paul Beard welcomed us into the Cabaret Jazz facility in Boman Pavilion. With a 220 seat capacity, its perfect for the intimate Jazz room and small productions. I was looking forward to seeing where entertainer extraordinaire Clint Holmes would be performing on a monthly basis the first week-end of every month.. It's a multi-purpose room, simple in design with a small platform stage.

The wonderful Composers Showcase will also be calling this room home in the future. The Wednesday night program will begin at 10:30 p.m. Again, a spot for the locals to embrace, utilize, and enjoy.


Nevada Ballet Theater members rehearse In the Troesh Studio Theater

We met with James Canfield, Artistic Director of the Nevada Ballet, Rich Johnson, vice president and CFO of The Smith Center, and Pat Fink, marketing director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. All are excited about the upcoming season. Imagine 300 people on stage as part of the orchestra and choir. They have already sold 1800 tickets for the March 18 event.

Don Snyder, Chairman of the Board, and Terry Jones, Vice President of Development, greeted us in the Dee & Don Synder Founders Room, a thank you and a tribute to a group of very significant donors. Snyder, who has been involved for 14 years, talked about how the dream to build a world class facility has become a reality. Jones reported that this $470 Million project is paid for and we have a $50 endowment already in place.Terry jones $470 million project. All paid for and we have a $50 m endowment already in place.


My head was filled with an overdose of information as I headed to check out the culinary samples prepared by Culinary Arts Catering. They will be available for private events at the Smith Center. The food was beautifully presented and tasteful, as was everything at the Smith Center.

In Summary

This piece is a little longer than I like my stories. But then, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a lot bigger than anything similar to it that I have ever experienced. I hope you have gained a sense of it's immensity of space, design, construction, and programming. Each of the speakers I heard was responsible in a large way for an aspect of this huge project. It was clear in how they spoke and eve clearer in I what I saw that this labor of love was carefully and lovingly crafted to serve the community without a huge financial liability but with an eye toward the present and the future. Again and again, we heard speakers point with pride to the number of local people employed for this project and the number of items locally manufactured or purchased. I urge you to experience it for yourself. Visit the Smith Center. And check out for even more information.


Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit Breaks Guinness World Record for Uncorking

Vegas Uncork’d By Bon Appétit Will Showcase Finest  Culinary And Wine Talent May 10–13.

Photos by Burt Davis or Tom White

Someone popped a cork poolside at the Bellagio on February 29. Actually, 308 individuals popped wine corks within a 30 second period to set a new Guinness Word record.The event kicked off ticket sales for Vegas Uncork'd, the food festival coming to Las Vegas May 10-13 with the help of Bon Appétit Magazine.

Vegas Uncorked  will take place at The Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Caesars, and The Cosmopolitan. It will feature 60 restaurants, 50 chefs, 30 sommeliers, 30 events and the four extraordinary resorts.

The participants in the wine cork popping event included chefs, mixologists,  and sommeliers from the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Caesar’s, and The Cosmopolitan. They had time to compare notes – or maybe even recipes -in the Bellagio's beautiful Sensi restaurant at a reception prior to the uncorking. Then, they “cooked up” a delightful event under sunny skies. White and black coated men and women filled the courtyard and steps, corkscrews in hand waiting for the signal.

Guinness World Records Adjudicator Michael Empric flew in from New York to supervise the attempt to break the standing record of 252. He obviously enjoyed this one and told me, “These kinds of things only happen in Vegas.” He cautioned the crowd that spotters were on hand to determine if all corks were untethered. “Do we lose our green card?” José Andrés of Jaleo and China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan asked about failing to open his bottle in time.

The chefs included Bellagio' Michael Mina, Julian Serrano and Jason Smith; Bradley Ogden and Charles Wilson from Caesars Palace; Jose Andres, Costas Spiliadis, Stephen Hopcroft, Gerald Chin and Anthony Meidenbauer from the Cosmopolitan; and Hubert Keller, Rick Moonen and Mike Minor from Mandalay Bay.

In the 30 seconds allotted, 308 bottles of wine were uncorked simultaneously, shattering the previous record of 252 set last year at a James Beard Foundation event.  Luckily, it was only the record that was shattered although there was a tense moment when one of the chefs dropped his wine prior to the official start. All the spectators were then given the chance to enjoy some Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon in the open bottles.

New Vegas Uncork'd

“This is a brand-new Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit,” says Adam Rapoport, Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief.

Adam Rapoport

“It is taking the best of what has drawn more than 5,000 tourists to this event each year for the last five years and adding the editorial excitement and voice of the new Bon Appétit.”


Rick Moonen of RM Seafood Mandalay Bay

Rick Moonen, of RM Seafood is pleased with the event which he says, “Brings a lot of great recognition and attention to one of the great food cities.” Echoing the attitude of many of Vegas's top chefs, Moonen told me that, “I live here to maintain the integrity of my restaurant.” These are men who believe in their product.

Bradley Ogden boasted that, “I don't cook anything I don't want to eat.” While many of his menu items change periodically, I may have to stop by to taste his Maytag Cheese Souffle which he said he can't take off the menu due to constant demand.


Charles Wilson, Caesars' Executive Chef

Charles Wilson, Executive chef at Caesar's was recruited to come here from Newport Beach seven years ago. He's been delighted with the opportunity to learn from other top chefs.


Paul Slagel, General Manager and Timothy Henderson, Chef De Cuisine at Old Homestead Steakhouse at Caesars

I spoke with Timothy Henderson, Chef De Cuisine at the recently opened Old Homestead Steakhouse at Caesars Palace and he was enthusiastic about the upcoming Uncorked events.

“Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit celebrates our culinary scene in a way unique to Las Vegas,” says Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing, LVCVA. “It appeals to visitors drawn to top-tier epicurean experiences as well as the world-class resort atmosphere Las Vegas offers.”

New This Year: Master Series Dinner with Michel Richard, Thursday, May 10: Caesars Palace adds a new restaurant to its Master Series dinners—Central, helmed by renowned chef Michel Richard and his James Beard Award–winning staff. Follow That Food Truck, Thursday, May 10: The most sought-after food trucks from Las Vegas and surrounding areas join forces for one incredible festival. Join chefs Julian Serrano, Todd English, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Michael Mina for live music and ice-cold beers on Bellagio’s rooftop. Too-Hot Tamales Live Demonstration, Friday, May 11: Hosted by Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport, chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger prepare a four-course menu with tequila pairings at Mandalay Bay’s Border Grill. Paella Lunch with José Andrés, Friday, May 11: One of the restaurant industry’s most captivating personalities, José Andrés lets loose with a live demo on how to make one of Spain’s signature dishes. He’ll prepare it on a wood-fired paella grill—the only one of its kind in the U.S.—at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Gone Fishing with Costas Spiliadis, Saturday, May 12: Join chef Spiliadis at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as he shares his secrets to selecting the highest-quality fish at the market, secrets on making fish at home, and healthful eating through the Mediterranean diet. The Kimchi Chronicles, Saturday, May 12: Bon Appétit’s Adam Rapoport co-hosts a Q&A lunch with renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his wife, Marja, host of PBS’s Kimchi Chronicles, at Bellagio’s Prime. Kings of Cabernet, Saturday, May 12: Bellagio wine director and master sommelier Jason Smith and Bon Appétit’s Wine Insider David Lynch talk favorite Cabernets—including rare and hard-to-find bottles from Bellagio’s collection. Rao’s Family Affair: Italian Brunch with the Pellegrinos, Sunday, May 13: The Pellegrinos host a backyard BBQ on the patio of Rao's Las Vegas as only they can. Enjoy refreshing Italian cocktails and savory dishes offered as an exclusive preview to their soon-to-be released cookbook, Rao's on the Grill.

Returning Favorites: Grand Tasting, Friday, May 11: Sixty restaurants participate in this ultimate outdoor culinary experience at Caesars Palace’s Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis. After-Hours, the Remix, Saturday, May 12: Chef Alain Ducasse is joined by chef Hubert Keller and Mandalay Bay executive pastry chef and master chocolatier Vincent Pilon for a late-night party at Mix, the rooftop lounge at Mandalay Bay. VIP Saber-Off, Thursday, May 10: Caesars Palace hosts all chefs at this year’s VIP Champagne Saber-Off.

“We are so pleased to introduce the new Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit, and thrilled that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is seeing the sixth year of what started as a very small food festival that has grown into one that is 5,000 visitors strong,” says Pamela Drucker Mann, vice president and publisher of Bon Appétit. Full details of this gala four day event and informatioin about tickets sales can be found at


Julian Serrano of Picasso, Rick Moonen of RM Seafood, and Bradley Ogden


Variety Celebrated Oscar Weekend in Las Vegas

Shirley Jones Honored with Gold Heart Award

A lot of Oscars were awarded in Hollywood last week at the 84th academy awards, but the most important winner may have been found in Las Vegas.

Variety, The Children's Charity of Southern Nevada, is the recipient of funds raised during Oscar Night Las Vegas. A weekend full of Oscar sanctioned activities from February 24-26, 2012 gave movie and celebrity fans in Las Vegas, the city of entertainment, the chance to see a star studded red carpet, honor a movie icon, and dress up and enjoy the Oscars on Brenden Theatre movie screens at the Palms. There was even an Oscar Night after-party at the famous Playboy Club. “Red Carpet Ready” fashion shows were held at the Fashion Show Mall giving everyone a chance to be a part of the glamour and excitement of the events.

Variety - The Children's Charity was started in 1950 as the “Entertainer's Charity.” It is an enthusiastic group of entertainers and business leaders who donate their time, resources, and energy to positively impact the lives of children in their own communities and around the world. According to President and Chief Barker Kari K. Ayers, “Variety does not serve any one population or fight any one particular disease.” Their mission is to provide funding and services for programs that benefit those in need.

Shirley Jones Honored


Film Icon Shirley Jones came to town with her spouse of 35 years, the irrepressible Marty Ingels, to accept the Variety Gold Heart Award.

“Variety is pleased to salute Shirley not only as a 50-year-plus Academy Award recipient, but also for an outstanding film, television and stage career, “ said Variety Tent 39 President and Chief Barker Kari Ayers. “She has admirably demonstrated a lifetime commitment to charitable and humanitarian causes.” Jones' husband of 35 years, Marty Ingels spoke of “Shirley Mae Jones of Smithton, Pennsylvania.” When she took him back to her hometown (population 849), people waved at Shirley Mae Jones. “So it occurred to me that I could at any time have let her out of the car and she would have been perfectly happy. She is so is remarkably unchanged by success.” Friend Hal Linden was also on hand to pay his respects to the charming Oscar winner.

As for Jones, her words speak for her. Go back to the moment in 1960 when she was presented with an Oscar as best supporting actress for her role in Elmer Gantry. She accepted the honor saying, “This is the happiest day of my career.” Not life, career. Which brings us to why she chose to go to Las Vegas on Oscar night to accept the award from Variety. “The fact that they said life achievement,” she said.

Shirley Jones is a fabulous actress who has achieved greatness and recognition for her career, but Variety knew what matters. Shirley Jones is the example of a person with a focus on charity, family, friends and humanity. Those are the real achievements.

Bravo to Shirley for the person that she is and bravo to Variety for the work that they do.

Red Carpet Celebrities on Oscar Night

Red Carpet celebrities arrived at the Palms in limos and walked the red carpet which was lined with fans. Some entered the theaters to watch the Brenden's suite where they enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and the company of other Variety supporters.

Denna Atkinson, Executive Director of Variety in Southern Nevada, told this reporter that this was Variety's major fund raiser of the year. She is grateful, “ to the generosity of Johnny Brendan and Lee Crane. They gave us this venue in kind and that translates to a higher dollar amount for services for our kids.” Where do the dollars go? I asked. “We provide resources, wheelchairs, bath chairs, money so moms can take the kids to the doctor. Whatever their needs are.” Atkinson also praised the more than 50 volunteers on hand and guessed that at least 50% were Phoenix students. “I teach there and they are my students.” she told me. I asked her about the future. “We will do this event again next year and it will be bigger and better than this year.”

On a personal level, it is gratifying to cover stories such as this one. Las Vegas has been referred to in many ways, Sin City, the Entertainment Capitol of the World, etc. I enjoy letting our readers know that we are also a city of generosity where private industry, entertainers, and the public come together to do good while enjoying our resources. So next year, I'll see you at the Oscars – in Las Vegas.

For further information about Oscar Night America in Las Vegas check out the website, To learn more about Variety, the Children's charity of Southern Nevada, and the good work of the organization, go to


























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