Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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Longtime casting director, cultural leader Goldman dies

In the late 1970s Charlene Goldman heard that Aaron Spelling Productions was coming to Las Vegas to do a pilot for a potential weekly television show.

A graduate of the prestigious American Theatre Wing in New York and a former actress, Goldman longed to be part of such a ground-breaking project in Las Vegas.

So much so, she camped out at McCarran Airport for a chance to meet Spelling and land a job with his company. She so impressed Spelling that he made her local casting chief for the pilot, which was "Vega$" starring Robert Urich.

That private eye adventure series not only showcased the city in the 1970s and '80s but also launched Goldman on a career as head of Goldman & Associates, a casting company that worked on every major film shot in Las Vegas during that era.

Movies for which she cast Las Vegas extras included "Smokey and the Bandit II" with Burt Reynolds and "Oh God, You Devil" with George Burns. She even cast late Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun as himself in "Fever Pitch" with Ryan O'Neal.

Charlene Natalie Goldman, who as a member of the Nevada Arts Council was a strong voice for cultural growth in Las Vegas and the arts at UNLV, died Monday at Nathan Adelson Hospice following a five-year battle with breast cancer. She was 58.

Services for Goldman, a Las Vegas resident of 30 years and the widow of District Judge Paul Goldman, will be noon Thursday at Palm Mortuary Downtown.

"Mom told me to always have fun and not take life too seriously," said Jillian Goldman-Brown, the eldest of Charlene's three daughters. "She was a very fun person -- a character and a free spirit who was always willing to try anything new."

Julie Goldman, Charlene's youngest daughter, agreed, noting: "Mom always overcame any obstacle that was in her way. Even when she became ill, she never went into a state of deep depression. She just lived her life as it came."

Heather Goldman, who will deliver the eulogy, said she will tell mourners that "through my mother's extraordinary optimism and courage she was able to live a full and fun-filled life."

Lillian Nall, former operator of the Nevada Arts gallery at McCarran, who served on the Nevada Arts Council with Goldman, called her friend "very sensitive and very strong."

"Charlene was a warrior on the council -- a sensible, knowledgeable woman who ignited an interest in cultural efforts at UNLV," Nall said. "She stood strong for the university and made sure that UNLV got its fair share of state and federal funding."

Born Charlene Wolff on Nov. 20, 1940, in New York City, Goldman was the only child of opera singer Joseph Wolff and British-born jeweler Dorothy Vane. She was raised in Denver, where her father owned an antique store and her mother owned the "Charlene of London" downtown jewelry store.

As a youngster, Charlene studied ballet and dance. She attended St. Mary's Academy and graduated from Denver East High School, before returning to New York to attend the American Theatre Wing and study drama.

She later worked in off-Broadway plays, including "The Pajama Game," and returned to Denver to work in summer stock at the Elitch and Bonfils theaters.

In 1959, Charlene married Navy Lt. Paul Goldman, an attorney working in the Judge Advocate General's office.

Ten years later, they came to Las Vegas, where he became legal counsel for Reynolds Electric and Engineering Co., then the contractor at the Nevada Test Site. He later became a deputy district attorney, an assistant attorney general and finally a judge.

Charlene became a local civic leader, serving on the board of directors for the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the American Cancer Society and the National Attorneys Wives Association.

She also was a member of the Nevada Multiple Sclerosis Committee, the City of Hope, Clark County PTA, the Theatre Society, Inc., and Hadassah, and was a troop leader for the Frontier Girl Scouts.

As a member of the Clark County Women's Democratic Club, Goldman worked on numerous campaigns and ran unsuccessfully for the Nevada Assembly in 1976.

As a casting director, she put a lot of Las Vegans in background scenes of episodes of major network TV shows that were shot locally, including "Quincy" and "Charlie's Angels," and in films including "Cherry 2000" and two "Cannonball Run" movies.

Goldman also did casting for national commercials for companies such as Budweiser and location scouting for the TV series "Crime Story," which was shot in Las Vegas.

Paul Goldman was killed in a September 1991 auto accident en route to Pahrump. Three years later, Charlene was diagnosed with inoperable breast cancer.

In addition to her daughters, all residents of Las Vegas, Goldman is survived by a grandson, Chase Boyd, and a granddaughter, Brittany Nateece, both of Las Vegas.

The family suggest donations to the Nathan Adelson Hospice.

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