Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004 | 8:17 a.m.
"What we have is the best-kept secret from people in Nevada," observed Jeffrey Koep, dean of UNLV's College of Fine Arts.
About 18 months ago Koep and the advisory board for the fine-arts college decided to do something to enlighten the public, while at the same time bring some attention to the university and honor select Nevada residents who have contributed to the arts.
Their efforts resulted in the creation of the UNLV Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame.
"We are in a place where we should recognize entertainers and artists who live in Nevada," Koep said. "Not someone who just drops in twice a year."
This year film actor and artist Tony Curtis will be inducted into the hall during the second annual awards ceremony at 6 p.m. today in Artemus Ham Hall at UNLV.
The Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery will host an exhibition of work by Curtis that will open at 7:30 p.m. following the awards ceremony. The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will run through Sept. 24.
Each year a different Nevada resident is honored. The first person to be selected for induction into the hall was George Sidney, the late Academy Award-winning movie director.
Sidney, who died in 2002 at age 85, was a guest lecturer at the university's film department. During his distinguished career he directed such movies as "Anchors Aweigh," "Showboat," "Kiss Me Kate," "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Viva Las Vegas."
Curtis is a frequent visitor to the university.
In 2001, Curtis began speaking with students on a regular basis as part of the Celebrity Speaker Series, and has exhibited his artwork at UNLV. He and his wife, Jill, regularly attend college events and last year helped launch the first hall of fame.
"He loves interacting with students," Koep said. "He visits classes at least 10 times a semester. He works with students when they need help.
"When someone says, 'We'd love for you to come in and talk to film students,' he's there."
The 79-year-old Curtis has starred in 106 motion pictures. They include "The Defiant Ones," "Operation Petticoat," "The Boston Strangler," "Spartacus," "Sweet Smell of Success," "Trapeze" and "The Great Race."
His "Some Like It Hot" was named by the American Film Institute as the funniest movie of the past 100 years.
"The traditional university students are 18 to 22 years old," Koep said. "They weren't viewing his movies when they were released, but they still find him to be a fascinating speaker. They know who he is."
Many may know him as an acclaimed artist who has held many one-man exhibitions in the United States and London. His work is on display at the Butler Institute of American Art, the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, the Toronto Museum, National Hungarian Museum, Harrods Department Store, Spago Restaurant, the Navy Memorial, the Caitlyn Gallery in St. Louis and The Mirage in Las Vegas.
In a prepared statement, UNLV president Carol Harter said, "We are honored to recognize legendary actor Tony Curtis as the 2004 inductee into the Nevada Entertainer/ Artist Hall of Fame.
"His remarkable career in film, television and art truly distinguishes him as an extraordinary entertainer. He is a great friend to UNLV and the College of Fine Arts and frequently shares his experience, wisdom and advice with UNLV students."
Money raised by the hall of fame goes to scholarships for fine arts students, five of whom benefited last year.