Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2014

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Q&A: ANTHONY E. ZUIKER

What: The fifth annual Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: UNLV'S Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall

Tickets: $25 for general admission, $10 for seniors and children , and free to all UNLV students; 895-2787

The recipient is given the Sidney Award, named for Academy Award-winning director and Las Vegas resident George Sidney, director of films such as "Anchors Aweigh," "Showboat," "Kiss Me Kate," "Viva Las Vegas" and "Annie Get Your Gun." Sidney, who died in 2002, was inducted into the Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame in 2004.

This year's inductees include "CSI" creator Anthony E. Zuiker, impersonator Rich Little, dancer Nancy Houssels and Thomas Schoeman, chief executive officer of JMA Architecture .

Anthony E. Zuiker

The graduate of Chaparral High School and UNLV is the creator and executive producer of the hit TV series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which spun off two more hits - "CSI : Miami" and "CSI : New York."

Starting its eighth season, "CSI," the highest - rated drama on television, has earned Emmy nominations for Best Drama Series in 2002, 2003 and 2004, in addition to three Golden Globe nominations for best television drama series.

Rich Little

The Canadian-born impersonator began mimicking his teachers when he was 12 and was performing in nightclubs by 17. His television appearances include "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, "Dean Martin's Celebrity Roasts" and "The Julie Andrews Hour," as well as his own "The Rich Little Show " and "The New You Asked for It."

Little, voted Comedy Star of the Year in 1974 by the American Guild of Variety Artists, has entertained at the inaugurals for President Ronald Reagan , was the master of ceremonies at the Constitution Ball of President Bush 's 2005 inauguration and was host of the 2007 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

Nancy Houssels

A dance student at 3, Houssels - under her maiden name, Nancy Claire - joined dancer Francois Szony to perform on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and at venues such as the Hollywood Palace, the London Palladium, Radio City Music Hall and the Latin Quarter. The couple appeared in Las Vegas in 1966 at the Casino de Paris at the Dunes Hotel and in 1968 as the closing act in the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana hotel.

After retiring and marrying hotel executive J. Kell Houssels, Houssels has served on the UNLV Foundation, the Meadows School, the Nevada Arts Council, Children's Service Guild and the Las Vegas Performing Arts Center Foundation. In 1972, Houssels co-founded Nevada Dance Theatre (later renamed Nevada Ballet Theatre) with Vassili Sulich and then chaired or co-chaired the company for 36 years.

Thomas Schoeman

The New York City native moved to Las Vegas, joined JMA Architecture in 1979 and has been its CEO for 20 years. In 2006 JMA was ranked the 45th largest firm in the nation by Architectural Record.

Local clients include the World Market Center, One Queensridge Place, the Veterans Affairs hospital in Las Vegas, the Clark County School District, College of Southern Nevada, city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada. His civic work has won him the American Institute of Architects' Nevada Silver Medal and the Desert Research Institute's President's Medal.

Here's a rundown of the "CSI" franchise; all shows are seen locally on KLAS Channel 8 (CBS):

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (aka "CSI: Las Vegas")

The first of the avant-garde "CSI" trio debuted in 2000. It has been at the top of the ratings since and has won a number of Emmys . The franchise template has a team of forensic scientists using science and technology to solve crimes for big city police departments. In this case, it's the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The stories often delve into the peculiar. It's big on gadgetry, unusual points of view (corpses talk), odd camera angles and sometimes offbeat plots. Stars include William Petersen (pictured) (Dr. Gil Grissom) and Marg Helgenberger (investigator Catherine Willows).

9 p.m. Thursdays.

"CSI: Miami"

The first spinoff of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" debuted in 2002. It closely follows the formula, focusing on technology and edgy story lines. It, too, is shot mostly in Los Angeles. Heading the long cast list are David Caruso (as Lt. Horatio Caine, head of the Miami-Dade Police Department Forensic Lab) and Emily Procter (Calleigh Duquesne, ballistics specialist). It is seen in more than a dozen countries. In 2006 Reuters reported that the show is "the most-watched U.S. series around the world."

10 p.m. Mondays .

"CSI: NY"

It premiered in 2004. Gary Sinise stars as NYPD CSI chief investigator Detective Mac Taylor, the leader of the CSI team, and Melina Kanakaredes is NYPD CSI investigator Detective Stella Bonasera . Gorier than its counterparts. An intriguing show.

10 p.m. Mondays.

Las Vegas resident Anthony E. Zuiker graduated from UNLV in 1990 with majors in communication and philosophy, held a variety of jobs including tram operator at the Mirage, and one day pitched to CBS an idea for a TV series.

The series was "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." The rest is history.

Zuiker is among four honorees who will be inducted into the Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame at UNLV during a ceremony Thursday in Artemus Ham hall. Joining Zuiker in the spotlight for the fifth annual induction ceremony will be comedian Rich Little, Nevada Ballet Theatre co-founder Nancy Houssels and architect Thomas Schoeman.

Of the four, Zuiker's is the overnight-success story.

In 1999 he pitched his idea to CBS for a forensics-based crime series . It went on the air the following year and has since spawned "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: NY."

There isn't likely to be another.

"I think three's enough," Zuiker recently said by phone from Los Angeles. "We don't want to kill the golden goose, so to speak. I think we've pretty much run the gamut. 'CSI' Las Vegas, Miami and New York makes nice sense as a trilogy. I think another one wouldn't be the smartest thing to do."

Zuiker, who received an honorary doctorate from UNLV in 2003, talked about his days on campus, fondly remembering a number of professors and classes.

Q: What does UNLV mean to you?

It think of long walks and percolating my future in communications. When I actually got into television, luckily, and "CSI" became a worldwide success, I looked back on those memories - dreams on those long walks really coming true. It's funny when your dreams come true because they're sort of just as grand as you imagine them, if not more. So it's a very distinctive honor, and I am personally grateful to be in that kind of company of honorees.

What do you hope UNLV students will take from your success story?

I hope they'll be inspired by this story about a kid that came from Las Vegas, worked on a tram for $8 an hour at the Mirage hotel, and had a dream to be in Hollywood. I cashed in everything I had, a whopping $13,000 at that point, drove to Hollywood, stayed in a shoddy apartment and worked really hard to gain relationships and had the raw talent to create the biggest television show in the entire world. It's a great rags to riches story and a great inspiration for kids to follow their dreams. What they need to know is that I knew absolutely nobody, literally, when I came out here.

Did you ever dream you would make it as big as you have?

When I was a kid I always dreamed that I would do something significant, whether it would be write a speech for a president or create a great board game for America to enjoy. I always just wanted to be able to walk into a store and see something with my name on it. It sounds weird , but I just wanted to be able to purchase my DVD or buy my book. So I sort of had the dream fulfilled when I was able to walk in and buy the first season of "CSI" on DVD and see my name on that.

What's the future of "CSI"?

The main job is to keep the franchise healthy. We hope to have the same run - if not better - as "Law & Order," which is currently, I believe, in its 15th or 16th year. With multimedia, cell phones, wireless and the Web, television is changing a lot. So we're trying to stay ahead of the curve in terms of cross-platforming. Television viewing habits are changing.

Are you involved with UNLV?

Twice a year I talk to the students in the film studies department. It feels really good to do that, to give back. The kids listen to me speak and they realize 10, 12 years ago I was sitting where they are sitting today. I warn them about the good and the bad in the business. They know I'm telling them the truth.

How has your life changed?

For the most part everybody in Hollywood lives in this same tough boat. It's hard to get things on the air. It's hard to get movies green lit. It's hard to land great actors. It's hard to get it right and have that one piece of work you call a success. For me, "CSI" was sort of like winning the championship ring the first time on the court. But, really , at the end of the day, I don't feel I've changed much. I'm still the guy who comes home and plays pinball till he drops and hangs out with his children and goes and sees movies and enjoys going out to eat and spending time at home. I'm just a very simple guy, the same thing I was 10, 20 years ago. "