Fond Memories and Farewells

Special Tribute Update: After posting this memorial Tribute to many of this summer’s celebrity passings, a longtime close acquaintance and friend to many writers suddenly passed.

Marleen Marino, publisher and founder of VegasCommunityOnline passed just recently. So, I celebrate her work and support for me and others on VCO. I never thought her name would bein this story, which she also posted on VCO on my Celebrity Scene News column. She will be missed. –Pete Allman

This has been a summer of celebrity losses like none I can remember. It has been sad, heartbreaking and shocking to see so many familiar faces and voices leave us. Many of those who have passed on had roots in Las Vegas. Some of them performed here, lived here, regularly visited here or even have family members here, but no doubt that all of them are survived by countless fans in Las Vegas.

The shocking death of Michael Jackson was worldwide news, and that fan loyalty will continue for a long time; perhaps, it will never die. In Las Vegas, there are many friends and family members who loved Michael, among them, Joe Jackson, the patriarch of the Jackson family dynasty and someone I’ve known a long time and spent time with over the years.

I wish Joe and the family well. I was around for some of the memorial events. Sad, truly sad. Who would have ever though Michael’s phenomenal talent would be gone so suddenly?

And there were many other celebrities who were added to the list of our beloved favorites who have passed on recently and were mourned by many in Las Vegas. Among them were:

–Farrah Fawcett

–Walter Cronkite

–Gale Storm

–Karl Malden

–David Carradine

–Ed McMahon

–Steve McNair

–Koko Taylor

–Fred Travalena

–Billy Mays

and Gidget, the star Chihuahua

In the stunning news coverage of Michael’s passing, several of the other deaths could not receive as much airtime and print space as they otherwise would have, so I want to remember them for their accomplishments. They each brought a special talent to the celebrity scene.

The iconic, brave, well-tressed actress Farrah Fawcett of “Charlie’s Angels,” veteran funny girl Gale Storm of “My Little Margie” and other screen productions, and the super-solid newsman Walter Cronkite, were familiar to nearly all of us who spent time watching television during the last century. I can’t say with certainty that the journalist spent any significant time in our city, but he undoubtedly reported on the events at the very foundation of Old Vegas all the way through its explosive growth.

All of the stars and celebs mentioned before are known for being in the traditional star-making industries, but what is notable about Billy Mays’ inclusion on that list is that he was not a singer, dancer, film star, news anchor, sports figure or any of the other ‘usual’ celebrities.

Mays, who delighted countless people with his sales ability, only recently became a TV screen celebrity in the reality TV show tradition as co-star of the insightful show focused on the professional “pitch men” selling products around the clock on infomercials and at public events. But that TV show was not what made him famous: it was his distinctive voice and charisma and sense of pitch-perfect timing. He was the ultimate pitch man! He will be missed.

One of my associates, Alex Ayzin, is a California-based business broker who met Billy Mays and became friends after they encountered each other several times at tradeshows and seminars. I was to meet Mays in person, and I am saddened by his passing. I’m sure that there will be others in the profession who will do amazingly well, but I wonder if any of them will become as huge in the ranks of celebrities as Mays did.

In the field of covering stars and famous people, it is both amazing and touching to see how many lives are deeply influenced because of the spirit and style of those who gained the status of “celebrity.” They gave us much, and we remember them fondly—even down to the smallest, the four-legged “Taco Bell star,” Gidget.

So in closing, keep your visions positive, keep positive people around you, and know that God is there for you.

Pete Allman is a Las Vegas-based commentator, broadcast personality and celebrity interviewer. He also produces inspirational messages for television and other media. Contact him at or (702)265-9099. Visit