We have lost a star or, better yet, a comet.
There may be more details to come, but, basically, Ellis had been continuing to struggle with diabetes related illnesses and finally succumbed. He was at home when he passed away and apparently it was very quick.
Ellis was one of the true eccentrics who marched to the beat of his own drummer.
He made no secret of his dislike for gym class but certainly excelled and contributed enormously in all other aspects of his high school years. Ellis was a much loved and honoured professor at the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) where he had been teaching since the age of 26. Whether it was designing opera sets in Italy during his "spare time", stage sets for Las Vegas shows, teaching his students or developing and delivering workshops on makeup and disguise for local undercover law enforcement officers, he brought skill, talent and a panache that will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
My last contact with Ellis was an email in which he described a workshop he designed and delivered for law enforcement officers in Las Vegas. He taught them the finer elements of makeup, costuming and disguise to aid them in their work of capturing aggressive thieves who had been targeting women in Las Vegas.
Shortly after the workshop, an officer who had attended the workshop made an arrest of a suspect who had eluded capture for more than three years. The police department cited Ellis' contributions in a thank you he had recently received.
From opera, to Las Vegas stage shows and a long career in teaching Ellis continued to impress all who crossed his path.
UNLV will be having a memorial service for Ellis in the next few days. After that, he will be cremated and his brother will return with his ashes to British Columbia.
The lives of many people have been enriched for having known Ellis. Thank you Ellis for enriching our lives maintaining your ties with classmates from the past.
I have posted a recent picture of Ellis receive an award from the Las Vegas Police Department.
- Derek Hamlet, Victoria, 07 November, 2004.
For The Class of 1963
[Your webmaster had solicited from Ellis full details of what he had been up to all these years. In answer to the request, Ellis had sent this special, informal review, his full dress, professional, biography and his professional résumé. The formal biography appears on the following page. On arrival, the life's work and formal qualifications proved to constitute a huge document, some 19 pages! It has been prepared as an Adobe Portable Document File and is available here. Have a look, Ellis had done about everything in theatrical and performance designs! Some of those designs appear right here on this web site; read on and enjoy Ellis' pages. Ellis is with us here.]
I thought I might send along a more "personal" update to augment my official bio.
It's hard to believe that I've called Las Vegas my home for over thirty years! For all the self-righteous clucking I've endured over the years (especially from people who have NEVER been here), I am delighted to state that Vegas is a terrific place to live and work. And, I don't gamble! Although it's about a ten-minute drive to the strip, I live in a very quiet community in a 2,400 plus square-foot house where I tend to twenty-five rose bushes and a variety of other plants (a big crop of red peppers this year!).
Hobbies: while at Oak Bay, I began to collect books - on a very modest scale of course. I have many pleasant memories of time spent in the (long gone) Adelphi Book Shop at 822 1/2 Fort Street. Well, I still collect - and now posses a good-sized library filled with many rare, limited, signed and inscribed editions. My earliest volume is a 1542 edition of The Satyricon (I have other editions of this fragmentary satire as well). I first "turned on" to this classic after reading a paperback version while in Rome during the B.C. Student Travel Association Tour of Europe on the early 'sixties. Aside from a large design reference section and other collections, I have major holdings of Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, Frank Harris, John Addington Symonds and Aubrey Beardsley. A wonderful original caricature of Edmond Rostand (he wrote Cyrano de Bergerac ) graces a wall in my den.
I continue (modestly) collect American art. My biggest prize to date is Jim Pink's painting Resurrection - a dramatic portrait of Elvis reincarnated as a Hell's Angel. I own graphics by David Lance Goines, bronzes by Jasper D'Ambrosi and ceramics by Tom Coleman.
I also enjoy photography, especially in my garden and when I travel. My photos currently appear in three books devoted to the amateur photographer. I'm sending along some photos to this website to illustrate this update - not technically "nostalgic", but, I hope, fun to see. I have included several shots of myself: one taken at my first one-man show in the late 'seventies and one at the Captain's Reception of the QE2 a few years back. [Ellis' photographs follow the costume pages, ed.]
Of course, it was at Oak Bay that I won the Best Actor Award in the Greater Victoria Schools Drama Contest. The prize was a scholarship to the Banff School of Fine Arts. At U.B.C. I became a Theatre Major; my interest gradually changed form acting to stage design. This led to my graduate career at the Yale School of Drama where my classmates included Sigorney Weaver, Michael Gross and Barnett Kellman (creator of Murphy Brown). Oh, yes, I even acted at The Yale Rep with Henry Winkler!
As I approached my last year of training, I found no one in Canada ready to offer me a job; I received dozens of offers from American universities and colleges. Accepting a teaching post in the U.S.A. was the only way I could extend my visa. I narrowed down the offers to the New York State College of Arts and Sciences at Genenseo, the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle and...UNLV. The University of Nevada Las Vegas was then called "Tumbleweed Tech" but it was west of the Mississippi and an easy choice. UNLV has grown into a first-rate institution and I grew along with it. I'm head of the costume area and Graduate Coördinator for the Department of Theatre. Additionally, I supervise the M.A. students and all the grad assistants who teach Appreciation of Theatre for the non major (Athletics refer to me as "The Enforcer"). Seriously, though, I taught most of the Rebels basketball team who won the National Championship a few years back. And, I'm here to state that Larry Johnson was an excellent student!
Speaking of students, I am proud of my many graduates who include in their ranks international fashion designer Randolph Duke as well as John Iacovelli, Art Director for Babylon Five (the series and the motion picture). One of my recent grads is now Celine Dion's personal dresser over at Caesar's Palace. I never dreamed that I would eventually become an artist-educator but many years here have been happy and rewarding. In enjoy being in the studio and the classroom; I continue to work as production designer for the American Girl Place Theatre in Chicago (my swing dance costume was marketed as a doll outfit last summer) and the south Carolina Shakespeare Company in Columbia. A former student of mine heads the theatre area at African American Benedict College in Columbia, S.C.; a few months ago he was named the 2003 Outstanding Honors Teacher of The Year!
Finally, I must mention my two wonderful cats - Oscar and Maude (see photos). Maude is a high-spirited Calico and Oscar is a big gray Tabby who (believe it or not) fetches little foam rubber balls. Every morning he places a ball on my bed for his daily "fetch session". Maude occasionally performs a summersault.
Life is good! See you at the Reunion!