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Transcript of interview with Charles Nur Fernald by Claytee D. White, May 31, 2014






Dancer Charles Nur Fernald first came to Las Vegas in 1963 to perform for five weeks in the Kay Starr Show at the Sahara Hotel and again in 1964 working with Donn Arden for three months at the Desert Inn Hotel. Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1939, Charles moved several times to various places in Arizona and southern California with his parents, Charles Knox Fernald and Marguerite Marie Higgins Fernald, and half-siblings before settling in Hollywood, California, where he remained (except for his short stints in Las Vegas) from 1961 to 1967. In January 1968 Charles came to Las Vegas to perform with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca at the Flamingo Hotel. After the show closed Charles auditioned for Donn Arden to dance in the Lido de Paris show at the Stardust Hotel, where he remained for sixteen years, 1968 through 1984. He remains the only male dancer who performed with Lido through five different, consecutive productions. In 1969 Charles met his partner, Aquiles Garcia, who was a dancer at the Dunes Hotel. The couple remain in Las Vegas and have been together forty-five years. Charles’s father was very poor and left school after the third grade to go to work and help support his family. He was born in 1889 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth of eleven children. As an eight-year-old he became a “groundhog,” a digger of New York’s underwater tunnels, who helped build the Holland Tunnel. At fifteen he made more money than his father selling newspapers, fresh fruit, and clothing door to door or from the street corner. According to Charles, his father “drank too much, ate too much, smoked too much, and loved too much.” As an only child, Charles’s mother had a very different upbringing from his father, although her family too was very poor. She was born in Detroit in 1902 to a railroad switchman father and mother who not only scrubbed the floors of wealthy Detroiters but also cooked meals for twenty-one boarders at a rooming house. Marguerite’s parents worked hard so they could send their only child to Catholic school and the Detroit Conservatory of Music.

Digital ID



Charles Nur Fernald oral history interview, 2014 May 31. OH-00583. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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i AN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES NUR FERNALD An Oral History Conducted by Claytee D. White The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©The Boyer Early Las