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Clark, Toni, 1915-2006
Toni Clark-Finuf (1915-2006) was known as “The First Lady of Las Vegas”. She was a retired owner in the casino and gaming industry, a sponsor and promoter of cultural arts in Las Vegas, Nevada, a respected philanthropist, and a proponent of local high fashion. Out of the many Las Vegas organizations she was involved in, Clark favored the Variety Club and the Nevada Dance Theatre. In 2000, Governor Kenny Guinn presented the honor of naming her Nevada Ballet Theatre's Woman of the Year. She was also the wife of American casino owner and land developer, Wilbur Clark. Together, they helped develop Las Vegas’ image of hospitality and gaming.
Toni Clark was born as Lena Gaglionese on April 15, 1915 in Seattle, Washington. Her parents were Italian immigrant parents and she grew up surrounded by family. She moved into the Barbara Worth hotel owned by Shirley Clark in San Diego, California. Clark suggested to Toni that she should apply to work at the Monte Carlo, a bar and restaurant that his son Wilbur Clark was opening. She was hired as a hostess and began to date Wilbur Clark, who gave her the nickname “Toni”. In 1944, they married in Reno, Nevada and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada shortly after purchasing the El Rancho on the Las Vegas Strip.
Her husband owned several clubs in Las Vegas, such as the Monte Carlo downtown and the Player’s Club on the Strip. He also opened the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino in 1950. Toni Clark had no interest in the business side of the resort, however she was deeply involved in its social aspects. She would plan spectacular parties, entertainment, and fashion shows at the Desert Inn. Clark was named as one of the 10 Best Dressed Women in America multiple times during the 1950s by many high-fashion organizations. She remained a notable member of the Las Vegas Society when Wilbur Clark passed away in 1965. In 2001, Clark married her long-time companion, Larry Finuf. The two of them promoted important causes and hosted multiple charity benefits throughout Las Vegas. Clark continued to live in Las Vegas until she passed away on October 4, 2006.
“Toni Clark.” Women in Nevada History. Accessed June 23, 2020. https://womennvhistory.com/portfolio/toni-clark/.
“Las Vegas Loses Its 'First Lady'.” Las Vegas Sun , October 6, 2006. Accessed June 23, 2020. https://lasvegassun.com/news/2006/oct/06/las-vegas-loses-its-first-lady/.