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July 24, 2014

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Visitors awestruck at Justice Entertainment Group’s memorabilia collection

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Susan Joseph’s office at Justice Entertainment.

Justice Entertainment Offices

A view of the Disney memorabilia collection at Justice Entertainment Friday, July 27, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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Music and sports memorabilia at Justice Entertainment Friday, July 27, 2012.

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Backstage passes, tour jackets and album covers at Justice Entertainment Friday, July 27, 2012.

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A wall of signed baseballs and other sports memorabilia at Justice Entertainment Friday, July 27, 2012.

It’s tempting to refer to this fortress of artifacts as a trip down Memory Lane, but it is so much more than that.

The offices of Justice Entertainment Group represent a crisscrossing trip across the Memory Interstate Highway System.

The JEG headquarters at the Hughes Airport Center in Las Vegas are filled with thousands of treasures amassed by music and entertainment veteran Susan Joseph and her partner, famed concert promoter Dick Klotzman. JEG expanded to Las Vegas two years ago, signing Thomas & Mack Center and Sam Boyd Stadium Director Daren Libonati as its president and chief operating officer. Klotzman is Joseph’s “significant other,” using her description of the relationship, and occupies an office as a consultant with JEG.

The company remains the contracted event booking and business partner with the Mack and Sam Boyd and is promoting Sunday’s soccer exhibition — billed as the World Football Challenge — between Spanish champion Real Madrid and Mexico champ Santo Laguna at Sam Boyd. Game time is 8 p.m., and tickets are $65 to $250 (plus fees).

To describe the scope of the JEG headquarters, imagine the rock ’n’ roll memorabilia collection around the casino floor at the Hard Rock Hotel. Then remove all of the machines and tables from that floor, and fill it with more memorabilia.

Oh, and drop a few desks in the middle. That’s what it’s like at JEG.

“I feel comfortable in here,” Joseph says in her stuffed-with-memorabilia office, one wall covered with gold records. “We have never thrown away anything that has meaning.”

Joseph says it takes visitors who arrive at JEG’s offices to conduct business a few minutes to shake their heads and get into work mode after looking around at the dizzying surroundings.

“I go to the dentist’s office, where there is nothing on the walls, and it’s so boring,” she says. “I would feel really weird if this stuff weren’t here.”

Joseph says she started putting items she collected on display in 1973, when she began representing Seals & Crofts. But the collection dates at least a decade earlier than that, and in many instances, you walk through a door and are surrounded by thousands of Disney-licensed knickknacks, as the company has promoted “Disney on Ice” productions. This particular office is loaded with Disney figures and at least a couple dozen Mickey Mouse watches.

Walk through the halls and you hit tour jackets ranging from those worn by Sean Cassidy’s crew in the late 1970s to Madonna’s “Blonde Ambition” tour. The Circus Room is a dazzling display of items gleaned from the company’s promotion of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey events. The Christmas Room allows it to be Christmas year-round at JEG, as 17 decorated trees and hundreds of holiday ornaments and toys (including a model train) adorn the space.

The vast majority of the items have been taken from direct partnerships between Joseph and Klotzman over the years. He promoted the first Beatles concert in February 1964 at the Washington Coliseum, explaining the vintage poster of the event that overlooks the company’s conference room. In an opposite corner is a space dedicated to the Jacksons, as Klotzman promoted the brothers’ “Victory” tour and early appearances by the Jackson 5. He promoted Elvis, too, and one of the more striking pieces is a poster from a scheduled Presley appearance from Aug. 21, 1977, at the Hartford Civic Center in Connecticut. The show never came off, as Presley died less than a week before he was to perform.

The collection is hardly restricted to rock ’n’ roll. Jackets from such Broadway productions as “Annie” and “Evita” are displayed. One significant space is dedicated to sports memorabilia dating to the playing careers of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle (the first Mangle comic book is displayed). The men’s room boasts a vintage Vegas theme, with shots of the Rat Pack and the “Scarface” movie poster hanging from the walls.

When he moved over from the Thomas & Mack, Libonati lugged over his own collection of favored mementos. Hanging from the walls are promotional posters from such significant events as the Holyfield-Lewis heavyweight title fights, the Vegoose music festival and the neon 2007 NBA All-Star Game promotional sign. Libonati plays the drums, and on the face of the bass he has fastened a round poster from a Flogging Molly appearance at the Mack.

As she gives a tour of the space, Joseph straightens the crooked frames on photos of the band Foreigner and an autographed “Elton John Greatest Hits” CD. She has no idea what the value of the collection would be if put up for sale.

“It is irreplaceable,” she says. “What is it worth? It’s impossible to know. But I can tell you, to us it is absolutely priceless.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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