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Vanessa Williams’ career has been a winner

Vanessa Williams will perform Saturday at Cache Creek.
Vanessa Williams will perform Saturday at Cache Creek.

It was a scandal for a different decade.

In 1983, Vanessa L. Williams became the first African American woman to win the Miss America pageant. But 10 months into her reign, Penthouse Magazine published racy nude photos of her, ones she had taken years earlier when she was working as a photographer’s assistant. The scandal shocked and embarrassed the organization. As a result, Williams felt compelled to return her crown. First runner-up Suzette Charles ended up taking over the title.

This month, more than three decades after she resigned, Williams returned to the pageant as a head judge, receiving an official apology from the organization. To her credit, Williams never let the incident define her career.

Instead, the former musical theater major at Syracuse University forged ahead, recording dance-music hits (“The Right Stuff”) and songs for Disney (“Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas”). She appeared in movies (“Soul Food,” “Johnson Family Vacation”) and on television (“Desperate Housewives,” “Ugly Betty”) and on Broadway (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”).

Williams performs at Cache Creek on Saturday. These days, she continues to divide her time between singing and acting. In addition to appearing on “The Mindy Project” and “Royal Pains” this year, she shot a TV pilot for Fox called “Fantasy Life.” Kevin Connolly co-stars with Williams, who plays the tough senior vice president of programming at network that hosts a fantasy football show. (9 p.m.; $65-$99;


Thunder Valley rounds out its summer amphitheater series with a band that essentially defines the changing music scene from the 1970s to present.

Heart, led at its beginning as it is now by Ann (vocals) and Nancy (guitar) Wilson, began on vinyl and moved to digital. They broke ground as one of the first rock ’n’ roll bands headed by women. They recognized the wealth to be had and the staying power provided by heavy touring, and are still drawing huge crowds.

Heart plays Saturday. Local favorite Larisa Bryski opens the show. (7 p.m.; $42.75-$169.75;

There will be a noticeable absence in the sky this weekend at Reno’s National Championship Air Races. Precious Metal had an engine catch fire at a fuel stop in Florida as it began its journey to Reno. The modified P-51 could not be rescued in time. Meanwhile, the races continue through Sunday at Stead Field north of Reno with the unlimited gold race set to wrap up the 52nd edition at 4 p.m. (