The media war stopped
for a moment
the day the music died
Expanded from the 12-2-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Last Friday, inside the electric cathedral which permeates and validates our lives, peace and love gently nudged war aside.
Just for a moment, the cardinal rule of TV news had its wings clipped. "If it bleeds, it leads" was temporarily grounded. The monochrome monotony of the killing fields was broken by music.
It came at a cost. One life was traded to buy the media machine's attention long enough for it to focus on a tired truism: all you need is love.
The music of George Harrison and his mates momentarily broke the dominance of war, hatred and killing. Trading was suspended on the sanguine stock exchange where the white god sells against the brown god. Somewhere in a dark slaughterhouse across the River Styx, a gentle hand stopped the goo-dripping scales weighing the still-warm hearts of grateful dead soldiers.
Even St. Matthew's latter day colleagues at the IRS were given pause as the publicans rocked to the song of the tax man.
The son of a lowly Liverpool bus driver was dead. He certainly contributed to his early exit through his lifelong game of Russian roulette with the smoking revolver of nicotine.
And as surely as bellicose Patrick Buchanan trashed John Lennon for the sin of dying rich, some other yahoo will do the same to the youngest Beatle.
The fabled Baby Boom, which admired Capt. James T. Kirk because he cheated death so often, was served notice. You are far from your days as a marketing and cultural phenomenon. You are closer to becoming a burden on the working class now that your quasi-elected government has tapped your retirement funds to bankroll another Asian war.
All those years ago, some of us learned that there is never a light at the end of such a tunnel or cave and that we can aspire to greater things.
So thank you, forever-young musician, for once again demonstrating an exquisite sense of musical timing.
You replaced death with a song. You gave us hope for replacing the dark, bloody business of the 20th Century with a better 21st.
Just for a moment at the top of the evening news.
BAD MANNERS. Let me see if I've got this right. The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority is going to spend big tax bucks on a new ad campaign, the central image of which is a 50-something bald guy in a tuxedo whom they will dub Sterling.
This reflects the ancient American insecurity that we're inferior and that anything from Great Britain is somehow classy. (Anybody remember the Sex Pistols?) The only thing missing is to have Sterling speak in a phony British accent, but that can be easily dubbed in.
Las Vegas can get away with such affectations because Gomorrah South is in the business of selling grotesque and incongruous illusion. Northern Nevada's strength supposedly lies in the cowboyish friendliness of our people.
This repackaging of Manners the Butler just ain't Nevadian.
That's not to say we haven't had bouts with bad taste in the past. The year that the Beatles broke up, I was working in a Las Vegas ad agency. One day, I heard the boys back in the art department hooting and hollering. They had just received a copy of the winter marketing campaign for Reno's then-premiere ski resort.
"Let Rose turn you on" read the headline of a full-color poster for the Mt. Rose ski area. The committee which came up with this stroke of genius decided that three roses were better than just one or two. In the background was Mt. Rose with snow and skiers thereon. In the foreground was a Hispanic-looking dark-haired girl wearing yellow ski goggles and smiling/grimacing at the camera. Between her teeth, Carmen-style, she chomped the stem of a red rose.
The art department thought it a grotesque and unintentional self-parody. I mildly defended it, stating that all three roses at least looked pretty.
By the time I was transferred to Reno a year later, the Beatles were no more, the ice had slowly melted and the triple rose of winter was mercifully retired.
I predict that Manners the Butler will meet a similar fate. Joe Murin, the guy they chose to play British Sterling, apparently wears a cowboy hat in real life. Therein lies the rub. The man, like the campaign, is disconnected from the reality the consumer will experience. The newly-remodeled Siena Hotel in downtown Reno has had to disavow its original caviar and evening gown image because it didn't sell.
It never has. Not long after all three roses froze, the late, great British singer-actor-composer Anthony Newley played Harrah's-Reno. The crowds were thin at a time country music king Buck Owens was packing the house at John Ascuaga's Nugget. (Also located in Reno, according to the latest edition of the Nugget Gazette newsletter.)
A public official who shall remain nameless uttered a timeless comment which should instruct Manners to keep his day job and local marketing mavens to update their resumes: "You can't sell 'em Anthony Newley and champagne when they want Buck Owens and a bottle of Coors."
I'll drink to that.
Stay of good heart.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .
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