Lord Vader, literary lights and
the light saber that failed


Expanded from the 9-9-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

HARVEY AND ME. My Tribune colleague in columny Jake Highton forwarded a copy of the latest edition of "Nevada Silver and Blue," the University of Nevada Reno alumni magazine. The cover boy is oft-featured juice lawyer/lobbyist and virginal valley despoiler/developer Harvey Whittemore, 2001 alumnus of the year.

UNR flack Greg Bortolin's oozy article kisses Harvey's expensively-suited arse on all eight living-color pages. In a letter, eminent journalism professor Highton praised Bortolin's writing but added "it dripped with PR. You write that Barbano is one of his fiercest critics yet, unless I missed something, you never say what some of Andy's very, very valid criticism is." [UPDATE: A few weeks after the Whittemore piece appeared, Bortolin was hired as Gov. Dudley Do-Right's press chief at a salary of $90,000 a year plus benefits.]

Bortolin's piece notes only that I've called the honoree "Darth Vader," something which Whittemore reveals has caught on with his children. Anyone interested in the Harvey files may access reams of irascible reading via the NevadaLabor.com search engine (keyword: Whittemore).

The current issue is not the first time the alumni puff piece has served as a shill for the gambling-industrial complex. The July-August 2000 edition carried a 22-PAGE cover story entitled "Grads in the Game." Purportedly about UNR alumni in the gambling industry, it was actually a thinly-veiled volley in the industry's nationwide barrage against Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, and his continuing crusade to raise Nevada's world-low gross gaming tax.

"The fact is that Whittemore is more powerful than the governor," Highton admonished Bortolin.

"He runs this state in the interests of the gambling industry, not the people. He's why this state woefully underfunds social services. He's why your beloved UNR is merely a state-assisted institution," Highton advised.

Earlier this year, Harvey bragged to the press that he has never lost his temper. I guess he forgot about the 1995 incident when he loudly announced to a hallway full of lawmakers and lobbyists that he wanted to call me outside to duke out a dispute.

VICTIM SUPPORT GROUP. The bones of Nevada consumers are prominent on the sagebrushed hillsides littered with Harvey's conquests. Harvey juiced the big-user deregulation bill through the ledge and all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court. (See the Energy War Room at this website.) The Nevada Utility Reform Alliance will meet this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at the Progressive Leadership Alliance building, 1101 Riverside Drive in Reno.

LABOR DAY FOLLOWUP. Next of kin had not been notified by presstime last week, so I could not print the name of the construction worker killed in a freak accident on Interstate 80 at Floriston, just over the California-Nevada state line.

Gardnerville resident Ernest Chee, 37, was a father and a member of Ironworkers Union Local 118. He has been buried at his ancestral reservation in Arizona.

Construction experts tell me that the Floriston jobsite remains highly hazardous to both motorists and workers. Some supervisors have pulled their workers off the job until safety precautions are taken. More soon.

FITZGERALD'S FIRES BACK. Last Sunday, I printed the following:

"Fitzgerald's Flophouse? Fitzgerald's Hotel-Casino in downtown Reno is being converted to weekly timeshares like the nearby Colonial Motor Lodge. Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin was recently quoted as saying that the city would be better off if the Comstock Hotel burned down. The former hotel-casino recently became a weekly rental facility. If anyone over at the Firefighters Union runs into Hizzoner, please ask if he wants Fitzgerald's to burn down, too. (Whaddya expect from a guy who called homeless people 'human debris'?)"

Corporate management apparently did not see the humor. With the paper still on news stands, I received the following e-mail:

"Dear Mr. Barbano: I am not sure where you got your information regarding Fitzgeralds being converted to a timeshare but you are incorrect. Fitzgeralds enjoys occupancy (percentage) in the mid 90's and has no interest whatsoever in becoming a timeshare. If you wish to contact me to discuss this further (call my office). I would appreciate it if you would correct your statement that you made in the paper regarding Fitzgeralds. Thank you. Steve Trounday, Sr. Director of Marketing, Fitzgeralds Casino/Hotel."

I called Mr. Trounday thrice, all unsuccessful. Fitzgerald's has long confronted a double whammy, facing both the Union Pacific railroad tracks and thin profits. Conversion conversations continue to confuse the community.

MORE NOTES FROM MY CHECKERED PAST. Regarding the Aug. 19 Barbwire entitled "Misreading the clear message about what the kids want," Mark Andrews of Sparks writes "we enjoyed your Sunday column concerning Headline News' new format. Attached is a letter we mailed to them last week."

Mr. Andrews' letter constitutes just about the worst revenge you can take against a television programmer: "Congratulations, Headline News! You have the distinction of being the first TV station we've ever deleted from our TV remote control."


"It was bad enough a few years ago when you started running an endless stream of monotonous statistics across the bottom of the screen," Andrews continues, "but now, with three-fourths of the screen devoted to this ennui, the only thing left to say to you is: So long! You're no longer on our channel lineup."

BACK TO THE FUTURE. On Sept. 20, 1998, I printed a column of recommended literature. It came in response to a request from a father home-schooling his son. I consulted with local literati (teen prodigy Zoe Celeste Liou and my wife, Betty) over copious quantities of yogi tea at the late, lamented Blue Heron un-meat restaurant. We came up with a pretty fair list and I solicited additions, which I promptly received from readers in far-flung places.

Alas and alack, I became engulfed in the swill of follytix (remember the Reid-Ensign Florida preview recount?) and never followed up.

Matt O'Brien, a writer at Las Vegas CityLife, recently took me to task.

"Is it too late to chime in on your suggested reading column? What the hell? I'll do it anyway," Mr. O'Brien opined, then checked off quite an impressive array.

"Sorry I'm chiming in so late. I've been fairly busy the past three years. I very much enjoy your column," O'Brien wrote.

As an obscure philosopher (me) has long advised, procrastination is never having to say you're sorry. I'll dig out the unpublished responses and caucus anew with my literary advisors. I will also inquire how the student in question is doing. Then we will all work at updating and refining the list.

Please send in your suggestions. I need all the help I can get.

Be well. Raise hell.

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© 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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