Theme Casinos, Spuds MacKenzie
and Brigitte Bardot

Originally published in Reno, LV and Sunworld Airlines magazines, August, 1987
Updated 8-8-2013

Everybody wants to get into the act!

Theme casinos are the coming thing in Reno. First came cherry pink and apple blossom white Circus Circus. Now, Eddie's Fabulous Fifties. Soon, Harold's Club goes Bourbon Street.

Herewith, some suggestions for future downtown theme clubs.

HEARTBREAK HOTEL featuring non-stop Elvis impersonators rocking around the clock. Lots of locations available in the downtown proximity.

OLIVER NORTH'S MARINELAND, a tribute to the military-industrial complex, strictly for defense-contract high rollers, the place where everybody plays on house money, featuring finance director Ivan Boesky. Fawn & the Shredders headline in the main congressional showroom with the Poindexter Sisters performing the Neutron Dance. A perfect test market for Contra-Ade, the new wine cooler made from 100 percent real Washington juice.

HULK HOGAN'S REVIVAL MANIA. If 1950's revivals are in, why not a revival revival featuring the greatest hits of those swinging southern cousins, Rev. Jimmy Lee Swaggart, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. Backup vocals by Cindi Lauper with Mr. T on heavy percussion. Jerry Lee and the Hulk would be magic onstage together — each is an expert at beating things up, a killer concept. This investment should be especially attractive to financiers and accountants because of the low capital investment. All that's needed is a large tent and parking lot. No problem with zoning from the harmonious new Reno City Council.

THE RISING SON, a joint venture between Henry Ford III, Ron Reagan, Jr., Toyota, Sony and Hyundai. The club that will beat you at your own game and then sell you the table.

THE COUCH POTATO LADIES CLUB, better known as the CPL Club, the world's first television casino, church and self-help group where dilettante housewives can tune in to gamble, gossip, swap recipes or order their groceries — all by phone. Lots of experienced talent available for casino hosting, many of whom have adopted the Tammy Faye look.

THE BEIRUT BILTMORE built entirely from the ruins of downtown Reno street repairs.

THE JAMES BONDAGE — fun and fast times worth a king's ransom in mirth and missiles. Spies, kidnapping, glamour, beauty, international intrigue and a big buffet. The fantasyland where nothing is as it seems.

Now that Budweiser's chick-magnet English bull terrier and party animal Spuds MacKenzie has been outed as a she, the cross-promotional — and cross-dressing — potential will make this place hotter than a Saturday Night Beretta. No wonder the dog always wore bagged-out clothes.

I unpeeled the Spuds scandal for KRaZyQew-fm morning jock Dale Kelly between home fries and radio cut-ins at Landrum's Diner on (where else) Rock Blvd. Kelly promised film at eleven, quite a trick to turn on radio. Speaking of film...

Spuds probably applauded Brigitte Bardot's recent fundraiser for wayward critters. The French superstar generated $580,000 auctioning clothing and mementos of her storied motion picture career.

"I gave my beauty and my youth to men," Bardot somewhat sadly stated, "and now, I am giving my wisdom and experience, the best of me, to animals."

Spuds, listen to me, babe: What happened to Bardot could happen to you. Keep your clothes on and quit before it's too late. Besides, your old boxers will never bring that kind of money.

THE BREAD AND WATERSLIDE, a theme park fiscal solution for our money-short new county jail.

"It's either this or the jail goes condo," according to a knowledgeable source.

If the place gets built in time (the waterslide, not the jail), at the grand opening, I'll bring the winners of the Barbwire 10 Most Washable Contest, my answer to those blah annual rites naming the 10 Most Watchable men and women of northern Nevada.

If you have any nominations for the 10 Most Washable individuals or entities most in need of cleaning up their acts, send them to me in care of this magazine.

Be well. Raise hell.

What a long, strange trip it's been

The above began The Barbwire, which became both a newspaper column and radio show the following year.

THE NUN'S STORY. I have been writing opinion pieces since my freshman year in high school, for which I was threatened with physical violence by more than one coach or Christian Brother. I did my share of writing penances in detention in honor of the First Amendment, although the Bill of Rights was not exactly foremost on my teenage mind at the time. (I still recall that Culebra Cut was the original name for the Panama Canal. You remember stuff like that if forced to write it 1,000 times. And never refer to Brother Roach by his student-originated nickname in print.)

I had worked my way up to become editor of my high school newspaper in senior year, but got beaten out by a junior destined for corporate greatness. I was instead named "managing editor," which really meant ad salesman, something I had also proven good at.

I refused to take the job or the dis. I put on a blindingly hot yellow tie (a cross-examination technique I had learned from debate team stories about famed lawyer Clarence Darrow) and confronted icy Sister Steven, the school paper's advisor.

She informed me that I was not named editor because I was "too antagonistic."

Perceptive woman.

ON TO GOMORRAH SOUTH. In my early days in Las Vegas and Reno, I wrote Barbanterings by Barbano in publications as diverse as Las Vegas Casino Post and the Pahrump Valley Times (for the late publisher Milt Bozanic, who astounded me by paying me for the nonsense); the Nevada Democratic Party News; the venerable and now-defunct Nevada Labor News and Northern Nevada Fun & Gaming. I scored an occasional piece in the Reno Gazette-Journal and, while it was still a sleepy weekly, the Sparks Tribune.

Milt Bozanic said he liked my style, a compliment I couldn't understand until the late and legendary Reno Gazette-Journal entertainment writer Guy Richardson put it in a different context many years later.

BIRTH OF THE BARBWIRE. In 1987, Las Vegas publisher Lyle Brennan was looking to expand his magazine empire to the north. He already had his books on Sunworld Airlines, so the extension seemed logical.

Brennan knew that hiring local media personalities as columnists would create buzz. He quickly committed top jock D. Brewster Finley from KRNO 106.9-fm and longtime KOLO TV-8 news anchor Tad Dunbar. Brennan also approached Reno Gazette-Journal columnists Guy Richardson and Cory Farley.

After looking at a few copies of LV magazine, the RGJ managing editor — who shall forever live in infamy as Ass-pinching Ed — said no.

"These magazines have local advertisers in them," insisted old bullet dome. "If they want to read you guys, they have to buy our paper."

Corporate case closed.

Brennan asked Richardson for a referral. Guy said "I know a guy I think you'll like. He's a good writer, he's got an edge and a style."

I got a call and submitted the above piece as my first installment.

Publisher Brennan said his editor actually fell off her chair laughing when she read it. (I was not sued.)

I went on to write several cover features as well as a monthly Barbwire for the duration of the lives of the three magazines. Brennan still publishes Nevada Business Journal today.

In the summer of 1988, I heard that new owners were taking the Sparks Tribune daily. I walked in with my magazine articles and publisher Randy Frisch asked me to write three sample columns.

The first gave the inside story of the financial meltdown of the Hot August Nights 1950's nostalgiafest. The second was a trip to Nevada's first AIDS hospice. The third followed the gag formula above and involved using the new county jail to solve the problems of rapid urban growth. Installment number four detailed my human rights confrontation of Chilean Consul General Leopoldo Porras, a servant of the bloody Pinochet regime, at a local Republican Party luncheon.

I beat out a journalism professor and a local arch-conservative for the single open slot.

The long labor of love began.

Be well. Raise hell.

Barbwire: 25 years before the masthead
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 8-8-2013 Sparks Tribune

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Copyright © 1987-2007, 2013, 2016 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 35-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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