Expanded from the 8-6-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
The passing of Lawrence Jacobsen brought back warm memories. The former assembly speaker and senator (R-Douglas-Carson-Washoe-Lyon-Storey) was a good guy but delightfully prone to spoken gaffes that made him a celebrity.
His most famous remark came about 25 years ago when he graciously volunteered at the last minute to escort a delegation of African dignitaries on a tour of the region. One of the visitors asked him why there were so few people of African descent in northern Nevada.
"It's too cold for them here," Jake responded.
Local, state and national media went nuts.
Coming from just about anybody else, such a remark worthy of the old south would have spelled the end of a political career. But this was Nevada where everybody knew everybody.
I was present at that year's edition of the legislature's Third House, a tradition dating from Mark Twain's days where the news media roast the participants.
The highlight of the '81 show came when the lights dimmed and someone made shushing, blizzardy noises over the speaker system. (The Third House is not big on production values.)
Into the stormy setting strode a shivering man with a blanket over his head. As he approached the center of the assembly chamber where Sen. Jacobsen was seated, the well-wrapped traveler boomed out "Boy, oh boy, how can you honkies stand it up here?"
The blanket came off to reveal a smiling Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, sharing a good laugh with his friend and colleague.
"I like Jake," was Neal's response when the state's first African-American senator had been asked about the remark which caused a minor international incident. And that was the sum of it: Joe Neal knew there was no malice in the man. Jake was just a bit of an anachronism, a superannuated man.
Later that year, Sen. Jacobsen again played host, this time to a regional meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures at the Flamingo Hilton (then called the Sahara Reno).
At the conclusion of a morning session, Sen. Jake got up to make a few announcements. Bad idea. The room erupted as the press corps hurriedly left to find the nearest phones.
"Jacobsen just did it again!" a Reno reporter exulted as he rushed past me.
Jake had matter-of-factly advised the attendees of their options for the afternoon: a tour of the Nevada legislative building for lawmakers and a run up to Virginia City for their wives. Turning to some of the female lawmakers in attendance, Jake advised that "you girls" might want to tag along with the wives while the guys handled business.
Even hard core Mormon female legislators from Utah took Jake to the woodshed for that one.
But it all blew over. Jake had been around so long that we had gotten used to Jake being Jake.
He was a man of utmost plain-spoken integrity, the same quality which made former Washoe D.A. and District Court Judge Mills Lane so popular. He called it as he saw it.
In 1972, amnesty for draft dodgers was (and remains today) a big issue. Back then, the Vietnam debacle was still ongoing.
University of Nevada System Regent James Bilbray had upset 10-term incumbent Congressman Walter Baring in the September Democratic primary. David Towell, an unknown real estate agent from Douglas County (with a dynamic wife and a campaign manager who both knew how to win elections), narrowly won the GOP nomination.
Bilbray's overconfidence after one of the biggest upsets of the century made him vulnerable. I was Bilbray's northern Nevada media manager at the time. We got word that Towell, who had forcefully opposed amnesty for draft evaders in a head-to-head debate with Bilbray, had actually supported it at the Douglas County Republican Convention.
I tipped off upstart KTVN TV-2 news. Ed Pearce assigned the story to ace investigative reporter David Kladney who called then-Assembly Speaker Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden.
Without hesitation, Jake confirmed that Towell had indeed spoken on behalf of a pro-amnesty platform plank at the Douglas County GOP Convention earlier in the year.
Channel 2 news had a scoop and I made sure that the Reno Evening Gazette and Nevada State Journal got the story for the next day's editions.
Jake could have clammed up or said he didn't remember, but he was an absolutely honest man and confirmed the facts. That's why natural enemies like Sens. Neal and Bill Raggio, R-Reno, both revered the man.*
Sis, Bobbe and Harold Greenspon on Bobbe's 1985 wedding day. Bobbe and Tim Moore reside in Hermosa Beach, California.
(Photo courtesy of Bobbe Greenspon Moore)
FATHER TIME. Many of the wonderful folks I've met in politics over the past 37 years are still around, but more than a few have departed. Another link to the memorable 1972 season was broken earlier this year.
Former Reno auto dealer Harold Greenspon, 83, passed away in Los Angeles on April 21. Harold and his wife, Sis, were a pair of magnificent if seemingly mismatched individuals.
Sis was the ultimate energetic hostess who threw the grandest parties in Reno at a perfect southwest home.
Harold was something else again.
I first met him in 1971 at Nevada Chrysler-Plymouth, now the Peppermill's north parking lot.
I was a young kid with a Vegas attitude fresh up from Gomorrah South when introduced to a well-worn mechanic with a cigar stub hanging out of his mouth, haggling over a wholesale deal with a sales manager.
A year or so later, Sis and Harold threw a bash for future congressman Bilbray** and I saw a completely different guy the mechanic, spruced up in a red blazer, could have passed for a Broadway producer.
Sis Greenspon passed away in 1998 just before her 86th birthday. She had her own television show on an L.A. cable station and did a bit of acting as well as volunteer work at the local PBS television station.
Their daughter, Bobbe Greenspon Moore, resides in southern California.
Lisa Albiniano, William's mother, was called by doctors at Cal-Davis at 4:00 a.m. Saturday, July 29. She was ordered to immediately take her son to Washoe Med ER, as his blood pressure and heart rate were spiking. (Thank heaven someone at the hospital ordered tests notwithstanding the family's financial straits.)
William was treated and sent home. Mrs. Albiniano continues her round-the-clock efforts to save her son's life.
ALBINIANO ALERT. The yard sale fundraiser for eight year-old William Albiniano at Dee's Used Furniture in Sun Valley has been rescheduled to Sept. 9 to allow more time for donations. Anyone wishing to contribute items may call (775) 771-4951 or (775) 303-0606.
The family has been missing house payments to pay the tab for the seriously ill boy's medication. The jury is still out on whether or not his needs can be covered by the Nevada Checkup health plan for children.
His mom tells me that KRNV TV-4 anchor Joe Hart is planning to do a story on William this week, perhaps on the 6:00 p.m. newscast this Wednesday, August 9.
Say a prayer and stay tuned.
SMART CARS AND DUMB DRIVERS. For the past couple of weeks, the community has been debauching its way through the 21st edition of the Hot August Nights nostalgiafest. (Hic)
The Tribune has spared every expense in gathering the following street stories.
KEYS TO THE CITY. A desperate guy hotfooted into a downtown Reno auto service center and asked for help to get into his classic car. He had locked the keys in the trunk and would gladly pay the $42.50 tab.
A mechanic arrived to find that the auto in question was a convertible with its top down. The owner needed only to use the trunk release or pull the back seat forward to get his keys. I hope he got charged the full $42.50 plus interest for stupidity.
Meanwhile down at the Atlantis Hotel parking lot, a flustered woman approached a local guy when her remote would not work to unlock her car.
"Does Raley's (food and drug) across the street sell batteries for these?" she nervously asked.
"Drive over and ask them," said the gentleman as he calmly took her key ring and used the key thereon to unlock the door.
TWO-DOOR COUPE DE GRASS: An actual conversation between a clerk and a tourist.
"Where's the nearest gas station?"
"Right across the street."
"How do I get there?"
And we let these people drive loaded cars through our town?
Be careful out there. And be very afraid.
Be well. Raise hell.
* Because of space limitations, the above section in red did not appear in the Tribune's print edition but will be included in a future column.
** Bilbray lost to Towell in 1972 but was elected to the first of four terms from Las Vegas in 1986. Towell served one term and was defeated for re-election in 1974.
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Copyright © 1982, 2006 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and webmaster of JoeNeal.org. His opinions are strictly his own, as always. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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