Carroll, who is celebrating his 55th anniversary of broadcasting this year, is no stranger when it comes to on-air interviews with major celebrities; some of them being Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Marilyn Monroe.
The well-researched biography of Raggio has been selling briskly and the senator will have copies for sale at the G.O.D. meeting and will sign those purchased.
G.O.D. club meetings are open to the public for the $15 cost of the luncheon, but reservations are necessary by contacting Bill Berrum at 787-1663 or e-mail to email@example.com by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Bill Raggio story is an interesting one because it not only chronicles the life of the Reno native but it also takes the reader behind the scenes of the exciting 12 years that Raggio served as the District Attorney of Washoe County from 1958 to 1970. The book is also peppered with the names of the famous and infamous Raggio interfaced with during those years as well as later in his long professional career. The list includes such well-known figures as Alan Bible, Spiro T. Agnew, Benny Binion, Tom Brokaw, Howard Cannon, both Presidents Bush, Herb Caen, Bill Clinton, Jake Erlich, Frank Sinatra, Moe Dalitz, Gerald Ford, President Nixon and literally hundreds of others.
His career in the Nevada State Senate, where he ultimately rose to being known as “the most powerful man in the state” is also well documented but never boring.
Those that know Raggio best are impressed with the candid appraisal of their good friend that the book also offers. One of those recently commented over his cup of java at the every morning kaffee klatch at the Gold and Silver Inn on Fourth Street, “What most people don’t know about Bill is that he has one of the greatest senses of humor of any guy I have ever met. People who only saw him on TV interviews during his time as D.A. or in Carson City only got a glimpse of the serious side of his personality. To really get to know him you’ve got to socialize and watch him handle — and deliver — the barbs that sprinkle his conversations!”
Raggio’s humor is also on display whenever he is called upon as master of ceremonies at various events. His self-depreciating style usually ends up with a wry twist. He is particularly adept as a “roaster” when called to the mic.
The G.O.D. club is an organization that was created some 20 years ago by Bob Carroll and the late photographer, Don Dondero. Originally it was to be a monthly meeting of former newsmen and public relations types that had worked during Reno’s “Golden Era,” where they could gather and exchange spicy tidbits that had never seen the light of print or electronic coverage. As word spread of these intimate meetings more and more people dropped by for the sessions. Eventually it grew so big that a monthly postcard was sent out to those who coughed up 10 dollars per annum to cover the cost of mailing. Although it had many official meeting spots it found its perfect home in the now gone Liberty Belle Saloon and Eatery on South Virginia Street. The Belle itself was a treasure trove of history, mostly of slot machines, so it tied in beautifully with the G.O.D. format of preserving local history through the memories of those who had lived it.
As membership grew, the speakers became more diverse and included top local lawyers, sports figures, politicians, and even some national celebrities. Since most of the stories were being told for the first time it occurred to one of the earliest members, the late attorney Pete Echeverria, that the tales were so interesting they should be preserved for future generations. He volunteered to pay for the recording equipment necessary to do so but when a vote was taken it was decided to keep everything “off the record” so as not to inhibit the speakers.
Early day sessions of G.O.D. were raucous and free-wheeling because it was originally an all-male group. However when the late top female media mogul in town, Betty Stoddard, decided to attend one of the sessions things toned down considerably. Stoddard’s foray into the male-dominated gathering inspired many other distaffers to start coming to G.O.D. gatherings. Today the 200-plus mailing list includes an almost equal number of men and women.
Following the closure and demolishing of the Liberty Belle the G.O.D. club met for a while at the Siena Hotel/Spa until that facility was shuttered. In its new home at the Tamarack Junction it has seen a steady increase in attendance and next week’s meeting should be no exception.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.