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A lottery at last, RSCVA woes and a little basketball 'Bonanza'
by Hary Spencer
Apr 17, 2009 | 702 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Best news out of the Nevada State Legislature this week was that the Assembly had passed a bill that is the first step in establishing a lottery for the state of Nevada.

Now it goes to the Senate, where the recent leadership change from Republican to Democrat could see it also get approval. To date, Gov. Jim Gibbons has not taken a stand on the issue but since the lottery is often described as a “voluntary tax” it is not expected to gain a veto from the governor.

A state lottery for the Silver State — which routinely sends millions of dollars annually across the border to California — has seemed to be a logical answer for Nevada’s budgetary woes. It is not the only answer, but it could play a significant part in reducing the current budget shortfall.

Most recently, political activist David Farside has been the main champion of a state lottery, even to giving impressive testimony on its behalf to the previous state legislative committees.

Prior to Farside taking up the cause, Bill Boyd, who ran as a candidate for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket in 1982 against then-Democrat Bob Cashell, made the state lottery the centerpiece of his campaign. Cashell won the race, eventually switched his party affiliation and the lottery was not heard of for a number of years. Any time it was whispered about in Carson City, the gaming lobby quickly put it to rest but at this point in time their objections might be stifled if it comes to an issue of a lottery versus raising the state gaming tax.

‘Starting five’ welcomes Coach Carter

The annual dinner held by the “Starting Five” (a booster club devoted to raising money for the UNR basketball team) gave a resounding welcome to new head coach David Carter this week.

Carter was the featured speaker in an evening that saw the “voice” of Nevada basketball emcee the event and several assistant coaches give out a raft of annual awards to the best players — as voted by the coaches and teammates. Nevada Athletic Director Cary Grouth also spoke and said it was almost a “no-brainer” to offer the post to Carter, who has been at the school for nearly a decade and performed superbly as chief assistant under both Mark Fox and Trent Johnson. Carter drew cheers when he pledged to win the WAC conference and tournament in the upcoming season.

RSCVA woes

Bad news continued for the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority when it announced this week that some 30,000 room nights would be lost with the departure of three scheduled conventions. The news was made bleaker when the sister entity responsible for tourism in the area, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, noted that some 17 flights have been lost. If conventioneers can’t get here, other meetings might also be on the chopping block.

Celebrity Corner

A few weeks ago, a 1969 film showed up on cable that paired an unlikely duo of stars who had major connections to the northern Nevada area. The movie was entitled “Lady in Cement,” and it starred Frank Sinatra and Dan Blocker.

Frank, of course, was the most familiar figure here and at Lake Tahoe as he appeared at a number of clubs, starting with the Riverside Hotel in 1953 — his first-ever Nevada appearance. Dan Blocker is best remembered for his role of “Hoss” on the long-running “Bonanza” television series. The world premiere of “Bonanza” was held in downtown Reno at the Grenada Theater (now gone) and featured the first two-hour segments of the show.

All of the principals of the cast were in attendance, as well as the producer, director and some top NBC brass. In addition, a number of movie town columnists and critics attended the event. We learned that the series was originally created to star Pernell Roberts (the oldest brother) and the rest of the Cartwrights would be in supporting roles. However, once the series took off, Little Joe, Hoss and Pa became more popular and Roberts quit the show in disgust. Too bad for him!

Back to “Lady in Cement.” Frank was cast in his recurring role as Tony Rome, a Miami private eye, and Blocker was one of the mean “heavies” — a far cry from the oafish character he had portrayed on “Bonanza.” As the movie went on, Frank persuaded Dan to quit his mobster friends and come over to his side and, as usual, everything turned out fine in the end.

Blocker may have had some other Hollywood TV and movie roles in addition to Hoss, but I don’t recall seeing many of them. In person, at that 1959 world premiere, he was very well-spoken and gracious. I asked what his background was prior to films and he said he had been an English college professor, but that the money for acting was a hell of a lot better.

Years later, we made a promotion trip to the “Bonanza” set in Hollywood, watched some filming and had lunch in the studio commissary. That is where I saw the true Dan Blocker as he was loud, gregarious, demanding and used some pretty colorful epithets. Of course, no one argued with him.

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