Embrace our inner guilty pleasures

So Artown is over, from the Hawaiian dance troupe to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Beethoven at Bartley. Rest easy, lovers of high art. Next year—year 11 of the annual July art fest—is only 11 months away.

Now, as four million classic cars drive into town and local waitresses dust off their poodle skirts, let’s celebrate the fact that Reno attempts to be “Artown” for only one blinding, image-balking month.

Ask a 20-something from the Midwest or Orange County or Germany what they think about Reno, and they won’t mention theater, kayaking or classical music. To them, we’re “a place where you can still feel good about being a white American,” to steal the words of Officer James Garcia on Comedy Central’s popular show, Reno 911.

Now in its third season, Reno 911 is a send-up of reality TV’s Cops. It’s pretty easy for locals to see that the show wasn’t filmed here—despite the many shots of Reno’s arch, Circus Circus and Neil Road signs.

That woman throwing potted plants at Washoe County officers from the roof of a multi-storied brick building in a recent episode?

“That’s so L.A.,” I theorized to my teens.

The filming location doesn’t matter to those watching in Chicago or Seattle, who enjoy the profane antics of fictional cops who indulge in “free drinks for law enforcement” on Tuesdays or female officers who moonlight as strippers.

In one episode, officers Garcia and S. Jones ("the Steve Malone of Reno, all the prostitutes know my name") go undercover as hippies. Wearing dreds and tie-dyed shirts, they attract so many women that they decide to convert—until they get to shoot their weapons and remember why they love being cops.

“As a kid,” says Jonesy in an online Q&A, “I viewed the movie In the Heat of the Night, and when I saw Sidney Poitier as Mr. Tibbs slap that old white man, I knew that’s what I had to be. Of course now I know there’s much more to being a cop than slapping white men, you can use a closed fist too!”

Free idea for tourism promoters: Ever consider getting the cast of the show (or look-alikes) to appear at events? How about a Reno 911-themed casino or shop where fans of the show can buy Clementine Johnson action figures? Perhaps it’s time to consider capitalizing on Reno’s international branding, not as artsy river community, but as center of a trashy pop-culture universe.

I thought about this during one of the free concerts in front of Harrah’s Reno—possibly during the Cars tribute band. Or was the Styx tribute band?

Dozens of gamblers, classic rock lovers and a few homeless guys lined the outdoor plaza. Budweisers in hand, they nodded to the familiar big-hair guitar riffs. A heavy woman in tight shorts stumbled by, tripped, fell on her fanny pack and was helped to her feet by a heroic male, graying hair tied into ponytail, Iron Maiden T-shirt pulled taut over his tummy.

Not your East Village Opera Company crowd.

Folks booking the Harrah’s shows know what Reno visitors crave. In the next couple of months, there’ll be Aerosmith, Zeppelin and Jimmy Buffet tributes.

On Friday, Cheap Trick plays at the Silver Legacy’s Grand Exposition Hall. Good mindless fun, that. I bought the band’s box set of CDs at a pawn shop recently—reminds me of cruising hometown streets back in ‘79.

“Mother told me, yes she told me, I’d meet girls like you. She also told me, ‘Stay away, you’ll never know what you’ll catch.'”

That’s more like it.

Now if only we could get Reno 911 Deputy Travis Junior, whose favorite doughnuts are “free donuts,” on stage as a guest bass player.