The week’s news in Reno and Sparks

Photo Illustration By F. Stop Fitzsimian and Jayne Sez

Sourdough miner wreaks havoc in downtown Sparks

Victoria Square

Last Chance Joe came to life last week and rampaged through downtown Sparks.

City manager Shaun Carey said it was a project of the Sparks Redevelopment Agency.

The 36-foot high figure, which normally stands in front of the Sparks Nugget, climbed to the top of the Silver Club, damaging windows and tourists in the process, and pitched rolls of Nugget tokens at cars passing on Interstate 80. Several cracked windshields and car crashes were reported, closing the stretch of the freeway between McCarran and Rock boulevards for several hours.

The city parking garage at Tenth and C streets was used by Joe as an accordion, rendering it less useful as the Citifare bus station.

In addition to damaging the Silver Club, the 55-year-old Joe bashed in the tops of Dolly’s and the Mint casinos, but he left the Nugget untouched. “He’s like the city council,” Carey said. “He wouldn’t dare mess with the Nugget.”

Mayor Geno Martini called it a temporary setback in an ongoing project, though he was distressed that Joe drop-kicked the dome from the downtown theatres into the Book Gallery on Rock Boulevard.

“Bookstores come and go, but that theater is a redevelopment project, too,” the mayor said. But he added the city would not give up on the overall concept for animated downtown figures, which he said would bring “tourists in droves.”

“We plan to animate a number of figures in the downtown,” he said. “We’re trying to find one of the Primadonna girls. And you know that miner behind the Chocolate Nugget factory in Washoe City? We’re negotiating with him to see if he’s ready to come back.”

The Chocolate Nugget miner, Forrest Weather, spent several years atop the Claim Stake casino on the north side of B Street in downtown Sparks. The Primadonna “girls” once adorned the front of Reno’s Primadonna Club. Weather declined to comment, and the Primadonna women could not be located.

Book Gallery owner Phil Davis was less enamored of the animated figures project, particularly after the theater dome landed in his science-fiction section. “It’s always the downtown that gets redeveloped,” he said. “In case no one’s noticed, we need a little redeveloping around here, too.”

The Sparks Redevelopment Agency is actually the city council, operating under a different name. “I wouldn’t use my real name if I was them, either,” Davis said.

Joe’s action against the theater came after he discovered the popular downtown children’s fountain was shut down for repairs. It is located immediately in front of the theater, and Joe had apparently expected to dance in it with the children.

Downtown merchant Tom Young, owner of the Great Basin Brewery, said he supports the city’s continuing the animated figure program in spite of the deaths that resulted from last week’s events.

“The downtown business section will benefit from this program,” Young said. “And I don’t think it’s fair to condemn an entire program for a single slip-up.”

Young’s restaurant is in the building adjoining Hello Travel, which was destroyed when Last Chance Joe sat his 12-foot-wide hat on it.

Martini and Carey declined to confirm rumors that the city was seeking a Big Boy from Bob’s Big Boy Restaurants corporate headquarters in Warren, Mich. and a Mr. Potato Head from Hasbro in Rhode Island. Their reluctance to comment may have been a reaction to Sparks city attorney Chet Adams’ legal opinion that the city could not obtain animated figures from non-Nevada firms.

“I will tell you this,” Carey said while surveying the former site of the Sparks Heritage Museum. “We intend to get a legal opinion that says what we want it to say. And a city attorney that does, too.”

No one would say publicly how the giant figure was brought to life, though one city source noted that Joe was the property of the Nugget. “Don’t be surprised if the first time Joe ventures out of the downtown he heads for Spanish Springs,” the source said.

Last Chance Joe was built by Duke Reading of Boise on a commission from Nugget founder Dick Graves in 1952.

Photo Illustration By F. Stop Fitzsimian and Jayne Sez

Old and in the way

Melanie Mapes

The Lear Theater, the Virginia Street Bridge and some turn-of-the century houses near Idlewild Park are being treated as aging parents whose social security is drying up. They’re simply old and in the way.

So say members of Reno’s Downtown Improvement Association.

The solution? “Let’s put them in a home!” suggested local officials.

Slated for construction sometime in 2010, Reno’s first “Historical Building Refuge” will break ground—just as soon as some sagebrush and sage grouse habitat can be cleared for it. The 102-year-old bridge, for example, could be installed over a manmade pond, where visitors could catch mercury-rich fish, which, Gov. Jim Gibbons assures, is good for us.

“Putting all of these old coots—uh, relics in one place will be a wonderful educational opportunity for current and future generations of Nevadans,” said DIA president and former developer Rosa Greenback. “Children can learn from these elderly—'historic,’ if you prefer—buildings, but in a way that the rest of us don’t have to think about them. This also will allow us to build condominiums in the most ideal locations, such as alongside the Truckee River. Their towering bodies provide much needed shade over the river in the summertime. And if you’re not paying for it, should you really be entitled to unobstructed views of nature? Really, there’s no need to be selfish.”

Minutes from the Reno Redevelopment Agency noted, in rather prosaic form for board meeting minutes, “a sudden, cool gust of wind blast through the chamber doors” after the decision was made. The distinct voices of spectral divorcees who’d flung their wedding rings from the bridge and the voice of Moya Lear interrupted the proceedings. In a clear tone of dissent, the spirit of the late philanthropist reportedly and uncharacteristically said, “You bastards sure do know how to screw up a good thing.”

Photo By F. Stop Fitzsimian

Governor has full day

Tom Treppy

Gov. Jim Gibbons began his workday yesterday by having himself sworn in again.

“You can’t be too careful about terrorism,” he said.

Then, in a meeting with state legislators, the governor repeated his earlier warning against politicians pitting groups of citizens against each other and his even earlier warnings about “those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals.”

In a luncheon speech to state workers, Gibbons discussed the distinctions between misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance and then took the oath of office again. During the afternoon, Gibbons met with state economic development officials, pledging to do all he could to “bring Nevada industry into the 20th century.”

After several hours filling out various amendments of his financial disclosure and legal defense fund filings, he traveled to Minden for a Douglas County Republican Party function at Walley’s Hot Springs. He posed for photographs with all of the 160 guests, each of whom posed holding the Bible for him while he took the oath of office 160 times.

The governor is planning a fishing trip to mercury-laced Lahontan reservoir this weekend.

Photo Illustration By F. Stop Fitzsimian and Jayne Sez

Securing our borders

Xena Phobia

The state of Nevada has decided that, in order to secure its borders from illegal Nevadans of California origin, or NOCOS, a wall will be built along the California/Nevada border.

Californians have been moving to Nevada since its statehood, but that trickle of settlers has now turned into a deluge, as home prices in California have burdened and oppressed its people. To them, Nevada represents the American Dream—a land of freedom and promise of a better life—or at least about 1,000 square feet more in their home. This is despite the fact that those freedoms are slowly being chipped away and homes are “cheap” only by California standards.

Tensions between Californians and Nevadans have mounted in recent years, as the population grows, and native-born Nevadans become the minority.

“They’re changing our culture!” said Virginia Smith during an anti-NOCOS march in front of the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Building downtown. “They’re bringing in high-class restaurants and wine bars. Don’t even get me started on the no smoking in them. It’s horrible! Then there’s all the weird lingo. They say stuff like ‘hella’ and ‘sick’ when something good happens! What does that mean? I can’t understand them. Are they making fun of me? They should at least learn to talk English!”

Restrictions were already in effect to keep NOCOS in check, but unidentified immigrants increasingly are swimming across the border via Lake Tahoe. A wall—one that may even have to divide the lake, as our border runs between it—is the only option, says Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Many developers and construction workers in Nevada are concerned that a wall will cost them some of their best clients. Retired NOCOS make up a large chunk of Nevada’s population, contributing greatly to its economy. Others say these older NOCOS are a burden on Nevada’s health care and elder care systems.

Gov. Gibbons has been touring California this month, where he’s been facing protestors at nearly every stop. His rhetoric has steered clear of controversy, however, and he speaks mostly of “friendship and freedom” in the Golden State.

Roberto “Bob” Chavez of Modesto said, “None of my friends are building walls to keep me out of their way.”

In Carson City, Sen. Bob Beers introduced legislation requiring that employees in all state government offices speak only Nevadan, and that all state documents use the local language exclusively. The legislation was prompted by reports that some NOCOS have been mispronouncing common state terms, saying, for instance, “Ne-vaw-da.” Beers said that, if need be, he will call for state schools to have mandatory classes in pronunciation of terms like Hiko, Owyhee, Pahranagat and Reactionary.

Photo By F. Stop Fitzsimian

Fashion conspiracy

Victoria Jordache

The International Fashion Police have confirmed suspicions of conspiracy among the world’s foremost makers of jeans, thongs and high heel shoes.

The exasperating trend for jeans made during the past two years to be both too long in the leg and too low in the back is now made clear.

The Mode Empire, whose family members are found in top-tier positions at leading clothes manufacturers Up Yours Thongs, Just Try Running in These Shoes, and Veli’s Jeans, found a way to maximize all of their profits at once. Veli’s agreed to design all jeans—even those labeled as “regular"—with an extra-long leg length and a tendency to show a woman’s underwear lining and/or butt crack if she dare bend over. This, in turn, would force women to buy both high heels and thongs so they don’t trip over themselves or embarrass themselves when they do so much as sit down.

The manufacturers were ordered to halt the practice or face closure.

Women nationwide are outraged at the manufacturers’ audacity and are threatening to start making their own clothes or start wearing skirts on a full-time basis.

Upon hearing the news, feminist author Gloria Friedan said such actions would only realize what she believes was the trendsetters’ more sinister goal: to reshape femininity by taking women out of jeans altogether and leaving them with no option but to sew or wear skirts and dresses exclusively.

Photo Illustration By F. Stop Fitzsimian and Jayne Sez

Names of rich white guys needed for public works

Karl K. Klean

Taking its cue from Renown Hospital, officials are changing the names of structures and thoroughfares around town in an “ethnic nomenclature cleansing” drive.

Renown dropped the name Washoe Medical Center, named—like the county itself—for a Nevada tribe. That set the tone for the new policy toward ethnicity locally, with the downtown post office being stripped of its Native American ornamentation and Martin Luther King Highway changed to Martin Luther Highway.

Miguel Ribera Park will become Mike Rivers Park. That’s one of the few park designations that will change, since Reno has a higher proportion of parks named for white males than almost any city of its size.

William Raggio Plaza on Park Street, a subsidized housing project, will become Mustang Plaza. Generally, names that end in vowels are in jeopardy, though consideration is being given to retaining the city’s name on the grounds that Jesse Reno never set foot west of the Mississippi, much less in Nevada, so little is known about him. That makes it easy to rewrite his history and background in any way necessary. “Who’d be the wiser?” asked one city official. “Just Guy Rocha and no one else.”

Shoshone Drive in Sparks will become Chet Adams Drive. Nearly every street in ethnicity-plagued Golden Valley (War Paint Circle, Sun Cloud Court, Running Bear Drive) will be renamed for someone else or something more vanilla. D’Arcy Court in Reno does not fall into the general guidelines but will be changed because the French were right about the war and have never apologized.

The name of McCarran Boulevard is being retained in spite of its Irish connotation, on the ground that U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran of Nevada did his part by enacting immigration legislation to keep non-Aryans out of the country and by trying—however unsuccessfully—to break up the Pyramid Lake tribal reservation for white squatters.

Photo By F. Stop Fitzsimian

Ex-guv gone Wilde!! Stranger than fiction!!

Gilford Hutchinson

The official portrait of former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, commissioned by the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, has undergone a curious metamorphosis since being placed on display at the state capitol last week. While Guinn has remained as young-looking as American Bandstand host Dick Clark since the portrait was commissioned a year ago, his likeness in the painting has aged at least three decades in the past week.

Gov. Jim Gibbons immediately proclaimed, “We’re not going to raise taxes to pay for repairs to the portrait!”

A telephone technician installing new wires at the capitol first noticed what he thought was an additional wrinkle on the former governor’s cheek, which seemed to have appeared over the course of the half hour he was in the building. He also observed that the painting had begun to smell like moth balls.

Nevada state capitol art curator Willis Fingal dismissed the technician’s concerns, claiming the wrinkle had appeared as a result of the capitol’s new, high-tech light bulbs.

The following day, capitol maintenance director Constance Lloyd told Fingal that Guinn’s likeness in the painting had shrunk 2.5 inches, was hunched over and had sprouted a distinctly George Bush-like smirk.

At first, Fingal considered having the painting destroyed, but after an emergency meeting with the Nevada Tourism Commission, he and the capitol staff decided to keep the painting on display. It’s now housed in a special dark closet, quickly designed by Nevada Museum of Art conservation chief Randie Childs. There is a $3 admission charge to see the painting. Proceeds will go to the Come On It’s About Time We Get Some Good Public Art Around Here fund, an effort led by the Nevada Arts Council.

The Nevada Board of Examiners approved the admission fee over the objection of Gov. Gibbons, who chairs the board. “This is a tax increase!” Gibbons said.

The phenomenon of a painting aging while the individual it depicts remains fresh and youthful was last reported over a century ago. In 1890, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine published the account of Dorian Gray, a young English dandy who mysteriously remained young as his companions aged. A portrait of him grew progressively more corpse-like and demonic, causing the few viewers who saw it to faint instantly.

“We’ve gotten calls from the Oil of Olay company,” said capitol spokesperson Douglas Alfred. “They’re inquiring about a cross-marketing campaign to make Nevadans more aware of their product while boosting the state’s image as a fun place to see demonically possessed artwork.”

Alfred added, wistfully, “At first, I thought the request was disrespectful and inappropriate, but if that wild old Oscar Goodman can be a spokesman for Bombay Gin, why can’t Kenny Guinn’s magic portrait lend its voice to Oil of Olay?”

Newmont seeks new mine in Sparks

Rain Mayker

Newmont mining officials faced the outrage of three citizens last week over the company’s plans to mine the clouds over the city of Sparks.

“We’ve been watching those silver linings go to waste all these years,” said Max Amilyon, vice president for corporate communications at Newmont. “This means jobs, jobs, jobs for the residents of Sparks.”

Sparks homeowner Josie Jones told Sparks city planners that she’s worried the mining projects will corrupt her view of downtown Reno.

“I think it just sounds, you know, ugly to be ripping the clouds out of the sky like that,” Jones said. “My children deserve to play soccer under fat, fluffy clouds that look like household pets.”

Pending approval by the Sparks City Council, logistics of the project are a well-guarded secret. A Newmont insider said the process would involve releasing a chemical cocktail over the city periodically. The chemicals would bond with the silver and then be recaptured as crystals of the amalgam fall down over the city.

Project opponents include the founder of Citizens of Sparks Against Mining, a watchdog group with links to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

“The chemicals used in silver lining mining are known carcinogens, linked to a half-dozen varieties of soft-tissue cancer,” said Dugan Digger, a former environmental manager for Barrick Goldstrike. Digger founded CSAM. “We know that sprinkling these toxins over the city of Sparks will cause cancer outbreaks by the thousands.”

Amilyon said that the chemicals using in silver lining mining were found safe in two hours of laboratory tests with six golden retriever puppies.

“Nope, no cancer,” Amilyon said. He did concede that all six died, but he said it happened because of six heart attacks.

Jones said the possibility of dying a slow, painful death from stomach or liver cancer doesn’t bother her as much as the noise of Newmont mining over her home.

“I like to sleep late on weekends,” she said. “Are they going to be working on Saturdays?”

Amilyon left the meeting satisfied that opposition to the mine was limited.

“That’s why we chose Sparks for this project,” he said. “The council members and residents here mind their own business and rarely object when companies do, say, build, dump or dig whatever we want.”

Jones, though hesitant about the mining project, agreed she supports a business’ right to make as much money as it can.

“I’m a Republican,” she said. “We believe that the Lord likes big businesses—that’s why He rewards corporate CEOs with such high salaries.”

Photo By F. Stop Fitzsimian

Cat box busted

Catherine Nipper

Reno vice squad officers broke up an alleged feline prostitution and drug ring in Reno’s Old Southwest neighborhood yesterday after a four-month investigation.

Arrested were Boot Caqua (aka Boostsielicious), her sister Mimi and Mimi’s nine unnamed kittens. Detective Bo Kaynyne said the investigation was launched after numerous complaints by neighbors about all-hours traffic. Neighbor Jason W.B. Saltine said, “You wouldn’t believe the traffic. All day and all night, cars, limos, bicycles, wheel chairs were circling the block. One day, I even saw a rickshaw pull up. I had asked Boot C what was going on over there, and she said she was just running a legitimate massage parlor and catnip pastry business. But I suspect that there were more cleaning fluids in that house than there were flour, sugar and massage oil.”

Undercover officers observed Boot C talking with passers-by on the street corner. The feline asked one officer if he’d ever had a “good clawing” and if he wanted a catnip cookie. She also allegedly said, “the first one is free, and you’ll be back for more".

Ten bags of a green leafy substance were found in her home. Boot C claimed that the bags merely contained oregano. Tests are being conducted on the substance to ascertain the exact chemical makeup of the bags’ contents. The investigation also found that Boot C was doing most of her prostitution networking via her MiceSpace account—but still, she plied her trade on the street due to her greed for a fast buck and her alleged substance abuse. Arraignment is scheduled for April 18th.