Forgotten tales of dignified men who were not always so ... well

Inevitably, one name dominated the 50th Anniversary Salute to the Nevada Gaming Commission last week — Frank Sinatra.

The entertainer’s notorious epithet-laden, threatening phone call to Gaming Control Board Chairman Ed Olsen was one of the first tests of whether Nevada regulators had what it took to regulate the industry or would cave. Sinatra’s hosting of mobster Sam Giancana was the first real test of the state’s two-tiered regulatory system and ultimately Sinatra was the first to blink.

But former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, one of two keynote speakers, shared a Sinatra story I’d never heard before, one involving the venerable U.S. District Judge Lloyd George, a man so respected and revered the federal courthouse carries his name.

Bryan took us back quite a few years, back to the days when George, a lifelong Mormon who never drank alcohol, was a lifeguard at the Sands Hotel. The leader of the Rat Pack was poolside and asked the young lifeguard, “Can you bring me a screwdriver?”

George complied and went straight to the engineering department. “Lloyd George brought Sinatra a screwdriver,” Bryan said.
Just not the kind Sinatra wanted.

Bada bing.

The second story I’d never heard involved another distinguished Nevadan — Bob Faiss — tucked into the oral history of Guy Farmer, the first public information officer for the commission and the control board, who listened in as Sinatra reamed and threatened Olsen.

Farmer, now a columnist for the Nevada Appeal in Carson City, was hired in 1963 and left in 1967, but was the human listening device, the man Olsen had listen in and take notes when Sinatra called, chosen because he was the only one in the office when Sinatra called.

Farmer was friends with two of Gov. Grant Sawyer’s two top aides, Faiss, the governor’s press secretary and speechwriter, and Chris Schaller.

Faiss, just like George, has a quiet dignity and reserve.

But in his oral history, Farmer told of the Nevada Day Parade in 1966, when Paul Laxalt was challenging Sawyer’s bid for a third term as governor. Laxalt was popular in Carson City, so to counter that popularity “Bob Faiss and Chris Schaller and I started at the beginning of the parade and ran from corner to corner, ahead of Sawyer’s float. When he came by we’d cheer and yell and carry on. That’s the way politics was in those days. It was small-towny politics.”

And another side of the dignified Bob Faiss I know.