Moving documentary embodies Hank Greenspun, a Las Vegas character

If you disliked firebrand Las Vegas Sun publisher Hank Greenspun, then you’ll hate the shimmering tribute documentary, “Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story.”

It’s a wonderfully entertaining, beautifully crafted film that captures the wild ride of a great Las Vegas character. I caught a special screening Tuesday night at Green Valley Ranch.

From his knock-around days as Ben Siegel’s PR man to his midnight gun runs on behalf of the Haganah and a fledgling Israel to his stance against Sen. Joe McCarthy to his role in the local civil rights movement to his place in the Watergate saga, Greenspun is the hero in the story of his life.

You would expect nothing less from a film underwritten by the Greenspun family, but what should surprise candid critics is the portrait’s quality.

With narration from Anthony Hopkins and interviews with Shimon Peres, Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Adnan Khashoggi and a collection of former Haganah gunrunners and Israeli freedom fighters, it’s compelling and dramatic. It also captures Hank’s ego and huckster’s sensibility.

For my money, Hank’s widow, Barbara Greenspun, is the film’s leading lady. She adds depth and perspective. If Greenspun was too protective of his friends and too rough on his enemies, you’ll have to look elsewhere for corroboration. If his acquisition of the desert that would become Green Valley was more complicated than portrayed, you’ll have to make your own documentary.

And if Greenspun didn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, after watching this film you’ll have to admit it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

FLAT CHAMPAGNE: It’s not every week two of Nevada’s biggest political players wander into District Court, but Billy Vassiliadis and Sig Rogich did just that recently on behalf of powerhouse liquor distributor Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada. Several years ago, Southern sued diminutive wine and champagne distributor Chateau Vegas for violating its exclusive agreements with several major vintners.

Problem was, it doesn’t appear Chateau broke any laws when it purchased bottles for resale to Strip casinos and restaurants whose thirst for Cristal, Dom Perignon and the like is unquenchable.

The proper lawsuit, Chateau attorney Matthew Callister argues, should have pitted Southern Wine against those ritzy winemakers for allowing the bottles to stray. Southern Wine is an enormous and successful company, but it isn’t the state booze police, is it?

Thanks to changes in the law hammered through very late in the 2005 Legislature, the answer in 2008 appears to be “yes.” Revisions carved out after the Chateau lawsuit was filed give Southern Wine the right to enforce its exclusive agreements by pressuring even tiny distributors into crying uncle.

It will be interesting to see whether the new law applies in the Chateau case.

The trial in District Judge Mark Denton’s courtroom is set to re-convene in early April with Southern seeking to make permanent its injunction against Chateau.

MY ALL-STAR: Not only does my daughter, Amelia, continue to smile as she recovers from her cancer fight, she’s warming up her right arm to throw out the first pitch at Saturday’s exhibition game at Cashman Field between the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners. She’s been working on her curve but will probably stick with the fastball so as not to mix up the catcher.

BOOK SMART: There’s been a unicorn sighting, and I haven’t had a drink all morning. Myrna and Lou Donato are reopening Amber Unicorn Books on Saturday at its new location at 2101 S. Decatur Blvd., Suite 14.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Black Book member John Vaccaro, one half of the first husband and wife team named to the state’s casino List of Excluded Persons, turns 68 today. … More interest surfacing from producers in the story of Heather Tallchief, who was part of a Las Vegas armored car heist that made national headlines. … The Crazy Horse Too isn’t sold yet, but owner Rick Rizzolo is out of prison after modifying his halfway house arrangement.

BOULEVARD II: Keep this quiet, but I met a hot blonde at The Best of Las Vegas show at the New York-New York.

Step aside, Bette and Cher. Frank Marino has you beat in the diva division. If Mayor Oscar Goodman is wise, he’ll hire Marino for his Elvis-and-the-showgirls shtick.

In a pinch, Marino can play both roles.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.

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