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A walk down memory lane

My neighborhood barber shop doubles as a reading room for connoisseurs of literature on hunting, fishing, guns and ammo.

It also features a well-read copy of that day’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, as all fine establishments do.

News is on the TV — complete with a running commentary from the barbers. Complimentary fresh coffee brews for customers as long as the doors are open.

What more do you want or need out of a barber shop? OK, a decent haircut for a fair price. But besides that, what?

Nothing, I say, which is why I go there. Last week, I patronized the joint for a quick trim. I drew a barber who’s lived in Las Vegas since 1954. When he found out I moved to the city in 1976, it was nonstop name-dropping nostalgia.

I started it with a simple comment about Bob Taylor’s Ranch House and how things had grown up around it.

He asked if I remembered when Tule Springs was Tule Springs and not Floyd Lamb State Park.

Sure, I said, adding that it will always be Tule Springs to me.

“Darn right,” he snapped, following it up with a 10-minute barber shop soliloquy on Vegas gone by.

Snip, snip, snip, snip. Darwin Lamb, snip, snip. Forrest Duke, snip, snip. G.L. Vitto, snip, snip Art Lurie, snip, snip. Jack “Commander Lee” Lehman, snip, snip. Gus Giuffre, snip, snip.

Gus Giuffre?

Man, how long has it been since I’ve thought about Gus Giuffre? Didn’t know him personally, but like a lot of Las Vegans, I knew him through the television set. I worked the night shift in the ’70s, so one of the first things I awoke to was Gus Giuffre hosting the afternoon movie. He had a charming presence and almost made you want to watch whatever old, cheesy afternoon movie he had on that day. Almost.

After Gus died, they named a street after him. It’s a side street to the rental car area near the airport entrance off Tropicana Avenue.

Look for it next time you head to the airport. If nothing else, it will add to your repertoire of Vegas factoids.

Of course, there are hundreds of little things about the way we were that bear remembering. When’s the last time you thought about that other Giuffre-era TV personality, Jack Kogan? Or how about the cool theater at Bally’s that featured a cartoon short, a movie classic (“African Queen,” anyone?) and full cocktail service at your seat during the movie, theoretically allowing you to take a drink every time Humphrey Bogart took a drink on screen.

Oh, and lest we forget, who can get the image out of their mind of a young Nate Tannenbaum wearing a pith helmet and holding a stuffed chimp while hosting “Tarzan Theater”?

Such a young city, such great history. May it never be lost.

The power of Vdara

Will the so-called “death ray” at Vdara become a nostalgic factoid 20 years from now?

Today it’s the kind of story that drives CEOs crazy.

But tomorrow, could it be a marketing bonanza?

Look, if little old Sedona, Ariz., can become known worldwide for the healing powers of its crystals and “vortexes,” can’t the “death ray” be retooled into some kind of mysterious force for good?

Properly experienced, we could tell visitors the energy brings good luck in the casino and stamina in the night club. Some people, legend has it, say just being near the energy at the pool allows extraordinary staring ability and, at the right angle, X-ray vision.

OK, that may be a stretch. But here’s a thought:

Every time a tourist asks a Vdara employee about the spelling of the hotel’s name, just tell them it originally had another vowel … but the force field kept making it disappear.

Cue the “Twilight Zone” music.

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@ reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

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