June 24 2005

Volume 33
Issue 25


Feb 06, 2016



Bits & Bytes  
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Family-friendly nightclub shows alternate with exotic and erotic late night entertainment. Four-star fine dining is readily available in a city which once boasted only “$1.99 all you can eat” buffets. Indian casinos throughout the country have siphoned off the small scale gambler. Las Vegas clearly has won the title as Nevada’s gambling capitol but a recent three-day, two-night vacation “package” to Reno shows that the “Biggest Little City In The World” is slowly but successfully reinventing itself.

Tourists still head to Reno for a relaxed casino experience, but the hotels are full of ski fans, golf tournament participants, antique collectors drawn to Reno’s many mini-malls, traditional vacationers seeking fine restaurants and some slightly scandalous night life. Among these visitors are an increasing number of Gay or Lesbian vacationers seeking a low-keyed vacation with some friendly GLBT watering spots always willing to “welcome a stranger”—or even invite them to a birthday party.
The Nevada Museum Of Art, a handsome new building at the center of Reno’s healthy business center, is hosting the premiere of Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe, a rare retrospective of the incredibly popular 1920s painter and illustrator. At one point in the 1930s, it was estimated that one in four American homes in America had a framed print of his Daybreak prominently displayed. Parrish lived to see his fantasy-land paintings and illustrations come back into favor in the mid-1960s. He died at age 96 well aware that his once-ridiculed works were now back in favor during the early hippie era. Long considered an “illustrator” rather than an “artist,” Parrish’s Daybreak, his most famous work, sold at action for $1,000,000 in the 1990s, cementing his reputation as visionary artist (in addition to being a “camp,” commercial illustrator whose works were designed to be reproduced on calendars, advertisements—his Jello works are charmingly endearing, chocolate tins, glove boxes, playing cards and hundreds of other items.

The exhibit of more than 80 works—some never before seen in public—continues through May 26. Seattle-area Parrish fans who aren’t heading to Reno this Gay Pride Weekend can catch the show at the San Diego Museum Of Art where it runs July 16-Sept. 11. The exhibit then moves to Savannah, Huntsville, ALA, and then Memphis where it closes in May of 2006.

Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe includes more than 80 works from American museums and private collections. Huge oil canvasses, often with innocent nude young adolescent girls sunbathing in classical ruins, idyllic landscapes (his personal favorite subject), whimsical advertisements for his beloved calendar and book illustrations and private commissions (for Vanderbilts and Whitneys and others) and rare photographs by Parrish make this exhibit a true celebration for Parrish fans and collectors and a fun exhibit for casual museum visitors. The exhibit, which closes in Reno this Sunday, has broken all attendance records for the Nevada Museum Of Art.

Parrish was a controversial figure during his lifetime. Aside from the ongoing debate as to whether he was a “lowly” illustrator or an inspired artist who found commercial fame, his personal life was a colorful and untypical. He often posed for the males in his paintings and took numerous nude photos of himself and his daughters to use as studies for his paintings and prints.

When his wife was pregnant with third child, they hired a local 17-year old girl to help with housework and child care. She quickly became his mistress—which his wife quietly accepted. He used the housemaid/mistress as a model in many of his nude paintings and often used his adolescent daughter as another nude model. Daybreak originally featured three characters, but the nude version of his mistress was painted out as the request of the now emotionally aware daughter (one of the two remaining figures). Evidentially, she objected to being included in a painting with his lover.

The long-time mistress, interestingly, remained loyal to Parrish until his wife died. Several years after the wife’s death, she asked him if her ever planned to marry her. He quietly said no. Then in her mid-60s.she contacted her high school boyfriend who had waited four decades for her to “be free” and quickly married him. She and her late-in-life husband remained friends with Parrish until his death at 96.

Reno and the state Museum went all out for the Parrish show. Hotels packages, special American Express offers, various casino and hotel specials, special airline fares—even a world premiere ballet, A Painter’s Love Story, by the Sierra Nevada Ballet. It is unlikely that other cities hosting the exhibit will be able to match Reno’s all out effort to promote the show—and the Nevada Museum Of Art. Information on upcoming shows at the museum is available at (775) 329-3333. The museum is well worth a visit.

Seattle Parrish fans have fond memories of a Parrish exhibit at the Frye Art Museum a decade ago. Although it featured few original oils and no rare works, the exhibit was delightful collection of Mazda (now General Electric) calendars, chocolate boxes featuring Parrish’s famous The Garden Of Allah (in various sizes) and other collectibles from the man who created the “Maxfield Parrish blue sky” and other fantasy colors and compositions.
Nightlife in Reno is a tricky thing. Unlike Las Vegas, nationally known headliners appear for one night or one weekend. On-going shows at the Eldorado or Harrahs are the backbone of Reno nightclub revues.

When Bits&Bytes was in Reno, the Eldorado hosted a terrific salute to the music and magic or Ray Charles, I Can’t Stop Loving You. A 12-piece band, nearly a dozen cast members—talented singers and dancers, and a top-notch physical production with dozens and dozens of flashy costumes brought the “genius” and greatest hits of Ray Charles to the Eldorado showroom. (An earlier Eldorado hit, Spirit of the Dance, remains one of Bits&Bytes’ favorite casino shows. It returned to the casino’s showroom year after year—a truly legendary Reno run.)

The Eldorado’s current show—the spirited Broadway revue, Smokey Joe’s Café—continues through September. The tribute to the rock ‘n’ roll hits of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Smokey Joe’s includes Elvis’ “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” the Searchers’ “Yakity Yak” and “Searchin’,” “Stand By Me” and “On Broadway.”

(Longtime Bits&Bytes readers will remember that Smokey Joe’s Café got its start at Empty Space Theatre in its tiny Pioneer Square there where an ill-fated attempt to turn the Leiber & Stoller songbook into a hit revue failed so miserably that the composers pulled the rights to further productions. A chance reference to the failed Space format at a New York dinner party lead to a high powered Broadway team attempting—with great success—to take “a second look” at the possibility. The resulting show turned into Broadway’s longest running revue and a staple in regional theater. Seattle’s 5th Avenue Musical Theatre recently had a huge hit with its production of the award-winning tribute to the novelty songs of the 1950s and ‘60s.)

Complete details and reservations for Smokey Joe’s are available, toll free, at (800) 648-5966.
Harrah’s Club’s Sammy’s Room, named as a tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr., who played there for decades, is the key showroom for the sprawling casino. Greg Thompson, the Seattle-based producer known for his Reno, Las Vegas and cruise ship floorshows and revues, has two new shows playing in Sammy’s Room. The newest one, the early evening Broadway Showstoppers, opened just days after Bits&Bytes returned to Seattle. Traditionally at Harrah’s, the early show is family friendly. A talented cast breezes through a 90-minute revue built around the show’s theme topic.

The late night show, considered an “erotic,” adults-only production, features the same cast with far fewer costumes. The women are often bare-breasted and the men are often wearing little more than a silver jock strap. So it is with Thompson’s current Bareback. Members of the GLBT community tend to do a double take on the Bareback title. Is this an anti-safe sex show, they openly murmur?

Well, this Bareback is a country/western revue that takes its name from sexual fantasies and bareback bronco riding—as in the show’s subtitle, “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy.”

The country/western songs and the accompanying dances will remind many Seattle GLBT visitors of a hot night at Timberline, without some of the nudity. After the opening number, the women take the stage for “Girls’ Night Out” and “Girlfriends Kick Ass.” The men follow with “I’m A Single Horse Ridin’ Cowboy” with predictable crotch thrusts to underscore the sexual nature of the double meaning lyrics. “The Girls All Get Together At Closing Time” followed.

A comedian, a staple of Reno shows, enters to the theme from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. While much of the audience obviously loved him, Bits&Bytes’ thought (uncharitably, to be sure) that his theme music was right on—he was not good, he was really bad and, alas, the aging comic was truly ugly. Best joke of the evening: “I’m taking Rogaine and Viagra so that my hair stands on end.”

The three men took the stage again for “You Make My Pants Wanna Get Up And Dance” and “I Like My Women A Little On The Trashy Side.” “She’s Got Her Daddy’s Money And Her Momma’s Good Looks,” the men’s strip number, follows—and it should be noted that it is hard to turn into a Chippendale’s-type strip number wearing cowboy boots and tight Levi’s—thank heaven for Velcro.

Then the women get to strip. “Hey, Honey, I’m Home,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and a lot of audience participation make the blatant number a rompin’ and stompin’ crowd pleaser. “I’m Here For The Party,” with a stripper’s brass pole making a special guest appearance, was a rowdy, roughneck hit. (Bits&Bytes, of course, was reminded of Whoopi Goldberg’s Oscar broadcast comment several years back when she discussed the truly awful Showgirls, the bomb of the year. “I haven’t seen so many poles assaulted since Schindler’s List,” she deadpanned.)

The men return with “Rock My World, Little Country Girl.” After a sequence with a mechanical bull, the men return in Road Warrior black leather outfits for “I Smell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” The women respond with “I’m A Redneck Woman” and the men counter with “Could You, Would You, Ain’t You Gonna If I Asked You Would You Be My Baby Tonight.” Rear projections (forgive the comment) bring a moving train on stage and give the men and women another chance to strip to “I Play Chicken With The Railroad.” The grand finale features “Ain’t Going Down ‘til The Sun Comes Up.”

A stomping, cheering crowd obviously delighted in the country/western tribute and showy country highjinx. It was a fun show—heavy on the corn, light on the porn—the essence of a perfect late night Reno show. Complete information on Bareback and Broadway Showstoppers is available toll free, at (800) 427-7247. Both shows are continuing in an open–ended run and are expected to perform through the summer months.
Until recently, Reno has had few high end restaurants. Cheap, all-you-can-eat buffets ruled the culinary scene. With the new, lavish casinos a decade ago, high quality restaurants dominate the gourmet scene in most hotels. For the Reno trip, Bits&Bytes stayed at the Silver Legacy on an Alaska Airlines Vacation Package. The hotel invited this columnist and his guest to dine at the Sterling Club, the casino’s award-winning steak house and prime rib palace. As expected, the food and service was incredible. Bits&Bytes’ New York steak was one of the best this scribe has ever eaten. Ditto for the prime rib served across the table. But, full disclosure time, food and service for a known journalist is always incredible unless a restaurant is planning to close the next day.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Sterling Club dinner was a rare chance to sample “the legendary” Tresor red wine from the Ferrari Carano Winery in Sonoma. The wine usually retails for $150 a bottle (and that’s in Nevada with no state liquor tax) and is never served by the glass. The Sterling Club bought the full remaining Bin 524 vintage and made it available by the glass for $12.50 or by the bottle for $50. It was, as the saying goes, selling like hotcakes.

The “masterful” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot grapes is the award-winning winery’s flagship wine, a vintage that regularly scores 90-plus points with wine critics around the world. It was the highlight of a wonderful meal.
On every Reno visit, Bits&Bytes tries to visit one or more of the city’s Gay or Lesbian or GLBT bars. The Quest, right across from the downtown railroad tracks, continues to attract Reno regulars and the occasional visitor, drawn to the only openly Gay bar in the center of downtown.

The friendly bartender at the Five Star Saloon, also in the downtown area, invited us to stay over until Saturday to attend “Wes’s Annual Birthday Party,” where the guests receive the gifts. A benefit for Reno’s Hope’s Food Bank, the yearly event is evidentially a major event in the GLBT community. Bits&Bytes couldn’t stay through the weekend but wanted to wish Wes a happy birthday. (And who said Bits&Bytes couldn’t be nice.)

Simon Sheppard

Glenn Pressel

Madelyn Arnold

NOTE** finding non clickable links? Sorry these columns are not featured in this weeks edition