Readers of Virginia City’s Comstock Chronicle are treated weekly to the writings of McAvoy Layne, who bills himself as the ghost of Mark Twain. In addition to offering his lively prose, he is often called upon to impersonate Twain.
Such was the case last Friday when he appeared in Reno at the monthly meeting of the GOD (Good Old Days) Club. Clad in a three-piece white suit made of dubious material and sporting a century-old tie along with a meerschaum pipe, McAvoy was a living embodiment of the famous writer. His shaggy brown hair which was colored white for the occasion and his droopy Twain mustache completed the persona of the famous American writer. In addition to his physical appearance, Layne delivered his impression in a rather gravelly voice with just a modicum of Western twang.
A master at the mike, once he had captured the rapt attention of his audience, Layne began his rambling version of some of Twain’s more memorable adventures.
Wrapping up his delivery, Layne bemoaned the fact he had not discussed the wonders of Lake Tahoe in his dissertation. Incidentally, at the present time, he is a resident of Incline Village at the Lake.
One of the rarities of his performance was the fact that a couple of dozen of the attendees sought to have their pictures taken with him. An obliging McAvoy readily consented.
GOD Club founder Bob Carroll led a unanimous chorus in stating that Layne’s appearance was the best one in the quarter-century history of the club. Since it (the club) meets monthly, there have been hundreds of prominent featured speakers, such as Pete Echeverria, Cliff Young, Ty Cobb Sr., Tyrus Cobb, Max Baer Jr., Mills Lane, Don Manoukian, Charles Mapes, Warren Nelson and many other notables.
During the introductory part of the program, UNR Prof Gordon Zimmerman spoke of his days as a classmate of Layne at the University of Oregon. He mentioned the little-known fact that Layne had once been a champion high-diver.
Layne’s weekly column in the Comstock Chronicle is entitled, “Pine Nuts.” In his written offerings, there is much of the blatant as well as the subtle humor that marked the writings of Twain himself. No subject seems out of bounds once McAvoy puts pen to paper, or in his case crafts his theses on a modern day computer.
Over the years, I have witnessed live performances by many of show business’ top comedians and read the words of a great many excellent writers. Never have the two abilities been combined as well as they are in the case of McAvoy Layne.
At our first meeting, several months ago, McAvoy gifted me with one of his personal copies of the autobiography of Mark Twain. In the introduction to the work, written by Charles Neider, he (Neider) notes that, “In my opinion, Mark Twain’s autobiography is a classic of American letters to be ranked with the autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin and Henry Adams.”
Written in the first person, the book is a marvelous insight to the character of the man who is universally regarded as the greatest American author.