“They lived and laughed and loved and left.” — James Joyce
To peruse your proper place on this planet or its general neighborhood, just venture outside on a clear Nevada night and look up. Who or what will be remembered by whatever life forms abide in these parts a thousand or even a hundred years hence? Your guess is as good as mine.
Our measure is not the poundage with which we impact this mortal coil (adults are 60 percent water), but rather our infinitesimal impact while interacting with our fellow life forms.
“Maybe we’re all just penciled in,” advertising legend and satirist Stan Freberg once noted as part of a series of religious radio commercials.
So sharpen your pencils for those deserving a brief sketch.
FOR MY DAUGHTERS. Debra Joyce Donlevy and Donna Leslie Cline shared the same birthdate (Jan. 16, 1959) and the same star-crossed fate. The two friends were severely injured in a 1978 rural Nevada car crash. Debbie died because of an incompetent doctor at a cow county hospital. I’ve written about the risks of getting sick or injured in the outback and nothing’s changed. (Barbwire 4-2-2006). Donna went on to become Miss Wheelchair Nevada, Miss Wheelchair America and a major market news anchor. When she died in 2009, no less that Texas Gov. George W. Bush marked her passing on his official website.
What might this world have become had they lived longer.
FOR SPARKS. Last year, Bill Galt’s death made local and national news as the founder of the Olive Garden restaurants which were originally called The Good Earth. Bill Galt got his start in Sparks with a chicken drive-thru which he converted into “The Big Potato” in the 1970s. The short-lived enterprise featured every variety of baked potato which could be conceived by the human imagination. Its strongest impact was a TV spot by film maker Jim Mitchell who used Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (aka the theme from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”) as background music over what looked like a shot of a space ship flying over a desolate planet. Upon closer perusal, it was a landscape of potatoes.
FOR WONDER WOMAN. Stunt woman and ladies’ world land speed record-holder (512 mph) Kitty O’Neill died last year. She was perhaps most famous for taking a dive off a skyscraper.
Kitty’s photo appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal in 1979 after she “established a new high-fall record when she plunged 127 feet from atop the Valley Hilton in Sherman Oaks,” the Los Angeles Times reported. She did it in full Wonder Woman drag, standing in for TV series star Linda Carter.
At the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1978, I discussed land speed records with Kitty, Formula One driver Jean Pierre-Jarier, and CanAm driver and future Nevada State Sen. Randolph Townsend, D&R-Reno. Kitty said she was gearing up for another run but wanted to use rubber tires for “more traction.”
Jarier was aghast. “You need a steel tire at those speeds. There is racing and there is suicide!”
And there was Kitty, fearless as always. And by the way, born totally deaf. Sen. Townsend and I mourn our old friend’s passing.
FOR THE CAPTAIN. Darryl Dragon, ex-Beach Boy keyboardist and The Captain of the “The Captain and Tenille,” died last year. He and his former wife had the biggest hit of 1975 with “Love Will Keep Us Together.” It didn’t keep them together. They eventually divorced. They lived many years in Washoe Valley, Nevada. Toni Tenille was quite active for local charities while in these parts.
FOR THE STARS. Nancy Roman, the Mother of the Hubble Telescope, was a former Renoite. The stars are now her destination. As is the brightest star we lost last year, Aretha.
FOR MLK WEEKEND EVENTS. Saturday, Jan. 19, 11:00 a.m., women’s march from Reno Arch to City Hall.
Monday, Jan. 21: 10:00 a.m. — MLK commemoration, California Building, Idlewild Park, Reno. Rev. Onie Cooper’s MLK Highway Caravan departs immediately thereafter. Northern Nevada Black Cultural Awareness Society annual MLK dinner, 6:30 p.m., Atlantis Hotel-Casino.
FINALLY, FOR POETRY. “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” So wrote the great romantic poet John Keats, before dying of TB in his twenties. He thought himself a failure. ‘Twas not so.
But “this monster mannunkind,” as poet e.e. cummings termed us, are not only writ in but made of water. Which washes away pencil dust rather efficiently.
Take care of each other.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 50-year Nevadan, first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and editor of NevadaLabor.com/ As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail email@example.com Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.