Dondero’s iconic “Date Line Reno” is a marvelous collection of photos of the many famous celebrities that visited Reno in the Golden Era.
The last time I enjoyed lunch at the Prospector’s club inside the Eldorado Hotel Casino in Reno, it was graciously hosted by former Harrah’s Executive Vice President of Entertainment Holmes Hendricksen, with fellow guests Burt Bonaldi, Lou Bonaldi and Don Rea. Don asked me if I knew the name of a book that had great black and white pictures of people and events in the northern Nevada area from the ‘50s and ‘60s with detailed captions. Apparently, he had purchased several copies of the book years ago, but had given away all the copies to his friends. Based upon his description of the book, I quickly realized it was world-class photographer Don Dondero’s Dateline: Reno publication.
Essentially, what this book does is show important pictures of people and places in northern Nevada with comprehensive captions. Of interest to this writer were the photos of entertainers who visited northern Nevada in the ‘50s and ’60-especially “Silver Spurs” recipients because I had a long relationship with this event.
Among the Silver Spurs honorees I had the good fortune to personally interact with were John Wayne, Jim Arness, Richard Boone, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon and Lorne Greene. Of them all I most frequently saw Greene because he and I lived at Incline Village during the late ‘70s. As Greene was an avid tennis player, those occasions mostly occurred on the Tahoe Racquet Club courts and at the Clint Eastwood Celebrity Tennis Tournaments.
On one occasion between matches Greene and I discussed the possibility of staging a Western Film Festival somewhere in northern Nevada. Serving as the figure-head of the fictional Cartwright family of “Bonanza” he was well qualified to act as the chairman of such a promotion. Due to the longevity of the TV program his producers hired many well-known Western figures for their broadcast. Unfortunately, Greene passed away before we could see the project to fruition.
Additionally, both Blocker and Landon were frequent visitors to the few night spots at Incline when they were on location shooting around the lake. They were able to hold their own with the venerable veteran villagers during their time at the bar. It is probably a little known fact that at one point in time the principals in the TV show were in negotiations to purchase the King’s Castle (now the Hyatt), and the Ponderosa Ranch (now Shuttered), and connect them via a sky tram.
The driving force oddly in this project was none other than Dan Blocker, whose oafish appearance in the show was belied by the fact that he was the chief negotiator. Just before the final papers were to be signed he (Blocker), had to undergo what was considered a minor surgical operation. The operation proved unsuccessful and Blocker passed away much too young and the massive, “Hoss sized” project never came to be.
Arness was the first TV cowboy to receive the Silver Spurs, all the previous winners had been motion picture stars such as John Wayne, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Alan Ladd, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart again, Glenn Ford the following two years, and Fred MacMurray. Arness’ award was presented to him by another famous film actor, Rex Bell, who at that time was the Lt. Governor of the state.
Anyone who has ever wanted to know what northern Nevada was like during its “Golden Era” has but to turn the pages of Dondero’s Dateline: Reno.