|Intl. Notebook||Apr 22 2010|
Photo of the U.S. nuclear test Able. There were many Able tests, but this one was part of Operation Tumbler-Snapper, which took place at the Nevada Test Site, this month in 1952. The smoke trails you see around the blast were created by rockets, which were launched just before detonation, and were used to mark the progress of the bomb's shockwave.
|Intl. Notebook||Mar 31 2010|
Frank Sinatra made a lot of nightspots famous. His mere presence—along with that of his Rat Pack—sprinkled gold dust on bars and eateries from end to end of the U.S., bestowing places such as 21, Toots Shor’s, and Chasen’s with fame that lasted long after the Rat Pack had died. That fame helped many of those old haunts survive into the new millennium, but now one of the most magical Rat Pack hangouts—the Cal Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe, Nevada—is on the endangered list as it closes its gaming rooms today due to low profitability.
Sinatra owned the Cal-Neva between 1960 and 1963, his star power drawing Hollywood’s top celebrities, along with mob figures who he reportedly shuttled back and forth to various points around the property via old bootlegging tunnels. He made the Cal-Neva Lodge the jewel of Lake Tahoe, a piece of Tinseltown in what was little more than an alpine village.
But the Cal-Neva’s fortunes have been in decline for decades due to the proliferation of nearby Indian casinos, and the general dominance of Las Vegas. When the recent recession hit, the current owners—who had laid off about a hundred employees since 2006—finally decided they could not keep their gaming rooms in operation. Officially, at least, today’s closure is temporary, but industry insiders note that Rat Pack chic is not enough to draw modern gamblers to an older casino like the Cal-Neva Lodge. If so, it’s quite possible that not only will the gaming rooms never reopen, but that the entire Lodge has begun its final decline.
|Intl. Notebook||Feb 23 2010|
Photo of the nuclear test codenamed Easy, part of the series Operation Ranger, detonated at Frenchman Flat, Nevada Test Site, February 1, 1951. This was the first nuclear blast shown on television—a news program secretly focused a camera on the desert from the top of a Las Vegas hotel and was able to broadcast a distant flash.
|Swindles & Scams||Dec 7 2009|
In the U.S. last week, Terrance Watanabe, an Omaha, Nebraska retail king who made millions of dollars selling party favors, filed a lawsuit claiming that two Las Vegas casinos allowed him to gamble away most of his fortune while too drunk to make rational decisions. The arithmetic is astoun-ding. He lost in excess of $125 million, including $5 million during one twenty-four hour stretch in 2007, and his losses represented about five percent of the 2007 profits of Caesar's Palace and The Rio. Watanabe made good on over $100 million in debts, but has balked at paying the rest. In the past he would have ended up in a desert grave with Joe Pesci shoveling sand in his face, but the post-millennial Vegas is a kinder gentler place, and the two casinos instead sicced their legal pitbulls on him, which resulted in his arrest.
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 11 2009|
We don’t have much information about Real West magazine, but we know it first published in late 1957, starting as a quarterly and reaching monthly status by 1973. Unfortunately, that year was its zenith and in 1974 it printed eleven times, in 1975 nine times, and so forth until it finally died in 1988. This issue with its great blizzard cover depicting the struggles of the Donner Party was published in November 1975. If your frontier history is rusty, the Donner Party was a group of settlers who had trouble crossing the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1846-1847, and sent a smaller party of fifteen for help. That group—ten men and five women—became snowbound and ended up cannibalizing each other. Two men and all five women survived, which proves how effective a disapproving look and dripping disdain can be against guys who happen to be entertaining unsavory ideas. Ladies take note: “Oh, hell no. You better not be looking at me. What? You’re starving? Then eat one of your useless friends. You hang out with them all the damn time, anyway. You want to cannibalize me you should have thought about that when you were partying with your boys all night, leaving me wondering if you were even coming home. Now you’re all like, ‘But baby I need you.’ Uhn uh. Get out of my face. And take that axe with you.”
|Intl. Notebook||Sep 14 2009|
Photo of the American nuclear test codenamed Fizeau, part of a series of tests named Plumbbob conducted at the Nevada Test Site. This one was fifty-two years ago today.
|Intl. Notebook||Jun 23 2009|
Vintage Las Vegas postcards from the town's glamour days, circa 1965. Collecting these postcards has become a popular hobby for people throughout the world, and you can find hundreds on Ebay.
|Intl. Notebook||Jun 18 2009|
Detonation of the nuclear the bomb codenamed Stokes, part of Operation Plumbbob, which consisted of 29 separate tests at the Nevada Test Site, formerly known as The Nevada Proving Ground, August 7, 1957.
|Intl. Notebook||Apr 7 2009|
Operation Tumbler Snapper nuclear test, Nevada Proving Ground, 1952. The conical projections seen here are guy wires or ropes extending from the elevated bomb platform vaporizing during the first instant of the explosion.
|Intl. Notebook||Feb 15 2009|
Nuclear test, Nevada Proving Ground, 1953. House is located 3,500 feet from ground zero, shot by a camera encased in lead.