The Eldorado fire: Burning Man goes commercial


Last Tuesday's downtown Reno candlelight march exceeded all expectations. More than 400 bewailed walling off the river to build another dozen or so movie screens. In a touching show of solidarity, the Eldorado lit up the portion of the hotel closest to the demonstration.

However, Don Carano's outfit once again proved the cynics correct: even by accident, nothing takes place on the riverfront which moves traffic away from them. Form a crowd downtown and the Eldo-Legacy-Circus marketing department will figure out how to get it to their doorsteps.

Although some might call the spectacular Eldorado neon fire an accident, I call it divine providence. The Big Gambler, the ultimate Eye in the Sky, sent a metaphysical message to wayward Reno.

The very name Eldorado is a contraction of El Hombre Dorado, the Spanish legend of the Golden Man. El Hombre Dorado caused the invasion of Mexico by Hernando Cortez and his butchers. They wanted to find this gilded guy, cut him up and cash him in. When they couldn't locate his seven cities of gold, they settled for trashing the halls of Montezuma and cutting up the Aztecs instead.

Perhaps the Eldo fire was simply the gambling-industrial complex serving similar notice of claim jumping. The annual Burning Man Festival, Nevada's Labor Day weekend tribute to pluralistic pagan nihilism, has proven a big draw. But it needs to be moved much closer to slot machines. The Eldorado fire was thus a fortuitous marketing opportunity to turn those naked revelers into gamblers.

Nobody steals our act. They want topless? We'll show 'em topless.

Some say the image of the Burning Man briefly appeared inside the incinerating Eldorado neon, El Hombre Dorado as pagan barbeque at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Looking for a witnesses, I awakened a wino dozing under a bush.

"I've got to stop drinking that expensive Ferrari-Carano bilge and go back to plain ole rotgut Ripple," he growled. "Carano's wine causes bad dreams and makes me hear fire engines."

I didn't get his name, but I knew I was onto something. Perhaps others had similar mystical experiences with the Eldorado Burning Man...

AN ANONYMOUS, NON-UNION ELDORADO SECURITY GUARD: Thank God the fire didn't reach Carano's trophy room where all his stuffed politicians are mounted.

RENO CITY COUNCIL: Maybe we're gonna get fired, too.

RENO MAYOR JEFF GRIFFIN: The fire showed redevelopment is working. Anybody who disagrees is not civic-minded and certainly anti-family.

SPARKS MAYOR BRUCE BRESLOW: We gotta torch Last Chance Joe in front of the Nugget or people will think Victorian Square is losing ground to downtown Reno. Does old fiberglass burn as fast as polyurethane?

EARTHBOUND SPEED DEMONS CRAIG BREEDLOVE, RICHARD NOBLE and ANDY GREEN: We're naturally interested in anything which burns expensive fuel at high speed.

BROTHEL MOGUL JOE CONFORTE: I'm gonna stay in Chilé. Why would I move back to a town dumb enough to allow polyurethane in electric signs?

NATIONAL BOWLING STADIUM: Do white elephants burn as fast as neon signs?

HARRAH'S AUTO MUSEUM: I resemble that remark.

BERTHA ASCUAGA: Enough with the elephant jokes.

AIRPORT BOSS BOB WHITE: I hoped it was that awful audit going up in smoke, or maybe Sam Dehne.

NEVADA OPERA DIRECTOR TED PUFFER: Maybe we should perform Joan of Arc again.

TRIBUNE COLUMNISTS IRA HANSEN and ED BRUCE: If that fire had flushed any deer, we'd of shot 'em.

RENO-SPARKS CONVENTION AND VISITORS AUTHORITY: Let's see those jerks at the Fremont Street Experience in Vegas top this. We made all the major networks.

HARRAH'S: Our neon sign burned a couple of years ago and didn't get nearly this much publicity. This proved the bias of the damn liberal media.


ROBERT HELMS: If they won't name my gravel pit toxic lake after me, how 'bout a neon sign?

SIERRA PACIFIC POWER: The fire fully justifies our proposal to double water rates. The firehoses didn't go dry, did they? So there.

THEATER MOGUL JOE "NO SHOW" SYUFY: What about movie screens where the fire burned? I'll even open with a disaster film festival.

MARK SAVAGE, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: Maybe now they'll prohibit smoking in casinos.

CHRIS AULT and JOE CROWLEY: The fire points out the need for the 49er training camp and more UNR football scholarships.

COUNTY SCHOOL BOSS MARY NEBGEN: This fire is just another reason to close campuses for lunch.

SAM DEHNE: It's a sign to oust airport management and let me run the place.

UNION PACIFIC'S JOHN BROMLEY: Don't blame us. It's not our fault. It's NEVER our fault.

PRO-LIFE ANDY ANDERSON: Don't ask me, I'm retired.

GOV. BOB MILLER: It reminded me of my chances of becoming ambassador to Mexico.

ELDORADO OWNER DON CARANO: I think the fire happened because I booked Nero for the Italian festival.

FOND FAREWELL DEPT. Tribune managing editor Marlene Garcia deserves the community's thanks for a difficult job well done. Last Thursday was both her fourth anniversary and final day at this paper. She will soon join one of the best news staffs in the state at the Lahontan Valley News-Fallon Eagle Standard. Her hardworking energy and experience showed up in every edition. I will sincerely miss working with her. She needs no reminding to...

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano, a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 29-year Nevadan, is editor of U-News.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 10/5/97.

Reprints of the UNR financial scandal newsbreaks remain available for the cost of copying at
Nevada Instant Type in Sparks and both Office Depot Reno locations.