Pirate Laureate of the High Desert Outback of the American Dream


Barbwire Silver Anniversary 1988-2013 —>Now we go for gold
Barbwire by Barbano moved to Nevada's Daily Sparks Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in them parts ever since.
Whom to blame: How a hall-of-famer's hunch birthed the Barbwire in August of 1987
Tempus fugit.

   Everybody knows the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
   Everybody knows the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
   Everybody knows the fight was fixed.
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
   That's how it goes. Everybody knows.

Everybody knows the scene is dead
   But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
   What everybody knows.

— Leonard Cohen

Baby rape: coming soon to a casino near you
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 11-30-1997 Daily Sparks Tribune

Last May, seven-year-old Sherrice Iverson was found raped and murdered in a casino restroom. Last week, her father and brother filed suit against the Primm Valley Hotel-Casino, a joint about 45 miles southeast of Las Vegas owned by descendants of Reno gambler Ernie Primm.

Sherrice's slaughter slightly shocked a nation getting used to this sort of thing. As the Rodney King beating jury proved, if you are forced to view enough instant replays, you become numb to the acts you witness.

Perhaps the accused murderer, a 19-year-old California honor student named Jeremy Strohmeyer, is a twisted product of that mass desensitization.

The Iversons assert that Nevada casinos create an illusion of safety in order to lure parents with childen into their clubs. The gambling-industrial complex and members of its Nevada legislative subsidiary disagree while quoting a favorite conservative buzzphrase: personal responsibility.

"There has to be some point when government lets up and personal responsibility comes in," state senate judiciary committee chairman Mark James, (R-Las Vegas) told the Las Vegas Sun awhile back.

"If government has to tell you not to leave your kids unsupervised in an arcade in the middle of the night, we are in a sorry state as a society," Sen. James harrumphed.

Clark County assistant district attorney Charles Thompson "envisions that parents might have to check in children to the arcades and be the only ones to check them out," the Sun reported.

"Does that mean that children can't leave if they want to?" Thompson asked. "Where does it end? I feel sorry for the hotels."

I don't, and the worst is yet to come. Apparently no one has yet noticed, but the Iverson family is about to run into the legacy of Tailhook.

In 1991, the Las Vegas Hilton hosted a free-spending bunch of drunken sailors called the Tailhook Association and let them run wild. Several women were sexually molested. They sued and won big money damages. The highest profile plaintiff, Lt. Paula Coughlin, won $5.2 million from Hilton alone.

The gambling-industrial complex immediately retaliated in the form of preferential legislation. The Tailhook Bill slid through the 1995 Nevada Legislature like crap through a goose.

I sat through a hearing and even offered testimony, after which one fat cat casino lawyer said he'd like to take me outside and throw blows. The Tailhook Law basically extended Nevada's "two bites" rule. If somebody's dog bites you, the owner can assert as a defense that the dog never did it before. The dog's master is thus not liable for the dog's first offense. The first bite is free.

Expert testimony before Assemblyman Bernie Anderson's (D-Sparks) judiciary committee showed how this works in a hotel-casino setting. Let's say a rape takes place on the 13th floor of the Reno Hilton. The hotel can assert that no prior assault occurred at that location. Management thus could not foresee a need for extra security. Free bite.

But what if a rape had taken place a year before on the 11th floor? No matter. That's two whole floors away and doesn't count. Absurd? Yes, but that's how it works in Nevada courts thanks to things like the Tailhook Law.

I have always felt that the Tailhook statute contributed to the Reno Hilton's 1996 decision to fire its entire staff of experienced unionized security guards and replace them with a cheap doorshaker service. (The guards have appealed the firings as illegal to the National Labor Relations Board. A trial is expected early next year.)

Unless the Iverson family can prove that another rape and murder occurred at the same place in the same casino and that management knew it, they will have a rough time winning any justice from a Nevada court.

Reality bites.

POLITICAL BRIEFS: University of Nevada Regent Nancy Price will run for the GOP nomination for the southern Nevada congressional seat being vacated by Rep. John Ensign (R-Nev.). Ensign wants to move up to the U.S. Senate. If he gets past millionaire Tahoe retiree Bruce James, Ensign will face two-term incumbent Harry Reid ( D-Nev.).

Mrs. Price's potential opponents include Clark County District Judge Don Chairez, who sits on the Sherrice Iverson murder case, and Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren.

Price is married to 12-term Assemblyman Bob Price (D-North Las Vegas). As Nancy Bogen, she ran for a central Reno assembly seat about 20 years ago. Her candidacy complicates matters for fellow university regent Shelley Berkley, the only announced Democrat. Mrs. Price will run as a pro-labor Republican in the heavily union-Democrat district.

Bob Price is a 40-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and enjoys near-sainthood status as one of the few pro-worker Nevada lawmakers. Nancy Price as the GOP standard bearer could be Shelley Berkley's worst nightmare.

Judge Chairez can run for a federal position, as could Washoe District Judge Mills Lane, but neither can legally aspire to non-judicial state office until his term expires. Which is why recent calls for Judge Lane to run for governor will not be successful. The internationally-noted boxing referee (most famous for disqualifying ear-biting Mike Tyson) has announced that he's seriously considering resigning next year to become the star of a nationally-syndicated "People's Court"-style TV show...Look for retired Laborers' Union business manager Walt Henderson to run for the north Reno seat being vacated by longtime GOP Assemblywoman Joan Lambert.

RUMBLE IN THE GREEN FELT JUNGLE: In private meetings, some top northern Nevada casino executives worry that the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority will approach insolvency next year. Then what? Shades of Al Davis and the Oakland Coliseum fiasco: the debt holders come after us taxpayers to foot the bill. I told you so, years ago.

Be well. Raise hell.


Copyright © 1997, 2014 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano, a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 29-year Nevadan, is editor of U-News. Send an E-mail, especially if you want to join NAGPAC '98. Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 11/16/97.

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Copyright © 1982-2014 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 45-year Nevadan, editor of and; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. He is producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and serves as first vice-president, political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail

Barbwire by Barbano moved to Nevada's Daily Sparks Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in them parts ever since.
Whom to blame: How a hall-of-famer's hunch birthed the Barbwire in August of 1987
Tempus fugit.

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