Lake Tahoe beckons presidents, film stars
The news that President Barack Obama will travel to Northern Nevada next week to speak at the annual Lake Tahoe Environmental Summit brings back vivid memories of the first summit held July 26, 1997, which featured addresses by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
Obama’s speech next Wednesday, Aug. 31, will be hosted by Nevada U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and is retiring this year. Also present will be governors Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Jerry Brown of California and senators Dean Heller and Dianne Feinstein of Nevada and California.
Obama, who will speak at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena at South Lake Tahoe following a 2 p.m. concert by “The Killers,” is expected to proclaim his commitment to protect Lake Tahoe’s environment which has been threatened by declining water quality, drought and erosion. He also may endorse the candidacy of Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, who is running for Reid’s seat against Republican Joe Heck, a Southern Nevada congressman.
In recalling the first Nevada summit 19 years ago, I will never forget that day when I attended the confab which was held at the Hyatt Hotel at Incline Village, North Lake Tahoe.
After receiving my press credentials about 7 a.m. at the Hyatt, I wandered down to the hotel pier to look upon the lake as the sun rose.
But I was confronted by Secret Service agents who turned me away. “The pier is restricted to everyone including the press, and you must leave at once,” one of the agents told me. But as I was
departing, I saw a bus bearing the words “U.S. Navy” on its sides pull up to the pier. To my astonishment, out came a half-dozen Navy divers wearing diving suits who, one-by-one, silently strode into the lake and vanished before my eyes. What an eerie and surreal sight I was presented with!
A Nevada Highway Patrol officer directing traffic on Lakeshore Blvd. told me that the divers were inspecting the underwater pilings of the pier to make sure no bombs or other explosive devices had been attached to the structure overnight.
In an hour or so, Clinton, Gore and other government officials arrived at the pier from the Hyatt and boarded a large UNR- University of California research vessel. Along with other media representatives, I went aboard a press boat, and the two vessels began a lake tour. From the press craft, I could see Clinton and Gore scan the lake and the shore with binoculars and listen to comments about the lake’s environmental challenges delivered by scientists from both universities.
When the tour ended, everyone returned to the hotel where Clinton and Gore made speeches endorsing the Lake Tahoe Compact which established a bi-state priority to rid the lake of algae and other pollutants. Clinton also pledged $300 million to help clean up the lake.
A reception for the media followed, and Clinton and Gore met the press representatives who had lined up in a receiving line. My name tag read DAVID in large letters and Henley and Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard followed in smaller print. Clinton asked me, “David, where is Fallon?” I told him, and he said, “Fallon sounds like a nice place. I hope to visit there sometime.” Gore, who was standing next to Clinton, said to me, “I know where Fallon is. You have a Navy base there.”
When the reception ended in late afternoon, Clinton helicoptered from the hotel’s front lawn to Reno-Tahoe International Airport and then back to Washington, DC on Air Force One.
Gore, however, joined his wife, Tipper, and their four children for a week’s vacation at Fallen Leaf Lake, which is in California and about a mile southwest of Lake Tahoe.
By coincidence, the house the Gores rented was owned by close friends of our family, Mansfield Smith, a San Francisco Bay area surgeon, and his wife, Linda. Sadly, both Smiths have recently passed away.
My wife, Ludie, and I had visited the Smiths several times at their Fallen Leaf getaway, a rustic lodge-style lakefront retreat that had a commanding view of Mt. Tallac from most of its rooms.
Mansfield later told me that when the Gores were in residence at their house, two Secret Service agents occupied a bedroom and other agents patrolled the property day and night.
The house has a fascinating history, as its interior and exterior were used extensively in two motion pictures, “The Bodyguard” that was released in 1992 and starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston and the 1998 film “Fallen Angels” which starred Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.
In “The Bodyguard,” Costner played a former Secret Service agent who became the bodyguard of Houston, an actress and singer who had received death threats. Costner spirited her away to the Fallen Leaf house where she went into hiding, but the bad guys discovered her hideout and placed a powerful bomb under its pier.
Houston’s son was near the pier when the bomb exploded, but Costner managed to save him and began a hot romance with Houston that culminated in the master bedroom. It was a great film, and its soundtrack that featured the song sung by Houston “I Will Always Love You” immediately became an international hit.
In “Fallen Angels,” Cage played the part of an angel who temporarily became a human after falling in love with Ryan, a heart surgeon. Cage and Ryan, like Costner and Houston, had a wild time in the house’s master bedroom. The movie also featured a torrid, sexy scene in the shower. Mansfield Smith told me that the film’s director said the shower was too small and cramped to be properly filmed, and the movie studio had the shower greatly enlarged and a window installed in it at no expense to the Smith family.
Alas, Meg Ryan was killed in the film when she was struck by a logging truck while riding a bicycle around Fallen Leaf Lake. I found the movie insipid and sappy.
As for Vice President Al Gore, he ran for president in 2000 against George W. Bush, but despite his receiving 543,895 more popular votes than Bush, he lost the election because Bush won more electoral votes.
Several years, Al and Tipper Gore separated, and that separation remains in effect today, although the pair are still married to one another. Al Gore lives in Tennessee, his home state, and Tipper Gore lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. They reportedly see each other several times a year at family gatherings.
David C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN.