Virginia or Vir’Sin’ia City? | NevadaAppeal.com

Virginia or Vir’Sin’ia City?

by Kurt Hildebrand

Not since “Bonanza” has a television program been so geographically challenged as Arts & Entertainment Television’s expose on prostitution and Virginia City.

Interviews with Joe Conforte, Jessi Winchester, Dennis Hof and Shirley Colletti were nowhere nearly as colorful as the program’s script.

“As long as people are willing to pay for sex, Virginia City will be willing to offer it,” the host intoned dramatically.

Never mind that only one brothel remains in Storey County after the Mustang Ranch was closed last year (and is closer to Sparks than to Virginia City).

With items like “The road from Reno to Washoe (rhymes with blue) were lined with brothels,” or “Just outside Virginia City are several brothels,” program producers, no doubt, were more interested in fun than fact.

It was up to Bucket of Blood owner Don McBride to set the record straight about the relative location of the Mustang Ranch.

The main event was the chat with Conforte, who had about 10 minutes of screen time interspersed among interviews with the other former and present brothel operators.

Conforte came off far better in the program than Virginia City.

Called a collection of “nothing more than half-baked tourist traps,” the queen of the Comstock was described as the center of legalized prostitution in Nevada.

“There are more brothels and bordellos per person in Storey County than any place in the world,” the show’s announcer said.

Hap Haight was the grandson of a California governor and one of the people who made a difference in the Carson Valley.

I met him for the first time at a Carson Valley Health Center Liason Board meeting when I arrived in Gardnerville in 1989.

I instantly liked him, having no idea that his family and mine would soon be linked.

So, it was a shock for me to read his obituary on Tuesday.

I knew he was one of the Sapsuckers, a group that gathered on the Hollister Ranch to kick off duck hunting season by shooting a few and then eating them.

I had to rely on The Record-Courier’s Joyce Hollister to fill in some of the blanks.

Besides the hospital liason board, which helped oversee the Carson Valley Health Center (when there was only one clinic), Hap was an important player in establishing the senior center in Gardnerville.

Joyce said Hap used to drive the ladies from the senior center around Gardnerville.

“He had this big Cadillac and the ladies would love to ride around in Hap’s Cadillac,” Joyce said. “He would squire them around the town.”

His daughter, Jan Louch, who worked at the Minden library, often attended the Hollisters’ parties and her daughter, Hap’s granddaughter, was one of five people at my wedding to Joyce’s daughter, Jennifer.

What I did not know until I read Hap’s obituary was that his grandfather was Henry H. Haight, governor of California from 1867 to 1871.

Thanks to R.G. Machado for his information about Nellie Mighels Davis, the woman who owned the Morning Appeal and covered the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight in 1897. Machado said Kate Atherton was the telegraph operator who “broadcast” the report all over the nation. She founded the branch of the Western Union in Carson City and ran it until her death in 1933.

Tossing a dollar along a roadside might seem like throwing money down a hole, but it could lead to cleaner roads.

Sandy Hartwick of Smith, a field editor at Country Magazine, is one of 250 people who placed packets alongside roads.

“I didn’t get any money, but I’ve put some packets out there somewhere,” she said.

The magazine is encouraging people to toss a dollar in a ditch, in an effort to help clean up rural roads.

Kurt Hildebrand is assistant managing editor at the Nevada Appeal. If you have an item for this column please call him at 881-1215 or e-mail him at appeal@tahoe.com