Ken Beaton: Genoa Bar: ‘You’ll leave here a friend’
“Hey Ken, I’ve got a story for you,” said John, a friend at the fitness center where we work out several mornings a week.
He continued, “I visited the Genoa Bar. It’s your kind of story.”
We made plans and drove to Genoa to interview the owners’ adult daughter, Lindsey McInnerny, gathering information for this commentary.
When this “watering hole” opened its doors in 1853, she was known as the “Livingston Exchange,” a gentlemen’s club with a dress code, suits, white shirts, ties, polished boots and “men only.” Their conversations were civilized and respectful.
In 1884, when Frank Fettic bought the business, he named it “Fettic’s Exchange.” Oh, I could go through a detailed description of the original fixtures that remain in the bar today, but this is the Genoa Bar, not the DIY network.
I can tell you want to read about some of the men who have “wet their whiskers” and the women who have “wet their whistle” in the Genoa Bar. Is there a bar in Nevada that was not visited by Mark Twain when he roamed western Nevada? Of course not, Mark Twain did some serious drinking, cigar smoking and gambling in the Genoa Bar. When President Ulysses S. Grant gave a speech in Virginia City, he made a side trip to drink in the same bar where Mark Twain emptied many shot glasses. Every Nevada governor who was against prohibition made one or more trips to Genoa. The rumor at the Capitol was if you’d like to be reelected, a trip to Genoa was mandatory.
Now we need to discuss the movie stars. Carol Lombard married Clark Gable in 1939. The couple visited the Genoa Bar before she died in a plane crash on Jan. 16, 1942. Throughout the years, Gable enjoyed occasional trips to the Genoa Bar for high-stakes poker games with local cattle barons. Gable and Marilyn Monroe’s last film was “The Misfits.” He died on Nov. 16, 1960, before the film was released.
In the latter part of the 19th century in Carson Valley, a number of the immigrants from Germany purchased land and dairy cows to produce high butter fat content milk, perfect for making cheese. In the 20th century, the most famous dairy cow owner was the comedian Red Skelton. Skelton had a television variety show and was a frequent headliner at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks.
The list of movies filmed at the Genoa Bar are “The Shootist” with Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and John Wayne; “Charley Varrick” with Walter Mathau and Joe Don Baker; “Honky Tonk Man” with Clint Eastwood; “Misery” with James Cann, Kathy Bates, Rob Reiner and Richard Farnsworth. The last movie was “A Place Called Home” with Ann-Margaret.
Throughout the years, a number of donated bras were attached to the ceiling. When Raquel Welch visited the Genoa Bar, the owner asked if she would donate her bra with the collection. She said, “I’ll give you my bra if you remove all the other bras!” Welch didn’t think the owner would agree, and she’d be “off the hook.” The owner removed the other bras and placed them in the bar’s safe, calling her bluff. Welch’s bra hangs from a buck’s rack. (See if you can guess my comment about Welch’s bra hanging from the buck’s rack.) Judging from the collection of dust on Welch’s bra, it has not been touched. Ladies, males don’t dust.
Maybe your memory is a little fuzzy after 43 years. John Wayne’s character in the movie, “The Shootist,” was a gunfighter dying of cancer. The “Duke,” Wayne had starred in numerous movies. He knew he was dying of cancer.
After the filming of “The Shootist,” “Duke” visited the Genoa Bar. He asked the owner, Bob Carver, “What’s the dollar amount of your best day at this bar?” Carver told him. Wayne said, “Multiply it times seven and I’ll give you that amount if you give me the keys to lock myself in this bar for seven days.” Carver agreed and exchanged the keys for the money.
After seven days, “Duke” returned Carver’s keys and thanked him. What is your best guess as to what “Duke” did for seven days alone in the Genoa Bar? What would you have done in a bar for seven days knowing you had one or two years remaining? Would you have asked God, “Why me?” “Please, let me see my youngest son graduate from high school!” “God, I promise you I’ll live a perfect life if you give me 10 more years.”
My guess is that at some point he played his remaining days similar to his movie characters. “Lord, you’re in charge of this place we call earth. I have to be honest with you. I certainly don’t like my final hand of cards. It’s not fair! I deserve better than this! But you’re ‘the Man In Charge.’ I’ll grit my teeth and accept your decision. You’re the Final Decider. Please, help me with the physical and mental pain that I will experience until you come to take me home.”
If you decide to visit the Genoa Bar, be open to 166 years of Nevada history and make sure you order your favorite beer or the bar’s famous Bloody Mary. As you recall this commentary, try to locate the secret door to the cellar where drunks disappeared into the endless murky black or live dance hall girls suddenly appeared. You’re experiencing some of Nevada’s history, not the “Twilight Zone.”
“You may walk in a stranger, but you will leave here a friend” — Genoa Bar.