Why honor Larry Ruvo, Sinatra Jr.?
Imagine that you’re an out-of-town tourist and you’re driving down Mountain Street looking for the Governor’s Mansion, when you come across a large sign announcing the “Larry Ruvo Stateroom.”
“What is this?” you ask yourself. Did they name the Mansion after Mr. Ruvo, whoever he is? It’s a valid question.
Those of you who follow Nevada politics know that Ruvo is a wealthy Las Vegas liquor distributor who contributes heavily to Republican candidates and causes. As I understand it, he made a sizable donation to the Governor’s Office for the remodeling of the 10-year-old meeting facility adjacent to the Mansion, formerly known as the Nevada Room. But not any more. Welcome to the Larry Ruvo Stateroom.
Since none of our intrepid capital correspondents has mentioned this “stealth” name change of a prominent public building in our historic town, I’ll speak up and tell you that I think the whole thing is in bad taste and downright tacky.
With all due respect to Gov. Guinn and Ruvo, since when did we start naming public buildings after political campaign contributors? Yes, I know the back patio of the Mansion is named after the late Llewellyn Gross whose husband founded Harvey’s Hotel-Casino at South Lake Tahoe. But the Ruvo Stateroom is an over-the-top escalation of this type of low-key recognition.
As far as I know, there is scant precedent for naming public buildings after people in the private sector. Of course there’s the Mackay School of Mines at UNR, but that designation merely recognizes that contributions by early-day Comstock silver barons like John Mackay were instrumental in the founding of the University of Nevada, Reno.
In my opinion, Ruvo’s generous financial support for expanded meeting facilities at the Mansion could have been properly recognized with a discreet plaque inside or outside of the new building – something no larger than the plaque that identifies the Governor’s Mansion itself. As it is, the garish Ruvo sign is three or four times bigger than the main plaque at the Mansion. Go look at it yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Which brings me to another dubious honor. I refer to the recent decision to name Frank Sinatra Jr. as grand marshal of this year’s Nevada Day Parade in Carson City. “Knowing that we’re going to have him (Sinatra) here is very exciting. We’re honored to have him,” Carson City Special Events Coordinator Kevin Ray told the Appeal. “I don’t really know much about the man,” added Nevada Day Board President Ron Bowman, “but the name, the name. Everybody knows that name.” Yes, we know “the name” and unfortunately, it’s a mixed blessing around here.
While Sinatra Jr. appears to be a fine fellow and an upstanding citizen, he’s also the son of his namesake, who dragged our state through the mud 40 years ago. Frank Sinatra Sr., a very talented singer and entertainer, challenged the state’s ability to control legal gambling by rolling out the red carpet for Chicago Godfather Sam “Momo” Giancana at Crystal Bay’s Cal-Neva Lodge, which Sinatra Sr. owned in the early 1960s. While not wishing to visit the sins of the father upon his son, I think it’s highly inappropriate to honor a name that brought so much grief to our state.
As leader of the fun-loving “Rat Pack,” which included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and President Kennedy’s brother-in-law Peter Lawford, among others, Sinatra Sr. put Las Vegas on the map as a tourist destination and brought millions of dollars into the Silver State. Nevertheless, when push came to shove, Sinatra defied state gaming control authorities by hosting a “Black Book” Mob figure and attempting to establish his own rules of the game for casino ownership. But then-Gov. Grant Sawyer and his courageous Gaming Control Board Chairman, Ed Olsen, called Sinatra’s bluff and the Gaming Commission eventually revoked the entertainer’s gambling license.
Although he comes highly recommended by Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, a former Las Vegas lounge singer, Sinatra Jr.’s main claim to fame in Nevada is that he was kidnapped from Harrah’s Tahoe in 1963. The kidnappers were captured and young Sinatra was freed unharmed; however, he’s had little contact with our state during the past 41 years. A “B” list celebrity at best, he has made occasional appearances here as leader of the Frank Sinatra Orchestra, which keeps his father’s rich musical legacy alive.
If Nevada Day organizers want to honor an entertainer, why don’t they choose “Mr. Las Vegas,” Wayne Newton, who has been a prominent and productive citizen of this state for many years? Or even Siegfried and Roy, who revolutionized showroom entertainment in Southern Nevada. I can think of at least a dozen well-known entertainers who have done more for the Silver State than Frank Sinatra Jr.
Again, I don’t think that Larry Ruvo and Sinatra Jr. are bad people, only that the honors they are being accorded are unwarranted and inappropriate. If we were honoring longtime Nevadans who have made significant contributions to the betterment of our state, like Joe Dini, Lawrence Jacobsen, Paul Laxalt, Bill Raggio and/or Jack Streeter, I wouldn’t say a word. Nuff said? I think so.
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat who resides in Carson City, has been an adopted Nevadan for more than 40 years.