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November 16, 2012

Mel Shields: Neon exhibition lights up Reno again

Two cowboys stand next to each other, their arms crossed, their legs spread, and their brightly colored neon chaps overlapping, the right leg of one merging with the left leg of the other.

Two cowboys stand next to each other, their arms crossed, their legs spread, and their brightly colored neon chaps overlapping, the right leg of one merging with the left leg of the other.

They were familiar sights, these neon cowboys, to anyone who visited the Mapes Hotel-Casino in downtown Reno before its 2000 implosion.

After it opened in 1946, the Mapes was for a long time the biggest, most modern hotel in the city. It featured top entertainers in its Sky Room and became the select place to stay for celebrities, including Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe when they filmed "The Misfits."

The shine didn't last. When the Mapes closed in 1982, it was so out of date, the elevators still were human-operated. Still, there's plenty of nostalgia for the old place, as well as for other Reno landmarks that became regular stops for tourists. Those memories are the main attraction of "The Light Circus: Art of Nevada Neon" at the Nevada Museum of Art through Feb. 10.

Reno collector Will Durham has worked for the past decade to build the collection. He and the museum joined forces to restore, rewire and relight the pieces that truly represent Reno's and the rest of Nevada's appeal through the mid-part of the 20th century.

Neon was essential. Most of the best-known images are gone now, but the exhibition includes yet another cowboy, this one in the shape of the state itself, cowboy hat worn tilted on the side, hand raised in greeting, and chaps ablaze; he stood over the entrance to the Nevada Club, now incorporated into Harrah's Reno. There are images from Harolds Club, also now incorporated into Harrah's, and signs from other businesses, most notably Parker's Western Wear, a destination in and of itself. (160 W. Liberty St., Reno; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, until 8 p.m. Thursdays; $10, $8 senior/ student, $1 children 6-12; 775-329-3333 or

Out and about

It is no wonder Richard Gomez became a model in his native Philippines. His mother, Stella Suarez, was one of the nation's biggest screen sirens of the 1960s. Gomez also became an actor, comedian, athlete and director. He headlines an all-Filipino show Saturday (8 p.m.; $65, $75) and Sunday (4 p.m.; $55, $65, $79) at Cache Creek in Brooks, bringing along Rico Puno and Patricia Javier. (

Probably nobody "rants" as well as Lewis Black when it comes to stand-up comedy. But few can combine ranting with as many obscure cultural references as Dennis Miller.

Miller also distinguishes himself among comedians with his conservative political opinions. Recently, he's gone a familiar route for today's comedians, hosting a live-stream radio broadcast. He will provide a little post-election salve for the right wing Saturday at the Silver Legacy. (8 p.m.; $39.50, $59.50; 800-687-8733 or

Tuesday sees the opening of the Eldorado's holiday show, "Aladdin and His Lamp." Like last year's "Peter Pan," this is different from the Disney version. New this year is Live Action 3DE Megavision, allowing the cartoon genie to interact with the rest of the cast and the audience.

Showtimes will vary depending on demand, but assured are 7 p.m. performances Tuesdays through Fridays, 5:30 and 8 p.m. performances on Saturdays, and 3 and 7 p.m. performances on Sundays. ($27.45, $35.15, $40.65, $46.15; $19.95 children; 800-648-5966 or

The Average White Band plays Harrah's Tahoe on Saturday (7:30 p.m.; $33; Ticketmaster).

Morrissey's Saturday-night performance at John Ascuaga's Nugget has been canceled.


Boomtown, Reno – Events Center: Little River Band, Saturday. (800) 648-3790.

Carson Nugget – Elvis tribute artist Donny Edwards, Saturday. (775) 883-3093.

Carson Valley Inn – Cabaret Lounge: Stew Stewart, today-Saturday; Paul Covarelli, Tuesday-Wednesday; Midnight Express, Thursday-Nov. 24; Steve Lord, Nov. 27-28; Escalade, Nov. 29-Dec. 1. (775) 782-9711.

Eldorado, Reno – Showroom: "Aladdin and His Lamp," Tuesday- Jan. 13. (800) 648-5966.

Harrah's Reno – Sammy's Showroom: The Magic of Eli Kerr, Fridays-Saturdays, through Feb. 23. (800) 427-7247.

Harrah's Lake Tahoe – South Shore Room: Average White Band, Saturday; Beatles vs. Stones – A Musical Shootout, next Friday-Nov. 24; Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dec. 1. (800) 427-7247.

Horizon, Lake Tahoe – Illusion Fusion starring Alex Ramon, Thursdays-Tuesdays. (775) 588-6211.

MontBleu Resort, Lake Tahoe – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Saturday; Daniel Tosh, Dec. 15. (888) 829-7630.

Silver Legacy, Reno – Grande Exposition Hall: Dennis Miller, Saturday; Rodney Carrington, Nov. 24; Randy Travis, Dec. 1. (800) 687-8733.

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