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'Harolds Club' on screen or bust
Dwayne Kling, holds the book he helped put together, "A Family Affiar" about Harolds Club, from oral histories. He and photographer Steve Ellison are working on a documentary about the historic Reno casino.(Photo: Marilyn Newton/RGJ)The "Harolds Club or Bust" logo covered a couple Converse Shoes White Women
"Harolds brought people to Reno; 2,000 highway signs made Harolds famous," said Steve Ellison of LSN Studios, a phototgrapher Converse Low Cut Red and the maker of the documentary "Harolds Club."
"We knew we needed to do this now," Ellison said, because the casino had been gone for years and people move on or pass on.
Ellison had never made a documentary, but he thought that would be the way to go with all the research he had gathered.
"We really want the documentary to appeal to the younger generation. It's being forgotten," Ellison said of Harolds.
Ellison contacted Kling and proposed the idea, planning to sell copies of the finished product, offer it to PBS and enter it in film festivals.
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"How will we do a documentary?" he said he wondered. "I don't know, we'll just do it."
"I started reading about Reno and got Dwayne's book ('The Rise of the Biggest Little City') at the library," he said. "I read 'Family Affair.' I thought this was important."
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But in 1999, after changes in ownership and years spent in the shadows of high rise hotel casinos, Harolds Club was razed. An era ended and Harolds was largely forgotten by both tourists and locals.
the various eras of the casino's life and scrapbooks with news clippings and advertising about the club. They found historical film footage. Harolds Club Pioneers, a group of former Harolds employees who meet regularly, was a source for more interviews.
As he read more, Ellison said he began to realize Harolds Club's importance to Reno, but it was being forgotten. His options, he said, were to do nothing with all he had read, or share it.
He's making the film with assistance from Dwayne Kling and Neal Cobb. Reno artist Roy Powers, who died in June 2012, also was a consultant. Second St.
"We hope at the end of February to have the rough cut done," Ellison said. "Then there is mastering the color and the sound track. We're getting close."
thousand billboards across the country a covered wagon bouncing across the desert with the motto scrawled on the back and a sign pointing ahead to Reno. Whatever Harolds Club was, highway travelers must have thought, it's a big deal.
with Smith family members and former club employees began a couple of years ago, Kling said, five interviewees have died.
The project hasn't cost much, yet, Ellison said, but he might put on a fundraiser to come up with money to make the documentary broadcast ready.
"Harolds Club" is Ellison's first documentary. Always interested in history, he said, such things as historic trails and railroads appeal to him.
From 1935 to the 1990s, Harolds Club on North Virginia Street in downtown Reno was a tourist draw. The founders were Harold Smith Sr. and his brother Raymond A. Smith. Their father, Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith, was known as "the boss" and ran the club with Harold.
Ellison noted that there's a metal bust of Pappy Smith on the Truckee Riverwalk near the Riverside Artist Lofts on South Virginia Street. He asks his younger customers if they recognize Pappy or his name.
Kling had worked with Tom King and the Oral History Program at the University of Nevada, Reno, doing interviews to produce "A Family Affair: Harolds Club and the Smiths Remembered" in 2003.
The documentary, which will run about 90 minutes covers the Smith family years from 1935 when the casino opened, to 1970, when it was sold to Howard Hughes' Summa Corp. The work is in its finishing stages.
"They say they do not," Ellison said.
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