We call this (*flourish of parting curtains*) our Illustrated History issue, but we seriously need to Frankenstein up a better word for what’s going on in this month’s feature package, our second stab at excavating our state and city’s history for interpretive doodle-fication. History? Really? The word “history” evokes yellowed newspapers and scratchy sepia photographs of grim-looking dudes in bowler hats (what was with the bowler hats back in the day?). “History” suggests a floating, time-fogged iceberg of irretrievable pastness that can seem emotionally and intellectually untethered from our lives in the four-color present. The word doesn’t quite capture, say, my recollection of seeing Clash of the Titans in 1981 at the Fox Theatre on Charleston Boulevard, or my bafflement and disbelief (and, okay, a dash of schadenfreude) as we watched the G-sting saga engulf a raft of county commissioners in 2003.
To be sure, this edition’s illustrated histories will certainly illuminate and entertain — I mean, sure, they’re historical — but they’re also vitalized with a personal element that, I hope, allows them to breathe deeply as something more than mere remembrances of things past. In “Life in a dark space,” Sean C. Jones reflects on the valley movie theaters of his youth. To him, they’re more than just venues for cinematic summertime escape. Rather, they’re landmarks that, though long since razed, still populate his memory as sites of passage through his teenage years. In our “History in a hotel room” series, we commissioned five illustrators to interpret events that took place in Vegas’ native habitat of the hotel room. Hotel rooms were the place of O.J.’s belated downfall; of Who bassist John Entwistle’s hopefully ecstatic death; of Clark Gable’s epic fret over the fate of his wife, Carole Lombard; and, of course, then there’s Howard Hughes creeping around his Desert Inn suite like some neurotic Caesar, assembling a casino empire from the clutches of strange obsessions. Michael Ogilvie’s “Territorial Legends” series, meanwhile, was inspired by his fascination with the lesser-known and little-celebrated figures from Nevada’s past — and he tells their stories in a lively, idiomatic manner that bests any traditional telling in terms of punchy memorability. The big history lesson begins on p. 63.
Our take on history is riffy and reflective, sure, but the holidays are a time of reflection as well — beyond, of course, mulling over gift lists and dinner-party menus. Our holiday guide (p. 90) not only has a fat events list and gift ideas for everyone from kids to co-workers, but also includes a list of volunteer and philanthropy opportunities that encourage you to get involved. Need a bigger nudge than that? Check out our “Kickstart my heart” profiles of four valley volunteers who discuss what inspired them to give of themselves in a way that’s more than just checking off the “seasonal obligation” box. For them, giving back is a way of life, inspired by personal experiences that are in some cases poignant, wrenching, and even tragic. And yet, these four people have turned pain into a passionate drive to better the lives of others. While such things may not make the history books, surely the people whose lives they impact consider them pivotal figures in their personal histories.