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Desert Companion

Random Access Memory: May

Droll, odd, poignant, and awkward moments from the many Mays of Las Vegas history

May 1, 1997: Following Ellen DeGeneres’ announcement on her sitcom, Ellen, that she is a lesbian, local media report on “the many coming-out parties around the Vegas valley.”

May 2, 1997: Fifty-one “Jesus Crusaders,” with Christ Is the Answer Crusade, are arrested as they parade down Casino Center carrying a 10-foot-high wooden cross without a permit. 

May 3, 1929: The first nonstop airplane flight from Reno to Las Vegas is made in two hours and 45 minutes.

May 4, 1973: After losing her Procter & Gamble Ivory Snow contract to appear on its soap box as a wholesome young mother hugging a happy baby, model-turned-porn-star Marilyn Chambers, 21, says in the news, “I think it’s prudish on their part to overreact like that.” Her first adult film, Behind the Green Door, in which she performs sex acts with four men while hanging from a trapeze, is currently playing Downtown at the 4-Star Theater.

May 5, 1900: The population of Las Vegas is estimated at 30, give or take a soul or two. 

May 6, 2004: Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, announces on its website that it plans to picket “the sodomite whorehouse masquerading as the Las Vegas Academy for producing The Laramie Project,” a play about the beating death of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.

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May 7, 1997: Beleaguered UNLV President Carol Harter has released her own evaluation of herself, which reports she is doing a great job.

May 8, 1975: Porn star Marilyn Chambers is starring in the comedy The Mind with a Dirty Man at the Union Plaza Hotel.

May 9, 1940: Representing the State of Confusion and running on the Surprise Party ticket, comedienne Gracie Allen is the first presidential candidate to visit our town this election year.

May 10, 1997: Ten days after Ellen DeGeneres comes out publicly on her show, more than 10,000 people, a record crowd, attend the 14th annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival at Sunset Park.

May 11, 1979: Our flummoxed mayor hastily proposes a new city ordinance to shut down a theatrical play, The Sex Surrogate, at the Jolly Trolley Casino on the Strip. This one-woman show features a nude Marilyn Chambers, 27, onstage dispensing graphic sexual advice to audience members.

May 12, 2009: Presumably some locals are still mourning the death, a month prior, of former Vegas resident Marilyn Chambers, 56, who passed away in Santa Clarita, California. Her epitaph could have read: She definitely did it her way.

May 13, 1935: 180,000 black bass are shipped from Utah to stock the new lake formed by Boulder Dam.

May 14, 1998: At 82, consummate Vegas entertainer Frank Sinatra, who also did it his way, dies in Los Angeles.

May 15, 1954: On our city’s 49th birthday, “actor and would-be gender changeling,” John “Bunny” Breckenridge, 50, who is planning an upcoming sex-change operation in Denmark, arrives here “in a Cadillac convertible that matches the gray in his snappy sports jacket.”

May 16, 1967: Students at Culley Elementary School have successfully launched a live mouse (a “mousetronaut”) in the nose cone of a small rocket.

May 17, 1967: Two Marines, Cpl. Robert Green and Pfc. George Montgomery, have been killed this month in Vietnam, bringing the total to 11 local young men killed there this year.    

May 18, 1922: District Attorney Harley Harmon says he has the names of Ku Klux Klan members residing in Southern Nevada.

May 19, 1988: Accused of bilking more than $1 million from followers in a scam using “biblical scriptures,” Dove Ministries Pastor Duke DuVall is indicted by a grand jury.

May 20, 1930: With federal funds for Boulder Dam headed our way, area citizens create a vigilance committee to deal with the predictable influx of “fly-by-nights, ex-jailbirds, and real-estate schemers.”

May 21, 1949: The Roxie Club on Boulder Highway, “that little retreat in the cottonwoods where unattached males make nightly trips to visit the hostesses, or waitresses, or whatever they are called,” is being shut down.

May 22, 1929: A teacher-pupil romance a year ago results in marriage when Raby Newton, “a teacher who has the affections of the young people of Las Vegas High School,” marries his former student, Margaret Moffat.

May 23, 1947: Suddenly It’s Spring, starring Paulette Goddard, is at the El Portal Theater on Fremont Street.

May 24, 1928: Twenty-four seniors, a record number, graduate from Las Vegas High.

May 25, 1906: A newspaper ad promises to “sweeten and cleanse your system effectually, when bilious or constipated, with Syrup of Figs.”

May 26, 1976: Ronald Reagan, at the Sahara Hotel, says, “Americans are hungry for a spiritual revival. If we get Washington out of the classroom, we might get God back in.”

May 27, 1917: Sheriff Sam Gay arrests Rodric Loring on “the charge of insanity for having queer hallucinations about German flying machines coming after him.”

May 28, 1958: Billed as “the Anatomic Bomb,” burlesque stripper Lili St. Cyr is appearing at the El Rancho Vegas.

May 29, 1941: “Sneaking ghouls too depraved to be described enter Woodlawn Cemetery and destroy the Memorial Day floral decorations on graves of veterans, overturning headstones, and tearing American flags into unsightly rags.”

May 30, 1930: The Athletic Club sponsors a Memorial Day baseball game “that the colored boys win against the white team, 4-1.” 

May 31, 1994: Two pairs of “urbanized” peregrine falcons live here, one pair on a ledge at the Aladdin Hotel, the other atop the Las Vegas Hilton. 

Sources: Las Vegas Age; Las Vegas Morning Tribune; Las Vegas Review-Journal; Las Vegas Sun

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