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RTO goes club-to-club with ACC and British Open
by Harry Spencer
Nov 06, 2009 | 1456 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file/John Byrne - Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is one of the many celebrities of sport and screen who have played at the annual American Century Championship in South Lake Tahoe. The 2010 Reno Tahoe Open will coincide with the ACC tourney.
Tribune file/John Byrne - Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is one of the many celebrities of sport and screen who have played at the annual American Century Championship in South Lake Tahoe. The 2010 Reno Tahoe Open will coincide with the ACC tourney.
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Golf enthusiasts in this area will have a plethora of tournaments to watch come next July. According to an announcement this week, the Reno Tahoe Open of 2010 will be staged in mid July and will be played on virtually the same dates as the American Century Championship at South Shore, Lake Tahoe and the fabled British Open, many time zones away.

Reaction to the announcement was mixed, with the South Shore promoters pretty upset that the RTO had chosen to go up against their highly successful event that is now aired on NBC and which has consistently drawn more fans than the RTO every year. On the RTO side, the reaction is that perhaps the two tournaments can work in tandem to the benefit of each. That seems quite a stretch since many of the volunteers that make the RTO and the ACC possible work both tournaments. Next year, they will have to make a choice, as will local golf fans.

What the ACC features, and what the RTO has had trouble matching in the past, is a field made up not of professional golf “greats” but rather of the superstars of professional sports such as football, baseball and basketball, which are ably abetted by a sprinkling of well-known entertainers and giants of the business world. In the past, the RTO has always been on the same date as some of the major PGA tournaments that traditionally drew the “big names” in professional golf. That will be true again next year since the British Open always draws the cream of the golfing elite. In addition, the RTO has had to rely on the Golf Channel for its coverage while the ACC will still have NBC. The Brits will be on one of the other major networks. Without the inclusion of top names in their field in the past, the RTO has had difficulty getting major sponsors for its event. Also, this past year it went up against Hot August Nights, so hotel rooms were hard to come by.

All in all, local golf buffs will have a full plate come next July.

Still going strong

Several decades ago, this area boasted an incredibly talented young comedian in the person of Cork Proctor. A tall, wavy-haired, handsome young man, he attended local Manogue High School and then did a stint in military service. Following that, he returned to this area as a legitimate stand-up comic. From the start of his career, he was an acerbic personality who delighted in roasting members of his audience. As his career progressed, it was said that he made Don Rickles look like Father Flanagan of “Boys Town” fame. His longest local engagement was in the Silver Dollar lounge at Harold’s Club, where he reigned supreme as not only a comic but also as a drummer for his trio The Winners. He was so well-received by locals and tourists alike that he eventually was able to partner up with several Reno businessmen and open a nightclub called The Elegant Wagon in the Moana West shopping center. It was an immediate success. Crowds were so good it was said that if you happened to be standing while watching his show and had a fainting spell, it would take you 15 minutes to hit the ground.

Having keen foresight, Proctor soon left this area and took his talents to greener entertainment pastures in Las Vegas. He is still there and performs on a regular basis.

Now, at age 77, he made a special trip to Reno last month to act as master of ceremonies for the Good Old Days club meeting that honored long-time local media personality Betty Stoddard Muncie. As usual, he was in rare form, roasting not only honoree but also just about everyone else in the room. His long lightning-quick repartee had the audience howling, including the kitchen and bar crews of the Elks building, where the G.O.D. meetings are held on the third Friday of every month. Following his stint at the mic, he confided to some buddies that he hadn’t visited this area in years and years but was now tempted to relocate to the spot where he had gotten his start. Could a latter-day Elegant Wagon be in the works?

Every now and then, word comes from afar about the passing of an individual who, while not a local, spent a great deal of time in Reno and while doing so contributed mightily to the publicizing of The Biggest Little City.

No one ranks higher in that category than the late Pierre Cossette, a Hollywood entertainment booking agent non pareil. Chief reason for giving this lofty status to Cossette is the fact that he single-handedly persuaded the iconic TV showman Ed Sullivan to do a five-minute live remote from the Skyroom of the Mapes hotel on his top-rated Sunday night variety show.

Impetus for the booking on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was the fact that the star of the show in the Skyroom at that time (the late 1950s) was none other than Paul Anderson, who had won the 1956 Olympic heavyweight lifting championship over the perennial Russian winners.

Since Sullivan had been a sportswriter prior to starring in TV, he immediately signed on. In order to stretch Anderson’s show for TV, a special circular swing was constructed, a la most playgrounds, with Anderson as the pillar and a dozen of the more attractive ladies in Reno sitting on the swing. Anderson lifted it and the girls spun around. Since it was a live shot, the showroom had to be filled at 5 p.m., with an audience “comped” by the hotel. It was the biggest TV exposure in the history of our town. In addition to his many other business accomplishments, Cossette single-handedly founded the Grammys and discovered a teenage Ann Margret, subsequently managing her to the top of the entertainment heap.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Harry Spencer’s column is sometimes a mix of reporting and opinion. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.

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