What a surprise from Fedex today… two champagne glasses from Reno’s Mapes estate sent to us by fellow Reno history buffs, Deb Wiger Geraghty and James Stavena. As Bill and I toasted each other with sparkling rose, and wondered whose lips – famous and infamous – had sipped from these glasses, Bill once again told me his story about being at the Mapes Hotel on opening night, December 17, 1947. He was then working as the head dude wrangler on the famous Flying M.E. dude ranch. In Bill’s words…
“The elegant Art Deco-style hotel overlooking the Truckee River was twelve stories high, the tallest building in Nevada at the time. Until then, the El Cortez Hotel was the tallest at seven stories. The Mapes changed the Reno skyline.
Reno society and Hollywood celebrities turned out en masse for opening night. From the Flying M.E., ranch hostess Allie Okie, Flying M.E. owner Emmy Wood, and I escorted two carloads of ranch guests into town for the big event. When we arrived at the Mapes. Allie and I stayed in the cocktail lounge and casino with the guests who wanted to drink and gamble. Emmy took the other guests up to the Sky Room on the top floor. Reservations were not taken for opening night, but Emmy had pull and she and her guests were escorted to a nice window table. Joe Reichman, billed as the “Pagliacci of the Piano,” and his orchestra were playing. Emmy said the dance floor was crowded and the views through the large picture windows overlooking the lights of Reno and the surrounding foothills and mountains were magnificent.
The Mapes soon became a favorite place for Reno society, East Coast divorce seekers such as Astor and du Pont, and Hollywood celebrities such as Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. The Sky Room became a Reno showplace featuring famous entertainers. It was a favorite destination for Flying M.E. guests when they wanted to dress up for a night out on the town with dinner, dancing and a show.
In the ground floor casino, Allie and I spotted actors Bruce Cabot and Johnny Weismuller, boxer Maxie Rosenbloom, and other familiar faces. Johnny Weismuller had just begun his six-week residency at the Donner Trail Ranch in nearby Verdi to divorce San Francisco socialite Beryl Scott. Weismuller was easy to spot with his long hair, dark glasses and unmistakable physique. During the next six weeks, he would spend so much time at the Mapes gambling, drinking and dining, a newspaper reporter dubbed him “Tarzan of the Mapes.”
Sadly, with the growth of Reno and the competition of newer hotel/casinos, the Mapes fell into decline. In January 2000, the venerable and much-loved hotel was imploded, after many failed attempts to save the building.”
(Bill’s story excerpted from The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler. The bronze horses from the 1940s were also a gift from Deb and James from a Reno antique shop. At Sandra’s request, they’re still on the lookout for the sterling silver cocktail shaker with the Flying M.E. brand.)