‘Mark Twain’s Saga’ tells colorful tales of Nevada | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Mark Twain’s Saga’ tells colorful tales of Nevada

Linda J. Bottjer
McAvoy Layne portrays Mark Twain Friday at the Twain Center in Incline Village.

Since the age of Vikings, sagas have always told a story. Often they were robust accountings of great battles, brave action or outrageous behavior.

Having performed as the spirited Ghost of Mark Twain for a quarter-century, McAvoy Layne knows how to spin a good story, especially shocking ones about Nevada. It was during the height of state’s Comstoke Lode bonanza that a young writer, one Samuel Clemens, first used his pen name, Mark Twain.

This Friday, May 20 at Incline Village’s Mark Twain Cultural Center, Layne discloses the unique occasions and personalities of the state made famous from the riches of silver and disrespectability with his “Sagas of Nevada.”

While early pioneers took a gamble, sometimes of their lives, to mine silver, gambling itself was restricted and ostracized from Nevada’s 1864 statehood until 1910. Then it was completely outlawed. When the Great Depression’s talons tightened lawmakers agreed to “gaming,” and also made Reno the divorce capital of America.

It was no wonder, colorful and sometimes nefarious, characters flocked to Nevada, including the gambling side of Lake Tahoe.

Among the personalities woven into Layne’s entertainment will be 1940s gangster Bugsy Siegel, eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes and casino kingpin William Harrah. Also included will be the stars whose brilliance shone upon Lake Tahoe’s history, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.

Although Clemens left decades before the notoriety of many of these Nevada residents and visitors hit the media, Layne explains the connection by using the great American author’s oft quoted line: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Armed with a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his stories, Layne will mine riches from accounts like the Cal-Neva Resort.

Welcoming guests since the Roaring 20s of the last century the famed casino was once owned by Frank Sinatra. By the early 1960s “Old Blue Eyes” had long been able to attract attention, good and bad, for his antics and acquaintances.

One was Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana and another was Marilyn Monroe. A party at the resort involved all three and when mixed with FBI accusations of Giancana’s hidden partial casino ownership Sinatra was out, and another legend was born.

Layne says Nevada’s romance with disrespectability would have been one Twain would have enjoyed.

Recounting the tales in Twain’s witty observant style is something audience members can appreciate on Friday night.

As the real Twain once said, “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away and a sunny spirit takes their place.”

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