My Point of View/By Rolando Larraz
All weekend I watched reruns of “Vegas” television shows, it was incredible. I watched all day Saturday and all day Sunday without stopping.
I really didn’t like the name of the show; all those who know me know how I feel about cutting off the first three letters of our city’s name. I believe our city is “Las Vegas” and no other name and we all should be proud of the name.
Any nickname or substitute name does not bother me as much, such as “The entertainment capital of the world,” or even “Sin City” can be okay, but we do not call our neighboring city to the south “Angeles”; we might call it L.A. or City of the Angels, but no one calls San Diego “Diego,” yet that is the American way — shortening everything.
That is not the main point of My Point of View this week; my point is that most of those Vegas shows were filmed in the seventies, almost half a century ago and in the fifty hours of that so-called “marathon,” I was pleased to see many people of color (Black) being part of the shows and I did not see that much discrimination, such as a lack of opportunity for Black people in show business.
I remember back in the sixties while I was publishing the first Spanish newspaper in Nevada, La Verdad, I asked then-under-sheriff Lloyd Bell under Ralph Lamb’s regime, why there were not many opportunities for Spanish speaking officers and he explained to me that the department places advertising in the local newspapers looking for Spanish people that want a career in law enforcement, but if they do not answer the advertisement there is nothing they can do about it.
Undersheriff Lloyd Bell told me that in America there is a well known saying that goes like this, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink it” and I agree with that.
When I went over to Channel Five to buy air time for a Spanish television show I shocked everyone there; never before had anyone asked for Spanish television airtime, but I got it.
As soon as I got my show, two Cuban people that I had asked to be part of my idea and to join me in starting a television show and who had declined to participate went behind my back asking Channel Five for that very same time slot.
They did not want an hour before or an hour after, that would have sped up what later became a booming Spanish market; they only wanted my time slot.
Maybe that is what happened with some Black people, those who wanted to be in show business and applied for it, were qualified and got the opportunity; others, those who might have expected producers or directors to go out to the community and lure them in just because they were Black or Spanish speaking found out they were wrong.
“The Jeffersons” were a predominantly all-Black television show that started in the sixties (fifty years ago) and there was an audience for those shows.
I do, however, remember some type of discrimination back then. I remember during the early sixties when Sammy Davis Jr. was playing at the Sands Hotel and was not able to stay in the same hotel because he was Black, even if the hotel was making money with his appearance at their hotel.
In my humble opinion, most of the discrimination back then was mainly by the government, by the elected officials, and by big corporations.
Back in 1976, when I opened Communication Network System, the first ever bilingual answering service in our city, I hired bilingual operators, but not all the operators were native Spanish speaking.
There were two American-born operators who happened to speak Spanish also and they were hired.
Nothing is perfect in this world. I know that, but we also have to make an effort to help ourselves; almost everything that I have started has been classified as “crazy” or “outragious”; sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but I tried.
In 1969 I tried to bring a female impersonators’ show like “Finoccios” in San Francisco to the Silver Slipper, but they turned me down because “Las Vegas is not a city for those types of shows” and today there are several of “those types of shows” in our city.
There was Nancy Wilson playing in one hotel. Dianna Ross playing in another, Ike and Tina Turner at another; also of course Sammy, Lola Falana, Bill Cosby, and Louis Prima playing the showrooms.
The Checkmates, the Treniers, BB King, they were all over the lounges;
I remember the Checkmates having a show at 5 a.m. at Caesars Palace and the line was all the way to the front door of the hotel.
Don’t let anyone fool you — it isn’t because they’re Black or Spanish that someone doesn’t like a person. If you don’t like a person, you don’t like a person, period.
My name is Rolando Larraz, and as always, I approved this column.
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Rolando Larraz is Editor in Chief of the Las Vegas Tribune. His column appears weekly in this newspaper. To contact Rolando Larraz, email him at: Rlarraz@lasvegastribune.com or at 702-272-4634.