Archive for the ‘This ‘n That’ Category

Postcard of Flamingo Hotel and Bugsy Siegal

Dick Wolf preps American Babylon

Dick Wolf is prepping a new series, American Babylon, a period drama chronicling the story of the creation of Las Vegas. The series is inspired by the book, The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America by Sally Denton & Roger Morris. Mixing fictional characters and historical figures, the series explores the dreams, the power, corruption, and redemption of the “Miracle in the Desert”.

“I have always been fascinated by Las Vegas, a city that has the most colorful history of any in our country,” said Dick Wolf.

Drum roll, please

It’s been a few years since Bill and I collaborated on The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler. And I am still fascinated by the Reno divorce era and the romantic image of Eastern socialites mixing it up out West with cowboys.

The Divorce Seekers became the source book or “bible” (as it’s called) for an upclose glimpse into life on an exclusive Nevada divorce ranch  – the six-week residence of choice for wealthy Easterners and celebrities, who wanted to avoid the prying eyes of the press.

I am pleased to announce in May 2020, The Divorce Seekers was optioned by Emmy and Humanitas Award-winning writer/producer Judd Pillot for a broadcast, cable or streaming series. “Dick Wolf’s American Babylon bodes well for our project,” said Judd Pillot.

If I were in the studio or network casting department for this series, who would be my choice to play the Bill McGee character – the handsome and young dude wrangler on an exclusive Reno divorce ranch surrounded by all those wealthy and beautiful women? The late star of two-dozen-plus Westerns, Glenn Ford.

Please let me know your casting choice in the comments…

Best from Casa McGee,
Sandra

Brochure for the Boulderado Ranch, circa 1940s. (Courtesy Nevada Historical Society)

Brochure for the Boulderado Ranch, circa 1940s. (Courtesy Nevada Historical Society)

On Monday, April 20, 2015, Time Traveling premieres on the Travel Channel. 

The first episode in the new series features a visit to the sites of two former Las Vegas divorce ranches, Boulderado Ranch and Tule Springs Ranch. 

In spring 2014, Bill and I were contacted by the producers who were seeking information on Las Vegas divorce ranches of the 1940s and ’50s. Our book, The Divorce Seekers — A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler, is set in Northern Nevada, specifically the Reno area, where Nevada’s divorce business began. However, we do write about how Las Vegas got into the act years after Reno, and sent the producers a copy of our book.

In April 2015, in an interview for the Las Vegas Sun, Brian Unger of the Travel Channel told Robin Leach, “a book fell into the hands of someone in the home office, and they thought this would be a great story.”

We’re betting that book was The Divorce Seekers. 

What did we think of the first episode? We have to say, it was a disappointment. To our surprise, Reno’s role in the history of Nevada’s unique divorce ranch business was omitted completely. In fact, the program claimed Las Vegas as the town where Nevada’s divorce ranch business began. Shame, shame.

 

Related Post 
“A Place to Split” by Sandra McGee

 

 

Doing research... (Author photo)

Conducting research – Bill McGee (right) at the Clyde Park Tavern, Clyde Park, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Bill and I spent the month of September in his home state of Montana.

Objective: To research and fill in the blanks of Bill’s Montana roots for his upcoming memoir, Montana Memoir: The Hardscrabble Years, 1925-1942.

First stop: – Livingston (pop 7,000)
Like so many other small towns in the West, Livingston was established in the 1880s alongside the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

The wild and wooly town was situated on the Yellowstone River and was known as “the original gateway to Yellowstone National Park”. Tourists en route to the park had to change trains in Livingston and many spent the night in town before continuing their journey. By 1882, Livingston was a thriving community with 40 businesses, 30 of them saloons. Rough and tumble, the town attracted the likes of Calamity Jane, who is said to have lived in a local hotel with periodic stays in jail.

Bill was born at the  in Livingston in 1925. Bill’s father, Harry Ellwood “Mac” McGee, was homesteading in the Shields River Valley about 30 miles north of Livingston. When it was Bill’s time to be born, his “rich” uncle, Clyde M. Lyon, drove Bill’s mother, Vivian (Lyon) McGee, to the Lott Birthing Hospital in Livingston. Maternity patients at that time were not usually kept in regular hospitals. Numerous “maternity houses” – or “birthing hospitals” as they were also called – were scattered throughout Livingston before hospitals were thought appropriate for “lying in”.

The former Lott Birthing Hospital, Livingston, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

The former Lott Birthing Hospital, Livingston, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

The Lott Birthing Hospital, 128 S. Yellowstone Street, was originally a private residence built in 1889 (the year Montana achieved statehood) in the affluent West Side neighborhood known as “Bankers’ Row”. From 1920 to 1929, the residence housed the Lott Birthing Hospital run by local nurse Edith Lott. Nurse Lott was known for her compassion. She never asked if a patient could pay. She  took care of “the ladies from B Street” (the Red Light District) with no questions asked.

Today, the former Lott Birthing Hospital is once again a private residence and on the National Register of Historic Places. Livingston’s historic Main Street is a reminder of the past, with grand old buildings that have been restored. The town is a haven for artists, writers, and actors, with good restaurants – and still a healthy number of saloons.

Related Posts
Montana Memoir Research – Second stop: Wilsall (Post 2/3)
Montana Memoir Research – Final stop: Helena (Post 3/3)

Conducting research: The Bank Bar & Vault Restaurant, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Bill and I spent the month of September in his home state of Montana

Objective: To research and fill in the blanks of Bill’s family history for his upcoming memoir, Montana Memoir: The Hardscrabble Years, 1925-1942.

Second stop: Wilsall (pop 237 at the 2000 census) 

In 1911, Clyde M. Lyon — who would become Bill’s uncle in 1925 — was visiting the West, looking for a good place to raise cattle. Clyde Lyon had already established himself in the Midwest as a successful businessman. However, like so many entrepreneurs of his time, he was drawn to the West seeking new opportunities. 

When he visited Wilsall, a small community about 30 miles north of Livingston in the Shields River Valley, he was convinced it was a good place for cattle ranching. 

By 1919, Clyde Lyon owned several ranches in Park and Meagher counties, as well as the Wilsall Mercantile Store, still doing a thriving business today (see below for then and now photos).

At the time, Harry Elwood “Mac” McGee, a cowboy and blacksmith, had a reputation around Montana as a top hand with horses. Clyde Lyon spotted Harry McGee’s talent with horses and hired him on the spot to work on his  ranches in Park and Meagher counties.

While working for Clyde Lyon, Harry McGee met Clyde’s sister, Vivian, who was working in the Wilsall Mercantile Store. In 1921, Harry and Vivian married, much against Clyde’s wishes, who did not want his educated sister to marry a cowboy. Harry and Vivian had three children while living on Clyde Lyon’s ranches: Bill, and his sisters, Doris and Betty. 

Clyde Lyon would be numbered among the prosperous and well-to-do citizens of his community. In 1921, he was written up in a Montana “Who’s Who” as “one of the well-known agriculturists and ranchmen of Southern Montana. . . never losing the dignity which is the birthright of the true gentleman”. (Montana: Its Story and Biography, Vol. II, 1921)

 

Clyde M. Lyon's Wilsall Mercantile Company (on the right), Wilsall, MT, 1921 (Wilsall Museum)

Back when: Clyde M. Lyon’s Wilsall Mercantile Company (on the right), Wilsall, MT, 1921 (Courtesy Wilsall Museum)

 

Still in business today: Wilsall Mercantile Company, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Still in business today: Wilsall Mercantile Company, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

 

Conducting more research (Author photo)

Bill and I spent the month of September in his home state of Montana

Objective: To research and fill in the blanks of Bill’s Montana family history for his upcoming memoir, Montana Memoir: The Hardscrabble Years, 1925-1942.

Final stop: Helena, Montana’s capital (pop 29,351)

The Montana Historical Society in Helena had a wealth of information on Bill’s Uncle Clyde M. Lyon and Granduncle Frederick A. Lyon.

Frederick A. Lyon visited Montana in 1879 and, a few years later, settled in Forestgrove, near Lewistown. He courageously began his career as a homesteader on what was practically desert land. His operations grew and prospered, and, by 1921, he owned 2,000 acres of valuable and productive land. He was one of the pioneers in the business of alfalfa growing in Fergus County.

We hated to leave “Big Sky” country, but it was time to head home to California and process our new research into the manuscript for Bill’s Montana memoir, published three years later.

 

Related Posts
Montana Memoir Research – First stop: Livingston (Post 1/3)
Montana Memoir Research – Second stop: Wilsall (Post 2/3)

 

 

 

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Sandra with Mark P. Hall-Patton (left), Clark County Museums Administrator and a regular guest on the hit TV series Pawn Stars.

Las Vegas, Nevada, June 25-29, 2013 — Hundreds of the country’s top Western writers gathered at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for the Western Writers of America 60th Annual Convention.

Western novelists, historians, screenwriters, songwriters, and the agents and editors who represent them, enjoyed five days of Western camaraderie, networking, and learning.

This year a much-debated topic was the recently released Johnny Depp movie, The Lone Ranger. WWA members are serious researchers and know their history when it comes to the “old West”,  so there were lively debates about the movie and just who was the real Lone Ranger.

On Friday, June 28, seventy Western writers signed their books at Barnes & Noble in Henderson. The book signing was kicked off by a few words from Mark P. Hall-Patton, Clark County Museum administrator, and a regular guest on the hit TV series Pawn Stars.

Bob Wiseman, the Las Vegas author of the award-winning cookbook Healthy Southwestern Cooking, said, “This is a rare opportunity to meet some of the best known writers of the old and contemporary West.”

Bill and I represented the contemporary West with our book, The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler. Other writers taking part in the signing included Thomas Cobb, author of Crazy Heart, adapted into an Oscar-winning movie starring Jeff Bridges, and Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winning screenwriter of  HBO’s John Adams.

Western Writers of America (WWA) was founded in 1953 to promote and recognize literature of the American West. The membership includes novelists, historians, essayists, journalists, songwriters, screenwriters, editors, agents, and others. Annual conventions are held each June in a different Western community. Past winners of WWA’s prestigious Spur Award include Jane Smiley, Larry McMurtry, Stephen E. Ambrose, Tony Hillerman, and Elmer Kelton.

A new book idea is explored with Lynn Bueling (left) and Sandra and Bill McGee.

Bill and Sandra discuss a book idea with Lynn Bueling (left).

 

Related Post
WWA at National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Okalahoma City, June 2009

 

 

 

September 2012 – The documentary team for RENO and the Romance of Divorce met in Reno to discuss the next phase of development for the upcoming documentary.

After the morning meeting, the creative team (Bill, Sandra, John Cork, Lisa van Eyssen, Guy Rocha, Mella Harmon, Deb Wiger Geraghty) attended Neal and Mary Cobb’s Annual Pig Roast on their Reno ranch. More than 200 guests enjoyed a Western-style gather with an abundance of food, good music, camaraderie and, of course, the roasted pig.

Neal Cobb, Reno historian

Neal Cobb, Reno historian extraordinaire

 

“RRD” documentary producer John Cork (center) with “2012 Distinguished Nevadan” Guy Rocha (left) and Reno gaming historian/author Dwayne Kling (right).

 

(L to R) Steve Ellison, producer “Harolds Club” documentary; author and “RRD” creative consultant Bill McGee; Deb Wiger Geraghty, “RRD” creative consultant; James Stavena.

 

“RRD” producer Lisa van Eyssen (left) with “RRD” creative consultant and author Sandra McGee.

 

Roasting the pig on the Neal Cobb ranch, Reno

The roasting pig

Mount Rose, Nevada, November 2009 – On a chilly morning in November 2009, Bill and I gathered with four close friends to dedicate the Bill and Sandra McGee Mile on the Tahoe Rim Trail. The mile we chose to sponsor is the Connector Trail from the Mt. Rose Summit Trailhead to Relay Peak Road.

Per Bill’s wishes, our sponsored mile was dedicated to Emmy Wood, the legendary proprietor of the famous Flying M.E. divorce ranch, where Bill worked as the head dude ranch wrangler from 1947 to 1949.

Bill has a long history with Lake Tahoe going back to the 1930s, when he first visited the Lake as a teenager while thumbing his way around the West. Following his discharge from the Navy after World War II, he worked at the Lake as a trail and deer hunting guide for the Bob Scates stables in Tahoe City.

From 1947 to 1949, when Bill was the head dude wrangler on the Flying M.E., south of Reno, he led ranch guests on pack trips and overnight camping trips to the Lake.

Bill left cowboying in 1950, but he returned to Lake Tahoe as often as he could… as a hiker, a skier, and a writer. In the 1980s, when Bill was living in Incline Village, Nevada, he was one of the first volunteers to help build the Tahoe Rim Trail.

On May 15, 2010, Bill and I were presented with a Commemorative Plaque for our sponsorship of the Bill and Sandra McGee Mile on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

(L to R) TRT’s Janice Barbour, Director of Development; Mark Kimbrough, former Executive Director; and (far right) Mary Bennington, Executive Director

For more on the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s Adopt-a-Mile program, visit Tahoe Rim Trail.

 

Emmy-winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis (HBO’s John Adams) and Sandra at Western Writers of America Mega-Book Signing, The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK, June 2009.

Oklahoma City, OK, June 19, 2009 — The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City showcased members of the Western Writers of America with a Mega-Book Signing on Friday, June 19, 2009. More than 70 Western authors participated in the event staged in the magnificent Sam Noble Special Events Center.

“The Museum is pleased to be joining WWA in providing this occasion for the public to meet the authors who keep the history and spirit of the West alive in many different styles of writing,” said Don Reeves, the Museum’s McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture.

Bill and I were accepted into WWA this year for our book, set in the contemporary West, The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler.

I met Emmy-winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis, who wrote the teleplay for HBO’s John Adams. Bill shared stories with actor/writer/producer Andrew J. Fenady. Both men were in the television business back in the 1950s.

And Bill and I were interviewed for local TV. (See Related Posts below.)

Bill with Andrew J. Fenady (Chisum, Hondo).

Bill with Andrew J. Fenady (Chisum, Hondo).

Western Writers of America (WWA) was founded in 1953 to promote and recognize literature of the American West. The membership includes novelists, historians, essayists, journalists, songwriters, screenwriters, editors, agents, and others. Annual conventions are held each June in a different Western community. Past winners of WWA’s prestigious Spur Award include Jane Smiley, Larry McMurtry, Stephen E. Ambrose, Tony Hillerman, and Elmer Kelton.

 

Related Posts
WWA 60th Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 2013

Interview with Bill McGee, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Interview with Sandra McGee, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

 
Western Writers of America authors Bill McGee and Ann Terry Hill

Portland, Oregon, May 15, 2009 – Western Writers of America authors Bill McGee and Ann Terry Hill discuss marketing plans for their books.  Ann Terry Hill’s newest, Pendleton Round-up at 100: Oregon’s Legendary Rodeo, will be released in July 2009 and is already a top seller on Amazon.  

A native of Pendleton, Oregon, and a former Pendleton Round-Up princess and queen, there’s no one better-suited than Ann Terry to write this authoritative history.  I had the opportunity to preview Pendleton Round-Up at 100, a beautiful coffee table book with more than 900 photos (many never before published). Every Western aficionado will want a copy for their collection.

We wish Ann Terry Hill many happy book sales ahead!