If you are a relative newcomer to Las Vegas, or a youngster, chances are you won’t recognize Joe Delaney’s name. But for many years he was a giant in the local entertainment and journalism communities. He was an entertainment columnist and feature reporter for the Las Vegas Sun for an astonishing 35 years (1967-2002), wrote thousands of stories, appeared at countless charity and community events and was on a first-name basis with every performer who came to town during what is widely regarded as the Golden Age of Las Vegas entertainment.
He knew Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and the rest of the Rat Pack, knew their band leaders, musicians at every live venue in town, and when out-of-town reporters or networks needed to interview someone about a singer or show or entertainment scandal, Joe was often the first guy they turned to.
More than that, he was a delightful Irish gentleman. My first job in TV required me to run a studio camera at Channel 10, and Joe was often there to tape entertainment programs, so I got to know him on a casual basis, and he never forgot my name or those of the other folks who worked behind the scenes.
Because he was such a stand-up guy and straight shooter, his family was a bit surprised to learn that Joe kept a secret stash in a New York bank. A year after he died, a bill arrived from the bank. Joe’s wife and daughter learned that he had been paying $50 a year for 18 years to maintain a safety deposit box at the bank, but he never told anyone what was in it. Daughter Kathleen, now a District Court judge, always intended to go to New York to retrieve the contents, but time sort of slipped by, and each year the renewal notice came, so they kept paying it, though it always gnawed at them what might be hidden inside.
A few weeks ago, Judge Delaney had another reason to visit New York, so she took along the key to the box and decided the time had come to resolve the mystery.
“I was never concerned about what I might find inside because my dad was a straight-up guy,” Delaney told me. “I knew it wouldn’t be anything bad, but I was anxious that it might be empty because I know he opened it in 1984 for some reason.”
She picked up the box like a kid grabbing a Christmas present, shook it to listen for the sound of coins or diamonds inside, then stepped into a room and cracked it open. The first thing she saw was a stack of stock certificates. IBM, maybe? Early investments in Apple? Alas, no. The stocks dated back to the 1950s, from a time when Joe was married to his first wife and was working in New York in the music business. One of the certificate was from something called the Surf Music Corp., another for 100 shares of Lucky Management, 200 shares of Doris management, all of them companies that have long since faded into obscurity. But also in the box was a life insurance policy his family never knew about.
The monetary value of the contents is irrelevant to the Delaneys, the family says. The real fun for them was the rekindled memory of Joe, and the grin-inducing recognition that the penny-wise, pound-foolish newspaperman had maintained the box for so long, for no reason other than habit. “I still have no idea why he put those papers into that box in 1984, but it was classic Joe Delaney,” his daughter said.
It’s an ending worthy of Al Capone’s vault, except that this little side trip brought back a flood of fond memories about one of the grand gentlemen of Las Vegas journalism.
It is somewhat encouraging to learn that the taxi industry — and, more importantly, taxi regulators — are at long last taking an interest in the reprehensible practice known as long-hauling, wherein some cab drivers take passengers on the longest possible route as a way to jack up the fares. As noted in this space many times, long-hauling occurs hundreds of times every single day, especially on trips originating at the airport. It amounts to a ripoff of tourists to the tune of millions of dollars per year.
A new GPS-based system is being installed in cabs that will allow companies and regulators to track the movements of individual taxis and drivers to see if any patterns emerge. The driving force behind the new technology is former state senator turned taxi executive Mark James. An actual crackdown would be great for the image of our town and also a welcome change for the many drivers who are honest but who are pressured to long-haul in order to compete against other, less scrupulous, drivers.
But before we declare the problem solved, keep in mind that most local cabs already have GPS systems, and if anyone wanted to single out those drivers who pull this crap every single time they are behind the wheel, it would be a fairly simple matter. The fact is, no one really looks at the computer logs and GPS info because it is labor-intensive. The Taxicab Authority sure as hell doesn’t put much effort into it, nor do the companies, and the proof is in the pudding — only 120 citations for long-hauling in all of 2012. There are probably that many violations every hour of every day.
So kudos to those who have proposed the installation of the new technology, and congrats to those drivers who never succumbed to the temptation to long-haul, but unless the TA makes it clear to the taxi companies that this crap needs to stop, and unless it starts writing actual citations and prosecuting the drivers who pull this stuff, nothing is going to change. Let’s check back in a month or two and see if this was more than a publicity stunt.
Ex-Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton, who made quite a splash a few months ago when her secret life as a high-priced Las Vegas call girl was made public, has reportedly agreed to a lucrative book deal. The dollar amounts I heard are damned impressive, and the word is, the writing has already begun. Makes me wonder if Suzy will give up the names of her wealthy clientele. … Former madam Heidi Fleiss, who now runs her own sanctuary in Nye County for exotic birds rescued from bad situations, has been interviewed for an upcoming program on Oprah Winfrey’s network. Heidi, who is a world-class character, reportedly told Oprah about her battles with illicit substances but says she has been clean for awhile and that the birds help keep her out of trouble. … Anyone with an interest in the best known secret military base in the world might want to check out a new book by Grant Cameron and Scott Crain called UFOs, Area 51, and Government Informants. It is an ambitious examination of the story and characters that put Area 51 on the map, specifically Bob Lazar, John Lear, Gene Huff and a host of other legitimate spooks and intelligence agents who were on the periphery of the wild stories that exploded back in 1989. … and if you haven’t yet visited the Area 51 exhibit at the Atomic Testing Museum, check it out. I took some out-of-town visitors through the exhibit and the larger museum the other day, and it still ranks as one of the most unique attractions our town has to offer. Fun, too.
GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.