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Steven Brooks is ready for his close-up

<p>George Knapp</p>

George Knapp

Assemblyman Steve Brooks, this one’s for you. Or, to be more specific, this one’s for your now-bulging scrapbook of news clippings and media mentions.

In truth, I’m only guessing about the scrapbook and will admit up front I don’t have any special insight into the tangled mind of the previously obscure lawmaker, now transformed into one of the highest-profile elected officials in the state. I haven’t even met the guy. But my gut tells me he is enjoying every minute of his momentary notoriety. I would bet money he is saving a copy of every newspaper article that mentions his name. By now, that’s a pretty tall stack of clippings.

Like you, I read the stories about the closed-door discussions in Carson City concerning Mr. Brooks’ immediate future as a maker of laws. (You’ll recall the Legislature convened this week.) When the news broke a few days ago about a supposed deal in which Brooks would agree to “step aside” for awhile, presumably so that he could address his prodigious legal matters and to perhaps seek out some much-needed counseling or treatment, I didn’t buy it for a second.

There is no way in hell this guy is going to voluntarily walk away from the warm glow of the spotlight. Not a chance. When legislative leaders confidently declared that Brooks had agreed to stay away from the 2013 session for 60 days, followed a day later by the news that he had reneged on his promise, no feather was needed to knock me over. The question is, why did anyone else believe he would keep his word?

I think Brooks is digging this. Big time. Remember the gigantic photo on the front page of the R-J of the half-naked assemblyman showing off his supposed wounds? For any rational public official, that snapshot would have been seen as a mortifying career-killer. Do you think Mr. Brooks saw it that way, or do you think he bought extra copies of that edition at every 7-Eleven in his neighborhood? Reporter Ben Spillman obtained a riveting and revealing interview with the troubled solon, but the exclusive didn’t last long. Brooks said he didn’t want to talk to any media, but he kept sending quixotic late-night texts to Jon Ralston. And when Channel 8’s Nathan Baca showed up at his door with a TV camera, Brooks kept insisting that he didn’t want to talk, then continued to blab away. He closed the door on the TV crew, then opened it again. Closed it. Opened it. He spit out more comments that he supposedly didn’t want to make.

I watched the TV coverage of the opening day at the Legislature. Brooks was the center of attention wherever he went. Security kept a tight watch on him, as did the media and his legislative colleagues. All eyes were on Brooks, and it sure seemed to me that he was nearly orgasmic about the scrutiny. He smiled. He laughed. He walked around the chamber, wearing an enormous black coat that could have been fitted for Arnold Schwarzenegger, shaking hands with startled colleagues and playing to the cameras that followed his every move. Ah, what a blissful and triumphant moment it must have been. Had he known that the path to legislative stardom was this easy — a gun, some ammo, a few poorly chosen words — maybe he could have made a few moves much earlier. Imagine all the fun he could have, not to mention the headlines he could generate, if he could have landed the coveted job as chairman of Ways and Means. Imagine.

Brooks isn’t going to walk away from something so satisfying, so delicious — not voluntarily anyway. If he stays, he knows he will be a center of attention. There will be more headlines, more stories. In his present state of mind, he doesn’t seem to care whether the stories are complimentary or not. And if his colleagues somehow muster the gumption to force him out, he knows there’s a lawyer who will help him sue to be reinstated. That means court hearings, TV cameras, headlines and more clippings for the scrapbook. For now and the foreseeable future, he is a triumphant Leo DiCaprio perched above the bow of the Titanic. King of the World.

It’s a sad story, one with no happy ending in sight.


R-J scribe Norm Clarke spilled the beans last week about a planned biography of legendary Las Vegas lawman Ralph Lamb. Yes, I have been working with Sheriff Lamb on a possible book project for several months. Since Lamb is the central character in a successful network TV show based on his life, there is a lot of interest in the real story. I can tell you for a fact that the real story is much more interesting than the TV drama, which is pretty good on its own. Anyone with Lamb stories or ideas for interview subjects is welcome to contact me by e-mail. … Las Vegas TV producer Rich Travis, a near-legendary wild man who’s spent 30 years behind the scenes of countless major productions in town, is taking a breather. Travis underwent a second heart operation this week. Doctors in SoCal inserted some sort of high-tech contraption into his aorta, even though it was not exactly clear that he would be able to survive the surgery. He did. It might be premature to call him Iron Man, but that’s the term his friends are using now that he is out of the danger zone. … The Las Vegas office of the IRS has just wrapped up what might be its most aggressive year of criminal investigations. The latest high profile target is an alleged scamster named Desage. He is scheduled for a court showdown at the end of this week, charged with stealing $190 million from unsuspecting victims, money that was spewed atop dice pit and card tables at several of our finest casinos. It is a certainty that many of the agents who put together the case against Mr. Desage will be on hand for his big day.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at