On April 1, 1956, local police arrested an intoxicated nude woman walking near the Main Street and Bonanza Road intersection. A newspaper dubbed her “Lady Godiva sans equine.” More recently, on Feb. 19, police caught “a naked woman in a yard, (apparently) on drugs or mentally ill, having sex with a dog” near Bonanza and 16th Street.
And there you have it, dear reader: Opposite ends of our historical urban cosmesis revealing striking similarities — the 21st century’s Sin City yin differing very little from the previous century’s Entertainment Capital yang. After all, we are an ongoing gambling culture in a world where the human race is, if nothing else, always entertaining.
Or, as T.S. Eliot wrote, “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Even in Vegas, baby.
I only bring this up because our town seems vulnerable to a cultural immune deficiency disorder. That is, being the city of sin — with its economy based on gambling, alcohol and sex — we seem so much into the habit of catering to scumbags in the name of business that we have difficulty distinguishing psychos from saints anymore.
Last week, I read a 900-word article in the Review-Journal promoting the appearance of singer Peter Yarrow, formerly of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, a liberal musical group from the 1960s that would often sing about social injustices. In its fluff piece, the R-J unfortunately failed to mention Yarrow’s conviction in 1970 as a sex offender and subsequent one-to-three-year prison sentence for molesting a 14-year-old girl. (He served a few months.)
Why unfortunate? Because during his sold-out concert here, ironically held at the Historic Fifth Street School, Yarrow seemed to relish being close to the children in the audience. Very close. Huggy and kissy close. Audaciously, he invited kids onstage to sing along with his classic composition, “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” a song about the loss of childhood innocence. He hugged participating children, kissing them ever so gently on their heads. And after the concert, when signing autographs, he held and kissed the hands of teenage girls during his conversations with them.
When I asked 10 audience members if they were aware he was a convicted sex offender, surprisingly, nine said they were not.
When questioning the 74-year-old Yarrow himself if he had to register as a sex-offender while traveling, he said, “No, I got a presidential pardon.”
“So that exempts you for the rest of your life?” I asked.
“That’s right,” he replied in a boastful tone. In 1981, he had been pardoned by President Carter. At the time, Yarrow was married to former Democratic U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s niece.
Can we say “friends in high places,” kiddies?
Upon hearing this, Martin Dean Dupalo, president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics, remarked: “We have a culture that seems more accepting of these acts than regular American towns.”
Yeah. Vegas, a city without innocence or Puff, the magic dragon. Yet crazy nude women and predators everywhere.
CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher.