Photo: Norm Clarke

Photo: Norm Clarke

Twenty years ago tonight, I drove into Las Vegas amid one of the most surreal lightning storms I ever witnessed.

Within a few minutes, I was on the Strip, in a canyon of neon, under a canopy of spider web-like lightning bolts going every direction.

In split-second frames, the sky resembled tributary maps sketched in Lewis and Clark’s journals.

I was awestruck.

I interpreted it as an omen that my new job as gossip columnist of the Las Vegas Review-Journal was going to be the greatest adventure of my life.

It was all of that, and then some.

A month earlier, during my pitch to Sherm, I had convinced him the strength of the column would be the freshest entertainment news in town, including that Vegas staple, celebrities behaving badly. Sprinkled in would be the many out-of-town Vegas angles, salutes to old Vegas and anecdotes from the best storytellers. The Internet was blowing up at that time and I firmly believed that combination of content would have national appeal. Because of my decade-plus background with the Associated Press, I rarely engaged in the snarky or salacious..

A celebrity-centric column couldn’t miss, I thought, and the first hot tip, a week or so after I arrived, appropriately came from the man who hired me, Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick. He had just spotted Andre Agassi and Stefi Graf having lunch at Gordon Biersch Brewery, confirming rumors of their tennis royalty romance.

Another tip came in that Celine Dion was house hunting. She lent her star power to Las Vegas at a time when the city most needed it.

In the beginning, not everyone was happy with the new guy in town. Running sightings of celebrities who wanted to fly under the radar might cause some to stay away, I was told. Let ‘em blow off steam anonymously, some suggested. The social media explosion made that debate moot.

A weekly publication, in its annual cover story about people Las Vegas could definitely do without, singled out about a dozen of us, from politicians to radio deejays. The caricature on the cover showed us riding a rocket ship above Las Vegas. If memory serves, I was given one of the “best” seats.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Thankfully, Frederick was all-in for the man-about-town column I had done at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. He liked the concept and the timing: a wave of new resorts, shows and megaclubs had re-ignited the city.

So that’s what I did from 1999 until 2016, when I had a serious health scare. It was the greatest job I ever had in a city I love.

Do I miss it? Absolutely, but with a caveat. I don’t miss the pressure of daily deadlines five or six days a week. I miss breaking news, my passion for more than half a century. I’m busier than ever, digging up exciting information for my autobiography about the most inspirational people in my life.

As for my health, my quality of life hasn’t been this enjoyable since the cancer issues arose in 2002. I am a miracle of modern medicine. The only downside: Between writing the book, doing “Conversations with Norm” at the Smith Center, and keeping Norm.Vegas updated, I need more naps.

I hope to have the book out by next spring or early summer. I miss seeing you all and look forward to getting back in the social swirl when normalcy returns. Keep the tips coming.

Norm Clarke1 Comment