Friday, July 11, 2008
I'm fortunate I got to know Joseph Walsh, the screenwriter and producer of "California Split," my all-time favorite gambling movie. Walsh explained in detail how he had to battle studio executives to preserve his vision of "Split" as a movie hard-core gamblers would appreciate. The studio heads were pushing to dumb it down into a bland, formulaic Hollywood production. Luckily, Walsh had director Robert Altman and star Elliott Gould -- two real gambling men -- on his side.
They demolished the Mapes Hotel early in the year 2000, reducing the historic high-rise to a pile of debris by the Truckee River in downtown Reno.
Walking past the Virginia Street site just days after the implosion, I was moved to reach under a fence to grab a piece of the rubble for a souvenir.
The jagged chunk of brick still occupies a prime piece of real estate on my fireplace mantel, but not because I particularly care that prominent Americans such as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and President Truman used to stay at the hotel.
Rather, the Mapes is meaningful to me as the site of the classic, climactic scenes of the 1974 comedy “California Split,” which still reigns as the ultimate gambling film.