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That’s LIFE

15 Apr

Drunk or Not So Drunk – That was the Question
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LIFE Magazine – April 1, 1939

“Last fortnight [Virginia City’s] population totaled 500, most of whom got so drunk that Warner Bros. curtailed its visit and hustled its valuable stars back to Reno’s safer streets.”

Famed Ghost Town of the Comstock Lode Awakens for the Premier of “Virginia City” – See page 32

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LIFE Magazine – April 15, 1939

No Black Eye for Errol

Drunks in Virginia City

SIRS:

THE UNDERSIGNED REPRESENTING THE PEOPLE OF VIRGINIA CITY DEMAND THAT YOU RETRACT AND APOLOGIZE IN YOUR NEXT ISSUE THE FOLLOWING ISSUE PUBLISHED IN IN APRIL FIRST ISSUE, PAGE 32: “LAST FORTNIGHT ITS POPULATION TOTALED 500, MOST OF WHOM GOT SO DRUNK THAT WARNER BROS CURTAILED ITS VISIT AND HUSTLED ITS VALUABLE STARS BACK TO RENO’S SAFER STREETS.” THE STATEMENT IS FALSE AND AN INSULT TO THE PEOPLE OF VIRGINIA.

WILL COBB, STATE SENATOR – THOMAS LYNCH, ASSEMBLY MAN

VIRGINIA CITY, NEV.

Editor’s Response: Thousands of visitors poured into Virginia City that day. Probably they were the ones that raised most of the commotion. The fact remains that what made the movie stars hustle back was the conduct of the patrons of the Virginia Theater where the stars were scheduled to make personal appearances. Said a U.P. dispatch to the New York Times: “So gala was the occasion that Manager Hart installed a bar in his lobby and served free whiskey and champagne to all ticket holders…. Manager Hart rushed new relays of case goods from the Bucket of Blood across the street.” When the Warner Bros. executives reached the theater, they decided the patrons were drunk, that the situation was too dangerous for them to risk their valuable stars. If Errol Flynn, for instance, had received a black eye from a flying bottle, it would have cost them $20,000 a day. So they took everybody back to Reno.

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LIFE Magazine – May 6, 1940

“Champagne in the Streets”

I read your issue of April 15 that Warner Bros.could not risk taking Errol Flynn et al into the Virginia City Theater because they decided “the patrons were drunk” and there was some danger Mr. Flynn’s being hit by a flying bottle.

I do not know who your informant is, but he or she s – to put it mildly – a liar. I was in that theater. My family was there. great many people I know were also there. There was no drunkenness and no disorderly conduct. Mr. Flynn would have been very much safer than he was in Reno.

True, Mr. Hart did dispense free champagne, but those who drank it were on the streets and not in the theater.

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Errol the Auctioneer, on the same stage used by Gentleman Jim Corbett, Mark Twain, Lillie Langtry, John Philip Souza, and Edwin Booth, among many other legendary greats

“Piper’s Opera House is a historic performing arts venue in Virginia City. It served as a training facility in 1897 for heavyweight boxing champion Gentleman Jim Corbett, in preparation for his title bout with Bob Fitzsimmons. The current structure was built by entrepreneur John Piper in 1885 to replace his 1878 opera house that had burned down. The 1878 venue, in turn, had been to replace Piper’s 1863 venue which was destroyed by the 1875 Great Fire in Virginia City. Mark Twain spoke from the original Piper’s stage in 1866, and again a century later in the third venue, as portrayed by Hal Holbrook in his one-man play Mark Twain Tonight! A lynch mob hung a victim from the first venue’s rafters in 1871. American theatrical producer David Belasco was stage manager at the second opera house before moving to New York City. Piper’s opera houses played host to Shakespearean thespians such as Edwin Booth. Musical performers Lilly Langtry, Al Jolson and John Philip Sousa once performed here. In 1940, Errol Flynn auctioned off historic Piper memorabilia from the opera house stage, during a live NBC broadcast that coincided with the premiere of Flynn’s new movie Virginia City.”

— Gentleman Tim

 

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