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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Readers Represent: Who is Your Icon?

When people think of Las Vegas, they conjure up certain images or people that are connected with the Vegas lore. Vegas means the Rat Pack, Elvis, showgirls, gamblers, hustlers, Wayne Newton, glitter, flash, fast cash, lost wages, and desert sunshine. On a recent trip to Sin City, I found my very own Vegas icon to add to the list: Rex, the Bally’s Hotel bartender.

My husband and I watched Rex chill the martini glasses perfectly in liquid ice and cascading cylindrical ice cubes until they achieved the perfect luster and icy coolness. He worked quickly, but carefully, and our Hendricks martinis were served with pure and subtle perfection. It’s what you would expect from Rex and then again it wasn’t either. Rex, with his overly smooth, tanned skin, silvery fox, perfectly coiffed hair, snappy Vegas style accessories, and crisp, perfectly pressed uniformed stood for bartending magic. Yet, Rex had a working man, regular guy appeal, too. Built like a former high school wrestler and subtle conversational grammatical errors and casual stance, he was great and easy to talk to. He’s been a bartender at the Bally’s Hotel (formerly the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino) on the strip for 32 years. As a teen he drifted aimlessly and took work that just “happened” along. Due to an error processing his application to be an electrician’s apprentice, he took the gamble and found the bartending opening and thought “why not?” Ah, the essence of Vegas: Why not?

I asked Rex about the horrible 1980 fire that broke out in the casino and 87 people perished when Bally’s was the MGM. He remembered the time well. He wasn’t working that day, but golfing with buddies, because his bartending shift got changed at the last minute that day. The fire changed the face and mood of Vegas—the city of pleasure was in pain. Didn’t last long though—the facility was rebuilt in under a year and Vegas forged on. The hotel also set the benchmark for the rest of the world for fire safety and preparation according to Rex during the aftermath of the tragedy. It also was a turning point for him. He mentioned a “first” wife and a son back then, but you got the sense things changed for him too. I got the vibe that he survived anyway and returned to the job and the city that nurtured him. The people, the sounds, the sights—he embraced them with a sense of adventure. I guess Rex is the kind of guy that would laugh at the city’s foibles and plain goofiness, but would never leave her.

Rex: Vegas Icon.

Who are your local icons? Who is the quintessential person that defines your ‘hood? Your city? Why?



EmeraldPrincessOnline said...

The Town of Steilacoom in conjunction with the Steilacoom Chamber of Commerce bestows the title of "Citizen of The Year" on a selected individual who is recognized to have contributed in a substantial way to the quality of life in the community.

For quite some time I have felt that the most dedicated, devoted, determined advocate and promoter of the Town of Steilacoom has yet to be recognized formally for her achievements.

Furthermore, the title "Citizen of The Year" would seem inadequate for her.

"Citizen of The Century" would be more fitting.

I nominate Nancy Covert of the Town of Steilacoom as "Citizen of The Century."

Nancy Covert is a proud mother and doting grandmother who delights in tea parties with her grandchildren. She has resided in a picturesque cottage near a pond just west of Union Avenue (Steilacoom/DuPont Road) in the ultimate idyllic setting where one might imagine a writer would hole-up to generate the Great American Novel.

Nancy is indeed a writer. She writes for both 'fun and profit.'

Nancy has served the Town of Steilacoom as Public Information Officer handling media relations and formal press releases. She is employed by the Steilacoom Historical School District in a similar capacity. She ventured forth for a short time to a media relations job at PLU, but her heart brought her back to Steilacoom. She has had subsequent offers and opportunities to relocate to Vashon Island or farther north to Bellingham: better pay, more benefits. But she has chosen to remain anchored in Steilacoom.

It is Nancy who has her finger on the pulse of the 'Town on The Sound' more than anyone else I can name.

Nancy is a dynamo. Nancy is never short on ideas. If you have ever met Nancy, then you already know that if you tell her anything about anything, it is almost guaranteed that the next sentence out of her mouth will begin with, "You should..." and then she'll go into an explanation and an outline for you of how and where you should have your idea published.

Even to my brother who is terminally ill, Nancy has said, "You should..." and then she has nudged him to get busy and write about his life, to journal every day.

Nancy is the kind of person everyone should cherish as a friend. She never minces words. You can count on her to tell you the truth. You can count on her to tell you what she really things. She is not given to glossing over topics that might be sensitive. She says and writes what she thinks. There is nothing ambiguous about Nancy. You will always know where you stand with her. That's the kind of person any of us should desire as a friend: someone who tells us the truth, no matter what. And no matter what the response may be, secure in the knowledge that the friendship can survive any of it, because it is (whatever she has said) the truth as she sees it.

Nancy is always working on writing stories, having stories published, leaving no stone unturned in her pursuit of the facts for a news story.

Nancy's expertise in working with the business community is second to none, also. Nancy has served multiple terms on the Chamber of Commerce as a board member. We have worked together on various community projects.

It is Nancy who has documented much of the Town's history in her work with the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association.

It is Nancy who gets the press releases out to the newspapers about community events such as the Spaghetti Feed each spring or the Salmon Bake each summer.

It is Nancy who spearheads the teams of judges who rate the displays of outdoor holiday decorating around the Town.

It is Nancy who gathers the facts, writes powerfully, and ensures that what she has learned is disseminated to the public.

Nancy's mind is never at rest. Her thoughts are flooded with ideas about how to help others, how to promote and preserve the historic heritage of the Town of Steilacoom. She is a good person to have in your corner; a friend for life. But ever more so in the business and professional arena, Nancy Covert is not the kind of person to put anything off until the last minute. Nancy is the kind of person who beats deadline, doing all of her homework and legwork well in advance so nothing is left to chance or to the last minute. The diligence of her work ethic alone sets her above the crowd. She embraces not only her work, but the community and life itself.

Often the "Citizen of The Year" is someone chosen from the community who has lived a life of service to our country through the military. I think it is time for the citizens of Steilacoom to give recognition to the gem they have in their midst who works relentlessly to promote, protect, and preserve the Town of Steilacoom: Nancy Covert.

In addition to all the writing Nancy does in the course of her day-to-day work with stories and photos she has contributed to and/or published in The News Tribune or the Suburban Times, she is a frequently published freelance writer. She promises to write her memoirs some day. When she does, I hope she will be able to include a chapter about when she was named "Citizen of The Century" by the Town of Steilacoom.

Kim Thompson said...

Oh, Emerald Princess:

Wow! First off, thanks for your comment, second, what a terrific tribune to a fine human being, and lastly, Nancy Covert sounds amazing. Her spirit, love of community, and passion is bar none! Citizen of the Century is quite appropriate as you suggest!

Delightful! Nancy, you are a local icon!


JosephMcG said...

Nancy C, the "Citizen of the Year," for me...

Patty Cake said...

Can I go to Las Vegas with you next time, Kim ??

Lorraine Hart said...

Chuck West was voted as the Key Pen's Citizen of the Year at the annual Lion's Club dinner.

Chuck is a wonderful guy (I posted the charcoal drawing of his family on the "Spring Fling" post) who gives in every way he can to this community. I won't take up the page to tell you about him...just suggest you look up the Key Pen News online, to learn more.

It made me smile're one of the few people who actually get the bartender to talk, instead of the other way 'round!

Hendricks martinis eh?!

Kim Thompson said...

Hey, Joseph, your vote is counted!

Patty: Vegas? Of course, girl!

Lorraine: I actually looked up the Key Pen News and learned about Chuck. Cool guy. Hey, from personal experience, there are a lot of cool folks and icons in your neck of the woods.

Yeah, Rex. I love listening and chatting with everyone. It's so cool. There is so much to learn, you know?

Hendricks martinis are wild--they are derived from cucumbers. Very smooth and interesting. I rarely indulge in them; but when I do, what a little treat!

EmeraldPrincessOnline said...

Nancy Covert's modesty is as amazing as her service to the community. I let her know that I had written about her on the blog. She was overwhelmed.

I showed her the comments you have added to mine and she was deeply touched. She wrote, " nice to know what people really think about me. Don't care if I never get Citizen of the Year. Century---well?"

Steilacoom is home to many fascinating people whose lives have enriched the world and certainly the local community, too.

Nancy definitely deserves recognition even as she quietly goes about her work. She has tremendous strength of purpose and focus. I admire her immensely.

Nancy also works with students at the high school in helping to inspire them to pursue careers in journalism.

Plus she has co-authored a book about the town's history featuring the women who shaped it.

She is a journalist's journalist. No doubt about it.