A lifelong journey to home
The road to Smith Valley has been a long, circuitous one. Early on, Orllyene, my wife, and I while living in Hollywood, bought a house in Las Vegas based on the strength of a three-week dancing contract there. “You did what?” the Hollywood producer said. “You told me I had the job and so I bought a house,” I answered over the telephone. “We hired a dancer from New York, but let me see what I can do.” Fortunately, he wiggled his way out of the contract and kept his word. We moved to Las Vegas; one wife, three young kids, a dog and me. We settled in and six weeks later, the show closed. I was out of work.
Stealthily I crossed the New Frontier Casino floor one Saturday night. I was stalking producer Frederick Apcar, who was about to open a mega-revue next door at the Dunes. “Well, ah, ur, harrumph, I suppose you can come and audition tomorrow if you want to,” he said in his thick French accent. The next day I did and got the job and for two years I had a steady income.
When the Dunes job finished, my dream of becoming a choreographer bloomed. Time to go stalking again. One afternoon, I walked into a Tropicana convention room where Tibor Rudas was rehearsing his group of acrobatic dancers. This was my chance to be his choreographer. As soon as the needle hit the record, my mind went blank. “It’s okay, Ron, we have plenty of time” he said. I never did remember the darn routine, but he hired me anyway and I became his choreographer for the next 18 years.
In 1978, The Rudas Theatrical Organization provided the entertainment at Resorts International in Atlantic City. We had a home on an estuary or swamp, depending on if you’re buying or selling. Great blue herons and snowy egrets soared and dove into Absecon Creek, and when it was flood tide, we had a lake in our front yard.
When Merv Griffin became Resort’s new owner, I organized a festive welcoming ceremony. He and Eva Gabor stepped out of their helicopter and a marching band blared forth, and batons flew. Under Merv’s tutelage, I blossomed until there came a crashing thud. “Your job has been abolished,” I was told. “Do I have until the end of the week?” I pled. “Afraid not. You can clean out your desk, but you have to leave now,” my boss answered. We were never close.
An artery had been severed. I called Orllyene, who was attending our granddaughter’s birthday party. “My job has been abolished,” I gasped with as much courage as I could manage. In a month we sold our house, and with our neighbors help, stuffed our belongings into a rental truck and drove back to Vegas.
What had happened to little Las Vegas since we’d left, was tragic. It had swollen into an ungainly megalopolis. We decided to move but didn’t know where. Our 32-foot “Casa Mobile” became home and we vagabonded for a year and a half. On a routine trip from Vegas to Reno, we paused in Shurz. “Why don’t we take this little blue road over to 395?” Orllyene asked. Minutes later the farm community of Yerington came into view, looking cozy and friendly. Then the big surprise, Wilson Canyon, with the West Walker River flowing melodiously by. Our first glimpse of Smith Valley was a stunner. Spread before us were fields of alfalfa, an unblemished blue sky and the snowy Sierra. Orllyene whispered, “I could live here,” and she was so right. We made an offer on five acres, built a home and we revel in our good fortune everyday. We feel safe here. We have cattle drives, spring lambing and a slew of friends. And as far as show business is concerned, I now have a new love, it’s the writing business.