It is about time.
Finally we get a hard-hitting journalistic exposé out of Carson City instead of the thrice daily, stomach-turning soap opera about whether Assemblyman Steven Brooks will stay or go, plop or pop, explode or implode and the accompanying baker’s dozen of insane editorials and columns analyzing and pontificating.
Yes, veteran newspaperman Edison Vogel, who has covered enough legislative sessions to make Sam Clemens’ head explode, today delves into the bristling phenomenon of facial hair sprouting from the lips, cheeks and chins of the state’s elected lawmakers. Not since the days when Mark Twain was covering the Legislature for the Territorial Enterprise, Vogel tells us, have whiskers been in such abundance.
No fewer than 11 lawmakers are sporting beards, mostly goatees, and two have mustaches, Vogel reports with a thoroughness seldom found in the press these days. And that’s just the men.
Vogel, who has been known to sprout a cookie duster on occasion, commented:
“They have returned to the days when Mark Twain covered the Legislature for Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise and are sporting beards or long Wyatt Earp-style mustaches.”
The accompanying lede photo is of state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, a Eureka Republican, who does not really have an Earp-style mustache but a Fu Manchu, but that’s just splitting hairs so to speak.
Dipping into the frequently visited well of historical resource, Vogel turns to a familiar archivist:
“Historian Guy Rocha said a governor has not had a beard since Reinhold Sadler in 1903. He was followed by heavily mustached John Sparks, a cattle baron who looked the part of a gunslinger.
“By the 1920s, no governors even wore mustaches.
“The thinking for politicians always has been they had to be in the ‘mainstream’ in dress and grooming, not ‘hippies’ or part of the counterculture, Rocha said.
“Until recent years, legislators rarely had beards, with notable exceptions such as the late Assemblyman Marvin Sedway in the 1980s.
“A smoker, the colorful Sedway once even accidentally lighted his beard during a Ways and Means Committee meeting. Smoking is no longer permitted in the Legislative Building.”
Like Vogel, even Twain found it necessary while covering the second session of the Nevada Legislature for the Enterprise to stray from the mundane daily reportage on the bills and debates:
“It is stated that in point of talent, the present Legislature is far superior to the last, and has in it a greater proportoian of the ‘fighting element’ which began to be made manifest before the wheels of Legislation got fairly in motion.
“Aside from matters and things connected with the Legislature there does not appear to be much of interest transpiring in and about Washoe.
“Mr. Roop, member of the Council from Honey Lake, has been telling some horrid stories concerning the conduct of the Indians in that region, who, he reports, have recently massacred some white men and mutilated their bodies by tearing out their entrials, cutting their mouths from ear to ear, disservering their limbs, and chopping up the bodies of some of them. It was reported last spring that the same individual, commonly known as ‘Gov. Roop,’ reported stories in San Francisco, and other places in California concerning Indian depredations at Honey Lake, in order to get up an excitement, which were subsequently ascertained to have had no foundaton in truth. It is believed by some that he has a great gift for misrepresentation and exaggeration.”
At least the tale about the lawmaker setting his own beard afire has a stubble of truth.
Sadly, this may be Vogel’s last go-round at the biennial tussle in Carson City. He is talking about retiring. Both Vogel and Twain are members of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. Both deservedly so.