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Reno Pop Culture

When people think of Reno, the now-defunct television comedy Reno 911 may come to mind, but that's not an accurate picture of The Biggest Little City. The popular program helped perpetuate Reno’s image as a rundown casino town with last-chance degenerates wreaking havoc. Not only is the message inaccurate, but most of the show was filmed in Los Angeles (note to Hollywood: Palm trees don’t grow in Reno). The City of Trembling Leaves by Walter Van Tilburg Clark is a good read for those traveling to Reno. It explores the city’s scenery, people and districts through a personal view. Set in 20th-century Reno, it incorporates detailed descriptions of Reno, Lake Tahoe and the Mount Rose Wilderness in the 1920s. For a historical perspective of Reno, try Reno’s Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City, published in 2008 by Alicia Barber. And for history, check out A Short History of Reno, by Barbara and Myrick Land.

Most of the world knows Reno as a capital of divorce and gambling. And movies filmed in Reno reflect that, including The Cooler, Balls of Fury, Desert Hearts, The Misfits, Sister Act, Waking Up in Reno, Austin Powers in Goldmember, and Ocean’s Eleven (the original). The television series Bonanza was shot at Ponderosa Ranch right off main highway in Incline Village, about 40 minutes from downtown Reno. Movies filmed at Lake Tahoe include The Bodyguard, Smoking Aces, and scenes from The Godfather Part II. Johnny Cash put Reno on the map in his famous song Folsom Prison Blues when he sang, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” R.E.M. wrote a song called All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star). In Beck’s song Loser, he sings “Baby’s in Reno with the vitamin D, got a couple of couches, sleep on the love seat ...” Bruce Springsteen’s song Reno appeared on his album Devils & Dust.

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