“Where’s Lonnie?” I asked for the third or fourth time to anyone within earshot outside VAST Space Projects (formerly Pop Up Art House), where the gallery crowd had settled to enjoy the cool Saturday night.
Lonnie, of course, was Lonnie Hammargren, former Nevada Lt. Governor and retired neurosurgeon, known to most people simply as the guy with the house, Castillo del Sol—home to a DIY rooftop recreation of the Fremont Street canopy, hotel and casino signs, Howard Hughes’ toilet seat, spacecraft and other random and not-so-random objects.
On this night, though, he was “Lonnie the candidate,” running for the Board of Regents, and I was curious about the scheduled get-out-the-vote rally/gallery opening, where he’d talk up his platform amid politics-themed art by Venice, California, artists and award-winning LA-based photojournalist Karen Ballard.
But it was well past showtime and Hammargren, 74, was working the crowd, dressed in a light blue denim button-up with Mount Rushmore emblazoned across the front and a leopard-print cowboy hat. Finally, shortly after 10 p.m., the dwindling crowd was collected, DJ CD Gee stopped the music and Hammargren, a noted Republican, addressed the dozen or so locals and obedient out-of-town guests, who seemed a little unsure of the local legend and his plans to steer more public funds to Southern Nevada campuses while pushing for laws allowing private funding for an events center and sports stadium.
This was a slice of old-school Nevada at its most precious. The model for the stadium? On Hammargren’s house, of course.