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Maybe it's a perverse kind of destiny, but there's just no way around it: the demise of the historic Mapes Hotel in Reno, Nevada, seems inextricably linked to San Diego. Way back on December 17, 1947, Charles W. Mapes, Jr., a colorful and wildly prosperous Reno developer, opened the doors to his luxurious 12-story Mapes Hotel, said to be the first establishment in the country to offer gambling, dining, entertaining, and lodging under one grand roof. In its heyday, the hotel on the banks of the Truckee River in downtown Reno played host to a long list of celebrities, entertainers, and high rollers, including Frank Sinatra, Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, and Clark Gable. Performers there included Sammy Davis, Jr., Gypsy Rose Lee, Danny Thomas, the Marx Brothers, and Mae West. But as the years went by, the Mapes, despite its Art Deco façade and sweeping views of the Sierras, began to fade as the city's downtown gambling center shifted north to the Interstate 80 freeway and hobos took over the now-scuzzy neighborhood. The old hotel closed down exactly 35 years after its opening, on December 17, 1982, and city fathers have been stewing over what to do with it ever since. A few years back, they contracted with the San Diego development company of Oliver-McMillan, famous for its garish Gaslamp Quarter theater complex at Fifth and G Streets, to do something with the Mapes. At first the plan was to tear it down, but when Reno's historic preservationists raised a fuss, Point Loma's Morgan Dene Oliver and James McMillan said they would look into renovating the place. That deal didn't pan out, and now, despite a threatened lawsuit from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Reno City Council has again moved to tear down the Mapes. The demolition contractor? Lakeside's Clauss Construction, a well-known destruction specialty company run by Patrick Clauss, who had a big role in cleaning up the tangle of buildings and freeways left in the wake of L.A.'s Northridge earthquake. Even more eerie for fans of the Mapes is the fact that Charles W. Mapes, Jr. himself met his end following heart surgery in an unnamed San Diego hospital just a little more than six months ago, on May, 13, 1999. He was 78.

Dishonor Roles

Yet one more San Diegan has been indicted for financial hanky-panky. A federal grand jury in Phoenix last week tagged Burnett William "Bernie" Watkins with four counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy, which allegedly resulted in the loss of $8.8 million for Korean investors, reports the Arizona Republic. Watkins had been earlier named in a civil suit accusing him of cheating more than 630 Germans and Austrians out of $2.4 million. A big wheel in Scottsdale's high society in years past, Watkins has also run an insurance business out of Coronado, state corporate records show. The newspaper says he returned here to live about a year ago ... The New York Times has picked La Jolla as one of the top stock-swindling capitals of the world. In a "special report" headlined "Dangerous Deals: Penny Stock Fraud is Billion-Dollar Game," the paper says that stock-fraud artists, "who all seem to know each other, cluster in just a few spots: San Diego and La Jolla in Southern California, Boca Raton, Florida, Vancouver, and New York, the ground zero of stock fraud."

Web Warning

Servicios Medicos Internacionales de Mexico, a Tijuana-based HMO, has been warned by the United States Food and Drug Administration that promoting prescription drugs for importation into the U.S. on its website violates U.S. law ... Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer has been nominated one of the savviest investors among the candidates by the Wall Street Journal's Smartmoney Web page. Bauer is said to have loaded up on Qualcomm stock when it was cheap ... Salem Communications, the Christian broadcasting outfit from Camarillo that took over Santee's KCBQ-AM and kicked out its stable of Sunday talk-show hosts, including ex-city councilman Fred Schnaubelt, is having financial problems. Last week it announced a loss of $3.7 million, and its stock dropped $6.75 to $19.50. Meanwhile, Schnaubelt says he's considering his options for reviving his radio career, including moving his call-in show to the Web.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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