Carson City Rotarians got a first-hand look at the man who wants to put a hillbilly casino in their town.
Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro Bodine in the popular 1960s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," was the guest speaker during the club's noon meeting at the Piñon Plaza on Tuesday.
Baer is proposing construction of the Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino in the old Wal-Mart building, and he is optimistic about his chances for success.
"People are going to be spending their money here," Baer said. "Growth will overcome the obstacles because this is a nice place to live. I want to be a part of that."
Baer said the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme attracts media attention, and he believes the casino would attract more tourists to Carson City and its many attractions.
The Rotarians seemed guardedly optimistic.
"I don't know if the casino will be good or bad," said Dr. Gary Ayles, a longtime Carson City veterinarian. "But if he wants bring into Carson City the kind of quality casino he's talking about, we should sit down and take a good look at it.
"City officials will make the ultimate decision," Ayles continued.
Carson City Realtor Kathy Tatro applauded Baer's vision, as did Bill Henderson, director of sales and marketing of the Carson Valley Inn.
"A casino resort next to a J.C. Penney seems odd to me, but I don't have any real basis for contesting his vision," said Carson City attorney John Griffin. "He's enthusiastic, and if anyone can sell the concept, he can."
Baer is a graduate of the University of Santa Clara in California with a degree in business. His ventures have shown some success.
After "The Beverly Hillbillies" ended in 1971, Baer wrote and produced the motion picture "Macon County Line," which continues to hold the record for the largest grossing movie per dollar invested. Made for just $110,000, it grossed almost $25 million at the box office.
With little money, Baer knew he could not compete in a big-budget, star-oriented industry, so he initiated the idea of using a popular song title to produce a low-cost, high-profit movie.
His 1976 film "Ode to Billy Joe" was produced at a cost of $1.1 million; its box office earnings alone were $27 million.
Baer said he was never part of the Hollywood scene. He retired to Lake Tahoe in 1980, and developed the concept for his casino after visiting the Ponderosa Ranch. If that theme could succeed, so could his, he said.
He obtained the rights from CBS to use the "Beverly Hillbillies" idea for casinos, hotels, theme parks, restaurants, cosmetics and consumables. He started researching the casino industry about 1985.
"Take the worldwide recognition of the 'Beverly Hillbillies' and combine a shopping, gaming and entertainment complex with a great location, and you can't lose," Baer said. "Americans love brands. They feel comfortable with well-known products and identify with them on a personal level."
Acting on Baer's behalf, long-time friend John King, a California developer, purchased the former Wal-Mart property for $4.3 million and promptly signed it over to Baer in August. Plans include a 200-foot flaming oil derrick, 30,000-square-foot casino with 800 slot machines and 16 gaming tables, a 240-room hotel and restaurants - all with the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme.
Standing in the way of this project are covenants and restrictions governing Southgate Mall, which prohibit the development of a theater, bowling alley, nightclub or other place of recreation or amusement.
For months, Baer negotiated with the other two mall owners, Glenbrook Co. and J.C. Penney, but no agreement was reached. On Dec. 8, he filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Carson City District Court.
All replies to the brief, from both Glenbrook and Penney, are expected to be submitted by Jan. 10.
Carson City Supervisor Pete Livermore said no plans or applications have yet been submitted to the city.
Contact Susie Vasquez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.