MARGE ANDERSON: In addition to being allowed to continue my syndicated broadcasting activities, from 1991 through 1999 I had the honor to be Director of Public Relations for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians Casino/Hotel operations. The lady under whose umbrella each department worked was the Band's Chief Executive, Marge Anderson, who, sadly, passed away today at age 81. Whenever we'd see each other, Marge always said, "How's my favorite weatherman?". I'd always reply, "Fine. And how's my favorite Chief?". Marge always smiled during those frequent encounters. She was elected to her position following the untimely passing of visionary Chief Arthur Gahbow, just a few days before Grand Casino Mille Lacs opened its doors.
From the beginning of her service as the Band's first female Chief, Marge was intent on making certain the gaming industry would be as beneficial as possible to her people. She said many times, half-jokingly, "I hope some of the people here know they're working themselves out of a job." Those to whom Marge was referrring were those of us who were also under the umbrella of the management corporation created to eventually not receive any percentages of the casino profits after a seven year contract ended. Marge realized the ability to create a legacy of far more prosperous times than the Band had endured for decades could be achieved and preserved if the profits were used wisely. Her stewardship and truly gifted business acumen guided the Band to build new clinics, schools, roads, houses and cultural infrastructure to help all Band members learn their language, which is not in written form. The success of Grand Casino Mille Lacs also propelled the Band to open its second casino/hotel, Grand Casino Hinckley, just two years after Grand Casino Mille Lacs opened. I was privileged to emcee that opening.
Among those at the Grand Casino Hinckley opening, and who cut the opening ribbon with Marge, were former Congressman Jim Oberstar, as well as the man who was the person who had the idea to create gaming for the Mille Lacs Band. His name was Dave Anderson. Everyone now knows him as Famous Dave. I met Dave the first day I started at Grand (in their Plymouth marketing offices). I saw him and asked what he did there. He told me he was the President. He also told me my friend, attorney Stan Taube, had persuaded Lyle Berman (Berman Buckskin scion) to meet with Dave and Stan to discuss managing the Band's casino/hotels. Lyle eventually agreed, and that's how Grand Casino Mille Lacs was "born". In subsequent years, Grand Casino management completed the Stratosphere Tower's construction in Las Vegas. Stan Taube was responsible for recommending me for the PR Director position. I started that work 22 years ago today, July 1, 1991.
I was happy during Marge's tenure I was able to persuade a CBS-TV friend, former WCCO-TV reporter Jerry Bowen, to do an eight-minute feature about Marge on CBS SUNDAY MORNING WITH CHARLES OSGOOD. I also suggested to another friend, former GOOD MORNING AMERICA weatherman, Spencer Christian, to feature a live interview with Marge and other Band officials on GMA the day Grand Casino Hinckley opened. Spencer enjoyed the visit, as did GMA, but the fog was so thick that morning it was impossible to see the new casino, but the feature went on the air, regardless. Marge kindly thanked me for those features with her characteristic humility. I told her it was my job, but also my honor, which it truly was. In many ways, in my opinion, she could almost be considered a Rosa Parks-like figure among her people, as for what she fought bore beneficial fruit for them and the region in general. Deepest sympathy to Marge's family and the entire Mille Lacs Band.
HOT DESERT MEMORIES: Since the near record heat in the Southwestern U.S. has been making headlines the past few days, it triggered memories of my four years on television and radio in Las Vegas, prior to moving to Minnesota in November, 1970. One of my favorite weekend activities there was to drive to Death Valley almost every Saturday morning at about 6, pick rocks in various parts of the Valley, then visit friends in Amargosa Junction (former George Balanchine-New York City Ballet ballerina Marta Becket and her then husband, Tom Williams), then drive back to Las Vegas in time for supper. I owned a red Triumph convertible in those days (my daughters used to call it my "toy" car), and being the sun-worshipper I was, I would drive through the Valley, from Dante's View to Badwater and all spots in between, with the top down, even when the air temperature was hovering around 115 degrees, which was frequent in June, July and even August. I baked my skin during those years, but because the humidity was so low, I never gave the temperatures a second thought. Not very smart was I then (or ever) because removal of skin cancer became frequent, especially in recent years, due to those top-down days in Death Valley. A park ranger there once told me the ground temperature averaged between 160 and 190 degrees on what's called The Devil's Golf Course, at Badwater, lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. This past week, a 67-year old man from my hometown, Pittsburgh, marched across the Death Valley sand dunes when the temp was in the 120s. He said to do that had always been on his "Bucket List". Go figure. I guess all of us from Pittsburgh are bonkers. I hope he at least brought a bucket of water, primarily to pour on his head! :)
Thanks for taking time to read these geezer thoughts. Webcasts should resume in a week or two, with skin cancer removal scars from those Death Valley Days (where's my Borax?) almost gone. Happy and safe Fourth!