Skip to main content

Search the Special Collections and Archives Portal

Transcript of interview with Bruce Isaacson by Barbara Tabach, March 24, 2017







Bruce Isaacson was born in 1956 in Castro Valley, California to Betty Griffin and Bernard Isaacson, and spent his childhood in Oakland. He received his bachelor?s degree from Claremont McKenna College with majors in economics as well as drama, and continued studying for his Masters of Business Administration at Dartmouth College. After receiving his MBA, Isaacson started a career in finance, focusing on mergers and acquisitions. In 1995, he moved to Las Vegas to pursue a real estate career alongside his father. In June 2015, Isaacson became Clark Country?s first poet laureate to encourage poetry as an art form in Southern Nevada. Although Isaacson began writing poetry at a young age, he wanted to develop his craft further. So he attended Brooklyn College for a Masters of Fine Arts and studied with famed poet Allen Ginsberg. Isaacson is known in the San Francisco Bay Area as organizer and poet in the Cafe Babar readings in the 1980s. He is also a co-founder of Zeitgeist Press, where he remains publisher and co-editor. In this interview, Isaacson discusses his childhood and how he maneuvered his career path from finance into poetry. He talks about applying for and serving as the county?s first poet laureate, and describes the programing he?s started in this capacity. Isaacson also speaks about his earlier involvement with Bay Area poetry scene as well as the impact of his Jewish upbringing on his life and his art.

Digital ID



Bruce Isaacson oral history interview, 2017 March 24. OH-03159. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


This material is made available to facilitate private study, scholarship, or research. It may be protected by copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity rights, or other interests not owned by UNLV. Users are responsible for determining whether permissions are necessary from rights owners for any intended use and for obtaining all required permissions. Acknowledgement of the UNLV University Libraries is requested. For more information, please see the UNLV Special Collections policies on reproduction and use ( or contact us at

Standardized Rights Statement





AN INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE ISAACSON An Oral History Conducted by Barbara Tabach Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ?Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV ? University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers: Barbara Tabach, Claytee D. White Editors and Project Assistants: Maggie Lopes, Stefani Evans iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader?s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iv PREFACE Bruce Isaacson was born in 1956 in Castro Valley, California to Betty Griffin and Bernard Isaacson, and spent his childhood in Oakland. He received his bachelor?s degree from Claremont McKenna College with majors in economics as well as drama, and continued studying for his Masters of Business Administration at Dartmouth College. After receiving his MBA, Isaacson started a career in finance, focusing on mergers and acquisitions. In 1995, he moved to Las Vegas to pursue a real estate career alongside his father. In June 2015, Isaacson became Clark Country?s first poet laureate to encourage poetry as an art form in Southern Nevada. Although Isaacson began writing poetry at a young age, he wanted to develop his craft further. So he attended Brooklyn College for a Masters of Fine Arts and studied with famed poet Allen Ginsberg. Isaacson is known in the San Francisco Bay Area as organizer and poet in the Cafe Babar readings in the 1980s. He is also a co-founder of Zeitgeist Press, where he remains publisher and co-editor. In this interview, Isaacson discusses his childhood and how he maneuvered his career path from finance into poetry. He talks about applying for and serving as the county?s first poet laureate, and describes the programing he?s started in this capacity. Isaacson also speaks about his earlier involvement with Bay Area poetry scene as well as the impact of his Jewish upbringing on his life and his art. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Bruce Isaacson On March 24, 2017 by Barbara Tabach in Las Vegas, Nevada Preface?????????????????????????????????..?..iv Discusses family history and merging of cultures between mother and father; father?s career as entrepreneur; childhood in Oakland, California. Talks about receiving financial economics as well as drama degree from Claremont McKenna College; then attending Dartmouth?s business school and deciding not to pursue investment banking career?????????????.1-6 Talks about early career in finance with West Coast companies, getting into mergers and acquisitions; leaving finance career and working with father in his real estate business. Reflects upon changes in business ethical norms during his career; impact of Jewish roots in his upbringing, values. Talks about first wife and his stepchildren, including their immigration from Russia during youth and assimilation??????????????????????.7-13 Shares story about ending up in Las Vegas, due to pursuit of real estate development opportunities. Reflects upon the state of the city when he moved to city in the mid-1990s; development of city, including arts culture over time. Talks about teaching experiences; becoming and serving as Clark Country?s first poet laureate, programmatic goals for community; involvement with poetry community in Bay Area????????????????...14-20 Talks about his passion for poetry, which developed since childhood, and was reignited in late twenties when living in Bay Area; involvement with Cafe Babar; impact of beat movement on Western culture. More details about poet laureate application. Discusses Jewish heritage and its bearing on his identity. Mentions publishing business; what inspires his poetry; love for open readings????????????????????????????????.?21-30 Chats with UNLV student about how poetry has changed ? and not ? over generations; impact of social media access and the value of presence in poetry. Discusses political writing as poetry; why poetry matters. Mentions being inspired by Allen Ginsberg, who read his Master of Fine Arts thesis; connection to his poem ?Kaddish.? Talks about his son and daughter, and wife, Robyn, and their own interest in poetry????????????????????...31-37 vi 1 Today is March 24, 2017. This is Barbara Tabach working on the Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage project. Today I am interviewing Bruce Isaacson. Bruce, would you spell your name for us, please? I-S-A-A-C-S-O-N. Excellent. As I mentioned earlier here, what I'd like to do is start by talking about your family heritage. Give me the roots. Let me start with my mom's family. My mom's family were Scotch Irish, English, probably some other things mixed in. They sort of fell out of the hills in the 1920s in West Virginia and came across the country rather like the Steinbeck story and settled first in Washington and then in San Leandro, California. They were Pentecostal ministers, extremely religious, very strident. That would be the word. My father's family came from Russian Eastern Europe. My great-grandfather was rabbi of the town of Koidanov, which is now in Belarus. The town is now named Dzyarzhynsk, or it was named Dzyarzhynsk; it may have been renamed?because Felix Dzerzhinsky was the founder of the KGB?and it may have been renamed since the opening; however, Belarus never really opened. So my grandmother and grandfather came, not together, but they came through the Baltic States in the 1920s during a period of famine and pogroms; came first to New York, settled on Long Island, and then in San Lorenzo where my mother and father met and were married, et cetera. Well, that must be quite the merging of cultures just on that part of the family. It was not easy. It has remained a sense of unease. My mom is the sweetest tempered person you could imagine and very strong. But my dad was the intellectual or the force, the power. He was a very successful businessman in the Bay Area. He did very well and then he lost it all and then he 2 did well again. He was an entrepreneur. He was the founder of the first consolidator chain of car-wash gas stations in the United States. They had over seventy-five of them spread throughout the western United States in the 1960s and '70s. It was a big company in those days. My mom's people and the relationship between them, because my dad had married?from both sides my dad had married a...I don't want to use the word. Go ahead. Shiksa. Right. I've been called that too. Yes. But they were very accepting and loved my mom ultimately. The real intolerance came from the Pentecostal side of the family and it has remained, and I could tell stories and perhaps we will. But the family had that division; however, my mother and father formed a very strong nuclear family. I have two brothers, and because of the view that religion was the primary founder for hard feelings and prejudice and that kind of thing, and maybe even because my dad had gotten beaten up as a kid in the streets of Long Island for being a Jew, he totally eschewed any religious connection, and we were raised in a completely secular fashion. So, in other words, you didn't have a religious identity growing up? Yes, that's correct. We didn't go to church. We didn't have a religious identity. My dad said that religion was responsible for?mostly he felt that it was responsible for a great many of the ills of the world, and we were raised without religious identity. So you were raised in California? Yes. We were raised in Oakland essentially, Oakland, California. Talk about growing up in Oakland. Well, Oakland was an interesting place to grow up because Oakland at that time?of course, I was 3 born in '56, so I came of age in the '60s. Oakland was a divided city because it was very heavily African American and then my dad was really part of a group of institutional people who?he tried to navigate his way into the power structures of the city of Oakland?not the city, but the business community?and he succeeded in some ways and in the Bay Area generally. But the city fractured in the 1960s. I still remember in sixth grade being a crossing guard on the day when Martin Luther King was killed and the riots. There were riots. Kids were sent home early. I remember when Bobby Kennedy was killed. But in Oakland Martin Luther King was the thing. I don't remember the killing, say, of Malcolm X. My first memory really, my first clear memory is of John Kennedy's funeral procession and cortege. It is something that sears in our memories. It's very strong. And John-John with the salute. But when you say you were a crossing guard, why a crossing guard? Why is that? Because I was a sixth grader and I was a volunteer. So I was supposed to go out and hold the sign while the children crossed. I was in elementary school, but I was the oldest. Elementary went to sixth grade in that period. So the city fractured and by the time I was in junior high and there had been riots and violence, my parents really joined the white flight to the suburbs and they moved to Orinda, California, which is only a distance of ten or fifteen miles, but culturally was a very wide distance. Then I finished going to school at Campolindo High School in Rheem Valley, California. So you remained in California for college? No, you went to? Well, I went to college in Southern California at Claremont McKenna College, which I saw this morning was just quoted by The New York Times as being the main intellectual center of the Trump campaign. I was so embarrassed. You know what I felt like? On "Saturday Night Live" a 4 couple of weeks ago they had the thing with the little dog. I don't know if you saw this. But they put a headset on this lady's dog and they said, "Oh, we've got this new thing where we can put this headset on the dog and put in words what the dog thinks." She puts the headset on and the dog starts talking about "Trump's my man" and all this kind of stuff and she's so embarrassed. So I feel a little bit like that about it. But, yes, I went to Claremont McKenna College. I had a degree in financial economics. I wrote in two areas. I did a full drama major and I did a full econ major. I wrote a thesis that won a lot of awards on monetary theory around the quantity theory of money, Milton Friedman, Keynes, trying to reconcile. That was one of the big issues of the day. It was a good education in some ways for that, but I also feel looking back on it that if I had had a somewhat different approach and gone in a more direct line to where I ended up going, I should say?in the creative sense, maybe I could have done more than I've done in life. That's an interesting combination, to be an economist and a dramatist at the same time. Yes. I ultimately have not gone back to the theater since that. I went on to focus on poetry and really that decision as a medium came to me in my senior year of college. I had always written. What happened was that as I did more and more acting?it was method acting and I did go back and spend time hanging around in New York, hanging around the Actor?s Studio?Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, the one that Marlon Brando made so famous. But, I didn't really go that direction because I really was taken over by the feeling that I didn't want to be other people. I wanted to work in an artistic medium through my own identity, through being myself, and work in that vein. That suited me better; that there was something that rung hollow to me personally in presenting other people as an artistic form. I can get that. So you spent time on the East Coast as well. 5 Then I went to business school, yes. Where did you go to business school? Dartmouth. It's one of the nation's top business schools for sure. Was that when it was all-male? Had it been co-ed by then? Let me start to say with that Claremont McKenna when I entered was the only all-male college in the western United States. Oh, I had no idea. So the first two years I was in an all-male school and then in the third year it went co-ed, but there were very few women and they had a relationship with Scripps College, which was a women?s arts-oriented school, and that's where a lot of my drama classes were, at Scripps. But the business school had been integrated with women and African Americans and others. So as a result, I had these young years where I was raised in fairly diverse communities and then in my older years not. I was willfully inexperienced and I didn't know how to evaluate diverse communities and such. The Dartmouth experience by that time at the business school, which was a separate thing?the oldest business school in the United States founded by Edward Tuck who was a friend of President Lincoln's apparently, and he founded the first business school. So it predates Harvard and Stanford. It's remained very small. There were only a hundred and thirty students in my class, very small. I did well there. Academically, I did very well. But I was kind of a fish out of water. Why do you say that? Well, I discovered there that I really didn't want to go work on Wall Street. The people I went to school with, some I know are wealthy. They are people who live on estates. I had two things happening at various levels of either foolishness or insight. One is that because my dad was an 6 entrepreneur and the way he was raised, he had dealings with Hambrecht and Quist, which was a prominent local investment bank, regional investment bank in San Francisco for starting new companies. He had a very large company. His company at that time, I remember it being competitive with Advanced Micro Devices. So that's a level below Intel, but just one level below. He had been very successful. But he really felt in dealing with?oh, investment bankers, they don't add anything; they're not really makers. So I had a preference that came from my family, a bias I should say, to go that direction towards working in private industry. Then on the other side, I really felt when I was there that I was in among the wolves and even my friends there wanted to take a bite out of me. That's the way I felt about it. In retrospect, it's not a surprise to me that they brought the economy to ruin in 2007 and '08 because it's an "I, me, mine" system, as John Lennon said. So I went out and worked?after business school if I had taken the path of going to an investment bank or one of the prominent consulting organizations, McKinsey or Bain?there was this whole world out there. And I loved finance and I was good at finance. I was as good as anybody at it, at the analysis, at the use and application of the tools, but I don't have the personality for it. I was telling a prominent poet last year?these are things you don't realize until you're in your fifties. Yes. I needed a more supportive bubble around me. I need to be working in a cooperative vein with other people in order to achieve in the best possible way that I can, and that's not possible in those worlds, at least I never saw it. Even the people that had been my friends and that I liked were climbing not just for advantage. By the time they had been trained through business school and the first few years coming out of graduate programs, they get imprinted in a company culture, there's a 7 very complex but powerful process that happens. Their characters have been so designed for the seeking of advantage that it happens when they're at rest. And so I just don't have the ability to deal with that kind of climbing. It doesn't work for me. I can't fulfill the positive things I have to offer in that kind of a milieu. Maybe that's a weakness, probably so. Not necessarily. Well, it is what it is, right? So what did you do to plug in to make a living? What did you decide to do? I went out and got a job in a computer?in the age computers, right? So I got a job in a computer services company. Because we're looking at about what year? Nineteen eighty. I got a job in a computer services company in the West Coast. I had a friend, my college roommate who I had been very close to, who was working for this company called PCS, Proprietary Computer Systems. I got a job at PCS in the finance department just very shortly before they were acquired by a company called CISI, which is a French computer services conglomerate that was a division of the French Atomic Energy Authority, which is one of the largest business enterprises in the world. They produce more uranium and export nuclear stuff to Iraq and to Japan. They had a worldwide processing center, which was supposed to compete with IBM WorldNet and GEISCO, General Electric Information Services Company. That's before the Internet. That's before the Mac. So we were all doing mainframe remote processing over phone lines. But it's not that different than what we have today, it's just the channels have speeded up. It's very similar to what they do today in some ways. But anyhow, the president of the company took a shine to me, a gentleman who became my mentor, named Bill Barancik. I worked at that company for six years, I think. We acquired a group 8 of U.S. companies, two in Philadelphia and the one in California, and we had other acquisitions. I was on an M&A, mergers and acquisitions, team. We acquired Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates, which was the forecasting and consulting company that Lawrence Klein had recently won the Nobel Prize in Economics for founding and designing. He had the world's largest econometric models. They ran on big computers. It was all part of a strategy. I did deals with Citibank to bring an economic model to their clients. I had come out of this very conservative group. I had written my thesis for a gentleman named John Rutledge who was a prime associate of Larry Kudlow. I don't know if you know who he is. I've heard that name, yes. We can talk about that, but let's stay away from too much controversy. And then Larry Klein was of the opposite econ theory. So we acquired Wharton Forecasting Associates. I took one of John Rutledge's models and licensed it through Citibank. We were doing all this stuff. Because of the French connection, we introduced the first European Community trade databases to the United States, making them available via transatlantic cable by timesharing systems, a lot of interesting kinds of things. That's an amazing resume there by itself. Well, it's a small subculture. Then we acquired Wharton Econometrics and I ended up as chief financial officer over the whole U.S. operation, but it was not to be, because the environment was too political for me. There was a lot of both resentment and disdain for people who came from the timesharing side versus the econometrics side. I'll never forget. One day I found myself at a meeting with this econometrics group where they were losing just massive amounts of money. I found myself in a meeting where a group of all the senior executives, everyone except the president but all the other senior executives, literally spent an hour debating a problem they were 9 having with an administrative person who wasn't doing her job and they wanted to get rid of her and they were just going on and on about it. I told them, "You just do it, just do it." "Oh, we can't do that because this." And I said, "Just give it to me. I'll do it. I'll take care of it." I don't like firing people or something. But people do their jobs or they leave. But the point was that I didn't have a position of real trust or authority and here I am, I've got this title and I'm working and I'm doing all this stuff, we bought the company, and they're losing massive amounts of money and all the attention is going into one admin. On that day I said, "That's enough; I can't do this anymore." That was your tipping point. That was my tipping point and I resigned. Maybe that again goes back to the fact that I was in with wolves at that point. When I was at a lower level, nobody really noticed so much. But now here I am in a senior position and they're...So I resigned. I went back to the timesharing company. I moved back to the West Coast and went back to the timesharing company. I was there for about six months. I was CFO over that portion because I could do the finance stuff. That was the easy part. About that time my dad had a real estate business and his partner came down with a cancer. It's fairly complicated. At that time, he was a syndicator, and he was one of the nation's first 1031 intermediaries, which is a section of the tax code. They had at that time a specialty type of real estate exchange that they did that was essentially to delay the payment of tax on real estate gains. He was one of the first, not the first, but he was the first commercial, perhaps, intermediary as a 1031. Now all the title companies do it and it's become a... What does it mean to be a syndicator? A syndicator is somebody who puts real estate deals together and gets investors. The investors put 10 in money and they create a thing and you syndicate it out. Okay, got it. That's what a syndicator is. There were a lot of them before TRA 86. It's rather interesting actually because what's happened over time is that the business has changed, the real estate business. I'm still in real estate in terms of making a living, but the real estate business has changed. It used to be one where there were a lot of mid-level local people who could make a good living and build family wealth, modest, mid-level family wealth, doing real estate transactions and deals. But what's happened with the recessions that have occurred, TRA 86, which was the Tax Reform Act of 1986, and there are a lot of other trends that have occurred through time, it's changed. Just like America in general?the mid-level has been wiped out. You're either very rich with very, very large multibillion amounts of money or you're working for them. That's one of the changes that was going on in the business in that time and that has spanned the length of my career. So I went and joined my dad's business. Looking back on it maybe I could have done in the business sense a lot of more interesting work. I might have had a lot of opportunities that I didn't have because I was in this family business. But I got to work side by side for about a decade, a little bit more than a decade with my dad, like right next to each other. He's gone now. He passed away in 2009. I look back on that now and I just wouldn't trade that for anything. That was the best thing. We were goofy. We were a couple of goofs, and by that, I mean just looking at myself from thirty thousand feet, not him. He was always very serious. I appreciate that. Family businesses, they either work? They're about the family. And it worked. It did work. Yes. What kinds of things did you learn about your dad because you were working closer with him? 11 I learned that he had one of the sharpest minds I've ever known. He could keep more in his head than anybody I've ever met before or since. That's one thing. But I'm going to tell you a more important thing. He was teaching me lessons right up until the time he died. He was a Republican; I'm not, but the family is, his other sons, his wife. Where are you in the hierarchy of siblings? I'm the oldest. He came from an old-time business background and he worked very hard to teach me always that people were more important than money, always. In such specific ways he taught me that over and over and over again, people are more important than money. His picture was that the businessman in society is the person that others can trust to do the right thing, to lead them in the right direction, to keep their incomes moving forward and stable. He really felt it was a public service. I got the feeling of in business school, this ethic was already starting to erode and I believe it no longer exists. I'm not saying there aren't people out there who are in a position to maintain that ethos, but I don't believe it really exists at the broad societal level anymore like it did. It really did exist. The business community should look back and see what's happened because we've been hollowed out. We've moved into an age?oh, let's do it with post-modernism?into a post-ethics age, a post-truth age, a post-belief age. I just think that it's sad what's happened, but that is where America is. It's very different than the business community my dad grew up in. You said you had no formal religious training or whatever. Right. But did you ever get a sense, because your dad is the ancestral Jew in your lineage, of what he got from his Jewish upbringing? Yes. Well, he did have a Jewish upbringing, but he rebelled against it. But here's what I'll tell you. 12 It goes down the generations this way. His father, Morris Isaacson, was a very ethical, intellectual man who worked very hard to support his family with limited success. I think that's where it came from was from his dad, his dad who was the son of the rabbi of Koidanov and who immigrated. I think that's where it came from. In those days remember when people immigrated, they never saw their relatives again. They were in the Soviet Union. They never saw them again. That's an important feature of the Jewish immigration. It is. People don't often understand that. Right. Because now you can go anywhere in the world. When I was in Russia in 1992, I wanted to go to this town of Koidanov and I couldn't get?this was just after the fall of the Berlin Wall?I couldn't get permission to travel the border from Russia to Belarus. I couldn't go. I've never been. I wanted to go. It was hugely important to me to go, but I never got the chance because you couldn't travel the borders. Maybe they still have some of that there or maybe it's just extremely dangerous or maybe we're all headed back to an era out of a 1940's movie and people on trains and standing at the station going [in German accent], "I would like to see your papers, please." I don't know. But the Jewish ?migr?s, when they left they lost their families. There were a few letters and things like that. Letters. My grandmother had letters from a brother and then the letters stopped one day. She never really found out what happened. In the 1940s the letters stopped. Can you guess what happened? Something happened in the 1940s in Belarus. Yes. So you went there searching for roots? What was the motivation to go there? I married a Russian woman. She wasn't a Jew, but she was a Russian who was here. I met her in San Francisco. I married her not knowing her very well. She had two sons. We went back to Russia to arrange immigration. I lived native, which is a completely different experience than 98 13 percent of Americans. "Oh, yes, I've been to Russia." It's a completely different experience, or at least it was then. So what year are you doing this? Nineteen ninety-two. I was there from April through October 1992, as I recall, and we arranged immigration and we brought her kids here to the United States. How old were they? Nine and eleven. She was very smart and the kids are very smart. The eldest, who had the wonderful name Yuri, because I love Doctor Zhivago? That's my favorite movie. Well, it's not just the movie, but the book, too. Yes, it is. It's fascinating. Both. He came to this country and started school and he couldn't speak a lick of English. But what he knew was that the other kids used to make fun of him for "Yuri nation." So he changed his name to George. He changed his name. But he has since been very successful. He ran the networks here for Allegiant Air for ten years. He is a superb technical talent. As happens so often, Allegiant Air had a reorganization and they left him out, which was foolish because he had designed the whole network. He had designed the whole thing. Then he got a job at twice the rate and he runs networks in UC Santa Cruz, for the college, the university. He's on all these Silicon Valley boards, designing. He's a superb network tech in his way, in his field. The other boy, Roman, is married and just moved to Colorado and he's an executive with AAA, in the automobile industry. That must be quite the undertaking to help grade-school-age children learn English and assimilate and all of that. 14 Yes, it was a big deal. It was a big thing. My family really loves the boys. But my wife and I, she and I were divorced in 1997 and we had one of the worst divorces on record in Las Vegas in 1997. Well, I'm sorry. And I had a son, too, with her, Allen. I ended up as the custodial parent of my natural son, but had no basis to do anything to help the other boys. They were raised by her and I think it was a hard life for them. That's too bad. But you were there in their formative transitional years. Yes. But they've both done very well. Very cool. So how did you eventually get to Las Vegas? What's that story? We were working in real estate and the real estate market just totally fell apart in the '90s in the Bay Area in California, in California in general, commercial real estate. There is a gentleman who is a friend of mine named John Knott. John Knott is the most successful real estate broker that Las Vegas has ever had, hands down. He's a gaming broker. He founded CBRE's global gaming group and he's done all kinds of stuff, a good guy. He was just leaving Cushman and Wakefield and he was going out on his own and he was looking for people to help him. My dad had left a year before because the market just fell apart. We couldn't make a living in California. So we came to Las Vegas to form the firm of Sullivan and Knott. The firm was John, the president, and it was really his firm, and then the other executives were my dad first and then eventually myself as well. Who is the Sullivan? Sullivan was John's wife's maiden name. They're divorced now, too. They've been divorced for a long time. That happens. 15 It seems, yes. So that's 1995 that you came. Correct. What was Vegas like at that moment? It was smaller. It ended where I-95 curves north, at Rainbow. There was very little west of where I live out now, in Summerlin, and whatnot. It hadn't even started. It was just about to start. It ended at I-95. It was much smaller, but it was also similar. It didn't have the density that you have now, but it was constant growth. There was a real mood of business excitement here. It was interesting. It was fun. We're doing another oral history project called Building Las Vegas. So we look at people that were involved in the different infrastructure, the commercial residential developments, all of that. So talk about what you observed as far as the building of Las Vegas since the moment you arrived. Well, people were making money. Let's just start with that. That's what it was about. People were making money. I observed that Las Vegas was very much of an insiders' town, but they needed talent from other areas because there was a shortage of talent. But it's still an insiders' town in many ways. There was just a lot of energy, excitement. I wrote one of my best pieces under the influence of that, for sure, for which as poet laureate I tend to be known called "Life in Las Vegas." There was a real sense of dynamism about the growth. Everybody knew this growth was happening. When Summerlin was announced, when it became the leading master-planned sales community in?I don't know if you're going to get somebody like John Goolsby?I think he passed way, didn't he, or no? I'm not sure. I'm not working on that project, but that name comes up. 16 But some of the other peop