What the Heck is a “Thirst Parlor?”

When Raquel Welch’s bra ends up on the stag’s head, you KNOW shit just got real.

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It could use a good dusting and/or wash, but — no lie — that’s 60’s sex-goddess Raquel Welch’s bra on the left antler. And she’s still hot now, BTW.

When I walked into the Genoa Bar, I found my new favorite watering hole. Built in 1853 by one Frank Fettic as a high-glass establishment serving liquor, wine, and cigars, patrons would include Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. Even the glitterati swung through; Carol Lombard and Clark Gable, two serious card sharks, parried with local cattle barons here, and Lauren Bacall and Johnny Cash each ponied up to the bar.

It’s the only thing that had any space for them too; every inch of the Genoa Bar is utilized and not necessarily in the conventions of interior design. From walls JAMMED with paintings, photos, and occasional naked-lady art, to the restroom hallways, whose bricks are carved to within an inch of their lives with graffiti, this is not so much a bar as a reliquary to everything that can happen in one. The windows are veritable warrens of dust bunnies, there are splatters on the ceiling, and there’s enough cobwebbing to weave a carpet. This being Nevada, there are slot machines in the back. Don’t even get me starting with the safe stuffed with bras:

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The bra safe at the Genoa Bar.

So I get the feeling that the term “high-class establishment” has been stretched over the ears. And I had the time of my life!

History lesson: When Americans began to show up in the territory we now call Nevada, they moved in from the west, not the east. This makes sense, since most of the state, except for a teeny-tiny little sliver of green around Lake Tahoe, is the Great Basin, that, is the bone-dry desert everybody tried to get through or stay out of entirely. California was the power-address, Nevada was then just the empty part of Utah Territory. It wasn’t until 1851 that the region got its first town and capital: Genoa.

About 54 miles south of Reno and first called Mormon Station, tiny Genoa became the Nevada state capital in 1861 until that honor went to Carson City. But a lot can happen in a decade, and one of the most colorful additions to town was the Genoa Bar. But despite all the signage (it’s new), DON’T call it a “bar” (quelle horreur!) or, worse, a “saloon” (*faints*). This is Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor.

Spin-doctoring is a time-honored tradition, after all.

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Where the magic happens.

And never was there a place with more character — and characters. I crashed a biker rally when showed up, for example. Genoa is a tiny place, the population doesn’t even crack 1,000, but as the name-dropping suggests, the Genoa Bar pulls in fans and from across Nevada and well beyond. This modest, boxy brick building is practically the cornerstone of town.

Little wonder, considering their Bloody Alices. Actually a place famous for its Bloody Marys (the recipe is top-secret; don’t ask), the bartender was kind enough to switch out vodka for gin when I told her my very true story of having WAY too much vodka the night of my 21st birthday, the 7-hour rough terrain hike I had the next day, and the fact that if I even get a whiff of the stuff I still get nauseous. It was the best damn Bloody Alice I ever had.

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The “graffiti wall” on the way to the Genoa Bar bathrooms.

And here’s the best part: So there I was, enjoying a particularly potent drink, surrounded by bikers, bras, mysterious stains on the ceiling, and windows that could qualify as science projects — and I am as gay as a three dollar bill and didn’t have a ounce of trouble.

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Cheers!

Can’t wait to go back. The patrons were friendly, the service was prompt, the servings are generous, and Raquel Welch’s bra is hang from a deer’s horn. What else do you need?

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