The Clown Motel - Tonopah, NV

 

Description: Wherein Blair gets weird out in the Nevada desert.

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Introduction: Hello! Welcome to BlairSleptThere. I’m your host, Blair Hopkins. Today’s episode features one of America’s favorite roadside oddities, and one I get asked about constantly. I’m stoked to get to share this experience with y’all! But first, a couple announcements: 

 

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  2. The website is up! I post on Instagram all the time under @BlairSleptThere for my day-to-day hotel and motel coverage, but BlairSleptThere(dot)com is your spot for seeing complete sets of each episode’s photos, as well as transcripts, links to my references, additional educational resources, and eventually merch. I haaaaate dealing with website design and I worked really hard on this so please Go! See! Enjoy! Tell me what you think! Also, as an aside, I use Wix for all my website needs. They did not pay me to say that, but Wix, if you’re listening, I’m totally down to say it more often for money. Just sayin’. 

  3. The name of the town in today’s episode is pronounced “Tonopah”, and while I managed not to embarrass myself by saying it incorrectly in front of any residents, I did call it “Tonopah” in some of the live footage. 

 

Okay, onto the goods...

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Intro: In the years since I started shooting motels, hardly a week has gone by that someone hasn’t asked me about or brought up the infamous Clown Motel of Tonopah, NV. This ominous landmark, immediately adjacent a century-old cemetery, has loomed over Nevada’s Highway 95 about 3.5 hours northwest of Las Vegas, giving passers-through the willies for longer than I’ve been alive. According to an article by Audrey Webster on The Lineup titled Nevada’s Creepy Clown Motel Will Haunt Your Dreams, “The Clown Motel was founded by Leona and LeRoy David in 1985. They chose the location next to the cemetery because it’s where their family was buried. They decorated the walls with their clown collection and ran the place until 1995, when they sold to Bob Perchetti.”

 

The Clown Motel entered the larger cultural consciousness a couple of years ago when Mr. Perchetti decided to retire and put the motel back on the market. Suddenly it was being featured on every travel, Americana, and horror outlet in the tristate area and even loads of national and international sites like Daily Mail and Atlas Obscura. 

 

All of this coverage focused heavily on the creepiness of the place. Every headline was like *radio dj voice* “oooh you can own this creeeeepy clown motel oooooh soooo creepy”. I personally do not suffer from Coulrophobia and in fact, like clowns enough that my affinity for them sometimes creeps people out on its own, I’ve also stayed in a handful of motels wherein I have had very legitimate concerns about my imminent physical safety, and so always found the whole “this is the scariest hotel in the world” routine a little silly. I also do not believe in ghosts unless I’m in the state of Louisiana, the entirety of which is 100000% haunted. as. fuck. That said, I knew the photo opps would be outrageous, and so on my next trip to Las Vegas, I made a point of going out to see the spot. 

 

This was in 2017, back when Mr. Perchetti still owned the motel. I got in late, maybe around midnight, 1am (stick around; you’ll see a pattern begin to emerge here). The menacing life-size clown cutouts I’d seen in some articles were not present (packed in for the night, maybe?) but still, even having deliberately booked and having been on the road looking for it, the structure garnered a double-take. The motel was a faded baby blue and white featuring signage with cartoon clowns lit up with carnival-esque vanity bulbs. The parking lot was disproportionately large, likely with semi truck traffic in mind, and so the lobby was far enough from the roadside’s lights and signs to be a little unsettling. Immediately to the right of the lobby, the property ended and became what looked like a large, pitch-black empty lot, but that I knew to be the cemetery. 

 

Inside the lobby I was immediately hit with a familiar musty smell, that of heavily-trafficked 1980s carpeting. It was roomy and ricketty, wood-paneled and was host to massive shelves covered floor-to-ceiling with clown figurines of every conceivable shape, size and type. A 6’ Ronald McDonald kept watch over the coffee station by the front window, clowns with parachutes dangled over an ancient couch toward the back of the room, little porcelain clowns were configured looking outward to greet me, stuffed clowns gazed vacantly up at me from the floors. To the right was a counter separating me from a maze of back rooms, and from Mr. Bob Perchetti himself. Mr. Perchetti introduced himself. He seemed tired but friendly and still very much enamored of the motel while also still very much uncomfortable with all the recent attention. He gave me the room nearest the office. 

 

I was surprised and a little disappointed to find the room itself completely free of clown paraphernalia, but delighted to find the musty smell carried over by way of what I can only assume was original furniture. A lot of these older western motels have very large rooms, almost uncomfortably large with odd corners and nooks and crannies; this was no exception. Between the depth of the room and the limited scope of it’s dark orange-y lights, not all of which were working, I could barely see from the door to the bathroom. The vanity was tucked away in the back around yet another corner. Given the establishment’s reputation I was a little wary that one of the aforementioned missing scary cutouts might be lurking somewhere, and whether it be a murderous mime or bloodsucking hell-insect, I really dislike sharing my motel beds, so I included “behind the shower curtain” and “under the bed” checks with my usual mattress/pillow/headboard inspections. 

 

Anyway. The room was rundown but clean and cool. I slept like a rock. Left happy. 

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Script: Entering the Hotel (3:50): ...Get all this shit… All righty, here we are… I am at the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada where I have been before, but it’s now under new management, so let’s see what they have in store for me this time. 

 

Hello hotel room!

 

Oh my-- ugh! Oh my god. I swear to god if I turn on the light and theres a fucking clown doll in that bed… Okay, those are pillows… 

 

Oh my gosh! There’s a big banner on the table that says “Welcome Blair with flair”. That is so incredibly charming. Yeah, they've done a great job in here. They’re really leaning into the theme. 

 

When I stayed last time, all of the clown-themed things were really just contained to the lobby and now it looks like the new owners have painted the inside like, circus green, like, neon yellow-y green and they’ve added all these portraits of clown around the bed. But what’s funny is that they're not done like, there’s still painters tape on some things outside. Inside there’s still the old carpeting which you can tell is like, raised up and not less than 30 years old and it’s that like, notoriously hideous cheap motel carpeting and bedding but they’ve thrown a bunch of throw pillows that are circus colors onto the bed so when I first walked in I thought, I was like, oh my god there’s a fucking clown on that bed I swear to god. ‘Cause it does! It looks like there’s somebody sitting on the bed when the lights off. 

 

They’ve got a long way to go on this place. It's still as deliciously run down as it was previously, but you can see the improvements that they're making. Last time I stayed, I stayed in the room right next to the lobby and instead of towel racks there was just chains that were put into the wall with basically push pins or screws and now they've put up some towel racks, but they're not full and you can see a lot of plaster marks where they're kind trying to bring it together. There's still paint marks on the mirror and things like that, and only one of the bulbs on the vanity works. But, it’s… yeah it’s perfect. 

 

I know last time I stayed here I remember thinking “this is everything I could want in a weird dingey desert motel,” and now it’s actually even better so this is really great! I cannot wait to interview the new owner tomorrow and find out more about their plans for this place ‘cause it’s just wonderful. 

 

Okay! Let’s get these pictures taken... 

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I was relieved to find the room’s thematic enhancements. There had been a lot of concern expressed that the establishment’s sale might result in its demolition or revamping into a franchise. When I spoke to the new owner, he told me that actually, all potential buyers had their intentions thoroughly vetted prior to purchase. 

 

The other major (and majorly unsettling) defining feature of the property is its immediate proximity to an old cemetery. The First Tonopah Cemetery houses some of the area’s earliest residents and remains magnificently intact. It is a pretty but very strange and plot of land that rests just a little lower in elevation from the hotel’s. I say strange because it doesn’t seem to belong where it is - to just glance over the land with only the landscape’s context to go on, one would fully expect to find a junkyard down there. The dip in elevation insulates the cemetery from highway noise. Not that there’s much more than the occasional semi anyway, but it does feel oddly isolated within the bounds as opposed to just 30 or so feet away. Before bed I got my nerve together and took a short stroll across the neon-lit parking lot, past the lobby window and it’s leering clown idols, down around the side of the building 

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Cemetery Night Audio (6:35): All right. It’s about 2am, and I have decided I’m gonna go ahead and take a little walk here. It’s really beautiful out, really tepid. I can’t hear anything but crickets. I’ve got one more cigarette in this pack and then tomorrow I’ve gotta go back to clean livin’ because I spent all this last week buying cigarettes in fucking california and nearly bankrupted myself. 

 

I thought I might take this opportunity to walk down by the cemetery. I don't know if I’m gonna go in thought its uh… A) It’s incredibly, incredibly creepy and B) I don't know, I don’t wanna upset anybody who might be resting down in there so I might just.. Kinda… scoot along the edge here and try not to draw attention of anyone living or otherwise. 

 

Oh god. This is 100% how people die in horror movies. I’m literally going to work on a horror movie; I should know better. Okay. First Tonopah Cemetery 1901-1911. Buried here are many Tonopah’s pioneer residents including 14 victims of the tonopah Belmont mine fire of february 23rd 1911 as well as the victims of the 1902 tonopah plague. Cemetery fenced by 1979 central nevada historical society. 

 

The thing I remember most about seeing this cemetery in the daytime is that they are all very makeshift graves. Yeah I’m not fuckin’... I’m not going in there. That’s too much for me, thanks. 

 

I’m standing... There’s like a chain link fence that’s on the outside of a much older looking wooden fence, neither or which are very high, maybe 5 feet, and you can see right down into the area. All of the graves are outlined with rocks and haved wooden headstones. Every single fucking noise is about making me jump out of my skins os I’m gonna walk like two feet further away...

 

I’m not gonna be able to see anything worth recording anyway. Cemetery is maybe, I don’t know, maybe 30-50 feet from the hotel? It’s closer than most suburban homes. 

 

It’s really pretty and eerie the way that like the lights from the hotel cast lights over the wooden tombstones. I think I’m gonna just allow these poor mine fire victims to just rest here tonight. The presence of the black cat walking parallel to me right now does not really, foster a sense of like, wanting to go in there either.

 

Hi! Hey kitten!

 

Oh look, there’s another one. 

 

Hey kitten!

 

I’m really really tired. Kinda feeling my age or something I dunno. Normally an 8-hour drive wouldn't take it out of me like this - hello hotel room - think I’m gonna have some popcorn, maybe I want to pop 3 or 4 bags of this for the road tomorrow, make good use of the microwave, settle in.

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Old Tonopah cemetery is positively stunning in the daylight. It feels just as out of place and is just as eerily quiet on the grounds; the sun is downright menacing in Nevada this time of year but even it seems reverent of the lot. One would expect the town’s remains to be scorched from exposure and yet the field of makeshift graves stands not cowering, not triumphant, in fact not defiant at all but indifferent to the elements. The headstones are fashioned from wooden planks. Some are rounded, some combined into crosses, but largely they are just shoved resolutely into the ground as-found, affixed with thin metal plates upon which the memories of the deceased are preserved. 

 

You may find this surprising but I haven’t spent that much time rooting around old mining town cemeteries in the desert. I have no idea if the way Tonopah’s is constructed is the era standard and it very well could be, but I have not seen anything like it before or since. On the little metal plates, the deceased’s information is riveted, or in some instances, carved, in. The limits of the medium make the information appear primitive, almost like handwriting, and it feels so intimate. Some even have flower shapes hammered into them that don’t look unlike some of my own doodling. 

 

The other unique thing about these headstones is the amount of information they relay; most of them have not only a name with a birth and death date, but also where the occupant was from and how they died. This cemetery is best known for housing residents who died in the 1911 Belmont Company Mine Fire, but there are graves belonging to men who died of heart failure and “liver complaint” as well as several women in their early 20s who died by suicide (RIP Maude Walker), including the grave of one Laura Smith who died in 1906 and according to her headstone was “a kind lady”, under which is scrawled “life became a burden”. There are named and unnamed infants and, most memorably, the particularly poetic grave of one Charles Smith, age 33 from British Columbia, an ore sorter at the Montana Tonopah Mine who in August of 1906 was “murdered in his cabin behind the Midway Mine”. I’ll just put this out there now: I intend to be cremated, but on the off chance I end up with a headstone, I’d like it to contain no less and no less interestingly presented information than this. 

 

Tonopah’s roots run deep; it was Shoshone territory for centuries, and the town’s first european population was by people making their way to and from California during the Gold Rush of the 1840s. Silver was soon thereafter discovered throughout the Great Basin region, which encompases all of Nevada, as well as most of Oregon, Utah, California, Idaho and Wyoming. 

 

A man named Jim Butler was the first to come across silver in what’s now known as Tonopah, and legend has it that his discovery was completely by accident. The prevailing narrative is that Jim was frustrated with one of his burros, having spent most of the previous night looking for the animal, and when he found it, went to throw a rock at it. The rock was exceptionally heavy and was determined to be silver upon further inspection. The more likely truth, though, is that Butler had insider info, as his wife was part Shoshone and he spoke the language fluently. Also, the discovery of silver was hardly instantaneous and in this, both legend and historical record are in agreement: Butler took his suspected silver to several assayers and was rejected out of hand. Assayer Frank Hicks even told Butler he “wouldn’t pay a dollar for a thousand tons of the stuff”. The ore was unusual, and it turned out, of unusually high-quality, with the highest bid coming in at nearly $600/per ton. 

 

After Butler sold his claim and the mining industry formally moved into the area, life bustled but was very, very hard. One of my primary sources for this episode is a text called A History of Tonopah, NV by anthropologist and son-of-a-miner Roberty D. McCracken. In the text he presents an oral account of life in the early mining camps by one of its first female residents, cook Charlotte “Lottie” Stimler, who had this to say:

 

“I thought I had never seen such a horrid place as that tent: everything was so crowded, 

dusty and dirty, and the water wagon had failed to get into camp before dinnertime. My "white" dishes were put to immediate use, as was also my table and my new white oilcloth covers. When all the men came in from work, great was their surprise and delight to find a decent table at which they could all sit down together without discomfort, and the white dishes— how they enjoyed eating off of them, for they had used tin ones before.... That night at supper there were 30 men instead of about 15, as Miss Grieves and I had calculated; but fortunately I had cooked up a kettleful each of beans and sauerkraut that forenoon, and then we made biscuits and fried steak, and managed to "fill them up. " The boys had had to fix the tents in such a hurry that the cold wind seemed to blow right through the dining room without stopping; and the men had a great time trying to keep the two lamps burning during the meal. But they were all good natured and seemed well pleased with the first supper.

 

About the second of February it began to snow and blow so furiously that within a few days the snow was three feet on the level and piled up behind our kitchen for five or six feet.

 

Our feet would almost freeze while standing and walking on the ice and mud, while waiting on the table. By bedtime Miss Grieves' shoes and mine would be so wet that they would freeze stiff during the night. We would have to thaw them out before we could put them on, next morning. The frost would come through the canvas of the tent and drop on us, and so we had to keep our heads covered during sleep. One night I woke and found my pillow covered with light snow. Our alarm clock would freeze and stop, so I put it under my pillow to keep it warm. 

 

There were so few of us and we had so much to do that we had to get up about 4:30 in the morning. We would not get to bed until 11:00 or after at night. Even when I got to bed, I could hardly sleep; every fierce gust of wind would almost blow the tent over. 

 

Nearly every morning some tent would blow down, its occupant buried in the snow. All he could do was to pull the canvas over him to protect himself till morning.

 

When provisions ran low, all residents were glad to see the grub wagon. Even the sacks of potatoes on one wagon had frozen, but no one complained. In the middle of March the wind blew so hard that it broke the main scanting along the side of the tent. They thought they had the tent fixed, then: 

 

When everything was secure, as they thought, they got about halfway across the street when the ridgepole broke in two.... The boy who helped me first braced himself against

the door, to keep the whole front of the tent from blowing in, while I ran out to call the men back. 

 

Another day, our kitchen tent was torn and blown down, at dinner time. While the men were eating, one of us would stand and hold the pipe on the cookstove to keep it from blowing away. In spite of our efforts, it would slip off the stove, and the whole place filled with soot and smoke and ashes. 

 

Finally the kitchen tent was ripped from top to bottom in several places; it scattered and 

upset everything except the stove.”

 

In reading Stimler’s account, I can’t help but think of the women in the cemetery who’s headstones are marked “suicide”. As miserable and laborious as it was for the men, it had to have been even worse for the women, who had very limited rights in the community, almost no protections, a staunch and harsh social caste system in place, and a high rate of poverty due to mine widowhood. 

 

For miners, death was always at the doorstep. Tonpah’s great plague of 1902 is another bit of eerie local legend. It’s always presented as a mysterious illness of still-unknown origin that swept the camps, leaving the spirits to wander, frightening tourists for all eternity. Further research reveals that this plague almost exclusively affected the town’s men and as such, was probably black lung, though pneumonia was definitely a problem that took the lives of many infants and elderly people throughout those rough winters of the settlement’s youth. 

 

If you ask me, the far more likely haunters of Tonopah are the tortured souls of those killed in the Belmont Company mine fire of 1911, also interred with the plague victims. 17 men were killed in the fire, many by smoke inhalation; the rest were crushed to death by the lift sent to rescue them. One man, Big Bill Murphy, saved dozens of men by braving the blaze in said lift. He went down into the shaft twice, but on his third trip down, failed to re-emerge. The cause of the fire was never determined. 

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Despite it’s brushes with tragedy and against the odds set forth by precedential gold and silver “boom towns”, Tonopah thrived throughout the late 1800s and even became the Nye County Seat. With industry came immigrants. With immigrants came community, religion, libraries, newspapers, roads, and nightlife. There were, naturally, endless racial and ethnic struggles, in particular there was the old west staple of exploitation of and violence towards Indigenous people and the Chinese. That’s a very important subject that is deserving of at the very least it’s own episode. Overall thought, the area was considered to be diverse and well-functioning by standards of the time, with a good mix of indigenous people, free black, Chinese, European and Slavic immigrants, as well as a host of transpla nts from the eastern United States. 

 

The region’s mining tapered off over the years and transitioned to primarily a ranching area. The highway served as a vital trucking routes across the desert. At-present, Tonopah still has around 2500 residents, one of the newest of which is the Clown Motel’s new proprietor, Hame Anand. 

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Hame: My name is Hame Anand and kinda I’m, you could say I’m a new CEO of Clown Motel, because my family doesn’t want to say their name that who owns this motel. So they say, “you are the one who hotel, everything you are the, totally, totally... you know.” 

 

Blair: This is all you, yeah.

 

Hame: “It is all you, yes. And whatever you have to improve, upgrade this is all your planning. You do it whatever.” I mean, I discuss it little bit every time but… 

 

So, and then my background is, I was in India, so, I was Art Director and creator for an advertising agency, and I worked 20 years there. And I had my Bachelor’s of Art there, and I came here for my Masters of Communication. I went to Nebraska, Lincoln. And then I finished my degree and I got a chance to work with president Obama, I got selected for the campaign and I worked for them, then I got a job, and this is how I got my green card and citizenship. And then my family all the time was forcing me to “come and join us!” you know, so I got transfer in Vegas and I start living with them and working with motels. After 2 months they say “man you surpassed everybody! You should work in motel. You are good guy; you should take care of this thing”. I said “that’s not my career”, but they say “okay how about if we buy one motel and give it to you?”

 

Blair: Any motel?

 

Hame: Yeah, any motel, “anywhere you want to go. You just search and you tell us ‘hey, I selected this motel’, and we’ll buy it.” So this is how it happened. I was watching, searching everywhere, everywhere! I mean, search was wide wide wide. I can go Alaska, Nebraska, everywhere. So suddenly I saw this thing. And I say wow this is totally different thing. It’s like a landmark and people come here and popular... So I said “that’s my motel. I’m gonna buy this”. 

 

So when I was discussing and telling about to my family, they all totally rejected. They said “I’m not gonna buy this motel ever because last night we were searching and everybody is saying this is haunted and this thing. No no no no.” I said “you are not going there. If something will happen, will happen to me!” 

 

Blair: “The clown ghosts are coming for me!”

 

Hame: And then they came here with me, I said “okay let's go and check it out”, so they came here, and you’re not gonna believe they totally changed! They said “yeah we’ll buy this motel”. And so we bought it, and here we are. 

 

Blair: And here you are! Not bad.

 

Hame: Yeah, not bad!  

 

  • Doorbell rings, woman and child enter -

 

Blair: We’ll just let these folks get in there... 

 

Hame: How are you guys?

 

Woman: Hi, how are you?

 

He wanted a postcard. 

 

Blair: They’re great! 

 

Hame: Just $1

 

Woman: Grab two

 

Blair: Yeah and those are free; you get a free clown nose. Were you guys just driving by?

 

Woman: Yeah, we’re driving by. He said that he saw this in a video, this motel. 

 

Blair: Oh, nice! 

 

Hame: Oh, he knows this. 

 

Woman: Yeah, he said he wants to stay here next time. 

 

Hame: Oh really?

 

Woman: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, I like it. 

 

Say thank you! 

 

Child: Thank you! 

 

Hame: Thank you! 

 

Blair: Um, all right, so you bought the hotel in April, right?

 

Hame: right, we took over, yeah. 

 

Blair: Okay. And has it been what you expected? What's it been like slipping into owning a hotel?

 

Hame: Really great. Yeah. I mean, I’m not missing my job, because looks like I’m working, all the time I’m working on some artwork, logo design, I do paperwork, think about the theme, how I have to grow this motel. 

 

Blair: So it’s still very creative.

 

Hame: Yeah very creative, very creative. This is all my planning, the changes to the sign, everything. Did I show you...

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Hame brought out a file folder with design and building plans. He says that he maps out everything on his tablet first and collaborates with his silent partners on plans for renovations, but basically has full autonomy on what he’d like to do design-wise. His palette is fantastical but well-coordinated; he’s already started painting the building, changing the base color to brick red covered with yellow, green, blue and purple polka dots. He’s re-painted the clown cutouts on the doors of each room and intends to add loads of signage, both in the rooms and around the property. 

 

In one of the back rooms he is working on a series of 3-4’ tall celebrity clown caricatures, the ranks of which include Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, The Beatles, and Donald Trump. 

 

There are big plans for the buildings themselves, too. Hame is renovating everything, replacing carpeting and furniture, doing complete upgrades on the facilities. He plans to fully re-create the lobby area into a large, two-story circular building reminiscent of a circus tent, complete with a museum-style display for the lobby’s infamous clown figurines and well as other local artifacts, and a cafe with floor-to ceiling windows overlooking the cemetery. He is fascinated by the area’s history and obsessed with making people’s experiences as immersive as possible. 

 

Most impressively, Hame is very invested in keeping the establishment accessible and maintains that his price structure will not change much. He anticipates raising the room prices by $5-10 over the next several years to keep up with inflation, but says he wants the place to be comfortable and fun, not fancy or exclusive. He’s able to do this, he says, because he’s found reliable, affordable local contractors. Also his visual art background and advertising expertise allow him to create the vast majority of the thematic enhancements on his own. He’s even already put together a new commercial:

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  • Comercial Plays - 

 

Hame: I used the fear factor!

 

Blair: You have to! That’s what it’s based off of right?

 

Hame: Yes, yes, yes. [Someone] was telling me why you saying like this? I said yeah, this is the one I need. I don't wanna say “this is the motel and this-and-that we have, and that it no. We are famous for this. 

 

Blair: I think a lot of people were scared when they saw that it was up for sale and they thought “Oh my god it’s gonna become like a Marriott or…” 

 

Hame Oh yeah, yeah, right. So it was on sale, he was saying - Bob was saying that a lot of people came here to buy this motel but they had a different concept in their mind. They’re gonna change the clowns, gonna get rid of clowns, keep the clowns and take motel and change the name everything. He said no, not gonna happen. So when I saw I said oh my god, I’m going to keep thins. I’m going to make this place bigger. 

 

Blair Go all the way with it. Do you worry about it becoming too kitschy or too cheesy, or are you just gonna go with it? 

 

Hame: Yeah I’ll go with it. 

 

Blair: Is this the smallest town that you’ve lived in?

 

Hame: Yeah, it’s a small town. 

 

Blair: There’s not much going on. 

 

Hame: Every time with my job with the advertising agency was never in small towns. I was in chicago, LA New York, near DC, yeah. 

 

Blair: Is your family out here? Are you married, have kids?

 

Hame: My son - I have only one son - he is studying in india because I studied here I paid a lot of money. Hella money. $80k! I said I cannot afford. And parents… Every parent knows how far the kid will go. What his future is. You can pretend anything but you know inside that your kid is not that sharp, not gonna be, in India, not going to be a doctor, not gonna make something, you know that he is gonna live a mediocre life. So I say I am putting him in college here and spending $80k? No. Better I will buy a business and at least if you don’t find anything, okay come join us. So I saved that money. So He’s studying there. My wife is there because you know, inian mom never leave their kid. 

 

Blair: Okay, so she went with him?

 

Hame: Yeah, she said “I’m not gonna leave my son. He’s the only one and want to spoil him”. She’s there maybe one more year then join us. 

 

Blair: That’ll be great! And by then you’ll have everything ready. 

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Hame and his family seem to be in it for the long haul out in Tonopah; though he’s only maybe ¼ of the way through renovations at the Clown Motel, when we spoke he and his extended family were already making plans to purchase another hotel in town. That spot was a mess with a terrible reputation, and Hame has eyes to completely rebrand it in the interest of giving Tonopah another higher-end hotel option. The amount he’s taking on all at once seems tremendous, and I asked him if he was worried that he might be biting off more than he can chew. He dismissed the question entirely, saying that the Clown Motel’s notoriety makes it self-sustaining even through the construction, and the rest, he’s saved for unknowingly as he put money back toward retirement. His advice for anyone looking to take a leap into hospitality perfectly encapsulates his energetic, realistic attitude about investments: 

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Hame: They buy shit and they leave it like shit, and they think ther’e gonna make money. That’s not the business. You gotta put up money! 

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A part of me is a little sad to see the Clown Motel’s creaky old bones refortified into a Vegas-informed, Hard Rock Cafe version of itself, as though transitioning to full-on tourist attraction will come at the expense of its authenticity. On the other hand, the Hame clearly feels he’s struck gold in having acquired the place, and a quirky local hotel serving as the lifeblood for a clever, ambitious immigrant family is in perfect, poetic keeping with Tonopah’s story. I am certain that the motel and its spirits both harlequin and historical, are in good hands. 

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This episode of Blair Slept There was written and produced by me, Blair Hopkins, with music by Lola Johnson. For photos from today’s episode, visit blairsleptthere.com, or find me on Twitter and Instagram at @Blairsleptthere. If you’re interested in supporting this humble venture, please visit me on Patreon and don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe on whichever podcast platform you employ! 

 

For more information on Tonopah, NV, visit www.tonopahnevada.com and check out Robert D. McCracken’s brilliantly-assembled and sourced, 10,000 BC - present book A History of Tonopah, Nevada. It is available for free online through internetoarchive.org, or for sale with accompanying photographs from Nye County Press. Happy Halloween everyone! And happy birthday to the state of Nevada, which was ratified as such on October 31st, 1864.

Resources: 

https://archive.org/stream/AHistoryOfTonopah/tonopahhard_djvu.txt 

 

https://the-line-up.com/clown-motel-tonopah 

 

https://usminedisasters.miningquiz.com/saxsewell/belmont_mine.htm

© 2020 Blair Hopkins