By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Once again, he bosses reporters in an Arizona boom town.
It's a blast!" says the leathery Peyser, looking around his bustling newsroom. I practically live in this place. I don't mind it."
The area around him never sleeps, either. On the Nevada side of the river, Don Laughlin built the first casino in 1966, when the only hot thing in the area was the blistering heat itself.
But more and more casinos opened, and more and more snowbirds drove here. Bullhead City housed the casinos' employees, and snowbirds joined them. Construction jobs became plentiful.
A few years ago, Don Laughlin built a bridge across the river, ensuring Bullhead City's boom. Now that Laughlin has financed the construction of a runway directly across from his casino, the area is accessible by jet. In the Sixties, only a handful of people lived in Bullhead; the current estimate is 30,000-not counting the gamblers.
The recession? It hasn't hit here. Laughlin's casinos raked in $113.8 million during the first three months of this fiscal year-a 15 percent increase from the same period the previous year. (Meanwhile, the casino haul in Vegas and Reno declined slightly.)
Laughlin is not Vegas. Card Player Magazine columnist Nathan Chicago recently described it as a family gambling resort-if any place can be so described."
The town brings to mind the tee shirt for snowbirds that announces, We're spending our grandchildren's inheritance." They are.
There are more than 10,000 slot machines in Laughlin. One estimate is that, unlike the other gambling meccas, 78 percent of the Laughlin casinos' revenue is from slot machines. And 70 percent of that take is from the low-priced slots-the ones that swallow only nickels or quarters.
Gamblers call it a place for low rollers."
TEN THOUSAND slot machines notwithstanding, some people across the river in Arizona insist that the real bandits are over at Bullhead City Hall.
While the casinos are packed with elderly people grimly pouring small change into someone else's piggy banks, there's one retiree who's engaged in even more futile acts.
Bullhead City (named after a rock that's now submerged) was incorporated in 1984, and, since its very first council meeting, it's been hounded by a California retiree named Roy Rick.
He says he loves constitutional" government and hates commissions. See, I don't trust commissions," says Roy Rick, now 77. I'd like you to tell me one commission that you know of that has served anything but itself."
The city's politics have always been tumultuous-it's a new place that's growing fast, and such basic services as paved streets and garbage pickup still are huge problems. Bullhead City has endured recall elections and a parade of city managers.
But no public official in town seems safe from Roy Rick's wrath. He wants everybody recalled. The city and Roy Rick currently are ensnarled in a battle over Rick's allegation that he was unjustly arrested last year.
If you're a public official around here, you've probably had to listen to Roy Rick or look at the enormous paperwork he's generated. There's no question in Mr. Rick's eyes that I'm the Great Satan of Bullhead City," says city attorney Paul Lenkowsky, actually a graduate of the University of Arizona law school.
Some of Roy Rick's targets speak of his lengthy laundry list" of supposed culprits. It's an unwitting pun. Roy Rick even has a conspiracy theory that revolves around washing-machine bacteria. After all, he is a retired appliance dealer.
The odds of Roy Rick ousting the rascals" range from zero to nothing. His kamikaze approach currently includes a lawsuit against the State Bar of Arizona in which he maligns several members of the Arizona Bar.
Roy Rick claims the government took him prisoner" in February 1991. Some people say it's the other way around, pointing to Rick's constant anger, as expressed through a torrent of venomous memoranda and other missives aimed at various officials' actions and characters.
In a former life, Roy Rick ran an appliance store in the San Fernando Valley for 34 years. He recalls his business as a nice place with a balcony where he says he used to drink coffee and chew the fat with noted conservatives.
And from 1945 to 1974, Roy Rick says, he never missed a utility hearing in Los Angeles. Why? I was in the appliance business and the gas company was stealing my business," he says.
Ma Bell" is the real villain in his conspiratorial view, which starts with the problem of faulty drainage in the laundry room.
Your washing machine never empties," Roy Rick explains. It has a perforated tub and so it's filling an outer `sanitary drum,' as it's called. I call it a waste drum, sewer drum. Once you've taken any kind of disease home and planted it in that washing machine, it never leaves. It's always got bacteria to start growing."
And the drainage problem leads to overflows and even electrocutions when unsuspecting people walk into flooded rooms to turn off the water to their washing machines.
In the early Seventies, Roy Rick and his wife moved to Bullhead City and used it as their home base in traveling around the country in a 28-foot-long Travel Queen RV. I said back then," he recalls, no matter how crooked these real estate people were, this was going to be the greatest place in the United States."