After the deal to take over the Reno News & Review was finalized, one of the first people I reached out to, back in January, was Bruce Van Dyke. I didn’t even wait until the sale officially closed.
I wanted him to resume writing Notes From the Neon Babylon. “To be frank, it doesn’t feel like the RN&R to me without you,” I wrote.
In his reply, he thanked me for reaching out, and said he was happy to hear about the RN&R’s possible print return. “Unfortunately, your timing isn’t so good,” he said, explaining that he was just beginning a new regimen of chemo to get his lymphoma, which had been dormant for five years, back under control. “My doctors are optimistic, which is cool, but the next few months are gonna be a little dicey. So any kind of writing on a regular basis won’t have my full attention, I’m afraid. … Good luck, full speed ahead, and when I’m a little more energetic, maybe we can talk.”
That talk was not to be. Bruce Van Dyke died on Sept. 16. His final radio home, Jive Radio (www.jiveradio.org), said BVD was taken by complications following “an attack of a rare strain of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.” He was 69 years old.
In the days since his passing, my social media feeds have been full of heartbroken yet joyful remembrances of Bruce. One friend mentioned BVD’s love of birding. Bob Grimm talked about Bruce being a fan of the Atlanta Braves. Several people called him a mentor. Many people reflected on his decades on the Reno airwaves, most notably on The X—his creation, his baby. And a lot of people mentioned his column in the RN&R, Notes From the Neon Babylon.
That column was part of the RN&R for so long that it actually pre-dates the RN&R being the RN&R: It debuted in the Nevada Weekly, the publication that would become the Reno News & Review after not quite two years of existence. The column pre-dates our web presence by more than a half-decade, so we had to go digging through the bound print volumes to find the first Notes From the Neon Babylon. That first column (at least that we could find; seeing as we were flipping through 28-year-old print editions, it’s possible we missed something), from the Jan. 5, 1994, Nevada Weekly, is reprinted here.
Notes From the Neon Babylon continued in the RN&R almost every week—in recent years, tucked under our 15 Minutes column on the inside back cover—through March 19, 2020, when all things RN&R came to a screeching halt, thanks to SARS-CoV-2.
“So now, we enter the ‘Flatten the Curve’ era. OK, cool,” Bruce wrote in his final Notes From the Neon Babylon. “It’s like the classic old sci-fi story from Astonishing Tales, where the people of Earth are all crazy with war and killing each other, and then the Martians attack, and we Earthlings all suck it up and band together to repel and defeat the invaders. I’ve long been comfortable with the thought that pretty much nothing could ever again unite our fractured country, even a little bit. And then … somebody in China ate a freakin’ BAT? Wacky!”
In recent years, Bruce kept on keeping on, working with Jive Radio. On Sept. 27, 2021, he wrote a lengthy post on Facebook about The X being “put to sleep.” It was reflective and hilarious, of course—how could something written by Bruce not be? (Damn, it would have made a fine Notes From the Neon Babylon.) Here’s how he concluded it:
“How does that old saying go? ‘Don’t be sad because it’s over, be happy because it happened.’ Something like that. Seems appropriate today.”
So long, BVD. I am so very happy you happened.
He was Reno.
Iconic, A tad wacky, wonderful and totally full of the Sierras.
My bucket list wish would have been to follow him around in his Northern Nevada treks, to see for myself what he so beautifully described. I have collected a ton of his RN&R articles because they were, to me, so Spot On.
The news of his passing was and will always be devastating.
God Speed, and when you catch up with Hunter S. Thompson?
I expect Tales From Beyond The Neon Babylon!!!
With great Love + Respect. L.
I got turned on to a lot of great music by listening to The X, and Bruce’s columns were always worth reading. A breath of fresh air at a time when the area’s media landscape was otherwise pretty homogenous and bland. Thank u Bruce. Rest in peace.
I still remember interviewing Bruce for a piece in the RGJ about the “X” and its amazing resiliency. He was just so great. We talked Reno radio, the “X” and its birth, why the station kept coming back against incredible odds, and why so much of the station’s success was the pride that the people who worked there took in its existence. Bruce made a very clear point that to be a good DJ a person had to take pride in being a “tunesmith” as well as a “wordsmith.” No one in our area was a better “tunesmith” and “wordsmith” than Bruce. His Reno News & Review, column, which you write about so well, Jimmy, was an extension of this wonderful intersection of music, thought and words that Bruce inhabited so well. I remember he called me after my story in the RGJ appeared. He thanked me for it, and said that anytime I wanted to come down their studios again and hang out, I was welcome. Come to find out, all of Reno had the same standing invitation with this uncommonly talented man.
My wife and I first met Bruce when we bought “Rancho Recluso” from him. He wrote about it often in “Notes”. Bruce was awesome, super nice, and bent over backwards to make our life out here as nice as his was. RIP Bruce.
Many times I only read Bruce’s column and nothing else. RIP brother
I remember Bruce from his days at KOZZ. Once he started the “X” I was a constant listener. Used to read his columns. Might not always agree with him but they were great. Several years ago I wrote an article about him for the Sparks Tribune when Bruce was at the “X.” Really great watching him at the board and how he ran his show. Kind of lost touch and was shocked as well as saddened to hear of his demise. He was a fixture here in Reno and is missed by many including myself. May you rest in peace Bruce and thanks for all those memories you created.
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