"A gang is a group of people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage, share a common identity."
When I first asked Jeff to join the podcast, I didn't know him at all - I only knew his writing. As the Sun's Business Editor, it was obvious he knew the industry. The occasional thought piece also made it clear the man had opinions and wasn't afraid to share them. Over the course of his time in Las Vegas news he was sued by Sheldon Adelson and had a full page ad taken out by the then Tropicana owners to refute one of his stories. Definitely the kind of guy we wanted to join up with some bloggers and a historian to create an irreverent brand of casino punditry.
I was a little surprised he said yes but he was interested right off the bat. We all became fast friends.
One of my favorite memories of Jeff is from this past August. Random circumstance meant that Chuck and I were in town at the same time. We got together with Dave and Jeff for a few drinks at Bellagio, in the Petrossian Bar. What I assumed would be maybe an hour chat turned into a marathon session. With lots of extra color on many of the stories he had covered over the previous decade, it was the kind of gathering you're sorry to have to leave, even hours after you had originally planned to head up to bed.
For someone that grew up with and participated in more traditional media, it might not have seemed inevitable: Jeff loved Twitter. In some ways, it may have seemed a bit vexing - the guy was not known for brevity. Still, he embraced the medium and made his 140 characters (okay, sometimes it was two, three or four tweets in a row) count. As a former reporter with both the RJ and the Sun, I think he learned to relish his forced independence and certainly didn't resist telling reporters from both papers when they had done work he loved or... didn't love. You always knew what Jeff thought.
Since I heard the news and posted the note from his family, I've been personally touched by the outpouring of support, both here and on Twitter. Former co-workers, colleagues and even competitors have chimed in, all with nothing but love for Jeff. He deserves it.
Jeff had a lot of respect for Vegas casino executives but a few were definitely close to his heart. Steve Wynn, the man responsible for much of the modern casino industry and Michael Gaughan, a savvy operator who traversed rocky seas several times throughout his career, both come to mind. He loved talking with his industry sources, both on and off the record, to learn more about the city he loved.
When we originally started the podcast, we didn't know what to call it. I think I put up a few suggestions, including 'Vegas Gang', for my co-panelists to consider. It wasn't my favorite but it stuck, I think mostly because names are hard and the other ones were really dumb. It turned out to be prophetic - I didn't know Jeff, Dave, David or even Chuck all that well when we got going but after 70+ episodes, some podcast personnel changes and a complete unraveling of the Vegas economy in the meantime, it turns out we were a gang, in the simplest sense of the word. One I was and one I am very proud to be a member of.
One of his favorite gigs was Nevada Week in Review, the PBS program that included Jeff many times over the past years. From host Mitch Fox to regular participants like Jon Ralston, Howard Stutz, Steve Sebelius, Jon Humbert, Patrick Coolican, Steve Friess and others - he was in his element, debating the Silver State's issues with fellow journalists. He loved those sessions and told me so several times. He was also proud to be able to appear as a representative of a 'new media' source. I don't know if that was a first or not but I was certainly very proud to see the affiliation on a show I watch regularly.
I'll be donating the monthly stipend that I paid Jeff for his column, for the next year, to the charity he loved, the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Rest in peace, buddy. I hope heaven has good parking.