Las Vegas Sun

October 31, 2014

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ALAN JARLSON: 1932-2007

When Fidel Castro rose to power, Las Vegas Sun reporter Alan Jarlson was dispatched to Cuba to get reactions from Las Vegas gaming figures who were working in Havana casinos.

In his eight-part series in January 1959 on Castro's takeover, Jarlson wrote: "When (ruler Fulgencio) Batista fled Cuba and Castro proclaimed victory on New Year's Day, a porter emerged from the men's room of the Habana Riviera and announced to (mob boss) Meyer Lansky: 'I'm the boss man now. With Castro I am captain. See me for your orders.' "

Jarlson took Sun readers on a wondrous yet forboding journey through the eyes of casino bosses and workers who soon would flee Cuba to escape potential persecution by the man who would become one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century.

Alan Edward Jarlson, who also served as news director at Las Vegas TV channels 8 and 13 and was a producer at CBS for coverage of national political conventions, the civil rights movement and early manned space missions, died Monday at a hospital in Vacaville, Calif. He was 75.

Jarlson died after a lengthy battle with throat cancer and a series of other health problems, his family said. Services are pending.

Jarlson, among the first employees hired by Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun after he purchased the paper in 1950, initially worked as a Sun photographer. Jarlson's early work includes shots of mushroom clouds from above-ground nuclear tests during the 1950s.

A photo Jarlson shot in Cuba of a woman pleading for her life to one of Castro's lieutenants ran in the Sun and Life magazine and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, his family said.

Jarlson's brother, journalist Gary Jarlson, recalled that many Las Vegas casino owners had investments in Havana's casinos and expressed concern to Greenspun about those businesses - and their money - under Castro.

"Hank sent Alan there and Alan just connected with Castro," Gary Jarlson said.

His brother even wrote a colorful piece about the dictator's famed whiskers.

"Fidel Castro is giving considerable thought to never shaving off his beard," Jarlson wrote in a Sun story that ran on Jan., 20, 1959. Quoting Castro: "It took me a lot of time and a lot of sacrifice to grow it."

Nine months earlier, during another assignment to Cuba, Jarlson was arrested while covering rebel activity.

The New York Times reported on its front page that Jarlson was one of six U.S. newsmen arrested at the Hotel Casa Grande. Jarlson was held for 10 hours .

Gary Jarlson, a Sun reporter and night editor from 1959 to 1967, said his brother changed the face of Southern Nevada's broadcast and print news coverage.

"Alan brought a sense of maturity to local journalism, giving it a level of professionalism it had never before achieved," his brother said.

Born Allan Jarlsson on June 26, 1932, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jarlson dropped an "l" from his first name and an "s" from his last name because he thought his byline would look better , his brother said.

Jarlson came to Las Vegas with his family when he was 11. He dropped out of Las Vegas High and at age 18 joined the Sun staff. He did not attend college.

Jarlson served in the Army from 1953 to 1955 and returned to the Sun as a full-time reporter.

In the late 1950s, Jarlson became a reporter for Channel 8, then owned by Greenspun, and, in the early 1960s, served as that station's news director. At the same time, Jarlson was a Sun associate editor and a news reporter for KRAM radio.

During Jarlson's years at CBS, he was a field producer for the 1964 Democratic and Republican national conventions, a field producer for the 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Ala., and a producer for the 1966 Gemini 9A space flight, among other events.

Jarlson returned to the Sun in August of that year and covered politics and other major issues throughout the balance of the decade.

In the 1970s, Jarlson was news director for Channel 13. In the 1980s he was a reporter for Northern California newspapers. He retired four years ago after working as a periodic columnist for the Vacaville Daily Reporter and Vallejo Times Herald.

Jarlson's last story for the Sun was a piece about the good old days of Las Vegas for the paper's 50th anniversary issue on July 2, 2000.

He is survived by his wife, Betty of Vacaville; three sons, Greg of New York City ; Quentin of Orlando, Fla. ; and Paul of Valdese , N.C.; five daughters, Christine of New City, N . Y . ; Amy and Alexandra, both of Vancouver, Wash. ; Angela of Atlantic Beach, Fla. ; and Allyson of Fair Oaks , Calif.; and 12 grandchildren.

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