LAS VEGAS (KSNV NEWS3LV) — Any who has lived for several years in Southern Nevada may have heard stories about the “Cave Lady of Sunrise Mountain.”
Two years ago, News 3 came into possession of exclusive recordings of the woman, never released in public and not heard by anyone for half a century.
In 2015, the focus was on a profile of the woman that was presented in a 1964 edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and her reaction to it.
That reaction leads into an examination of her relationship with the gay and lesbian residents of Southern Nevada, who were highly closeted at that time.
“Not a community,” clarifies Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride. “Not in the sense we think of today, where you have a shared space other than a bar. In those days they had the bars and that was it.
McBride is the author of “Out of the Neon Closet” which profiles the evolution of gay and lesbian life in this area, and has listened to the recordings of Mrs. Morgan.
In fact, her real name is unknown. She refers to herself as Mrs. Morgan, but also states that it is a pseudonym she was using while living on the side of Sunrise Mountain (technically, Frenchman Mountain) as part of a religious retreat.
After reading a profile written about her in the Review-Journal, Mrs. Morgan spoke angrily of the journalist whose name appeared in the byline.
“This deliberate attempt on the part of this known homosexual reporter to harm my work was not accepted as truth by any thinking person in Las Vegas,” she said in December of 1964 into a reel-to-reel recorder, later transferred to LP, “since he was obviously no way qualified either as a writer, or as a decent person.
Decades before the US Supreme Court’s “Marriage Equality” ruling, part of her criticism of writer Donald Warman was a serious charge.
“To be ‘outed’ as a known homosexual publicly probably would have cost him his job at the RJ,” says McBride. “And there was a law on the books in the city and in the county that bars could lose their licenses. Their liquor license, their grog license. And their gambling license if they had one, if they served known homosexuals.”
About an hour's walk from the location of Mrs. Morgan’s hillside dwelling, you’ll find Dylan's Sports Pub today on Nellis at Charleston. But for three decades it was Max and Marie's, then Maxine's then Maxie's, run by a Maxine Perron, who was a "frenemy" of Mrs. Morgan, and a pioneer in the local gay and lesbian community whether she saw herself that way or not.
“Maxine ran a bar for what they termed ‘queers’,” said Mrs. Morgan. “And they all stated that she was reputed to be a lesbian.”
“She was willing in later years to take all the accolades that the gay community was willing to give her,” says McBride. “But do not ‘out’ her, even though the idea of Maxine being closeted is ridiculous, and it always was ridiculous.”
Mrs. Morgan seemed to have a "don't ask don't tell" philosophy.
“If you personally do not know this to be true, please do not say it anywhere,” she said, referring to the allegations that Perron was a lesbian. “But even if you know it to be true, please do not say it here. I'm happy thinking the best of her.”
“If you don't have direct knowledge, don't say it out loud,” sums up McBride. “But here she did it to Don Warman.”
Everything about Mrs. Morgan’s opinions of Perron seems contradictory, in retrospect.
“I was struck immediately by the phoniness of her assumed butch act,” said Mrs. Morgan in describing Perron. “In actuality, this woman seemed more feminine than I. She was a very neat and clean looking person, with her natural, wavy red hair cut short.”
On the other side of this odd relationship, the owner of this early gay bar helped establish the legend of the “Cave Lady.”
“Maxine told people at the bar about Mrs. Morgan,” Says McBride. “So people at the bar would seem to do little field trips from Maxine's up to the mountain.”
Since News 3 first aired portions of these forgotten recordings two years ago, the last remnants of the cave have been filled in.
The original story including how the recordings came to be discovered can be found at: http://news3lv.com/news/special-reports/the-cave-lady-audio-recordings-reveal-vegas-urban-legend-was-a-woman-on-a-religious-mission