Misbehaving Omaha Celebrities

12:43 PM

There is a mugshot of Nick Nolte from 2002 that’s fairly notorious, showing the actor looking haggard, his hair somehow both matted and standing away from his head, as though he had received an especially potent electric shock hours before and it was just now wearing off.

There’s an earlier one I like better, from 1961, when the actor was 20 and had spent years as a star athlete in high school. He’s young and clean-cut in the image, but he stares at the police camera with a look of remarkable disdain.

Nolte was one of two young men arrested and charged with selling fake IDs; the other was a 21-year-old named Thomas B. Rosenzweig. The pair altered the IDs and then sold them to college students for $6 to $10. Nolte was fined $110 for his role in the crime.

The ID cards that Nolte and his compatriot falsified? Selective service cards, which made the crime federal.
By the way, the news articles of the day give Nolte’s address at the time: 1150 S. 94thSt. I’m going to go ahead and guess that if you dig around in that neighborhood a bit, you can still find a 20-year-old who will make you a fake ID.

On the topic of youthful celebrity misbehavior, Peter Fonda once told me that he had planted a fake bomb at the Omaha greyhound station. He’s about as amiable a human being as I have ever met – he uses the expression “golly” with complete earnestness. But he’s also responsible for “Easy Rider” and still drives his Harley cross-county to Sturgis every year, so there’s a bit of a wild side to him.

It would have had to be at the end of the 50s or the start of the 1960s, as that’s when he was a student at UNO. Fonda recounted the story to the Columbia Daily Spectator on April 18, 1970: He claimed to have worn an eye-patch, trench coat and beret to drop a fake bomb in the station, and then alerted the police and stayed to see what happened.

And, son of a gun, if you go back to October 25, 1958, we find a story called “Bus Depot ‘Bomb” Dud.” It tells of a depot manager finding a bomb, setting it outside the building, and two police officers dismantling the thing to discover no detonator or explosive.

The police had received a call warning of the explosive from an “unidentified youth” saying he had overheard other youths saying they were going to bomb the station. The story is never linked with Fonda, but it mirrors the details of his story perfectly, so I’m going to go ahead and credit him with the event.

About the author

Max Sparber is a playwright and historian who lives in Omaha, Nebraska.