YOU’RE INVITED


 

PUBLICATION PARTY FOR LOCAL AUTHOR’S MEMOIR-CRADLE OF CRIME

                                                                     by Luellen Smiley

 

La Posada Resort & Spa- 330 East Palace Avenue Santa Fe. NM 

Sunday – February 12, 2017

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM MST

CELEBRATE WITH LOCAL AUTHOR LUELLEN SMILEY

Complimentary Wine, Champagne & Appetizers

Book signing & Q & A

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RSVP

loulousmiley@yahoo.com

This eye-opening memoir, twenty years in the making chronicles Luellen’s journey into her father’s criminal past, beginning ten years after his death in 1982. Luellen is the daughter of Allen Smiley – Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner for ten years. Allen was seated next to Bugsy the night he was murdered. Luellen discounted her father’s Mafia association until she was forty years old. Awakened by an identity crisis, she cut through her silence and used government surveillance records, newspaper articles, and FBI files to discover her father’s legacy.

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La Posada de Santa Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa

330 East Palace Avenue

Santa Fe, NM 87501

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THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER IS…


 

SEASONAL AND SENSUAL OVERTURE TO REVERIE.

SUMMER is not a memory yet; my skin too sensitive, and my heart still attached to the moments.  I’ve misplaced my journals and so I have to read my to-do list to recall the events.  Let’s go back to June; well my head was bent like a candle wick in this memoir. By then I was into the first rewrite, the worst of the next ten. That first one is deceivingly promising, the chapters line up, the suspense tickled, and it was five-hundred pages.  The first draft was actually two books, as I dared to try and run the 100 meter in two different directions.

I must have had some standout memories, but I don’ recall June being amusing.  Writing about my deceased parents was not summer reading.  A year had already passed since I began, and I was now at the last stretch.  My sense of completion was annoying.  I began to hate the word focus. My body ached for water, in any form, a pool, a river, and the ocean.  June was also the month when rejection letters arrived.  For a moment, I’d forgotten. Whoa! Stay away from LouLou, her nerves are visible! On the flip, it was also acceptance of those letters.  I had to prove to myself that I could take it, and continue writing.

Outside my window, Palace Avenue raised to motorcycles, skateboarders, conversational bicycle riders, and families out for a walk. My concentration was beguiled.  So I turned on the fan, the loud kind that screens the room in a hum.  I tried to imagine as waves just after they have capitulated into bubbles.

Memorial weekend was gemstone sunlit of color and clarity.  I’d decided to break and go to a party at La Posada.  Yes, that was my first grasp of summer, the sudden appearance of flowers, greenness of the landscape, flowers, and light. I think it was warm enough to sit outdoors all night.  We were not yet ready to kick and scream, it was more of a real memorial kind of party.  For our troops who finally are reaching us through the news, the films, and the books.

Most every evening I’d walk across the street to La Posada, have a glass of wine while listening to the chattering guests, age-out themselves by immobilizing a very liberated and young spirit. It’s a beautiful sight. Most people in my experience, come to Santa Fe and strip fullsizerenderdown to vulnerable. They invite conversation and are genuinely interested. I am asked, ‘What’s it like living in Santa Fe?’  To be continued.

IT’S UNLIKE ANY OTHER CITY I’VE EXPERIENCE.D  It’s called the city different, it is also the city difficult.  She ( I see Santa Fe in the feminine gender)  has to be treated gently. Her  weather patterns resemble a menopausal woman,her stature demands respect, and she can be congenial and patient.

You can walk this city as if it were a neighborhood. If you do that consistently you’ll meet people, and get to know them. Unless you’re like me, a standoffish fast walker dazed by the outdoors.

If you’re dazed and illusional you can master this city very well, as the drowsy pace and cordiality allow freakish  freedom.  I ‘ve seen the liberating soul of Santa Fe,  teenagers racing down the middle of a commercial street one foot on the skateboard, bad-ass bikers talking with bad-ass cops, women with parrots on their shoulder, dogs in baby carriages, cats in a bag, and women on horseback galloping up Palace Avenue.

At night you’ll see raging midnight ramblers dancing on the sidewalk, and all of this is appealing to an LA transplant.  I have driven in my robe, danced in the street and broken the heels on most of my shoes because of the pot-holes. They are always working on a street, but never the sidewalks. I ‘ve been bounced out of the locals night-howl El Farol for accidently pushing  a dancer, who knew the manager, who came running after me and took down my license plate.

So many of us are loners, the serious kind, that have to be rigged out of our nests.  Luckily I live on a commercial street and have no choice but to be commercially friendly. After nine years, my seasonal behavior is obvious: sprite in summer, blissful in fall, giddy in spring, and withdrawan in winter. I’ve learned patience, understanding, and adopted a mixture of cultural traditions. I’m close to fifty percent certain I’ll miss Santa Fe terribly when I do leave.

Has living in Santa Fe  given me more than I’ve given back?  Yes, it has and that’s why when I’m asked what’s it like living in Santa Fe, I try to reveal the blessings here and not the bullshit. 025

RELOCATION


 

When I look beyond the quarry of my chains and rowing towards a redefined life my soul is nourished.

Santa Fe has star power and can shower your life with photographic moments on the half-hour. You are accepted and expected to be liberal, intelligent, and artistic.  Like any city, village, or town you have some culture to conform to, or else you won’t be taken seriously.  In Los Angeles, I learned you have to be able to put on cinematic charisma to get a conversation going with a stranger.  Here in Ballston Spa, invitations arrive with New York common sense, and some realistic hesitancy. It’s about pre-screening, they need to know you won’t mess up their life.

 My direction is following Lawrence Durrell, “Spirit of the Place,” and living where I would never expect to live.  I wish I could control my impractical, impulsive, and annoying spirit of adventure. I think about architecture, Jewish deli’s, Italian restaurants, at least five movie theaters built in the 1930s, and neighborhoods of unfamiliar lighting, expressions, and conversations. Gambling on yourself is how much you can adapt, change, influence, and accept the days of your life.

In my syndicate, there must be a dozen pals with the same unsolved equation. Is it age that blocks me and maybe you from relocation, or is it the trauma and stress? What liberation to just pack a suitcase and board a plane like in the movies. Separation from the familiar. Ask any soldier what it’s like to come home.

A MEMOIR HAS TO END book 2


The sunlight shatters the curtain-less bedroom window and burns into my eyes at daybreak. From this unsheltered spot I rise to see a pot of blue sky over the rooftops, and the expectant afternoon showers building up in the clouds. The sky is filled with crows, eagles, and magpies lingering overhead weightless and free-falling, beyond all of us caught behind electronics. The days  filled with desert showers that drench the soil and turn the arid dry land green and lush. For this I am thankful.  At the end of the day, I am inclined to sit in the courtyard and watch the sky manifest colors unmatched by any Dunn Edwards collection. By the time dinner is topical, I have substituted preparing food, to just snacking, This August underscores the need to sit down, to sort of bob my head to Nancy Wilson music, and do very little. I’m self publishing Cradle of Crime- My Father, Me, and the Mob.  images

EXCERPT FROM CRADLE OF CRIME


CHAPTER NINE

1998 WAS ALL RIGHT

AWAKENING ON THE ROADRUNNER SHUTTLE as we chugged up the steep grade highway, the red skin of Taos peeled back the imposing medieval Gorge crack. The cavity unzipped and five thousand feet below was the Rio Grande. I felt the altitude filling my lungs, and my eyes twitching from one scenic masterpiece to another. Everyone in the shuttle was giving me a history lesson about Taos. Before I knew it, the shuttle door opened, and the driver yelled, ‘Smiley.”

At the end of a two-mile dirt road the shuttle dropped me off and I was shouldered on either side by melting banks of snow.  It was April. Unexpected snow storms arrived the same week.

The FBI boxes I’d shipped were in front of my casita.  Darting from room to room, thoroughly satisfied with a two-story loft, floor to ceiling windows, and sunlight in all the right spots. I unpacked in the seductive silence. Was I all alone out here?  A few other casitas were on the property but they looked vacant. A pang of anxiety seized and then I realized, I had a cell phone, a credit card, and cash. I could always call a cab right.  It was winter in April; the first time I’d lived in falling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
DH. LAWRENCE WRITING ROOM. TOAS.

snow.  In the dining room, I unpacked the boxes and arranged them in a circle around the circumference of the table. It was a heavy southwestern oak table, twelve feet along, and to the right was sliding glass doors allowing the light to stream across the black and white print. I was left to unravel two thousand more pages on Dad’s criminal life.

The trip was extended to two months. I read all the files and  left Taos a different woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU’LL FEEL BETTER IF YOU TALK ABOUT IT


The throw of the dice this week lands on Adventures in Livingness.  The last time I wrote a column about life beyond the book was the Malibu series.  I’m still tainted by the U-Turn out of Malibu, but as Dad always said, ‘If you fall off the horse you get back on!’  That’s what this book is all about;  just how impressionable we are as children.

 My pals who have commented after reading this material in six different memoirs are immensely important to this writer. Word press followers, you are recognized with every comment!  Pals, Baron, Blair, and Stone who took my hand into the offices of agents and editors thank you for believing in my dice!

Santa Fe. NM 3/26/2016

A photographic day for capturing the stillness of light on the rose  20160311_112156[1]buds. Winter was a lot of writing, editing, and films. I must have seen a hundred this winter. All easy paved paths to escape.  The one I’d recommend is Divided We Fall; a Polish film set during the occupation of Poland. The Director managed to weave suffering and horror with extraordinary hope and brotherhood. If you like mystery-crime dramas,  Nine Queens, an Argentinian film that rattles the roots of a cheaters.

A FEW DAYS LATER

Today is sprayed gray and white cloud cover, and tiny drops of wet snow. I call the climate of Santa Fe, a woman with PMS.  I’m listening to Nat King Cole and withering under a  hang-over after a sensational evening with Brother Marc, (the son I wanted) White Zen, his Mother, and Rudy. I’ve watched Marc grow up. Over the last seven years he’s transformed from a shy, confused young adult, into a man of the mountain; wilderness is his passion.  He drives those big snow plow machines and grooms the mountains in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He works at night and when he takes a break he  looks at the stars.  Six-foot thin muscle, shoulder  brown curls, and eyes  shaped like two row boats filled with blue water.  He’s not only handsome, his instincts, original expression, and amusing bellowing deep voice tie this lad up in someone you love. He’s an original. You never get the question or answer you expect;  he pulls wisdom from his head and heart as easily as folding a napkin. One two three–a brand of thinking shoots out and I just look at him bewildered. Marc is a twenty-nine year old frontiersman and  has been since he was knee high on a San Francisco skateboard. The Revenant!

Easter brings people together and I’ve sensed a developing  surge to be in a group. Distanced friends come closer, family is the bread and butter of vacation, I see so many of them at La Posada, and couples are cooperating.  No one needs to hug a pillow when they go to sleep  is my motto.

My rise above familiar surroundings and comfort began the day Brussels was terror stricken and  all Belgians  became one. I checked on Twitter that day, and was touched so deeply when I read the dozens of tweets offering shelter, food, and clothes for those in need. If I were a lifestyle journalist I’d go there and write about the emotional and physical patterns that will change over time. Imagine the consciousness’ of those personally affected after experiencing a bomb exploding beside them. I’ve asked a few people how they feel about terrorism. Some are inflamed and others refuse to discuss the matter as it elicits political commentary.   Terrorism has infiltrated the shuffle of disappointment and raised the inner riot in my head to world events. The importance of conversation so we don’t feel alone is vibrating. I don’t mean in text and twitter. It is too instant to embrace.   What happened to,

         ‘You’ll feel better if you talk about it’ psychology?

 After a few weeks of submitting the book and reading rejection emails,  I realized I wasn’t as prepared as I thought.  Not taking rejections personally is like a handshake after you’ve been swindled.  I moused over to JK Rowlings and read a few rejection letters she posted after submitting a manuscript under the name of Richard Galbraith. One of the letters suggested she join a writers workshop!   Anonymous writers like actors, musicians, artists, and photographers  are caught in the storm of celebritism.  If you are unrecognized the  brick and mortar you have to break  through is an Olympian challenge.

I was writing a lengthy portrayal of Ben Siegel one day and it occurred to me that he had become a major character in my life.  He played a role that someone else should have; a noted author, or journalist, or poet.  Ben Siegel changed my history because I had to learn to love him.  Learning to love him meant erasing everything I had read or heard. It is said he was a ruthless killer, a savage, violent, and that he loved to kill. I turned to look at a photograph of my mother.  I was told that she loved Ben too. Where once I believed my mother was naïve and uninformed, I know this wasn’t the case. She knew from the beginning. Mom fit into this strangely singular and controversial group of people. I see her in the full frame of who she was. (she is on the right in MGM Ziegfeld Follies 1946)get-attachment.aspx  I like her this way because it raised my self esteem; my rebelliousness came from both parents.

While writing about Dad I questioned my prolonged interest in his choices, behavior, and his secrecy. I asked Uncle Myron who shared the same history.   Myron reaffirmed that my father was a true to the code gangster. No one ever got him to talk about what he knew or had seen.

Children feel the repression of truth as clearly as they do the pain of bruise.  The more you hide or bandage the more they seek and peek. At my root is the inclination to question the world around me, and to mend the breaks in life that molded my identity.

Along the way of the first chapter, I discovered that people like to know how it works; how we write in a state of solitude and selfishness.  A story or any work of art lives in the artist and God. Miracles do happen!

EXCERPT FROM CRADLE OF CRIME BOOK


 

Submerged in film and gangster history, assembling  photographs of my father’s movie star friends,  his gangsters’ friends, photographs of the nightclubs he frequented, I pasted these into a collage and posted it above my desk. I played Tommy Dorsey and all the big band leaders of the thirties records imagining these props would provoke memories and a sense of identity to my parents.

 Without knowing how deep I had to go or what shattering evidence would cross my path, in my heart, I felt this was crossing a spiritual bridge to my parents. The flip side was a gripping torment tied to my prying mind.  Dad’.s compulsorily privacy was in my hands now and so was voice. He was inside my head reading his lines. “Stay out of my room–out of my affairs–out of my life!”   

      “I have to break into your life to break my silence.  I want to understand you and Mommy.”

     “Don’t expect any help from me! Put your nose in another book, the Allen Smiley story isn’t for sale.”    

 No matter what I uncovered I knew it would be ambiguous and controversial. I was certain there would be no record of murder, dope peddling, or prostitution.  Even so, I could never understand the similarities we shared, unless I knew them as people.   The ethereal staging did more than provoke memories; a sense of belonging rooted me to the golden years of Hollywood.

I was completely uneducated in the craft of research. My first phone call was to the Beverly Hills Police Department. They were not very helpful after I told them who my father was. 

‘The Bugsy Siegel case is still open. We cannot release any files on your father. Call the Criminal District Office; they’ll have records of him there.’ The case was open? Sounded a bit squishy to me.  

On a stormy day when the queen palms whipped though torrential rain, flooded streets and metallic clouds hanging low like a net over the sky I was on my way to the Criminal District Office in the Hall of Justice on Spring Street. Unfamiliar to me, but somehow as I walked up the prolonged steps it was recognizable from films and television. The Courthouse, the County Jail, all that authority in an unmarked white stucco building. Not a blade of grass out of place. When I arrived at the entrance my heart was racing.  My father’s voice did not interfere with my direction but I felt his disapproval. The first person I confronted was an imposing woman with a sternness that studied me.

      “May I help you?”

      “I hope so. I apologize for the intrusion. I don’t have an appointment.”

      “What are you asking?”

      “I am looking for whatever files you have on my father.”         

     She reached for the desk drawer and passed me a form. She asked me to step aside and fill it out. 

      “My father died twelve years ago. I don’t have any other family to explain things to me.”

       “I’m not at liberty to give you any information.”

       “I know that. Can you tell me if you have files on Benjamin Siegel?”

        “You mean Bugsy?”

         “Yes.”

        “Was your father Bugsy?”

        “No, he was … his friend.” 

        “What was his name?”

        “Allen Smiley.”  She turned to her computer and entered something. She read from the screen and then removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. 

      “Your father is in the system.”

     I gave her the form with his FBI number and started to leave.

     “Here, come back. I found the criminal case numbers. The numbers are 19778, 19926, and she read out nine different cases. As I watched her write these down I thought they know things about my father that I don’t.

     “Bring these to the National Archives in Laguna Nigel.” She said.  

 Outside the clouds converged over the San Bernadino Mountains. The strain to see through reminded me of my own predicament; how to see through the fog of secrecy and ambiguity.  The following day I drove to the National Archives. I didn’t know such a place existed. A polite man took my case numbers and when he returned he was wheeling a shopping cart of files. His name was Bill Doty. 

   “So your Dad was Allen Smiley?”

    “Yes. You’ve heard of him?”

“There’s a lot written about him in Johnny Roselli’s files. I know he was very close to Johnny. We have ten-thousand pages on him.”

I looked at the brown manila files he stacked on a desk for me.

     “I’ll be here all day.”

     “We close at four o’ clock. Do you want to see the Roselli files?”

     “Not just yet–I have to read these first.” The files took me on a criss-cross chase of a man I didn’t know. The case files included testimonies, court transcripts, appeals, and newspaper articles.  

     “How’s it going?” Bill appeared.

     “This is a novel. Like reading about some one else.”    

     “Do you recognize any of the names?”

     “Oh yea.”

Even now twenty-two years later I can conjure up the exact image of that sterile polished reading room, my stomach churning, the sound of the doors opening and closing, and Bill’s footsteps on the waxed tile floor. Crunched over the stack of documents I read my father’s answers to Examining Officers questions, from an Immigration and Naturalization Agency (INS) hearing in 1962.

“ Were you closely associated with Benjamin Siegel for the three years prior to his murder?”

“The only way I could explain it, was a friendly association.”

“Friendly business association or friendly social association?” 

“Just the same type of friendly association that I have with people in every occupation of life. By the same token, I have had the occasion to have the President of Notre Dame in my home, Father Cavanaugh, Doctors, Lawyers, people of every description. I go by the golden rule. I treat people the way I like to be treated.”  

The faded black type on his three page arrest record elevated my distress; assault, bookmaking, operating without a liquor license, robbery, extortion, contempt of court, suspicion of robbery, suspicion of murder, the words blurred. Suspicion of murder? Maybe Jack was right; Dad had more involvement than a friendly association.  Every few hours I went outdoors and sat on a bench to breathe. My stomach was stiff as those fastened files. It was a feeling I’d never experienced in my life. 

 Bill circled around me as I slumped further into the past, the florescent lights blinding me. When I closed the files, and told him I’d be back in a week, Bill insisted I see the Johnny Roselli archives. There were eight shelves on either side of the aisle, and while I gazed at this galactic inventory the face of Johnny erupted. Seated in a red leather booth at La Dolca Vita, sipping red wine, his eyes

MWSnap1978 ROSELLI DEATH watery pools filled with the density of his life.

     “Have you read Ed Becker’s book, All American Mafioso?” Bill asked. He randomly pulled a file from the rack. 

     “No.”

     “You should; your Dad is in it.  Look at this history so few people know about. The government hired Roselli to assassinate Castro! You have to read these files.”

 

 

HONK IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE


 

SMILEY’S DICE
Growing Up with Gangsters
By: Luellen Smiley

Synopsis
The memoir is written in the Creative Nonfiction genre and is ninety-two thousand words.
Writing my way home began as a compass to my secretive and dishonorable family history. This is the story of a woman whose survival was wedged between shameless love and immobilizing fear of her father.
After my almost perfect mother, Lucille Casey, an MGM musical actress died, Dad gained custody of me. I was thirteen years old. What followed was a nail-biting tumultuous father daughter relationship between Allen Smiley, a Hollywood gangster, and his teenage daughter, that I’ve named Lily.
As Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner from 1937 until his death in 1947, Dad acclaimed Ben Siegel. He was seated next to him the night Ben was murdered. The fatal outcome was speculation of his involvement fed by the FBI to the media, death threats from Mob associates, and vicious harassment from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
I’ve learned by this time Dad had amassed a weighty criminal record, was under indictment for false claim of citizenship, perjury, and an order of deportation. After demonstrating to the Mob he wasn’t going to seek immunity offered by the government; they honored and protected his life. Their methods are described in transcripts from the FBI files; amusing, violent,and illegal. Dad served the organization until his death in 1982.
Faced with an identity meltdown ten years after Dad died I implored his friends, associates, attorney, historians, FOIPA, Immigration and Naturalization Agency, and Archives of the Department of Justice, to build the branches of my family tree. Along this irreversible journey I suffered disgrace, rage, and Dad’s ghostly disapproval as I delved into the files and discovered the family secrets.
Simultaneous with the reading is a dissection of my reactions to his criminal activities, gambling addiction, attempt at reformation, and hatred for the government. The vendetta the government placed on him for not informing earned my mother’s silent devotion. In the end they won. She divorced him.
I could be mute about the subject, or expose what I know because I’ve made the family history mine.
Incorporated within stories of discovery are government surveillance records, newspaper articles, court testimony, and criminal activities that defamed his reputation and our family.

As the discoveries occur the reader is taken inside the transformation of my identity. Once liberated from Dad’s paranormal disapproval of my investigation, I break my silence and begin writing columns about growing up with gangsters. This opened the doors to unknown relatives, mob friends, and an identity that suits me well.
A startling yet an inspirational look inside the struggle of a gangster’s daughter to understand her father’s allegiance to the Mob.

Excerpt from Smiley’s Dice.
I don’t know how much more of this I can process. I don’t feel Dad’s disapproval as strongly; this expository involving my mother is deepening my resentment for the government. This is just one binder of two-hundred pages, and I have fifty binders. I’ll rearrange my dresser drawers or hand-wash sweaters for awhile. It’s too early to have a glass of wine! Two days have passed, as my resistance to more reading of these FBI files was due to a suspended state of melancholia.
April 13th- FBI file

“Smiley received a call from —— and told Smiley that he was thinking of going into business with —–who is making twelve thousand a month putting on stag shows. Smiley told him not to get into the business. —told Smiley that he had attended a ball game and noticed that George Raft was there. Raft is now sporting a mustache and his cheeks are all sunken in, making him look like a drowned rat. Smiley did not like this comment.”
“____ asked Smiley how his case was coming along, and Smiley replied,” They are going to ship me to Singapore”
After the forgoing call was made, the conversation continued concerning _______ between Smiley, paramour of Jack Dragna, and Lucille Casey. While Casey was getting ready to go out to dinner, this unidentified woman, became very cozy with Smiley, according to the informant, and stated,
“ Take my advice and don’t talk on the telephone. You can sit right here and they can listen to you from over that hill. I know this because we have been on the other side all the time.” Smiley replied he had an idea of that and she remarked that Smiley was a good guy, and she thought she should warn him.”
Signed R.B. Hood
Special Agent in Charge.

 

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE MAFIA


Dear Readers: Some of you followers may recognize this segment from previous versions.

 

It was the first time I could read the inscription.
To Smiley, from your pal, Ben. !Bh4GdiwBmk~$(KGrHqYH-C4EsMLP8z9dBLLYjivCm!~~_12It was the same man in the “Green Felt Jungle.” The photograph placed next to it was of Harry Truman with a similar inscription dated 1963. The disparity of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel alongside Harry Truman wouldn’t mean anything to me for another thirty years.

I opened the top drawer of his dresser, thinking I might find a gun. It was fastidiously organized with compartment trays for rolls of coins, a jewelry tray of diamond cuff-links, rings, and watches, and another tray of newspaper clippings. The next drawer was stacked with neatly folded shirts in tissue paper. Under that was a drawer with a lock on it.
“What are you doing in my bedroom?” I slammed the drawer muted by Dad’s abrupt appearance. He pulled a key from his pocket and locked the drawers. His hands shook, and the veins in his neck inflamed.
“HOW DARE YOU GO INTO MY THINGS? What is it you’re looking for? Speak up! What are you looking for?”
“I was looking for pictures?” I stammered.
“What kind of pictures?”
“Photographs of…Mommy.”
“You’re lying to me! Don’t think you can fool me, you can’t. You want to see photographs have a look at this one.” Then he pointed to the picture of Ben Siegel. He reminded me of a snarling wolf about to rip my head off. I looked down at the ground and held my breath.
“Now you listen to me and don’t forget this for the rest of your life. This is Benjamin Siegel! He was my dearest and closest friend. You’re going to hear a lot of lies and hearsay about him. They call him “Bugsy,” but don’t let me ever catch you using that term.  He was our friend! The best friend I ever had.”
“What else do you want to know? Let’s discuss it right now! ”
“Daddy, what is the Mafia?”
He stared at me clenching and unclenching his fists; his eyes smoldering with rage.
“Who have you been talking to?”
“I  heard it at school.”
“There is no such thing as, “THE MAFIA”! Don’t let me ever catch you using that term again! Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes.”
I stepped back to the wall and he took me by the shoulders shaking me in tempo with his threats. I was frozen solid. His anger was his weapon and he scared me to death.
“Say it–there’s no such thing as the Mafia! I repeated it, and started to cry. He raised his arms as if he was going to hit me, then he implored.
“I’m not going to hit you! I’ve never laid a finger on you! If I ever catch you prying into my things, or discussing what goes on in our home, I’ll throw you out on the street.  Now go to your room and think about what I’ve just said.”
Later that night confined to my bedroom, I took out the diary my mother had given me. This was when the diary became my best friend. I shoved it in my bureau drawer and covered it with lingerie. At thirteen my diary was safer than asking questions.  The era of secrecy began.

EXCERPT FROM SMILEY’S DICE- DAD’S MERRYMAKING


The day I was born, May 11, 1953 the headlines of the The Los Angeles Time read:

GANGSTERS INVADE SOUTHLAND CITIES.
Among gangsters and their hangers-on named were Abe (Longy) Zwillman, Frankie Carbo, Meyer Lansky, Allen Smiley, whose true name is Aaron Smehoff, Gerald Catena and William Bischoff.
When I met Daddy he had salty sea blue eyes and when my actions were worthy of laughter, his eyes retracted into a blur of skin. Dressed in perfectly matched shades of pink, silver and blue my child eyes rested cheerfully on his silk ties, a collage of jewel tones. The feel of his fabric was soft like blankets. He was very interesting to look at when I was a child and open to all this detail.
I clung to his neck in the back seat of his baby blue Cadillac. He sang songs and his hand fluttered about, catching me by surprise behind my head, and his laughter echoed in my ears. Sometimes we drove through the Paramount Studio Gates, and I was chauffeured in a cart to the Western Stage where we watched cowboys and musical dancers. I was too young to understand this was just a film; thus began my insatiable yearning to be a dancer.

Rory Calhoun was one of the stars Dad was close pals with.  Just this week I dug into research about Rory Calhoun. I learned he died in 1999, and that he’d also been a ward in Preston Reformatory where Dad was sent at eighteen years old. Rory came a few years later.

We spent a lot of time with the Calhoun family. They had two girls the same age as me. Their exotic Spanish villa on Whittier Drive and Sunset enraptured my girlish senses.  Inside it was like a movie set, with animal rugs, oil paintings of Spanish Troubadours and Moorish decorations. Rita, Rory’s wife, wore tiny stacked high heels and she clicked across the Spanish tiles like a flamenco dancer. The whole family was blessed with dreamy looks. I didn’t realize that I was surrounded with extraordinary beauty; everyone had these exceptional vogue looks. The importance placed on that kind of beauty was just as distorted as my examination.
Rita danced a stern feminine demeanor, extremely seductive but not without a battle. I learned my first lessons about temptation just by watching her. She fanned the room with perfume and laughter, and men just succumbed like drugged animals. I felt my first tingle of sexuality in the arms of Rory. He was a treasure of natural emotion, physically and orally.   They both gambled, borrowed money from the other, and they bet on everything.
On Sunday we went to Beverly Park, a cherished  amusement park across from where the whimsical Beverly Center shopping Mall is today. I was only two years old when Dad slung me over a big stinky pony, and insisted I ride around the ring so he could snap photographs.
Inside the Cadillac, insulated from the outside world by metal and glass, he drove without intention of destination, or so it seemed. Though I didn’t know it, he often changed directions to confuse a tailing federal agent. The places he took me became our secret. Sometimes he asked me to close my eyes and count to a hundred. It was a game; he wouldn’t tell me where we were going. I’d open my eyes and we’d be somewhere unfamiliar, a storefront, hotel room, or someone’s home.
When the Ringling Brothers Circus came to town, Dad took me every weekend and I met some of the performers. He was no less enthusiastic about the circus than I was. Now I understand as I’ve learned he traveled with Ringling Brothers for a year just after he landed in New York. He was in the wardrobe department! How suitable to his style. Everyone we knew was in some kind of act.

I remember places like Canters Deli on Fairfax. We always had the same waitress, the one with a big air-tight bee-hive.
“ What’ll it be today honey?”
“ I’ll have a hot dog.”
“ No. Last time you got sick. Honey, get her a turkey sandwich. I have to talk to some people outside–make sure she doesn’t leave. “
“Sure thing Mr. Smiley, you go ahead.”
“When are you coming back Daddy?”
“When you finish your lunch. Be a good girl.”
While I waited for the sandwich, I watched the waitresses very closely. They entertained me; their husky voices and swift mannerisms as they swooshed between tables, calling out orders, “ Matzo ball soup–chicken on the side, Russian on rye no mayonnaise.” Sometimes he left me long after the sandwich was gone. I’d turn and watch the door, to see if he’d come in, or ask the waitress.
“ Would you please tell my father I’m finished.”
“Finished already! What about dessert? How about a slice of cheesecake?” Even if I said no, she’d bring me dessert. Several times I was left so long that I got up and went outside looking for him. I noticed my father down the street talking with some other men. I ran back to the booth and waited. When he came back to the table, I asked him,
“Where were you Daddy?”
“I had to meet someone about business. You remember what I told you—Mommy doesn’t have to know about this.”
“I remember.” Why my outings with Dad remained fixated as birth marks is because they were filled with wonder, amusement, and mystery. My father mixed a little business with my pleasure, but it wasn’t obvious because no one had an office. His business associates worked out of shoe stores, cigar stands, hotels, barber shops; all sorts of fronts that camouflaged the booking of bets.

I bet too. That when I lose I  never give up on the silver lining.

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WHO IS BUGSY?


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LUCILLE CASEY SMILEY

MGM MotherAll my life people have asked me the same questions:” What’s it like knowing your father is a gangster? How old were you when you found out? Aren’t you afraid of his friends? You know they kill people.”
I live in a temporary tide-pool, a lily
floating against the current, weighted
down by a suit of armor that shields me
from the beauty, love and freedoms stirring in my bud.

What seemed insignificant at the time was the diving board into my Dad’s history. I was watching a Bugsy Siegel documentary on my television in San Diego during 1993. It was the first one I’d seen. Three historians joined in on the violence Bugsy honored and esteemed. Half-way through the celebratory lynching of Bugsy and his pals, a reporter made the statement that ‘It’s obvious Allen Smiley was there to set Bugsy up for the hit.’ Andy Edmonds stated that Dad conveniently disappeared into the kitchen during the time of the shooting. It wasn’t until a photograph of my dad appeared on the screen; a man with thick graying hair that I noticed an expression I’d never seen, horrifying misery. I moved closer to the television to see his face up close. A kaleidoscope of emotions rose to the surface: anger, shame, curiosity, and disbelief. I was forty years old.
smiley aThe first time I’d seen those photographs of Ben Siegel slumped on that sofa; an eye bleeding down his face was a day back in 1966 at the age of thirteen. My best friend Dena lived in Brentwood with her divorced mother and siblings. We hooked in the unfamiliar and confusing imbalance of a broken home life. Dena was suffering depression after her parents divorced and I was dangling from my father’s fingertips hopelessly conflicted after my mother died. Dena wouldn’t let a day go by without calling me. ‘Are you all right?’ She didn’t like my father and her reasons were mature beyond her years, ‘Your father scares me.’ After school one afternoon we stopped in the Brentwood Pharmacy. Dena was looking at the book rack and I was following along.
“Lily, my mother told me your father is in a book, The
Green Felt Jungle. It’s about gangsters. Wanna see if they have it?” I agreed to look because Dena was interested, but it meant nothing to me. She twirled the book rack around as I stood behind her watching.
“That’s the book! Let me look first and see what it says,” she whispered. I could feel her arm tense up as I grasped it.
“Oh my God! There he is,” she said. We hunched over the book and read the description of my father, “Allen Smiley, one of Ben Siegel’s closest pals in those days, was seated at the other end of the sofa when Siegel was murdered.” Dena covered her mouth with one hand and kept reading silently.
“What does that mean? Who is Siegel?” I asked.
“Shush–not so loud. I’m afraid to tell you this. It’s awful.”
“What’s awful? Tell me.”
“Bugsy Siegel was a gangster in the Mafia. He killed people. Your father was his associate.”
“I don’t think I should see this.” I turned around abruptly to leave the drugstore. Dena followed me out.”
“Lily you can’t tell your father you saw this book. Please don’t tell him I told you.”
“Why not?”
“My mother told me not to tell you. Swear to me you won’t tell your father!”
“I won’t. Don’t you tell anyone either.”
A few days later after Dad left for the evening I opened the door to his guarded bedroom. I walked around the bed to a get a closer look at the photographs on the wall. It was the first time I could read the inscription.

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BOOM BOOM BOOM I’m DEAD


READING FROM DAD’S FBI FILE SOMETIMES BRINGS LAUGHTER.

TO: DIRECTOR, FBI  STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL- ALLEN SMILEY:  WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC, RACKETEERING, CRIME SURVEY LOS ANGELES, FALSELY CLAIMING CITIZENSHIP, PERJURY

TA-1 – (Means FBI agent one- There were twelve of them working the case.)

On February 25, 1948 Mickey Cohen invited Smiley and his girlfriend, Lucille Casey ( Mom) to the Cohen home for dinner. The invitation was accepted, and it is noted that this is one of the few times Smiley has visited the Cohen residence since the killing of Bugsy. During the Christmas holidays, Smiley refused to attend a dinner at Cohen’s stating he could not be seen with Cohen due to his own legal difficulties. On February 26, Smiley contacted ——-and stated he had been betting on Cohen’s stinking horses. Smiley expressed the idea that “it is going to blow up there any day.” Referring to Cohen’s place.”  During the course of the conversation between Smiley and —- it was interesting to note that Smiley did not care to discuss any matters and at one time stated, “ Listen: if this room is miked, boom! boom! boom! And I’m dead. The attitude of Smiley toward the Bureau is reflected on page two of the attached letter. Smiley stated “This country ought to be at war, with the FBI, the Gestapo, that Hoover, who indicted me for picking my nose, with all those other elements here threatening to overthrow the government and this and that.”  With reference to his arrest by three Agents, in a somewhat braggadocio manner Smiley informed one of his guests that “ I would be glad to strip to the waist and take each one of those three guys on, one at a time, even if it killed me.”  He continued that in his opinion the FBI were a bunch of idiots and that he wished someone would drop an atom bomb on this country and he would take his chances on getting out alive just to get rid of the FBI.

That’s my Dad.