Lullabies of Birdland
Lullabies of Birdland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Photograph of Dean Martin with celebrities sta...
Photograph of Dean Martin with celebrities stage-side, Las Vegas, March 6, 1957 (Photo credit: UNLV Libraries Digital Collections)


THE CROWD TWITCHED IN ANTICIPATION, except for overly sensitive children, (OSC) without a prescription. My heart beat like a wild Pinto running from the rope as the doors to the Copa Room closed, and the lights dimmed. Streams of Parliament and Marlboro smoke desensitized the spring scent of Shalimar, Aramis cologne, and steaks grilling close by. The horizon of necks seen from the stage must have looked like a display at Tiffany’s.

Photograph of the Rat Pack performing together...
Photograph of the Rat Pack performing together in the Copa Room, Las Vegas, 1960 (Photo credit: UNLV Libraries Digital Collections)

We were in the front row of tables, two steps from the stage, so I had to raise my head vertically to see Ella.

I sat transfixed by this sensory tsunami at a table with a group of Uncles; Uncle Joey, (Joey Adonis, or Joey Fusco, or Joey whomever) Nick the Greek, Chuckie Del Monico (son of Charlie the Blade. I still squint when I read about him) and Uncle Charlie, (The Babe Baron) who enlisted or service in WW11 in Canada because the United State denied his application due an arrest record. Charlie was a stiff suited Four Star General under the hand of *General Curtis LeMay when he wasn’t managing the Riviera. Someone put that in “Vegas” the new television series.

The men and women composed a landscape of histories, though their costume like wardrobes were similar, except for the gangsters, who dressed according to Johnny Roselli standards. The women wore spaghetti strap cocktail dresses and strapless full length gowns, like a spring bouquet of color, transparency, and glitter. They, (I mean most of them that I met) were in a state of unconsciousness; shifting from cocktails, sun, lovemaking, gambling, and entertainment. Mad Women in the desert enjoyed their decorations of diamonds, fox fur wraps, and pointy spiked patent leather heels. Cocktail trays flew by in succession, because their husbands were not watching them. What was all the fuss about?

I could feel their panting exuberance before we even walked in the Copa Room. I felt it when we walked through the lobby, and everyone scampered before they knew where they were headed. It looked like an off stage performance; jittery anticipatory gestures that made any girl even without OSC dizzy. I was inside this swirl of liberation from the age of six to about twelve. We went to Vegas three or four times a year that I can recall. It was before I started my journal so the memories are part substance and part reflection.   TO BE CONTINUED