SMILEY & SIEGEL


THE SIEGEL SMILEY LEGACYReuniting with Millicent at the Mob Experience.
BY: Luellen Smiley
When I was eleven years old  our home burnt to the ground in the Bel Air fire, and everything we owned fell to ash. Shortly after my mother moved us to an apartment in Brentwood, a mammoth carton arrived and was placed in the center of the living room. My mother cut it open and urged me to look inside. I sat cross-legged on the avocado green carpeting and discovered bundles of garments; Bermuda shorts, blouses, sweaters, and shirts.
I quickly shed my worn trousers and stepped into a new outfit, dancing about as I zipped myself in. My mother watched, and echoed my childish yelps of elation.
“Mommy, who are these from?”
“They’re from your Aunt Millicent.”
“Who is she? I don’t remember her.”
“You were a little girl. She loves you very much.”
Years later, my father, Allen Smiley, called and told me to come over to his apartment in Hollywood.
“Why Dad?”
“Millicent is coming by; I told you she moved here, didn’t I?”
I’d learned Millicent was Benjamin Siegel’s daughter, and Ben was my father’s best friend. Dad was sitting on the same chintz covered sofa the night Ben was murdered.
“You mean Ben Siegel’s daughter?”
“Don’t refer to her that way ever again; do you hear me? She is Aunt Millicent to you.”
When my father answered the door, I watched as they embraced. Millicent had tears in her eyes. She walked over to me, and took my hand. I looked into her swimming pool blue eyes and felt as if I was drowning. She sat on the edge of the sofa and lit a long brown Sherman cigarette. I studied her frosted white nails, the way she crossed her legs at the ankles, her platinum blonde hair, and the way her bangs draped over one eye. What impressed me most was her voice; like a child’s whisper, her tone was delicate as a rose petal.
I spent the rest of that afternoon memorizing her behavior. She emanated composure and a reserve that distanced her from uninvited intrusion.
Over the next few years, Millicent and I were joined through my father’s arrangements, but I was never alone with her. When he died in 1982, she was one of only three friends at his memorial service.
As the years passed, and my tattered address books were replaced with new ones, I lost Millicent’s phone number. I had been researching my father’s life in organized crime, and had gained an understanding of my father’s bond with Ben Siegel. My discoveries were adapted into a memoir and recently into a film script about growing up with gangsters. During this time, I had reconnected with several of Dad’s inner-circle, but Millicent was underground, and now I understood why.
Last year I received an email from Cynthia Duncan, Meyer Lansky’s step-granddaughter. She told me about Jay Bloom, the man behind the Las Vegas Mob Experience, a state of the art museum that will take visitors into the personal histories of Las Vegas gangsters. Cynthia contributed her significant collection of Meyer Lansky memorabilia, and assured me Jay was paying tribute to the historical narrative of these men by using relatives rather than government and media sources. She wanted me to be involved.
Despite my apprehensions about the debasing and one-sided publicity that characteristically surrounds gangster history, I contacted Jay. In his return note, he invited me to participate, and added, “Millicent would like to contact you.”
A month later I was seated in Jay’s office waiting for Millicent. When she walked in, I stood to embrace her, and this time the tears were in my eyes.
Millicent’s voice was unchanged and so was her regal posture. “Our fathers were best friends, attached at the hip. Your Dad was at the house all the time. I’ll never forget when he and my mother met me at the train station to tell us about my father’s… death. Smiley was very good to us. My mother adored him too.”
Jay took me on a tour of the collection warehouse, and the history I’d read about unfolded before my eyes. The preview room was like a family room to me, because some of the men had been my father’s lifelong friends and protectors. I stopped in front of the Ben Siegel display case and saw an object that was very familiar.
“My father has the identical ivory figurine of an Asian woman. I still have it.” So much of their veiled history was exposed; between these two men was a brotherly bond that transcended their passing and was even evident in their shared taste in furnishings.
Jay showed me a layout of the Mob Experience in progress. I turned to him and asked, “Is it too late to include my father? All the rooms are assigned.”
“Millicent and I already spoke about it. She wants your Dad in Ben’s room.”
After I returned home, Millicent and I talked on the phone.
“Your father belongs in my Dad’s room. They’ll just have to make Mickey Cohen’s room smaller.”
“My father hated Mickey,” I said.
“So did mine! When are you coming back? I’ll kill you if you don’t become part of this.”

Reuniting with Millicent at the Mob Experience.
Reuniting with Millicent at the Mob Experience.

 

THE THINKER & THE PUPPET


After I  published this last story,  I spoke with White Zen, my palgal in Santa Fe.  She said the last paragraph of the story made her cry.  Juxtaposed between writers Zen of exporting such feeling, and the sadness we both shared. White Zen had a Thinker too. I guess there are more of them than I knew.

Having had six true loves in my life, who impregnated me with knowledge generosity, and loyalty is what made me so unprepared for the Thinker.  He does resemble Macedonio;  the first man to peel off  the woman in me. They both have charisma, mystery and good dark looks,  Macedonio is dead now, and the memories of him still glisten;  like the day in Golden Gate park under the cherry blossom tree.

What I miss most, is the giggling, dancing, folly-maker that the Thinker pulled out of me  as If I were a puppet. He called me Puppet because that’s how he saw me.  I’ve got to get my Jojo  by tomorrow. I live Thanksgiving as a day with admissions of selfishness and greed. I need  to be washed away into thanks that I am here with a mouthful full of food, and a napkin.

Thanksgiving with Rudy and Opus I his brother.DSC00512

THE THINKER – THE IMPROVISER.


I was there a few days before I noticed a figure darting from one sea-lion to another. He gestured for me to follow but I couldn’t catch him.

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He caught me by surprise from behind and wiggled over to me.
‘Let’s eat. I’m starved.” The Thinker dove down then up above my head. He cupped his fins around my head and pulled my hair.
“Where you been my Fins?” I asked.
“Why?” He said as he let go of me.
“ It’s just a normal question?”
“I don’t answer those kinds of questions. I am building my sand castle! Wait till you see it–it’s going to blow you away. Everyone will be blown away!”
“Exciting! I’m so happy for you. Will you show me?”
“ Maybe. Don’t look at me like that. Your eyes, they draw me in. It scars me. I don’t know what to do with you little one. Who are you?”
He lowered his eyes and sucked in his gills.
“I really love you. I mean I want to be with you forever!”
You should make a book of shells and tell their stories. ”
” You’re right! I know their stories too!”
” You could make a lot of money.”
” I don’t think about that. When I need money I just ask for it and it comes. All you do is count what you have. ”
” You think that!”
“Yes I said it didn’t I. ”
We carolled between starlight nights and crimson sunsets on the rock porch exploring varieties of sea mates. He used his fancy fish feet to get us into private ceremonies, and parties. The fish authorities didn’t bother us at all. We crashed into a party of penguins, and we weren’t eaten alive. My eyes were always on the thinker; as pleasurable anticipation bubbled inside.  In the morning he read to me from his bible, and watched the seagulls. He drove me in many directions, unfamiliar ideas, and habits that got me to thinking so when we swam we were always talking.
“You need to lower your voice. Make it deeper.”
“Why?”
“Trust me.”
One day he swam me to a blow-hole.
“I’m not sure I can get through as easy as you do.” I said.
“Don’t say that. Follow me.” so I followed. I’d waited a long time to see the sand castle. As we expanded our gills and soared upward, my eyes searched for the castle.
“You see it? Isn’t it spectacular?”
“I see the sand yes, but where is the castle?”
“You don’t see it? Come on—really. ”
“No my fin. I don’t see anything but piles of sand.”
“ Look beyond the piles. You have to see between the lines. You don’t get it do you? You only look at what’s right in front of you. There’s castles everywhere; huts, hideouts, back alleys. ”
“Is this what you mean by patience?”
“ No! This is conciseness of the universe. We’re not alone you know. The skeletons and ghosts are here.”
“ Have you seen them?”
“ The water of Santa Fe is as crowded as pavement. I’m telling you what no one else will. You should thank me for that. I’m handing you the key to the universe.”
“ How about the key to a warm place to rest and food?”
“ You’re such a brat. Come on. I’ll take you
to shore.”
I met his power posse; and they all assured me they could reverse or  promote anything I wanted.
“If you are ever in trouble call me. I can fix it.”  the Thinker said.
“ Like what?”
“ Whatever you ask. You want to live forever under our safety net. You have to trust me. You’re a city cougar with a Range Rover and a brick house above water. Come on–don’t you see that. Most of the fish hate you. You need me.”
His eyes narrowed into dagger like bits of darkness.
“I’m not a cougar. You are the first young exotic fish I’ve swam with.”
“ Oh really. That’s not what I heard.
“ What did you hear?”
“ I know about you?”
“ Really. Then tell me what they say?”
“ You’re impatient, aloof and swim alone. ”
“ I’m not like that always.”
“ Well I know, I’ve seen inside you.”
One day he emerged as a sea monster, holding empty bottles and wailing. I felt a rush of empathy and covered him with my body. He wrestled in pain for days and then when he surfaced, he was wearing a different face, and his touch was absent. His teddy bear eyes were like bricks of strength.
“ I’m not coming back.” He said
“ Why?” I pleaded
“ Wrong question.”
“ What did I do?”
“ You don’t see my castle. I can’t be with you. All you think about is lobster and hotel vacations.”
“ I haven’t had lobster in years, or a hotel vacation.” He swam away, just as suddenly as he appeared.
It was like a knife severing me from one place to another. He despised me. His curiosity and mischievous cleverness triumphed over affection and companionship. His splashes exploded into monsoons of tears inside of me. I returned to my brick house and closed the drapes. Every night I danced and cooked. I sat on the porch in a spray of solemn sunlight and didn’t miss the waves or blow holes. I’d missed my dance music, old movies, journal and sanctuary of comfort. I made him vanish with a vow.

As I cut his sunflower from my yard, placed it in a vase and said, ‘when the flower dies so does my love for the Thinker.’ The sunflower died yesterday. I pulled off the wrinkled yellow petals and scattered them in a planted pot. Maybe he will come back as the beautiful sunflower I once knew.  But I know he won’t. Love is in all of us. How we give it and cherish it  is unique.  I still have my love. No one can take that.                           20141122_143530[1]

 

 

*

 

PART TWO OF ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS


 

On shore the land felt liquefied and unfamiliar without the sensual spark swimming along side me.  The leaves glistened above my head, like golden gems you’d wear on a necklace. The Santa Fe river sang its song over rocks, branches and brush, while white butterflies and birds fluttered an awakening.  I passed cafes, watched couples and families luxuriating in the sunlight, Canyon road art hawkers snapped photos, gallery owners chatted on the courtyards.

20141021_150953_resizedThe stage of comfort as picturesque as a postcard.  I was outside the activity.  I rushed home, passing people who walked as if lost, and shoes stuck in tar.  Thoughts trotted like ponies all going in different directions. No path had an answer, or a reason, or an understanding of our endearment. 

The Thinker swims close by. Sometimes I feel him soaring past me, glancing for a moment, then he’s gone. The house is quiet, doors and shades closed. My nakedness is wrapped in blankets and the aroma of pumpkin spice from a candle.  My stage is empty, no audience of  any sort. These are  the moments when examination of behavior, discipline, and self-honesty rise above  the solitude.  A woman of lovers rather than husbands, beckons my heart to open to the odyssey of  love.

I appreciate all the new followers from the THE THINKER story. Thank you for

your comments and hope you return for more. 

 

 

 

RUMINATING ON RELATIONSHIPS


Bob and Baez-JIM MARSHALL
Bob and Baez-JIM MARSHALL

 

Bob and Baez-JIM MARSHALL

He was going to keep me warm this winter. Toggle behind me in his overcoat and boots, making  sure I didn’t slip on ice, or chop my hair when my anger meets my self destructiveness. He would plow the snow, keep the fire going, trim the roses that bloomed when we met, and hatch chilies in the kitchen. A boy, a man, and a girlfriend. He’s wrapped in primitive sensuality, gifted with athletic stamina, viscerally intelligent. There is the other side; a squadron of pointy fingers, family feuds, gossip, and the spark of emotional self-contentedness. He admits to it; and studies masters of consciousness every day. He strives for breath unscented, unencumbered childlike weightlessness. My star is dropping, the dream girl of adventures in livingness. Taking men in that hold impossible odds, the long shot that shoot you to the moon or dump you on a dirty bench.
I found someone once who held up all the right que cards; now we are best friends thirty years later. If
lovers are true friends than I don’t lock them out when they stumble on the script. Relationships between men and woman are unsolvable allegory poems. I read them over and over and never understand the meaning if I hold on to the wound. If I let the abrasion heal, I am still in love with them.

COMPASSION RELIEVES THE SUFFERING


Woody Allen commented on depression in all his films; the one I remember most went something like this; ‘I get depressed if one person is suffering in Africa.’

Remember those days; when all we had to concern ourselves with was:  Africa, a bit of Russia, and powerfully silent Cuba and China.  The Europeans loved us back then; we gave them something to laugh about.

I turn on the news intermittently during the day; and whatever activity had occupied me suddenly dissipated into bothersome dust.  Murder, beheadings, shootings, corruption, deception, fear and helplessness swept away the dust, and my consciousness wept.

Whether it is the unfathomable death of a woman who seemed immortal, the young  journalist beheaded on television,  the left and right parties swinging obscenities at  each other,  all soliciting a reality show of our government. My choice of sorrows is mounting.

Today is a cabaret of: weather, activity, and excitement as Fiesta Week begins in Santa Fe.
The city will converge on the Plaza for the performing arts, parades, musical improvisations, dance and Northern New Mexico  chow. Policeman will be stationed alongside the booths to protect us.  They look grouchy and irritable; but in my experience, the friendliest cops I’ve ever met. Try talking to a cop in Los Angeles.20140823_134608

The butter on the tortilla of  Santa Fe, is that our community events, processions, and traditional religious enactments are safe havens for  Spaniards,  Native Americans, the mixed,  the foreign and us Anglos. I can ask to be invited into any assemblage and chances are they will accept my presence.

The safety and care  of people depends on all of us. If I recognize a stoned drunk stumbling; I should take his hand to shelter. If an old woman needs help crossing the street: I should lead her. If  insults and arguments draw my attention; I should keep my eye on the situation. This is where my consciousness rises from dust and sorrow; to a strong wind of humanity.

A LADY LIKE AUDREY


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The throw of the dice this week lands on new adventures in selfless livingness.
There is assurance that most of all, above the tasks, aspirations, dreams and commitments; we are dead beats without love. The feeling has to pass through our veins and arteries, as often as possible, from one suitor or another. You can love a moon in a black sky, as much as a man or woman. I believe the feeling it gives us is medicinal. It gives us something no other prescription can. That is why when sickness comes, all the love pours out from friends and family.
This comes at a time when a beautiful woman who is more saintly and then anyone I’ve met, except my mother, is suffering. You wouldn’t recognize the heaviness she is carrying; she remains light and sprite. Her doe birch brown eyes flatter her high forehead, and her silky mane of brown hair that moves like a Clairol commercial, do not interfere with her life. She devotes much of her time to the Good Samaritan manifesto. She regularly offers her time to the various shelters, serves food, and provides loving comfort to the sick with her registered lap poodle. She told me that the residents of the hospice all wait for her to show up.
“It’s amazing; they are all standing there waiting for me to come in. No one visits them. Can you imagine living like that??”
“No.
“You should come with me sometime; it’ll give you a whole new perspective.”
I agreed; and thought about what she said. We all have our way of disposing of selfish acts. Some pray, some donate money, and what I’ve found that works for me is to spread my kookiness and follies without prejudgment. If someone looks sour and glib; that’s the person who needs me. It is a branch of love that will keep on blooming.

 

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