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]

 

 

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ADVENTURES WITH THE TIDE OF THE THINKER


Audrey. Photograph By Edward Quinn

I asked the sky to send the Thinker.  Then it  rained in southwest furry,  small 22A65Ca5ndFhXTcktfb98jnckTJl4rZP0060[1]white knots of hail and dark feuding winds. The thinker heard and whistled to me. It was a sweet flutist tone, and he appeared in black and grey, the silver lining of his head like a crown of light. Flashing the boyish grin, he opened his wrestling toned-warm fins to my goose bumpy arms, and I swam along side tentatively. Even though it was my chime, I was unsteady, unwilling to climb on his back, so we swam on our toes, around my house, and the Plaza. We battled sharks from Beverly Hills, whose fins were frozen from love and kindness; we faced one of our own school, who would not lend a dollar on good faith and loyalty for their Merlot Cabernet fish oil, and we strung pearls around each other necks, with a clasp that is easily unhooked. The current drove us through three more days of rowing backward, sleeping quietly without intertwinement, and meeting as friends instead of lovers.
The absence of touch, struck like a lightning storm. I didn’t see it coming, and I may be wrong. To read the Thinker is to understand his language; a circumcision of predictability, logic, or reasoning. Like a tsunami, uncharitable waves of enlightenment he doesn’t even understand drown his soul.
I understood that he airbrushed my appearance, and dropped deep into my eyes as they widened for him. I blushed before he engulfed me, and pressed my undertow.
If tonight was the last swim because of a storm I didn’t see coming, or understand. It is because my eyes blurred by his presence.
The tide goes out, but it always come back. Sometimes it touches where we left off.

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.

SEASONAL BEHAVIOR & ROSH HASHANAH


The throw of the dice this week lands on adventures in contemplation. Before the day begins to intersect with my solitude, I sit at my desk in a pre-dawn crystal of clarity. Only the light from a candle shines on a journal of hand written notes. I walked outside to asses the damage of a devilish storm that ravished the night. Leaves dropped from trees and the street is slick with the residue of the storm. Autumn is rising from dormancy; she is painting the leaves pumpkin and cranberry, while impregnating the atmosphere with the perfume of seasonal change. The inversion seeps into my pores.
While shopping at Whole Foods last week, for my first stockpile of chicken tortilla soup, I noticed expressions of 20131003_160015[1]contemplation on faces. Not in the choice of their groceries, but a characteristic of preparation for winter. Pumpkins, firewood and potted mums have replaced the outdoor display of flower baskets and lavender.  The silence will blanket time beyond the hours of sleep. This is when contemplation is given the freedom to spread over my thoughts and feelings. September marks the disrobing of summer; as if the float of festivities,  parties, and outdoor markets were moved into storage.
Last week was the beginning of the new Year on the Jewish Calendar, Rosh Hashanah. Unlike New Years for the traditional American, is a time of contemplation and reckoning of ones faults. We are asked to examine our behavior and plant new seeds of integrity from within.
“Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh (“casting off”). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom.” Excerpt from Wikipedia.
What I do is to take my emotional and physical wardrobe, and move it from the closet in my casita, to the upstairs storage closet. The skimpy and sexy finery are replaced with turtlenecks, leggings and wool. The emotional wardrobe, is pressed down to the fibers, so it can be studied. In this examination, the reflection of myself is not as important as it has been, the stubble of age has bitten me but not in a bitter way. It has burned down my childish selfishness, insistence of acknowledgment, intolerance of behavior unfamiliar to me, and detached me from the wayward choices made by our government. I used to work with the news turned on and the volume down.

This summer, beginning just after my adventure in Malibu with my friend Chantel, my grip on aloofness towards Santa Fe,  frustrations associated with publication, and narcissism dissipated. It is possible that one month in the company of Chantal, her vibrancy and generosity softened my reserve. In the last four months, I’ve at last given up tightening against the unmanageable forces that intersect with me, and meet the pleasures of humanity in nakedness. I stood in my doorway, shaded by trees and shrubbery, naked – simply to feel the sensation. In return for this placation of behavior, I was invited by my vacation rental guests into their gatherings and parties; a wedding couple and their twenty-five guests included me in their after party. We cajoled, roused, sang and danced until my neighbor, JD, shamed our festivity and ordered me to shut the party down. It was one-thirty in the morning. I wrapped my arm around his neck, and whispered, ‘Oh, you are so right; I will take care of it. Don’t worry.’ JD, a man with twenty- three civil complaints for noise ordinance disruption against the La Posada Resort across the street, replied ‘Well LouLou, if you don’t, I’ll have to call the police.’ I hugged him tighter, and said. “Of course you will, and you have every right.’ This is not the behavior that guided me last year. I returned to the party and made the announcement to the guests, who were by now leaning against the walls, drinking shots of whisky in bowls, and I said:
‘ Party to dawn kids, but keep your voices down.’ The lights went out at four-thirty in the morning. When I left the house, empty bottles, uneaten meals, flowers, shoes, and scarfs scattered everywhere. This disruption of my polished tidy home would have erupted me into a silent rage a year ago. After they checked-out, my new pal and assistant Marc, entered the house. Stepping over pillows, popcorn, sticky wood floors, and into a kitchen of stained counters and food crumbs; a counterfeit of my dear old hollering father shouted;  ‘ This is outrageous. They’ll pay for this!’
“ Stop. We were part of it. It was a wedding party. What did you expect?”

“What the heck is that? Marc said pointing to a clump of food stuck to the wall.
“ Looks like salsa and chips.” I said with a sponge in my hand. By the time we reached the rooms upstairs, I too was chuckling. Two days later the house  converted from slipshod to spotless.
The spell of silence has now been broken. The sidewalk blowers stir the leaves, doors open, the clatter of buffet trays wheeling down the street from the kitchen at La Posada pushed by employees in white jackets, swipe greetings, and converse in Spanish. My birds are screeching for more seeds, and the candle is just about burned out. The unknown outcome of our state of affairs in government and society has padded me with extra elasticity, tolerance, and love. Maybe our collective kindness will intercede with the poisonous bitterness and vengeance that titillates through the news.