SWIMMING WITH GANGSTERS-VEGAS 1960s


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)

PART THREE

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

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PART TWO: SWIMMING WITH GANSTERS


“ Mommy the door knocked.’ I said

“ Okay, let me get it.”

The valet reminded me of the munchens in Wizard of Oz, because of their berets, and tightly fitted double breasted coats. But it wasn’t the valet or room service, or anyone that I recognized.

“Lucille, darling is everything to your satisfaction?”

“Hello Jack. Yes the room, flowers, and fruit basket are so lovely. Thank You.”

by Ronzoni

It was the smiling big faced, former bouncer of the Copacabana New York whose name I knew only as Uncle Jack.

Jack was subtle as a semi-truck; and if the world was coming to an end, I’d follow Jack. He had fingers thick as sticks of dynamite and he squeezed my blubbery cheeks until they turned purple. I knew a cheek squeeze meant the person loved me, so Jack didn’t frighten me. I learned thirty years later it was Jack Entratter; a man of chest heavy bullying, dinosaur New York threats, and answered to Frank Costello. I don’t believe he pulled out the Casino movie style butcher chopping that we always see. I just think Jack did what Frank asked, and Frank didn’t randomly demand nail stripping, ball butchering violence you see in the movies. Remember it is a movie.

My mother dressed up with a fur wrap (they wore furs in Vegas) and dressed me in a Pixie Town ensemble that was so starched I couldn’t bend my arm, and we went to the Copa, for the dinner show. Ella Fitzgerald was the feature entertainer of the night. If I wasn’t in a room at La Posada tonight, listening to Tito Puente and Johnny Pacheco, tipping a glass of Chilean wine, without all my files, and notes, I could reference many things about that night. I rented the house for the twelve days of Christmas and I cannot access anything other than what I brought. I could go googling all night, but it is close to time to eat, and parlay my chances in the lobby, meeting and greeting, as I feel I should do, because hotels are the only socially invasive venues left. I greet everyone who knows how to walk without revealing their miserable or self congratulating lives. I really like people who keep their triumphs and sorrows until the second or third time we meet. I don’t like digesting four courses unless I ordered them.

Ella, came out on stage, and we were seated under her heaving breasts, the first row, the closeness was dressing room intimate. There were others at our table but they were sort of like faded ghosts after Ella started her fireworks. TO BE CONTINUED.