When the Mafia Ran Vegas: Glory Days

I was fortunate enough to work Las Vegas lounges in the 70’s, just before corporate interests took over most hotels. I worked with “Company’s Company” at The Stardust Hotel. When the lounge had no dressing room to speak of, just a backstage, I was given a room… an actual hotel room. That was how they treated us.

The entertainment directer, Frank “Lefty”Rosenthal was wonderful to me. A truly nice man, to me anyway. Robert De Niros‘s character in the movie Casino, Ace Rothstein, was based on Rosenthal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I want to tell you about experience with the Sands Hotel and SUMMA.

When I worked for  SUMMA Corporation’s hotels , Walter Kane was in charge. The old man really liked me, and not only was I given a publicist and dressing room, but he had me perform for his private events on our nights off.

My name was on the marquee,  ” JESSICA AND FANTASY” we were always in the paper, and the valet staff put my car right by the front door at 3am, when I got off work, with the keys in it.

Our first show was at 10pm when people were lined up wrapped around the regency lounge in line for the main showroom. We alternated one-hour sets and one-hour breaks, ending at 3am.. That way we caught the people leaving the showroom after it ended, and it kept the casino lively with music while people gambled or came in the lounge and drank.

Bob Hope‘s wife, Dolores, would come in and warble a tune, Lee Majors wanted me to sit by him while he played Baccarat, thinking I was his lucky charm. Cary Grant was introduced to me by Walter Kane. I was speechless at the beauty of this handsomely aging gentleman!!! What a face!

I made friends with Stig Edgren who was a lighting designer for Dionne Warwick, Stig is head of  Seg/events and has designed stage lighting for  everyone from Natalie Cole to  Earth Wind and Fire and even the POPE!! I shared Won Ton soup in the coffee shop with the late Fred Travalena many times, while he shared his stories about having a fling with Shirley MacLaine. Also , wanting me to join that club!

Book by Jerry Van

Book by Jerry Van

There was a local celebrity (whose name I cannot mention) showering me with jewelry. I also hired my own  P. R lady  Judy wolf.. She was wonderful, keeping me in the paper.

But, there is one story out there in a book titled, Underworld Secrets, that I must clear up. The author, Jerry Van (not his full name), wrote the book while in prison. He was in the Mafia, I suppose. I thought he was just a pimp.

Very flashy and persistent, I would hide from him, in the ladies room. He gave me a painting of a dark haired lady. He said it reminded him of me. He was obsessed. I really was not interested in him.

He wrote Underworld Secrets about his association with the mob and working for Tony Spilotro. Joe Pesci‘s character in the movie, Casino, Nicky Santoro, was based on Tony Spilotro.In Van’s book, he says that he came to Las Vegas to make conquests with the most beautiful woman there. I should be flattered I suppose that he wanted me as one of them.

He said in the book that he came to the lounge, whispered something to me, to join him after my set, and asked the cocktail waitress what I drank, she said, “coffee”.  I have never been a coffee drinker or never owned a coffee maker. I’m am a tea drinker.

So, in this book,  he says that a got a girl for Tony Spilotro, who joined him while I was singing, and Tony and his “date”and I went to breakfast. Then he says that he took me home.

Didn’t need a ride. I always had my little blue Datsun 280Z. I would have remembered breakfast with Spilotro, had it actually happened!! Vann said I was a “conquest” I remember himwell and he was nice, too nice. I was put off by his flashy ways and he was not my type. But, there I am, in his book that I hope no one reads.

I’m very pleased to make a public disclaimer about the erroneous mention in Van’s book. 🙂

Those were glorious days!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Maintaining Your Vocal Health

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