Birthday Bash and Vegas Cash

by Jake Jacobs
8 April 2019

Jake Jacobs

Last article I talked about picking the brains of some notable experts at the Blackjack Ball after party. The Ball and after party were enhancements to my visit, and spending time with my brother and his family were a prime motivator, but another compelling reason was that I had been "ordered" to attend. My dear friend Carter Pfeiffer-Mattig turned fifty, and had been planning an intimate get together for a thousand or so of his closest friends. The original plan was to meet in Chicago, his home and my hometown. The timing of the Las Vegas Open persuaded him to have two -- or was it twenty-two? -- Parties, pre-parties, post-parties, pageants, parades, celebrations, carousels, merriments, melees, and shivarees. Some would be held in Chicago, the rest in Las Vegas. The timing was good for him, but bad for me. Personal matters, not least a stint in the hospital with leg trouble that turned out to include a deep vein thrombosis, argued for my staying in Singapore. These were weighed against the fact that Carter had journeyed to the other side of the world, and trekked into the Thai jungle, to be the best man when I married Ta. I could not refuse.

Howard Markowitz and John Carrico directing

The tablecloth in the picture says it is Caesar's, but that is only because these days a handful of corporations own all the resorts. The venue was the Flamingo, a venerable institution, legendarily built by Bugsy Siegel. There is a mythology about the place, reinforced by the movie Bugsy. In it, Siegel, played by Warren Beatty, is driving through the desert south of the city of Las Vegas when he has a vision, and imagines the Venetian emerging from a giant clamshell fully formed. Or something like that. Actually "the Strip" existed outside towns all over rural America; it was the road out of town where middle class morality was shrugged off, where the kids clustered at the drive-ins and flirted with the car hops, and where husbands met wives, only not their own, in the dark booths of the bar at the bowling alley, then adjourned to the No-Tell Motel next door. In 1945 the site of the Flamingo was a mile or so south of the city limits. It still is, come to think of it. The Strip is not in the city; it is in Paradise Township. Or was; I haven't kept up. It wasn't the first resort on the Strip; there were two others that had been around for a few years closer to the city limits. Nor was it Siegel's brainchild. A guy named Billy Wilkerson, who owned the Hollywood Reporter, and some famous Tinsel Town night spots like Ciro's and the Trocadero, was the gent who conceived it, but ran into money trouble before he could complete it. Enter the mob with money, stage right, and exit Wilkerson, pursued by a bear market.
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