On September 7, 1963, during a performance at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Dean Martin joked “Right now, ladies and gentlemen, somewhere backstage, Frank Sinatra is punching a dealer right in the mouth.” Little did Martin know that four years later, Sinatra actually would start a fight with a Sands pit boss over revoked casino credit — only, in the end, it was Sinatra who received the pop to the mouth.
The golden age of Las Vegas was the 1950s and early 60s — the Rat Pack era. Who made it that way? The Mob. What did they do? They ran gambling operations of every kind. And it was the worst kept secret in America. Everyone knew that it was mobster Bugsy Siegel who built one of Vegas’s crown jewel casinos, The Fabulous Flamingo. And it still stands today — although it’s been properly sanitized, corporatized, and remodeled.
The Siegel story and the Sinatra story are included in the book When The Mob Ran Vegas: Stories of Money, Mayhem, and Murder along with many other tales of Vegas’s seedier side. Here you’ll learn how Virginia Hill, Bugsy Siegel’s moll, made the Kefauver Committee on Interstate Commerce the most popular TV show in America; why money wasn’t the reason famed industrialist Howard Hughes bought the Silver Slipper hotel; and how a Mob meeting in Cuba, attended by Frank Sinatra, eventually led to the slaying of Bugsy Siegel himself.
While stories of the glitz and grime of Vegas grab your attention by the lapels, it’s counterbalanced by the casual style in which Fischer writes. Each story is a tale told over the 99 cent steak-and-eggs special at the Sands hotel coffee shop. And, with his “kitchen sink” approach, nothing is left out. From the secret tunnels at the Cal-Neva Lodge to photos of the room keys at Caesar’s Palace, Fischer provides an abundance of detail. Even his story of his Uncle Morrie’s and Aunt Audrey’s Vegas vacaction — which IS included — is interesting.
For mid-century mavens and Lounge-o-philes who savor every piece of trivia, When The Mob Ran Vegas is a real treat. So, before you find yourself in cement overshoes, pick up a copy. It’s yet another book that’s earned a place on the shelves of Ultra Swank readers.
When The Mob Ran Vegas:
Stories of Money, Mayhem, and Murder by Steve Fischer
MJF Books, 2007
Originally published in paperback; Also available in hardcover