GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sinatra's Las Vegas

Though I occasionally find myself in Las Vegas, I am no longer a fan of the town as I had been in my youth. Garish, crass and common are good adjectives to describe the city today and the aesthetics are jarring once you venture into a casino rather than enjoy it as a formidable night time cityscape from afar. What bothers me most, I suppose, is that the city seems to exult in all that is valueless and encourages its patrons to aspire to their own spiritual and economic bankruptcy. Few cities can make that claim as persuasively.

My introduction to Las Vegas came at a time when I was very young and though the city always had as its prime objective the fleecing of its guests, it seemed to me that there was an elegance to the manner in which the task was accomplished in those times. When I was no more than eight years-old, I found myself staring at a casino cocktail waitress at the Hacienda. She was wearing high-heels and a diaphanous, baby-doll négligée and I was quite taken with her. I remember wondering how in the world I was going to continue being interested in my life until I was old enough to entertain such a creature. An odd thought for an eight year-old, perhaps.

Years later, Las Vegas became a destination for my Jaguar and Ferrari road trips. The route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas featured seemingly endless straight-aways where speeds of 150 miles per hour were the norm in the cars I drove. I don't remember getting any speeding tickets on those journeys though once I did get a stern warning from a patrolman on the California side of the border. Maybe this was part of the luck that formed my early impressions of Las Vegas.

When I was in my late teens, I looked older than my age and I often played blackjack at the Sands long before I turned twenty-one. Usually, I came away with two or three hundred dollars in winnings which was a nice sum in those days. Not far from the casino floor was the lounge where singers would perform throughout the afternoon and evening. Frank Sinatra Jr. explains the function of the 'Vegas casino lounges of the era in his excellent commentary on the Ocean's 11 DVD (the original version).

One afternoon, I was playing blackjack and flirting with the very pretty blond in her thirties sitting next to me when I heard some music that I assumed was of the piped-in variety because the song was Strangers in the Night, Frank Sinatra's current hit. After about eight bars, I realized the song was not coming over the casino's sound system but was being performed by the Chairman himself in the lounge. Later that night, Sinatra's show in the Copa Room would be the hottest ticket in 'Vegas but he took it upon himself to treat the customers to a free preview in the middle of the afternoon. Would this happen in Las Vegas today?

The 'Vegas I remember has long since disappeared but the city still serves as a destination for a high speed road trip in an exciting car and, I must admit, I am tempted to make a return visit to the Golden Steer for some Cherries Jubilee...

1 comment:

Marguerite Baca said...

Just when I was craving another Stephen Mitchell story... delightful and well written as usual. I am vicariously enjoying the aspiring spiritually and economically bankrupt. From my armchair I am actually aspiring to a boring life and cherry's jubilee.