Luck Be A Lady

I went down to the lobby of The Sands, walking through the fabled casino. As I I took a detour to the Copa Room, the crowded nightclub, the lights went down which meant that Frank Sinatra would be soon coming out. The room was smoky and dark and a big band was playing on stage. The room was filled with dressed to the nines patrons who were chain smoking cigarettes. The Copa Room’s showgirls were known as “The Copa Girls.” The showroom had taken its name from the former Copacabana in New York City. “Hey, doll, bring me that drink,” the gangster-like man said abruptly, without breaking his mile-long stare. He was pointing to a young waitress coming fresh from San Gabriel Valley carrying a heavy tray of champagne glasses, her uniform pulled too tight across farm-girl hips. The crowd went wild when Sinatra walked out and started to sing a rousing rendition of Luck be a Lady.

While the Dom Perignon flowed freely, Johnny Rosselli chatted about Marilyn Monroe. He had known her since 1948 when Harry Cohn had signed her first contract for Columbia. Cohn had used Mob money to lift up Columbia Studio’s potential. Usually Johnny laughed at Sam Giancana’s antics, the way he had fallen head over heels with Judith Campbell and Phyllis McGuire, whom had been placed on his pedestal. Any man foolhardy enough to approach Phyllis with romantic overtures would meet a violent end or at the very least a brutal beating ordered by Giancana. But when it came to Marilyn, Johnny didn’t like the way Giancana had wiretapped her Brentwood home by Hollywood private detective Fred Otash. Sam Giancana knew he could use Marilyn’s affair with Jack Kennedy to destroy him politically.

Jerry Lewis simply shrugged when he was left behind the party, sitting in one of the background booths and self-consciously lighting a Kool cigarette. Why wasn’t Lewis surrounded by a coterie of starlets like his partner Dean Martin or the Rat Pack allies? Maybe the high-life perks that used to intrigue his mind had lost its gleamy allure for him. He probably was reminiscing about his first girl, Lonnie Brown, harking back to his first serious date with her. He just could see her now placing a hand gently on his arm and talkingto him as softly as she could amid the din of the coffehouse. Jerry had wanted to know what kind of kid she thought he was, and Lonnie had said he was cute, a bit silly, vulnerable, and easily hurt. She had seen right through his soul. Then she pulled a small lipstick — like a secret play toy — from her dress pocket and applied a reddish coat that made Jerry’s heart beat real fast. Finally, his lips wiped out entirely all the waxy traces of lipstick on her mouth with a spontaneous, urgent kiss. Years later, Jerry would date a few glamourous starlets in Hollywood. But as he suspected tonight, a lot of memories, as old buildings and casinos, would collapse in his time, but not that unforgettable moment with Lonnie.