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The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 13th, 2016, 4:13 pm

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Thanks so much for your in-depth responses.

Do you mind sharing with us the more intriguing or difficult aspects of your research? How did you connect with so many of the people you intviewed? And if you could interview anyone of the major figures who developed Las Vegas, who would it be?
I'm also curious to know if you could have chosen to see any entertainer during the 40s or 50s, who would it have been?



I loved doing the research on who to interview and I thought in the beginning it would be great to do 50 video oral histories, but I quickly discovered that my interviewees would say, "You really should talk to so and so, they have great stories". We tried to interview as many as we could but some did get away from us either because they didn't want to participate or their schedules never meshed with ours. I was thrilled to sit down and interview them all and some really good friendships have come out of that research and the interviews.

I loved being able to sit down with Sam Butera, Louis Prima's saxophone player. For the next few years, if he was playing where Mr. Cutter and I could go see him, we went. We always talked to him after the show and the last time I saw him, he gave me a big hug. He died a short while after that.

I would have loved to interview some of the original visionaries like Wilbur Clark, Tommy Hull, Jack Entratter, Jay Sarno (he developed and built Caesars Palace which is covered in the next book, Kirk Kerkorian. But all but Kirk had passed away long before I even thought of this project. I couldn't get Kerkorian to agree to a sit down interview but I did get his right hand man, Burt Cohen. So that helped a great deal. I also would have loved to interview Robert Maheu, Howard Hughes' right hand man but the closest I got to that was moderating a panel discussion with him and a few others who knew or worked with Hughes.

I would have loved to have seen Louis Prima, Keely Smith with Sam Butera and the Witnesses when they were rocking the Casbar Lounge back in the mid-1950s. They were, to quote Sam, "the hottest act in the world". Would have loved to have seen the Rat Pack Summit during the two weeks they were holding court at the Sands and I would have loved to have seen one of Judy Garland's late shows. She didn't have the temperament to do a dinner show because she was a nigh owl but the late show which started at 11:30 and typically went to 1:00 am was perfect for her.
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 13th, 2016, 4:29 pm

Vienna wrote:I love hearing about the history of Las Vegas and hope to visit some day.
An RKO film I like is THE LAS VEGAS STORY, with Jane Russell and Victor Mature. Do you know if much location filming was done in the city?


Vienna,

So glad you are enjoying the discussion. The Las Vegas Story is one of my favorites, too. While much of the casino and hotels interiors were recreated on RKO sound stages, some of the interiors were shot in the hotels like the Thunderbird and the Desert Inn.

Hope that helps!

Lynn
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 13th, 2016, 4:34 pm

Mrs. Osborne wrote:Lynn:


I am so proud AND excited for you.
There is nothing better than good accurate research, and you obviously did yours with this book and before that with your documentary about Las Vegas. Which did you enjoy most - writing the book or making the documentary?

Best,
Mrs. Osborne


Alexa,

Good afternoon! Thanks so much!

I really enjoyed doing both. The work I did on the documentary, such as the video oral histories, made their way into the book. That's why it is an e-book, it has both images and video clips throughout the book.

Doing the book also gave me the chance to reconnect with the Las Vegas I grew up with. We moved there in 1961 when I was quite young so I had a front-row seat in many ways to the Strip during its heyday as the Entertainment Capital of the World. Because my mother worked in the various showrooms back then, I was able to see a number of entertainers either sitting down in front or from back stage.

But without the documentary's interviews, the book would not be quite as complete as it is! Some I am glad I had the opportunity to do both!

For those who are interested, the book is available on the iTunes Store for those with Mac laptops and iPads, it is available on Amazon for those with Kindle readers or Fire Tablets and it is available on Barnes and Noble's Nook Press for those with Nook readers.

Here's a link for more information: http://classiclasvegas.com/book/

And it's just $4.99! If you know someone who loves Las Vegas or Las Vegas history, you can give this book as a holiday gift, too!
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 13th, 2016, 4:51 pm

moira finnie wrote:Vienna, I am so glad you brought up that Victor Mature film (Love Vic in anything)!

Lynn, in addition to discussing The Las Vegas Story (1952) could you please name your top choices for the best of the Vegas-themed stories on film?

Are there ones that you find ring a false note and why?

Thanks for your answers & many thanks to those posting their questions.


Moira,

I definitely have some choices! I love the original Ocean's 11 because it is such a great time capsule of what the Strip and the hotels looked like back then. Watching it today, they all seem so small and so quaint, especially when compared to the behemoths that have replaced most of them.

I also love Viva Las Vegas and not just because my folks were such Elvis fans but because it was shot all over the town. They shot at the Riviera (which was just imploded earlier this summer), and the Flamingo (one of the last original hotels still standing) but also at the Las Vegas Convention Center -so you get to see it's original flying saucer shape, Fremont Street when it was still a mixture of businesses and casinos, Hoover Dam before that damn bridge ruined the view and Mt. Charleston.

I am also a big fan of Diamonds are Forever because it captures the Strip just a few years after Viva Las Vegas and you can see how much it has changed. I love that shot heading west from the Dunes where all you see is empty desert. That is now all filled with businesses and homes. But it really did look that expansive once. I love the shots of Fremont Street when it was truly Glitter Gulch with all the neon on the casinos in full blaze. I love the footage of driving down the Strip with the big Hertz sign of a cowboy with a steering wheel (it was a neon beauty at night, too).

Later films, like The Marrying Man with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger includes an excellent recreation of the original El Rancho Vegas.

One From the Heart is one of my guilty pleasures because of all the neon and the signs.

Despite the inaccuracies, I also like Bugsy a great deal. It offers a great look at what the Flamingo looked like in its original form.

The one that rings most false to me is The Only Game in Town. It's supposed to take place mainly in Caesars Palace as I recall, but since it was shot on a soundstage in Italy, it definitely doesn't have the authentic vibe to it that the others do!
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 13th, 2016, 6:26 pm

I really enjoyed Diamonds Are Forever, too, Lynn. Jimmy Dean playing a Howard Hughes-like character made it even more fun.

I was wondeing what originally prompted you to want to write Gambling On A Dream. Can you share with us some of your motivation?

Also, can you share your thoughts on the Vegas featured in Con Air?
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 13th, 2016, 6:50 pm

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:I really enjoyed Diamonds Are Forever, too, Lynn. Jimmy Dean playing a Howard Hughes-like character made it even more fun.

I was wondeing what originally prompted you to want to write Gambling On A Dream. Can you share with us some of your motivation?

Also, can you share your thoughts on the Vegas featured in Con Air?


Christy,

Jimmy Dean is one of the highlights of Diamonds for me, too! Plus, that mid-century modern house down in Palm Springs, I LOVED that house!

Con Air is a hard one for me. I love John Cusack in the film a great deal but the ***SPOILER ALERT**** destruction of the beloved Sands Hotel at the end of the film just breaks my heart. So I don't tend to watch it very often.

As for the writing of the book, one of my favorite essays by writer Pete Hamill is his elegy to the New York City he knew, The Lost City of New York, http://nymag.com/news/features/48277/

I read it in a collection of his writings about 20 years ago and was immediately captivated by his eye for detail and turning a phrase.

When I first started working on the book, I remembered a quote of his from his lovely memoir, Downtown, My Manhattan:

“Nostalgia is not a fake emotion. It is an ache for something that did exist. It involves an almost fatalistic acceptance of the permanent presence of loss. Nothing will ever stay the same. Tuesday turns into Wednesday and something valuable is behind you forever. An ‘is’ has become a ‘was’.”

It expressed exactly what it feels like for me whenever a Las Vegas landmark is torn down. He was gracious enough to let me use that quote in the introduction to the book.

As the Las Vegas that I grew up with grows more distant in time with each passing day, one of the reasons I wanted to write the book was to capture the history of each of the hotels because I would bet a number of tourists who visit there now have no recollection or little knowledge of what was once there and how it made the Las Vegas Strip they are visiting today even possible. Without those original visionaries and their hotels, the Strip as we know it would be very different, indeed.

I didn't want those original visionaries, their hotels or the men and women who worked there to be forgotten. So, in this book I wrote detailed histories of the first ten original hotels from conception through destruction or, in the case of the The Flamingo, the only one of the original ten still standing, how it changed facades and interiors over the years.

The next book covers the hotels that were built from 1956-1973 and will cover the remaining original hotels including Caesars, the Landmark, the International and the original MGM Grand, perhaps my favorite because I knew it so well. I hope to have that one available next summer.

I was fortunate to work with the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas and UNLV's Special Collections as well as collectors and photographers who shared their images with me. Looking at the images in the book, you see not only how much Las Vegas has changed but how much we have changed as a society. The hotels look quaint and the people so dressed up and having so much fun, it makes you long for a more sophisticated and swankier time. At least it does me!

I think after I get done with Part 2 next year, I have two or three other books about Las Vegas that I could probably write.
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby moira finnie » November 13th, 2016, 6:54 pm

Lzcutter wrote:The one that rings most false to me is The Only Game in Town. It's supposed to take place mainly in Caesars Palace as I recall, but since it was shot on a soundstage in Italy, it definitely doesn't have the authentic vibe to it that the others do!

What? The innocent story of love between those crazy mixed up kids Warren Beatty & Elizabeth Taylor doesn't have a strong sense of authentic atmosphere??!! Gosh!

I really liked the grittiness of the little-known The Grasshopper (1970) with a very well cast Jacqueline Bisset & (wait for it...) Corbett Monica!! Jim Brown was the actual leading man in this movie that has been compared to an American version of Darling, but Corbett Monica?!

Another film with a Vegas setting in the early '50s that I enjoyed very much was Sky Full of Moon (1952) with Carleton Carpenter as a young cowboy and Jan Sterling as a cynical gal on the far edges of the glitter.

Here are my questions for the moment:

1.) I see that Christy has asked about your reasons for doing research on this book, but I hope you will describe when your next and more personal memoir about your hometown might appear. I would love to read it.

2.) It is always amazing to me that everyone from Noel Coward to Shecky Greene to Dietrich to Louis Prima found their way to Las Vegas to be a part of the action. Was there any show biz figure whose presence in Las Vegas startled you during your research?
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 13th, 2016, 7:35 pm

moira finnie wrote:
Lzcutter wrote:The one that rings most false to me is The Only Game in Town. It's supposed to take place mainly in Caesars Palace as I recall, but since it was shot on a soundstage in Italy, it definitely doesn't have the authentic vibe to it that the others do!

What? The innocent story of love between those crazy mixed up kids Warren Beatty & Elizabeth Taylor doesn't have a strong sense of authentic atmosphere??!! Gosh!

I really liked the grittiness of the little-known The Grasshopper (1970) with a very well cast Jacqueline Bisset & (wait for it...) Corbett Monica!! Jim Brown was the actual leading man in this movie that has been compared to an American version of Darling, but Corbett Monica?!

Another film with a Vegas setting in the early '50s that I enjoyed very much was Sky Full of Moon (1952) with Carleton Carpenter as a young cowboy and Jan Sterling as a cynical gal on the far edges of the glitter.

Here are my questions for the moment:

1.) I see that Christy has asked about your reasons for doing research on this book, but I hope you will describe when your next and more personal memoir about your hometown might appear. I would love to read it.

2.) It is always amazing to me that everyone from Noel Coward to Shecky Greene to Dietrich to Louis Prima found their way to Las Vegas to be a part of the action. Was there any show biz figure whose presence in Las Vegas startled you during your research?


Moira,

Sorry about The Only Game in Town! :(
Next time it airs on TCM I'll have to give it another shot. I've not seen either The Grasshopper or Sky Full of Moon. A few years back, TCM ran Elke Sommer heist film that was fairly unbelievable but had great location footage!

As for your questions, I'm toying with doing a book on Fremont Street which would probably be more personal. Fremont Street was our Main Street for a good portion of my childhood and I have a number of interviewees talking about how it changed over from the 1930s-1960s, but that will be after Part 2 of the Las Vegas Strip.

I was very surprised at how much people who worked with or around Frank Sinatra didn't have a favorable opinion of him. I'd heard stories from my mom about what a jerk he could be to anyone who wasn't a good-looking showgirl but she wasn't exaggerating. Most everyone that had any contact with him was left with an unfavorable opinion. On one of the live Rat Pack albums, Dean Martin tells the audience, "Back stage somewhere Frank Sinatra is punching some poor dealer in the mouth." It has a ring of truth to it than most people realize.

A story to highlight- After Howard Hughes bought the Sands Hotel in the mid to late 1960s, Sinatra was still performing there. One night in December after the late show, he wanted his credit rating raised. He'd been drinking and became belligerent. The casino staff refused. Sinatra went looking for casino manager, Carl Cohen who was eating in the coffee shop. Cohen refused to extend Sinatra the requested money (Hughes' men ran a tighter ship than Jack Entratter had). Sinatra overturned the table Cohen was sitting at. Cohen jumped up and Sinatra tried to punch him. Cohen hit Sinatra right in the mouth, breaking his two front caps. Enraged, Sinatra commandeered a golf cart and rode it through the plate glass windows in the lobby. He then went straight to the airport and flew back to Los Angeles. The UPI bureau chief in Las Vegas told me that holiday season everyone in town was singing "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth"!
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 13th, 2016, 7:57 pm

Good questions, Moira. A great Sinatra tale, Lynn!
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby moira finnie » November 13th, 2016, 8:00 pm

What's really sad about making fun of The Only Game in Town was that it was the last film directed by George Stevens, alas.

Lynn has an interview with a journalist and a former detective who were there giving their account of the Cohen-Sinatra tussle. FYI, the lynn zook channel on youtube features many first hand accounts of Las Vegas history from the people who lived it. It's fun to peruse!

phpBB [video]


I still have a few questions, but I hope others will pipe in too:

1.) Lynn, I realize that individuals who engaged in illegal activities were often (but not always) prosecuted, but did the State of Nevada ever find themselves at loggerheads with the Federal Government because of the gambling they allowed in the state?

2.) Also, you write that the mob did control things in Las Vegas and in some ways this made things go smoothly--but what precipitated their tacit acceptance for so long and what may have ended their control?

3.) In years past it sometimes saddened me to read that someone like Johnny Weissmuller or Joe Louis was "a greeter" in a Las Vegas casino near the end of their lives--and then I read in your book that actor Preston Foster was one too! What was the post of greeter all about? Just hire someone who used to be a well known name to draw in suckers? Hire someone to help them out financially and perhaps give them a job for old time sake?
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 13th, 2016, 8:30 pm

moira finnie wrote:What's really sad about making fun of The Only Game in Town was that it was the last film directed by George Stevens, alas.

Lynn has an interview with a journalist and a former detective who were there giving their account of the Cohen-Sinatra tussle. FYI, the lynn zook channel on youtube features many first hand accounts of Las Vegas history from the people who lived it. It's fun to peruse!

phpBB [video]


I still have a few questions, but I hope others will pipe in too:

1.) Lynn, I realize that individuals who engaged in illegal activities were often (but not always) prosecuted, but did the State of Nevada ever find themselves at loggerheads with the Federal Government because of the gambling they allowed in the state?

2.) Also, you write that the mob did control things in Las Vegas and in some ways this made things go smoothly--but what precipitated their tacit acceptance for so long and what may have ended their control?

3.) In years past it sometimes saddened me to read that someone like Johnny Weissmuller or Joe Louis was "a greeter" in a Las Vegas casino near the end of their lives--and then I read in your book that actor Preston Foster was one too! What was the post of greeter all about? Just hire someone who used to be a well known name to draw in suckers? Hire someone to help them out financially and perhaps give them a job for old time sake?


That's the saddest part of the whole Game experience for me, Moira. I love most of Stevens films but some not so much! I think the War had a deep effect on him.

1) The state was forced to come up with the Black Book. The Black Book is the book of names of mobsters and gangsters considered too notorious to have in casinos. One of the most famous names in the Book was Chicago mobster, Sam Giancana who for quite awhile was singer Phyllis McGuire's boyfriend. Back in the 1960s, Frank Sinatra owned the Cal-Neva Lodge, a small hotel/casino in Tahoe in northern Nevada. Giancana was spotted in the hotel and Sinatra had to surrender his gaming license, ownership of the Lodge and his points in the Sands Hotel. The state and the feds take the Black Book very seriously.

2) The mob wasn't overt in Las Vegas, they preferred for others to be the face of the hotels. Moe Dalitz, who had mob connections going way back, was philanthropic to the community, building Sunrise Hospital and helping to build the Boulevard Mall. He wasn't the only one. We went to school with the kids of the bosses. In 6th grade, two of my classmates were daughters of Ben Goffstein. They contributed to the community because it was not only good for their images but for their families as well.

Today, old timers like to say "things were better when the mob ran the town". They remember that you could get comped easily back then for shows, meals, drinks depending on who you knew. They believe that the Mob helped keep crime in check. But Sheriff Ralph Lamb had more to do with that than the Mob. You robbed a casino at your own peril, no doubt about that.

But the most important thing that people tend to overlook is that the mob was skimming profits from the hotels up and down the boulevard. When Hughes came in, it was under the pretense that he was going to clean up the mob. But Hughes' people didn't know how to run casinos, so the same old mob guys still ran the hotels even if they no longer owned them.

I will cover the downfall of the Mob in Las Vegas more thoroughly in Part 2 because so much of the action that brought the end to their rein in Las Vegas was because of events that happened at the hotels built between 1956-1966. One of the eye-openers for the State and the Feds happened in the late 1960s when Kirk Kerkorian bought the Flamingo. Prior to his ownership, the Flamingo never showed a profit or a very small one. In the first year that Kerkorian owned it, it showed a million dollar profit. Kerkorian wasn't skimming the way the previous owners had been.

That was one of the building blocks for all the action that was to come. Stay tuned and I'll tell you that story next year!

3) What was the post of greeter all about? The job of the greeter was just that, stand out front and glad hand the folks as they came in. Have your picture taken with them if they requested, tell the stories and make them feel like a million bucks because they had spent some time with a real life star!

Just hire someone who used to be a well known name to draw in suckers? Hire someone to help them out financially and perhaps give them a job for old time sake?[/quote] Basically, that was the role of the greeter. Both Louis and Weismuller stayed afloat thanks to their jobs as greeters!
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 13th, 2016, 11:18 pm

1962 is the year I met Johnny Weissmuller as he was involved in promoting a new subdivision near New Orleans. Must have been around the same time he was a greeter.
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Masha » November 14th, 2016, 12:57 am

I wish to congratulate you on creating such an astounding narrative of a unique era! All that I have seen of this is brilliant and I hope that you have great success with it.
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby Lzcutter » November 14th, 2016, 12:38 pm

Masha,

Thanks so much!

If you or anyone else is interested in buying the book, it is available on the iTunes store for Macs and IPads, on Amazon for Kindle readers and Fire Tablets, and on Barnes and Noble's Nook for those with Nook readers.

The direct links are at http://classiclasvegas.com/book/

It's got the history, images and videos all for just $4.99!

Thanks again for the kind words! Hope all is well with you and yours!
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Re: The Q & A with Lynn Zook on Nov. 12 & 13

Postby moira finnie » November 14th, 2016, 5:00 pm

It was a hoot having you as a guest author and learning about Las Vegas history. While I sincerely hope that you will return soon to talk about your next book, please don't be a stranger!
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