Saturday, December 24, 2016

June Calender writes

 National Flight 674

The crowd on the way to Las Vegas
Is raucous as a spring invasion
Of starlings commandeering trees
And telephone wires.

We fly over mountains and desert
To an oasis of neon-glow lighting
Faux pyramids and palaces –
Fun Land! – bland entertainment,
Slot machines everywhere, nonstop
Games of chance, safe decadence
For those who imagine they want
Anonymous fucks and easy bucks.

Gomorrah was a child’s lemonade stand
Compared to Vegas’ glittering promises
Of good times, for a weekend, for a price.

 Las Vegas Strip Painting - Bright Lights City.... by Raymond Sipos
Bright Lights City.... -- Raymond Sipos

Las Vegas Strip Painting - Vegas by Elaine DurasVegas -- Elaine Duras


  1. What most people refer to as "Las Vegas" is actually south of the city of Las Vegas, Nevada: the "Las Vegas strip," where most of the famous casinos and glitzy hotels are located, is in the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester. Sometimes referred to as "Sin City" or "Lost Wages," the Strip has 14 of the world's 25 largest hotels (by room count), with visitors drawn by its elaborate stage shows, ganbling, and legal prostitution. June compares the place to Gomorrah, one the legendary cities destroyed by fire and brimstone in the Book of Genesis due to its licentiousness. In 1829 the area was called "the meadows" by Rafael Rivera, a young Mexican scout for the pathfinding expedition from New Mexico to California led by Antonio Armijo. After the Civil War, Octavius Gass established Las Vegas Rancho as a popular stopover on the Old Spanish Trail. It was bought by the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad in 1902, which auctioned off lots in 1905, leading to the establishment of the town. In 1910 Nevada became the last western state to prohibit gambling. But in 1930 president Herbert Hoover signed the appropriation bill to construct the massive Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam) nearby, and the town's population quickly quintupled from 5,000 to 25,0000, mostly construction workers. Nevada re-legalized gambling at the local level the following year. In 1920 Mayme Stocker had opened the Northern Club to provide illegal gambling and alcohol, and in 1931 she received the state's first gambling license. The Arizona Club, the "Queen of Block 16," was the first saloon in the city to build a second story for prostitution. The federal government tried to protect its workers' morals by housing them at Boulder City and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to control their access to Las Vegas.

  2. Meyer Lansky sent his boyhood friend Bugsy Siegel to explore the possibility of providing illicit services in Las Vegas, but Siegel left to establish the mob's gambling monopoly in Los Angeles, establish the drug trade from Mexico, and gain influence in the movie industry, especially by gaining control over the Screen Extras Guild and the Los Angeles Teamsters Union. After the dam was completed in 1937 it became a major tourist attraction, along with the Lake Mead reservoir it created, and in 1940 US Route 95 was finally extended south to the city, giving it access to major roads for the first time. The government opened a gunnery school there in 1941 (the future Nellis Air Force Base) and in 1942 forced the city to outlaw prostitution, permanently closing Block 16. But in 1941 Thomas Hull opened the El Rancho Vegas outside the city; its dining room was the largest in the area, it had 110 rooms, a large swimming pool, well-turned gardens and parks, coffee shops, and a parking lot that could handle 500 cars, offered horseback riding, presented shows in its Opera House, and a casino with two blackjack tables, a roulette table, a craps table, and 70 slot machines. This was the beginning of the Strip.

  3. Siegel and Lansky then turned their attention back to Las Vegas, forcing Billy Wilkerson, the founder of the influential "Hollywood Reporter" and the owner of many of the most popular restaurants and nightclubs in Los Angeles, to let the mob provide gambling, alcohol, and entertainment at the club he was planning in Las Vegas, and then to buy him out completely. (Wilkerson fled to Paris for a time.) Siegel prematurely opened the first Mafia resort on the Strip, the Flamingo, on the day after Christmas, 1946, and closed it a month later, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. He spent more Mob money for renovations and public relations and reopened in March 1947, but he was assassinated in his Beverly Hills home three months later. He was 41. The next day Lansky took over the Flamingo and began turning a huge profit. By the 1950s the five New York Mafia families were joined by Chicago Outfit, which soon ran the Stardust, the Desert Inn, and the Riviera, and added the Hacienda, Golden Nugget, Sahara, and Fremont casinos in the 1960s. To avoid unneccesary violence, the Commission, set up by Lansky in 1931 to govern Mafia activities in the US, made Las Vegas an "open city" in which all the families had interlocking shares in each other's resorts. However, the agreement eventually collapsed. Chicago sent "Tony the Ant" Spilotro to oversee its operations in 1971, but when "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno was arrested in 1977 he identified Spilotro as a mobster, leading the Nevada Gaming Commission under Harry Reid to blacklist him, meaning he was not allowed to physically enter any casino in the state. Dissatisfied with Spilotro's performance, and in the wake of the imprisonment of his boss Joey Aiuppa for skimming casino profits, in January 1986 the Outfit decided to kill Spilotro. He was savagely beaten in Aiuppa's hunting lodge and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. His right-hand man "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein took over his various concerns but was shot once in the back of the head in 1997 by Los Angeles and Buffalo families in an attempt to take control of his rackets, provoking a thorough investigation and, ultimately, the end of Mafia control. His was the last gangland assassination in Las Vegas. Two years later, during the trial of his killers (most of whom would plead guilty to lesser crimes), Oscar Goodman, who had spent 35 years acting as the legal defense of Mob figures including Lansky, Spilotro, Blitzstein, and Stardust boss "Lefty" Rosenthal, claimed that there hadn't been "a mob presence" there for 15 years; he went on to win election as mayor, serving for the next dozen years but prevented by law from serving more than three terms. In his first year in office, the Four Queens Hotel and Casino issued $5 and #25 chips with his likeness. The couthouse where many of the gamgstars had been tried, and where the US Senate invesigated mob activities in the 1950s, is now the Mob Museum, and every January is celebrated as Mob Month.


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