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The Two Franks that Laid the Foundations for Las Vegas

If there is one man who knows, and has a story about, every big star in Las Vegas, it’s Frank Rosenthal. You know Frank Rosenthal from the Stardust Casino, the Frank Rosenthal Show in Las Vegas, the movie “Casino”, and through the energy and genius of “Frank’s Corner” in Gambling Online Magazine. This month Gambling Online Magazine honors another Frank, Frank Sinatra, through the story of his friend, Frank Rosenthal.

Here is how Frank Rosenthal tells the story of Ol’ Blue Eyes breathing life into the desert paradise:

“The Frank Rosenthal Show brought about the big names in Sports and in Hollywood; and the biggest one that comes to mind is Frank Sinatra. Frank appeared on the show [The Frank Rosenthal Show] three times, and to my knowledge that’s a record.

We [The Frank Rosenthal Show] did Mohamed Ali, we did Tommy Lasorda, we did Liberace, a huge host of names, but the big name would be Sinatra, he would lead the list. I had a very, very close personal relationship with Frank, besides from the TV show. We were friends and I am also friendly with his wife Barbara, who is a very lovely woman.

I got to know Frank quite well because of his appearances in the Las Vegas area. In fact, our corporation decided to pay a tribute to his mother Dolly Sinatra, who died in a fatal airplane accident, at the Stardust hotel. It was a big, big benefit that Frank was very appreciative of. We raised quite a bit of money for the charity of his choice and brought about, in that audience, just about every dignitary you could think about in the California-Las Vegas area…That was a memorable evening.

If you were Frank’s friend, you were cherished. I don’t think he had a lot of friends, I think he knew a lot of people and had a lot of acquaintances, but he was very possessive within his little circle. [of friends]He was very loyal, very caring…Frank was a good guy who was always witty and never at a loss for words. He was always a very confident person. He could go on a stage at Caesar’s Palace or he could perform behind the camera. He won an academy award for the movie “From Here to Eternity” where he played a soldier. He was, as I say, a multi-talented individual. And in my experience he was no different on or off the set. We’d go one-on-one and our dialogue would be no different than yours and mine… a real down to earth kind of guy.

When Frank would come into Las Vegas he would bring in the heavy hitters. Watching him perform and observing the audience was a deligeht. Take “The Midnight Idol” Wayne Newton. Newton would attract a lot of people. But there would be a tremendous distinction between the type of clientele that Newton would bring the hotel and the clientele Frank Sinatra would bring to town. Wayne Newton would bring the lemonade and soda pop customers and Frank Sinatra would bring the black tie type of people. The people that bet black chips…the gamblers. So from a casino’s standpoint Frank was a dream. When Frank performed in Las Vegas-and he appeared mostly at Caesar’s Palace and occasionally at the Golden Nugget-that was the toughest ticket in town…by far.

He had an aura about him that I was able to recognise in his peers who had a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I’m talking about stars that were on the same level as him [Sinatra] whether they be from Hollywood or from Sports. Frank could command the respect of just about anybody.”

Frank Sinatra is as much a part of Las Vegas’ history as Ben Siegal and The Flamingo Hotel. They are all part of what has been dubiously dubbed the undercurrent of Sin City. Franks undying spirit and willingness to do thing his way not only fuelled the prosperity of the desert city during his lifetime, but is part of its magic today. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reflected upon Sinatra’s death by saying "The great spirit of Las Vegas was reflected in him. He added luster and life to the city."

But that is not to say that the tough guy image of the staring member of the Rat Pack went undeserved. In 1961 Frank Sinatra was forced to give up his stake in the Lake Tahoe Cal-Neva Lodge when he ran afoul of the state’s gaming commission. The state decided that Frank’s ties with reputed mobster Sam Giancana were just too close for him to be the owner of a casino property.

It wasn’t until 1981 when the Gaming Control Board cleared Sinatra of any illegal involvement with Giancana and declaired him fit to own a casino property in the state.

The then chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission Harry Reid commented:

“It was one of the most extensive, thorough investigations we ever had. We expected to come up with a lot of dirt, but all we found were positive things."

Frank’s memorial was held in Hollywood California and there he was with his Vegas cronies for the final time. Liza Minnelli, Tony Bennett, Wayne Newton, Ben Vereen and Don Rickles all paid tribute to the man that helped create the legend of what Frank Sinatra simply called “Vegas”.
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