"From the Desert to the Sea, to All of Southern California." - Jerry Dunphy

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Rat Pack, Foxy's and Boob's

Geographically this is not a Van Nuys or Los Angeles Story. But if one adopts the larger sense of Hollywood then this is an appropriate tale. Las Vegas in the early 1960's was already a sister city of sorts to L.A. as its weekend adult playground. One of the first trips my family made after we moved to Van Nuys was to Las Vegas. My earliest recollection of being in Vegas was late 1963 or early 1964. I remember buying a special issue magazine on recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy in a market across the street from the Sahara Hotel. We all needed a diversion from the harsh reality of our fallen leader and Las Vegas provided that, even for a small child.

It was a time when Frank, Dean and Sammy, the 3 kings of the new age made their pilgrimage to the desert. My parents came to gamble a bit, relax and see a show or two. I tagged along and spent my hours hanging around the lobbies of all the hotels watching stars and common folks walk on by. At night the street was alive with people and lights. For a child of 9 it was like being inside a pinball machine.

One of my favorite places was Foxy's restaurant which was right next to the Sahara Hotel. Late at night my Dad would take me over there for a snack, or if I was really persuasive a hot turkey sandwich. It didn't matter if it was midnight and 100 degrees outside. it didn't matter if my bedtime was normally 9 o'clock. This was Vegas and we were two guys out on the town.

Foxy's also had a small gift shop attached to it where you could buy the usual Las Vegas souvenirs and gamble on the penny slots. My Mom would spend hours chipping away at her purse full of wrapped pennies. Being a liberated child of the 60's I also brought a little cash to pour into the one armed bandits. Usually I would give the change to my Mom or Dad and they would play it for me. However Foxy's was a small place with one person manning the front counter. It was not difficult for a child of 9 to sneak around and drop the occasional penny in the slot. The cute little Midwestern boy had become a Diamond Jim Brady wannabe under the hot desert sun.

Fast forward now into my teenage years and we find a young man who interest have expanded from money to women. This particular years I was about 15 and about to attend my first Las Vegas show. My parents were taking me to see Nancy Wilson and the Doodletown Pipers. Not the Beatles but it was Vegas so you went with it. I had never eaten dinner while watching a show. The show was good and I surprised my parents because I told them I liked the Doodletown Pipers more than Nancy Wilson. She is a fine singer but for a 15 year old that can't compete with young women in mini-skirts dancing on a nearby stage. So when the show was I walked out with my Dad with Mom tagging along behind. My dad and I had stopped to wait for the crowd to move on. Well fortunately for me we had stopped at the entrance to a lounge show. I being the curious sort tried to catch a glimpse of the show through the curtains. At that moment someone walked out of the show to reveal a chorus line of topless dancers on a small stage just as they were turning around toward the audience. I had never seen so many boobs in my young life. After the curtain closed I nudged my dad and said, "that's the show we should have seen". Apparently I was a little louder than I thought because a ripple of laughter moved through the surrounding crowd. We turned around and saw my poor mom standing there with the coolest look of horror and amusement.

The last time I was in Vegas was 1980. My girlfriend and I drove up in her 260Z to meet my parents for the day. Vegas was already beginning to take on the amusement park atmosphere that it has today. The Rat Pack has passed on, Foxy's is gone and the boob's are artificial.

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