Las Vegas

 

Attending a festival here later this evening (which I’ll share with you later), right now I wanted to share this awesome sunrise with you.

Astonishingly last night when we checked in we were upgraded to a suite with a lovely balcony and view of McCarren International Airport, the strip and the mountains in the distance.

Although I did not realize it last night, behind those mountains this morning was quite a lovely sunrise and I didn’t want you to miss it.

The show is starting!

I love the reflection in the glass of the hotel.
I love the reflection in the glass of the hotel.
Sunrise reflecting in the golf course ponds below.
Sunrise reflecting in the golf course ponds below.

I think my balcony must also be strategically positioned over an area of the kitchen far below, because the smell of breakfast has been tormenting me for the last hour.  Time to go find where those heavenly scents are wafting from.

Have a beautiful day…and Happy Travels!

 

 

Mob Museum

Mob Museum

Still hitting their mark after all these years

 Outside The Mob Museum

The Tommy Guns have all been silenced but the legacy of violence, greed and murder remains. 

Gun

Growing up, I remember seeing some graffic photographs that my Great Uncle George took. George was an award winning photojournalist for the Philadelphia Press. One image is of a man lying on the ground, dead, with a bullet hole in his chest.

George Bower Photo 3

Another is obviously a crime scene, a body in the woods, covered in blankets, surrounded by detectives.

George Bower Photo 1

George Bower Photo 2

George Bower Photo 4

These photos speak of violence, lives cut short, loss and emotion. Those images moved me. Although one can never truly know where inspiration comes from, there is a definitive possibility that my love of photography came, in part, from looking at those pictures. My family has other photos that George took including celebrities, the Hindenburg and assorted events. Only years later would I appreciate the magnitude of seeing those images.

I am now a photographer. Although I take very different pictures than George did, I also try to find the depth, realism and emotion in the images I take. Whether it is a landscape or portrait, every image should have those attributes. I recently visited The Mob Museum in Las Vegas and saw countless examples this. Every image I saw had them. Those journalists and photographers knew what they were doing. So many of them were graphic and difficult to look at, but they reminded me that history itself is so often just that, hard to look at.

Buying Elections

Unions

Politics

It wasn’t so much the blood but the things these people did to one another. It is no wonder the public became outraged and cried out for change.

The museum was filled with the larger than life stories that we all know. There was Al Capone, Prohibition, The Chicago Black Sox and, being in Las Vegas, there was, of course, Bugsy Siegel and the Flamingo Hotel.

Senate Committee Hearings With Bugsy Siegel In The Background

One display in particular took me aback. The vicious and brutal nature of the St. Valentines Day Massacre. The actual wall that those seven men were shot against is on display. It was taken apart brick by brick and put back together to be displayed before me, bullet holes intact. Here is a piece of history at it’s worst, proof of the hideous acts people are capable of. 

St. Valentines Day Massacre Wall

St. Valentines Day Massacre Wall 1

As we meandered through the museum, floor after floor, I was amazed at how much organized crime infiltrated everyday life. Among the not-so-famous, or at least I’d never heard of them, was the huge drug ring busted up in numerous pizza parlors around the country. The Mafia had the drugs packaged in tomato sauce cans in Italy, then shipped to pizza restaurants to be opened and the drugs were sold here. Did our families eat at those restaurants? Sure they did. Maybe not mine. Perhaps not yours, but many. There was, and is, mob activity in back rooms just up the street from the lives we live, in every town, not just NewYork and Chicago. We were reminded of the Don Bolles car bombing in Phoenix. He was an Arizona investigative journalist who got a little too close. Both my Prince Charming husband and myself lived there as children at the time. I also don’t think I realized the truth in the story line of the movie ‘The Sting’. The horse wire was huge income for the mafia. I just thought it was a fun movie where I got to look at the always handsome and wonderfully talented Paul Newman and Robert Redford. 

Leaving the museum, I was disappointed that I hadn’t given myself more time to see it all. Two hours was not even close to enough time. I wanted to stay and learn more about Elliot Ness, G-Men and the Senate Crime Hearings. Some of the hearings took place in the very room I was sitting in. Made Men sat where I sat, lying to save their skins and to protect the ‘family business’.

G-Men

Courtroom

Lucky Luciano's Hat

I wanted to read more about the men and the commitment it took for law enforcement to stop the violence on the streets of America. I would have liked to learn more about the mob’s connection to Hollywood. As a film lover it was hard to learn that they so heavily influenced something I loved.

Film Of Las Vegas Hotels Being Blown Up 4

Film Of Las Vegas Hotels Being Blown Up 3

Film Of Las Vegas Hotels Being Blown Up 2

Film Of Las Vegas Hotels Being Blown Up 1

Film Of Las Vegas During Mob Days

Hollywood

Ironically, mob families had no trouble destroying what they loved. In fact I think it’s what they did best. If a family member was caught skimming, talking to authorities or crossing the street the wrong way, he was killed. Not just killed but tortured, beaten or mutilated. It brings a whole new perspective to the word ‘family’.

Skimming

Made Men

I was proud that a member of my family could have contributed, even in some small way, in putting forth the images that enraged the American people enough to force change. I was proud of the men and their families that made the commitment, many of whom died for it, to rid the streets of the horrors I saw in the pictures before me. It shows the where-with-all and back bone of our society. Yes, the Mob Museum certainly hit it’s mark. It made an indelible mark on me. 

Sands Hotel Sign

Mob Hits

Headlines

Tommy Gun

There were photos from all over the country and it ocurred to me that I could be looking at a picture taken by a member of my family. Someone in my past that I knew and cared about.

Today, because of my love of photography my Mother kindly bestowed upon me George’s old vintage cameras. A Speed Graphic with a Leica lens and a Rolleiflex. I’ve had them cleaned, fixed up and they both work as if they were new. I shoot with them whenever I can and not just because the nostalgia of it. I also love the quality of the images they take. Advances in film quality and development have taken the images from these old cameras and turned them into fine pieces of art. Could one of these cameras have taken the photos I saw growing up? It’s nice to think that maybe his life’s work impacted history. Like the mob, he made his mark. Being a photographer I sometimes call myself a shooter. Now I look at that term a little differently. 

Fingerprints

No Longer A Sin City Virgin

I arrived in Las Vegas for the first time as everyone does, as a sin city virgin. At least that what I was being called by others that had been to this unique city before. It didn’t bother me, but I wanted to make sure I left with an insight and knowledge equal to a seasoned Vegas goer. No, not strippers, booze and fornication. I was thinking something more classic, more ‘Rat Pack’ style; a night on the town, dress up a little, gamble. You know, Old Vegas. For the most part I did pretty well.

The reason I was in Las Vegas in the first place was because I was attending an educational forum for travel agents.

As with most events like this, I had free time built in. On my first free evening, I grabbed my camera and decided to go see the lights and magic of the strip. I walked from the Venetian to New York New York and, to my surprise, managed to walk my way through the world. I saw the canals of Venice, the Eiffel Tower, the Trevi Fountain and all kinds of sculptures, lakes and treasures from Europe.

    

As I made my way back to the United States I passed the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Chrysler Building. Not bad for a few hours of walking. It was really cool and quite interesting, except I’ve been fortunate enough to see the originals of these places and attractions and they are so much better in reality. Nonetheless, I enjoyed taking a walk through the world.

         

        

As much as I enjoyed the evening, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I was still looking for the Rat Pack. Little did I know at the time, but the hotel I was staying in was built where the Sands used to be. The Sands, of course, was where Dean Martin played all those years ago. Also, I walked past the famous Flamingo hotel, built by none other than ‘Bugsy’ Siegel. Unaware of the history right around me, I went back to my hotel room still seeking some magic. Old Las Vegas. Fortunately I found what I was looking for the very next night.

My group was being taken by bus to Fremont Street. I didn’t know what that meant, or where we were going, but it involved free food and alcohol and a large party, so I was in. Turns out, Fremont Street is a little bit of old Vegas. A few old hotels with their neon signs, the Golden Nugget, Stratosphere and parts of the old strip; awesome. I could just see Dean Martin drinking and playing craps here. After we ate and got a little tipsy on jello shots, my friend and I decided to go to play craps. I don’t gamble. Sure, I’ve put a quarter into a slot machine and five bucks on a roulette table, but I don’t know the rules or honestly see the point. But I was more than happy to watch her play. Truly though, I think I had the most memorable and fun experience of that night.

Next to us was a young man playing the game and I was attracted to him instantly. Not sexually, although I’m sure it would disappoint him to hear me say that. He was friendly, funny, kind and witty. My friend played for a couple of hours, and as we waited for the dice to come around to us to throw, this man and I got acquainted. He made me laugh, and for just a little while I felt like we could’ve been in Monte Carlo and I was eye candy on the arm of James Bond. When the dice finally came our way, although I never voiced my thoughts to him, he picked up the dice, held them up to me and asked me to blow on them for good luck. It was a good role. He was elated and responded with ‘Thanks, Doll.’ The fantasy was complete. Just for a moment I was dressed up in a long sequin gown with white gloves and diamonds on my hands. I was the doll on the arm of a spy for the British Secret Service. But alas, on the next role he crapped out. I guess I’m not good luck after all. Now mind you, I am certainly not eye candy by any stretch of the imagination, and he was not Pierre Brosnan or Daniel Craig, but I will always be grateful for the way he made me feel that night. Partly because of him I’d found Old Vegas. Where people dressed up to go to the casino and dinner, with Dino singing in the background, and just for a moment I was one of them.

One of these days I’m certain I will return to Las Vegas. I know that due to the amazing diversity there, I’ll see and experience something new every time, but in my heart the glamour of Vegas will stay with me. I drove home the next day and couldn’t resist playing some Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra from my itunes. New York, New York, how appropriate.

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