Remembering the Beatles at the LV Convention Center

Fifty years ago this Wednesday, the Beatles appeared onstage at the old Las Vegas Convention Center's Rotunda.  They did two shows and all these years later, those who were there still remember that night:

Two of the best PR men in Las Vegas, Herb McDonald and Stan Irwin, arranged to bring the Beatles to Las Vegas in August, 1964 to perform.

“Well, I knew (who) the Beatles (were). So I said yes, but it’s gonna be too big for just the Sahara. I’m gonna put them into the Convention Center. Milton Prell, the owner of the Sahara, says ‘Well, you’re the director. You direct’. And I said, I’m bringing in the Beatles and I’m putting them in the Convention Center. Hotel Sahara  and Stan Irwin proudly presents the Beatles. ‘You, you’ll have, you have a sign like that, I’m sure’, Mr. Prell replied.

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Meyer Lansky's Grandson talks about his famous relative

In today's issue of the Huffington Post, Meyer Lansky II, the grandson of  Meyer Lansky, writes about his famous grandfather and the actors who have either played him or played characters based on his grandfather:

In 1977 Grandpa Meyer and I were at Wolfie's in North Miami Beach, and I noticed two young boys in yarmulkes looking over at us. I was standing behind Grandpa when the boys walked up. One said, "Hey, Mr. Lansky, we'd like to get your autograph!" Grandpa paused for a moment. He looked seriously at the boys and said, "What did I do? Win an Academy Award?" One of the boys looked earnestly at Grandpa and said, "Well, we thought it would be worth some money someday." Grandpa then smiled and replied, "Sorry, son, I don't sign autographs."

As the years have passed, I have often remembered that afternoon in the deli. I wonder what Grandpa would have thought of the award-winning actors who have portrayed him, either as Meyer Lansky or characters based on Meyer Lansky. While Grandpa passed away in 1983 when I was 26, today, at 56, I watch. At times it's a bit shocking to hear his name (which is also my name) while enjoying a good story with great actors. I'm often entertained, and always appreciative of the casting, of Grandpa's appearances as part of the boys' legacy, including Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, Ben "Bugsy" Siegel and Frank Costello.

In every movie and television show featuring Grandpa, I listen for the voice, the inflection, and the vocabulary. I look for physical characteristics, the tailored wardrobe, and the Dunhill cigarette case. I compare. Every actor portraying Grandpa has proven exceptional in capturing a feature or essence, but I have my favorites, and I hope one day to see Grandpa portrayed in live theater.

Lee Strasberg as Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, 1974

The most iconic film for Grandpa. He not only saw the movie but phoned Strasberg to congratulate and offer light criticism. In life, Grandpa spoke with his hands behind his back, and talked baseball (Yankees!), but could become irate quickly, as Roth suggests. Strasberg's acting emitted personal recollections of actual conversations, but I doubt Grandpa ever saw business guests in his home wearing an unbuttoned shirt. Roth's final scene in the Miami Airport is still haunting to me.

Robert De Niro as David "Noodles" Aaronson in Once Upon a Time in America, 1984

Reportedly De Niro requested an audience with Grandpa to prepare for this role but was turned down. Grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1982, passing on Jan. 15, 1983. However, De Niro clearly seized the role critically. The modest, humble demeanor and calm, steady articulation, only speaking when necessary, were familiar.   

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Actor Dennis Farina, of Crime Story fame, dies


Ex-cop and terrific character actor Dennis Farina has died at the age of 69. He starred in the tv series, Crime Story, which is still the best show about the early mob-era of Las Vegas.

Farina was a Chicago cop who got into acting because the money was good. He first graced the big screen in Michael Mann's terrific neo-noir film, Thief (1981). Farina played a thug.

Michael Mann remembered the actor and cast him as a FBI agent in Manhunter (the film that originally introduced audiences to Hannibal Lector before Jodie Foster knew the killer).

But, it was Crime Story, playing world weary Chicago cop, Mike Torello, that audiences came to know the former cop who was quickly becoming a good character actor. Torello and his squad spent two seasons chasing gangster Ray Luca (Anthony Denison, who should have had a bigger career) from Chicago to the desert oasis of Las Vegas to Central America.

Though the opening title sequence and much of the action took place on a mid-1980s Fremont Street, it had a flavor and look that made you feel like you were in classic Las Vegas (in a way that the recent Vegas tried to but never completely succeeded at).


The show was cancelled after two seasons and Farina returned to making movies. He came back to television in the early 2000s to co-star on Law and Order, replacing the much-loved Jerry Orbach when Orbach became too ill to continue on the show.

Most recently, he had co-starred with Dustin Hoffman in HBO's unlucky series on horse racing, Luck, and again proved what a terrific character actor he had become. His scenes with Hoffman were some of the best of the series and those of us who watched the show, really hoped to learn more about the back story of the two characters when it was prematurely cancelled.

I saw Dennis Farina once at LAX in the baggage claim area a year or so after Crime Story was over. He was waiting at the carousel for his luggage to come down the chute just like everyone else. We chatted briefly and I told him how much I enjoyed the show and his work as an actor.

He never lost that world weary look or that terrific voice.

Rest in peace, Dennis Farina.