Entries in las vegas history (51)

Review of this week's "Vegas"



Good news for Vegas fans--CBS has ordered a full season of episodes.

Vegas 1.3  (Ill)Legitimate

Vegas 1.3

I could get all technical and point out that the 100 year old oak tree in Ralph’s yard isn’t exactly historically correct but hey, I understand the need for the occasional dramatic/artistic license. It was a beautiful tree.

Ralph and Jack go to the Savoy to find Vincent Savino requesting that they arrest a couple of card cheaters. Jack makes eyes at Mia Rizzo (Sarah Jones).

Angelo’s nephew is being sent out under the guise of being the courier for the skim. And we discover that Savino has a new plan for expanding, taking over the Tumbleweed Club and building “ a place twice as good as this one”. He also reveals that he isn’t using Chicago money but once the deal is done, he’ll deliver the new hotel in a neat bow to Angelo.

From there we briefly meet a couple of maids in the laundry room of the Tumbleweed and from there we go to a union meeting and talk of a wildcat strike against the Tumbleweed. Estelle makes an impassioned plea for getting ‘what’s right’. Again, dramatic license because the Culinary Union back in the day was the union to work for in Las Vegas. My mother was a union member for over ten years beginning in 1961. In addition, Al Bramlett was touring the deep South talking to young African-American men and women who were toiling in the cotton fields that life in Las Vegas as a member of the Culinary Union could change their lives dramatically.

As Estelle is walking home (and no, you couldn’t easily walk from downtown Las Vegas to the Westside because of the train tracks), she is killed by a hit and run driver (should I point out that NCIS: Los Angeles had a similar death in the first fifteen minutes of that show an hour earlier?). Jack interviews a couple of Estelle’s friends who spill the beans about the union meeting and that Estelle was the first female shop steward. What what’s that on the effects track, a train whistle and a coyote? Plus that’s a lot of greenery for a desert.

The next day, Savino visits the Tumbleweed and talks to Mert Hays (William Russ) about buying the Tumbleweed. Savino shows him design plans that would turn the Tumbleweed into what looks like the Fremont Hotel. He talks about doing with legit money,not mob money. This paves the way for Savino to go talk to a real banker, Mr. Farwood.  This banker character is based on Parry Thomas, the Mormon banker who with Jerry Mack ran the Bank of Las Vegas. Thomas provided legit money to casino owners, he didn’t need a hood like Savino to convince him of that.

Ralph, in the meantime, is trying to track down Estelle’s killer while Jack is busy flirting with Mia Rizzo who comes in for her work card. She flirts back. Ralph breaks up the flirt fest and Jack gives her a work card. An older white guy, Randell, and his son, Terry, come in, they tell Ralph they are family friends of Estelle’s. Her mother was their housekeeper and she and Terry grew up together.

At the Tumbleweed, Ralph and Jack track down their suspect in Estelle’s death and he tells them that Estelle was trouble because she liked “white men”. On the way out, Ralph runs into Katherine (Carrie-Ann Moss is the one person on this show who looks comfortable in vintage clothing.)

As Ralph and Katherine are talking, we cut to the exterior of Fremont Street and see a car coming at the camera and a guy throw a Molotov cocktail into the Tumbleweed.  Ralph throws himself on Katherine to shield her from the explosion.  A fireball explodes out the door of the Tumbleweed.

Katherine and Ralph flirt until Jack and Dixon come up and give Ralph the update on injuries, make and model of the offending car and wait, there’s the Sahara sign and is that supposed to be the Landmark in the far background?  Grrrrr!  Fremont Street and the Strip aren’t interchangeable!!!!

Katherine offers to help with the investigation.

Savino and Hays meet. Hays is unhappy about his place getting bombed and says Cornero is applying pressure to get him to sign a deal. Savino calls Cornero a goon. If they are talking about Tony Cornero, whose ties to Las Vegas go back to the 1930s when he owned the Meadows nightclub and the Tony Cornero who built the Stardust, they are talking about a dead man because Cornero died at the craps table in 1955. Grrr……

Savino promises to get Cornero off Hays’ back and Hays tells him he has to the end of the day. Savino goes to visit Davy Cornero (perhaps a distant cousin of Tony’s). Savino tells him to back off and offers to cut him in but not his bosses in Milwaukee. Cornero agrees.

Ralph talks to a desk clerk from the Blue  (what originally sounded like a jazz club is now a motel????) who tells him that Estelle was arguing with a white man.  Jack reports that he checked out Estelle’s bank account and she was getting $500 a month “regular like clock work”.

The money was coming from Randall, who it turns out is her father. His wife is not happy about that.

The next scene takes us to a parking garage where a couple of thugs try to take out Savino but lucky for all of us, they are bad shots.

Randall visits Ralph and Jack at the Sheriff’s Office and tells his sad story. Estelle wanted him to publicly acknowledge her paternity. He balked. He was paying for her to go to Nevada Southern University (they got that right) and he had agreed to tell his wife and son that he had an affair with the housekeeper and Estelle was his daughter.

Savino and the DA are talking. Savino is filling him in on the hit gone wrong when Ralph interrupts them. The DA covers by saying he was there to tell Mr. Savino that if “he wants a mob war in this city, he’s going to hear from us, see he understands” he says as he walks out. But Ralph is now suspicious of him.

After the DA leaves, Ralph and Savino talk. Savino underplays the hit. “You fellas want to kill each other, don’t do it in my town”. “It’s my town, too” Savino tells him.  “We’ll see.” Says Ralph on his way out.

To their credit, it was a well acted scene.

Mia comes up to Ralph and Jack as they are leaving the Savoy and Ralph tells Jack that his interest in Mia is not a good idea.

Looks like Terry is the one who ran down Estelle. He knew Estelle was his sister. Ralph realizes that the kid is a junkie. Terry cops to loving Estelle, he bought her an emerald necklace and bracelet but took them back from her apartment and pawned them the day before. He still has the jewelry box and Ralph discovers pictures hidden in the box. The pixs are of her and Randall, someone was watching them and she was being blackmailed.

Katherine and Dixon interview the kitchen staff of the Tumbleweed and discover that Hays was talking to Milwaukee guys.

Johnny Rizzo is back in town and back in the Savoy. He and Savino talk and Savino tells Rizzo about his idea of taking over the Tumbleweed. Johnny wants half the take from the Tumbleweed to keep him from telling Angelo that Vincent was going behind his back. That partnership can’t be long for the world.

Ralph and Jack discover that one of Estelle’s co-workers from the Tumbleweed was the person who was following her and blackmailing her. The maid was jealous and that led to Estelle’s death.

Katherine comes by to wrap up the case and tells Ralph that Cornero is currently missing. Over at the Savoy, Mia apologizes for not knowing that her dad was coming to town. The Mormon banker has invited Savino and his wife to the country club. “to be a fly on that wall” says Mia.

“Must not be easy trying things your way.” She tells Savino. “The old ways were never easy either. Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.” Savino tells her.

To the strains of Dino singing “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”, Savino’s guys take out the Milwaukee guys. “Be sure you bury them good, I don’t want any guest appearances.”

“You make the rules, we just got it take it” Jack tells Ralph back at the ranch when he discovers that Ralph didn’t tear down the tree.  After Jack leaves, Ralph looks out the window and in his dream, he sees his wife hanging laundry.

Back on Fremont Street, Jack approaches Mia, they flirt and he asks her to dinner but she has plans. The DA is there and he is going to show her around. You just know that Mia would rather stay and have dinner with Jack. Maybe another time.

This episode was interesting and had some good scenes. But the writing is still overall lackluster and could definitely use a big injection of drama and character. Because  the cases of the week aren’t interesting enough and the overall story arc of the conflict between Ralph Lamb and Vincent Savino isn’t compelling enough.

 What do you think? Hit the comments section and let us know!

Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 7:07PM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn in , , , , | Comments3 Comments

All That Glitters, Vegas episode 1.3

A young boxer, just back from the Olympics, is found dead. Ralph investigates. In the larger story, the owner of the Savoy, Angelo and his first lieutenant, Johnny Rizzo, arrive in town and chaos ensues.

“One federal witness , two federal agents and the last Sheriff of Clark County” Jack Lamb in reciting the ways Savino has broken the law since coming to town.

Side note and quibble- Ralph Lamb was the sheriff of Clark County, not Las Vegas. Clark County begins at Sahara (San Francisco Street back in the day) but this show takes place, almost exclusively, downtown where Ralph didn’t have any jurisdiction. Metro (the combining of the City Police Dept with the County Sheriff's Dept) didn't happen until the 1970s.

Well, things could be looking up, Jonathan Banks joins the cast. Been a fan since his days on Wiseguy (first William Russ, now Jonathan Banks and loved him as Mike on Breaking Bad). As the owner of the Savoy, he brings some menace.

Mia (Sarah Jones) is the daughter of Johnny Rizzo (Michael Wiseman), the man who brings the big money in and seems to be Angelo's favorite.

A dead body (the boxer) on Fremont Street.  Why can I see portions of the Sahara sign and the original Stardust sign next to the Savoy?  WTF???  The Savoy is not on the Strip. As I mentioned last week, you can see the Golden Nugget from his office. The Savoy is on Fremont Street. The geography is all over the map and not in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing these recreations of the signs and casino fronts but how hard is it to at least distinguish between the Strip and downtown. It was only 50 years ago and there are plenty of photos, news articles, film footage (from the Las Vegas News Bureau archives as well as network news archives like CBS) and postcards that show what hotels were where.

Fremont Street


And no one who has seen them would believe that Fremont Street and the Strip were on the same County block.

Courtesy of LeavingLV.net- Fremont Street 1960s


Courtesy of LeavingLV.net- The Stardust from the era of the show

On the show, Johnny Rizzo is in the black book. If he’s in the black book, he not only can’t be on the gaming floor he can't stay in the hotel. It’s what got Sinatra’s license pulled when he owned a portion of the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. He hosted Sam “Momo” Giancana and the Gaming Commission found out. Sinatra had to give up his points in the Sands as well.

Talking about skimming from the boss in his own hotel. That takes cojones. Too bad there's no weight in the words.

A gourmet restaurant, women’s clothing stores, in 1960s these are novel ideas? Every hotel on the Strip had them. These are not novel ideas for the era. No matter where the damn hotel is supposed to be located. The sawdust joints downtown had gourmet restaurants but space was valuable on Fremont Street so women’s shops, etc not necessary because the whole street had them (Ronzoni’s, Fanny’s, Chic Hecht’s, CH Baker Shoes) and women only had to walk a block to them vs on the Strip where you had to drive a half mile or more to get to the next property.

It’s stuff like this that takes me out of enjoying the show.  Well, that and the lack of character and story development.

Ralph vs Rizzo on the floor of the Savoy conjures up memories of Ralph vs Lefty Rosenthal. But Ralph had more gravitas. Or at least the stories do. These are still archetypes not real characters so no one’s words carry any weight.

The original wiseguys were smart enough to keep the violence to the outskirts of town, not the floors of the casinos and while they may not have liked Lamb, they likely didn’t entertain the idea of whacking him.

Rizzo advocates for the removal of Lamb, the more violent the better. He takes his case to Angelo and Savino must defend the idea of letting Lamb live because the bottom line is, killing him is bad for tourism. “If we take him out, best case scenario the feds don’t come after us, they don’t revoke our gaming  license but we still have two dead sheriffs in less than a month. What man is going to take his wife to a city without any law? Without tourism, there’s no money, there’s no suitcases coming home. Whatever we think of Ralph Lamb, we need him alive, for now. Otherwise we have another wasted opportunity, another Havana in the desert.”

Angelo sides with Savino which only serves to make Rizzo mad and you can tell by the commercial break, the bad blood between Rizzo and Savino just got worse.

The scene of Chiklis delivering the above speech is the best acting we’ve seen so far by any of the characters. The main cast is trying hard but they need a story that is about these characters and not about archetypes.

The idea to kill Lamb felt more like a Rosenthal and Tony the Ant move than a Moe Dalitz move . But Lefty and Tony were almost 20 years later than the era the show is set in. You can’t just trade one era for the other.

Well, maybe you can. CBS is touting the show as its “#1 new drama”.

No show next week as the presidential debate takes place.

See you in two weeks!

Review of Vegas episode 1.2, Money Plays, is here!

This week's episode of Vegas, Money Plays!, premiered on Tuesday. The story centered around a series of burglaries in town and the bad guy from last week parlaying his insider's knowledge of Savino's operation into an agreement with the Feds. Of course, Savino can't let the guy live and can't let the guy sing to the Feds about what he knows. So, a good portion of the hour was spent on the various ways Savino tried to set up a hit on his former employee. Oh, and a new character came to run the count room at the Savoy. Sarah Jones (late of Alcatraz) joined the cast as Mia Rizzo, the daughter of the Chicago mobster who Savino works for. She has some ideas of how the hotel should be run and she and Savino clash before the episode is over.


Thoughts on this week's episode:

The coffee shop where Ralph was having breakfast, should have been in the Horseshoe. Speaking of the 'Shoe, why is it missing from Fremont Street? Even if they couldn't use the name they could have a similar gambling joint ala The Mint masquerading as The Dice Club.  Where’s Benny Binion (or a fictional character based on Benny)holding court with Dobie Doc in the Horseshoe coffee shop? Those two real-life larger than life characters would add to the story.

Speaking of missing characters- Where’s Miss Pearl (Mahlon Brown's grandmother)?  The older female with deep ties to the community who worked in the Sheriff’s office, knew Ralph and kept the place running. Would have made a great role for Margo Martindale.

Where’s the Strip?
The Savoy is on Fremont Street ( you can see the Golden Nugget sign outside Savino's office) but seems very out of place for Fremont Street.  It should be on the Strip. The interior screams Strip. The porte cochere screams Strip. Speaking of interiors, why do the interiors of the Fremont Street joints all look like they should be on the Strip? Did no one check out the photos on this site, the State Museum or Special Collections to get an idea of what Fremont Street gambling joints looked like inside? The sawdust joints of Fremont Street looked nothing like the interiors of the Strip.

 “Where you headed, Pop?" Dixon Lamb asks his father after Ralph and Jack Lamb have taken down a would-be jewel robber at the top of the show. "Downtown” replies Ralph.  WTF???? Ralph is already downtown, in fact, on the main street of downtown. He’s on Fremont Street.

I would hate to believe that the producers want us to believe that Ralph was on the Strip at that moment because that dog won't hunt. Speaking of the Fremont Street exterior set, I really miss the neon Santa Fe sign at the end of Fremont Street, especially during the night scenes.

A manager of the count room who lived in Henderson in 1960? Really? Henderson was the bastion of factory workers who worked at Titanium Metals back then. The manager would have lived in town either in apartment or a small house near downtown.

A female to run the count room? WTF??? Sarah Jones looks like she is playing dress up.

The music just seems added to remind us it’s the early 1960s not for any reason to drive or compliment the story.

Nice touch of being able to see the top of the Fremont Hotel when Chiklis is attacking a fire hydrant on Ogden Street.

This is basically NCIS in 1960 but the cast isn’t as cohesive or has the chemistry of that show even in the early days. The main cast seems to be trying but they are being let down on the story.

There’s no subtlety to the storytelling. Every ten minutes, punches are thrown rather it needs it or not.
It wouldn’t have been that difficult to get more of the history and historical production design right.
Outside the main cast, everyone looks like they are playing dress up and not concerned with characterization.

But the focus of the story isn’t on telling a compelling or nuanced story but more the crime of the week. Tis a pity. And it is possible to tell a compelling, nuanced larger story while dealing with a crime of the week.  Person of Interest also on CBS, does it every week. We had plenty of colorful real-life characters who could have added so much to the story but are being ignored. These characters are playing archtypes, black hats vs white hats, instead of characters. And I think many of us would prefer the engaging characters that are only being hinted at.

Hard to believe that this is the story that Nick Pileggi has wanted to tell for the last decade.

Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 8:05PM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn in , | CommentsPost a Comment

Review of "Vegas"

Welcome to our weekly review (from someone who grew up there during that time and has chronicled the 20th century history of her hometown) of  Vegas (2012), the new drama on CBS starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis. Quaid plays Sheriff Ralph Lamb, the real life Sheriff who squared off against the bad guys in 1960s and 1970s Las Vegas. Chiklis plays Vincent Savino, a Chicago mobster who has come to Las Vegas because his casino, The Savoy, needs cleaning up.

Jason O'Mara plays Jack Lamb, Quaid's brother. Where Ralph is quiet, taciturn and hard headed, Jack is "much better with people". Carrie-Ann Moss plays fictional deputy district attorney, Katherine O'Connell. According to her character, her family had the ranch next to the Lamb family. She and Quaid have chemistry together and the story hints at a backstory between the two. Lamb is a widower when we meet him with a young son who looks to be in his early twenties.

Right now, all four main stars are playing archetypes instead of characters. Here's hoping that CBS allows them to develop the characters and become the strong drama that is evident but sadly, in the background right now.

The opening scene begins at the Lamb ranch as Ralph, Jack and Ralph's son were rounding up the cattle. A DC-4 came in low and scattered the cows. Ralph got angry, saddled up and headed to the airport to confront someone about the problem. At the airport, he found the official he was looking for and a fight ensued as Savino was disembarking from the plane and headed toward his ride.

The pilot focused on the murder of a young girl who worked in the credit department at the Savoy Hotel  but whose body was found out at the Nevada Test Site. The mayor, Ted Bennett, (Michael O'Neill), who knew Ralph in the war and fed up with the current sheriff (who more likely than not is corrupt and up in Reno on vacation with a young woman not his wife), sent a deputy to the Lamb ranch to get Ralph. Unbeknowst to the Mayor, Ralph was headed into Las Vegas in the back seat of a squad car, arrested for the fight at the airport. The blue/green screen work of Fremont Street, circa 1960, was quite good (though the far end of Fremont Street was missing the neon Union Pacific sign that anchored the old train depot).

As with other CBS procedurals (see NCIS, CSI: Las Vegas, Criminal Minds, etc), the story focused on the crime and by the end of the episode Ralph had kept his friend, Katherine O'Connell from arresting the dead girl's boyfriend, a rodeo rider, for the crime and had figured out who the real killer was.

A sub-plot involving bikers tearing up the town brought back memories of the original story of Lamb facing off against Hell's Angels in the late 1960s.

At the end of the hour, the original sheriff had been dispatched thanks to the district attorney and Savino's crew and his murdered body had been found, prompting Ralph to take the job on full time.

Quaid's character is  very much cut from the same mold as Jethro Leroy Gibbs on NCSI but, hopefully, going forward, he will become his own character and not a mirror image of the beloved Gibbs.

Michael Chiklis has the harder role, especially right now. Vincent Savino is a hood from Chicago with very little back story. He and Quaid are on the path to a showdown but without more character, back story and story telling, that showdown could ring hollow.

If cable dramas from Justified to Breaking Bad to Mad Men has taught viewers anything it's that it's possible to mine the depths of character and create a compelling story that brings viewers back every week to see what happens and propels the story forward.

CBS has two shows that they have allowed to do that- The Good Wife and Person of Interest. Here's hoping CBS gives Nick Pileggi (author of Casino) and showrunner Greg Walker (Without a Trace), the freedom to do what Robert and Michelle King and Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman have done for their shows.

Pilots are always tricky to judge how a series will play out because so much has to be established in a short amount of time and networks want to hook viewers. It's doubtful people are tuning in to watch CSI: The 1960s and are much more interested in watching "the battle for the soul of Sin City" as the ads tout the premise. If CBS gives them the freedom to make the latter, it will make Vegas a show worth watching and worth investing in.

Various thoughts about everything from the production design to the story to the characters:

The opening scene with the DC-4, Ralph and the airport: McCarran Airport was a small airport but not quite that small. If it was supposed to be Alamo Airways, it wasn’t close. George Crockett would not have allowed something like that.

The showroom at the Savoy had good production design. The showgirls were very Copa like. But I'm still not sure where The Savoy is located- Fremont Street or the Strip? Interior of the The Savoy was very nice, the exterior too far out to the street.  Unlike today, hotels on the Strip had long drive ways, a porte cochere and were built to catch the eye of drivers. If it was supposed to be on Fremont Street, it was out of place. The showroom with the Copa-like showgirls made me think it was supposed to be on the Strip. To their credit, someone did their homework because they got the interior right. Strip casinos back then weren't covered end to end with slots and gaming tables the way they are today.

Great job of Fremont Street. Only problem was it looked like the Fremont hotel was briefly on the same side of the street as the Nugget. If so, oops! Also, oops, the Golden Nugget had a weeping mortar facade, not the fake MCM facade seen on the show.

Great seeing William Russ, even if it was too briefly. (Made it a nice shout-out to Wiseguy, the Ken Wahl show that included  a law man and a gangster one season). Russ plays a well-connected real estate owner who owns a great deal of land (either on Fremont Street or the Strip, that part wasn't clear) and the local BBQ joint (nice neon) that wasn't really part of the Fremont Street landscape but Fremont Street back then had a number of popular eateries that catered to the locals as well as the gamblers, so it fits. Hopefully, Russ is a recurring character.

Dennis Quaid has a great face for the part (bad haircut and all)  and Chiklis is terrific as Vincent Savino, even if his character needs more meat on his bones.

Props to the Production Designer, Marek Dobrowolski, for creating various sets that while they may not be historically accurate, evoke that era before post-war Las Vegas exploded into the Entertainment Capital of the World.

Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) brought the flair and drama in equal proportions.

Nice shout out to Warm Springs. We used to go to Warm Springs when I was a kid in the early 1960s.

Nice neighborhood Ralph’s son’s chippie lives in. Seemed very Vintage Vegas.

A casino that was modeled after the Mint!!!!!  (Looks like it’s called, The Dice Club) You could see the arch of the pylon sign through the window when Mayor Bennett was talking to Katherine and the district attorney. And for the record (I've seen viewers criticizing them for this point), there were a small handful of pioneering female lawyers practicing in Las Vegas in 1960.

The Boulder Club got a shout out (though it was in the wrong place)! The Silver Palace was in the wrong place but the two story buildings that you could see from the Mayor's windo were spot on.

The Nevada Test Site is a bit of a hike to dump a body but it makes for good story telling. Though there was still above ground testing going on so the possibility of getting on the Site to dump a body or a bunch of bikers going for a ride out there were severly diminished.  And for the record, Boulder City is nowhere near the NTS.

Quaid and Moss have good chemistry.

Quaid and Chiklis have a good adversarial relationship.

Ralph's son isn’t a teenager (thank you Lord!), is lippy and has good chemistry with O’Mara.

It wasn’t quite as rural as they would like you to believe.

Westward Ho neon was a nice touch, very retro would have been better to be the Yucca or the Rummel (both are still standing).

The DA is crooked or certainly appears to be.

Where are all the smokers?

It’s not quite our history but it makes a good story. (am I the only one who thought of Crime Story while watching this show?)

Here's hoping they do something good and dramatic with it.

Hoping, hoping, hoping.......





Feel free to leave comments!!!!

"Vegas" begins Tuesday night

The new tv drama, Vegas, premieres Tuesday night, Sept. 25th. The drama airs on CBS at 10:00 following CBS' powerhouses NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles.

The buzz around Vegas is very positive. Hollywood Reporter TV Critic Tim Goodman predicts that the show will do just fine in the ratings and says the show could have a multi-year run, if they stick to character development and not fall into the crime of the week trap.

Here's the link to Goodman's review: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/vegas-tv-show-review-dennis-quaid-cbs-371314

Don't forget, I'll be recapping/reviewing the show each week!

And here is Michael Chiklis on the CBS Morning Show talking about the show:




Posted on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 5:28PM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn in , | CommentsPost a Comment