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The House That Lefty Built


 

 

 

By Bobbie Katz

 

From the outside, the house in the exclusive Las Vegas Country Club appears to be par for the course – just another home on the green built during the 1970’s that possesses an old Vegas charm all of its own.

But once inside, the details or “bullet” points emerge. Things like hidden compartments in the top of closets, bulletproof glass windows, 150-pound doors made of metal and triple-thickness wood, a steel staircase, remnants of a state-of-the-art monitoring system and more denote that this was once the home of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the organized crime figure who secretly ran the Stardust and other casinos (without a Nevada gaming license) when they were controlled by the Chicago Outfit. The house, currently up for sale with an asking price of $677,000, is concrete proof of the real inside story in Las Vegas history not depicted in the movie Casino, of which Rosenthal, played by Robert DeNiro, was the subject.

“This historical property is more than a home – it’s a lifestyle,” says Celebrity Real Estate Agent Aaron Auxier. “It’s an opportunity you can’t refuse.”

Although Rosenthal, who died at his Miami Beach, Florida, home at age 79 on October 14, 2008, was forced out of Las Vegas in 1988 after being placed in the persona non gratis “Black Book,” the house he left behind still resonates with the spirit of the era.

 

“Rosenthal bought the house brand new in 1970,” says photographer Jeff Green, the house’s current owner. “In 1976, the house next door caught fire and it spread to this house. So Frank had the Stardust redo it the way he wanted it. He spent $500,000 back then. It had sophisticated equipment with which he could monitor his office at the Stardust and the front and back doors of the house. There were also pressure plates so that he could hear someone coming up the stairs.”

The 3,266-square-foot house retains the original entryway, bar, mirrored ceilings, wood ceilings, built-in, upstairs catwalk, sunken rectangular bathtub, door handles, faucets, key box, pool, art pieces by Bill Barnes, some wallpaper and other things. It was designed by famed designer Steven Chase of Palm Springs. Rosenthal, who made $250,000 a year at the Stardust but made millions as a renowned sports bettor and handicapper, spared no expense.

 

“He had an outside box to hook up a telephone, which is still there,” Green notes. “He also had the balcony outside his bedroom removed for safety reasons. At one point, in the early 80’s, it was said that he had guards on the golf course. The curved two-story window in the back of the house is cut into the brick and there is a mark on it that they say is from a gun during an assassination attempt.”

Born in Chicago on June 12, 1939, Rosenthal's arrival in Las Vegas was far from welcome. Upon checking into the Tropicana hotel and going to his room to unpack his bags, he answered a knock on his door and found several plainclothes detectives standing there, who promptly arrested him for breaking and entering. They whisked him off to an interrogation room where he was told on no uncertain terms by the chief of detectives that he and his Chicago friends weren't welcome in town and to take the next flight out and not come back.

 

Of course, Rosenthal stayed, having been tapped to run the new Stardust Hotel and Casino, He was at its helm from the 60s through the early 80s and, at one time, he was not only the official CEO of that property but also of the Hacienda, Fremont, and Marina casinos simultaneously. A perfectionist, he ran a tight ship when it came to customer service and had no tolerance for cheaters and scams. According to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Rosenthal's attorney back in 1970, Rosenthal once ordered his casino security men to crush the right hand of a card cheat he had caught. They used a rubber mallet so it wouldn't leave marks and the man became a lefty.

 

Rosenthal was full of novel ideas and, in an effort to keep his casinos turning profits,was always trying new things. A pioneer in sports gambling, he was the first casino operator in the city to implement a Race & Sports betting parlor, resulting in the other Vegas properties following suit. Another of his innovations was the institution of female blackjack dealers, which doubled the Stardust's income within one year. During his heyday, he created his own local TV show called “The Frank Rosenthal Show” and hosted guests from Frank Sinatra to Bob Hope and Mohammed Ali.

In 1982, Rosenthal survived a car bombing assassination attempt in a parking lot on East Sahara Avenue, thanks to a strong metal plate under the driver's seat of his 1981 Cadillac Eldorado, The plate had been installed by GM to correct a balancing problem and ended up absorbing most of the force of the explosion. It is not known who rigged the car with the explosives.

 

That same year, Rosenthal's drug-and-alcohol-addicted ex-wife Geri, with whom he had two children, died at a Los Angeles motel, apparently from a drug overdose, at the age of 46. After leaving Rosenthal, the former showgirl had stolen a substantial portion of his savings.

Rosenthal was denied a license to operate a casino and was blacklisted in 1988 by the Nevada Gaming Commission for being a suspect in directing a casino on behalf of organized crime and directing the money skimming operation. That came about as a result of the FBI having bugged Rosenthal's table in the lounge at the Stardust where he used to sit and have conversations with his friends, the Spilatro Brothers, who had set up a huge crime operation in Las Vegas. Rosenthal's unsavory reputation was, in large part, due to his ongoing boyhood friendship with Chicago hitman Anthony Spilatro.

Rosenthal, once called “the greatest living expert on sports gambling” by Sports Illustrated, has come to be known as the most important man in Las Vegas' gambling history. Outside phone aside, when his house “talks,” people listen. It’s a chapter of Las Vegas’ unique past you won’t find anywhere else -- a true mob scene in its finest sense.

 

 

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