In most of the world, you know when you’re getting older
when kids say “who?” when you mention The Jetsons, Barry Goldwater, or the
In Las Vegas, you know
it, when they react that way to the names Ralph Lamb, Tony Spilotro, Ned Day, or
Recently, I told a young colleague how, upon first coming
to town, I’d hang around the old Aladdin until the $2.49 lunch buffet opened
to “fill up” for the day. There I met a very nice “21” dealer named
Toni. I never got to know her too well. One of the guys who worked there told me
she was Sheriff Ralph Lamb’s ex and I would be wise “not to go there.” The
young colleague’s reaction: “Isn’t (Jerry) Keller the sheriff?”
Tony “The Ant” Spilotro was a wise guy (Joe Pesci’s
character in the movie “Casino”), who supposedly had more than a few
“unsavory” dealings here.
Ned Day was the reporter determined to be the annoying
mosquito on the elephANT’s back! Ned, whose Dad was Hall of Fame pro
bowler Ned Day Sr., used to take almost suicidal pot-shots at the mob boys in
his column. When I parked next to him at the old Valley Times, I had my
personalized license plate changed to NOTNDAY, so I didn’t have to worry about
any explosions when I started my car.
BOTH Ned and Spilotro died under mysterious circumstances
while only in their 40s; one under water, the other ÂÃ‚Âunder a cornfield.
OK, so the younger set never heard of the cowboy sheriff
and his family “Dynasty” here in Nevada. And, they don’t know about
Vegas’s psycho mobster. Or, the Damon Runyon-esque journalist, who broke
virtually every major story in the city for 13 years. That all may be
But, not knowing whom the Sweetheart of Las Vegas was?!
When Bambi Jr. left town in the early ’90s, there were
contests to see who would replace her as the Sweetheart of Vegas. (No one ever
won the title, but I think “La Cage’s” Frank Marino got the most votes!)
Now she’s known as
Grace Morley Williams, the ex-Mrs. Montel Williams. But, for a decade here in
Vegas, she was Bambi Jr. and the most innocently infamous beauty who ever
befriended Steve Wynn”¦and ticked off Paul Lowden. (Uh-oh, there’s another
“who’s he?” coming on. Lowden went from musician to original boy-wonder
hotel owner of several casinos.)
Bambi Jr. was a star of production shows (not a stripper,
as many erroneously thought because of the sexy persona her publicity photos
portrayed). Her mom, Dori Kotzan, used the moniker Bambi (Sr.) in her days
onstage, thus Bambi “Jr.” Gracie was a legitimate theater performer,
as well, starring in several local musical comedies.
Once, when she was working in a show at the Hacienda, she
refused to be pressured into signing a new contract until she got a raise. The
brouhaha was splashed all over the media. As Bambi told it, she got her raise,
then quit, just to make a point.
Bambi also posed for a poster for UNLV basketball
supporters that had “Final Four or Bust!” written right across her top. A
furor arose over the poster, among some holier-than-thou types. When she showed
up at a basketball game to approving hoots and hollers from the crowd, security
tried to remove her. But, hotel mogul Wynn stood up for her and she was ÂÃ‚Âallowed
to remain. That’s the kind of “juice” she had.
In the late 80s, Bambi Jr. was as much a part of the Vegas
celeb scene as Wayne Newton, appearing onstage, as well as at every charitable
or VIP function, offstage. She was something of a cult figure in these parts
until she left for New York. And many would say these parts were never
the same after she took her parts to the Big Apple.