Caesars adds a touch of its days of glory

Jun 5, 2001 7:17 AM

THE BOYS ARE BACK! It’s true. I saw it with my own eyes. They are hanging around watching all the action in the main pit at Caesars Palace.

Before you drop a dime to call the law, let me set you straight. The boys I refer to are not the type who carry violin cases. No, sir, indeed not! To be quite truthful, the gang are works of art. Granted, they have all been framed and are under spotlights. But how else could 12 Caesars be displayed?

The glorious name Caesars Palace was given to us by Jay Sarno, one of its founders. It is said that Jay often ate dinner in a New York City restaurant named the Forum of 12 Caesars. It was America’s first themed restaurant. The paintings graced the walls. But not for long. In the early 1970s, after Caesars Palace had opened, The Forum high-roller salon was added. Jay made sure the 12 Caesars were sent West to hang in the high-end gambling room.

By name they are Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Octho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

For years, Augustus and his boys graced the walls of The Forum. It was located on the third floor, a few steps away from another famous Caesars landmark, the Palace Court restaurant. Both are gone in the name of progress, construction progress, if you will.

The small casino reeked of elegance. Its customers were all well-heeled. The action was high and took place in a setting befitting the 12 Caesars. Chances are a lot of people never even knew of the tiny casino. It was in the days when there could be no private places to gamble. But with its out-of-the-way location and only a few table games - all high-limit ones - the place was as private as could be. In the days when I had the appetite, I enjoyed playing at The Forum.

One night - before they had a name for a newly formed association of Italian-American businessmen - I got into a conversation with one of my favorite dealers, VeAnn Patterson. VeAnn is a brainy sort. She probably missed her calling in life. Instead of dealing pasteboards to a gang of gamblers, she could have easily been a professor of sorts. I explained to her that there was a search for a name for the association. Without blinking an eye, she pointed to the picture of Augustus hanging on the wall with the 11 other Caesars.

"What about naming it after Augustus, the first Roman emperor?" she asked. "He was known for doing good things and helping people."

I loved it. I loved the name. I passed on her idea, and from that day forward - even now - the Augustus Society is alive and well.

When The Forum casino closed, the 12 emperors were abandoned. But not for long. With construction going on in the main casino, the company closed off part of the area and put up a wall, a large blank wall. VeAnn got to thinking: A blank wall is so boring, why not use the space to display the 12 works of art?

The brass - still wanting to return Caesars Palace to the days of old, agreed with VeAnn. The paintings now grace the blank wall. A touch of the way it used to be lives on. Often in life it’s the little touches that speak so loudly. Augustus and his boys are glowing.

"We all feel good about it," VeAnn explained. "Even the 12 emperors, they missed the action!"