Dolores left behind
lots of heavy hearts

Nov 18, 2003 8:23 AM

Anyone who ever knew Dolores Owens is feeling a little empty right now. The captivating casino host and executive was as gracious and charming as any person could be, and now that she’s no longer with us, there are heavy hearts everywhere in Las Vegas.

I first met Dolores more than 25 years ago. I was trying to put together a gaming publication called the Sports Form, and she was beginning her career in Caesars pinstripes.

Dolores joined up with Caesars in 1976. During her long reign there, she saw seven changes of the guard. Her loyalty never wavered. That’s the type of person she was.

She began as a pit clerk with stints in the cage and with special events. In 1981 Terry Lanni, a good man at picking fleet footed fillies, put her on the up escalator. Nearly all that time she kept her focus on the Mid-East.

She gained a reputation ”” a well earned one at that ”” that when she turned her charm on a big player it was Katie bar the door. But they didn’t run. They stayed in the warm glow of her charm.

To put it in Dolores’ words: "You’ll never know what that means to me."

When Lanni left Caesars Palace the odds on Dolores following dropped sharply.

"My friends used to tease me all the time," she once told me, "about my attachment to Caesars. They were right. My car had two destinations ”” my home and Caesars Palace. I dearly loved my job. I remember a friend of mine who insists that if you love your job more than your pay you’ll be happy every day.

"Nothing stays the same. There have been dynamic changes at Caesars; out with the old and in with the new. Loyalty has always been my trump card. I’m from the old school. My players know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from them. I had no real plans for the future other than to be at peace with myself.

"When word got out that I had resigned, Terry Lanni was on the phone. I can’t think of a more professional person to spend the rest of my career with. I slipped out of Caesars pinstripes and put on the uniform Terry wanted to see me in ”” Bellagio’s.

"Caesars had a little cocktail party for me to say good-bye to all the employees I’ve felt so close to down through the years. It included rank and file from valet parkers to dealers to pit bosses to change girls, the lovely people in the cage and up and down the executive line. They’ve all been good to me. I’ll miss them.

"There were so many tears at the gathering. I wish I could wrap them all up and take them with me."

Dolores wanted to make sure that I was invited to the private reception. I was. And, one of my big regrets is that I was still doing battle with some unknown viruses that finally surrendered to a stronger force ”” me!

Dolores Owens came to us from Grosse Point, Mich. In 1955 she married her husband, George, when he came home from the Korean War. They met at a cocktail party. They began holding hands then and never let go.

A number of readers called asking to be mentioned in this tribute to Dolores. There were so many of them that I couldn’t include them all. So I picked one that seemed to express them all.

It came from Dan Chandler: "There should be a crown above that of queen. It should most certainly be bestowed upon Dolores Owens. What casinos need more now than ever are more Doloreses.

"Bob Hope’s song to his wife, Dolores, comes to mind, even though Dolores Owens and I never smooched: ”˜How I love the kisses of Dolores . . . aye, aye, aye, Dolores!’"

I couldn’t agree more. Dolores was always a champ. She played the casino game with barons and earls, and she always won.

Some called Dolores the Pied Piper of famous casino high rollers, who could turn the eyes of casino moguls green the way she could sheppard the richest of the rich.

But she was more than skilled, talented and adept. Dolores was loving, giving and sincere. And now she’s missed. Sorely missed.