Bustout America <=== Click Here
Oh, here we go with one of my favorite topics. Probably everyone here has seen The Godfather and Goodfellas and The Sopranos. Place I grew up was all about Chicago. In fact my home town was created by Capone’s guys. The lily-white town across the river was where the mucky-mucks built their vacation castles on the Lake Michigan shoreline . So the “boys” created my town for their special vacation retreat. This little-known fact is played down for obvious reasons. One time we tried to sneak into one of the lakeside compounds and were scared off by guys with machine guns looking down from watchtowers. Pretty exciting stuff for high school kids.
For me, Christmas time meant only one thing. We’re goin’ to Florida! Specifically, Miami Beach. And more specifically, the Fontainebleau Hotel, right where Collins Avenue makes that little jog.
Before that it was Atlantic City. But Miami Beach has always been my idea of paradise. And I’m not the only one. Check out the book, Prince of Paradise, for an amazing accounting of the 1950’s before Castro came down from the mountains in Cuba.
As for me, I couldn’t get enough of the amazing Fontainebleau: The pool / cabana area has a special underwater window where you can watch the divers come down and plane off in a cloud of bubbles. I spent a lot of time out there as a kid. Yunno how nobody pays attention to some kid hanging around? They’d just speak their mind like I wasn’t there. Especially the women laying around to pool working on their tans. Let me just say that tan doesn’t even touch on the level of darkness these people were able to achieve out there. All this was way before cancer. Most of the guests were from the East Coast. So I enjoyed listening to their speech patterns and figuring out what they were saying. I’m still pretty good at that. The fellows would strut around poolside in their little Speedos. What a sight to behold. Yunno what I’m talking about. Overweight. Hairy bodies. Bald on top. Gold bling hanging down. And the women would just lie there making the grossest comments ever. Some education for a child who was rapidly becoming a teenager.
We always got a basket of fresh fruit wrapped in a mile of red cellophane. The basket was the size of a VW. Coming from a winter climate, all that tropical fruit was a major treat for me. My time running loose in this hotel was more fun than going to the circus. At Christmas, Sinatra always put on a colossal show. This was an adults only affair in the La Ronde Room. So all the children were rounded up and forced into lockdown, with monitors present to prevent us from burning the joint down. Yunno how kids are, stealing cigarettes, matches, drinks, etc? Now all these children were the sons and daughters of guess who? And their favorite topic of conversation was figuring out how one’s parents fit into the so-called hierarchy. Well, Midwestern Chicago-oriented kids, like me, were completely off their radar and didn’t count for nothing. So once again, I became the invisible child with everyone spilling the beans like there was no tomorrow. Kinda stuff I’ll have to take to the grave.
The little bunch of would-be hoodlums I hung out with were escape artists. Nobody could keep us corralled for long. One time this kid came up with a special elevator key that would take us to the top—the penthouse suite, reserved for Sinatra and Co. So up we go. Of course, as soon as the elevator doors parted we were greeted by the goon squad. This protection detail was the real deal. Know what I mean? And they did their best to scare the pants off us. But us little hard-cases just blew ‘em off. They coulda died being talked to like that from a bunch of kiddos. Of course they had to just smile and go along with it, given who the various parents were. HAHAHAHA!
One of my favorite things about the Fontainebleau was sneaking into the historic Boom-Boom Room to listen to the Cuban bands. This is all gone now, except in my imagination. A Starz production, Magic City, was filmed at the Fontainebleau. The show is available on Amazon for a small fee. However, I just reserved the DVD at the local Library! Woo-hoo!
Here’s another amazing link: Mob Week: Why we can’t get enough of the gangster life By Ann O’Neill, CNN updated 12:12 PM EDT, Sat June 22, 2013.