LAS VEGAS — For those who are not familiar with Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, lemme bring you back to Martin Scorsese’s brilliant gangster classic “Casino.”
The film was based on Rosenthal’s life and the character Sam “Ace” Rothstein was played by the great Robert De Niro.
Loved the film and was amazed by everything that Rosenthal did during his years in Vegas. Frank basically ran the Stardust, Fremont, Marina and Hacienda casinos when they were controlled by the Chicago Outfit.
He also created the first sportsbook inside a casino, which positioned the ’Dust as the epicenter for sports gambling and wise guys.
After digging a little deeper, I learned more about Lefty’s time in Vegas, like the time when he survived an ASSASSINATION attempt in the parking lot of Tony Roma’s restaurant.
Apparently, a bomb attached to the gasoline tank detonated when he started his car. If you saw a picture of the car, you would think that Frank left in a body bag. Nah.
The story is that he survived because of a manufacturing feature unique to his car, an ’81 Cadillac Eldorado, with a huge metal plate under the driver’s seat. General Motors put those plates on all Eldorado models to correct a balancing problem. Wink-wink.
When Lefty Calls, You Answer
So, the phone rings, and the gravelly voice asks: “is Benjamin in, this is Frank Rosenthal.” “Yeah, you got me.”
Frank asks if we could meet up – this was like the late ’90s – to talk about a sports betting website. If you watched the movie, you KNOW that you DON’T say NO to Lefty, so we set up a meet for the Blueberry Hill on Flamingo Avenue.
Rosenthal strolls in and he starts to grill me about my syndicated newspaper column, America’s Line, as well as some stuff we were doing with recorded scores and odds. He did his homework and knew that we published a daily odds column that was seen in over 125 papers back in the day.
Lefty wanted to arrange a spot in our column for a price, and asked if we could (his words) “get engaged.” So many thoughts and pictures were running wild in my brain. How do you let Lefty down with a soft landing? Asked Frank if I could have a think and get back to him.
On my way out, the video of Rosenthal’s car getting BOMBED started to play in my head, so naturally, I looked under the hood, in the trunk, and got on my knees to see if there was anything attached. All good, started the car, and made it back to the house.
Figured a way to let Frank down, with the fact that we had a five-year contract with Universal Press Syndicate in Kansas City and were not allowed to include any outside data in our column. Lefty sounded a little annoyed but seemed to understand.
Not sure if he was totally OK with my answer, I got nervous, so the next morning, I went out and bought one of those mirrors on a stick. A UVSM – you know, the one you see in the movies when they check under your car.
If you’re wondering what UVSM is, it stands for Under-Vehicle Search Mirror. Checked inside, under and all around the car for the next few weeks, and obviously, I’m still here. WHEW!
The mirror on a stick now hangs on the wall in my office behind the desk to remind me of my brief fling with Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal!!!
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his Email...firstname.lastname@example.org.