Back in the September of his years, Frank Sinatra would take the mic and command this little lounge stage. Still the headliner of all headliners at The Sands, four miles down The Strip, Sinatra would escape to this neighborhood joint, the Italian American Social Club, to sing for his supper, crooning for an audience of made men, undercover feds and other sharp-dressed, high-rolling locals of iconic Las Vegas.
Forty years later, pictures of Sinatra and the Rat Pack still hang on the walls at the IASC. Although the crowd remains local, they're far more casual and far less unnerving. And forget about hearing an impromptu set from the likes of Ol' Blue Eyes, you're much more likely to catch Jerry Tiffe, aka The Last Lounge Singer in Las Vegas.
To the side of the stage, tucked inside a dining area, a tight-knit table enjoys one of their regular meals together, family-style, of course. They laugh as a colleague explains how a last-second fumble return for a touchdown early in the day cost his bottom line six figures. They chuckle at his misery, because, at this point, these guys really have heard it all.
This isn't your typical group of gamblers; they're bookmakers. Odds are, if you've placed a legal bet in the U.S. in the past five decades, one of the men sitting at this round table had a hand in it. Gray-haired and grizzled, they're in their 60s and 70s with attires ranging from sports coat and slacks to white sweatshirt and jeans. They've worked classic spots like the Stardust, the old Las Vegas Hilton and the Mirage, making book on historic fights from Hagler-Hearns to Mayweather-McGregor, and on dozens of Super Bowls. Some have been taking bets in Vegas since Sinatra was up on that stage.
And they've never felt more threatened than they do right now.