Keeping it Jewish where the Rat Pack Roamed

Long before I packed my treasured books, scratched Bob Dylan CDs and prized collection of fedoras into eight moving boxes that I dug up from the Sherman Oaks Best Buy, there was my two-year foray into the cartoon world of Las Vegas.

While not a holy place in a typical sense, Sin City has long been a sanctuary for many a fallen 1980s television personality, forgotten former member of the Forbes 400, defrocked record producer and other itinerant dream weavers who are lured like moths to a flame by visions of easy money, making love to a Pussycat Doll and rubbing elbows with Wyclef Jean.

And Las Vegas also happens to be home to America’s fastest growing Jewish community. In a city awash in neon-tinged decadence, synagogues, kosher restaurants and mikvot dot the landscape. According to the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas, approximately 600 Jews immigrate to Glitter Gulch and its environs every month.

My Vegas ambitions were a bit more modest. Having discovered that a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science is worth exactly the paper that it’s printed on, I decided to reinvent myself as a debonair, sophisticated, Courvoisier-sipping hotel tycoon.

Step one of my career makeover included leaving southern California for the bright lights of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

To help supplement this educational excursion, I went out and landed my first Las Vegas job, as a night auditor in a hotel on a street named Paradise. This rather gray nine-month interlude had one sparkling highlight: my colleague – who I shall rebrand here as “Apollo Lightfoot” – one hell of a guy with stars in his eyes and holes in his cap-toe Oxfords.

I wouldn’t say that Apollo worked hard. In fact, like it says in the Bible, that boy had a lot of quit in him. He did, however, have that ability that I’ve always admired in devoutly lazy people of knowing how to work smart. He did just enough to get through the shift, just enough to pass along an irate guest’s complaint to the morning crew, just enough.

In contrast, I would break out into hives if the toilet in one of the rooms started backing up. I sure worked hard – and had the tattered nerves to prove it.

Our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different. Yet, Apollo was comfortable enough around me to occasionally strangle the stank monkey – heralding the blessed event each time with a triumphant           “I pood it!”

Even better, Apollo had stories. He was a black man married to a Japanese girl who was the heir to the Sony fortune. He would swear up and down that her maiden name was actually Sony. To spice things up a bit, Apollo also kept a girlfriend in Las Vegas (while the former Ms Sony was back East learning the ropes of the family business) who was an exotic dancer.

To avoid complications, Apollo would tell Sparkles that he was a Los Angeles-based film producer who regularly scouted locations in Las Vegas on behalf of Universal Studios. When he would pay her a visit, backstage at the Olympic Garden Gentlemens Club (“The Strip Starts Here”), he would always bring a suitcase, empty of course, to complete the effect of someone who had just landed at McCarran International Airport.

After I had left the job, I bumped into Apollo at a local watering hole, the Firefly on Paradise. He handed me a business card that read: “Apollo Lightfoot, Screenplay Writer and Consultant.”

What’s not to love about such a survivor? Dreams, even of the totally delusional, are the mother’s milk, the last refuge, of the damned. Besides, show me someone who says that he is completely content where he is in life and I’ll show you a liar – or a fool.

God bless you, Apollo Lightfoot. Wherever you are this starry night…keep swinging.


About the Author
Gidon Ben-Zvi, former Jerusalem Correspondent for the Algemeiner newspaper, is an accomplished writer who left behind Hollywood starlight for Jerusalem stone in 2009. After serving in an Israel Defense Forces infantry unit from 1994-1997, Ben-Zvi returned to the United States before settling in Israel, where he and his wife are raising their four children to speak fluent English – with an Israeli accent. Ben-Zvi's work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, the Algemeiner, American Thinker, the Jewish Journal, Israel Hayom, and United with Israel. Ben-Zvi blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind (