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Audio clip from interview with Gary Sternberg, April 7, 2015

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Gary Sternberg recalls how he secured funding from Frank Sinatra for Congregation Ner Tamid's new building.

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Gary Sternberg oral history interview, 2015 February 12, 2015 April 07, 2015 October 20. OH-02274. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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So anyway, we're building the temple and I was telling my wife, I says, "Honey, boy, it would sure be a kick if...Sinatra is giving all this money to hospitals in Israel and stuff like this." He's very pro Jewish. Half of his friend are Jews. I says, "Wouldn't it be a trip if I could get a donation from him?" She says, "Nah, you're not going to do it." I says, "Don't tell me that." So Jilly Rizzo?there's a book; I don't know if you looked at it or not?Jilly Rizzo was his right hand man. Jilly had a bar in New York called Jilly's. It was a very famous place and Sinatra used to hang out in there. But Jilly became his right hand man, also kind of like his bodyguard. Jilly's brother Joe was a pit boss in the casino and his son Willy was a dealer, but later on they made Willy a floor man because he was not a good dealer. So when you're not a good dealer, they make you a floor man. It works out. So I talked to Joe one time. I says, "Joe, how can I get ahold of Jilly?" He says, "What do you want with Jilly?" I says, "I'm trying to get a donation from Sinatra." He says, "Oh, next time he comes down..." So Sinatra is appearing at Caesars. So he says, "There's Jilly." He says, "Go talk to him." I says, "Jilly, we're building a temple and we're in desperate need of money. We need some help. I wonder if you think he might come up with something?" He says, "He might." He says, "Let me have something that I can show him and let's see what happens." And the next day I'm dealing away. He says, "Gary, the old man's going to give you guys thirty thousand dollars." "Wow. Fantastic." Because all the prices for the lobby. And then he says, "He wants the lobby named after him?" I says, "Yeah." Because a donation of thirty thousand is what you were looking for to...They can put their name on the lobby? Right. Because we had all different amounts on here, the brochure. Oh, okay. See, the lobby was thirty thousand. So some time goes by and Sinatra is performing in New York and Palm Springs. He's here, he's there, he's Florida, he's all over the place. And I didn't hear anything from it. I can't remember how it went. But all of a sudden, they forgot about it. And I panicked because I'm bragging to everybody, "I got a thirty thousand dollar donation from Sinatra for the temple." "Wow, Gary, when's it coming?" Here I'm stuck; I look like an idiot. So we wound up writing letters and then calling. I called his...Oh, what's his name? His accountant. I called his manager. I made all kinds of phone calls. I was busy with this thing, believe me, because I panicked now. And then finally I get Jilly on the phone. He says, "Frank don't remember anything about"?no. He says, "I remember that." He says, "But I think Frank forgot about it. I think the old man forgot about it." I says, "Can you remind him?" We're going back and forth, back and forth. Finally he comes back and says, "Yeah, he remembered." So now I get a letter from his accountant. There's a letter in there about it that yes, indeed, there was a pledge made and the donation will be forthcoming and that they're going to pay ten thousand out front and five thousand for the next four years. And the first check I got?because it went to the temple and we had a temporary office on the grounds we were building the temple; it was like a trailer. Lorraine was our temple secretary. I says, "Lorraine, I want the stub from that check. I want to make a copy of the check and I want the stub." Well, the stub disappeared. Nobody knew where it went. All of a sudden I'm losing control here, right? But we got the first check and then we got the...yeah. This is how the donation came about. Then we wrote him letters inviting him to the inaugural when we opened the temple and stuff, but he didn't show up. Yeah, so there's quite a few people involved. It wasn't that easy. There were quite a few people involved. There was Willy involved. There was Jilly. There was Joe. All the Rizzos were involved. But you're tenaciously going to make sure... I don't give up. That's good. That's a good story. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And he lived up to his commitment. And he lived up to his commitment. That was really quite an elation to get a donation like that not only from a Jew, but from a Catholic, a good Catholic and for a Jewish organization in Las Vegas. I thought that was...Yeah, that's how that donation came about.