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Audio clip from interview with George Levine, April 16, 2015

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Download jhp000197.mp3 (audio/mpeg; 5.64 MB)





In this clip, George Levine discusses his experience serving as the Maitre d' at the Sands.

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George Levine oral history interview, 2015 April 16. OH-02287. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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What had you heard about Vegas back in the '50s? It was a very exciting town, and this is in the '50s. I never got here until the '60s. But during the '50s, I used to hear how exciting it was, but I was going to Florida to see Frank Sinatra. From the Concord Hotel, we ended up in Las Vegas. I started to work for a friend of a friend; he owned Mr. Sy's Casino that was across the street from the Stardust Hotel. After six months, the partners wanted to give me 10 percent of the place. And this friend of the friend that hired me said, "No way." He didn't want to do it. So I resigned and I ended up at the Sands. I got a job at the Sands as a waiter. Eventually, I ended up as the ma?tre d' of the hotel. If you don't think that's exciting, then nothing is exciting. I went through a lot of exciting times, but that was it. As a ma?tre d', I think you're more popular than the president of the hotel. You had more power probably. Everybody wanted to get in to see Frank and Dean and Sammy. My favorites were Steve and Eydie; they just blew me away ? not only me, they blew everybody away. We had tremendous actors. That was a great experience, the Sands. But to think that you were more powerful than the president of the hotel, it's really something. When you say "power," what did you do that was powerful? Because they had to come to you if they wanted a good seat and the president couldn't help. He would say, "You've got to go see the ma?tre d'." Even the president was afraid to come over to you and say anything, not that he didn't or he wouldn't, but he shied away. You were the boss. I think the ma?tre d' was the top man in any major hotel at that time because if you wanted to see a show, you're begging the ma?tre d'. Especially when you sold out, they're begging you; they're giving you all kinds of money to get in. It was wild. It was wild years. Not today. Today Steve Wynn just blew everything away. I can understand his point because the money we were making, he wanted that money. So he cut out the ma?tre d's, and now the people instead of giving us five or ten dollars or whatever it was, they wouldn't give it to us; they would give it to Steve. I say, "Give it to Steve" the hotels; all the hotels would end up with that money because they discontinued ma?tre d's in the showroom. Then they went into a ticket policy whereas before you had to call up individually. You had to call up the reservation desk or the ma?tre d'. If you wanted a real good seat, so you would call the ma?tre d'; "I'll take care of you," and all that. How were you trained to be the ma?tre d'? The training I got was at the Concord Hotel. The people that went there were very wealthy and it was the number one hotel probably in the whole world. When you're taking care of these kinds of people, you know how to talk to people; you learn a lot of stuff. That's how you become a ma?tre d'. So you learn by doing it. Right. It's really something. How much money would somebody give you at the Copa Room to seat them? Because that's where you were, right, at the Copa Room at the Sands? I never took money. On occasions I had to take. But when I sat the room, I would tell the person, "Give it to the captain, so the captain would know where to seat them." The bigger the tip, the better the seat.