Hank Greenspun oral history interview, 1975. OH-00733. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1x924430
Standardized Rights Statement
I came to Las Vegas towards the end of 1946. Why did you come? What brought you here? What drew you to Las Vegas? Well, I had just gotten out of the Army after six years in the Army. I was back from France and I had been hurt and I was in the hospital in England for about four months and I had married a war bride and I came over here. I went into the practice of law down on Wall Street or Pine Street, which is in the vicinity there. Needless to say, after all those years in the Army and three and a half, four years of company commander with all the responsibilities, I have a facility of being able to accomplish something when it has to be done and then I fall apart when it's over. When I got out of Army, I went into the practice of law and I was always kind of torn up inside after France and after what we went through over in Germany and all those things. I was about ready to fall apart except that a client of our office who was a racetrack promoter came up and he showed me a magazine about Las Vegas, Nevada. He was ready to put up a racetrack in Buffalo, but because of the war controls he couldn't put it in. And he told me that Tom Mix had come to him back in 1940 and told him about this little place way out west that someday would be the resort area of America. Of course, I checked it out later and, sure enough, Tom Mix had a lot of options on land here and he was very much interested. And Tom Mix wanted to put in a racetrack here in Las Vegas and he wanted this Joe Smoot to do it for him because he was a racetrack promoter and he was a client of the office in which I was a general partner. Schmoot showed me this place. He says that when I vote away for the racing law?at that time there was no way that racing would pay in Nevada because it's just too small; there was nothing there. He says but now according to this magazine?I think it was the Saturday Post?he says they're building the Golden Nugget. And he says the fellow that's building it?Guy McAfee used to be on the vice squad in Los Angeles when he was building Santa Anita. And he says I used to pay him off. So he says I'd just like to go out there and see now what kind of a place this is. In other words, he was promoting me for the use of my car; the drive is all it was. But I was ready for the vacation because I couldn't stand all these tall buildings around me. I was living in Little Neck, New York. And to come in on the Long Island Railroad every day, I just can't tell you the feeling of depression I had with all these tall buildings. It looked like every day I'd walk it they were going to fall in on top of me. So Smoot and I drove across the country in my car. And all the way across it was snow and hail and blizzards and everything else and it was a trying experience. When we got to Las Vegas, Nevada, we checked into the Last Frontier Hotel, which was almost like a motel. There were only two, the Last Frontier and the El Rancho. The Flamingo was building, but it was nowhere near completion. I checked in. I went into the swimming pool to take a swim and the sun warmed me and I felt so?it was such a remarkable experience after New York and France and the hospitals and everything else that I went right back into my room and I called my wife, who was now pregnant, in New York. She couldn't come because she was pregnant. And I says come on out on the next train; I am never coming back; this is where I want to live the rest of my life. Everything was so open and it was so clean and it was so free and the sun was so warm. I just made up my mind that this is what I've been seeking, the solitude, and I never went back. And that's the story. I decided to take the Nevada bar. I used to go to the law library and I used to try to refresh my mind on what would be required to pass the bar. I ran into a couple of newspaper people here who I had known back in New York. One of them even went to law school with me. He still writes for me, Ralph Pearl. Oh, yes. Of course, he went broke here. I guess he came out to do a story or something. He went broke. That's right. And he immediately moved into my room at the Last Frontier and I used to sign checks for his food and everything else. So I says how long is this going to keep up; I've got a wife coming out? He says, well, why don't we start a magazine? He says, and you'll be the publisher and I'll be the columnist and we'll make a lot of money because a magazine is what we need here. So we started a damn magazine and I was the publisher. That didn't go too well, but I got to know everybody here through the magazine. The Las Vegas Life, right? The Las Vegas Life. And that's how I came to Las Vegas and that's how I established a foothold, so to speak. And naturally my mother and father came out. Then my sister came out. Then my other sister came out. Then my brother came out. The first thing you know we had a little tribe here. From the magazine I gravitated into the radio business. Of course, the town lacked most everything. So I got an interest in a radio station. And from that I became very friendly with Wilbur Clark. He was thinking of building the Desert Inn at the time because he was over at the El Rancho. I put in a little money with him. That's the beginnings and that's how I stayed here. There's one part you've left out and that was your association?you were publicity director at the Flamingo Hotel at one time, right? Yes. How did that association come about? That association came about when we did a story on the Flamingo, building, and the opening was going to take place I think in December of 1946. That's right. The other newspaper, the Review-Journal, used to print this magazine for me, so every week I was in there checking all the proofs. And the editor of the other newspaper was Al Cahlan. While I was checking the proofs, because right outside of his office was a print shop, he came out with some very good-looking man and he says to me, Hank, he says, do you know Mr. Siegel? Well, I had never met Mr. Siegel. I had heard something about him. Although I was over in France most of the time while he was coming up, murder incorporated and all that, I wasn't too conscious of his background. He says do you know Mr. Siegel? I says no. Benny Siegel looks at this little magazine of mine. He says, oh, you're the one who puts this out? I says yes. He says how much is a back page? So I said $250. I should have said 500 because he was ready to pay anything. He says it's a very good book. He says you did a great story on the Flamingo. He says a very good book. He says I'll take the back page. He says how much is it in color? I said 300. He said we'll take it in color. That's how I became acquainted with Mr. Siegel, first time. Well, he had partners in the Flamingo. One was Billy Wilkerson, who was the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter. Billy Wilkerson used to hire the publicity people for the Flamingo Hotel. As fast as he would hire them, Siegel would fire them. And before the place even opened he already had gone through about three or four of them. Then another fellow comes in by the name of Paul Price. He came in to do publicity for the Flamingo Hotel. He was with the Herald Express at that time and he was also on television and radio in Los Angeles. Naturally Paul grabbed me and he said, look, Hank, he says, I'm going to do publicity on this place; I understand this guy is a complete nut; I don't know how long I'm going to last. He says you know everybody in town, because it was a small town and I published a magazine, so I knew everybody. He says why don't you do the local publicity and I'll do the national publicity?