Does the name Abe Schiller ring any memory bells for you?
It very well might if you’re an old guy who has enjoyed as many birthdays as I have. You might even have known him better by the name “Mister Last Vegas” because that’s what he was often called when he was introduced here and there around the world more than half a century ago.
Much of the time he was called by that Las Vegas handle when he was riding a beautiful horse in parades like the annual Rose Parade in Portland, Oregon or the Tournament of Roses Parade in Los Angeles, California. He did it while majestically garbed in a Wild West outfit that included everything from sparkling boots to an eye-grabbing sombrero wilder than anything you’ve seen on the motion picture screens.
And those were was just a couple of the garb and the events where a man who was to become my darn good friend was recognized. I recall once listening to a national radio broadcast of one of the title fights of then heavyweight champ Joe Louis. The radio sports announcer recognized some of the nationally known personalities parked in the ringside seats. “And there,” he said, “sits my friend Abe Schiller. You probably know him better as Mister Las Vegas. I didn’t know he ever wore that cowboy outfit unless he was riding a horse in a parade somewhere.”
Abe Schiller, you see, for years was the executive vice president of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. His areas of responsibility, at least as far as I could determine, was to publicize Las Vegas and the beautiful Flamingo. He also lined up entertainment for the hotel’s showroom and invited personalities from all over the world to visit the first hotel to be erected on what was to become the fabled Las Vegas Strip.
As I mentioned in my previous column, I got to know Abe as a result of having given casting exhibitions at the annual outdoor show at the old Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angles way back in early 1952. I was helping the Garcia Corporation introduce its new Ambassadeur 5000 reels to American anglers at the time. The Garcia folks were familiar with Mister Schiller and suggested that the two of us get together.
I really didn’t know beans about Abe Schiller’s past. I still don’t and frankly, I don’t give a damn that I don’t. I’ve heard a variety of tales. I read one account many years ago in a book I think was called “The Green Velvet Jungle.” I read that book a lot of years ago but I think it suggested Abe being associated with Bugsy Siegel, the wild-eyed underworld character who wound up helping create the Flamingo Hotel out there in Vegas.
Perhaps that book said something about Abe having been one of Bugsy’s bodyguards back in Detroit. I don’t remember that for sure. I do remember that it told about Siegel once forcing Abe to crawl around the Flamingo Pool on his hands and knees while Bugsy fired a few rounds from his automatic under Abe’s belly.
I really don’t know any more about Abe Schiller’s background today than I did back there the day I met him. He never once opened his mouth detailing what his association with Bugsy had been or anything else associated with his past.
I’ve always thought to myself how I’d love to have written his life story. I always figured I was darn well better off not even mentioning this to him. But one thing I did find out in a hurry—he was a guy that was just as big a bass fishing nut as I was. That turned out to be one of biggest blessings I was to experience in my early days of catching bass and panfish and then attempting to detail for others where and how they could do the same in the pages of the nation’s outdoor press.
Anita, my beautiful wife for the past 71 years, will tell you the same thing I will where Abe Schiller is concerned. No one—before or since—has treated us any better than he did. For a couple of greenhorns, and be assured that’s exactly what we were, we could hardly believe what was happening.
And it started almost from the day we met. I doubt Abe and I had visited for more than an hour before he asked me how I’d like to come down from Washington State and do some bass and crappie fishing with him at Lake Mead. I probably set a new record for a young man of Scandinavian ancestry for positive response when I managed to get “You’re damn right I would!” vocalized without tying my tongue in a knot.
And then Mister Schiller added something else, “Also,” he said, “if your wife is interested by all means bring her along. She can lounge around the Flamingo Pool while you and I are out there on the lake. You’ll both be my guests at the Flamingo.” If you ever have the good fortune to meet my much better half, I urge you to ask her how that all worked out.
Remember that what I’m sharing in this column all started way back there in the middle of the last century—1952 to be exact. Ever wondered what it might be like to actually experience much of what had previously seemed like an unreachable dream?
I have. Some of it might sound like a fairy tale but it isn’t. I don’t really care what some historian ever comes up with regarding Abe Schiller’s former associations in the early day creation of what was to eventually become the Las Vegas we know today.
The Abe Schiller I knew never gave me one reason to do anything but hold him in the highest regard. I’ll detail a couple more instances of what I’m talking about as we take another look back in my next column.