The Las Vegas Story, 1952, USA, Director Robert Stephenson


Ain’t no scope for embezzlement driving a taxi which is why I won’t condemn Lloyd Rollins.  Don’t knock somebody for doing something if you ain’t ever been tempted.  Rollins was a gambler and handled big money for this firm back in the east.  The guy had the opportunity.  Me, I keep my own tips, and the rest is on the clock.  Before the cab and before I came to Vegas I worked delivering newspapers around Los Angeles.  I’ve always liked to move around.  Ma was right on that one.  Get a job where you can move around because you won’t ever be any good standing still, she said.  Ma figured me that way because I’m a talker.  What Ma didn’t say was I needed to move around and talk to people.  I came to Vegas ‘cause I thought LA was making me miserable, the concrete and the smog and everything.  But it wasn’t nothing to do with LA or me needing sunshine and desert.  I just wasn’t meeting enough people.  I’m a talker.  Detective Lieutenant Sergeant Dave Andrews wouldn’t say no to what I heard in the cabs but Dave was a guy that had to have the end before the beginning.  Impatient is not the word for Detective Lieutenant Andrews.  Now, Lloyd Rollins, he was different to Dave Andrews or at least he was to me.  Lloyd Rollins listened to what I had to say and he was a generous man.  Of course later we heard how none of it was his own money.  

wp-1596191309072.jpgSure I remember Linda Rollins returning to Vegas.  Most of us talkers have good memories.  I’ve thought about this.  I reckon talking to people exercises what’s up there inside your head. That afternoon I had driven Howard Hughes to some airfield out there in the desert.  Howard Hughes, you betcha, a special day all right.  The guy made me wait around while he flew one of his aeroplanes.  Imagine waiting all day with the meter running while this nutty guy is flying all over Nevada.  It wasn’t the most fun I ever had but the sight of the meter going round and clocking up the dollars and cents consoled me sure enough.   I appreciated the cash Mr Hughes put in my hand but I didn’t take to the man.   The guy was full of himself but he did have Ava Gardner for company, and I reckon if she’d have been hanging on to me I might have got a little carried away.  Not that she was hanging on to his arm.  Whatever had happened between the two it was turning sour.  There and back to the airfield Mr Hughes was talking the whole time about how he’d kicked off this commie writer from the picture he was producing.  It sure as hell annoyed Miss Gardner.  More than once she’d elbow him in the ribs and tell him to shut up about the damned commies.

Lloyd Rollins and Linda arrived that same evening.  I was waiting at the train station, sitting in my cab and working out what I’d earned that day being a chauffeur for Mr Hughes and Miss Gardner.  Mr Hughes may have been happy to spend money on waiting cab drivers but he wasn’t much of a tipper.  But I was happy.  If you ask me, Mr Hughes wasn’t much of a man.  The next time I saw Miss Gardner in Vegas she was strolling around with Frank Sinatra, which I thought was a waste on account of how Sinatra was just an ordinary guy with a voice.  You see all sorts in Vegas, and not all the ladies cost as much to keep as Miss Gardner.  He came to Vegas right until the end did Mr Hughes.  He had some bungalow complex filled with his women, like a harem.  There were just too many dames out there in that place for them to be all as expensive as Miss Gardner.ava-gardner-memoireBut I didn’t need to be taken out to some airfield by one of the richest men in America and his movie star to remember Linda arriving.  I liked Linda.  I was saying the same to Dave Andrews down at the sheriff’s office, how her face always promised a wink even when she wasn’t smiling or anything.  Dave told me I was out of line and he may have had a point because by then Dave and Linda were married.  This, of course, was after the business with Lloyd Rollins. Well before Linda hitched up with Lloyd Rollins she had walked out on Dave after he went to fight in Korea.   And she went where most people go when they leave Vegas.  She left the river beds for the angels.  You get my meaning?  Vegas means riverbeds in Spanish, and Los Angeles means, yeah okay.  I talked to Mike, the guy that now runs the Last Chance saloon just off the strip.  I said, why did he think Linda left Vegas as soon as Dave was posted outside the States.  Mike pulled a long face like he does and said something about Linda not being able to settle in Vegas without Dave and the only way for her to move on was walk out on the both of them.  It don’t make much sense to me.

wp-1596191435641.jpgBut after they locked up Lloyd Rollins for embezzlement and after Dave proved that Rollins for all his faults did not kill Mr Clayton there was enough good news for Linda to settle down in the desert city.  Mr Clayton was the guy that was running the Last Chance when Linda came back to Vegas. Clayton bought this necklace off Rollins who was in town and hoping to win some money to pay off what he had embezzled from his bosses up there in Boston.   It don’t make sense to me, rolling dice in Vegas when it was playing the odds that got Rollins into the mess in the first place.  But I’m not a gambler.  Some guys stuck outside an airfield in the Nevada desert would have passed the day reading about the gee gees.  Not me because to me a gambler is a guy or maybe a dame that likes winning a dollar more than he hates losing one.  You get my meaning?wp-1596191274533.jpgWhere am I?  I have to say son, you sure are a good listener, nothing like Dave Andrews.  That’s right.  Rollins sold to Clayton this necklace Rollins had bought for Linda back in LA.  Clayton buys it for a fraction of what it was worth because Rollins had to have a stake for the crap tables.  Clayton is thinking his ship has come in when he realises it ain’t all fun having money because someone comes along and kills him and takes the necklace.  Everyone thinks the obvious. That high roller Rollins has killed Clayton and took back his necklace thinking that maybe being given ten percent of what it was worth was not such a good deal.  Meanwhile, Linda and Dave have got friendly again.  I know because Linda rang Dave while I was at the Sheriff’s office talking to Dave about what I knew about Rollins and the rest.  I remember because he got angry with me mentioning my special day with Mr Hughes and Miss Gardner.  But that was Dave, always impatient.  And then Linda rings and the face on Dave changes into something that belonged to a kid on Christmas Day.  He didn’t talk to Linda like he talked to me, I can tell you.wp-1596191329796.jpgDave did himself no harm with just about everyone when he worked out who’d really killed Clayton and took the necklace, even if afterwards more than a few folks said that they’d known all along that Tom Hubler was up to no good.  Hubler was this private eye from LA.  Hubler had his problems because of what he put up his nose and down his throat which may be why he had to keep shooting people.  All for the sake of a necklace, I ask you.  Dave chased him out to the same airfield I had taken Mr Hughes and Miss Gardner but why Hubler drove all the way out there I couldn’t tell you because Tom Hubler didn’t have a plane to catch.  There was a fight in the middle of the airfield, and it wasn’t just Dave that said so because there were witnesses.  Dave whupped this Hubler guy which meant we had a happy ending and happy endings ain’t that common in Vegas, I can tell you.  Mike got the Last Chance back because Clayton, the guy who swindled Mike out of the saloon in the first place, was lying dead in the mortuary and probably still wondering what the hell happened to the necklace.  Rollins was still in prison, so he wasn’t over the moon, but at least he’d made a detour around the gas chamber. Rollins was on a roll because he had this smart lawyer come up from LA to defend him in the embezzlement trial.  Rollins was found guilty but this Fred Barratt guy had some psychiatrist talk about the horror of a gambling addiction.  Barratt had the jury, the judge and all of them weeping.  The foreman of the jury pleaded for leniency, and Rollins got off light, a couple of years inside the Nevada Penitentiary.  Linda and Dave hooked up again and married.  By the time of the wedding Dave was Sheriff and back in uniform.  Dave left the badge at home but took the uniform to the wedding.  Linda didn’t wear white, just some two piece suit that didn’t hide anything of what had got Dave interested in the first place.


A happy ending meant we were all happy, all except the piano player at the Last Chance.  If he could tinkle the piano, it no way put a smile on his face which was why he was called Happy.  The piano player thought the country was going to the dogs.  The way he talked about the commies reminded me of that day at the airfield with Mr Hughes and Miss Gardner.  Happy and Linda were always going on about the Red menace.  They voted for Goldwater in ‘64.  If it had been Dave, I’d have understood, seeing as he’s been in Korea and he was Sheriff and all but Dave said he’d never vote for a President that was a warmonger.  So what’s going on with Happy and Linda? I said.  Pay them no mind, said Dave.  Linda had a kid but she was nothing like her mother.  Linda called her a pinko.  Dave didn’t like Linda talking that way about her own daughter.  I know, I know.  I’m going on.  I said I was a talker.

Howard Jackson has had ten books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism.  His latest travel book No Tall Heels To Tango is now available here.