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By Adriano La Regina (editor)

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8 John Ligouri and his family came to Las Vegas from Des Moines, Iowa, in 1959. Well aware of the area’s past growth and potential, Ligouri quickly opened a restaurant in Henderson, on the Boulder Highway (the major route to Arizona). Successful in this initial undertaking, four years later he built the Skyline Casino nearby and operated it through the 1960s. He subsequently sold the Skyline, but he still manages Ligouri’s Restaurant and Casino. Unlike Sam Baker, Ligouri was able to maintain a low profile.

As successful Italian-American gamblers sought out Las Vegas, the heart of the action, ItalianAmerican entertainers wanted to perform in the city widely billed as the Entertainment Capital of the World. When they arrived, they were well received. Many Italian Americans held important positions in the hotels, and others, some perhaps from the same hometowns or even the same neighborhoods (common for South Philadelphians), were already performing in Las Vegas. Every Italian-American entertainer interviewed for this book agreed that being an Italian American probably helped one’s career, that is, unless one was seeking a casino license.

Mike Pisanello, who came with his family to Las Vegas from Pennsylvania in 1955, was one of two Italian Americans to attain a labor union leadership position during the 1950s and 1960s. After working as a waiter in the Dunes showroom, in 1959 he became a business agent for the largest labor organization in Southern Nevada, the Culinary Union. Subsequently he was promoted to assistant to the president, and much later, in 1978, he was elected vice president. 23 Mark Massagli, the other post-World War II private-sector union leader of Italian ancestry, was born in New Jersey and raised in southern California.

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