Daughter of the King: Growing Up in Gangland
Available March 4, 2014 from Weinstein Books
Sandi Lansky Lombardo grew up the only daughter of mob boss Meyer Lansky. Raised in upper-class Jewish splendor, first at the Majestic Hotel and then at the Beresford, at finishing schools and fancy stables, Sandi was the wild child of the late 40’s, the 50’s, and the early 60’s. She was the Paris Hilton of her day, partying till dawn at El Morocco and the Stork Club, dating the biggest celebrities of the era. Her life was not without heartbreak and tragedy, including the insanity of her mother, and the crippling handicap of her baby brother – not to mention his drug addiction.
Sandi was privy to her father’s secrets as well as his unexpected tenderness. She always stuck closely to the strict code of omerta. In Daughter of the King, Sandi teams up with Nick Pileggi (author of the seminal Wise Guy, perhaps the best-selling mob book ever) and multiple time New York Times Bestselling writer Bill Stadiem. Nick has made a career in books and films chronicling the mob, and Bill has emerged as a master of recreating the glamour and romance of the golden era of American culture with bestsellers like Mr. S and George Hamilton’s Don’t Mind if I Do.
At a supper club in New Jersey when Lansky was 10 or 11 years old, a nervous young singer stopped by her table to pay homage to her father and accidentally knocked a bucket of ice, in which Sandra’s ginger ale was cooling, all over her lap. The singer was terror-stricken, but when little Sandi responded with a good-natured laugh, it was “as if I had saved his life, . . . like getting a thumbs up from a Roman empress.” That singer was Frank Sinatra, the nightclub was owned by Sandra’s “uncle” Willie Moretti, a.k.a. Willie Moore, and her father was none other than Meyer Lansky — the architect of Murder Inc., a founding father of Las Vegas and the man later fictionalized as Hyman Roth in “The Godfather: Part II.”
Lansky recounts her life of luxury as her father’s favorite sidekick, as it was she, and not her mentally ill mother, who accompanied Meyer on his business throughout New York, New Jersey, Florida, Cuba and eventually Las Vegas. Sandra Lansky knew by the look in her father’s eye when it was time to go play with the hatcheck girls at Dinty Moore’s. But she didn’t know her father was a gangster until she was 13, after his first Senate hearing in 1951.
Hers was a sheltered, privileged childhood that evolved into rebellious adolescence. Sandra dated Dean Martin, married a man who turned out to be a gay “fortune hunter” when she was just 16, then fell in love with an undercover F.B.I. agent. (It didn’t end so badly, considering.) Meyer Lansky, true to his reputation, remained cool throughout his daughter’s romantic follies, and the portrait she paints of him is that of an exceptionally loving patriarch. Sandra eventually married a man on the periphery of the Gambino crime family whom Meyer negotiated out of service to the mob in order to establish a legitimate life for his daughter and son-in-law. The book is studded with riveting personal stories about Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, Sinatra and the Kennedys. Sandra Lansky, along with her co-writer, William Stadiem, has assembled a work of retrospective honesty that delivers an intimate look inside the mob. — Domenica Ruta
Publisher’s Weekly – January 27, 2014
Love for her father Meyer Lansky clouded the young judgment of Sandra Lansky growing up amid the gushing wealth that was the product of his extensive gambling and bribery empire from New York City to Havana. Having made his first fortune running bootleg booze with Bugsy Siegel during Prohibition, Meyer Lansky was known as the brains behind the Jewish mafia in New York, turning speakeasies into gambling dens and nightclubs and becoming “one of the most feared men in a fearsome city.” His unabashedly admiring only daughter, known as Sandi, was born in 1937, the youngest of three siblings and spoiled rotten, as she recalls in this straightforward, hold-no-grudges account: she had 50 Madame Alexander dolls to play with; a huge terrace of the Beresford apartment house on Central Park West to skate on; and a phalanx of protective “uncles” like Uncle Joe (“Socks” Lanza) and Uncle Jimmy (“Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo) presiding with her father at Dinty Moore’s restaurant. Gradually, she learned about her father’s “secret life,” in insinuations by her more knowledgeable older brother, Buddy, and in jarring media accounts of the Kefauver Hearings on mafia corruption and tax evasion in 1951. Not prone to self-searching, allowed to quit school and marry at age 16, Lansky tells of an adoration of her father that rings both touching and hollow. Yet she does not hold back spilling details of the colorful gangster characters that made up this perilous, vanished world.
Booklist – March 1, 2014
Meyer Lansky (1902-83) looms large in the history of American organized crime. He built a gambling empire, numbered Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel among his friends and partners, and was instrumental in the creation of Las Vegas. He also helped create Murder Incorporated, the assassination arm of the American Mafia. And to Sandi Lansky, he was Daddy. This autobiography tells the story of a rich socialite, a party girl who lived in a world of wealth and glitz (Dean Martin was among her lovers) but whose life was permeated with darkness: a mother suffering from mental illness, a father who wasn’t exactly the warmest dad in the world, friends and pseudo-relatives from the criminal world. (She refers to Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel as Uncle Benny.) Everything in the book — the murder of Siegel, the Kefauver Committee hearings into organized crime, her first marriage (when she was still a teenager) — is filtered through Sandi’s perceptions of her father and his world. It’s not a crime story, exactly, but it is a fascinating account of a girl and her father, a man who happened to be a criminal. — David Pitt
Library Journal – March, 2014
The child of Mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky and a beautiful but unstable mother, Sandra Lansky grew up amid money, power, and celebrity. She dined in fine restaurants with her father and his mobster friends and partied at the hottest night spots. But wealth and glitz couldn’t keep away all of life’s tragedies: a severely disabled older brother, a chronically depressed mother, a divorce and her father’s subsequent marriage to a despised stepmother, and an addiction to diet pills. Then there were the intimations of violence, including the death of her beloved Uncle Bugsy and the whispers of her father’s involvement. She writes about her growing awareness of the crime that surrounded her, coming to terms with her past—and her father’s—and settling down to live a happily legal existence. VERDICT: Lansky’s memoir chronicles an indisputably glamorous life, with some disturbing if understandable denial of the criminal enterprise that enabled it. Captivating reading for fans of celebrity memoirs and true crime. —Deirdre Bray, Middletown P.L., OH
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