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Late Burton Cohen surrounded by his favorite things


Gaming legend Burton Cohen was buried according to Jewish custom, in a plain pine casket, with “all that was dear to him.”

His wife of 33 years, Linda, went down the list on Tuesday, a week after Cohen, three-time president of the Desert Inn, died at the age of 90.

Included in the casket was a love letter she wrote Friday, the day of his burial.

Other items:

■ “A wonderful letter that Larry Ruvo wrote to him for his 90th birthday party (in August),” she said. When Cohen opened the New Frontier half a century ago, he hired Ruvo at the tender age of 20 to be night manager. Ruvo, who went on to bigger things, never forgot it.

■ A wooden box filled with the ashes of their beloved dog, Daisy, one of their many rescue dogs. “From the moment we got him, she was his dog,” she said. Daisy was so jealous she’d bite Linda’s toes.

■ A nightstand photo of his mother and father.

■ One of his favorite pillows.

■ His mother’s nightgown.

■ Tucked into Cohen’s jacket was a $10 bill from close friend Joe McKenna, who had lost a sports bet.

■ Numerous photos of family members.

■ Two handkerchiefs “because he refused to use Kleenex.”

■ “And a picture he carried around of me when I was 34,” Linda said.

She placed two baseball caps, including one with a shamrock “because he loved Irish people.”

“When he was brought up in Florida, there were very few Jewish people, and most of his friends were Irish,” she recalled.

His Irish friends took matters into their own hands when bullies went after the undersized Cohen because of his religion. During World War II, Cohen went by the Irish name of Bart Quinn so he could join his friends in country clubs that disallowed Jews.

“Burton told that Bart Quinn so often that just before we got married, all the casino hosts got together and had a wooden tombstone made. They put ‘Bart Quinn’ on the tombstone, because his playing days were over,” Linda said.

She recalled many of her husband’s favorite headliners over the years.

“He really, really loved Sammy Davis Jr. and gave him a chance after his drug problem.”

Cohen brought Keely Smith out of retirement after Louis Prima died and reconnected her with tenor sax sensation Sam Butera. “The Starlight Lounge was mobbed. They were a knockout and it revived Keely’s career.

“He loved Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Just loved their humor and talent,” she said.

Donald Trump would have had a casino in Las Vegas a long time ago had Cohen not laughed at his $80 million offer for a Kirk Kerkorian-owned property.

“Burton said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ and sold it for almost double that.”

‘VIVA LAS VEGAS’ REVISITED

“Viva Las Vegas,” the 1964 film starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret that’s still embraced as the city’s anthem, will be shown at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road.

UNLV theater professor Sean Clark is the guest speaker with commentary from featured guest Corrine Entratter Sidney.

Filmed over 10 days, “Viva Las Vegas” was directed by George Sidney, who later married Corrine Entratter. She was the widow of the Sands legendary entertainment director Jack Entratter, one of the city’s most powerful men.

The screening is free on a first-come, first-served basis.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

The husband-wife restaurateur team of Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau are opening two more restaurants in Summerlin. Going into Tivoli Village will be Made.LV, a modern American tavern. It is scheduled to open in August. A steak and seafood restaurant is planned for The Shops at Summerlin. Made.LV will be in the space formerly occupied by Bradley Ogden’s Hops & Harvest. Canteenwalla and Blau opened Honey Salt in late 2012.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Piers Morgan and Larry King have been getting into a nasty war of words. They are fighting with each other. It’s the first time Larry’s taken shots at the British since the Revolutionary War.” — Craig Ferguson

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.