The first people in Las Vegas to be informed of Nora Ephron's death were two legendary characters at the opposite ends of the social spectrum: former sheriff Ralph Lamb and reputed mobster-turned-TV-producer Joey Cusumano.
Their connection? Their mutual friend Nicholas Pileggi, Ephron's husband since 1987. She died Tuesday at the age of 71 after a career that included three Oscar nominations for screenplays she wrote or co-wrote.
Pileggi, 79, was at Ephron's bedside constantly as she battled leukemia. He is heavily involved in writing the upcoming CBS fall drama based on Lamb's rough-and-tumble days as a lawman.
"He said, 'She was a better writer than I was,' " Lamb said.
Pileggi is best known for writing "Wiseguy," the book he adapted into the classic mob film "Goodfellas," and his book and screenplay "Casino."
Cusumano and Pileggi got to know each other when Pileggi was working on "Wiseguy." Their friendship grew during the 1994 filming of "Casino." Pileggi loved wiseguy characters, and they got together in New York and Las Vegas, sometimes for birthday celebrations.
But Cusumano's history kept them from getting together in a casino. His 1987 racketeering conviction resulted in 1990 in his name being placed in the state's Black Book of persons banned from Nevada casinos.
READY FOR HIS CLOSE-UP
Las Vegas publicist Ira David Sternberg was all set for his film debut with a speaking role.
He was the director of public relations at the Tropicana in 1992 when "This Is My Life," directed by Ephron, was being shot there. Dressed as a doorman, Sternberg welcomed Julie Kavner's character, Dottie Ingels, and her kids to the hotel.
When the movie came out, a private screening was set up , and Sternberg invited a group of friends to watch his big-screen debut.
It didn't happen. He ended up on the cutting room floor.
His disappointment was tempered by the fact he got to work with Ephron, "a delightful filmmaker - very bright and a great sense of humor."
"Dancing With the Stars" co-host Brooke Burke and actor David Charvet, at lunch Thursday with their five children and a nanny at Wolfgang Puck's Spago (Forum Shops at Caesars). ... Bally's headliner Taylor Hicks, the Season 5 winner of "American Idol," dining Wednesday at Martarano's (Rio). ... George Eads, who plays Nick on "CSI Las Vegas," having lunch with friends Wednesday at Spago . Comedian Dave Chappelle, making stops Tuesday at Hyde Bellagio and N9ne Steakhouse (Palms). Stratosphere headliner Frankie Moreno, taking in "Absinthe" (Caesars Palace) on Tuesday. Harlem Globetrotter legend Meadowlark Lemon, 80, signing autographs Wednesday at Score! (Luxor).
THE PUNCH LINE
"The Knicks will take the best athlete available (in the NBA Draft). That's the Knicks' position on this: 'We will take the best athlete available.' And so will Kim Kardashian." - David Letterman