Merv Adelson’s $300 million fortune, built on his mob-era Las Vegas connections, is gone.
Now 83, he’s living in a one-bedroom, 500-square-foot apartment near the Santa Monica pier.
The former TV industry giant and ex-husband of Barbara Walters spills details of his fall from grace and his mob dealings in the March issue of Vanity Fair.
After years of fighting rumored mob links, and suing Penthouse for libel, Adelson brought up the subject early in the interview, “to tell his side,” according to Vanity Fair.
He grew up in Los Angeles with a father who loved Las Vegas, in part because a cousin, Beldon Katleman, owned the El Rancho.
On one of Adelson’s visits in the early 1950s, he decided Las Vegas needed a 24-hour supermarket. By age 24, he was a millionaire, thanks to the supermarket.
He teamed up with another real estate man, Irwin Molasky, and they built hundreds of houses in the late 1950s.
It was in the 1950s that Adelson met Moe Dalitz during a ballroom-dancing class with their wives.
Adelson said he went into business with Dalitz, later known as the Godfather of Las Vegas, and became part of his entourage.
“All I can say,” Adelson told Vanity Fair, “is, in all the years I knew Moe, we never discussed anything criminal or illegal. I never asked him about (anything illegal). I didn’t want to know the answer. There was a line that I never wanted to cross, and I didn’t.”
The association took a toll on his family. He wanted out of Las Vegas. His fascination with entertainment took him to Hollywood in the late 1960s, where he and Molasky teamed up with producer Lee Rich.
They created Lorimar, the TV production company that soon began churning out such hit series as “The Waltons,” “Eight Is Enough” and “Dallas.”
He became one of Hollywood’s best-known playboys and in 1986 married Walters, whose father, Lou Walters, was a nightclub entrepreneur who had booked his Latin Quarter Revue into the Riviera and helped bring “Les Folies Bergere” from Paris to the Tropicana in 1959.
When Lorimar was producing $700 million in annual revenues, the next logical step was to turn it into a movie studio. That was the beginning of the end. Between 2000 and 2003 Adelson lost 90 percent of his net worth and moved 13 times in seven years.
“In the end I came out with enough money to live,” Adelson told Vanity Fair. “I don’t have a lot extra.”
BRITNEY’S BIG HINT
Britney Spears let the cat out of the bag on her dog’s Twitter account last Sunday.
Hannah, the dog, asked, “Mommy, are dogs allowed to gamble in vegas? Gonna cash all my bones in for chips.”
In her response, Spears tweeted, “I don’t think so honey” and added the hashtag “VivaLasVegas.”
A day earlier, she tweeted, “100 million views of the Scream & Shout video!” The video by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and featuring Spears has 111.6 million views on YouTube.com since it was released 2½ months ago.
Caesars Entertainment released a statement on Friday confirming they were in talks with Spears for a residency at Planet Hollywood Resort.
Another big number that makes her very attractive to Caesars Entertainment: her 23.7 million followers on Twitter.
That ranks Spears seventh behind Justin Bieber, 34.1 million; Lady Gaga, 33.8 million; Katy Perry, 32 million, Rihanna, 28.2 million; Barack Obama, 26.9 million, and Taylor Swift, 23.7 million.
A GOLDEN MEMORY
Thirty-six airmen from Afghanistan had just arrived Thursday night and were being welcomed when they got a five-star surprise.
Walking toward them was Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps, who was standing in the baggage area when USO volunteer Brandie Lewin recognized him.
Invited to join the welcoming party, Phelps joined in and shook hands with the airmen and thanked them for their service.
Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper, who won National League Rookie of the Year honors last season as a 19-year-old, drew a large crowd of young admirers to Bryce Harper Day on Friday at Findlay Toyota in the Valley Auto Mall in Henderson.
THE PUNCH LINE
“This is crazy. The Justice Department is saying that President Obama can order drone strikes on American citizens, that he can do that. In a related story, this is the last Obama joke I’m ever doing on this show.” — Conan O’Brien
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at email@example.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.