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Berkley’s father has ‘mild heart attack’

WASHINGTON — George Levine, the father of Rep. Shelley Berkley and a noted link to the Rat Pack era of Las Vegas, suffered a “mild heart attack” on Monday and is scheduled for surgery this week .

A spokesman in Berkley’s campaign office disclosed Levine’s medical condition in explaining her absence from the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Lawmakers were reconvening after a four-week holiday recess.

Berkley remained in Nevada with her father and other family members, spokesman Eric Koch said. No further details were available Tuesday evening.

Levine, 86, is one of the threads back to the Strip of the 1960s. Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack ruled the boulevard and hung out at the Sands hotel-casino, where Levine was a waiter and eventually maitre d’ of the famed Copa Room.

In telling her family’s story, Berkley, a Democrat and seven-term House member now running for U.S. Senate, has described her father as a striver who sought a better life for his family and uprooted from the East in search of one.

Levine, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was a struggling waiter in the Catskills who packed up his wife and two daughters and headed West in 1963. The family stopped in Las Vegas on the way to California to pursue a job lead.

According to Berkley, they stayed after a friend accompanied Levine to the Culinary union hiring hall, and he found a job at the Sands.

When the resort closed 33 years later, Levine retired after losing his job with 1,200 others, according to a 1996 account of the Sands’ closing by Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith.

Levine suffered a mild stroke in July 2002 and recovered after surgery at Desert Springs Hospital.

In 2009, the producer of a Rat Pack tribute show at the Plaza hotel-casino persuaded Levine to take a role as ceremonial maitre d’. In a profile, Smith described Levine as “one of the last of the red-hot showroom captains” who “not only made big bank but were well-known in their own right.”

Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban and Review-Journal researcher Brian Gaw contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

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