Transcript of interview with D. D. Cotton by Claytee D. White, February 14, 1997
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Interview with D. D. Cotton conducted by Claytee D. White on February 14, 1997. Raised in New York City, Cotton arrived in Las Vegas as a dancer in Cab Calloway's traveling production "The Cotton Club." During a period of strained race relations, she stood for equal rights as the first black cocktail waitress on the Strip and one of the first black dealers.
An Interview with D. D. Cotton An Oral History Conducted by Claytee White Las Vegas Women in Gaming and Entertainment Oral History Project University of Nevada, Las Vegas 1998 ©Las Vegas Women in Gaming . . . m m . SUBJECT TO TKO WESKS ^OTISE .) consecutive weeks each, immediately following the conclusion of the original engagement hereunder, upon the same terms and conditions A* contained herein for the original period hereof. The weekly payment during each option period shall be 3AK5 Dollars ($). This option to be effective must be exercised in writing by the Operator not later than weeks I days) prior to the termination of each preceding period. On engagements for one week or less AGVA Rules require written notice the day following the opening. This Contract, including all options, may not exceed one year. 3. IT IS A CONDITION OF THIS AGREEMENT THAT THE ARTIST BL A MEMBER OF AGVA IN GOOD STANDING UPON THE EXECUTION HEREOF AND SHALL REMAIN IN GOOD STANDING FOR THE DURATION OF THIS CONTRACT. The parties jointly and severally agree that the Artist's obligations hereunder are subject ta) to the Artist's prior obligations to AGVA as a member thereof, (b) to AGVA's Rules and Regulations, Constitution and By-Laws, as of the date hereof, and (c) to the Rulen and Regulations of the AGVA Branch in whose jurisdiction the Artist performs hereunder insofar as they are not in conflict with those of the National AGVA. 4. The Artist shall render his act in the variety field exclusively to the Operator throughout the term hereof unless otherwise provided herein or otherwise consented to by the Operator in writing. 5. 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The Artist shall not be required to perform or appear nor shall the Operator request or require the Artist to perform or appear, directly or indirectly, in Television regardless of the point of origin of the telecast without first securing the written consent and approval thereto of ACVA. 9. The Operator, throughout the term of this contract, at his own expense shall furnish to the Artiat live musics! accompaniment according to the usual standard of hia establishment for all rehearsals and performances of the Artiat. 10. WELFARE FUND: The Operator ia advised of an AGVA Welfare Program which provide, for welfare benefits for ACVA member*. To asaure the benefits of said Welfare Program to the performers engaged by the Operator, the Operator accepts the Program and agrees to make s to the AGVA Welfare Fund as follows: 1. 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Operator's copy clamed by Aim and mailed cock week OPERATOR: with check to Branch Ogice of Standard A.G.V.A. contract signed by D.D. Cotton in 1957 Something like decorating the hotel? Yeah, right. That's all that was. This was going on in 1973 because I remember I worked with the girls in the Folies, I mean that show was still there. A couple of them used to come out and they would just walk around and maybe they sit and play a little "21" then they'd go back and do their show. But they don't even think about that now. I never had any trouble with that. Being a cocktail waitress in Caesar's, you might have a customer that might want to touch you but I think the people that came into Caesar's just was so amazed that they just had so many good looking women up there that they might want to just kind of touch 'em a little bit to see if they were really real. I think that's what it was. Caesar's was a great place TO WORK. At the time it was much smaller than it is now. They had no objections to you standing around posing. Now, I don't know what it is, they want you to work but at that time you could just lean up against one of them lamps and you could just pose. Naturally you had to do your work but you were posing there all day long and people just sat there and watched you . You were just like a statue. They could walk around and look at you and that was it. And I'm saying, when they opened up, it was just like a chorus line. They had beautiful, very attractive, young women. And you couldn't tell whether a woman was good-looking or not because you all had on the same uniform and you all wore the same headpiece. So you were just one total look. That's what they're tryin' to do. I don't think they'll ever be able to re-create what Caesar's did. They may try to do it, but I don't think so. That look is still there and I think it is still one of the classiest places in town. The Mirage [Hotel & Casino] and all these are nice places but I don't think there's anybody that could ever top them. They were innovators. Tell me the difference between when you got your first job on the Strip and those hotel were more family owned, and later on when they became corporate owned. Did you see a difference between the two styles of ownership? Well, Caesar's was a corporate-owned place. But I think the difference between then and the ones now, these guys, the owners were visible. You could see them all the time. They weren't hiding from anybody. Zarowitz, or Ash Resnick - I told you I would meet him again — he was there. Rene Goldberg, there was a legend that he took a nickel and became a millionaire. Now that's a little story. These people were downstairs all the time. They were owners and they would come down and sit around. But now, you don't know an owner. You have people in these offices somewhere, wherever they are, and they never really come down. They're making decisions and 1 don't think they have "hands-on" what's really going on down there. I don't think so. They might. It's like baking a cake. You know you can read how to bake a cake and that's fine. But you can do it ingredient, ingredient, ingredient, and it's supposed to come out right. But there are some people who don't even know these books, they can just put it together and [snaps her fingers], just right on top of it. That's right. That's the difference between me and my mother. I really appreciate that answer. You talked about racism here. Did you ever feel that it hindered your opportunities? Well, I would think in some cases, yeah. Why did you stop dancing? Well I came back to get married. That was one thing. Sometimes I think now that I should have probably continued. I don't know what my life would have been like. I mean I can't really say because I can't go back. I think I should have [done] what I had to do and continued. The thing that I really liked is the theater. I really, really liked that. I mean I'm a big buff. I've seen shows and known these things that you could never 3 4 think of. So I think probably I should have stayed with that. But then I would have been in New York City and I wouldn't have known all the things that I know now in Nevada. Do you think that if there had not been those racial barriers, you would have continued to be a dancer and danced on the Strip? Oh. yeah. Sure. I could never have got an audition to work in a show here. Never, never. You couldn't do that. So in order to have continued the career that you loved, you couldn't have lived here with your husband. No. I couldn't do that. I could only do that if I had lived in New York City. I don't know what L.A. was like — I've never even been to L.A. — but possibly what that market was down there. And in New York the only thing I really had going for me was the audition for that one Broadway show. It was just that one Broadway show. And it was with Lena Home and Diahann Carroll or Pearl Bailey. Tell me the name of the place in Caesar's where you worked as a cocktail waitress. I worked in Nero's Nook. That was the name of the lounge, Nero's Nook. When you worked with white women in the same positions, let's say when you first became a cocktail waitress, did you earn the same amount of money? Oh, yeah. The cocktail waitress is a union job, [meaning] x-amount of dollars per shift. It wasn't very high, but they're making pretty good money now per shift, but at that time it wasn't that much. But making money is up to you. It's an individual [thing]. If you get your drinks out, it's a one-on-one relationship with you and the customer. If the customer likes you, then you are going to make more than the next girl if you know how 3 5 to handle it. I knew how to handle people because I had been in show business. That's how come I get along so good now because I know how to deal with people. I like that. That's me. I can be around people. I just love it. And you don't think there was anything different, let's say in the beginning, at Caesar's? There wasn't any difference in the tips that you earned and the white girls earned? Oh, no. Heck no. Not with me because they used to have a little saying when I went around there, "How much do you think D.D. made tonight? If she made it we can all make it." You know I could make it just standing there. Really, I could make it just standing there. D.D., tell me how you looked in that uniform when you first went to Caesar's. I looked pretty good, I think, [laughter] You can see in one of them pictures, I was hot. Great. You know D.D., I have covered most of the questions that I had. Do you remember anything about what the NAACP was working on in the early 1970s? The local NAACP was working really hard to get blacks into management and they passed something called a "consent decree." Did you ever heap anything about that? The only reason I know [anything] about that is from what Sarann [Preddy] bases all this, whatever it was, in the Moulin Rouge. I really didn't know anything about that. I do know that when they threatened to march here, or have sitdowns or something one night, it was all over in a moment. I think Bob Bailey would probably know more about that. Or Dr. McMillan would know about it. In fact, Dr. McMillan is probably one of the people that helped me get my floor job. Without him I probably couldn't. At that time he was the President of the NAACP and he came to my aid. See I can remember people. 3 6 and I've got to give him credit, he came to my aid because I was having a very difficult time getting a floor job. There was someone that said that I couldn't learn it, or I didn't know enough and they gave me a temporary [position] for couple of weeks. And then they said, "No, she can't do that." Which hotel was that? This was the Tropicana. They said I couldn't do it and I had to go to a meeting with the Equal Rights Commission and go through all this. Because they had given some white lady a job and it was a long, drawn-out thing. Anyway, I got Dr. McMillan to come out there and he spoke to them, and they found that I could. They had never given me an opportunity to do it, see. After they got pressed into the thing, where they had to, then they gave me the job. And I've had the job ever since. Is Dr. McMillan still alive? Oh, absolutely. He just retired from the School Board. Oh. he didn't retire from it, he's just retiring from being a dentist and he just got defeated in his School Board [election], D.D., I'm ready to start looking at some of these beautiful pictures. Thank you so much. j This is March 21, 1997 and I'm with D. D. Cotton in her home, doing our second interview together. D. D., the last time I was here I didn't ask anything about your family. Tell me a little bit about your husband. My husband was born in Yuma, Arizona. He was reared here [in Las Vegas]. I think he came here when he was about twelve, when his mother got married again. She married a gentleman that owned the Cotton Club here in Las Vegas, Nevada. I do believe he might have been one of the first licensed, black club owners here in the city and it's in the 3 7 Westside area. Do you remember his name? His name was James Calvert. I guess they were married during the 1940s but I'm not too sure about his part of the history. Anyway, he was raised here when it was just a small town [with] one high school, and I think two elementary schools. So you see, they've come a long way. I've seen pictures of the Cotton Club where they had horses outside. There weren't any streets and they were tied, just like in the old days, [to], I guess you'd call that a hitchin' post. They were just tied to the hitchin' post and there weren't any sidewalks, no streets. I guess it was just kind of a desert road out there. Are you saying that his family was here at a time when people were riding around on horses? Yeah. They had cars here, but they still had horses. If I'm not mistaken, his stepfather owned a horse or two. People still had horses. Where I live right now, you can have a horse. It wasn't that people didn't have cars, it's just that there was a lot of vacant land around and people still had horses in their back yard. Maybe not like a lot, but one's too many. I guess that's about it. He went to school here and he went to the Army and came back. When I came here, his family had the gambling [concession] in a place called the Town Tavern and the guy that owned the club was a guy named Earl Turman. Earl Turman [was] a great guy. He was like an impresario because as I remember him, he would just get everybody to get up and sing and dance. When I came to town, after the show we used to go in there and that's how I met my husband. They had the gambling in there and I met my husband because he was watching his stepfather's money. That's what he was doing. What is your husband's name? 3 8 His name is Elmer. So was it love at first sight? I guess so because he might have been the youngest thing around here at the time and I was young. So I guess it was. We were both young and it seemed like everybody else was kind of old. I don't know why, but everybody else was kind of old. I guess he probably was the youngest guy that was in the gambling business in the area, because it was in a black area. As you know from talking to me before, blacks could not stay on the Strip and I worked on the Strip but I lived on the Westside. In fact I lived in his stepfather's and his mother's apartments. That was one thing. Try to get with the landlord's son. I think that was probably a good deal. But [because of] this guy Earl Turman, when we got off of work we used to come over to Town Tavern and we would really, really have a good time. There must have been close to fifty people in this cast. So we were all young at that time — very attractive, young, black women. [We had] good figures and we danced and all the local people would come just to hang out with us. Just to kind of hang out and be out because we were out. They sang and they danced in this place. After the show was over and I came back to live, it wasn't the same way anymore. This was 1957. It was in 1957. So you came back and you married your husband. Right. I came back in July. How long were you married before you had your son? 3 9 Three years I guess. My son was born in 1960. Your son was your only child. Is that right? That was my only child. And what is his name? His name was Eric J. Cotton. The love of my life, you know, my buddy. He passed, let's see this is 1997, it would be last November. November the 27, 1996. He was thirty-six when he died. He just had a massive heart attack. Thanks for that family information. You started to say a few minutes ago, something about your reaction to the segregation in the town that you could really feel when you came back the second time to get married. We talked about that before, but could you recount some of that information for me? When I came back to get married I didn't have my girlfriends, my dancing partners anymore. I was just sort of alone here so I had to make new acquaintances and they told me, "you know you can't go downtown." Fremont Street was there and on the Westside we had only two places — the Town Tavern and the Louisiana Club. So you could only kind of walk back and forth across the street. So one day I got bored with what was going on, and I went downtown to the Golden Nugget. I thought I looked very nice. In fact, I actually — I did look nice, come to think about it - I had a really nice black and white herringbone suit, I had my heels on, my hair fixed, and my makeup on. [I looked] pretty sharp I thought at the time and I just sauntered on into the Golden Nugget. I looked around and they probably didn't notice me at first, and I sat down and I played Keno. Well I didn't move around. I put my Keno tickets in and I didn't move around. I sat down and nobody said anything. So I said, "Well, I'm brave now, so I'll do 4 0 something else." I got up and I went to the crap table and I laid a bet on the crap table, and a security guard came up to me and said, "Well, I'm sorry, we don't let colored in here." I turned around and said to him, "No habla espanol," and walked out the door. So that was my first encounter with segregation. Well not my first encounter, the one in Nevada. Because prior to that I had never even attempted, as a dancer, to go downtown. When we first came here with the show, we went to the Tropicana for Eddie Fisher's birthday and Debbie Reynolds had invited the whole cast. As a matter of fact, she had invited every show on the Strip. So we went to that as a total performing group, the whole show. As long as we were in this party, there was nothing said but Cab Calloway, who was our star, he was like me, adventurous. And as everybody remembers, he's rather fair, and he went out and started shooting dice, or whatever you did out there. They eventually asked him to leave too. I guess maybe that was a first but I never thought about it until I came back and found out that you really couldn't go in these hotels. So it was okay for you to be in the hotel-side that night with the party. Oh, yes, [at] the party. But not to go in the casino. Not to gamble, no In fact, when we worked in a show, we weren't allowed to go out into the casino at all. You had to eat your meals when they set it up for you in the back of that showroom. And then when you got off of work, you went on to wherever you lived. Tell me about your friend who owned the dance theater. My girlfriend owns the Philadanco Dance Company in Philadelphia. [She] is the director, owner, and my dear friend, and is a lady named Joan Brown Myers. She 4 1 owned this particular dance school which is on the same level as Alvin Ailey or the Dance Theater of Harlem. It [has been] on that level for thirty years now. She gets probably one of the largest grants they have, art grants for the school. In fact I think the way it is set up, she has her own live-in choreographers and it's like a school-theater-type thing and her dance company lives there. It's really quite interesting that she's done this. She and I used to dance [together]. This is my partner, my dance buddy, when we would dance together at the Cotton Club. And we remained friends all these years. I want to get a little chronology of the jobs that you had in Las Vegas. When you came back, you got married, what was your first job. Lookin' at the desert, [laughter] I would imagine my first job when I came back, I learned how to write Keno. My father-in-law still had the business in the Town Tavern and the Chinese people owned the Keno game in there. They didn't have the craps and the "21" but they owned the Keno game. They showed me how to write Keno. And that's when you [used] brushes and ink. Now they have computer-type things where they don't do that. But before they used to mark this stuff with a crayon and a paper, like you do now. And when you turned that into the Keno board, then the Keno writers would write the numbers again, for you, with a brush and ink — like a little paint brush. Then you would paint it on the paper. You turned that in and they would stamp it or whatever they did to it. Like now, you see the balls being pushed up by air. At that time they churned the balls and brought them out one by one. I did learn how to do that and I survived doing that. This is really ironic. The guy that taught me — I can't think of his last name now, but his first name was Tex--he was white. I guess he was like the Keno boss of all Keno bosses. He knew a lot about this game. But he was married to a black woman that looked fair and she was a food waitress in the Sands Hotel. She worked in the showroom in the Sands Hotel. I don't think that they knew that she was black, but 4 2 everybody in the black neighborhood knew that she was black and they didn't even stay on the Westside. They stayed somewhere else. But that was her husband and the strangest thing about that is when if you knew entertainers that were working in the Sands Hotel, you could get them to let you in to see a show. Sands was one of the first places which let you in. I knew Sparky that worked for Nat Cole. My girlfriend Shirley worked for Sammy [Davis] and so we could go see blacks that knew these people. I can't think of this lady's name, but the other waitresses would say, "Well, we don't want to wait on the blacks when they come." And she'd say, "That's all right. I'll do it." And she would get all of them to sit in her station. The people that really knew her, knew that she was Tex's wife, they didn't care. She made a lot of money. How did you feel, going in to see a show like that, knowing that the average black person here on the Westside could not do that? Well. I guess maybe I really didn't think of it at the time. I didn't. It was sort of like an honor because you could. You could see these things and then you could come back and tell the other people that couldn't go. And then at times, maybe people that I became affiliated with in this town, I never even took anybody there with me. Maybe with the exception of a lady called Catherine Joseph, I might have taken her. In fact, my husband probably never went with me too much. He would go sometimes with me. Usually you would go by yourself? Because I knew everybody there, and you would be backstage, with Sammy [Davis]. I would be backstage most of the night anyway. If I went to see Nat or Lena Home, maybe I would sit up front. My husband would go then. But when Sammy and them were here, they were here for maybe two or three weeks, I would be there almost every night and my husband couldn't go with me every night. I liked just hanging out with my girlfriends. That was during the "rat pack" era, so that you got to meet Peter Lawford and you got to meet Dean Martin and Sinatra and Joey Bishop, and they would all be back there. And they're right about it. It was one real big party. At which location on the Westside did you write Keno? It was the Town Tavern, the same Town Tavern that I met my husband in. Does your husband's family still have any gambling interests on the Westside? No. They don't. After that, that was the end of that era. After being a Keno writer at the Town Tavern, do you remember the next job after that one? Well. I guess I worked there and then I went across the street. They had another club, the Louisiana, and I worked the Louisiana Club. I worked there. What did you do? The same thing, Keno writer. I did that. Now that's a strange incident. To show you what they do at gambling places, which is strange. One day I was standing — I'm telling you these little stories as I remember it. One night I was writing Keno and some guy had been playing "21", and all of a sudden he fell off his chair. He fell off his chair and nobody really said anything and nobody did anything and come to find out, the man had expired right then. So they got the medics and what-have-you, but in the meantime the guy left his money on the table and somebody just slid right into his seat and gambled his money off, and the man was laying dead on the floor, [laughter] I'm saying, they have some strange things happen. I've seen some strange things here. Were most of the customers in both the Town Tavern and Louisiana Club black? 4 4 Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It was two black clubs. Since you couldn't go anywhere else, this is where all the gambling was. They had a few white customers in there and then they had Chinese that would come in there. I can't think of the Chinese gentleman that owned it. Were there ever any Chinese customers? Oh, yeah. They had some Chinese customers. Not as predominant as the black customers because they didn't live in the neighborhood. They had the Louisiana Club and they had the Town Tavern in which they had the Keno but not the other gambling. There was a place further in the desert. I can't think of the name of it. So there were three and the Chinese owned two of them. They owned the Louisiana Club, and El Rio. El Rio was the name of it. That was further out. If you know anything about the way it is now, it would be across Washington going towards North Las Vegas on H Street.8 It was way out compared to what was going on. Hardly [anybody would] go out there. The lady that owned the buildings for these gambling houses was black. She owned the Louisiana Club and she owned the El Rio--the buildings--so she leased the buildings to the Chinese guys. And that was kind of like a weird thing, too. My husband tells me all these things, you know, and I try to remember. It seems that she had been married to some white guy that had a nice piece of money. They built these clubs and they rented them out. Thank you for that. Now give me your next change of jobs after writing Keno. So then after that, I went into cocktails. How long were you a Keno writer? 8The VFW Post located at 1905 North H is in the location once occupied by the El Rio. 4 5 Oh, I don't know. It wasn't very long, maybe. It had something to do with the city law.9 They made all the women stop doing anything in the gambling industry and that included the Westside. They didn't have that many women working but they had a few ladies dealing blackjack on the Westside. The lady I mentioned earlier, Catherine Joseph who has been here forever, I think she's now the director for the EOB in school. Another lady that owns a store here, they were all dealers. Even Sarann [Preddy] Knight, the lady that owned the Moulin Rouge, she was a dealer. They all worked on the Westside. But something happened during that time period. They changed the law and women weren't allowed to deal anymore. That means deal cards, write Keno or anything. That's what happened. That's why I stopped doing that. I just can't remember the date but it had to be maybe 1959. Then I went to working as a cocktail waitress. Bob Bailey had a place here in town and I worked for him for awhile. And then I went to the El Morocco to work. The Carver House opened up right after, and I had Eric. I went over to the Carver [House], and I went in that show. So now after being a cocktail waitress for awhile, then you went back to dancing? Right. Because they opened the show in the Carver House. They built this small hotel and they had this revue [with] the Treniers. They had a small line and Billy Ward and his Dominoes worked in [the revue]. It didn't last too long but they had [a line] of girls. It was going to be a big thing, but the line wasn't that big. I think there was only about six girls in there, because the stage wasn't that big. Then after that went down, I went back to the El Morocco because that was the only place you could work around in this area. 1 went back to the El Morocco and I worked in the change booth. Then I went back to the Carver House, because they took the shows out and a cocktail lounge was all he had in there. He did have somebody that was singing. It was a good job because whites 9Reference to 1958 Las Vegas City Council Resolution against the hiring of women dealers. 4 6 still wanted to mix in the black neighborhood and it was a nice spot. They didn't keep the shows open or the gambling but they took the area where the gambling had been and they put tables out there. They had a bar in there and it was a nice place to go to have a drink. Why did they take gambling out of the Carver House? I don't know. They claimed at the time that people stole the money or they weren't making enough money to bankroll the gambling. Another guy took it over, rented it out, and I imagine he leased where the gambling was and a cocktail lounge because there was a bar in there. I worked for him for awhile. Then I believe I went to work for Reuben's, [owned by] Reuben Book. He's been here a long time. I think he was bom here. He had a nice place called Reuben's. And from what I can understand he had been one of the first bartenders to work a bar on the Strip. I think he worked the El Rancho Vegas [Hotel & Casino], Now whether he worked the front bar I don't know, or worked the service bar, I don't know that. But I do know that he was one of the first [black] bartenders that worked on the Strip. That was way before I got here. He was like the premier bartender on the Westside. I guess he knew how to make all the drinks. He opened up his own place and I went to work for him. That's how I met the guy, Harry Brown, and that's how I got the job in Caesar's. When Reuben opened [Reuben's] he sort of brought the life back to the Westside. There was a lot of mixture of black and white again because it was a piano bar and they served a little food in there. It was like an after-hours spot. After everybody did everything on the Strip, this was where they came to hang out. At that time the Strip was wide open and downtown, integration had set in. You could go to other places and when you got through doing all that, then you'd want to just sort of hang out with youself, I guess. So they would just congregate in Reuben's and Reuben's would just be the place to be. 4 7 So, what I've heard is that business on the Westside dropped off drastically when blacks were allowed on the Strip. Oh, yeah. I would think so. It went down. Once everybody could go downtown to eat and gamble and stuff, business just sort of fell off on the Westside. It just wasn't the same anymore. You didn't have to be over here if you didn't want to be over here. Not that there was anything wrong with it, it's just maybe it was just a different atmosphere or different environment. Another thing, I think the stakes were higher. Like over here, maybe the Keno limit at time over here was only five thousand dollars, and maybe downtown it was fifty thousand dollars. So why should you play the same amount of money just to win five thousand, when you could win fifty thousand. So that had something to do with it, the limits were higher. I don't remember [about] the "21" but I don't think you could bet but maybe five hundred dollars and downtown you could bet five hundred or a thousand or whatever it was. So if people had the money and they were gamblers that's what they wanted to do. You don't want to do the same thing if you can go somewhere else and make more money. Was Reuben's the exception to the rule? Reuben's was an exception because Reuben's didn't have gambling at all. Reuben's was just a bar. Reuben's was a nightclub. It was not a gambling [house]. No live entertainment? Yeah, they did. They had a piano bar. They had a guy that played piano and when they first opened they did have a guy that played piano. Eventually he took it out and they just had the jukebox. But still, even with the jukebox, it was just a nice place to hang out. The El Rio [had] a pretty nice bar if you wanted to go in there and drink. But this was just a bar, bar. Like today, you have dozens of what they call sports bars, like the End 4 8 Zone. But at that time you only had maybe one good neighborhood bar, and that was Reuben's. It was a late night bar and I don't know about people hanging out there in the daytime too much. After two o'clock [a.m.], it was like New Year's Eve in there. So which shift did you work at Reuben's? I worked the swing shift in there. I guess it was, maybe, six [p.m.] to two [a.m.] or eight to four, something like that. Where did you go after Reuben's? After I left Reuben's, this was when they decided they wanted to really integrate the town. The town was integrated but now they're going to put everybody to work. I had joined the [Culinary] union and the man that was the head of the union was a guy named A1 Bramlet. And they were considering sending black people out to get jobs in white hotels. I went to them and they were going to use me like a little puppet there. I went to every place in town. One of the first places I went to was the Castaways. There was a guy named Pappas that was a bar manager up in there. They looked you over and they talked to you and then they would finally tell you, "I'm sorry. We just can't hire you." So I would just [say], "Ok. That's fine," and I'd go again.10 Can you tell me why they selected you to do this? Well, I don't really even know. There was a lady here named Sarah Hughes and she was a business agent for the union. She knew me and I knew her and she had seen me work before and they sort of just pushed me. I guess she thought maybe because I could deal with most people. I could pass an interview. An interview was not that hard to do if you're going to taik to somebody, and just sell yourself. I think I could sell myself. So 10End side 1, tape 3. 4 9 that's what I did. That's why she just kept pushing me in and A1 Bramlet went along with it. I went every time they [wanted] somebody to go out there again. A lot to no avail. I had met the bar manager that was at the FJ Cortez, Harry Brown, and I went back to the El Cortez and I still couldn't do anything. He always told me, "Well, D.D. don't worry. If I get something, I'll take you with me." Bramlet and Sara sent me down one afternoon, and they were very confident about this particular thing. So I went and I met a man named Van Satten, and he says, "Are you going to be all right?" And I said, "Yes I am." And he says, "Well, I'm going to give you a job." Where was this? The name of the club was the Nevada Club. The gentleman that owned it at the time was named Van Satten. So he looked me over and he said, "You're gonna go to work." He says, "Are you prepared to do it?" I said, "Yes." And he says, "Well, you have to wear a little--," He showed me a little outfit that was like leotards with a little red "tutu" skirt or something like that, which was fine with me. I'd been a dancer. So I could deal with all of that. I went to work and I guess I thought I was still looking good. I'm always thinking I'm looking good. I got in there and I served drinks. They showed me what to do and I worked the slot machines. For some reason the front of this place was kind of open and the slot machines were more to the front of the establishment. If I can remember right, I think they only had one crap table, and they had six or eight "21" tables. Not a lot of them. That was the pit. And they had a long bar. If I can recall, I think you could get a drink in there for fifty cents. Nothing big in tokes. Slot machine players, they leave you a quarter, maybe fifty cents. If you continue to do this, these nickels and quarters and dimes added up at the end of the night. So you could make a fairly good living. Something happened where I would get a chance to work the pit and they didn't want me to work the pit. The girls said, "Well, she ought not be working 5 0 there." And [Phil] said, "She has as much right to work here as anybody else and I don't want you doing anything. She's working." So I worked the pit. The pit wasn't that bad for a little pit like that. You could make a little money. After a while you get to know the customers. If you worked the pit, players would make a bet for you. So if they made a fifty-cent bet for you and you won the bet, then you would get a dollar. There were some people that would bet a dollar for you and you'd have two dollars. So you could make another nice little living there. Couldn't do that on the slot machines but you could do it in the pit. There were people that would come down and I've been called "black bitch" and I've been called "nigger," and you just had to override it. And that's what I did. I never broke down. I never said anything back to 'em, or anything like that. I just did what I had to do. Eventually Richard Walker came down there and he became the first crap dealer that worked downtown. So at the time, Richard Walker and I were the only two [black] people that were working in a white establishment, anywhere in town. There was none other. People would just come and look at us like we were like "space people." White dealers would come from all over the Fremont [Street] area to watch Richard deal craps. And he could deal 'em. Everyone of those Walkers could deal. Then there would be cocktail waitresses and they would come and they'd look at me and they would look at him and they would just shake their heads and walk out the door. I would say this man Van Satton started something. Eventually within three to four months, every place on Fremont Street had at least a black dealer. The cocktail waitresses were maybe a little slower to get in there, but they at least had a black dealer. If I'm not mistaken, I would say that the Fremont [Hotel] was the second one that hired one, and it was Richard's brother James that went to work in the Fremont. So at one time it was just me, James, and Richard working down there. All of us left whenever Caesar's [Palace] opened up. That must have been 1965 or 1966 whenever Caesar's opened. Richard's wife, Peggy and I went to Caesar's, and I think James went to the Riviera, and 5 1 Richard went to the Stardust. So then we were like the only ones out that way for a moment then everybody eventually got a black cocktail waitress, a black crap dealer, a black "21." You could see how it mounted as far as blacks getting up, getting jobs. That's kind of how it started. After that it just kind of picked up momentum. It still seems like now so many years later, it doesn't seem like we're holding on to that. Whatever we did at first, we're not holding on to it. We're still holding on. But younger men and women, I don't see that many out there anymore and I don't know why. It's a shame that you go to a place like the Horseshoe or you go to — even Steve Wynn, who is supposed to be a great person, and there's not that many black people working in any of these joints anymore. [At] the Monte Carlo [Hotel & Casino] I noticed they had quite a few beautiful, black women that worked the desk and they do have cocktail waitresses that walk around, and dealers and stuff like that. It's just a sad thing, you know. I've been in the Aladdin in the last couple of years now, and I don't see that many black people working in there. The MGM [Grand Hotel], which is a huge hotel, percentage-wise they should have more blacks working in there and they don't. They don't. None of 'em do. I work at the Trop [Tropicana Hotel] and it's small. Cocktail-wise we have quite a few ladies and we're probably up to where we're supposed to be because it's a small hotel. It's not as large as these other places. I'm basically concerned about these beautiful, young black women that don't work, don't have these jobs. I know that they're out there. I feel they should be out there carrying a tray, if that's what they want to do, and making them some money to keep their standard of living up. I don't know why they're not there. When you left the Nevada Club, before you went to Caesar's Palace, was there another job in between there? No. I left the Nevada Club and went right to [Caesar's]. I passed the audition. It was like 9, 1966 LAS VEGAS IS DEE DEE TOKENISM ? "A Man Does What He Has To" - So says every Western Hero - Also says ERC Chairman, Bob Bailey who delivered ultimatum to Caesar's Palace to comply with Nevada Equal Opportunity Employment regulations... Pretty and efficient as they may be, lovely Dee Dee Lynn (shown i above) and co-worker, Peggy Walker, are simply \ not sufficient - numerically, that is. D.D. Cotton became the first black cocktail waitress on the Las Vegas Strip, at Caesar's Palace in 1966. 5 2 you were really going to do an audition for a theater or something like that, because you had some girls there to try to get this job. They were coming from every nook and cranny to try and get these jobs. I mean it was like as they say in show business, it was a "cattle call." Even though they picked up, you had to go to the union. Caesar's has always been a union job. I mean they are very good about promoting and doing things like that. I will always admire Caesar's because they're really right on top of this. Harry Brown, and I believe Billy Weinger, were there and they sort of picked you right then at the union hall. You'd go up and say your name. You wore high heels and you wore stockings and I'm trying to think if you wore shorts, but I don't think you did. Not at that one. But you had to look nice. You had to have your hair fixed, you had to have your make-up on. Then after they picked you from that, they called you back and they had rented a suite or something in the Dunes Hotel. They had that costume that they have right now and every girl that came that far had to try that costume on. Then you had to go back in front of Dave Dickerson, the Entertainment Director, and some others. They reviewed you again, in the costume, how you walked, how you talked, how you accepted questions. It was really an interview. It was just you and them. They picked you from how you looked in that costume and how you spoke to them and how you answered their questions. Even though I knew Harry Brown, his was not the last say, because these other gentlemen were involved in it. Knowing him got me that far but then you had to sell yourself to these guys to get the job. Peggy Walker and I were the first two blacks, and we had that job. When they were down to their quota, or the girls that they needed, I don't think it was over thirty girls involved in it. I mean this was a deep cut. Well. I tell you what, I'll make it more. I'll make fifty. There may have been a hundred and fifty or two hundred women that went out to get this job. So after you got the job, they sent you to a modeling school. Caesar's is a first class hotel. They sent you to a modeling school. If I'm not mistaken, it was Lynn's Modeling School, that's probably the oldest one here. 5 3 You had to go to these classes and they had to put your makeup on to go with their outfit they had — the Grecian mode. And they wanted a little gold on your eyes and when they first came out, you wore a little gold leaf under your left eye. I don't know how many girls remember this, but this is what you did. You wore your little comb thing, you'd push your hair back up under that. You wore your comb and you wore a little gold leaf. Eventually they had to take the little gold leaf off because it just kept falling off. It just wouldn't stay up there, even though you used like a little spirit gum. During the course of the night, the little gold leaf [came off]. So I guess that was just a waste of money, but they took that off. Who purchased the makeup, since it sounds like it was unusual? No. You had your own makeup but they just showed you how to apply it. They wanted a certain little shadow look, and they just showed you how to apply it. They just groomed you and made sure that you knew how to walk. I think it took about a week to do this. I'm sure they paid Lynn's to do it. Opening night you just did what you had to do. I got to admit, opening night in Caesar's was really exciting. I worked the lounge, so that was busy, and if I'm not mistaken, the Ritz Brothers opened it up. I had never seen it but they were good and the audience liked them. The lounge was called Nero's Nook. There was just so much going on and you were making money so fast, I couldn't even believe it myself. I lost five dollars in the garbage can and I didn't even look for it. A five-dollar [chip] from the one of the table games. I lost one of those in the garbage can and I didn't even look for it. Another thing, they opened up with black bartenders in Caesar's. When they opened up, the bar department was fully integrated. There may not have been a lot of us and we weren't a lot strong, but we were there. Do you remember how much you earned that first night? 5 4 To tell you the truth, I do. Over a hundred and something dollars I earned that first night. The last night I had worked downtown [Nevada Club] I thought I had made a lot of money, I had made sixty-something dollars. The first night I worked at Caesar's, I had made over a hundred dollars. It sounds like you loved Caesar's Palace. I still [do], I love this hotel. It's a nice hotel and these people were very nice to work with. [I] got to meet a great many people that, in a lifetime I would never meet that many people. You really just wouldn't meet that many people, and people of importance. The bosses that were there, Zarowitz and another guy, were really great. Just really nice bosses. They were nice to the girls and you know when you get a group of people who will speak up for you, and they're not ashamed of you--they want you to be the best that you can be and they're behind you one hundred percent — then you have to go along with the company that you work for. I know one incident I had in the Galleria Bar when I was working over there one night. I was waiting on two [guys], and some guy said, "Nigger, we don't have to do this." And I said, "Look, I don't even have to serve you." And they were sitting right above me, these people, and when they came out with this word, these gentlemen who were the owners of the place got so unglued. They gave a signal and got a security and had these people put out. So I have to go along with them. They had that much class, and they try to keep anything like that down. Like I said, there was nobody in there working but me and Peggy. I worked basically at night, and when you worked the Galleria, you were really on your own. You were one on one, you and the patrons. They just didn't go for that. What is the Galleria area like? It's called the Galleria Bar and at that time it was right next to the baccarat pit. Which 5 5 they have moved some of this stuff around, now. It's the bar that's in the casino. The lounge was called Nero's Nook and they don't have that lounge anymore. That's just completely gone. They have a lot of what they call lounges in there, but not that one When I got promoted, or whatever you want to call it, I got to work over in the Galleria. You got out of the lounge and worked the Galleria. That's where a lot of the money was because over there you got to work and serve all the entertainers that would come in. I don't know how many of these guys I waited on. I had such a good deal in a way. People are always trying to jam you a little bit. I had a late shift. You'd be standing around but eventually some of the bosses would come in and you'd make what you thought you was going to make. You'd make some money. But since I had this late shift, they thought Sinatra was coming in. I had met [Sinatra] through Sammy [Davis] and I already knew him. He would do his shows and he would go other places, and he would come back and sit in that Galleria Lounge. Well, when he came back and sat in the Galleria Lounge, he would have other people with him. So they didn't really have a cocktail waitress that stayed up in there. They had the girls from the pit and they would do that, but they wanted somebody that would really wait on him. In some kind of way, I got this job. So this was great. Nobody else wanted to wait there because [they thought], "Sinatra's not gonna come back, he's gonna be gone all night, and when he does, he's gonna go to bed." So I said, "I'll take a shot with him." And lucky for me, most of the time he worked there, he would come back and he would stay down about an hour or two, telling their little [stories]. Well, they were friends and I'd get a chance to wait on the party and I'd make a few bucks. So then I guess they thought that I was making too much money. I guess they thought I was ripping them off real good. So they say, "Well, we're going to start rotating that shift." And they started rotating it, and I didn't have it like that any more. Do you remember waiting on that party, what the tips were like? 5 6 Yeah. I don't want to discuss that. I can tell you they have great tippers and they have tippers that aren't so great. I could name you some great tippers, we'll just put it that way. Mr. Sinatra is a great tipper. One of the great tippers was David Jenson. I remember waiting on him one night in Nero's Nook and he is a class act. He would say, "Hello, my name is David Jenson. What's yours?" And I told him my name, and boom, he gave me a five-dollar [tip]. Hadn't even got to the drink. Then it just escalated from there. That was great. Waiting on Elvis Presley was the same way. His party would start off with maybe one or two, and the larger the party got, the bigger the tips got. So that was great. He was a great guy to wait on. So you would want people like that, you know, to wait on. Andy Williams would not be one of the greatest tippers in the world. Gomer Pyle would not be one of the greatest tippers in the world. Liberace was in the good class. Tony Martin was in the good class. I remember waiting on him and he was one of the top tippers of the world. If I happened to wait on [Sammy Davis], that was automatic because I knew them. I knew everybody anyway. Was it difficult at this time to combine your family life and the work life, because you 're working at night? How did you resolve that and who babysat for you? Oh, my mother-in-law babysat for me. No, it wasn't hard doing that. I was able to do that. Well, it's good when you have somebody right in the family. Right. I had my mother-in-law and she'd baby-sit for me. I didn't have a bad time with that at all. When you first came back, you were living in a piece of property owned by your husband's family. Where did you and your husband live once you got married? 5 7 I tell you nobody's ever going to believe all this. If I tell you this, people will think I'm crazy. We didn't have any money, and so when I first got married, [my husband] had a cousin by marriage that had a property and we stayed in his apartment for a month or two. This gentleman's name is Caperton. He was my father-in-law's, sister's child. So we stayed in his apartment for awhile. Then we couldn't really pay the rent so we left and we moved back into his mother's house. His had added an addition to her house for her son and when he was in the service, she had added an addition to her house, which consisted of his bedroom, a living room, and a bath. You went to another door to get into the main house so you could be by yourself. So we stayed there a little while, and then I had to use her kitchen and that's not gonna work. So I had a little job and we got a little one-bedroom apartment. I never will forget it. It was a little bigger than this kitchen.11 So you just had the bed in there and the stove and the bathroom, a small place. A studio I guess you'd call it. Then one night we were talking about taking our clothes to a laundry-mat up on Jackson [Street], I got in [my mother-in-law's] car and we took the laundry. I remember because it was just before Christmas and I think this is the first Christmas I had ever been away from my mother and I was really getting really depressed with this whole idea. I thought, "Why did I do this to myself?" I don't think my mother-in- law was too pleased with the idea that [her son] married a "loose woman," I guess, a show-business type. My mother-in-law loves me dearly now and I love her dearly, now. But at that time, and he was the only child and I guess she thought that there were people he could have married here in town. Anyway we went to the laundry-mat, and we came out of the laundry-mat and we went to the Town Tavern where he worked, and he played a Keno ticket. I think we only had about five dollars, I'm telling you, this is the honest-to- goodness truth. He played the Keno and he didn't do any good with the Keno ticket, and he walked across the street and put it in again. He won it and it was like five 11The size of Cotton's kitchen is approximately 12 feet by 12 feet. 5 8 thousand dollars. Everything has progressed from that five thousand. I had personally never seen five thousand dollars cash in my life, since I was a young child at the time. I had never seen anything like that. When you said everything came from that five thousand dollars, what do you mean? I mean, any other things that I have acquired in this lifetime came from that five thousand dollars. I would have to go back a little bit. Before I got here, my husband had been involved in a poker game, and something happened where he was playing a guy and the guy didn't have enough money to cover the bet. And my husband said, "Well, you have to do something." And the guy says, "Well, I own a piece of property on H [Street] and Madison [Street]." He says, "I'll go get the deed for it and I'll put that up for it." That's what he did and my husband won the bet. He not only won the bet, he won the piece of property. So when I married my husband, he already has this piece of property. So then when we took the last five dollars and got the five thousand dollars, we built a house on that property. That's what I'm saying. From all of this five dollars, everything came up. People wouldn't even believe anything like this could happen. Where was this house? This house is still in existence. It's at 717 Madison Avenue. I still own it today. How much did the house cost? He already owned the land, and we had the five [thousand dollars] and my husband and another guy built it. It might have taken about six, seven months. We used the whole five thousand to build that house. Then my mother-in-law kicked in about two [thousand dollars] and we finished it and we moved in there. We didn't even have any doors in any of the rooms. We just moved into the house. 5 9 What kind of work does you husband do now? My husband manages property that we own. So you just continued to buy more property after that. That's what happened. That's wonderful. Now we had gotten as far as Caesar's Palace, and this was the dream job. How long were you at Caesar's? Oh, I worked the first four years of its existence. Why did you decide to quit after four years? Well, I just wanted to take a break. We owned some property and nobody knows if economics is going to change on you. And that's what happened. Economics changed on everybody. In other words, whatever I was making just from my property, two people could make that same amount of money and that just wasn't enough to survive. Then you get older and I was still young, and just sort of not doing anything. I started looking around, the same thing I did [when I was] dancing. I started looking at these women and I said, "I don't think I can do this when I'm fifty." That has a great deal to do with. I just wanted to change because I knew I had to work and I knew I had a longer working time. So I changed professions. I went from that to dealing. So after you took off a little time you got into dealing. Well, I wanted to do it and my husband had been a dealer. Then they got the law back where the ladies could deal. That was one thing. They reversed the law, and a lot of these ladies don't remember but if it wasn't for Martin Luther King and his civil-rights thing, all these women that are running around trying to get these jobs, they never would 6 0 have had 'em. That's what made it possible, for every woman in the world to get a job. White people just keep forgetting that. So when they got the equal rights back and they started working, that's when I decided I wanted to be a dealer. If I could be a dealer, I could work until sixty-five. You could stand up, maybe until seventy years old. I'm not seventy yet and I don't want to deal again but I probably could stand up there and do it. That's why I did that. I took time off to learn how to do that. I went out to the Rainbow Club in Henderson and I learned how to deal. How did you find out about the Rainbow Club? Well, it was just something on the grapevine and I went out there. They didn't have any black dealers out there either. So, what the hell. I did everything. I got a lot of nerve. I just went out there and asked the guy and he said, "Yeah, you want to come out and you want to learn how to deal, we'll show you." Now all of a sudden you get a job or you go to do an audition, you haven't dealt with anybody. You don't know what anybody's going to say. You know, somebody might say, "Well give me a hit, no I don't want the hit." "What did you have?" Well you might do anything. The school is not the same thing. Live is much better. So this is what I did, I learned live. So I never was nervous when I went to get another or audition or something. I never was nervous, because I had dealt with these people before. So it wasn't a big deal. So how was it at the Rainbow Club in Henderson? I know Las Vegas had problems with racial prejudice, but what about Henderson ? You know, that's a strange thing. I never did have any problem with them at all. If I'm correct, I was the only black person out there learning how to deal this. And nobody said anything. You know, Henderson — well it's what they call it is cleaned up, but I'm talking about the original Henderson. People there weren't very wealthy or anything, 6 1 they're just regular people and I guess they just thought that I was regular people learning, trying to do a job. Little old ladies would come out and they'd play in the morning time, and you just never had any problem. The people that I worked for, they were kind. There was two partners and they were kind of weird, but they didn't bother me. Eventually I got a job there. They said, "Well, you've learned enough." And I said, "Well look, I've got to have a job. I just can't keep running back out here. This takes me a twenty-minute ride. I have to have a job." So which games did you learn how to deal? I just learned how to deal "21" there. Then I worked there for maybe about a year. My husband and I took a vacation and when I came back, I was at the Silver Nugget. That's when they told me they were looking for a black person to go to the Golden Nugget. They said, "Here's a card. You go down and see a guy named Gene O'Brien." [I] went down there and gave them the card and took an audition at the Golden Nugget. They had black dealers in there, but they didn't have any women. I was the first woman that they hired down there to deal "21." I stayed down there at the Nugget for maybe a year. Did you remember that was the place that you were thrown out of? Yes, I did. I remember that was the place I was thrown out and I said, "This is ironic." [laughter] I had gotten thrown out of the Trop [icana], too. So then I stayed down there for a year and this is when Sammy Davis acquired a partnership in the Tropicana. They were adding this showroom on to it and they would call it the Sammy Davis Theater and Sammy knew a guy there named Sammy Sands. They asked me, "D.D., you want to go out to the Trop? We're going to have the showroom out there, you want to g o " I said, "Yeah, that would be great." So they sent a message to Sammy Sands, and I went out there and took an audition and that was just like history. I've been out there ever since. 6 2 I had to go through the same thing, being called a "nigger" and the "black bitch" and all that stuff. The same thing again. I just swallowed my pride and went on with that because you just have to do it. They had black dealers in there. They had men but they didn't have any women. I was the first black female that they hired in the Tropicana, and I'm still working there. Mow was the Tropicana management at that point? They were all right. You know the Trop's not a bad hotel to work for. It's not like Caesar's so I can't compare the two. At one point when you worked in Caesar's Palace, someone said some derogatory words to you and management had them thrown out. Would that have happened at the Tropicana ? Well, I had it happen to me on a game and I had the guys call me a "nigger," and my floor man, he just didn't jump into that situation. But what I did, I just didn't deal to 'em anymore. After I got off the game, the shift boss came and apologized to me. So they just came to me and they said, "D.D.. we're very sorry about this and we'll try to see that this won't happen again." I just took that. These things had been happening anyway, so what was the big deal. Something else happened on another game. I had a lady call me a "black bitch," and I said, "Well, bitch, I'm the same as you." When I got off the game, the shift boss came to me, and said, "Well, D.D. what have you done now? I said, "Well, she called me a black bitch and I called her a bitch back." And that was the end of that. That was basically, the incidents I've had. But you get people in there that want to harass you because your are black, and I've had some that would go to the pit boss, or something, and say something to 'em. But it's gotten better. These people wouldn't dare do that. But the Trop, they kind of stood up for you. 6 3 Were the losers worse than the winners? You can't say whether they would be winners or losers, you can't say that. You can't say whether they were just winning or losing to do that. People would just want to aggravate you. I've often thought that maybe in that first incident I had with those two guys, they may have sent somebody in there to say something like that to find out if you were able to handle these kind of things. I often wondered about that, because people do things, you know. Tell me what the duties of a floor manager are. The floorman is to supervise the games. You are the person between the dealer and the customer and the hotel. You watch the games, you watch the money, you make sure that there aren't any mistakes on either one's part. If there is, you try to straighten it out. If there is an argument between the dealer and the customer, you definitely have to straighten that out, because you don't want to hurt the customer's feelings. Your main job is really watching those games. Making sure that everything runs smoothly, and watching the money. You're dealing with a lot of money. Sometimes we have games [where] our limit out there is five thousand [dollars]. You can play three hands. Our limit is five thousand so you can play three hands up to fjve thousand. A base bet would be fifteen thousand dollars. So this is not like child's play, you know. This is serious money. How long did you deal at the Tropicana? Next month will be twenty-four years in April. So I think my first eight or nine years, I dealt and then since that time I've been on the floor. Are floormen still part of the Culinary Union? 6 4 No. Dealers and floorpeople are not Culinary. They are not unionized. They have tried in several places to make them union but I don't know if right now there's any hotel where dealers are union. They've got an organization that tries to unionize them but I don't think they've ever got it on, if I'm not mistaken. Maybe the Sahara, the Frontier, tried to have it. And I don't know whether the Sahara got it on or not. The only person that I think would have ever got them unionized would have been A1 Bramlet. His first step was unionizing the change people and now the change people in the hotels are unionized. Anybody that deals with change: change girls, booth cashiers, or floorpeople, whatever it is, they're unionized. That's a union job. But the rest of the casino is not. Floorpeople, dealers, craps, "21," or any other games. Give me a day in the life of a floorman. Give me what happened on your job y
D. D. Cotton started dancing at four or five years of age. She grew up in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem, a section that was home to the black middle class of the time. Railroad porters lived next door to entertainers in an upscale, tree-lined neighborhood. Raised by her mother who worked as a housekeeper, D. D. attended New York City public schools. D. D. Cotton became the first black cocktail waitress downtown on the Strip, and one of the first African American dealers. She did this at a time when relations between blacks and whites were strained in Las Vegas. She was a trailblazer and speaks of her responsibility to take path-breaking positions seriously so that other blacks might follow and build upon the progress. She tolerated racial slurs hurled at her as the price of breaking open new jobs. Currently D. D. is a floorperson on the Las Vegas Strip, where it is her job to insure that fairness prevails in the table games at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino. This is a management position in which few black women are seen, even today. Cotton learned to dance from one of New York's best, Katherine Dunham. She spent her high school years totally absorbed in dance. In addition to her lessons, she worked in clubs dancing as part of a team and in a chorus line. Among her jobs was an engagement at the Apollo Theater. D. D. soon had an opportunity to travel with a production show entitled "The Cotton Club" that featured Cab Calloway. From Miami to Las Vegas, the entire production company of fifty arrived in Las Vegas in 1957 to play at the Royal Nevada Hotel. "It was at that point," D. D. said, "my life really begins." She recounts the trials of working under de facto segregation in Las Vegas (and other metropolitan cities) as well as the long-lasting friendships with other entertainers. She met her husband Elmer and quit show business, only to be thrust into the even more exciting gaming industry.
- Cotton, Ethel Dolores "D.D, White, Claytee D
- Contributing Institution
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries
- African American women entertainers
African Americans--Civil rights
African American dancers
Discrimination in employment
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- Chicago citation style
- Cotton, Ethel Dolores "D.D, White, Claytee D. Transcript of interview with D. D. Cotton by Claytee D. White, February 14, 1997. 1997-02-14. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://utah-primoprod.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MWDL&afterPDS=true&docId=digcoll_unl_14ohr/10. (Accessed November 19, 2018.)
- APA citation style
- Cotton, Ethel Dolores "D.D, White, Claytee D, (1997-02-14) Transcript of interview with D. D. Cotton by Claytee D. White, February 14, 1997. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://utah-primoprod.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MWDL&afterPDS=true&docId=digcoll_unl_14ohr/10
- MLA citation style
- Cotton, Ethel Dolores "D.D, White, Claytee D. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America <http://utah-primoprod.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MWDL&afterPDS=true&docId=digcoll_unl_14ohr/10>.