TAMPA — As daughter of one of America’s most powerful crime bosses, Sandi Lansky grew up in opulent New York hotels and regularly ate at the side of her father, Meyer, in famous Gotham restaurants such as Dinty Moore’s.
Often seated around the table were her “uncles”: Frank Costello, the “prime minister” of the Mafia, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, founder of the Las Vegas gambling strip, and Abner “Longy” Zwillman, a founder of the National Crime Syndicate.
Lansky tells of her poor-little-rich-girl upbringing in “Daughter of the King: Growing Up in Gangland,” a memoir written with William Stadiem, author of several bestselling books about Hollywood celebrities. The book is an entertaining panorama of America in the post-World War II decades when Italian-American and Jewish gangsters seemingly had their fingers in every lucrative enterprise, legitimate and criminal.
Sandi thought of her reticent, exquisitely tailored father as akin to a Wall Street businessman, albeit from the wrong side of the tracks. It wasn’t until she was almost a teenager that she learned her father’s business sometimes involved murder, such as the Beverly Hills murder of “Uncle” Benjamin Siegel.
After Meyer Lansky divorced Sandi’s mother, Anne Lansky, Anne plummeted into despair and mental illness. Sandi’s fairy tale marriage to restaurateur Marvin Rapoport ended unhappily after she discovered he was gay.
With her mother sick and her father always gone, the formerly sheltered Sandi morphed into an amphetamine-fueled party girl. Flitting from one Manhattan night-spot to another, Sandi slept with a long list of celebrity lovers, including Dean Martin and actor Dick Shawn.
In one memorable passage, a young Frank Sinatra sings to 10-year-old Sandi after accidently spilling ice on her in the mob-owned Rivera Supper Club in New Jersey. The passage is reminiscent of the famous wedding scene in “The Godfather,” when crooner Johnny Fontane sings to Connie Corleone.
Lansky ultimately kicked her speed habit with the help of Vince Lombardo, a former gangster who gave up his wiseguy lifestyle to marry Sandi and help raise her son, longtime Tampa resident Gary Rapoport.
Sandra Lansky will sign copies of her book April 18, at 7 p.m. at Inkwood Books, 216 S. Armenia Ave.