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Dancing is as instinctive to me as breathing. Earning a living as a dancer was a learned skill. I’d landed several jobs in the chorus, and once danced on the Perry Como TV Show. However, becoming a choreographer was a different matter. That’s when I met Tibor Rudas
Tibor had a group of acrobatic dancers in the Casino de Paris show at the Dunes in Las Vegas. I was a dancer in the same show. To supplement my income, I taught jazz dance classes. Tibor insisted that his Acro-Dancers attend my class. Lee, his lovely new wife, also attended class, and was a much appreciated booster.
It was inevitable that Tibi (Hungarian familiar term) and I should connect. He was beginning his meteoric show business career, and I was determined to be a choreographer.
Tibi has always had the energy of a dynamo. Soon his Acro-Dancers were in the Folies Bergere show at the Tropicana, plus he landed his first show in the Blue Room there. A jewel box production in Montreal was his next conquest. For several years I flew to Montreal on a regular basis. Tibi’s shows were exquisite. He surrounded himself with zany artists, both on stage and backstage. When the Paradise Island Cabaret Theatre Show loomed on the horizon, Tibi’s talents shifted gear. He produced big time Vegas style shows, at a fraction of the cost of other producers. His force of will and persuasiveness were, well, Hungarian.
After each new edition of the Paradise Island show, I would do follow up rehearsals. Tibi arranged for Orllyene and our family to stay at the Britannia Beach Hotel. While I rehearsed, Randy, Marla, and Tom, our three children, would swim in the crystalline clear ocean, mingle with the trained dolphins in the lagoon and have the run of the hotel. At night, we’d dress up and go to the Café Martinique, or the other gourmet restaurants.
One day Tibi announced over the phone, “Rawhn, I want you to move to New Jersey.”
Being a dancer means going where the work is, but New Jersey? I immediately visualized downtown Newark.
“Where in New Jersey, Tibi?” I groaned.
“Atlantic City. We are going to do the entertainment at Resorts International Casino,” he said.
I didn’t know it at the time, but a tidal wave of gambling was about to engulf the East Coast and we would ride the crest of that wave.
We rented our home in Vegas, and built a Tahoe style house along Absecon Creek, just outside Atlantic City. I became Manager of Entertainment Operations and, Tibi was Senior Vice President of Entertainment. Czar would have been a better word. He brought Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Diana Ross, and such a glut of stardom you can’t imagine to the Superstar Theatre. Tibi was living the life of Ziegfeld, but a big change was in the air. After contracting Pavarotti, the Casino bosses got cold feet and backed out. Tibi put up his own money and every “high roller” from Hoboken to Main Line Philadelphia got a chance to schmooze with Luciano. Tibi soon left Resorts, choosing to bring Pavarotti and The Three Tenors to the world for many years to come.
Today Tibi is 94, lives in Santa Monica, and still calling the shots. When he learned we would like to visit him on our way to Algodonez, Mexico, I received an email.
“Rawhn, I want you and Orllyene to come for lunch on Saturday. Then on Sunday, come early and you can be on your way,” he said.
The measure of a man is what he does with his inborn gifts. Tibi has followed his vision and never flinched. He was a tough boss, a generous friend, and a continuous inspiration. What a privilege to have been a part of the mosaic of his life.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.