Cal-Nevada and Joseph Kennedy

Rosemary brought Bones Remmer and his wife to our home on San Sebastian to meet her children, especially her two sons. I felt we were being examined, like race horses. To discover the grandfather of John-John may have met Bones at the Cal-Nevada, places me and my family at the epicenter of the Insurectionist Cult that is corrupting the Repbulican Party found by my kindred.

John John

Cal Neva Lodge & Casino – Wikipedia

Elmer Bones Renner was a gangster from San Francisco who owned the Cal-Neva Lodge and Casino on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. He also owed the IRS $800,000 in back taxes, so ownership of the Cal-Neva passed to another hood named Bert “Wingy” Grober, who also ended up with his own set of tax problems. With the IRS after him, Grober placed the Cal-Neva up for sale.

The Cal-Neva Lodge became a hit with big gamblers and mafia types in the 1940s and ’50s. Bert “Wingy” Grober, head of a group that owned the Cal-Neva in the ’50s, was a good friend of JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, and the Kennedys were known to frequent the Cal-Neva throughout the ’50s and into the ’60s.

The Incredible History of the Cal-Neva Lodge on Lake Tahoe – Moonshine Ink

The Cal-Neva Lodge was built in 1926 by real estate developer Robert P. Sherman.[4] Canadian Army Colonel H. H. Betts went missing from his room at the Cal-Neva in 1929; his body was found over a year later some five miles away from the hotel.[5] The lodge was first made nationally famous later that year when actress Clara Bow cancelled checks owed to the casino worth $13,000;[6] she claimed that she had believed that the chips she was using while playing blackjack were worth 50 cents when they were actually valued at $100.[7][8]

A group of investors bought the Cal-Neva in 1935, and recruited William “Bones” Remmer[9] to act as its president and the pit manager of the casino.[10] That year a 13-year-old Judy Garland performed at Cal-Neva for the first time.[11] The original building burned down in 1937, causing $200,000 worth of damage;[12] the incident was thought to have been arson but no charges were ever brought.[13] The reconstruction effort took 30 days, with 500 men working on the project.[14] State legislation was changed shortly afterwards to allow gambling. After being purchased by developer Norman Blitz, it became one of Nevada’s earliest legalized casinos. Rumors abounded that the owners of the lodge intended to put a gambling boat on the lake.[13][15][16]

We’ve all heard the Cal-Neva stories about Frank Sinatra, the Mafia, the secret tunnels, John F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe, as well as the glamour and glitz of the storied casino on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. It all sounds like fantasy and legend, but many of the stories are true. Tahoe was a place for the rich, famous, and infamous in those days, and they flocked to North Lake Tahoe’s Cal-Neva Lodge, nicknamed “The Lady of the Lake,” from around the world in droves.

The Cal-Neva Lodge was built in 1926 by Robert P. Sherman, a wealthy San Francisco businessman who simply used it to entertain friends and guests. In the 1930s, the venue was sold to new owners who were able to obtain a Nevada gaming permit. The lodge instantly became a hit with the rich and famous of the 1930s right up until the place burned down in 1937. Somehow, they rebuilt in only 30 days, using 500 workers.

Not long before burning down, in 1935, an 11-year-old girl named Frances Gumm performed at the Cal-Neva, and was discovered and signed by an MGM agent. Frances Gumm later changed her name to Judy Garland and became one of the most famous entertainers of the 20th century.

The Cal-Neva Lodge became a hit with big gamblers and mafia types in the 1940s and ’50s. Bert “Wingy” Grober, head of a group that owned the Cal-Neva in the ’50s, was a good friend of JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, and the Kennedys were known to frequent the Cal-Neva throughout the ’50s and into the ’60s.

In 1960, Frank Sinatra bought the Cal-Neva and was determined to turn the place into a world class casino/resort. Sinatra had an immaculate concert hall built along with a helicopter pad and secret tunnels between the showroom and bungalows behind the hotel on the lake.

These tunnels were carpeted and lined with brick. Celebrities and Sinatra himself could easily travel to and fro without being detected by fans, paparazzi, and media. Entrances to the tunnel were in Sinatra’s office, at the heliport, and a closet of one of the lakeside bungalows.
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. all performed at the Cal-Neva during Sinatra’s tenure as owner. They also vacationed there and invited their celebrity friends such as Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Will Rogers, Peter Lawford (brother-in-law of JFK), and many more to join them.

Did JFK hook up with Marilyn Monroe at the Cal-Neva as legend would have it? Maybe…

Sinatra’s close friendship with movie star Peter Lawford inspired rumors of furtive exploits in Tahoe by JFK and his younger brother Robert. Legend has it that whenever Jack or Bobby were visiting Sacramento, Sinatra would send his private helicopter for them. One especially juicy nugget suggests that the blonde “sex goddess” Marilyn Monroe and JFK once made love in a Cal-Neva tunnel, but a little fact-checking suggests the alleged tryst probably never happened, according to There is only one documented account of JFK (as a Senator running for president) visiting the Cal-Neva — in Feb. 1960. At that time Monroe was in Hollywood filming a movie, making it highly unlikely she flew up for his very short campaign visit, says Mark McLaughlin, the historian behind Monroe spent her last weekend alive at the Cal-Neva before, sadly, dying of an overdose in Los Angeles in 1962.

Sinatra’s Cal-Neva was booming after his remodel and the parade of celebrities in the early ’60s. By 1963 the Cal-Neva had grown to include 11 cottages and 55 rooms. Sinatra’s only problem was his affinity for the unsavory characters of the 1960s mafia. Sam Gianaca was a friend of Sinatra’s and was discovered by authorities in the Cal-Neva in August 1963. At the time, Gianaca was the top head mob boss of the Chicago mafia, Al Capone’s successor, was suspected to have ordered the murder of over 200 men, had been arrested more than 70 times, and was referred to as “The Godfather” of the American Mafia.

Upon discovering Gianaca in the lodge in 1963, the Nevada Gaming Control Board revoked Sinatra’s gaming license and began pressuring him into selling the casino. So much so that Sinatra gave in and agreed to sell on Oct. 7, 1963, effectively ending the golden age of North Lake Tahoe gambling and entertainment.

The Cal-Neva has changed hands frequently and has seen many hard times since those golden days. It was shut down due to lousy business in 2010, but was fortunately being renovated in 2013 by then-owner Criswell-Radovan. At that time, the property included a 219-room, 10-story hotel with a 6,000-square-foot casino. The goal of the new renovation was, of course, to try to return the Cal-Neva to the prosperity of that golden era during Sinatra’s ownership.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the lodge was purchased from Remmer by Sanford Adler and a group of associates for $700,000;[17][18] Adler renamed the property Cal Neva — dropping the hyphen — to match his Cal Neva hotel in Reno, Nevada.[19] However, this spelling of the name had been in common use since before the fire.[5] Xavier Cugat was paid a reported $22,000 for a two-week stint at Cal Neva Lodge in 1946, reportedly the first time a nationally famous band performed there.[20]

Ownership was transferred once again on March 21, 1955, when a group led by Bert “Wingy” Grober purchased the lodge for $1 million.[10][21] During this period, the hotel was frequented by members of the Kennedy family including John F. and his brother Robert.[10] Author Scott Lankford claims that JFK used the lodge to carry on an “endless series of extramarital affairs with wealthy divorcees and Tahoe’s notoriously ubiquitous prostitutes”.[13] The lodge served as accommodation during the 1960 Winter Olympics, held at nearby Squaw Valley Ski Resort.[22] It has remained popular with skiers over the decades since.[22][23]

Ownership by Frank Sinatra[edit]

Frank Sinatra became the majority stakeholder in the Cal Neva Lodge in 1960.

Frank Sinatra first visited Cal Neva in 1951; his trip made the national press as he overdosed on sleeping pills and this was reported to the local sheriff.[24] Sinatra continued to frequent the lodge; on one occasion, he played a jam session with big band leader Harry James and actress and singer Betty Grable.[25] Sinatra publicly bought the resort in 1960 through his company, Park Lake Enterprises.[26][27] Initially, he owned 25 percent of the property with Hank Sanicola and Paul “Skinny” D’Amato who each held 13 percent.[28] Other smaller shareholders included Dean Martin. Chicago mobster Sam Giancana was said to be a silent partner in the business;[28] D’Amato acted as Giancana’s man.[29] Sinatra gradually expanded his ownership of the casino; by 1962 he owned more than 50 percent share, with Sanicola holding 33 percent and Sanford Waterman owning the remaining shares.[30]

The shareholders decided to open the property year-round; it had only previously opened for the summer season.[31] Sinatra built the Celebrity Room theater and installed a helicopter pad on the roof. He re-utilized Prohibition-era smuggling tunnels beneath the property to allow mob members to move around the property without being seen by the public. One led from near the main building to his private chalet overlooking Lake Tahoe.[15]

The FBI already had the lodge under investigation at the time due to the connection to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., who was staying there at the time that Sinatra’s deal was finalized. There were concerns that Kennedy was involved in the arrangement of a casino for use by the American Mafia.[32] The FBI suspected that the expansion was made using funds borrowed from Jimmy Hoffa.[33] Following a request by Robert F. Kennedy, who had concerns over the press coverage of his and his brother’s relationships with Marilyn Monroe, Sinatra made accommodation available for her for a weekend prior to her death on August 4, 1962.[34] During this period she was not allowed to leave and only Giancana was allowed to visit her. Even her former husband, Joe DiMaggio, was turned away.[35] She attempted suicide through a pill overdose, but she contacted the reception desk, and was rushed to hospital where she had her stomach pumped.[36] This cabin, known as Monroe’s, is still part of the guest accommodations, as is another known as Sinatra’s.[15] Also that year, a federal investigation took place into a prostitution ring being run from the foyer of the Cal Neva.[36]Postcard of the lodge, c. early 1960s

The Sinatra period saw extravagant parties and visits by celebrities such as Judy GarlandLiza MinnelliKim NovakShirley MacLaineSammy Davis Jr.Tony CurtisJanet LeighLucille BallDesi Arnaz and Richard Crenna. However, Sinatra’s mood swings would sometimes determine how he responded to patrons and friends. Journalist Herb Caen reported that he could be dismissive and insulting to those who annoyed him.[30] Sam Giancana was banned from the casinos in the state of Nevada, but Sinatra continued to allow him to stay at the Cal Neva lodge which resulted in Hank Sanicola seeking to remove himself as a shareholder. Although Sinatra sought to explain that Giancana was only visiting his girlfriend, Phyllis McGuire, the disagreement resulted in the end of Sinatra and Sanicola’s friendship.[37] After Giancana was spotted on the premises, Sinatra had his gambling license suspended by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.[15][n 1] Following this, Sinatra decided he wanted to get out of entertainment property ownership as he was being heavily criticized in the national press and pursued by law enforcement over illegal activities at the casino.[39] The Cal Neva Lodge was leased to Jack L. Warner in a deal which also saw a majority stake in Reprise Records sold to Warner Bros. Records and Sinatra gaining a one-third ownership in the new company.[40]

Later period[edit]

The Cal Neva Resort in 2007

After leasing it to Warner for four years, Sinatra sought to sell the property to Howard Hughes in 1967 as part of the renewal of his contract at the Sands Hotel and Casino.[41] Following a fallout between Hughes and Sinatra, the entertainer instead signed a contract with Caesars Palace. This included a requirement for Sinatra’s stake in Cal Neva to be purchased by his new employer for $2 million,[42][43] but instead the lodge passed into the hands of the same owners as Reno’s Club Cal-Neva in 1968 for $1.4 million.[44][45]

The new owners oversaw the construction of a ten-story expansion to the property. This added a further 200 rooms to the lodge, for which permission was given although the Nevada State Park Advisory Committee opposed the move.[46] They sought to re-open the Cal Neva on July 1, 1969,[44] but instead it partly opened in May of that year with the new expansion opening the following month.[45] The Ohio Real Estate Investment Trust purchased the lodge in 1970 for $6 million,[47] with the aim to lease it to the U.S. Capital Corporation, who in turn sought to sublease it to Tahoe Crystal Bay Inc.[48] The stockholders of the Ohio Real Estate Investment Trust filed a lawsuit against the company in 1973, which resulted in the Cal Neva being placed into federal receivership.[49] After opening year round since Sinatra purchased the lodge, it closed for the winter season in 1974 due to a drop in visitors blamed on the 1973 oil crisis.[50]

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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