BY MARLA SANTOS
“VEGAS RAG DOLL” : A TRUE STORY OF TERROR AND SURVIVAL AS THE WIFE OF A MOB HITMAN
Raped by a boyfriend at fifteen. Then raped again two years later by a poker player and his roommate. Then the months she spent enslaved in a roadside Texas motel-turned-brothel where she was forced to meet the demands of oil workers and cattlemen who smelled of lube grease and rancid sweat; men who grunted with workmanlike indifference as they fucked her.
"Silence is the fence around wisdom."
As wife to a hired mob hitman, Wendy Mazaros and co-author Joe Schoenmann were able to share the compelling and horrific stories of Wendy’s life and experiences of living with a hired killer in the gripping book, Vegas Rag Doll. She explains in the book that she learned to be silent. Enduring traumatic events and witnessing horrific acts, she lived within a circle of terror. The following are excerpts from the Vegas Rag Doll book, along with detailed explanations from Wendy during her interview with host Dennis Griffin on RealWiseGuys Radio.
As Wendy talked about her past, she said: “I was born and raised in Vegas. I remember Vegas was small, like a Mayberry town filled with cowboys and mobsters. There were hardly any housing developments. My mother worked out at Area 51 when I was born. We were free running kids because there was no supervision at home.”
Down on Fremont Street, Binion’s Horseshoe Club opened in 1951 and was owned and operated by the notorious gambling figure Benny Binion. When Binion left Texas for Vegas he was asked: “Did you ever kill anyone?” He replied: “Nobody that didn’t deserve it.” In 1970, Benny’s youngest son Teddy, who was 27 at the time, took over as manager. Teddy was good-looking and loved partying, dealing with the high-profile guests, and flirting with attractive women.
Wendy continued: “At fifteen, I got bored and took the bus downtown to Fremont Street with a friend. I strutted into the Horseshoe Club with a friend. Teddy asked us for ID’s and then laughingly said: ‘Come on, I’m just kidding! You girls are fine. Welcome to the Horseshoe Club.’ Teddy asked if I wanted a drink. I started hanging out at the Horseshoe Club, starting skipping school, and staying out late at night. My parents were not going to put up with that, so they stuck me in the back of their Buick and they were going to take me to a Juvenile Home. On the way there, I jumped out of their car and ran to the Horseshoe Club. Then, I officially became a runaway child. Teddy then put me up at the Horseshoe.”
Wendy became known as “Teddy’s girl,” as she spent time living lavishly in the Binion’s Horseshoe Club. The affair with him soon dissolved into him making her sleep with high-rolling gamblers and delivering suitcases of cash to Midwest mobsters. Before long, Teddy sent Wendy to Texas with Charlie Briscoe, longtime friend of the Binion family. After a couple of weeks at his ranch, Charlie took Wendy for a ride in his Continental with Patty, another girl staying at the ranch, too. About ten miles down the road, Charlie stopped at a weathered motel.
“You know, Teddy told me you are like a young filly thoroughbred that needs to be broken in. I think he was right.” He got out, walked around the Lincoln, and opened Wendy’s door. He yanked her out by the arm and walked fast to the motel office, dragging her along. “We need a key,” he told the large man behind the desk. With Patty trailing behind, he dragged Wendy to one of the rooms. He closed and bolted the door. “Get your clothes off.” “What?” “I said, get your clothes off, goddammit,” Charlie demanded. “Wendy, just do it,” Patty said. Wendy stripped to her panties and bra while Charlie took all of his clothes off, facing her naked. He looked at her and snorted at the fact that she still had on her underwear. Made no difference. He walked up to her, grabbed her by the shoulders, and shoved her onto the bed. “Please, this is a mistake.” Wendy said. Tears stung her eyes. “Call Teddy. I’m only fifteen.” Charlie chuckled. He grabbed her by the hair, pulled aside her panties, and forced himself inside. Patty told her where to put her hands. Then Charlie got up, and Patty told her how to give a blowjob to make him cum faster, to get it over with so she could get to the next customer. “This is no mistake,” Charlie said. “This is your job.”
After months passed, she made her escape and went back to the Horseshoe Club, where she worked for the casino. Teddy then passed off Wendy like a trophy to Tom Hanley, a man years her senior, who drew her affections and ultimately married her. In partnership with his sadistic son, Gramby, Tom was a mob hit man.
Wendy remembered: “I was 18 when I met Tom, and he was 39 or 40 years older than me. He had just become a widower. He was very nice. He was a very well respected man around town. There was a side of Tom that was very mean and brutal, too. My father had tried to warn me because he was a teamster. Of course I didn’t listen to my father. You hear about horrific acts, you kind of get paralyzed, and I was stuck. Tom’s ties with Benny Binion go way back to Texas as young men, when Binion was the reigning mob boss over Dallas and Ft. Worth. It was Benny that sent Tom to Vegas, and then soon after, Binion followed. Benny Binion was a very powerful, powerful gangster here in Vegas. No one really realizes how much power he had. There was a time after living with Tom, that I found a note written by Mary Lou Hanley, his first wife.”
“What is this?” Wendy held out the note to Tom. “She was a Goddamn drunk,” said Tom. He said he made her a deal. He’d let her drink as much vodka as she wanted, but she had to write the suicide note and take a sleeping pill between each swig. One drink. One pill. One drink. One pill.”
Wendy continued: “Tom sat me down and had me write a suicide note.”
Tom and Wendy hugged for a minute and then Tom stood up, pulled out his gun, and slapped it on top of the writing desk. He opened the top drawer and pulled out a pen and a clean sheet of typing paper. “What’s this for?” she asked. “Just write what I say,” said Tom. He recited the sad life story that led Wendy to kill herself. She choked back tears as to show no fear. She couldn’t let her “suicide” become a reality, to become another victim of Tom’s killing machine. “Just remember,” Tom said, forming a gun with his hand and putting the index finger to her temple, “silence is the fence around wisdom.”
Tom was notorious for making people disappear and Wendy became a terrified and silent witness to his numerous crimes. Her main focus was to protect her daughter, Amy, fathered by Tom, and keep her mouth shut. Wendy Mazaros believes, to this day, that her husband participated in the killing of both President John F. Kennedy and Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, but the murder of Al Bramlet was his last one. Nevada’s most powerful labor leader in the 1970’s, Al Bramlet was found dead in the desert near Mount Potosi. Tom and Gramby Hanley pleaded guilty to the murder and were sentenced to life without parole.
According to the Las Vegas Newspaper:
On the morning of Jan. 12, 1976, a bomb blew up David’s Place, a nonunion gourmet restaurant on West Charleston Boulevard near Rancho Drive. A year later, sophisticated booby-trap bombs were discovered on the same night in autos outside the Village Pub on Koval Lane and at the Starboard Tack restaurant on Atlantic Avenue. Each failed to ignite. These restaurants were also involved in labor disputes with the union. The Hanley’s had ordered Bramlet to commit the bombings, but refused to pay when the devices failed to detonate. It was also thought that the Chicago mob ordered Bramlet hit because they wanted to take more control over the Culinary Union’s $42 million pension fund, and Bramlet was resisting. Another reason was perhaps Bramlet was stealing from the pension fund. Bramlet’s nude body was found with six bullets in it, one in each ear, one in the sternum and three others in the area of his heart. The Hanley’s both testified about their own roles in firebombing nonunion restaurants that the Culinary Union sought to organize. They were successful in three out of the five fire bombings, which occurred between 1975 through 1977.
“Hey, Al,” said Tom. Tom grabbed the gun, and as Bramlet turned, Tom shot him in the head. Tom stood over the body and unloaded four or five more shots into it. Gramby dragged Bramlet’s body down the hill out of sight. Gramby stripped the body naked. Even in the pitch black, what light shone from the sliver of moon that night made his body glow. They stared at it, mesmerized. Tom broke that reverie by firing four or five more slugs into the body, just to make sure it was a corpse.
Authorities say Hanley may have been responsible for more than twenty murders over three decades. The book, Vegas Rag Doll, paints a portrait of the final years of organized crime in Las Vegas. ~Teddy Binion was found dead at his estate home, 2408 Palomino Lane, on September 17, 1998. After his death, it was discovered by Nye County sheriff’s deputies that Ted had had a 12-foot-deep vault built on the desert floor on a piece of property he owned in Pahrump, 60 miles west of Las Vegas. The concrete bunker contained six tons of silver bullion, Horseshoe Casino chips, paper currency, and more than 100,000 rare coins, including Carson City silver dollars—many in mint condition—estimated to be worth between $7 million and $14 million—that were once housed in the Horseshoe vault. The Pahrump underground vault would play a major role in the investigation into Binion’s death and murder.