Hail, Caesar

Caesar took a hiatus from the constant nightclub circuit and, though he always had his own place to live, pretty much moved into the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, California. It was a life of backgammon, parties, ladies, fine food. He stayed for about ten years.

"There were some things that went down over the years," Vic clarifies. "People schtupping broads in the Jacuzzi. But mostly it was like a big family." Things happened, all right. Vic reels off tales: Hef accidentally swallowing a Ben-Wa ball (figure it out for yourself); Vic hanging with the late Dorothy Star 80 Stratten; Vic handing Hef a Pepsi-Cola while the boss was the sole male in a five-way adult situation. ("It was like giving spinach to Popeye.")

But there was work involved, too. At one point, Hef hired Vic to lead the Singing Playmates. That's something. By '79, one of Vic's Mansion pool-shooting buddies was legendary actor and Kennedy bagman Peter Lawford. Our man was "between houses." Guess what happened?

"Pete said, 'Why don't you come stay with me?' I said, 'I'd like that, 'cause I happen to love you very much.'" "Bachelor high jinks" were the watchwords at the Cole and Sunset pad, which also had some interesting furniture.

"In the corner of the living room, there was a little tiny chair, it was a rocking chair, and once Lawford says, 'You know which chair you're sitting in?'

"The way he said it, I said, 'Your brother-in-law's.' Yeah. That was his chair from Hyannis Port. I was sitting in the president's chair. I loved John Kennedy. But you had to sit with your back straight up. I hated that fuckin' chair."

Eventually, Vic landed back in Phoenix. He worked on one project or another, wrote a screenplay based on the life of wrestler Gorgeous George, lived for a while with his dear friend, millionaire nice guy Geordie Hormel. Vic says that once Geordie--"a beautiful human being"--gave him a check for $10,000 as a Christmas gift.

These days, Vic says he "doesn't think about my career anymore" yet has various new plots up his sleeve. Last year, he released a charming album of standards with pianist Jessica Williams, as well as a reissue of "Nixon's the One."

"I'm on the verge of making a lot of bread right now with the Nixon record," he claims. "They expect to sell 50,000 at five bucks apiece for me. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how much that is." He also plays piano and sings every Sunday during brunch at the Wrigley Mansion, crooning the standards, as he has for decades, in a voice that has aged wonderfully.

And now we're at the end of the story, the no-regrets, what's-retire, I've-been-retired-all-my-life part. I ask Vic how he managed to pull off all of this stuff.

"I was never a threat. I don't look like Tom Cruise. And my upbringing I got from my father, he used to say, 'If you want to be better than you are, you hang out with people better than you are, and you climb to their level. Then you move on to people better than that.' It sounds cold and callous, but not really, if you do it with charm and finesse and some knowledge. We all want to be loved, but if you're a singer or a musician, you want to be loved a little bit more."

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN--LET'S HEAR IT FOR VIC CAESAR!!!!!!!

If you wish to praise, bury or simply compare inseam sizes with Peter Gilstrap in an electron-based format, modem up our online cousin at: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com. The bonus: features so hot they can only appear in a digital bitstream!

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