Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Vegas casino manager and mob associate
Las Vegas, October 1982
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: John A. Dunn & Rita Ryack
Anyone standing outside Tony Roma’s restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip 31 years ago today would be in for years of ringing ears. On the morning of October 4, 1982, ousted casino manager, fringe mob associate, and gambler extraordinaire Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal left the restaurant and headed for his car, a silver 1981 Cadillac Eldorado coupe with the distinctive V8-6-4 engine, the failed experiment that only last one year. In this case, the failed experiment saved Rosenthal’s life as an extra metal sheet placed under the driver’s seat to offset the weight of this engine protected him from the initial blast of a devastating car bomb placed on his Cadillac.
Rosenthal lived for nearly thirty years after, immortalized as Sam “Ace” Rothstein in the 1995 film Casino, played by none other than Robert De Niro. The bombing bookends the film, so our first glimpse of Rothstein shows him exiting the restaurant and immediately being blown up in a Cadillac. After the film, we discover that he did indeed survive.
I’ll admit that his pink jacket, shirt, and tie combination is one of the more ridiculous and flamboyant oufits on here, but De Niro pulls it off as much as any man could. Also, to be frank, I’m scared of criticizing anything about Robert De Niro. He may be 70 years old, but he’s still more of a bad ass than most men out there.
What’d He Wear?
Rothstein’s real life counterpart “Lefty” Rosenthal was known for his sharp style, ranging from earthtones to pastels. This was the ’70s and ’80s, when pastels were basically a free ticket to a woman’s heart and bedroom. Casino pays fair homage to Rosenthal, with an impressive 52 suits and jackets created and purchased for De Niro’s Rothstein, all in various fabrics and colors that Rosenthal himself said he would’ve proudly worn.
One of the most memorable of Rothstein’s outfits is the first one we see. There is something poetic about a tough guy like De Niro wearing a pink blazer and white slacks. It’s a look more associated now with Palm Beach than Las Vegas, which has succumbed to printed t-shirts, cargo shorts, and – God help me – fanny packs.
Rothstein’s jacket is a loud salmon pink single-breasted linen sport coat. The film’s costume designer, Rita Ryack, recalled in an interview:
Marty said, “Oh, let’s put the apricot suit… right at the beginning of the movie. So it’s so ‘in your face’ [that] the audience will know what they’re in for, and they can leave the theater. Or stay.”
The wide notch lapels are more distinctive than the usual notch, with a narrower “V”-shaped notch that almost resembles a cran necker lapel as seen on Don Corleone’s dinner jacket in The Godfather. The breast and hip patch pockets are all square-shaped with exposed stitching. The buttons are wide, with two to fasten in the front and one on each cuff. I can’t tell, but the cuffs may actually be functioning surgeon’s cuffs. Of course, this doesn’t matter as much when one of the sleeves gets burned off, but let’s hope you avoid this predicament.
Since this is Vegas, it still gets warm during the day – October or not – with an observed high of 84°F just yesterday. Thus, a jacket wearer would be well advised to pick a lightweight material and an airy design. Rothstein’s, being linen, is lightweight enough to withstand the Vegas heat. The jacket is additionally airy with two long double rear vents adding comfort and mobility. Mobility is especially helpful when you need to leap from your ticking time bomb of a car. Again, I sincerely hope you can avoid having to worry about this.
As a final touch, Rothstein wears a yellow handkerchief in his breast pocket. It looks casually tossed, like Hugh Grant’s late 1990s hair, but was likely delicately folded and crumpled that morning by Rothstein to achieve the perfect “casual” five-point look.
Rothstein’s light pink shirt is more of a traditional pink than the blazer. The material is soft and smooth, possibly silk or – given the intended time period – a silky polyester. The shirt has large point collars, squared-off button cuffs, and a chest pocket. It buttons down a plain, placket-less front. Rothstein pairs the shirt, as he is wont to do, with a necktie the exact same color. Rothstein ties his pink silk necktie with a four-in-hand knot.
Perhaps sensing that pink pants would’ve been just a bit too much here, Rothstein wears a pair of white flat front slacks with this outfit, lending more of a “casual eccentric millionaire” look. The trousers have a fitted waistband with an extended tab. They may also be linen like the blazer, but I can’t tell. Linen trousers tend to be uncomfortable in warm weather, but the flared leg and larger fit would keep them airy. Given the era, they have slightly flared legs and plain-hemmed bottoms with almost no break.
The no break in the trousers allows Rothstein’s well-chosen footwear to shine. Rather than going with white socks to continue his pant line into his shoes, Rothstein decides to let the shirt color pop and wears thin light pink socks. His shoes are, as they would have to be with this outfit, a pair of white leather loafers.
Rothstein’s accessories, as most gamblers prefer, are gold. Even his cigarette holder is gold. He wears a gold pinky ring on his right hand as well as a mixed metal wristwatch in gold, silver, and what appears to be rose gold. The watch has a square diamond-studded case that runs flush with the expanding bracelet. As he is left-handed, he wears the watch on his right wrist.
The suit is on display, as I’ve seen from photos online. On display are both a “pristine” version from his walk to the car and a “burned” version from after he jumps out.
Go Big or Go Home
It takes a lot of chutzpah to wear something like this. Even Nicky, his former best friend played wonderfully by Joe Pesci, comments earlier in the film:
I lost control? Look at you, you’re fucking walking around like John Barrymore! A fucking pink robe and a fucking cigarette holder?
De Niro proves that if you’re gonna go dandy, you gotta go full dandy. Rothstein is a more modern version of Beau Brummell; he goes around dressing and acting flamboyantly because he knows he can back it up by having the shit kicked out of someone. I’m not too sure if the original Beau Brummell was that into kicking the shit out of the people, but he was in the military, so let’s assume he was tougher than he looked.
Finally, if we can learn anything from De Niro’s Rothstein – be careful getting in your car! You may not have reason to think anyone wants to bomb your car, but it never hurts to be safe. Unless you leap out of your car every time you get into it, then it literally will hurt to be safe. We already covered Christopher Moltisanti’s Guide to Surviving a Drive-By Shooting; now let’s see the Ace Rothstein Guide for Surviving a Car Bombing.
1) Look around as you walk to your car. If anyone suspicious is lurking and watching you, maybe don’t get in. Or, if you’re a meth-dealing fried chicken restaurant chain owner, see if anyone is watching from a building across the street. If the sunlight reflects off of his glasses, he probably stuck a homemade bomb under your Volvo station wagon. If you don’t get this very specific reference, you have some TV to catch up on.
2) Leave your car door slightly ajar. If you feel warm, notice fire coming out of your vents, or burst into flames, it may be a good idea to evacuate your car sooner rather than later. You don’t want to have to fumble for your door handle (or worry about unlocking it!) while your face is melting like the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
3) Only drive 1981 Cadillac Eldorado coupes with the infamous V8-6-4 engine. Sure, it may be a shitty engine, but the extra sheet of metal under the driver’s seat will save your life from an amateur car bomber.
How to Get the Look
If you get your hands on this very specific outfit, don’t burn it.
- Salmon pink single-breasted linen blazer with distinctive notch lapels, 2-button front, 1-button cuffs, long double rear vents, and square stitched patch pockets on the breast and hips
- White flat front trousers with an extended waistband, slightly flared legs, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Light pink silky polyester button-down long-sleeve shirt with large point collars, a breast pocket, and buttoned square cuffs
- White leather loafers
- Light pink thin dress socks
- Mixed metal gold-silver-rose gold wristwatch on an expanding bracelet with a diamond-studded square face, worn on the right wrist
- Gold pinky ring, worn on the right pinky
- Yellow handkerchief, worn in the jacket’s breast pocket
Do Yourself A Favor And…
Buy the movie.
No matter what the feds or the papers said about my car bombing…it was amateur night, and you could tell.
I want so badly to start a story this way and just watch everyone’s faces.