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Original Issue


That conviction was the vital element in George Morton Levy's dream of staging harness races at night, and it transformed the country pastime of his youth into a major sport. The open stands, shown by Artist Ed Kasper in his interpretive portrait of Levy (opposite), became Roosevelt Raceway, the plush citadel of trotting reflected in Levy's eyeglass. A betting man all his hectic life, Levy almost lost this biggest gamble because of a famous telecast

On the rolling estates of Old Westbury, Long Island the homes are solid and so is the money. Both are set well back from the road, behind scrolled ironwork, and at night the scene is mostly sedate, with soft lights on the well-tended lawns and Lincolns. Mostly, but not entirely. Behind the white picket fence over at No, 8 Old Westbury Road—that's the George Morton Levy place—the yard is festooned with high-power spotlights that flare up every night after the old man comes home from the racetrack. He had the lights installed to frighten off burglars, Mr. Levy solemnly told Mrs. Levy, and she believed him—"Ahh, how naive I used to be," she says—until that first night he lit up the whole place and got out his golf bag and a bucket of balls. Now on clear Long Island nights there is an occasional shattering of glass at the estate next door, and neighbor Joel Jayson will awaken and murmur to his wife, "Well, old man Levy is hitting them pretty good over there tonight. He's knocking out our downstairs windows again."

The distance from Levy's back stoop to the Jayson windows is a couple of hundred yards over the high elms and natural rough that divide their property, and no sincere Old Westburian would ever complain about such a shot at any hour, so Jayson doesn't mention it. But he keeps a standing account with the town glazier and sends the window bills to Mrs. Levy. Everybody along the road is particularly fond of neighbor Levy—they point him out like a Long Island historical monument—and they will say that if anyone has the right to relax by hitting a few old golf balls at night, why, he has after what he's been through. And if the name doesn't stir an immediate response, one neighbor will say, "Don't you remember? He is George Morton Levy of Roosevelt Raceway. There was all that trouble, remember? The stories about gangsters. Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. The Kefauver investigation, remember?" Levy was around so many years ago that a lot of people think he is dead. It is a little like going to a baseball game and having someone say, "Why, there's old Abner Doubleday." But there he is: old George Morton Levy.

In Old Westbury, (there is a new Westbury but the lots are considerably smaller and more suited to, say, wedge shots) the old man stirs the special tender regard that people show, not to a celebrity, but to the survivor of a hurricane. His friends see Levy as the lone patriarch of a sporting enterprise that consumes men early in life. That isn't enough for his business associates; they regard him as the Jewish Brigham Young of American harness racing, who led the sport out of the wilderness into the Zion of milk and pari-mutuel honey.

This season Levy's Roosevelt Raceway, which is the citadel of U.S. trotting, completes its 25th year in the glow of success. It is the biggest enterprise of its kind in the sport. The attendance for the year will be more than three million, and the betting handle will total some $252 million—both records for trotting tracks. New York State, which once regarded the Roosevelt operation with open hostility, will accept without a twinge of conscience more than $27 million as its share of the activities. Every evening but Sunday through August and September an average of 25,000 people will arrive about sundown at the field from which Lindbergh once took off for Paris, bringing money to the pastel-tinted structure that dominates the Hempstead Plain like an 11-story block of architectural Neapolitan ice cream. (George Levy will be watching them arrive from a tiny, specially built aerie tucked into a niche near the roof. The sight never fails to stimulate him.) They will bet at an array of 362 mutuel windows, dine in four restaurants, drink in 16 bars. The hidden speakers will play—softly, subliminally—music to handicap by. About midpoint each evening, when things might otherwise drag, the tapes will get to the Jersey Bounce and Strings of Pearls, pumping a subconscious free-spending mood back into the air. For those who cannot stand the sight of live horses pulling those little wagons with the bicycle wheels, the whole proceeding will be closed-circuit telecast and simultaneously flashed on monitors in the lounges and lobbies—every place but in the toilets and elevators. The horses will trot—in that wonderful, high-stepping gait—and the money will roll in.

All this is Levy's doing. He did not invent harness racing; he found it where it had always been in the years before 1940—a country-town sport—and redesigned it on his personal theory that if a thing is exciting, if it happens at night and if it moves, New Yorkers will bet on it. It took him a quarter of a century, all the money he had and all he could wheedle from friends to do it.

Now that night harness racing has rounded the turn toward status and become a sporting bonanza and George Morton Levy is honored for making it so, his friends are paying him the tribute he does not really need. They have already begun to edit his career, trimming out the bad parts and building up the good—creating the image of a man too good to be true.

"Oh sure, George once defended Lucky Luciano on that white slavery thing and Luciano was later deported," a close associate of Levy says. "And, sure, he once paid Frank Costello $60,000, and Costello later told Senator Estes Kefauver's committee, 'I don't think I did a damn thing' [for the money]. But all that was a long, long time ago."

It was, indeed, a long time ago, and Levy now has the historical edge by having outlived most of his enemies and converted the survivors. Nowadays he is mellow about the past. "I would do it all over again," he says. "I have been, in my time, maligned, attacked, called a companion of gangland elements, a crook by innuendo—I was cleared of the charges in writing, incidentally—and sometimes it all seemed more than a man could bear. But the truth will out; it has in my case, and now I can leave my children the finest thing of all, a thing more important than any money I will leave behind. I will leave them a good name." (Levy has three children, George Jr., 42, by his second wife, and CeCe, 11, and Robert, 7, by his present, fourth wife.)

Speaking this way, punctuating each sentence with little jabs of his cigar, Levy is at his best—a fighter ready to fight again. He is about 5 feet 5½ drawn up to his indignant height (about three-quarters of an inch shorter when he relaxes), and most of the time he looks somewhat like James Cagney playing Admiral Bull Halsey in The Gallant Hours. His hair is white, wavy and parted slightly off center. He wears rimless, octagonal glasses, and his suit is always cigar ashes on rumpled blue serge. He is 73, 74, 75, 76 or 77 years old, estimates varying with everybody who has a run at guessing his age, and when his golfing pals say they are going to use mysterious legal means to find out just what the exact year is, Levy will growl jovially, "The hell you will. Nobody will ever find out."

But constitutionally Levy is somewhere around 40 years old, with just enough of a paunch to keep his pants up when his suspenders are down. This is his standard Sunday morning appearance while playing baseball with Robert and CeCe on the 5½-acre estate. "Daddy, your pants are falling down," CeCe will scream, and Levy will say with quiet dignity, "That is just to distract you; you'll note that I just pitched a strike. Now pay attention to the game." Sunday is family day at the Levys'; breakfast is always pancakes and ham, and it is always served all morning to anyone who drops in. A great many people do—"my wife has about 50 relatives, and even a few strangers come by," says Levy—and they fill up the yard, the swimming pool and the 160-year-old house. In the afternoon Levy sits in his den and watches baseball on the monster color television set. When the game is in black and white it always appears slightly out of focus to everyone else—but it always looks sharp to Levy, and most people in the den are too polite to mention it.

An Old Westbury front-lawn baseball player now, Levy was born across the island at Seaford and grew up intent on becoming a professional. He played so well at Freeport High School—he was a 115-pound shortstop and football quarterback—that he refused to graduate with his class in 1905, explaining to his somewhat stunned parents that he was too young for the rigors of college. "Actually," says Levy with the trace of a smile, "we had a pretty good team going. We were just reaching our peak and I hated to leave them. We were undefeated in my...uhh, postgraduate year. As I recall, you needed 40 points to graduate from high school. I think I had something like 80 points when they finally threw me out."

At NYU law school, Levy master-minded the Great Baseball Hoax of Rensselaer Tech, becoming one of the few figures in American sports today to happily admit throwing a ball game. "They wouldn't let me on the varsity at New York University because I had been playing semipro ball," says Levy. "You know, $10 for playing on Saturday and $15 for Sunday games, and it was considered pretty good money in those days. So I got up this team of budding young lawyers at NYU, and we played here and there. We were not exactly outstanding. In fact, as I remember, we lost to everybody. So by the time I signed us to play Rensselaer Tech in upstate I was pretty mad; I didn't tell the other fellas, and I took some semipro players up there with me instead. They may not have looked too much like law students, I'll admit, but they sure as hell could play ball. And by the eighth inning we were murdering Rensselaer. But I could feel something was wrong. Maybe it was my legal instinct, but I was sure they were on to us, and there was a sort of lynching atmosphere in the air. So we threw the game in the ninth inning. You know—wild throws and fumbles and things of that sort."

Playing Captain Levy and team managed to make it unlynched out of town, but word got back to NYU, where Levy was called in for consultation with the dean. Was it true, he was asked, that everybody in that game was a ringer? Levy had a reputation for rock-ribbed honesty, and he looked the dean in the eyes and said, "No, sir." He was excused and the incident considered closed.

"But it was a couple of days later," Levy recalls, "that I met the dean again—informally—and he asked me the key question. 'Levy,' he said, 'how many on the team were ringers?' And I told him: 'Only eight, sir.' " On such fine points are legal careers launched. Levy was graduated at 20 and, after passing state bar exams one year later, began a law practice in Freeport. It brought him up abruptly as a boy wonder. One day in 1912 he closed up shop for lunch, put a sign on the door that read, "Back at one o'clock," and returned to find that someone had scrawled under it, "What for?"

"Eventually," Levy says, "my strong suit proved to be criminal law." He pronounces it "lawr," a characteristic of certain Long Islanders, and it has thrown many a legal opponent off stride with the tactical mistake of regarding Levy as a small-island bumpkin. Clients in those days ran to accused murderers (Levy won some acquittals that gained him nationwide attention), accused bootleggers, gunmen and a slasher or two. The Levy courtroom manner was deceptively quiet but biting, with minute attention to the details that win cases. In one historic Long Island case Levy cleared out an entire jailhouse of confiscated bootleg whisky by referring to it in an injunction as "bottles with contents" and getting the shipment returned to its owner. When the judge, too late, heard about it, his roar could be heard over most of that end of the Island.

By the early 1930s the Levy name was something of an eastern seaboard legend. He happily took on the entire state of New York and most of suburban Long Island in a protracted legal engagement known as "that Mineola dog-track ruckus," which he finally won. He was making "oh, $20,000 to $25,000 a year," and in one case beat Broadway Producer David Belasco so soundly that Belasco offered him exactly double the figure to be his personal, exclusive attorney. "I turned him down," Levy says now, "because I don't feel any attorney should represent one concern or one man exclusively. You lose sight of the overall majesty of the lawr. And you do not have nearly as much fun." Levy's well-known command of speech and his belief in the brotherhood of man also put him in demand as an after-dinner and after-funeral speaker. One of his clients, a retired sea captain named Charlie Johnson who had operated a small hotel in Freeport, insisted that Levy conduct his funeral rites, administer the estate and personally scatter his, Johnson's, ashes in the Atlantic Ocean.

"I did all those things," Levy recalls. "And I'll never forget—on the day after the funeral rites—when I set out to fulfill Johnson's last request. I had his ashes with me, in a little container, and I rented a motorboat and headed out to sea. It was cold that day, terribly cold, and by the time we got as far as the inlet I stopped the boat and scattered his ashes right there. I made a kind of chattering apology to God and Johnson that I could go no further.

"They were colorful days," Levy says now. "Long Island was in a turmoil of growth; things were on the move. There was even a Freeport chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, and they used to parade up and down the streets in their robes and hoods at noontime. I would be on my way to lunch at the Elks Lodge, and some of them would raise up the bottom of their hoods and say, 'Hi, there, George, old boy.' Secret society? We all knew who they were." Considering the Klan's stand on Jews, Negroes and Catholics, the Imperial Wizard probably would have choked on his invective had he known that his Long Island unit once asked George Levy to join. "I always put them off by asking why they were against Catholics," says Levy, remembering it with great satisfaction. "And they always told me that Catholics would drink your blood. I would say, 'You mean to tell me that old Joe Dolan would drink your blood?' He was a well-known local Catholic. And they would get mad and say, 'No, no. Not Joe Dolan. But Catholics.' "

Against this colorful backdrop, young Attorney Levy had other colorful friends. Among his golf partners of the old days were two fellow Islanders named Frank: Erickson and Costello. Even now Levy remains fiercely loyal to his friends—though he admits in some cases it has cost him much—and will insist that in those days one did not ask a man's business just to play golf with him. But this set the stage for the stormiest part of Levy's career, a couple of decades later. In 1936, happily engaged in the dog-track fight, Levy paused at the request of a New York law firm to defend accused white slaver Lucky Luciano against racket buster Thomas E. Dewey. He lost the case in a flurry of national publicity, and Luciano was later deported (another attorney handled the appeal), but one thing came out of the trial to indicate Levy's courtroom power. Crime reporters covering the trial took a secret poll, voted 13 to 1 for acquittal.

The case of George Levy and the greyhounds of Mineola versus New York and the townspeople of Long Island represented America in its finest thin-line legal hour. With betting clearly illegal, Levy's clients used the "Florida option" system. Thus, one did not bet on the dog but bought an option to purchase the animal. Off the greyhounds would go, presumably showing their form to hundreds of prospective pet fanciers. Spectators whose dogs won the races then could claim their pets at prices specified on the program. If they didn't happen to want the animals—greyhounds are churlish brutes anyway—Track Owner Edwards Roberts stood ready to buy the options back at prices on a tote board posted conveniently opposite the grandstand. Mineola residents protested that this was out-and-out gambling, and Levy agreed. But he pointed out it wasn't illegal, and he won so many court skirmishes that Governor Herbert Lehman finally called for a truce. He asked Levy's clients to shut down the track voluntarily. They did, and in an action that some said smacked of political coincidence the next session of the New York legislature adopted a pari-mutuel bill legalizing betting at dog tracks. Under renewed pressure from antigambling interests, however, Lehman vetoed it.

The years 1939, when pari-mutuel betting came to New York, and 1940, when Roosevelt Raceway opened, were the turning points in Levy's life, and from that time on the practice of law ran second. The Long Island lawyer and his partners were variously characterized as smooth manipulators in Albany, where the betting bill was guided through the legislature, and as "that bunch of nuts from Wall Street" by 79-year-old Al Saunders, the veteran Hambletonian secretary they hired to get them enough horses to race. Both analyses were correct.

"Pressures were intense in Albany," recalls Levy. "Some legislators wanted one bill to encompass both flat and harness racing. Others wanted them handled separately. We had to have them tied up in one package; otherwise we faced a veto. The Thoroughbred people were for our bill; after all, they did not consider harness racing—especially night harness racing—to be a threat. The church groups, of course, were against the package; the motion picture interests, which regarded us as a definite threat, were most vigorously opposed. Governor Lehman didn't like the idea of harness racing under pari-mutuel; he was convinced it wasn't a healthy sport for New York. There was some talk that racing at night, with inadequate lighting, created the possibility of switching horses and that sort of thing. It was a tough battle."

In his biography of Levy, Attorney Martin W. Littleton, Levy's partner, wrote: "George saw to it" that the bill got through—and certainly Levy was a key figure in its passage. But in the end it was the representatives from upstate New York, which has a sentimental attachment for harness racing, who swung the vote. (Years later it turned out that a number of important legislators and politicians in both political parties had acquired stock, at remarkably low prices, in a number of trotting tracks. The same odd coincidence took place about the time betting was legalized in Illinois and New Hampshire.)

"The bill specified 'between sunrise and sunset' for the runners," says Levy. "Trotters were not restricted—and that set the stage for our operation. The governor was still against night harness racing, but he set up commissions to cover both and appointed Ben Downing to head up the trotters. He drew a pledge from Downing that there would be firm control."

Levy and his partners quickly signed a $10,000-a-year lease on Roosevelt Field, formed the Old Country Trotting Association, scraped up $125,000 to reconstruct an old auto track that had been there since 1936—and they were off and trotting at Roosevelt. It opened like a comic horse opera. Levy and partners had talked the contractor into accepting $10,000 in raceway stock as part of his bill for remodeling the track—the builder was reluctant but later became rich on the deal—and set the curtain raiser for August 26, 1940.

"We were sitting in my office congratulating ourselves," Levy says, "when someone burst in and said, 'There are only 32 horses down there in the paddock.' That was about one-third the number we needed to stage a meet, and some of them were of questionable durability at that. It turned out that old Al Saunders' crack about those Wall Street nuts had convinced all the trainers and drivers to stay away. We were sunk. And then"—Levy pauses to light a fresh cigar with dramatic satisfaction—"and then I just happened to glance out the window and saw it was sprinkling. In another hour it was pouring, and we were saved. We postponed the opening."

It rained so hard in the next seven days that Levy felt a little guilty about it. But when the weather cleared for September 2 there were enough horses on hand; he and his associates had been all over the eastern seaboard in chartered planes, signing up every trainer who had a horse in near condition to race.

"It wasn't exactly perfect then," Levy points out. "In the fifth race a gelding named Wayne Lee—who may have been a little old for the action at 14—finished in a burst of speed, gave a big sigh and fell over dead in the traces. We were so inexperienced that it took us an hour to get that horse off the track."

Although every track has a dead horse in its past, it took Roosevelt four years to bury the memory of Wayne Lee. First-season, losses were $51,685, and after ordering up more track improvements Levy opened his second season $225,000 in the hole. "The New York newspapers were handicapping us," says Levy. "Not the races, but betting when we would shut down."

But Levy inaugurated the changes that turned the tide. He convinced the horsemen to give up the two-out-of-three "heat" system to determine winners—thus speeding up the program and the betting; he produced the automobile-mounted starting gate now in standard use, eliminating the false starts and recalls that could delay a race for, literally, an hour; and he instituted the "form sheet" program, which listed the past performance of each horse. Levy's lights and his gate revolutionized trotting, but it wasn't until 1944 that Roosevelt was in the black; by then Levy and his associates had lost half a million of their own and borrowed money. Through all those years Levy never forgot that trotting was, first, a sport and only secondarily a business. Roosevelt's conciliatory policies toward horsemen, its full program of colt racing to encourage development of younger horses and an equitable purse distribution won the respect and cooperation of harness racing's elder statesmen. Many of these men were initially hostile to the expected commercialism of a big-city operation, but their steady support greatly contributed to the track's success.

By 1946 Levy could have ridden off on a sulky into the Long Island sunset. He had started out with 35% of the Raceway stock but had given much of it away during the hard years, at least to those who would take it (Levy now owns 6½% of Roosevelt). At one point in 1942 the stock was selling for $1 a share, with no takers.

"You remember Clem McCarthy?" says Levy. "Everybody remembers Clem, with that wonderful voice of his. What people don't know is that at one time we were so broke we offered Clem 100 shares of stock when he was announcing races for us. His fee was $100 per program, and we offered him the stock if he would cut it to $50. His manager laughed in our faces—he said the stuff was worthless—but he did cut McCarthy's fee to $75 and we struggled along. That stock bundle would have grown, after splits, to 12,000 shares with a market value of about $250,000 today, including dividends—in less than 15 years."

The raceway, meanwhile, has become a community institution. Since it began showing a profit, Roosevelt has donated some $2 million to philanthropic causes, most notably the cerebral palsy drives, and on Long Island charity now begins at George Morton Levy. He still supports a collection of retired theatrical folk—Levy is a soft touch for show-business people—and at one time the list was so long that they used to rally at his home in Freeport every Sunday for their handouts. In Mineola, Levy still maintains an institution he definitely does not need, his "old country lawr office" of Littleton and Levy. With most of his time devoted to Roosevelt, and with Littleton retired some years ago, Levy gets to Mineola only about one day a week but keeps the staff there on a full-time salary. "I don't know what it is," he says, "but people seem to stay with me until they die. Why, you ought to go over to the office in Mineola; I've got the weirdest collection of old folks over there you ever saw. There's one old guy who hasn't been in the office for 15 years, and he's still full time on the payroll."

Levy's charitable works were forgotten in 1951, however, when Senator Kefauver and his investigators came to town and called the Long Island lawyer as their first televised witness. The cameras were set up in a borrowed courthouse room on Foley Square, and an estimated 30 million people looked in that day, March 12, at the image of the two men facing each other. The old man remembers it well: "My lawr partner, Littleton, told me they were out to get somebody, and that somebody was me," he says. "I couldn't believe him. I had already been through—and cleared—an intensive Treasury Department investigation. Why would they want to get me? 'All right,' my partner told me. 'I'll prove it to you right now. You call the committee and ask them to postpone your part in the hearing until Wednesday. After all, that will give the hearings two days before you have to appear and give you a fairer chance.' So I called..." Levy lights up a fresh cigar and bites down hard on it, remembering. "So I called Rudolph Halley, the chief counsel, and asked for the delay. And Halley told me, 'Why, if you can't make it until Wednesday, Mr. Levy, we'll just postpone the start of the hearings until that time.' And then I knew that I was to be the sacrificial victim."

Kefauver's charge that Levy had been a golf-playing companion of Costello and Erickson did not generate much fire. The Senator's chief accusation, that Levy had paid Costello $60,000 over a four-year period, Levy admitted matter-of-factly. While the cameras held him close up, he even added to the Senator's story: he had, said Levy, paid Costello the $60,000 after Harness Racing Commissioner Downing had insisted there were bookmakers operating openly at Roosevelt and that Levy should get rid of them. Far from concealing it, Levy had listed the Costello payment as a deductible business expense—at $15,000 a year—and paid by check. The Treasury Department had investigated the case and decided the payment was not a deductible item, but there it was and everybody knew about it, said Levy. Commissioner Downing had known and approved. "I did not believe there were any bookmakers there myself," said Levy, "but I was faced with the loss of my license and I figured it was a cheap enough price to pay...." What did Mr. Costello do to earn the money? "I don't know," said Levy. The next exchange was typical of the hearing:

Sen. [Charles W.] Tobey:...I would not pay out $60,000 for a pig in a poke. Levy: What would you do, get your license revoked?

The hearing wound up at loose ends. Levy had frankly admitted paying out the money; his statement had been corroborated by Downing; Costello had testified that he had not done much of anything to earn the money except pass the word around a few key New York night spots. The hearing had scored a fantastically high audience rating, and Levy's reputation was left in shreds. A final unanswered query about where Levy had gotten some money in 1942 was left with the implication that he had borrowed it from the underworld. Later he was able to prove the money had been a loan from his mother. And on July 11, 1952 Levy finally received a letter from Kefauver which said, in part: "We conclude, therefore, that the additional corroborative of Mr. Levy's testimony before the committee.... I am glad that we now have the benefit of fuller information and facts and that we can take this opportunity of remedying any injustice that you suffered...."

"It did not," says Levy now, "do me a whole hell of a lot of good at that point." Levy sometimes wryly figures that just surviving those stormy years is enough of a valedictory. He still has his health, he can play golf with the best of them and he bets on horses about as badly as the worst of them.

Roosevelt Raceway, its new plant completed in 1957, stands as a $21 million monument to him on 50 acres of the plain, and Levy and associates own nearly everything else for miles around. It is considered a solid enough enterprise to be listed on the American Stock Exchange—with 13,000 stockholders betting on Levy. Racing purses now average about $40,000 each night and the betting handle about $2 million, as much as a season would bring in back in the old days. Roosevelt has a lucrative new enterprise in Westbury Tote, an electronic tote board that flashes betting data in 15-second cycles; Levy is marketing it nationally and overseas.

Levy himself, at 73 or 77, continues to set a bristling pace at Roosevelt. He's at the office every day, every morning during the golf season, with his coat sleeves pushed up and his elbows resting on the open center drawer of the desk. Both gestures are characteristic. He can't stand to have his forearms covered—"I don't feel free in long sleeves," he says—and once, when Levy's secretary locked the center drawer because he was always spilling cigar ashes into it, he retrieved the key, unlocked the drawer and then threw the key out the window. "You know," says Levy with that stabbing gesture, spilling ashes into the drawer, "I have no envy or malice left in my system. I still have a lot to do."

A lot of golf, for one thing. One day recently Levy worked as usual until noon. He settled a lease agreement on a new department store that soon will open on Roosevelt property, listening with barely controlled patience to the arguments and finally calling the principals into private conference and forcefully dictating the terms. ("I'm not worried," said the relieved lessee. "I know George Levy is an honest man.") He dictated a letter of condolence to the widow of a newspaperman who had died uninsured, and added his personal check for $1,800 "because he was a nice guy and a good writer in his day." Then he put on his hat and walked out, down the paneled corridor from the executive suite, past the glass-covered, framed pictures of nine former Roosevelt Raceway treasurers, all of whom were personal friends of Levy and all of whom are now dead. He climbed into the back seat of his Cadillac and propped his feet on the golf bag, and the chauffeur drove directly to the country club where three old cronies were waiting—two bankers and one retired raceway board member.

They played 18 holes, cursing each other with sweeping phrases, while Levy drove his golf cart with the abandon of A.J. Foyt, his cigar fixed firmly in the center of his mouth, the smoke streaming back along both sides of his jowls. At the clubhouse Levy came out of the steam room with a stately air for one so small and round and completely naked. He padded over to the counter, picked up the communal can of talcum powder and thoughtfully sprinkled it on, raising first one arm and then the other; he sprayed his chest and belly until he looked like a fuzzy old white Teddy bear. Through the glass doors the locker-room attendant waited at respectful attention with a bourbon old-fashioned, and Levy's pals were drinking their drinks and counting out fives and tens on the long wooden bench. The total was $70, and when the old man stalked in and sat down with a gentle explosion of white dust they grinned and pushed it across at him.

It was 5:30 p.m. Long Island time, the best part of Levy's day. He had worked; he had played golf. The trotters would race that night at Roosevelt and old friends would come by and say hello. Much, much later he would get out his clubs and knock a few balls through the Jaysons' downstairs windows. He reached over and rummaged through the ash-covered serge suit in the locker and got out his 17th cigar of the day and lit it, found the rimless glasses and put them on and squinted through the smoke at his friends. "You know what, fellas?" he said, with a note of wonder in his voice. "I am the happiest man in the world."




DISPLAYING TWO HALLMARKS, cigar and short-sleeved shirt, Levy relaxes in the den of his 160-year-old home in Old Westbury with his wife, daughter CeCe, 11, and son Robert, 7.