Life was good: She had a great job, a fantastic Manhattan apartment and a caring boyfriend. But, at one pivotal moment, none of that mattered. "I went to Vegas for a wedding, I came back and I found myself staring out a window and I wanted to jump," says Suzanne Krauss of Westport, who was experiencing an anxiety attack. The trip stirred-up painful feelings about her childhood in Sin City. Subsequent therapy sessions led to a cathartic endeavor. She wrote a book, "To Vegas and Back", a shocking and honest memoir detailing her journey as a showgirl's daughter. Her past caused insecurity and fear but also strength, conviction and an admiration for an unconventional mother who always persevered.
"You see a young woman in the '60s struggling to keep her marriage together," explains Krauss. After a divorce, her mother, who had ties to the casino world, moved her three kids west and set her sights on becoming a performer. The 6-foot stunner, called "Olivia" in the book, kept her word, landing "her dream job" as the glamorous lead in the Tropicana's Les Folies Bergere. "She was so happy," says Krauss, who says the change from domestic housewife to showgirl built confidence in her mom, as she made money and commanded attention. "She'd be walking through the casino and people would just stop and part the way." Stories were filled famous names — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sammy Davis Jr., Joe Namath. But, this offbeat yet positive time didn't last.
Looking for security, a home and a father for her children, Olivia married a realtor she barely knew. Krauss writes that he soon became a monster. "We faced the most horrible kind of adversity in our home," she says, recalling the sexual and emotional abuse she and her sister kept hidden from their mother, who also suffered at the hands of this alcoholic. After six years and many revelations, Krauss' mother left him…and Las Vegas, for good.
In 2010, this former journalist started recording memories, with help from her sister and mother, who was willing to share her story yet felt vulnerable. Krauss' book was rejected by 16 publishing houses, a lesson in determination for her two kids. Krauss parents in an emotional and involved way, but she learned a lot from her mother's unique, steadfast style: "Everyday was a new day." Finally, Krauss connected with Changing Lives Press and her book was published in January, making her history, once known by only five people, very public. Would she take it all back? Never. "I'm not embarrassed anymore. Now, I'm empowered by my story. If it can empower somebody else, that's pretty awesome," she says. "That makes me feel really at peace with the whole thing."
For more information, check out http://www.tovegasandback.com and watch Monday's Fox CT Morning News.