Invitations to participate in orgies on yachts, a brazen drug culture and constant brushes with the Vegas underworld — this all became part of the daily routine for Suzanne Krauss’ mother when she left Philadelphia with her two young daughters to work as a “Sin City” showgirl in 1972.
Krauss was only 3 years old when her mother started her seven-year stint as one of Vegas’ most sought-after showgirls in the Tropicana’s legendary Les Folies Bergere, the standard-setting revue that ran from 1959 to 2009.
Krauss, now 44, chronicles what it was like to grow up in this X-rated environment — and the impact her mother’s unusual career choice had on the whole family — in her memoir, To Vegas and Back. Released in November, the book has already made it to top rankings in Amazon’s Kindle sales categories.
The author will make sure that what happened in Vegas doesn’t stay there when she returns to Philadelphia on Jan. 29 to promote her book locally.
After leaving Las Vegas, Krauss’ mother, Olivia William, whose real name was changed in the book to protect her privacy, eventually settled down in Wynnewood with Suzanne and her older sister. William worked as a hostess, which, along with money from a divorce settlement, was enough to support her children. Krauss went on to graduate from Lower Merion High School and study journalism at Arizona State University.
Though Krauss now lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children, Philadelphia continues to hold a special place in her heart.
“Philly has always been a place that I can call home,” Krauss said. “When I was a child living in Vegas and came back to Philly for the summers, it was always a homecoming. My memories are filled with family and traditions.”
Main Point Books owner Cathy Fiebach said she’s particularly excited to have a native Philadelphian come in to speak, adding that it will be a great opportunity for young writers to hear a local success story.
“I’m trying to support local authors and promote great literature being created in our own backyard,” Fiebach said. “I think it’s going to be really fun to come here and be exposed to this literature in an easy way.”
Krauss is equally excited to inspire and guide the next generation of literary enthusiasts. Her first lesson? Write what you know, no matter how difficult it may be to access those thoughts and memories.
“This story had been living inside of me, but I was not ready to write it until now,” Krauss explained. “It took four years to complete. To Vegas and Back was a true labor of love.”
A major reason for the book’s lengthy gestation period, Krauss said, was that she was busy devoting most of her energy to her kids, one in elementary school and the other in middle school. She wrote only when she could find free time — late at night or on the rare days when she was not working as a marketer for a trade show company.
It also took a great deal of time to accurately “weave everything into the correct timeline,” she added, because she had to conduct extensive interviews with family members.
One might expect that her family would not enjoy having such private affairs aired in public, but Krauss said she changed all names except her own and has received only positive support from everyone involved, including her mother, who, at 72, still lives in the area.
“Sure, this story is difficult for my mother, even though it is 34 years behind us,” Krauss said. “It can still be raw when brought to the surface, but she hopes — as I do — that people will not only find this an incredible story, but will learn from the mistakes made.”
While Krauss tells of a life rife with suffering and hardship, her underlying message is one of optimism: “Bad things can happen to good people, but a positive, even wonderful life, can emerge.”
IF YOU GO
Suzanne Krauss makes two local appearances on Jan. 29:
Main Point Books,
1041 W. Lancaster Ave.,
Bryn Mawr, 1 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, 1805 Walnut St. Philadelphia, 6 p.m.
For more information:
[email protected] .