There’s a lot to say about being self-made, stories of the people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Shit, that’s the American dream. But it’s often not until success is realized that the hardships of the journey are fully understood. In this series, we look at the Las Vegas locals in the thick of it—dancing along the line of triumph or defeat. Because let’s face it, we learn best when the struggle is real.
In old Las Vegas, the one that’s remembered in the movies before corporate monoliths took over the Strip, there was an informal code about doing business: Loyalty and family come first. This is a vague memory today.
One native Las Vegan, though, doesn’t romanticize those days. David Jones, 36, uses them as a road map in his business of working with venues and hip-hop artists to execute concerts from concept to show night. Under the moniker Legends Never Die, Jones has put on more than three dozen shows since 2012, most of them at Downtown institution Beauty Bar.
As it turns out, the code runs through his veins.
The name Irving “Ash” Resnick is synonymous with Las Vegas history. Originally from New York, Resnick was a fight promoter who had influential relationships with the likes of Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali, and he was a casino executive in hotels such as Caesars Palace, the Aladdin, and Tropicana.
He brought gambling junkets to the Strip by orchestrating excursions for out-of-state players, which helped redefine how casinos attracted high-rollers. Resnick’s success was built on these strong personal connections, though a few may have gotten him into trouble. (His mob ties earned him a hearty FBI file.) He’s also been credited for setting up the first baccarat game at The Dunes. Baccarat is now one of the more popular games for big spenders.
The parallels between Resnick and Jones seem logical, a son following in his father’s footsteps. But the pair never met.
In the early 1980s, Jones’ mom, Judy, worked as a cage cashier in a number of casinos. “I met Ash at the Aladdin,” she says. “He came in as a host to bring in more players to the hotel. He’d bring his customers to the casino cage where I was an assistant cage manager at the time.”
They had a brief affair. Judy claims she told Resnick about their son.
“He knew. Yes, he did,” Judy says. “He knew when I took David to see him at the Golden Nugget. David was just a few months old.”
Judy says Resnick reached out again once he got sick. “Ash was in the hospital and he called me. I called him back, and he wanted to know how the baby was doing. And we talked a little bit,” Judy recalls.
Some time passed before another call came, but this time she couldn’t reach him. “When I called back, whoever answered said he wasn’t accepting any phone calls. And that was the last time I heard from Ash.”
According to Judy, Jones’ feisty personality was apparent right from the start. “David was a different kind of little guy,” she remembers. “He had tantrums. I never saw a kid like him.” This temper followed him through adolescence, causing him to bounce around multiple high schools. This is when Jones found hip-hop.
He struggled to express his thoughts, but given the right beat he could assert his feelings in freestyle. But he couldn’t move beyond pen and paper. So when an opportunity to book one of his favorite touring acts, Qwel & Maker, came up in September 2012, he found his new connection to the music. Jones broke ground at the former Beauty Bar weekly event Sunday Skoolin’.
Today Jones runs his events from the front of the house—milling through the crowd, giving hugs and sporting a grin. From artist handling to marketing to stage management, he’s a one-man show.
“He’s extremely organized and passionate about what he does,” says Patrick “Pulsar” Trout, a talent buyer at Beauty Bar and Los Angeles’ Viper Room. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out in this line of work, but he’s always kept his cool and been able to adapt to any challenges put in front of him.”
Jones embodies the yesteryear of Vegas, particularly when it comes to loyalty. According to him, it’s the way things still should be. “Family meant a lot, and friends were family. You treated people how you wanted to be treated,” he says.
Growing up without a father wasn’t a primary concern for Jones, but curiosity came with age. “I always felt that it was important for my son to know who his father was,” Judy says. “I never told him until he was ready and started asking.”
Jones struggled with self-doubt during his emergence as a promoter. The unstable nature of the entertainment industry also created financial insecurity and anxiety, which is why he knew it was time to look for a support system. He was ready to see if he had more family.
It was on his 18th birthday that Jones learned of his father, who passed away in 1989. But as Jones neared his mid-20s, the former in-laws of his brother’s mentioned that they knew Resnick’s family, including his two daughters. Jones determined he had to meet them.
In early 2013, Lara Resnick was scrolling through Facebook on break during a singing gig when she found a folder labeled “Other” in her inbox. Lara says, “There was a message, and it said, ‘Hi, my name is David Jones, and this is really hard for me to write, but I have reason to believe that Ash Resnick is my father.’”
The next day Lara pulled up a picture of David on a computer and saw a familiar face. “It was like looking at myself, but the male version.” She immediately called her older sister, Dana Gentry, an esteemed journalist, who initially had doubts.
“For some reason, when I was a kid, people used to say they were related to us all the time … so I didn’t put much credence in it,” Gentry says. But once she and her sister saw more photos, they knew they had a half brother. “We have a little piece of our father back,” Lara says.
The siblings met for the first time roughly a month after Jones reached out. The family relationship blossomed—they connected at events, dinners, birthdays and weddings.
“It’s hard to convey to somebody the kind of person he was,” Dana says about her father. “I don’t even try anymore; it’s not important that David know who his dad was. What’s important to me is that he knows we love him, and he is part of our family.”
“My dad was an ambitious self-starter,” Lara says. “That’s what I see in David, too. I think he’s going to be a self-made man. Nothing was ever handed to David, but he’s got an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Jones’ shows are sometimes wildly successful, like his show with R.A. the Rugged Man or his Notorious B.I.G. tribute at Brooklyn Bowl. Other times they are flops despite all of his best efforts. And though he hasn’t been able to pay all the bills with promoting yet, it’s one of his goals. He also still has aspirations to rap.
As for whether he believes he’s going to make a successful career out his dreams, he says, “That shit’s in my blood.”
Originally published in Vegas Seven Magazine 2017