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October 31, 2014

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Niki Devine: 1927-2014:

Niki Devine, longtime Las Vegas socialite, dies at 87

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Niki Devine is shown with her bichon frise Magic.

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Niki Devine began her modeling career in the late 1940s.

When socialite Niki Devine moved to Las Vegas in 1975 and considered buying a posh high-rise condominium, she heeded the words of her brother-in-law, a veteran New York firefighter, who warned her that modern fire engine ladders reached no higher than the ninth floor to make rescues from blazing buildings.

So Devine bought a unit on the ninth floor of the newly built Regency Towers — the very flat where she died Wednesday, with members of her family at her side. She was 87.

The cause of death, her family said, was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, which she had battled since 2009.

Services for Devine, a longtime amateur golfer who won women’s tournaments in Las Vegas, Texas and California, will be noon Friday at King David Mortuary.

Devine was married four times. Her husbands included a Miami bookie-turned-Las Vegas junket king, a Chicago mob enforcer-turned-legitimate local businessman and a legendary Houston television newsman whose investigative reporting led to the closure of the real “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

“Niki for many years was a fixture on the Las Vegas social scene,” said daughter-in-law Janie Greenspun Gale, daughter of late Las Vegas Sun Publishers Hank and Barbara Greenspun. “She prided herself on marrying colorful men.

“Niki was beautiful, charming, intelligent and funny. She certainly loved to have fun, but she also was a no-nonsense type of person who took no guff from anyone.”

A scratch golfer, Devine also was a longtime member of the Las Vegas Country Club. In 1961, she was ladies club champion at a Houston country club.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Devine married Howard Aschwald; together they had a daughter.

After that short marriage, Devine married Florida and Texas bookie Louis Gale, and they had three sons. They moved from Houston to Las Vegas in the mid-1970s and he became an executive for the original MGM Grand (now Bally’s), where his job was to bring in high rollers from Miami and Houston on gambling junkets.

Devine’s third marriage was to Irving “Niggy” Devine, a longtime strong-armed associate and courier for mob boss Meyer Lansky. When she met Devine, he was the owner of New York Meats and Provisions, which had the lucrative contract to provide quality meat to downtown and Strip hotel restaurants.

After her husband’s death, Devine, a world traveler, was in Houston when, in 2000, she met and soon after married veteran television newsman Marvin Zindler, whose 1973 reports on the Chicken Ranch brothel in Fayette County led to it being shut down by authorities. Zindler’s coverage also inspired the Broadway play and movie musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

Zindler and Devine and their bichon frise Magic shared Zindler’s longtime home in Houston until his death in 2007. Soon after, his widow retook the last name Devine and moved back to Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

Niki Devine, who as a model in the late 1940s did photo shoots for bathing suits, gave up the profession in the 1950s to start and raise a family.

Born Niki Silver on June 17, 1927, in Montreal to Russian immigrants Hyman and Mania Silver, Niki immigrated to New York City with her family at age 7 after the United States eased restrictions on Eastern European Jews migrating into the country.

Her father was a jewelry store owner in New York. Hyman later was dubbed “the jeweler to the stars” at his Roney Place Hotel store in Miami Beach. As a result, Niki grew up in the lap of the Big Apple’s and South Beach’s high society.

Standing only about 5-foot-5, Niki began a modeling career in the late 1940s, where she displayed the latest high fashion clothing at runway shows and posed for bathing-suit photos. She was signed by the Harry Conover Model Agency in New York but gave up the profession in the 1950s to start and raise a family.

While living in Texas, where she had met and married Louis Gale, Niki earned a bachelor of science and psychology degree from the University of Houston in the 1960s.

Devine was a member of Congregation Ner Tamid and Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas. She had another home in Indian Wells, Calif., where she was a member of the Desert Horizons Country Club.

Devine is survived by three sons, Jeff Gale, Bruce Gale and Matthew Gale, all of Las Vegas; a daughter, Andrea Gale of Las Vegas; four grandsons, Anthony Gale, Harrison Gale, Jesse Gale and Todd Bensman; three granddaughters, Katherine Gale, Ariel Gale and Bobbi Bensman; six great-grandchildren; and a sister, Soni Harris, of Long Island, N.Y. She was preceded in death by a grandson, Lazer Gale.

The family said donations can be made in Devine’s memory to Nathan Adelson Hospice and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Ed Koch is a former longtime Las Vegas Sun reporter.

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