I had heard the term “the Vapors” around Hot Springs several times, but it wasn’t until yesterday, when I happened upon a woman with whom I share space at the National Park College pottery studio, that I learned a little about its history. The Vapors was an upscale Hot Springs nightclub in the waning heydays of illegal gambling in Hot Springs. Tony Bennet wrote that he first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at the Vapors. The Vapors was bombed on January 4, 1963. Rumors swirled about those responsible, many suggesting some of the mobsters involved in illegal gambling had a hand in it. The club and the building eased into ugliness and disrepair over the years. Today, it is the Tower of Strength Ministries. This is important for the moment only in that the woman I mentioned also said she may be one of the only people alive today who knows the true story of the Vapors.
When I got home, I looked for more information about her and found that a woman who shares her name was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 1982. Later, in 2003, she was involved as a defendant in a lawsuit involving alleged organized crime in which she was said to have strong-armed people to prevent real estate transactions that would have harmed some of her associates.
One can stumble into some of the most intriguing stuff, simply by asking questions.