Fri, 27 May 2011
Donna Foley Mabry
When Donna was five years old, her father gave her a red and white Singer sewing machine for Christmas. It was powered by turning a little wheel on the side, and it was just what the little girl wanted. Somehow, Mabry says, she already knew how to make simple dresses for her dolls.
Over the years, her machines included an old foot-treadle powered White, then her first electric, another Singer, with a cast-iron body that was so heavy she couldn’t lift it by herself. She made clothes for herself and her daughter, Melanie. When her children were small, she didn’t work outside of the home, but earned her own money dressmaking for wealthy ladies.
When the family moved to Florida, Melanie was fifteen and immediately became involved with the Venice Little Theatre. Soon, the whole family was spending their free time there. Husband Lonnie acted and helped with props, son David acted and did lights. One Christmas, David was a witches helper in, “The Wizard of Oz,” and grew so much over the summer that the next year, he was the Scarecrow.
The costume designer, Joan Dillon, taught Donna the finer points of costume construction. Over the years, Donna sewed, acted, and performed various other duties at the theatre, and her daughter went on to study acting and dance at USF and became a professional actor. That led both of them to Las Vegas.
Melanie came first, doing a show at the MGM Grand for a year, then deciding to settle down. She went into marketing, starting in events and tournaments at the Sahara, then working her way up to Entertainment Director at Harrah’s on the Las Vegas strip.
While she was working there, Melanie persuaded her boss to hire her mother to make costumes. Melanie introduced Donna to her friends and workmates, colorful people to say the least. She set up a work area for her Mom in the back of the dressing room. Soon, Donna was making notes on things she heard while she was sewing.
Donna hadn’t written since college, but thought about the interesting people and great stories and decided to stitch them together into her first novel, “The Last Two Aces in Las Vegas.”
Everyone in it is based on at least one real person. Some of the characters are two or three people put together.
“My leading man, Alberto, is actually three people, he has one person’s childhood, a different one’s early adulthood, and another’s older years. Many of the stories told in the book are true, and a few of them didn’t take place until after the book was finished. I’m very interested in what makes people do the things they do, so given their personalities, it wasn’t too difficult to see how they would react in certain situations. It‘s fun when a Vegas old-timer reads it and tries to guess who the character is in real life. Sometimes, the guess surprises me, and sometimes they‘re right on the money. It‘s not always who you might think.”
With four books now published in the series, the story lines seem almost endless. “These are sort of backwards mysteries, like the old TV show, Colombo. You know right away who the killer is, the mystery comes in finding out what will happen to trip them up,” Donna says.