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Tropicana ‘First Lady’ Ofelia Fox Dies

January 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Ofelia Fox, once known as the first lady of Havana’s Tropicana nightclub, where Hollywood stars mingled and crooners such as Nat King Cole ruled the stage, has died. She was 82.

Fox died Monday of cancer and complications from diabetes at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, according to Rosa Sanchez, her companion of more than 40 years.

In her memoir, ``Tropicana Nights, The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub,″ co-written with Rosa Lowinger and published last fall, Fox recounted life at the casino and dance club owned by Martin Fox, whom she married in 1952.

Celebrities like Ava Gardner, Tyrone Power and Ernest Hemingway gathered at the Tropicana, known for its casinos and all-night partying. Showgirls, lavish productions, congas and domino tournaments added to the air of a ``Paradise Under the Stars,″ as the club was called.

The revelry stopped after the Cuban revolution of 1959, when Fidel Castro took possession of the club and Fox and her husband fled to Miami. Martin Fox suffered a stroke and died in the mid-1960s.

Ofelia Fox had no children and decided to move with Sanchez to Los Angeles. Her house in Glendale became a gathering place for Cuban-American neighbors and friends, where domino tournaments and avid socializing were common.

Born Ofelia Suarez in Havana, the youngest of four, she published several books of poetry while she lived in Cuba. In Los Angeles, several of her bilingual plays were staged by the Cuban Cultural Club in Monterey Park.

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