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Miceli celebrates 90th birthday at Santa Anita

From earning four Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star following the Allied invasion of Normandy, to owning and operating one of the most popular Italian eateries in Los Angeles, to playing the races on a regular basis at Santa Anita, Carmen Miceli has had anything but an ordinary life and as such, will be honored by Santa Anita on March 17 with the "The Carmen Miceli Purse," as Santa Anita joins with Miceli, his friends and family to celebrate his 90th birthday.

Along with his wife, Sylvia, Carmen opened Miceli's Pizza House in 1949 on Las Palmas Ave. and the fledging business thrived as a late-night destination for Hollywood celebrities craving Italian food. It was one of the few restaurants open until early morning hours in that era.

Using family recipes brought from Sicily, the pizzeria soon morphed into a full-fledged Italian restaurant and it wasn't long before it was attracting large crowds and the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bugsy Segal and Sal Mineo.

Over the decades, Miceli's, which is also famous for its live entertainment and singing waiters, has attracted entertainment and political giants such as The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, and Presidents Kennedy and Nixon.

An everyday customer in Santa Anita's Turf Club Chandelier Room, the Chicago native first attended The Great Race Place on December 26, 1946. Miceli loves fast horses, good company, jazz, and yes, an occasional cigarette.

"I love the races," Miceli said. "I love hanging out with the people here and the competition. It keeps me young. I've had a great life and I can't think of a better place to spend my 90th birthday than at Santa Anita. I know I probably shouldn't smoke, but hey, I've made it this far, right?"

In addition to Miceli's restaurant in Los Angeles, he also founded a "sister" location in Universal City, which understandably, keeps the soon-to-be nonagenarian plenty busy.

"I have good people running both locations for me, thank goodness," Miceli said. "Back in the day, my wife and I were hands-on and we had some fabulous times. I'm still enjoying myself, but I just can't devote the amount of time to each place that I used to."

A close friend of trainer Eric Kruljac and actor/horseplayer Jimmy "The Hat" Allard, Miceli is also a frequent visitor to the Santa Anita winner's circle.

"Jimmy and I play the Pick 6 every day and we have a lot of fun," Miceli added. "Eric gives me a horse to bet on every now and then and sometimes we get lucky. I just can't wait to get back to the track and I can't wait to have some fun on Sunday."

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