When Summer saw Kim Wendell working at a nightclub in the Bellagio in Las Vegas in 2004, she couldn't believe the change.
When she had last seen her in Fort Lauderdale more than a year before, Summer said Wendell was bleach-blond with long hair extensions, wore blue contact lenses, weighed 90 pounds, and had enhanced double-D breasts.
"Now she's 125 pounds, she was down to a C cup, her hair was brown, not blond, and she had brown eyes," Summer said. "And her hair was cut short. Basically it was like she whacked off her hair, gained 30 pounds, and her boobs got smaller."
It seemed to Summer that Wendell had gone back to a closer version of her natural self. The place where Summer met Wendell was Light Las Vegas, owned by Andrew Sasson, a club operator who had grown up in South London, dropped out of Florida International University, and supposedly worked briefly as a doorman at Velvet in Miami Beach before opening a nightclub in New York. Vegas magazine has written about Sasson extensively, including his love of
"pole dancers." Here's what a Las Vegas promotional publication said about the club where Wendell was working:
Light Las Vegas is a place where old and new money meet. Designed as a watering hold for high rollers, celebrity socialites and women, Light offers more of a New York vibe [and] ... the experience begins with an insane door where those who guarded it hand- picked their guests from a crowd of hundreds of hopefuls... With lavender velvet decor, red lighting, exclusive bottle service, beautiful women, and DJs spinning the best in hip hop and top 40, Light nightclub throws one hell of a sexy party.
Summer says she doesn't know the details of Wendell's work for Sasson, but she had met Sasson and knew his reputation.
"Andrew was very keen on dating his staff, and she was still an attractive girl," she said. "They try to put you at the right tables. It's for the high rollers; you surround them with models and bottles. That's what they always said: 'models and bottles.' They get everything comped and hang out with beautiful girls."
It's not known if Wendell dated Sasson. And the night Summer and Wendell bumped into each other is the only glimpse we have of Wendell in Vegas at this time. And it wasn't long before she met Scott Rothstein.
If Rothstein is to be believed, he first laid eyes on Wendell in early 2005 at a Broward charity event. At that time, Rothstein's law firm had fewer than ten lawyers and wasn't much of a success. All Rothstein really had to impress anyone was his $2.5 million house on Castilla Isle, which he bought from Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams. And even that money wasn't his; he'd borrowed it from Ted Morse, his supposed good friend from the immensely wealthy car dealership family. Morse would continue to help Rothstein make his astonishing rise to power and riches during the next four years.
Sources have told me that Rothstein in some way wrested Wendell away from Las Vegas prior to their engagement. A credible source told me that Wendell was dating a man in Vegas who owned a club of some sort. The source says that Rothstein was afraid that Kim's ex would seek physical revenge on him, so he hired an apparently low-rent bodyguard to stand out front of the Castilla home. The bodyguard sometimes slept on Rothstein's car in the driveway at night, said the source.
Rothstein and Wendell broke up at least once during the engagement in 2006. A source close to Rothstein at that time said he overheard Rothstein in his Bentley screaming at someone on the phone, calling the woman on the other end terrible names.
"Who was that?" the source says he asked Rothstein, who acted as if nothing unusual had occurred after loudly berating the woman.
"Kim," he said matter-of-factly.
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At that time, Wendell disappeared for about a month, allegedly off to North Carolina, before returning to Rothstein. When she returned, those around her noticed that she seemed to embrace her role as the future Mrs. Scott Rothstein like never before.
She was no longer Kim Wendell but Princess Kimberly, and soon her face was lighting up the pages of Fort Lauderdale's society publications.
Summer, for her part, lost touch with Kim and didn't know about any of it until I contacted her last week at her home in Los Angeles. She said she couldn't believe that her old friend -- the girl who was too sweet to be a successful stripper -- had risen to such a high profile in Fort Lauderdale. "Oh my gosh, I'm jealous," said Summer, who said she was living with a "dot-commer millionaire."
"She hit the jackpot."