photos by Gael Hees

Monica Atwood, or Jack as she is known, is funny, quirky, a bit stubborn, loyal and a hard worker. She’d do anything in the world to help someone. She loves dogs—both her own and everyone else’s. She soldiers through all adversities and is probably tough as nails. Oh! She is also spontaneous and affectionate to the point that she will stop mid-sentence of a good story to run over and give you a hug because she forgot to do that when you came in (I know from experience).

There has always been a theatrical side to Jack. She studied drama at Arizona State University, but discovered she didn’t want to know the history and business side of theater, she wanted to do theater. She finished her studies at a private school in San Francisco and found herself in California where, “it was the time of the tall thin beautiful people and they weren’t doing girl next door stuff back then.” She found a place in a small theater company in the Midwest and eventually moved to Chicago.

It was there that she and four others founded Rivendell Theater Ensemble, now celebrating 24 years of “women’s works.” One of the original founders, Tara Mallen, is still with the theater as artistic director, and Jack closely follows the theater’s activities. At some point, she decided she was a better stage manager than actor, singer, dancer. “So I just went from acting to stage managing—now, there are whole educational programs for stage managing, but not back then. I just kinda made it up and joined the union and learned and did some touring things and this and that.”

“This and that” included working as a stage hand at American Girl Theater. This was her first introduction to children’s theater and she realized that she was “shaping young women because theater teaches important life skills like respect, discipline, commitment.” It also included four years in Birmingham, Alabama in Birmingham Children’s Theater and Red Mountain Theater Company where she helped stage more than 50 productions.

Throughout all of this, Jack bartended and worked as a server to fill in. Working in the foodservice industry always provided her with the flexibility she needed to work around theater rehearsals and performances. 

When Jack came to Las Vegas to provide support and company for her father, she was looking for more than a job. She was looking for community, a place where she felt she belonged—like that of a close-knit theater troupe. She found just what she was looking for at Frankie’s Uptown.

“It was just a fluke,” she said about finding Frankie’s. “I was looking for a place like this when I first moved here; it reminds me of the places I worked for in Chicago. There was just a connection. It felt like I was talking to my family—they all felt so familiar,” she continued. When they offered her the position of bar manager, her head was saying “Hell, no way,” but her mouth said, “Yes, whatever you need.”

Frankie’s Uptown is the most recent offering of Frankie and Chris Lee, longtime restaurateurs in Las Vegas. Located across from the new Las Vegas Ballpark, the space was remodeled in record time so the opening coincided with the Aviator’s first game. The restaurant/bar has a wonderful old school tavern feel with brick walls and dark wood benches. One of the features on the expansive menu is the STRoLL: homemade dough rolled around a mixture of meats, cheeses and sauce, and baked to perfection. Delicious. The bar has an astounding list of whiskeys.

After being open only four months, it has already started to attract “regulars.” Many of the Aviators will go by after a game (Jack says they’re “just darling,” and thinks of them as her “little brothers”) and people in the area drop by for a drink or dinner. The restaurant is also attracting industry people, because it is a great place to hang out and it’s open till 2 am.

“There really isn’t anything open that late in the area,” said Jack. “We serve food till closing, and I’ve seen nights when Frankie is cooking up something at 2:30 a.m. We get all kinds of people after midnight. It’s not a gaming bar, we have a pool table and great whiskey,” she concluded.

Of course, Jacks talks to everyone, not shy this one. She makes you feel like she’s known you forever. Jack’s creating her own community in Vegas.

Frankie’s Uptown is located at 1770 Festival Plaza Dr #190 in Downtown Summerlin.