Monday, January 19, 2015

THE RETURN OF STEVE THE SLEEVE

In August 1982, the Las Vegas Golden Nugget Casino hired me as a craps dealer. I was lucky that Nick Tucker, a fellow student of mine from the New York School of Gambling, (in 1978), dealt craps there too. Tucker took me under his wing, introduced me to people and showed me the ropes.
IN THE BACKYARD OF MY CANFIELD DRIVE CONDO, NOBODY WAS MORE MONDO BOFFO THAN ME DURING MY GOLDEN NUGGET CAREER, (1982-1984).

The Nugget was unique, in that it had no help's hall.  By not providing the staff with an eating facility, everyone was free to leave the building to eat...or whatever they pleased.

Nick said, "This free pass policy seems like a good idea but it leads to temptation, problems and trouble.  A lotta guys (girls too) do drugs or drink, get messed up and lose their job." 

I reminded Nick that I got my foot in the door when a dealer vanished in the middle of his shift, (vice detectives arrested him at the adult bookstore around the corner), after he stuck his penis through a "glory hole," (to be orally satisfied by an unseen solicitor on the other side of the wall).  

Nick was suggesting where to eat as we were about to leave the Nugget. We agreed on a burger from the Horseshoe Casino snack bar, (across the street).  We still had the strength of the Nugget's air-conditioning on our backs as the triple-digit desert swelter hit us in the face. Suddenly, as we stepped outside, Paul Proctor an old man blackjack dealer from the Nugget jostled Nick as he stormed past us, (Proctor was about sixty.  Oops, old man? That's how old I am now). 

Fremont Street was teeming with cars, (way before it became the Fremont Street Experience...see below...a canopied, pedestrian-only thoroughfare). 
NICK AND WERE CROSSING BETWEEN THE GOLDEN NUGGET SIGN AND THE BIG "B" (BINION'S HORSESHOE).  DON'T LET THE CANOPY, FOOL YOU,  THIS PICTURE IS OUTSIDE!  IN MY DAY,  FREMONT STREET WAS FILLED WITH CARS.  ON WEEKENDS, LOCAL TEENS CRUISED UP AND DOWN THAT SAME STREET (above) TILL THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING.

Paul Proctor hustled out into traffic and dodged between taxis. Suddenly, four uniformed Golden Nugget security guards and one plain-clothes supervisor rushed past Nick and I. They caught up with Proctor as he reached the opposite curb.
     
Like the wild west, women started screaming as the officers unprofessionally drew their weapons.  The supervisor was readying handcuffs as he ordered, “Empty your pockets!”  

In seconds, Nick and I were in a mob of curiosity seekers that encircled the performance. I was five feet from Proctor as he grudgingly turned out his pants pockets. All he had was; a money clip with eight dollars, some coins, a comb and a key-ring.
     Proctor innocently shrugged, “You must have me confused with someone else.”
     The stone-faced supervisor said, “Breast pocket.”
     Proctor pretended to be surprised as he patted his shirt pocket and said, "Geez."  He gulped and forced a laughed as he produced three, green Golden Nugget chips and two reds, ($85.00). “Goddammit fellas," he groaned, "I forgot to drop these tokes.”

Proctor was cuffed.  The supervisor leered at Nick and I, "He wasn't stealing company money...that was YOUR tips." Together with his posse, the plainclothesman prodded the perpetrator, for his walk of shame, back into our casino.


Nick jabbed me in the ribs, “See what I mean, drugs, booze and stealing.  That asshole was going to drop the stash off in his car and come back for another load. Lord knows how long he was doing that shit. Strange things happen when they let weak people come and go.”  I said, "Wow."  Nick sighed, "After security gets done with him, I bet he accidentally falls down the same cement staircase ten times in a row.  While he's in the hospital, they'll make him sign a waiver."  I said, "Waiver?"  He said, "Yeah, like a trade off.  That way he doesn't risk jail, in exchange for not suing them.  Either way, we’ll never see that prick again.”

Whether Nick's assertion was true or not, Vegas had an unwritten law against stealing from casinos due to the implied (real?) existence of organized crime.  So unless you were especially desperate or thought you were smarter than everyone else...the casinos were rarely victimized, (certainly ol' Paul Procter thought he was being clever by robbing the dealers instead of management).


Three years earlier, after six months experience dealing craps in Las Vegas, I got my first taste of conniving people who thought they were smarter than everyone else.


At 5:AM, on my way home from work, (the Holiday International Casino),my car was sideswiped, (a hit and run), on Interstate-10.  I was hit so hard, I lost control near Sahara Avenue and crashed, knocking over a light pole, (you may recall my April 1, 2013 blog, "THE SHORT LIFE OF THE MAFIA STAFF CAR."  In it, I described how that accident totaled my $385.00 used car and broke my hand).


I came to work the next day in a cast.  I had a good relationship with my pit boss (Paul "Shag" Darrow) and asked if they would hold my job while I healed, (seven weeks).  He excused himself.  Ten minutes later he returned and said, "It's all fixed, you'll work here."  I said, "Doing what?"  "You're a dealer, right?"  I said, "Yeah.  So I'll operate the Big Six wheel?"  He said, "You're a craps dealer."  I said, "I'll sit box? (supervise)" Shag said, "No, you're a craps dealer, you'll deal craps."  And I did.  Shag did say if anyone ever objected that he'd move me...but no one complained, (last week was my 36th anniversary in the gaming industry and I never saw or heard of anyone else dealing craps with their hand in a cast).

SUMMER 1979.  THE ONLY PICTURE OF ME WITH THE CAST.

The only cast-related problem I had was end the end of my first night.  The pit boss and other supervisors from the next shift (graveyard) relieved my bosses.  On my way out, I was intercepted by the six-foot-six graveyard pit boss John Garrison and his toady lead floorman, Mackey Jones.  

Garrison said, "Hey Jonesy, how many greens ($25.00 chips), you think he can you stuff in that cast?"  I was naive and thought they were kidding.  Mackey lifted my cast, stared me down and said, "We better keep an eye on Steve the Sleeve."


A sharp person would have been insulted...I was intimidated. The whole time in the cast, 
I exaggerated, "clearing my hands" before touching my body, to prove I wasn't putting chips in my cast or up my sleeve. 

A few days later, my closest friend "Ciro the Hero" told me about his friend's friend, Mike "Mooks" Mamoukian.  Mooks was a likable dope who months earlier had worked with Garrison and Jones.  Ciro's tale was chilling, (for a fuller version of Mike Mamoukian's story, read my June 24, 2013 blog, "MULTIPLE MOOKS.")


Mamoukian was from Buffalo New York and been a strip club bouncer.  His scary face was covered by occupational hazard scars.  But because he regularly ran afoul of his criminal employer, (unpaid debts and insubordination), they "owned" him.  As a testament of their hold on him and his unwillingness to, "get with the program," his mangled hands and gnarled fingers looked like they were twisted and broken a gazillion times. 
MOOKS' FINGERS, KNUCKLES AND HANDS REMINDED ME OF NFL HALL-OF-FAMER CHUCK "CEMENT CHARLIE" BEDNARIK'S, (above). BEDNARIK (1925-PRESENT), PLAYED FROM 1949-1962.  HE WAS THE LAST NFLer TO REGULARLY "GO BOTH WAYS", (PLAY ENTIRE GAMES, CENTER ON OFFENSE AND LINEBACKER ON DEFENSE).  HIS DISFIGURED HANDS ARE A RESULT OF RIVALS WHO TRIED TO CRIPPLE HIM IN PLAYER PILE-UPS.

Mooks knew he had no life in Buffalo.  When he saw an opportunity to break his cycle of abuse, he not only fled to Las Vegas but he virtually kidnapped Maria, a kindred spirit dancer.

Eventually, Mooks became a craps dealer at the Holiday International.  But between his lack of intelligence and inability to handle chips, his coworkers labeled him; the worst dealer in Vegas.  One day John Garrison took him aside and said, "Mike, not everyone is cut-out to be a craps dealer."  Mooks took a deep breath in the expectation that he was getting fired.  


Mooks reflected on his heavy responsibility, supporting Maria. As ugly as Mooks was, that's how beautiful this illegal refugee from Estonia was.  In the late 1970's, while the Cold War was still going strong, her family paid a heavy price to smuggle her (alone) into the country. Unfortunately, once here, the unscrupulous broker sold her like chattel to the strip club owner.  While working in his club's kitchen, Maria was duped into using heroine.  Once addicted, this lonely, non-English speaking, flawless beauty became enslaved as a topless dancer and prostitute.


John Garrison interrupted Mooks' daydream about his platonic relationship with Maria, "Mike, did you hear me?"  Mooks said, "Heh?" Garrison huffed, "I said, dealing craps is not for everyone.  But I can see you're a bright, decent guy who may be better suited to help our company in a management position."  Mooks scratched at his uni-brow and nodded. Garrison said, "I just got a promotion and I think with your people skills, you'd do a bang-up job replacing me as the graveyard craps pit boss."   

In the blink of an eye, moronic Mooks had gone from thinking he was unemployed to doubling his salary.


The reality was, Mooks was set-up to be a patsy.  While getting wined and dined, respected and appreciated, he was getting indoctrinated to be a fall-guy.  Between lavish meals and personalized hostess service on the casino floor, Mooks was inundated with providing his "John Hancock." The new position was exciting and he felt important, (in his private time, he even practiced his signature).  So there was little chance he'd do anything to jeopardize the bonanza he fell upon.


The casino had the least customers in the overnight hours. So someone with Mooks' intellect wouldn't think twice why he was bombarded with signing mostly bogus paperwork, (for the floor waxing team to be on the casino floor, clearance for the exterminator , overhead light bulbs to be replaced, memos approving new dealer aprons, the master attendance sheets and more).  What he definitely never picked up on was that all these signatures and initials came at the same time as fills, (fresh casino chips to replenish a table's bank).


On his third day, Mooks was distracted with a new, more complex version of the attendance sheet.  Mackey Jones shoved the fill slip (receipt for the chips), in Mooks' face and said, "I see you're buried, sign here and I'll put the fill on the game for you."


Mooks thanked him but never counted the chips (money). This scheme worked perfectly five shifts in a row, as he signed for $500.00 that wasn't there...and was subsequently stolen by Garrison, Jones and two others.


One morning, a young, hippie-ish dealer came into the restaurant while Mooks was waiting for his stuffed veal chop at 6:00AM. The kid said, "I could be wrong because I was reading the fill slips upside down but three nights in a row, a tray of nickels (one hundred, five-dollar chips, $500.00) was missing."


Mooks dismissed the kid as he shoveled spoonfuls of shrimp bisque into his mouth.  Suddenly everything came together.  He ripped off his soup-stained napkin from the neck of his shirt and sped to John Garrison's office.


Garrison listened to Mooks accuse Mackey Jones and the boxman of plotting to rob the casino. Under his breath Garrison said, "You're smarter than you look."  Mooks took it as a compliment, smiled and said, "Well I can't take all the credit, I did have help."  Then he named his informant. Garrison said, "I want to thank you.  I'm gonna have to fire those guys...but I can't take a chance that you and that kid aren't in it with them.  You understand."


Mooks was unemployed for months until he got hired as a blackjack dealer, at the bottom of the barrel, Lady Luck Casino.At that point, Garrison, Jones and their 
fellow conspirators, (the boxman and the cage cashier) were still at the Holiday International when I was asked, "How many green chips could I stuff in my cast?" 

Last week, I was telling a new MGTP reader (EEBEE) about a recent scam at the Cosmopolitan Casino where a dealer was permitted by his accomplice supervisor to hand off $60,000.00 in chips to a third comrade posing as a customer, (of course these desperadoes weren't smarter than everyone else and got caught).


EEBEE
 countered, "I just saw on the Travel Channel a casino stealing device called the 'sleeve.' It looks like a big, plastic twist-off cap from a water bottle."  

UNLIKE THE SMALL TWIST-OFF CAPS, (above), THE NEARLY UNDETECTABLE "SLEEVE" IS CLEAR, SPECIALLY MADE OF A NON-REFLECTIVE MATERIAL AND HAS NO LINES OR GROOVES.

The sleeve is deep and wide enough to jam five standard casino chips in.  To start the process, an actual five-dollar chip from that casino is pushed to the bottom and brought onto the table by a roulette dealer.  The dealer secretly squeezes four, one-hundred dollar chips into the bottom of the sleeve.  The camera above sees a typical pile of five, red chips.  The sides of the sleeve are painted red to match the wall of the chips.

The dealers accomplice makes bets of five red chips on an even money bet, (odd-even or black-red).  When it loses, the team is out $25.00 .  When it wins, they get four hundred, hidden under a five-dollar chip, (an undeserved $380.00).


EEBEE and I discussed the obvious shortcoming of such a scam. Primarily, a halfway sharp supervisor would notice the shortage in hundred dollar chips. But if done once a night it, it could work. Maybe even once an hour as the sleeve is brought back after each of the dealer's breaks.  But the biggest drawback would be greed.  It might seem so easy that dastardly duo might get impatient and try to pass it back and forth several times over the table, (a new bet with the sleeve would reveal one red at the top and be otherwise empty.  It would be paid $25.00 when it won.  But when it lost, (only five dollars), the dealer would have a chance to reload it.


EEBEE said, "It was that kind of greedy bullshit that got Steve the Sleeve caught."  I said, "Where did you get that name from?"  EEBEE said, "On the show, the dealer they caught with the sleeve was named Steve.  That's what they nicknamed him."  I said, "Well, it's the return of Steve the Sleeve!  At least I'm not the only one."



Then I explained about Paul Proctor and Mooks before telling him that that thieving John Garrison and Mackey Jones had the audacity to imply that I was stuffing chips in my cast and calling me, Steve the Sleeve.

EPILOGUE:

In 2009, I saw "Ciro the Hero" for the last time, (that's when he became "Ciro the Zero"...but that's a story for another time).  

He told me that Mooks was paranoid for a long time about his old strip club bosses ordering a hit on him so they could recover their property, (Maria). Considering that the schmuck told strangers he was from Buffalo and never changed his name (there can't be too many Mamoukians out there), it's a miracle the baddies never caught up with him. 

Ciro said, "Mooks might have been an imbecile but he was a champ, the way he cared for Maria while she was going cold-turkey," (I saw her once in 1979 and she seemed catatonic before I found out why). 

Ciro said, "Mooks was all she had.  They fell in love. Twenty years ago, I was a witness at their courthouse wedding.  The first thing Mooks did was contact her family.  They had no idea what happened to her and assumed she was dead. Then as a honeymoon, he took Maria back to Estonia."

Mooks is still dealing blackjack in some dive casino downtown and Maria has a big pit boss job on the strip.  Having nothing to do with why he's now "Ciro the Zero," Ciro wouldn't tell me where they were working.

Monday, January 12, 2015

LOOKING LIKE ENZO STUARTI IS NO INSULT!

The 1968 New York City teacher’s strike prolonged summer vacation to a gazillion kids throughout the five boroughs. But this joyful boon did not filter down to everyone.  To me, it was one of the all-time biggest wastes of time.

A major factor why I didn't profit from the extra free time was, my mother. Way before I was thirteen, mom's knack for making me want to go to school started with a torturous mid-winter tradition on Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays or the odd snow day.  Instead of frolicking with friends, those "holidays" were reserved for the worst household jobs imaginable.

My dad worked on holidays and mom didn't drive so we were stuck in the house. That meant, from the time I was in first grade, Lincoln’s Birthday was a mandatory cleaning of my room day...or as she put it, “a command performance.”  Even as my age advanced through adolescence and into the early stages of puberty, this Herculean chore was a minimum, two hours of intense awfulness. 

Right after breakfast, mom would remind me that was pissed because my room looked like Yucca Flats after the blast. The death march upstairs was accompanied by her words of confidence.
YUCCA FLATS NEVADA (STARTING IN NOVEMBER 1951) WAS THE SITE OF AMERICA'S FIRST ABOVE GROUND NUCLEAR BOMB TEST.  (above) FROM 65 MILES AWAY, A MUSHROOM CLOUD CAN BE SEEN FROM DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS.

Mom's words of praise were really a ploy to manipulate me into thinking the job was fun and easy. For the first fifteen minutes, I was indeed motivated to do well and please her.  But there would be obstacles. While I was feebly toiling, it didn't take much to distract me.  Mom's unexpected drop-ins resulted in a lack of progress with me playing with a toy that had been lost for months under the rubble.  If mom’s ire was ignited, she became a hollering hurricane.  So when she caught me lollygagging, it was like switching on an industrial-sized scream machine. 

By the time I was eight, as unsophisticated as I was, I knew the importance of being certain that my foray into cleanliness was complete before proclaiming that the task was done. Nevertheless, there was a big difference between Stevie clean and mommy clean!  Under mom's drill sergeant scrutiny it was a guarantee that she would unearth evidence of laziness and poor workmanship. I don't know how she did it without a divining rod but she sensed where I crammed an emergency Twinkie, tucked some army men under the legs of my bureau or left my all-important baseballs cards under a textbook on the desk.  Upon identifying my failures, I was “encouraged” to return to the scene of the crime, (this unfortunate scenario usually played out more than once).

Lunch on Lincoln’s Birthday was nirvana. On days like this, the usual brown-bagged, oil-soaked tuna sandwich that disintegrated when exposed to my school cafeteria’s atmosphere was replaced by heavenly chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese with tomato...washed-down by a sweet chocolate milk. 
I HAVEN'T HAD GOODMAN'S CHICKEN SOUP IN OVER  FORTY YEARS, (BACK THEN, ITS BLUE BOX FEATURED A LOGO OF A CHICKEN IN A CHEF'S HAT).  ASSUMING THE RECIPE IS THE SAME,  IT WAS DELICIOUS AND BETTER THAN MY MOM'S HOMEMADE, GRANDMA'S OR ANY RESTAURANT.

Unfortunately, I was never the sharpest tool in the shed, so while I was in this orgasmic food stupor, I always forgot there was a “second game of the doubleheader.”  

What I overlooked was that the entire afternoon would be dedicated to organizing my closet. By the time this realization was realized, I was a broken man.  Whatever meager momentum I might have had was gone. So while feeling bad for myself, I typically made the mistake of pouting and making off-color remarks.  Mom’s response to my childish rebuttals made the heinous, dreadfulness...into argument-filled drudgery.   

Of course the worst was yet to come because a week later, Washington’s Birthday was a purgatory-like affair reserved for restoring order to the lost continent, of my basement.  This all-day cruel and unusual punishment was overwhelmingly my own fault because every year, I turned our lower floor into my own wild kingdom…that others might call a hoarder’s paradise.

So by the time the teacher’s strike postponed the start of eighth grade, I had in the back of my mind that mom might occupy my added leisure time with detestable outdoor projects.  I imagined her warm weather command performance might include; excavating the dead apple tree in the backyard, climbing a two-story ladder to remove the leaves from the gutters and painting our cyclone (chain-link) fence, (mom was partial to silver).
MY MOTHER HAD A LINE RESERVED FOR TAKING OUT THE TRASH.  SHE'D STARE ME DOWN AND SAY, "SOMEBODY BETTER TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE! ISN'T THAT RIGHT MR. SOMEBODY?" OUR CHAIN-LINK FENCE WAS PAINTED EVERY MILLION YEARS WHETHER IT NEEDED IT OR NOT.  SO I KNEW THE DAY WAS OVERDUE FOR HER TO SAY TO ME, "SOMEBODY BETTER PAINT THE CYCLONE FENCE..."
Leave it to my mother to be a step ahead of me.  She found out that despite the strike, a skeleton crew of administrators were keeping John Wilson Junior High, (my school) open.  My first instinct was school was better than being an indentured servant digging out the corpse of a thirty-foot apple tree. That's why I willingly accepted the lesser of two evils and went to school. While every kid I knew was getting an extended summer, me and three percent of the John Wilson student body was sitting without air-conditioning, every day, in the sparsely populated auditorium.
THE ADJACENT, PRISTINE PLAYGROUND SHOT FROM INSIDE JOHN WILSON,  (FALL 1960).  SEVEN YEARS LATER WHEN I ENTERED THE SCHOOL THAT PARK HAD BEEN VANDALIZED BY DRUGGIES WITH EVERY BENCH, SWING AND SEESAW BROKEN AND THE ADMINISTRATION BUILDING BURNED TO THE GROUND.

For those of us being held hostage because of the teachers strike, it was obvious that the powers-that-be were out of touch. They had us watching hygiene films, being indoctrinated into the propaganda of “living right” or getting scholastic lessons that few of those seventh, eighth and ninth graders could relate to.
 
At one point, some genius realized that the natives were getting restless and losing brain cells by being cooped up.  So to improve our minds while entertaining us, this moron thought it was a good idea to dust off, (for the pleasure of their captive audience), a documentary on the Holocaust.  Within a short time, many of the more immature kids were shocked or sickened.  Some screamed and cried until the film was shut off. The absurdity and lack of intelligence behind this poor choice boggles my mind to this day. 

These idiots weren't done yet. They parlayed the insanity by showing us the most depressing “kid-friendly” movie they could find, “OLD YELLER.”  At different times, we all lost interest and stopped watching.  I bet a lot of those kids who weren't aware that hallucinogenics were readily available from the assholes who took over the playground were contemplating jumping off the roof.  More importantly, the two poor girls who clapped at the end of the film, (because they actually followed the plot long enough to find out it had a happy ending), were met with a scornful tongue-lashing by a suit (the assistant superintendent), because the actors weren't there to appreciate the applause.

From that day forward, they showed a lot of cartoons.

All my friends' parents were sharp enough to recognize that this free, six-hour baby-sitting service was less than worthless.  Slowly, the amount of kids attending this ridiculousness lessened. I know this because I never missed a friggin' day, (in June, at the end of the term, I won the Best Attendance Award…lucky me).  That "showing-up at all costs" mentality has followed me because in my current job, I have four call-outs and missed a week twice for medical procedures…in twenty-five years…which has earned me over twenty “Perfect Attendance” certificates.

The Internet says that New York City teachers strike lasted until November 17, 1968 and that schools were closed for thirty-six days, (I would have guessed only three weeks).

During that bullshit time in “school,” one could say: when life comes up all lemons, make lemonade. So while being “incarcerated,” I made new friends.  John “J.D.” Martino and Ray Watt were not my standard issue type friends but I was glad to have them…and we stayed tight for two years.

My new friends were not into sports. I proved it when I referred to the Abbott and Costello, "Who's on first" comedy routine by saying, "Watt's on second."  Ray Watt claimed he didn't know Abbott and Costello and didn't think my rendition of this comedy classic was funny. But J.D. and Ray's allure was well-timed with me out-growing the fraidy-cat, do as you parents say, kids on my street.  

Ray and J.D. were progressive, adventuresome and fun (in a non-criminal way).  So I was able to make quantum leaps towards adulthood with simple unsupervised things like seeing movies, going for pizza or long walks to nowhere.

J.D. even had a job.  On Canarsie’s Rockaway Parkway near Glenwood Road, he made deliveries on a bicycle for a salameria, (a sausage shop but more specifically an Italian butcher).
ON A SIMILAR BIKE, J.D. WORKED FOR PEANUTS BUT HE WAS THE ENVY OF EVERY KID IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

On my way back and forth to my dentist, (Dr. Reiss on Farragut Road), I dropped in on J.D. at work. He gave me full rock-star access to the bowels of the store.  While some people may have been disgusted by the odor of the animal fat, the sight of carcasses and recognizable cow and pig body parts, I was amazed.  However, I didn't like seeing animal bones and was reminded of the Holocaust when they were thrown willy-nilly into the “fat truck.”
I TURNED AWAY, THE FIRST TIME I SAW THE FAT TRUCK.  APPARENTLY THE BONES AND FAT ARE BOUGHT-UP BY A SEPARATE ENTITY AND RECONSTITUTED TO MAKE SOAP AND OTHER ITEMS. I COULDN'T FIND A PHOTO ON THE INTERNET THAT CAPTURED HOW GROSS THE BONES, CHUNKS OF WET FAT AND THE OMNIPRESENT FLIES WERE...SO YOU'LL HAVE TO SETTLE FOR THIS ONE.

J.D.’s house was our meeting place.  His old world Italian parents didn't let him have friends in his room or in the gaudy, museum-like living room.  So with his mother, father or both hovering nearby, we were relegated to the basement…which curiously had a full kitchen.  I thought that was odd but there was always the great aroma of something cooking down there.  We infrequently stayed long because his austere folks never offered a smile.  So even a glass water was out of the question.  Maybe they didn't trust us or they thought Ray and I were bad influences?  Who knows, maybe there were bodies buried under the home-grown tomatoes and zucchini in their yard. Besides, we were “into” our new found freedom and wanted to get out.

In 1969, we saw movies like, "BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID" and "THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE." In the latter, I saw a woman's breast for the first time on the silver screen. Afterwards on one of our legendary, philosophical walks to a pizza place, I voiced my pleasure over seeing bare bosoms. I was happily surprised that everyone shared my appreciation.

J.D. had contact with older boys at the butcher shop.  A week later he said, "Wanna see hundreds of tits...and maybe more stuff?"  He had Ray's and my attention as he added, "It's gonna take a couple of buses for us to get there and it's a long shot to even get in, but..."

On a Saturday afternoon we took mass transit to Kings Highway and Flatbush Avenue.  From there our adventure took us to the Marine Movie Theater on Flatlands Avenue.  In the distance we read the marquee advertising the X-RATED double-feature, "KAMA SUTRA"and "BALI HAI."

This momentous moment in my coming of age resulted in immediate excitement from my nether regions. However, that erotic feeling in my loins was tempered when J.D. said, "Even though me and Ray are taller than you, you look older.  So you have to get the tickets."  At fourteen, even if you put a handlebar mustache on my face, there was NO WAY I looked seventeen!  I refused.  I was afraid we'd all get arrested and my mother would make me clean the jail.  But Ray whined, "We didn't come all this way for nothing..."  J.D. interrupted, "You'll be our savior."  Ray said, "Just do it," as they ponied-up their money.

The lady in the ticket booth looked like a combination of; a lump of mashed potatoes that had been flung up against the wall and the froggy woman who lived across from my house.  I sheepishly approached and focused on her beehive hairdo and the cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. A million ways to ask for the three tickets crisscrossed my mind as I meandered closer.  She was filing her nails as mumbled incoherently.  She looked up, put on the glasses that were hanging from a chord around her neck and stared me down.  I thought I was going to crap in my pants. Like a deer frozen by oncoming headlights, I stood dumbfounded.  I was avoiding eye-contact as she croaked, "One ticket, one dollar."  I spoke but nothing came out.  I slipped three singles through the transom, lifted three fingers and groaned, "I-I-I n-n-need three."

Inside, J.D. and Ray treated me like a hero and bought me Raisinets and a coke.
CANDY PLUS SEXY MOVIES EQUALS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.

Later, I couldn't tell you much about the plots but I knew I never wanted to go to the movies with my parents again.  On the way home, we lustily analyzed every theatrical minute of joy.  I said, "That lady in the leopard-skin sarong should have won an Oscar."  Ray said, "She was in both movies."  I said, "No way..." Ray said,  "Didn't you see that mole on her wrist?"  J.D. said, "I don't think I would ever notice her stupid wrist if I saw those movies a thousand times."  I said, "If she was in both that proves she's a great actress because she was from India in the first and Indonesia in the second." Ray and J.D. nodded.

When we stopped for pizza I expected to maintain my heroic ticket-buyer savior status...but by then I was a mere mortal again and paid for my own.

In June 1970, the John Wilson graduation ceremony was being held at the palatial Albee Theater in downtown Brooklyn. Ray caught a ride with J.D.'s parents.  Out front, I introduced my folks to everyone.  J.D.'s mom and dad were as cold to my mom and dad as they were to me and Ray...their loss.

During that summer, I worked a lot for my father.  One day J.D. and Ray said they were hanging out. I wanted to go but it was an important day for my dad and he couldn't spare me.

Days later, I found out that Ray and J.D. did the usual nonsense but included a long walk along the Belt Parkway.
THE BELT PARKWAY, LIKE A BELT, WRAPS AROUND BROOKLYN.  ON THE EXTREME RIGHT (above) YOU CAN SEE THE MODERN PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE PATH.  I WAS TOO YOUNG TO REALIZE THE DANGER AND WOULD HAVE TAKEN THAT STROLL WITH J.D. AND RAY WITHOUT HESITATION  EVEN WITH TODAY'S FANCY TRAIL, YOU NEVER KNOW WHO'S LURKING THERE.

Along the way, some bastard sprang out of the bushes and mugged them.  Ray handed over some chump change.  But J.D. was a working man.  He had over twenty dollars and refused to comply. The thieving punk cold-cocked him. J.D. collapsed. The robber stood over him, threatened to kill him and demanded cash.  When J.D. turned his head to look up, blood was pouring from his left eye. The assailant fled.

J.D. had a torn cornea.  He had successful surgery but to insure a full recovery, he was forced to wear special sunglasses for weeks.  The first time I saw him I remarked, "Hey, it's Enzo Stuarti!" J.D. got offended and told me to screw myself.  Considering how we all spoke to each other, I never thought he'd be so thin-skinned to be put-off by something as vanilla as that. I said, "It's no insult to look like Enzo Stuarti." But J.D. was hurt.  He hurried away and called back at me, "My parents were right about you."
ENZO STUARTI (1919-2005) STARRED ON STAGE AND SPECIALIZED IN SINGING POPULAR ITALIAN SONGS.  WHEN I WAS FOURTEEN, I ONLY KNEW HIM AS THE RAGU SPAGHETTI SAUCE SPOKESPERSON ON TV.  HIS CATCHPHRASE WAS, "THAT'S A'NICE!"

I said to Ray, "What did his parents say about me?"  He said, "Dunno."  I said, "You know Enzo Stuarti.  He's a real good-looking guy.  I just saw him on the "MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW."  He acts on Broadway, sings Italian songs..."  Ray shrugged.  I continued, "Stuarti was an American merchant marine in World War II. He survived his ship getting sunk by a German U-Boat...the man is a freakin' hero...why would J.D. be insulted?"  Ray said, "I never heard of that Stuarti guy."  I had to believe him, he claimed that he didn't know Abbott and Costello either.  When I said, "But..."  Ray said, "He might think we wouldn't have gotten jumped if you were there." I said, "So he's blaming me?  That's too crazy!"  "Maybe he thought you were making fun of his glasses?"  I said, "Enzo Stuarti doesn't wear sunglasses.  I wasn't being mean, I was being silly."  Ray said, "Beats me."  I sighed, "Hey, when I wasn't around, were his parents nice to you?"  Ray said, "No.  They were always quiet.  I figured they were shy because their English wasn't so good."

The following September, I started my Canarsie High School career.  I made new friends and joined the football team.  Ray went to a high school in Manhattan and I never got back in touch with him.  I saw J.D. all the time in school.  He didn't show any ill effects from his eye injury but ignored me every time we crossed paths.

I never unraveled the mystery of why he severed our ties...and don't care.  But I'm glad I endured that colossal waste of time teachers strike because I would have never bonded with J.D. or Ray. And I'll always treasure the time we three hurdled towards maturity together.  But beyond that, I chalked up our short-lived friendship...as J.D.'s loss.

Monday, January 5, 2015

DON'T LET YOUR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS BE A CROCK!

Did you ever know deep in your heart that something was wrong?  But because it was so minor, you didn't speak up...even though it was driving you crazy?

Television personality Phil "Dr. Phil" McGraw once said of New Year's resolutions, "A year from now, you're gonna weigh more or less what you do right now."  On the surface I agree that we should be comfortable in our own skin.  But on a deeper level, while it's true that we must play the cards of life that we are dealt...I think it's more important for us to evolve, improve and be a better person.
PHIL McGRAW (1950-PRESENT) IS AN AUTHOR AND  FORMER PSYCHOLOGIST.  HE IS BEST KNOWN FOR STARRING IN HIS OWN TV SHOW, "DOCTOR PHIL," SINCE 2002.


Most resolutions are a crock.  People want to feel that they are in charge of their lives and that they are willing to make sacrifices in the name of self betterment. I know because I do that too. I've made the same resolution for thirty years and sadly, little has changed. So today's blog is dedicated to my New Year's resolution to be more assertive.  The irony is, to be more assertive all you need to be is...more assertive...and somehow it never happens  But here we are three days into the new year and I have already gone the extra mile...through the miracle of FACEBOOK.  
FACEBOOK THE KING OF ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKING WAS FOUNDED BY MARK ZUCKERBERG, AMONG OTHERS, IN FEBRUARY 2004.
First, I digress by saying that in 1975, I lent my cherished 1963 New York Mets yearbook to a close friend.  It took about a year until he returned it.  About another year after that, I leafed through it and realized that...that particular copy wasn't mine.

Shortly there after I moved to Las Vegas.  So for five more years, this impostor Mets yearbook was tucked away in my parents' attic.  In 1984, my wife and I moved back in with my folks while waiting for my New Jersey casino license to be approved.  I never stressed about yearbook but when the sports memorabilia collecting phenomena gained momentum, I made it a point to re-unite with my potential treasure, (back then, a pristine copy was worth $175.00).

The bottom line was, the stained, creased and frayed piece of junk that had been foisted upon me was in the condition that's worse than terrible and beyond poor. That translates into being a worthless collectible. BUT...bear in mind, this replacement was in far better condition than my original. Nevertheless, because it might be the single item I possess the longest, (over fifty years), it has a sentimental value that can not be put in dollars and cents.

I know now that I ruined my original by writing all-over the inside.  My graffiti included; mustaches on the players, blackened teeth, arrows through heads, Martian-like antennas, antlers and eye patches. Then with the ignorance only found in the under ten-year old crowd, I misspelled (with horrid penmanship) such pre-profanity phrases as, "You stink," "Trade me to the miners" and "I smell reel bad."

During the course of 1984, I had a chance meeting with that friend.  I wasn't angry about the book but would have liked some clarification.  But he was messed-up and didn't seem lucid enough for even an informal interrogation about insignificant, old news.

Afterwards I realized that if he lost it, he went through great lengths to get a replacement, (another way to identify the hoax was that different players were featured).  That meant he found a similar book and tore off the cover.  But he over looked the fact that his was a revised mid-season edition and that my issue the original.

Now thirty years later as I confront my need to be assertive, I was watching "BRAD MELTZER'S LOST HISTORY," on TV.
BRAD MELTZER (1970-PRESENT) IS AN AUTHOR.  HE HAS HOSTED A SHOW CALLED, "DECODED." ITS 23-EPISODE RUN WAS BASED ON HIM SENDING A THREE-MEMBER TEAM, (A LAWYER, JOURNALIST AND AN ENGINEER) TRAIPSING ALL OVER THE WORLD TO DECIPHER THE GREAT CRYPTIC MYSTERIES IN HISTORY.

Now his latest "LOST HISTORY" show just finished its first ten episode season.  It deals with prominent historical items that have been lost or stolen.  Crazy as it seems, the famous flag raised by the firemen on 911 is gone!  The original airplane patent the Wright Brother's filed is missing and Adolph Hitler's personal photo album hasn't been seen in decades.  Even crazier, treasures like this have been stolen and mislaid while in the custody of famous museums, our government archives and private collections. I find it fascinating that Lost History viewers are encouraged (through cash rewards) to help recover these rapidly disappearing artifacts.  It would seem impossible but some have been recovered from people's basements, warehouses, at garage sales and online.

You never could expect something like the remains of  JFK's brain to go missing. Or that someone stole George Washington's false teeth.  Or unless a new copy of the Apollo-11 moon landing video is found, the public will only see the multi-generation copy of a copy of a copy we all know, (it seems that due to budget cuts, NASA believes the only known clear copy has been erased? But experts think there are more out there).

Yesterday, a segment of Lost History intrigued me.  It had to do with authenticating the original Derringer that John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln with. An anonymous tip to the show, alleged that the gun on display in Washington DC's Ford's Theater was a fake.  That a perpetrator broke into the display case and did the old switcheroo.  It was fascinating to see the time consuming, costly process of proving the gun was in fact the original.

This switcheroo...made me think of my yearbook.  But I didn't act on my need to know the truth. Then kismet was on my side that same day. While on FACEBOOK, the icon popped up, "People You May Know."  And there was my Mets yearbook friend's sister's name.  With all the assertiveness I could master, I messaged her.  It was not only the right person but she remembered me.  She thought it would be a great idea to reach out to her brother.  He doesn't use FACEBOOK.  So I sent him an E-Mail.

I concentrated on getting my foot in the door. My E-Mail was simple.  Hey how you doing.  I've been here and there.  I'm married, my son Andrew is going to be twenty-one next months etc, etc.

The second part of my plan would bring up the yearbook mystery, in a second E-Mail. Unfortunately I was remembering my friend's personality from the mid-70's.  That person would have been proud to explain the genius behind every aspect of his forgery.  Instead I got a response that screams out, I've had a tough life and I don't want to share the gory details with you.  His actual note read:"I'm glad you're okay.  Please don't E-Mail me again."

Do I get credit for being assertive?  Maybe I'll call Phil :Dr. Phil" McGraw.  But he'll probably tell me all New Year's resolutions are a crock.

Monday, November 3, 2014

NO-SHAVE NOVEMBER

French people don’t like being called “Frogs.” I have no reason to use the nickname but when you consider what people are called these days, "frog" seems especially harmless.

For some reason, vacationing Frogs French Canadians migrate here to South Jersey in droves. It must be something in their DNA because they are easy to spot due to their difficulty with English, uppity attitude and a reluctance to mete out decent gratuities. Nevertheless, I would never resort to calling someone in shorts with black socks and scarf around their neck childish names like; weasels, spineless piss-ants or surrendering salamanders. But in the rare circumstance that I’m being irritated by a frog gentle person from the Great White North who has introduced them self as being from Montreal or Quebec City, I ask, “Are you sure you’re not really from Drummondville?”

The small blue-collar town of Drummondville Quebec Canada lies in the shadows, halfway between the cosmopolitan cities of Montreal and Quebec City. So by suggesting that someone was really from that hick town, it implies that they are a "poser” and lack any level of sophistication.

In early November 1991, (in the pre-Internet days), my wife Sue and I set out on a spur of the minute vacation to Quebec Canada. Our goal in this predominately French-speaking province was a brief stop in Montreal with the bulk of our stay in Quebec City, (my blog from November 29, 2010 called, “JE PARLE FRANCAIS…NOT!!!!” addressed a different aspect of that trip).

I sold Sue on Quebec City because it’s not only romantic but also has the feel of being in France. I based my authority on having visited both places, (France 1968 and Quebec City 1976).

We left south Jersey on a glorious 70° (F) morning. Many hours later on the New York State Throughway, (Interstate 87), snow covered cars came from the opposite direction. By the time we passed Glens Falls, it was bitter cold and windy. We advanced into a higher elevation and noticed at the same time, a sprinkle of towns with French names as well as a dusting of snow. In the blink of an eye, the pretty falling fakes had morphed into heavy snow. Soon, all the traffic slowed down and merged into the right lane. We were crawling at 20MPH when I noticed an apropos exit sign for the tiny berg of New Russia.

The worst of the weather was over when we passed through Canadian customs. On the Quebec side, we experienced cultural shock because they use the metric system, military time and most signs are bi-lingual, (English and French).

On the foreign highway, even with my pocket abacus, I could not convert their per liter gas prices to the good ole American way. In Montreal, the digital clock on top of a bank told us that we arrived at twenty o’clock. We parked in the business district and shivered as we tip-toed around slushy snow banks and icy patches. Stupidly, in winter coats, no gloves and sneakers, we weren’t bundled-up properly for -11º (C).

We had a nice dinner in the backroom of a bar, (I had a Montreal steak).  Later, we found a motel. The next day, we froze our asses off touring the city. We gravitated to Vieux Montreal, (the Greenwich Village-like old town section of the city). We had lunch in a quiet cafè, (onion soup and Caesar salad), visited historic cathedrals and browsed in quaint shops.

It pissed me off that Sue was swept off her feet when I asked a French-accented tourist guide Richard (Ree-shard), for directions.  I tried to tuck away my Brooklyn accent but I couldn't compete with the ever-suave, Ree-shard.

On that same street, we were the only customers in a souvenir store.  Sue asked the cashier a question in English. The girl said in pigeon-French, “I don’t speak French.” Sue picked up on the fact that this poor girl spoke neither French nor English.  I thought Sue was clever as she communicated in Spanish.

For dinner, we found a fancy seafood restaurant, Le Ancora d’Ouro, (the Golden Anchor). It was a week night, so damned cold and off-season so it wasn’t shocking that the main dining room was empty, except for a table of two young couples sitting behind me. They were chasing whiskey shots with Molson beer and having a good old time. Sue whispered, “Now they’re making out big time and are all over each other.”

I couldn’t resist and glanced back. One guy was fondling his dark-haired date’s breasts under her cable-knit sweater while the blond in the sleeveless dress was massaging her boyfriend’s groin. Sue kept up a detailed blow-by-blow narration until the giggling blond stood up. Sue guessed that in French, she wanted the brunette to come to the ladies room with her but was turned down. The blond staggered away.

Despite being inebriated, the three remaining lovers spoke quickly and came to some sort of an agreement. The odd man came around the table. He was welcomed by the brunette as the two men double-teamed her. The new guy pulled her sweater up. I saw her bare back as he suckled her breasts. At the same time, she was in permanent lip-lock with her boyfriend as he checked her oil.

A few minutes later, at the far end of the room, the waiter, busboy and bartender converged to enjoy the ménage. The mood changed when the giggly blond bounced off walls as she unevenly walked between the voyeurs and back into the dining room. The drama started when she spontaneously sobered-up upon focusing on the three Musketeers. She screamed. Her boyfriend got up to explain. Sue and I guessed that he was suggesting a foursome but she shunted him aside. The brunette rose, flattened her hiked-up skirt and advanced towards her objecting friend. We didn’t need a translator to figure out that the girl in the sleeveless dress was cursing her out. The brunette tried a rebuttal but got slapped. In smacking the girl with the cable-knit sweater, the blond revealed to Sue and I, a forest of hair in her armpit.

I whispered to Sue, “I guess it’s, ‘No-Shave November.’” She said, “Nah. Legs, pits it don’t matter, the French are like that all the time.” The girl grabbed her coat and seemed to be demanding that her beau leave with her…he refused. Later, when the three of them left, they were still groping each other.

In the morning, Sue and I set out for three-hour drive to Quebec City. On the highway, we stopped at a rest stop in the town of Drummondville. While waiting at the lunch counter, Sue rubbed her hand on my sprouting facial stubble and smiled, “Ah, vacation means no-shave November for you too, I like this Don Johnson look.”
ACTOR DON JOHNSON (above) PLAYED JAMES "SONNY" CROCKETT ON THE HIT NBC TV SHOW "MIAMI VICE."  IT AIRED FIVE SEASONS, (111 EPISODES), FROM 1984-1989.  THIS PROGRAM WAS THE COOLEST COP SHOW EVER AND BOASTED NEW WAVE CULTURE, CUTTING EDGE SOUND TRACKS AND HIP COSTUMING. JOHNSON'S PERPETUAL FIVE O'CLOCK SHADOW BECAME A FASHION STATEMENT THAT REGULAR GUYS STROVE MAINTAIN.

Maybe that was my cue to make-out with Sue and pull her sweater up…but I didn’t. But during the next ten minutes, the last warm embers of afterglow from the previous night’s exposure to French romantic culture died. That’s when we realized that the staff was ignoring us.

I'm guessing even in Drummondville, arrogant frog-ettes French Canadian waitresses can spot non-Frenchie invaders in their territory...as well as I can identify Frogs them in New Jersey.

We might have been kept waiting for hours except a Good Samaritan (customer) came by with menus and translated, called for service and put in our order. Whether we were on the Quebec version of, “CANDID CAMERA” or not we’ll never know. But Fi-Fi and the other bitches proved to us that they’re reputation for being rude and aloof to English-speaking people was true. To be on the safe side, we examined our meal for spit before we ate it.

Quebec City is truly beautiful. It’s old world charm had to be explored before we checked into our bed and breakfast.
FOUNDED IN 1608, QUEBEC CITY IS ONE OF THE OLDEST CITIES IN NORTH AMERICA.  SURROUNDED BY RAMPARTS, THE OLD QUEBEC SECTION IS THE ONLY WALLED-IN CITY IN ALL OF CANADA OR THE USA. (above) THE ATMOSPHERE IS SIMILAR TO BEING IN FRANCE.

Quebec City is so much more charming than the big city (Montreal).  But I must report that all the signs are in French and the locals, even businessmen, are nasty to English-speaking customers, (Sue's cutie-pie Ree-shard would have been a breath of fresh air).

The afternoons were extremely cold.  The streets had much more residual snow than Montreal.  Sue and I slipped and slid on icy pavement as I took her to places I was familiar with from my 1976 visit. While checking-out an outdoor, a starving artists colony, we noticed les assholes shoveling snow, willy-nilly off three-story rooftops.  The heavy splatter could be dangerous...even fatal to unwitting passersby, so I'm guessing the Frogs Quebecois have a secret signal that lets them know when its safe to hit the streets?
OVERLOOKING THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY, THE HOTEL FRONTENAC IS THE FOCAL POINT OF THE CITY.  THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS INCLUDES IT AS THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED HOTEL ON THE PLANET, (OUR BED AND BREAKFAST WAS TWO BLOCKS AWAY).
 The old city surrounds the hotel.  In the photo, to the right of the hotel, there are train track-like lines going down.  That is the Funicular, a glass-walled, one-floor elevator that leads to more quaint streets and the picturesque waterfront.

On the first day, we were both wearing sneakers and our feet felt frost bitten.  We drove to the more modern, residental part of town, to a mall.  Their Macy's-like store is called, the Bay. Hard to believe but true, in the lady's shoe department, those snooty bastards shrugged in ignorance...thus getting across the point that they have no English-speaking associates.  Like desperate idiots, Sue and I had to go back into the mall concourse and enlist help (and it wasn't easy) to broker her purchase of leather boots, (back home we found out the Frog salesman duped us into paying top dollar, for pleather).

We took the scenic route back from the mall and found Le Colisee where the Quebec Nordiques of the NHL played their home games. In the gift shop, an enthusiastic English-speaking clerk helped me pick out some chintz, (since then, the franchise moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche).

On the way back to our B and B, we discovered an upscale row of gourmet restaurants as well as Dagobert's (Day-go-bear's) a cutting edge discotheque, (we returned that night and enjoyed a fine dinner opposite the disco.  Afterwards, we came across the street to dance and party). 

Outside the gate to Old Town, we passed the municipal complex.  We saw a mob of angry protesters who wanted the province of Quebec to secede from Canada and become its own country, (the hardcore Frogs Quebecois have been working on that forever and twenty-three years later, are still trying).

One night after dinner, we were surprised to find an outdoor rink teeming with ice skaters. We had hot chocolate and appreciated their fun. We also learned that because it's so friggin' cold up there that an annual Winter Carnival is held to promote civic pride and get people out of their house, (later, it was hinted to me that by having something to look forward to, the Carnival reduces the suicide attempt rate...)
THESE DAYS, THE WINTER CARNIVAL BOASTS OVER A MILLION VISITORS.  IT HAD BEEN HELD, ON AND OFF, SINCE 1894, (BUT NOW WITHOUT INTERRUPTION SINCE 1955).  IN 1955 BONHOMME (above) BECAME THE OFFICAL MASCOT, (THE NAME IS SHORT FOR BONHOMME DE NEIGE...WHICH MEANS, SNOWMAN).

Even during the first week of November, we found evidence, across from the rink, of participants already gearing up for the big event.
(STOCK PHOTO OF AN AWARD WINNING ICE CASTLE)  VERY "COOL," WE SAW TWO COMPETITORS ALREADY WORKING ON MUCH SMALLER ICE SCULPTURES.

On the long trip home to New Jersey, Sue voiced her boredom several times.  We were still in Vermont when I perked-up and said, "Hey, did you know that in three hours..."  She got excited and said, "Yeah, what happens in three hours?"  I teased, "In three hours, we'll be halfway home."  She didn't appreciate my humor and pinched by cheek. To get back at me she said, "I hope this isn't your version of no-shave November because your beard is coming in gray...and you look like an old man."
THE LAST TIME I HAD A FULL BEARD WAS AT BROOKLYN COLLEGE (APRIL 1977)

For a week, I had survived being insulted by the Frogs French Canadians...only to get ripped by my wife.  Her scathing comment was unfortunately accurate and I have avoided even mustaches ever since, (please note today's college kids really celebrate No-Shave November.
MY ANDREW CAN FORGET THE DON JOHNSON LOOK.  IN THIS PICTURE, HE MIGHT HAVE ALREADY SHAVED THAT MORNING.  IF HE LETS IT GO, HE'LL LOOK LIKE RIP VAN WINKLE BY ELECTION DAY, (TOMORROW).

We had a great time in Quebec City and I recommend it to friends all the time.  That praise is usually coupled with a red caution flag concerning the *Frogs.  But now, I can just refer everyone to this and my, "JE PARLE FRANCOIS...NOT!!!" blogs and use them as snippy attitude warning labels.

*Jeez, now that I think about it, I do call them Frogs all the time.  And I feel justified! C'est la vie, mon ami.

Monday, October 27, 2014

PISSING-OFF ST. SLICK, THE PATRON SAINT OF FREEBIES

IN THE SPIRIT OF HALLOWEEN..."THEY" SAY, YOU CAN'T REMEMBER (BAD) OLD SMELLS...IT SOUNDS SPOOKY, BUT I CAN!


My wife Sue and I were shopping at BJ’s Wholesale Club last week. We typically split-up with me heading for the deli counter, in case there’s a long line. En route, I inspect the bevy of free samples being offered. On this occasion, between the banana pudding cookies and the Greek yogurt, the pickings were slim.

Luckily I was not shut-out. While waiting to be served, a meat department employee came out of the back room with a tray of fresh cold cuts samples, (ham, roast beef and turkey).

I helped myself to one of the yellow, frilly-handled toothpicks that skewered a healthy-sized sliver of roast beef. Well…actually…to be totally honest, it was expensive and very, very, very delicious roast beef. I craved more. So I entered into the realm of bad karma every time the butcher looked away...and snuck another slice.

Hey!  Don't give me that condescending attitude.  It's NOT like I ignored a gigantic, "ONE PER CUSTOMER," sign!  Because there wasn't one. Anyway...within three minutes, I had made a meal out of all six king-sized slices that were now prominently missing from the center of the display platter. To save face and protect my humble image (of myself) and prove to the counterman that I wasn’t a slob, I turned down his sample of my cheese.

I gathered up my lunch meat packets and set out to find Sue. I’m guessing even without one-to-a-customer signage that my sinful roast beef over-indulgence offended St. Slick, the Patron Saint of Freebies.

To pay for my gluttonous transgression, I believe old St. Slick made a sampling booth magically appear at the head of the coffee aisle, ala, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE." I'm positive, it WASN’T there five minutes earlier.

The sign read: JIMMY DEAN SAUSAGE, EGG AND CHEESE ON A BISCUIT. The suspicious look of the smiling representative reminded me of the demonic nanny (Mrs. Baylock), from the 1976 horror and suspence movie, "THE OMEN."
IN THE ORIGINAL, "OMEN," ACTRESS BILLIE WHITELAW NAILED HER EERIE PERFORMANCE AS THE DEVIL'S GOVERNESS...AND NOW I WAS ABOUT TO ACCEPT FOOD FROM SOMEONE WHO, COMPLETE WITH A HOLY-MOLEY-SIZED MOLE ON HER CHEEK, REALLY RESEMBLED HER.

The Mrs. Baylock look alike adjusted her paper hat and bobbed her head like a sinister jack-in-the-box clown. My brain knew I wasn't hungry.  Yet against my better judgment, I felt compelled...even with a belly full of roast beef...to be lured to siren's tantalizing bait.

In a fraction of a second, the lingering, marvelous memory of the expensive roast beef was ousted from my mouth. The scant, new taste of inferior sausage, egg and cheese was overwhelmed by the abundance of tasteless dough. I should have spit it out but I forcibly swallowed the pasty, spackle-like sludge down through my gullet. Far worse, I had an incredibly bad taste in my mouth…that would last the entire thirty minutes until we got home.

During the homeward drive, I rationalized that a bad taste in my mouth was better than getting my kishkiz burnt-out by unexpectedly hot food. I flashed back to January 1979.  That's when I had my moving to Las Vegas, good-bye party, at McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan.
McSORLEY'S SINCE 1854, IS THE OLDEST BAR IN NEW YORK CITY, (15 EAST 7th STREET BETWEEN 3rd AND 4th AVENUE).  I HAVEN'T BENT AN ELBOW THERE IN CLOSE TO THIRTY YEARS BUT IT WAS SPECIAL ENOUGH TO ONCE TAKE MY MOTHER THERE, (SEE MY SEPTEMBER 22, 2008 BLOG CALLED, "McSORLEY'S OLD ALE HOUSE)."

In my hey-day, McSorley’s offered a limited menu. If my memory serves, all they had was; light and dark (colored) beer, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, turkey, ham and roast beef sandwiches and a cheese platter. For the sandwiches, each table had a vat of English unbleached mustard, (I have NEVER seen or heard of English unbleached mustard before or since...hopefully the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made that inedible, toxic waste illegal).

I sniffed the open vat and felt heat painfully resonate through my nostrils. Yes, I enjoy spicy foods but my instinct was to avoid this one. When the waiter placed my, “bird” (turkey sandwich), in front of me, a friend suggested that I try the mustard. I said, “No.” My moronic buddy escalated his encouragement to a dare. I had enough of a buzz on to innocently accept. But I wasn’t so naive to dive in and commit a smear to my dinner. I dabbed the slightest bit of that shit on my pinkie. OUCH!  It was like my taste buds were nuked and my tongue burned all night.

The near-death experience of English unbleached mustard led me to recall my cross-country trip in 1976. That’s when I got “burned” twice by southwestern cuisine. First in Houston Texas, at a James Coney Island and Chili Parlor. I brought my chili con carne bowl to a table and realized there wasn’t any Tabasco Sauce in the condiment rack. I was too tired and lazy to get up. I took a huge spoonful of their specialty. It was a friggin' napalm explosion in my mouth! It was bad enough that the intensity almost killed me, but the witnesses’ reaction to my misfortune nearly made me die of embarrassment.
I WANTED TO GIVE SOME BACKGROUND ON THE JAMES *CONEY ISLAND AND CHILI PARLOR FRANCHISE BUT THE FIRST TWO REVIEWS I READ WERE SO BAD THAT I INCLUDED THIS PHOTO FROM ONE OF THEIR RIVALS INSTEAD. (*FYI - IN MANY PLACES DOWN SOUTH AND OUT WEST, A "CONEY ISLAND" IS A HOT DOG).

A week after my gasteric tumult in Houston, I was in Raton, New Mexico. In the perceived safety of a Pizza Hut, I learned the hard way that not ALL chain restaurants take pride in standard recipes. As if poisoned with cyanide, my Italian sub was laced with a lethal dose of jalapeño peppers. My scorched mouth made he gag as I trashed the whole fiery mess. When I composed myself well enough to speak, I complained to the manager. The prick shrugged, “Dude, you’re in New Mexico…”

We were halfway home from BJ’s when my memory took me back to the first stop on my sixty-eight day cross-country odyssey, a KOA outside Nashville Tennessee, (Kampgrounds of America). Except that experience didn’t involve five-alarm hot foods, it involved another bad taste in my mouth...courtesy of Jimmy Dean.  This event resulted in me starting a thirty-eight year vow, to boycott his products, (which temporarily ended with scary Mrs. Baylock coaxing me into violating my digestive system).
JIMMY DEAN (1928-2010) IS A MEMBER OF THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME.  IN ADDITION TO SINGING, HE ALSO HOSTED A VARIETY TV PROGRAM (1963-1966).  IN THAT SHOW, PUPPETEER JIM HENSON RECEIVED HIS FIRST NATIONAL MEDIA EXPOSURE. TODAY, THE NAME JIMMY DEAN HAS MORE UNIVERSAL RECOGNITION FOR HIS BRAND OF PORK PRODUCTS.

I have no memory of Jimmy Dean's TV show. The only song I remember him doing was 1961's, “BIG BAD JOHN.” And I never saw the 1982 movie that bears his name, “COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN.”
THIS THREE-STAR CHICK-FLICK CONCERNS FIVE WOMEN MEETING AT A RUN-DOWN TEXAS DRUGSTORE, FOR A TWENTY-YEAR REUNION OF THE JIMMY DEAN FAN CLUB.

The 1976 bad taste Jimmy Dean left in my mouth dealt more with issues of the heart...that were thwarted by a nauseating stink directly associated with him.

That KOA campground was conveniently located between the Orpyland Amusement Park and a Jimmy Dean sausage slaughterhouse, (I hope you see where this is going). I got myself situated and went about the rigors of pitching my tent for the first time and getting all my creature comforts ready at bedtime.

In the glorious morning, I discovered the side benefits of staying there included a great opportunity for socializing. I occupied the whole day meeting people, swimming in the lake, playing softball and hanging out.

A couple of girls that I met earlier in the general store were getting a volleyball game together. These two blond, Northern Virginians, Lu-Ann and Lynette were friendly and pretty with intoxicating southern accents.

Lynette was the actual organizer. She was taller, athletic and more serious than her friend. Lu-Ann was cuter, more feminine and silly. Which meant there was no way, I'd turn down a chance to be around them.

During the game, despite the constant roar of the screaming roller-coaster riders at the amusement park, I communicated well with both of them. Lynette looked sharp in emerald green gym shorts and a Richmond Spiders tee-shirt. But I couldn’t take my eyes off Lu-Ann, in her dungarees and bikini top. I put it in my head that I couldn’t go wrong with either one of them. But when the game broke up, they vanished.

Hours later, the campground manager made an announcement that after dark, they were having a bonfire. He invited everyone to bring weenies and marshmallows. A man around my age brought a guitar and we had a sing-along. The girls didn’t show-up so I gravitated to two Connecticut guys from softball. I kept my eye on the trail and hoped Lynette and Lu-Ann would show up. It was 10:00PM when the screams of the amusement park stopped.  A quieter mood came over everyone and my prayers were answered.

I saw Lynette and Lu-Ann, excused myself from the Connecticut boys and met the girls as they came out of the woods. Lynette said, “Where are you sitting?” I smiled, pointed at a nearby log that could accommodate exactly three butts and said, “We have immediate seating right here.”

For the next hour, I was hoping one of them would leave so I could hit on the other. Lynette was sitting in the middle. She consistently gave me a polite smile in response to my humor but Lu-Ann laughed at everything I said. I took that as a powerful vibe that I was getting somewhere with her. But my plan didn’t work because they both stayed. I was losing hope when the Connecticut boys came by and directly hit on them. In a pleasant way, the girls turned them down...yay me!

We were alone again as a rumble of thunder could be heard. Later, the distant sky lit up from approaching lightning. My bubble was then burst by another announcement that due to inclement weather, the fire had to be put out. And for safety reasons, everyone should go back to their campers.

Most everyone, (including the three of us) lingered. We got on the topic of the Grand Ole Opry. I used some of my superficial knowledge that I gained from years of watching “HEE HAW” on TV. They were impressed that a Brooklyn boy appreciated southern culture as I rattled off the big names in country music and quoted some “home spun” comedy lines. All the while, I was hoping they would invite me to their campsite.

I was running out of material when I suggested that the three of us tour Nashville together. Lynette was apologetic, “One of the windows fell out of our VW Microbus and our air conditioner is on the blink.” Lu-Ann sighed, “It’ll probably be an all day affair getting them both fixed.” I could tell she was disappointed and said, “Maybe I can tag along.” Lynette stated, “We're meeting people and will be with them while our VW is getting worked on.” Lu-Ann didn't like her tone and neither did I.

Suddenly, the wind picked up and changed direction. There was a sense of finality in Lynette’s voice but I plowed on, “How about we go to the amusement park the day after?” The wind change brought a disgusting stench. Lu-Ann said, “What is that God awful odor?” Lynette said, “It’s coming from the abattoir.” Lu-Ann and I said at the same time, “What’s an abattoir?” Lynette said, “It’s a slaughterhouse and that putrid fragrance is from down yonder.” She grabbed Lu-Ann’s upper arm and led her away. I called out to them, “What about the amusement park?” Lu-Ann looked back and squeaked, “Maybe…”

No spoiler alert here! To find out what happened with me and Lu-Ann you need to go into my blog archives and read the story from October, 25, 2010 called, “TRIANGULATION OF THE HEART.”


I take my romantic opportunities to heart. So when that one was disrupted by Jimmy Dean’s *pig slaughtering, I decided on a lifetime ban on his product(s).
I KNOW EATING PORK ISN'T HEALTHY.  BUT I'M NOT A HYPOCRITE.  I ALSO EAT OTHER FATTY FOODS, SUGAR, SALT AND BUCKETS OF CHEMICAL PRESERVATIVES.  HELL, IF YOU DON'T WANT YOUR GLUTEN, I'LL TAKE THEM...AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY ARE.  ALL THAT MATTERS HERE IS, THAT DAMNED SLAUGHTERHOUSE ODOR IS INDELIBLY INGRAINED INTO MY MEMORY BANK.  SO UNLESS I'M HYPNOTIZED BY WITCHY WOMEN GIVING OUT FREE SAMPLES, I WON'T EAT JIMMY DEAN PRODUCTS. 

*Please note, in 1997, I had the misfortune of having to smell the stink of the Perdue chicken slaughterhouse while driving through Virginia’s eastern shore. But because there was no disturbance or obstruction in my love life that disgusting experience didn’t sway me away from eating Frank Perdue’s products.

In the perfect storm collision of Halloween and offending the patron Saint of Freebies, St. Slick displayed the potential of his wrath by distracting me away from my long-standing boycott of everything Jimmy Dean.  In addition to being induced into eating that spackle-like crap, I also paid the price of being dragged back to the horror story of missing out on being with Lu-Ann.  At least I'll always hold that close-call near to my heart and the sweet way she said, “What is that God awful smell.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

"COWBOY" CHRISTOPHER DEAN.

In May 1979, I applied for a craps dealing job at the Holiday International Casino. The only thing standing in my way…was passing their audition. In order to bridge the gap from working in rattle-trap dumps and taking a quantum leap forward in my casino career, was proving to them that I could handle the action.

I was stoked at the prospect of working at such a big, new and beautiful casino. During my try-out, I was swamped with 75c bets and had trouble keeping up with the volume and pace. I turned to my immediate supervisor (the boxman) for support. Instead of helping me, this toothless, giggly seventy-something year-old paleolithic relic said, “Look at my cufflinks.” They were shaped like six-shooters. The senile old fart started spinning them, “These is antiques…and shoot real, fake bullets.” I was struggling enough without his distractions. I realized what I was up against and concentrated on my work until he grabbed my arm, “But I can’t show you how it works ‘cause I lost the ammo.” Despite the handicap of his “assistance,” I got hired. I ran to a phone and called my mother. My exact words were, “I just got hired by a REAL casino.” In the end, the Holiday was a grind joint too...except through four months of repetition and the mentoring from some earnest boxmen, I learned my craft.
THE GOLDEN GOOSE CASINO WAS A SLOT MACHINE PARLOR ACROSS MAIN STREET FROM THE HOLIDAY.  TO LURE CUSTOMERS, THEY OFFERED TANTALIZING FREEBIES LIKE A LONG DISTANCE PHONE CALL AND A SOUVENIR PHOTO.  ON THE SAME DAY I WAS HIRED, I CALLED MY PARENTS WITH THAT GIFT AS WELL AS POSING FOR A SIMILAR (LESS SILLY), PHOTO FOR MY HOLIDAY EMPLOYEE FILE.
About ten years ago, my mother confessed that she would love to see me as, "One of those guy's who wear suits in the casino." Today’s blog is dedicated to the job I never wanted, the boxman.

In my Las Vegas years, (1979-1984), the casino boxman, (the immediate craps supervisor sitting between the dealers and regulating the game) had the widest range of responsibility. Depending on the casino and caliber of the dealers, their job varied to the depths of babysitting newbies (break-ins) or just passing time because the dealers were so sharp.

The dealers were sharp when I dealt craps at the Stardust Casino, (1980-1982). Those boxmen were generally “juiced-in” fossils. That meant that they parlayed their connections with veteran gaming savvy to land (do-nothing) jobs, (a much smaller amount of boxman were young.  Overwhelmingly, that group lacked ambition and worked enough to support bad habits).

If I had half a brain, I would have taken notes when those older boxmen told me their colorful gambling stories. That way, my blogs would include better descriptions of their wild adventures (tall tales).  I wish I remembered the details of the man who claimed he taught Elvis how to shoot dice. Or the braggart that said he dealt poker in a bar when he was twelve, got arrested and sent to a reform school until he ran away. Another gentleman dwelled on the time he was “in on” a big fix at the racetrack. Or the man who swore he (all American casino workers) were treated like kings before the revolution in Cuba. But my favorite was the man who lived a high life in New Orleans, as a high-stakes craps dealer in a Runyan-esque, depression-era speakeasy…when the rest of the country was starving.

Please don’t misunderstand, not all the old-timers were charismatic or entertaining. Many of these barnacles sat in a catatonic daze on hemorrhoid cushions, some fell asleep on their stool and others never stopped complaining about life’s most mundane topics.

The serious ones were housemen. They were no fun and guarded every casino dollar as if their life depended on it. So even if they had cool experiences, they were too attentive to the job or too reserved to brag about the glamorous women they had, the fortunes they made and pissed away or the heinous crimes they witnessed.

In my Stardust days, I didn’t need to see that boxmen earned a lot less than dealers, had little or no real power and had to maintain a costly wardrobe. Far worse, it was rumored that we were working for mobsters and the boxmen were directly responsible for the (big) money. Even if you were blind to all that it was obvious…ordinary people, (regardless of how extraordinary their skill set was) couldn’t rise up through the ranks and become upper management. So, being a boxman was the ultimate dead-end and therefore, an old-man job.  I may not have been particularly wise at twenty-six but I correctly knew, I wanted no part of it.
THEY SAY, "YOU DON'T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU HAVE IT TILL IT'S GONE."  WELL AT THE STARDUST, I KNEW I WAS LIVING A PRIVILEGED LIFE...AND LOVED EVERY PRECIOUS SECOND OF IT.

I lost my Stardust job in January 1982. I was unemployed for six weeks. The best job I could find was the Vegas Club which was on par, but slightly worse than the Holiday. I toiled at that toilet for six months.  The Vegas Club boxmen (of all ages) fit the old casino adage; those who can't deal craps, sit box.  So decent employees who had been bad or inexperienced dealers were hooked-up as boxmen.  I liked most of them but a lot of the time, I had to help them.  I remained stuck in that rut until the flying fickle finger of fate got me hired at the Golden Nugget.
STILL IN MY VEGAS CLUB UNIFORM, SUE AND HER GIRLFRIEND MET ME AFTER WORK AT 4:00AM.  BY THE TIME THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN (OUTSIDE THE MINT CASINO), I WAS HEAVILY BUZZED.  AN HOUR LATER, WHEN I GOT SEPARATED FROM THE GIRLS, I STUMBLED ACROSS FREMONT STREET (WITH A HEINEKEN IN HAND) AND GOT HIRED 
*(JUICED) INTO THE GOLDEN NUGGET.     *THEY SAY "JUICE" IS UNFAIR...AND IT ISN'T FAIR...UNLESS, IT'S WORKING IN YOUR FAVOR.

At the time, the *Nugget was a dive…but still one of the top three, downtown craps jobs.

*Six months after I was hired, the Golden Nugget announced its expansion plans. True to its word, the casino experienced a metamorphosis (on a biblical scale) and transformed that shithouse into an incredible, luxurious, worldwide destination. This story however takes place before the big change.

I was informed that the Nugget as part of the hiring policy might use me first as a boxman for a few shifts. Nothing could interest me less but if that’s what I had to do, to get the job, I did it. Soon thereafter, I learned that this ploy helps the casino weed-out undesirables by seeing a potential craps dealer’s personality, knowledge and grace under fire.

On my first day, I learned that despite being a downtown saw-dust joint, the other dealers were experienced men who had fallen from better jobs. I immediately clashed with Stratton (eleven years older than me).  His attitude screamed out...just sit there and be quiet.  Other times, he treated me as if I was a senile old man trying to supplement my social security income.

Two of the other dealers on that crew were rednecks. They were sweaty, in their own world and hyped-up on whatever drugs they were doing. One was named Christopher Dean. I started my short (only) conversation with him by asking him about his nametag that read, “COWBOY.”

He said, “The name’s 'Cowboy' Christopher Dean, out of Lusk Wyoming. Maybe you heard of me, I was a rodeo star for ’bout ten years. Been on TV a million times but I kinda fell on my head a lot…had to give that shit up.” My mistake was saying, “So they put 'Cowboy' on your nametag because Christopher wouldn’t fit?” He said, “Heh?” I thought I was being clever and said, “Well if Christopher was too long, they could have just put ‘CHRIS…'” In a bi-polar reversal he went off on me, “Call me Cowboy goddamn it! Or call me by my Christian name, Christopher!” He was really upset and was muttering the harshest obscenities when I had the urge to say; Christian Christopher would be like me being called Jew Jewie. I’m so glad I didn’t say it.
AFTER THE EXPANSION, THE NUGGET BECAME A GREAT JOB.  AS YOU CAN SEE, I GOT BACK MOST OF MY MONDO-BOFFO STARDUST SWAG.  PLEASE NOTE THE SMALL SPACE ON THE NAMETAG, SO I WASN'T AN IDIOT WHEN I REMARKED THAT "CHRISTOPHER" WOULDN'T FIT ON IT.

Luckily, Cowboy found a quiet place in his hyper-active stupor and took his attention off me. But later, I had a direct clash with Stratton. It involved him indirectly robbing a player out of one dollar, (and using it as a tip for the dealers). When I stopped Stratton, he got in my face. I rebutted, “Look, this is my first day. I don’t know the good guys from the bad guys…but management is watching me. I need this job, (tip income there varied from five dollars/hour during the week to eight on weekends). I’ll double what I made at the Vegas Club, (which was still less than half compared to the Stardust).  I don’t want to be out on my ass again.”

Stratton sympathized with me and we got along for the rest of the shift. The next day, I sat box again except I was with the jet-set crew. Their leader was Fillmore Theodore Cunnynghame IV (his nametag read TEDDY). *Teddy was super laid back and even though he and I never actually became friends, I admired him. He was a true Renaissance man, a genius and the coolest person I met in my thirty-six years in the gambling industry.

*Teddy was the main character in my Romeo and Juliet-like short story, “ROOTERS.” He and his girlfriend Ariel Mott (a blackjack dealer at the Nugget) were star-crossed lovers who met on Halloween, at the Exorcist steps in Washington DC. Both of their wealthy family’s disapproved of their relationship, (he was from a staunch Episcopalian, republican, old money clan, living in a Chevy Chase Maryland mansion. Her's were devout Catholics, democratic, nouveau riche and living in a gated sub-division, in Arlington Virginia). When their parents blamed their children’s shortcomings on the other family, the couple ran away and became casino dealers in Las Vegas.
THE "EXORCIST" WAS FILMED ON LOCATION IN THE GEORGETOWN SECTION OF WASHINGTON D.C.  NOT ONLY WERE THESE STEPS EERIE IN THE MOVIE BUT THEY ARE JUST AS SCARY IN PERSON.

During a lull, Teddy, who resembled actor Gabe Kaplan, pointed out which bosses were hard asses.
(above) ACTOR, COMEDIAN GABE KAPLAN (1945-PRESENT) WAS BEST KNOWN AS THE STAR OF THE 1970's SIT-COM, "WELCOME BACK KOTTER."  TEDDY LOOKED LIKE A SCRUFFY, LESS HANDSOME VERSION OF HIM.  EVEN WORSE, WHEN STANDING NEXT TO ARIEL, HIS "DROP-DEAD" GORGEOUS GIRLFRIEND, TEDDY LOOKED ACUTELY UNATTRACTIVE.

Teddy also told me that “Cowboy” Christopher Dean was addicted to pain-killers.  But he was completely out of control when he mixed alcohol, speed, cocaine or whatever into a psychopathic cocktail. Teddy was specific, "DON’T mess with him or his two toadies. They're bullying thugs, desperate for money, drugs and attention."

On my third day, I finally dealt craps. During that shift, I found out that Nick Tucker (a fellow student of mine) from the New York School of Gambling also dealt there, (Tucker had an entire blog dedicated to him on June 30, 2014 called, "NICK TUCKER: A PUZZLE THAT WOULD BAFFLE BOTH CHURCHILL AND FREUD."  Nick and I developed a friendship and I was taken into his clique, (he shared Teddy’s opinion of the bad bosses and of “Cowboy” Christopher Dean).

Through Nick’s influence, I worked almost exclusively with him and my new friends. We dealt on the high-limit game which meant that while the others were breaking their backs pushing twenty-five cent chips around…we were standing-dead and bull-shitting for hours at a time. The other dealers recognized the unfairness of our special treatment but Nick (and more so another dealer on my crew Mateo) had so much pull that we were golden and couldn’t be touched.

In the months that followed, it became obvious that the “Cowboy” had a vendetta against Teddy. On at least two occasions when Teddy was alone, he was accosted by the brutal three-headed monster. Yet each time, through mental manipulation, Teddy talked his way out of a certain beating. Even when the rowdy trio crashed a private cocaine party at his house, Teddy used some incredible double-talk to subdue the leader and quickly and quietly get them out the door. I never knew what verbal tactics Teddy used until one night while I was waiting to clock out.

I had no direct dealings with the “Cowboy” after our confrontation on my first day. I avoided him and his cronies like the plague. I knew he was a loose-cannon and his servile psychotic followers were trained to obey his hostile whims. This all changed when they spotted me in the alley near the time office.

Just after I punched-out, on a night that I didn’t work with Nick or Mateo, the “Cowboy” snuck up behind me and yelled in my ear, “This is the prick that fucked with my money.” I was in shock. Outside, a group of spectators (none were good friends) encircled us. Everyone was staring at me as Cowboy shouted, “When he fucks with MY money, he fucks with ALL Y'ALL'S money.” I heard people in the crowd calling others over and saying, “There’s going to be a fight.”

My heart was really pumping but I had no idea what he was talking about, (later I found out that he was harboring a grudge over the one dollar Stratton tried to help himself to...for the dealers...on my first day. Without touching me, Cowboy coaxed me towards an alley. While I was back-pedaling I said, “Why are you being such a hard-on?” When the crowd ooh and ah’ed he crowed, “A hard-on? Now I’m gonna really kick your ass.” He pointed to his underlings and cried, “When I’m done, they’re gonna kick your ass. And if you’re still alive…anyone else can kick whatever is left of your sorry ass.” I was still moving backwards into the alley as I said, “You’re crazy.” I tried to walk past him but he blocked my path and said, “Come on try and hit me…it’s gonna be the only shot you get…”

People “encouraged” me by chanting, “Hit him! Hit him!” I made one last attempt to squeeze by but bumped into him. His fist was cocked as a voice yelled from out of the swarming throng, “CHRSITINE! CHRISTINE!” Cowboy’s rigid stance began to relax. It was Teddy. Like a Svengali-like mantra, he repeated "Christine" several more times. By the time he broke into through the ring, Cowboy seemed to be in a trance. Teddy whispered something in Cowboy’s ear and then told everyone, “Go home. There’s nothing to see. It’s over.”

I was standing alone with Teddy as the two lackeys cursed me. They hooked their arms through Cowboy’s and escorted their verbally wounded warrior off. I said to Teddy, “What just happened?” He laughed, “That nimrod can’t stand being called Chris. But I accidentally found out he really hates being called Chris Dean because it sounds like, Christine. Maybe he had issues as a kid because his manhood can’t handle being called by a girl’s name.” I was still confused as my savior added, “Any time you want him off your back, call him Christine…he just falls to pieces.”



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Way before my mother encouraged me to wear a suit at work, a friend (outside the casino business), asked me why I never became a boxman. I told him that I did twice, in 1982 and it almost killed me. I related the story above and added, "But dealers, especially in Atlantic City make more money than boxmen, have far less responsibility and save tons on clothes by wearing a simple uniform."  He was nodding as I continued, "My real reason is, being a boxman has been so ingrained in me as an old man job that I can’t help but feel that way, even *now.

Of course if I wasn’t forced to do that dirty job, I would have missed out on the chance to be beaten to death…and share the happy details of my rescue.

*Today, many casinos have eliminated an entire craps salary by making the boxman/floorman into a single, hybrid position. The corporate bean-counters have determined that the economics of a guaranteed savings from less wages paid out is worth the risk of loss to errors and theft.




                                                      #               #                #


To satisfy my curiosity, I googled…without success, “Cowboy” Christopher Dean. I even tried the professional and amateur rodeo circuit as well as his hometown. That’s why I’m using his real name because on top of being an ass-hole, apparently he was full of shit too.

P. S. –WAS invited to one of Teddy’s cocaine parties. It was he and Ariel’s, “Exorcist-themed” wedding, (the Cunnynghame's and the Mott's were NOT invited). Although I wasn’t allowed into the bedroom during the actual ceremony, I did witness “Cowboy” Christopher Dean and his two-man posse drive their pick-up truck onto Teddy’s lawn. They barged in and caused a raucous until Teddy calmly took the matter into his own hands. Even with tons of help available, Teddy merely called the Cowboy “Christine” a few times and whispered hypnotic words into the low-life's ear. It was magical moment in my life to see this "moron-whisperer" parlor trick work for a second time. Teddy kept it up until he (alone) had prodded them outside to their truck.

The wedding guests included several members of upper management.  So the next day, the three amigos were not only fired but were banned from the property, for life. On a suggestion from the casino manager, to insulate Teddy from future reprisals, the Nugget had a restraining order served against the Cowboy's mini-mob that prevented contact with Teddy, his wife and home.  Indeed, Chistopher Dean never bothered them again.

P.P.S. - Please note, the whole “ROOTERS” story takes thirty-five pages to tell. Let me know if you want to read Teddy and Ariel's, Romeo and Juliet-like saga.