Monday, December 29, 2008


I had a "Dickens-like" brush with death on December 31, 1979.

A few years ago, invisible to the world, I stood along side the specter known as the Grim Reaper. He had me re-hash the consequences of being a wise-guy and disrespecting my elders. His message was so clear that I included that episode into a passage in my short story, "RIDEOUT, WHITE-OUT & RIGHT-OUT."

Even if "death" is an exaggeration in this situation, the dire nature of that afternoon at Hotel Fremont most certainly would have caused me a higher level of brain damage than I already possess.

Hersh Schtiermann was a robust hulk in his early seventies. He had recently retired and re-located to Vegas. A few times a week, Hersh came into the casino to play craps, (from the DON'T...which means, he bets for the shooter to lose). A powerful man of stature and will, he liked to gamble among the sea of penny-ante players. Schtiermann's hundred dollar black chip bets, stacked three high, stood-out against the ubiquitous yellow twenty-five cent chips that cluttered the rest of the lay-out.

The dealers and supervisors at the Fremont shuddered when Schtiermann approached and hoped he wouldn't land on their table. Even worse, regardless of the high-level of pampering he received, Hersh was still a demanding, impatient and volatile "stiff," (didn't tip). He was even more of a high-maintenance nightmare because he was chummy with our casino manager.

It was a shock to me and my co-workers when on December 31, 1979, we saw our floor supervisor, Tyree Theodore Taylor, a.k.a., "T," orienting Schtiermann to the finer points of being a boxman. "T" was pointing out that the bottom-heavy boxman's stool was broken and seemed attached to floor. He was demonstrating how to adjust it when I took my position next to Hersh.

In a gravel-voice that matched his tough facade, Schtiermann was surprisingly pleasant. Soon, in a brash yet sophisticated manner, he even confided in me that his friend the casino manager, had "juiced" him into the job so that he could stay around the action without gambling. During the early part of that shift, everything on our table was light and easy. The time flew by and in a grandfatherly way, I began to enjoy Hersh's company...especially when he whispered condescending comments about the small-time gamblers.

After noon, the holiday crowd increased and our game's pace picked-up. It then became obvious that Schtiermann was "buried," (clueless to all aspects of craps that didn't pertain to the DON'T). My first hint that proved his lack of game knowledge occurred when I asked for an "OFF " button and Hersh snapped, "What f--- is an off button?"

Later there was a lost six-dollar place bet. The player based his claim on incompetence but Hersh wouldn't listened and blindly supported that dealer.
When the player became livid and demanded satisfaction Schtiermann adamantly said, "No!"
"T," our floor supervisor said, "Hersh, set the bet up, pay it and keep the game moving."
Hersh said, "He's a liar."
"T" said, "That's okay, we'll just watch him more closely."
Hersh growled, "No! I'm not giving that cheapskate, s---! Get the pit boss."
The player said, "Who does this jerk think he is?"

Schtiermann was so muscular that when he slammed his fist onto the table you got a sense that he had worked hard his whole life. Enraged, he rose-up, ranted profanity, leaned forward and swiped his bear-claw hand at the player's throat. The spry player jumped back. If Hersh had gotten a hold of him, I think he was angry enough to have strangled the poor bugger.
From a safe distance, the guy then taunted Hersh. Schtiermann seethed in frustrated.
When the man eased back to his original position, Hersh found the range, spit in the fellow's face and hollered, "Give that low-life all his money and throw him out."
The player gathered his chips and left.

By 2 o'clock, with our craps game was out of control, Hersh was back to his jolly self . We were getting along great as he shared more and more personal information with me even though my side of the table was crammed with ten players (six is usually considered full). After plowing through my succession of field, don't come and come bets, I began to pay my place bets. I was halfway through that progression when the stickman pre-maturely told me, "Give this player fifty cents change."
I didn't respond, adhered to my procedure and continued paying place-bets.
Schtiermann with no idea of dealing sequence pointed across the table and said, "Give that piss-ant half-a-buck."

Incorrectly thinking I had reached a certain level of simpatico with the man, I stood straight-up, gestured to the mass of place-bets that still had to be paid, dipped into obvious sarcasm...that I thought he'd appreciate and said, "Don't you think I have more important things to do first?"

When I got to last bet, I heard the crowd hush. I looked up and saw the bewilderment in the player's eyes. Instinctively, I turned around. Schtiermann, with veins bulging from the side of his liver-spotted head, had already stood-up and picked-up the stool, (remember that was the one that was so heavy and cumbersome that everyone joked that it was welded to floor). His face contorted and looked crazy as he cocked it back, like a baseball bat ready to crash down on my head. In that second, "T"came-up from behind and knocked the chair out of his hand. The loudness of the crash turned every one's head in the Fremont. White foam formed at the corners of Schtiermann's mouth as "T' got between us. He repeatedly cursed me and interwove, "I'll kill you," countless times before the pit-boss and a security guard were able to subdue him. Moments later, Hersh was led away by the casino manager and replaced.

At 6 o'clock, my crew was relieved by swing-shift exactly on time. The pit-boss called us over to his pit-stand and told us, "Report for duty at 8:AM tomorrow morning.
One of the other dealers said, "Hey, we're off!"
The pit-boss pointed to the schedule and scoffed, "Don't complain to me, there it is in black and white."
We looked down and saw that the typewritten word "OFF," for New Year's Day, on our weekly schedule sheet had been painted over. On top of it, handwritten in red ink was, "8:AM."
The pit-boss leered at me and said, "Don't squawk, after what you knuckleheads (he didn't really call us that) did today, you're lucky to have jobs.

In one of the shortest casino supervising careers in history, (five and three-quarter hours) Hersh Schtiermann never returned to work. The next (and last) time I saw him was two years later when he walked through the Stardust with his wife. After I gave him a polite hello, he took me aside, squeezed the life out of my forearm and stated, "You're a f--king wise-guy and always're lucky I didn't have you killed.
God bless us...everyone. Have a lets hope 2009 is a HAPPY NEW YEAR for all of us !

When ZYMBOT reads this I hope he appreciates that Hersh Schtiermann's name was made-up. And more importantly, this blithering is for his (everyone's) entertainment and although there might be a 5% embellishment factor, this, and all such material concerning my experiences...unless otherwise specified, are true.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I haven't been everywhere but I've seen and gone through my share of odd-ball places. Now, let me tell you why there's no Wal-Mart in Santa Claus Arizona.

Unless you've a first-timer going through the desert, the two-lane drive on Highway-93 from Las Vegas to Phoenix is the epitome of tedium. Highlighted by continuous flat, brown nothingness and punctuated by the occasional eye-sore, called Joshua trees, even the impressive saguaros (giant cacti) lose their oomph after seeing the millionth one.

Like any desert, you don't want to have an automotive break-down out there. That is why the little mirage-like towns along the way act as an oasis in the wilderness. On that road, the border from Nevada is identified by Hoover Dam. Yes, you should stop and check-out this testimony to American ingenuity. It's a true modern engineering marvel that proved that necessity (the Great Depression) can be the mother of invention. But unless you are a total geek who absolutely MUST experience the quintessence of dullness... you can miss the can appreciate enough of it by parking, finding the visitor center, scenic over-looks and gift shop.

Once in Arizona, the first stop is Kingman. If you are a city-boy (person) like me, you'll notice that this is a lonely dot in the middle of nowhere. However, after you pass through you'll soon realize that it is a megalopolis compared to the other places out there. When I look back, the towns seemed to get smaller as you roll into Wickenburg, Wittman, Baghdad and Wikieup. (If you read my novel, a crowning moment in Dennis' detour to Vegas occurs at the filling station/Greyhound Depot/post office in Wikieup). However, Wikieup was not the smallest town on 93 !

The uninhabited ghost town of Santa Claus had one building (that I could see) , a closed-up Christmas shop. Before I started this investigative report, I guessed that they must have relied too heavily on a booming mail-order business or on bored-to-tears travelers to come in. But Santa Claus or Santa Claus Acres as some people called it, did have a hey-day...okay, a short hey-day but a hey-day nevertheless.

Inspired by a realtor trying to attract buyers to her local land parcels, the idea of a North Pole, Santa's workshop and Christmas theme resort came to be. Established in 1937 and spear-headed by the Santa Claus Inn (originally called the Kit Carson Guest House), the town became a full-fledged tourist destination by 1942. It boasted a year-round Santa Claus on duty and a replica toy factory operated by elves, (I am uncertain if these were actual elves, cheap foreign knock-offs or the mechanical kind). Also, for a small fee, (mainly around the holidays) people from around the world would mail their cards and gifts there so that they could be re-mailed with a Santa Claus Arizona postmark.

The realtor's vision never materialized and the town began declining by 1949. For a while the Christmas shop remained but eventually closed. By the mid-70's Santa Claus was officially removed from all new maps by the state of Arizona. So what I saw in 1984 was a single dilapidated building that had laid idle for years. Apparently there were other buildings that I didn't see because the land office and post office among others, didn't close until 1995.

These days, without Santa Claus as it's anchor, the gem of Mohave County has become the tiny hamlet of Chloride Arizona. From Santa Claus (the signs are still there), travel along Hermit Drive until you pass the slightly more scintillating berg of Grasshopper Junction. Then a mere jackalope's throw further, its on to Chloride, where you'll find the metal statues of a tourist mecca called, "The Junk Art Chloride."


Monday, December 15, 2008


The holiday season is right around the corner and no concept sums up this time of year better than the phrase, "GOOD WILL TOWARDS MAN." That is, unless you have a neighbor like my BOOB NEXT DOOR.

My Boob Next Door as you may recall from past columns is, the knuckleheaded "piney" who I share a property boundary with. (Please note, if you ever study a population density map of South Jersey, vast tracts of land are protected under the Pine Barrens Act. This protection maintains the environmental integrity of these lands and greatly restricts commercial development. Therefore, the few people who live in the pinelands are nicknamed: piney or pinies...which is like being called a Jersey hillbilly).

Primarily, what makes BOOB so intolerable is that he is a control freak. As you may recall, his "my way or no way" attitude was the final straw that ended our once friendly relationship. Some of his low-lights include: cursing me out when I put up a fence, (apparently a true piney doesn't like having the wilderness blocked off). Of course BOOB didn't apologize...or offer to chip for our shared section of fence when he put up his own fence when his kid was growing up.

Then there was the time he threatened to kill our dog Roxy if she ever peed on his lawn. Being the true weasel that he is, rather than spew his nonsense at an adult like me, Mr. Piney's ultimatum was aimed at my son Andrew.

My last conversation with him occurred while mowing my lawn in 2002. Andrew's 2nd grade class was preparing to do a patriotic play and I was singing their show-stopper, "I'M PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN." From in front of his house, BOOB caught eye contact with me and gestured that I shut-off my mower. He then rudely insisted that I stop cursing him out. When I told him that I was singing a Kenny Rogers song, his response was a profanity-laced tirade that insulted both Mr. Rogers and myself, and concluded with the punchline, "You can't fool me, I can read lips!"

Its easy to turn your back on that type of mentality. Since then we've had some minor scrapes but I'm certain that I am best served to simply ignore him. That was the case about three years ago when BOOB started gathering a thin pile of grass clippings, pine needles, acorns etc., exactly along a hidden five-foot line that divides our front yards.

The significance of his pile may have been a protest or out of spite or even an artistic endeavor. Either way, as much of an eye-sore that it was, it wasn't harming me and unless you were on top of it, you couldn't see it. However, each season the heap mysteriously got longer, wider and taller. By the beginning of last month, BOOB's great wall of weird resembled a dry version of a beaver dam. If he kept adding to it, at that pace, it'd be visible from the moon by 2012. Nevertheless, I wasn't going to burn-out my KISH-KIZ over this and continued to pay he and it no mind.


It was right around Thanksgiving that I mentioned to MSLEMMA that I am losing my patience with BOOB. He understood my dilemma and suggested calling GREENPEACE or praying for divine intervention. I wasn't swayed by his well-formed arguments and resolved to wait the moron out and remain mute.

About a week ago, we had a severe rain storm. I went outside to rake-up the leaves, broken branches etc and was shocked to see that BOOB or perhaps a supernatural power had neatly removed the NOT SO great wall.

The moral of the story is, in this holiday season when we share in the glory of "good will towards man" we should throw down our defensive gauntlet and accept our neighbors regardless of their shortcomings.

I might feel that way towards BOOB if I knew for certain that he indeed removed the pile and that it was in the vain of restoring friendship and peace to our little corner of the world. But I've seen enough UFO and conspiracy shows on the A & E NETWORK, and I can see the removal was too perfect for any piney to I doubt MSLEMMA prayed for me...and more importantly, I know the work of aliens when I see it.

So season greetings to the Martians and HUMBUG to BOOB.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Sex, drugs, rock-n-roll...and orchids!

We all seek to improve our lives. It isn't always easy to find the right road and sometimes we need outside assistance. We are taught that for the best results we should find objective parties to guide us. That is where clergy, school counselors, professional analysis or consultancy firms come into play. But overwhelmingly, self-discovery is an internal device. One could say that Darwin's survival of the fittest theory, is based on the same concept. Finding the right balance of what we want and need, and changing...until our personal comfort zone is found. That is the premise of the 2002 movie "ADAPTATION;" how personalities and lifestyles evolve through experience. ADAPTATION DESERVEDLY WON SEVERAL OSCARS AND NUMEROUS OTHER AWARDS YET MOST CASUAL MOVIE-GOERS DON'T KNOW IT.

My connection to "Adaptation" started in 2003. Over the course of two breaks at work, I saw two fifteen-minute segments. I was riveted by the story and the main characters, Nicolas Cage, (double role as twins) Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper. The next day I started an additional information campaign and asked around. But none of my movie cronies knew much about it. Until I asked the mom of one of my son Andrew's friends. She said, "The movie IS great but the book, "THE ORCHID HUNTER" in which the film is based (by Susan Orlean) was better!"

I ran to the library and read this "best seller." Hey, we all have our own taste but believe me, this book sucked. It led me down the primrose path waiting for something to happen...and it never did. I guess its hard for me to get excited about a flower movie. So, DON'T read the book! See the movie. I can say that because I just saw it, for the first time in its entirety on, ON DEMAND and loved it.

The reason why the film and book differ is...the movie (based on truth) is about a screen writer's struggle to write a movie about the book. He (Cage as Charlie Kaufman) has writers block because the book doesn't really have a plot. To eliminate the blockage, he, together with his complete opposite twin (it is never made clear whether the twin is real or a facet of his subconscious) tries to get to know the author (Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean) and the book's main character, the eccentric and toothless orchid hunter, (Chris Cooper as John Laroche).

The theme of the movie is personal change...growth. This notion is exemplified by Charlie Kaufman who writes the way he lives...with great difficulty. Donald his twin, who lives the way he writes...with foolish abandon. Susan who writes about life...but can't live it. And John, whose life is a book...waiting to be adapted (he's also willing to play himself in the movie).

"Adaptation" may seem complicated but it is not. The use of super-imposed "three weeks later" banners etc., help clarify the many flashbacks. However, despite the simplicity, the fun is fueled by everything being plausibly unpredictable. Plus, unlike the book, you'll feel sympathy for the highly flawed characters.

That's the whole story, four lives, a million ways they can each find happiness through adaption and countless ways for the movie to end. Trust me on this, improve your life, find this movie and tell me how much you loved it too.

P.S. - STAGE doesn't think so but the toothless Laroche character (if he had teeth) looks like just like him.

Monday, December 1, 2008


The 1978 movie, "THE END" was a dark comedy starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Dom DeLuise and David Steinberg.

Burt Reynolds' character is facing a painful terminal disease and decides to avoid the anticipated agony, by killing himself. Aided by the incompetent DeLuise, the plot features a series of bungled suicide attempts. I saw it once, (in the theater), thirty years ago and one sequence has remained fresh in my mind.

In that scene, Reynolds tries to drown himself in the ocean. When he realizes that he is really struggling with rip-tides, his survival instincts take over. Despite his thrashing and flailing about, he's having increasing trouble keeping his head above water, as he's being swept further out to sea.

In desperation, Reynolds screams, "I WANT TO LIVE, I WANT TO LIVE!"  In search of divine intervention, he pleads with his Maker by quoting an outlandish financial offer in exchange for his life. Suddenly, the natural strength of the current eases slightly and his instinct for greed takes over. So, he reduces his monetary pledge. As the peril lessens, he proportionally continues to discount his promises. By the time he's out of danger and collapses safely on the shore, he re-re-re-revises his obligation to practically nothing.

I think most of us are guilty of that on some level. In the casino industry, we frequently over-hear it from customers. It usually sounds like; I'm NOT greedy, I'll go straight home as soon as I double my money. It then becomes funny when their wish comes true and they recant their vow.

These days, many casinos offer games with an optional "bonus" feature. In a game like Caribbean Stud Poker, an additional one-dollar side bet makes a player eligible for separate jackpots for premium hands, (a flush or better). To make this game more tempting, each table is equipped with an ever-increasing digital meter advertising the top prize, for a royal flush.

The casino supplies the pot with the first $10,000.00, then thirty cents of each bonus dollar risked injects the pot higher. The biggest jackpot I saw was $285,00.00. Therefore, it's not uncommon for people to say, "I'm not greedy, I'll settle for 10% of the meter," (the prize for an ordinary straight flush).

My favorite story of greed occurred recently, in an Asian-style seven-card stud-poker game called Pai-Gow. This game has its own bonus feature, called the ENVY BONUS which rewards players for premium hands starting with a five-card straight, paying 2 to 1.

The ultimate Pai-Gow payout, for a seven-card straight flush, pays an astounding 8,000 to 1. Plus, if you bet $5 (or more) on the bonus, you become eligible to cash-in on other player's premium hands. Therefore, rather than being ENVIOUS of a fellow player hitting it big, you can also cash-in on their good fortune. In the case of someone hitting the 8,000 to 1, the ENVY feature would incredibly net each fellow player, their own $5,000.00.

I never witnessed that happen but I know it happened twice. In the more interesting situation, the player dealt the seven-card straight-flush DID NOT bet the bonus. That means, he gets NOTHING for it from the casino. However, the four other players at his table will get $5,000.00 each.

The player did some quick thinking and revealed his fantasy-come-true, to the other four.  While these men were giddy in anticipation of their unexpected windfall, the owner of the golden cards propositions them.  His demand was, they each give him a thousand cash...each. They scoffed at his audacity, "called his bluff" and in a flurry of mild foul language, turned him down.

The man considers his options, (his bet was virtually guaranteed to "push" (neither win or lose). His threatening counter-proposal was, "If you don't pay me now, I'll surrender my hand," (throw-in his cards without showing them to the casino). The implication being, if his adversaries didn't, "play ball" with him, he was willing to chuck his cards and sacrifice his $25.00 bet. That way everyone gets no bonus money.  He expected this leverage, almost like extortion, to guarantee him an equal share, by in essence, making an even five-way split, ($4,000.00 each) of the bonus money.

The four others proved how bad GREED TALK$. They remained adamant and still refused while mixing in a stronger chorus of obscenities. When the man stuck to his principles and indeed threw away his cards, the four-man bloc yelled out the harshest, hateful profanity. 

The dealer took a cautious half-step back away from the barrage as the raging argument mounted. Spectators within hearshot hustled over to see what the commotion was about. Others from further away were guided there by curiosity and human nature.  Soon the Pai Gow room was flooded with curiosity seekers hoping to see a fight, (and take advantage of the potential chaos).

When it looked like the situation might turn into a riot, a staff member pushed the panic button.  Thirty seconds later, a posse of dead-serious plain-clothes security and a squad of regular guards stormed the pit and surrounded the table.

The four men ignored the security officers and continued screaming for casino intervention. The dealer was powerless to do anything. The disgruntled men went up the management chain-of-command after getting no satifaction from the floor supervisor and the pit boss.  The game was at a complete standstill for several minutes until the shift boss arrived.  He heard all the greivances and addressed the four men, "We NEVER saw the cards.  It's not in out best interest to give away twenty grand...on your say so."

Later, the player who surrendered the hand cornered the shift boss, "Hey, I hooked you guys up and saved the house a boatload of money."  The big boss maintained a poker face during the ensuing silent pause.  The player continued, "You know, Christmas is right around the corner.  How about showing me some love with a comp for four to the steakhouse, a free suite next weekend and tickets to see, The Trans Siberian Orchestra."  The stoic shift boss said, "Are you serious?  Why?"  The man said, "I'm not making an unreasonable request..."  The boss interrupted, "Of course it's unreasonable. Don't you remember, we never saw your cards."

Now you know why many casino workers on their days off lock themselves away in a dark, quiet room.

With that in mind, don't strike up any deals with Santa you can't back up. 

Me, I'm true to my word, so the only bargain I can offer you right now is, my sincerest wish for your peace, happiness and goodwill, in the up coming holiday season.


Monday, November 24, 2008


This past Friday November 21st, marked the 28th anniversary of the Las Vegas, MGM Grand Casino fire. Such a tragedy is nothing to celebrate or be glib about. However, the reminder of it stirred memories of what I was doing and who I was doing it with.

Oddly, in the five years I lived in Las Vegas (1979-1984), I had more friends, family etc come visit me than my 25 years in Atlantic City. Also out west, I accidentally crossed paths with more acquaintances and people I barely knew from back home than here in Jersey. What makes all this more astounding is that I am, as I hope you know, a New Yorker.

When I had visitors in Vegas, Caesar's Palace was their number one requested destination. However, I always included the original MGM Grand (caddy corner across Flamingo Road) in the tour. Aside from being more sophisticated (less gaudy than Caesar's), it was a more comfortable casino. Other pluses were; free self-parking right out front, movie memorabilia adorned its walls, they had a jai alai fronton and a plush theater that showed classic MGM movies (featuring couches and cocktail service).

Additionally, outside the movie box office, there was a roped off area with "Leo" the live (heavily sedated) MGM mascot lion.  He was injected with enough barbiturates that he could hardly keep his eyes open...therefore roaring was totally out of the question. Although I never took advantage of this gimmick, tourists would line-up down the corridor to have their picture taken with the king of the cinema beasts, (considering what happened to Siegfried's Roy, I can only imagine the liability insurance these days).

The MGM also had more celebrities hobnobbing and gambling there...on one afternoon, I had the good fortune to meet Sylvester Stallone, Richard Dawson and Soupy Sales (although Soupy was the only one who gave me the time of day).

The allure of the MGM  must have included better deals on rooms because a disproportional amount of my visitors stayed there. My closest friend from Brooklyn College, Zev, was dating the daughter of a bread crumb magnate from back home. Her dad was such a high-roller that he included Zev in his travels to Vegas. Then Zev got them to include me in a dinner at the MGM's gourmet French restaurant, (a party of 20+ folks).

Zev's visit was great but what was far more interesting was his next visit...except the second time, he didn't stay at the MGM.

About a year earlier (March 1980), I was hired as a craps dealer at the Stardust Casino. As I have chronicled in my writings, my year and a half at the "Dust" was a tremendous professional experience as well as my vehicle to come of age. Back then I wrote a lot of letters to my friends which were filled with my odd-ball adventures. And Zev was a regular recipient.

Zev was going to med-school in Tampico Mexico at that time. To this day, I have no idea what doubt and/or negativity he was experiencing...but the impact of my letters brought him...without prior notice...with all his knock on my door.

My disenchanted friend was lured by upbeat stories that included; the condo I bought, my "new" used car, a "great" job and a girlfriend.  So based on my skyrocketing outlook on life, the genius quit be a casino dealer!

I felt guilty and tried to talk him down but he was definite. Zev never shared any specifics of why he sabotaged his future (I guessed the schooling was too difficult). He was never really the scholastic type so after a day or two, his being there seemed natural.

Zev was foreign.  His family moved to the USA in the late 60's.  Therefore many things he said and did proved that he lived in a cultural void. Nevertheless, his lack of good old All-American common sense was made-up by his ability to concentrate on a single task (school exams) and do well...even though a week later, it seemed that he could never put that test knowledge to practical use.

Zev became my roommate. His lack of day-to-day brilliance was typified when he took my friend Frank's temperature. When Zev stated the degrees in Celsius, Frank said, "So do I have a fever, or what?" Zev shrugged because he couldn't convert the degrees to Fahrenheit. Then after a long search FOR a textbook and then a longer search IN it, he found the solution.

I was working swing-shift, usually 8:PM till 4:AM. So Zev adjusted his body-clock and we had a lot fun gallivanting around town. Soon, he signed-up for craps dealer school.  When he graduated, he filled-out casino employment applications and took auditions.

At noon on November 21, 1980, I woke up to an empty house. I turned on the TV and there was a special report.  The anchorman started, "A fire during the early morning hours has swept through the Las Vegas MGM Casino..." While I slept, heroic Zev drove to the scene and helped the emergency teams, assisted in the triage and even gave someone mouth-to-mouth resuscitation!

Although the constant behest of his family never re-motivated him, I've always believed that the MGM fire rekindled Zev's desire to return to med-school.

I am happy to report that "DOCTOR ZEV" has now been an anesthesiologist for over twenty years. In 1984, he was the best man at my wedding. Unfortunately, time and miles got in our way and I haven't seen him since before Andrew was born.

Through the miracle of the Internet, I have his new business address and will contact him during the holidays as well as two other long lost school friends (Jay and Mitch), in the hopes of revitalizing old friendships. Wish me luck.

In honor of Zev, one of the most genuine and generous people I ever met HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you all.

Monday, November 17, 2008


A momentous moment indeed; MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND celebrates it's 100th blog.

In case you're curious, the idea for this web-page was inspired by RFOUR in December 2006. We met once, three years ago, at a writers club meeting in Mays Landing. We continued an E-Mail correspondence and he recommended this free web-page service, "BLOGSPOT." He suggested blogspot because it could centralize my written material and be a venue for new ideas . Ergo, MGTP develped as a free-association outlet for me and an entertainment forum for you(s). More so, it's an exercise to keep me writing while getting me accustomed to Monday deadlines. When you take a look back into my 2006 archives, you'll see my first blogs were a synopsis for each of my (20) short stories, (2) screenplays and novel. Hopefully, you'll also see an elovution/improvement in my style and ability.
Now, 100 entries later MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND has blossomed into a weekly brain purge of my experiences and insights. I enjoy researching life's trivialities and get so much more joy from the positive response of my readership.

In honor of my blog's 100th edition, I will incorporate the number 100 into an aspect of my life that few people know about. Back in '82, I dealt craps at the Las Vegas Club and recognized casino burn-out in myself for the first time. For those of you familiar with my short stories, the Las Vegas Club is where,"AGNES CARMICHAEL OF THE CARMICHAEL CALIFORNIA CARMICHAEL'S ," took place.

I've heard it said that; You don't know what you got till its gone...well, it's completely true especially in regard to my reaction to getting fired by the Stardust Casino January 10, 1982.

When I got cut loose, the nation's economy was suffering through a recession and Las Vegas was feeling it too. I didn't realize how good the Stardust was until I found out how scarce decent jobs were. I called in old "markers" (favors) but all I got were apologies. So I tried worse and worse casinos and soon wound up downtown. In all, six weeks passed before I *accidentally got myself hired at one of the most abysmal abysses in town, the Las Vegas Club, (18 Fremont Street).
* You'll have to read the Carmichael story to understand why it was accidental.


I toiled at the Las Vegas Club for nine months. It's really easy to get down on yourself when you get that sinking, under-employed feeling in a place referred to by many as, a toilet. Weakened, suppressed, depressed and burnt-out, I was an easy mark for the most ruthless, evil and conniving predator. Was it DRUGS?, ALCOHOL?, DEGENERATE GAMBLING? The horrible truth was...I was approached, lured and multi-level marketers.

Disguised in a neatly wrapped presentation called AMWAY, I was a part of a group of suckers who were looking for an easy sky-rocket to success. In case you don't know, Amway sells household products and get individuals to hawk the company's wares to their friends, coworkers etc. It's called multi-level marketing because people on the levels above you get a percentage of your payment. So it behooves you to enlist your own people to be under you, so you "earn" a percentage of what they make.

Amway, as they phrased it; sell the sizzle rather than the steak. You don't realize at the time but that pretty much means; they have NOTHING to sell...then through thought manipulation, the mind by-passes the necessary slow hurdles of achievement and concentrates on the end goal; wealth. New recruits are inundated with a litany of incredible but true, "rags-to-riches" stories. So, Joe Blow from East-West Kidney Arkansas really did earn $200,000.00 his first year and Mary O'Leary, confined to a wheelchair, really makes a thousand a week in less than five hours. But what Amway doesn't tell you is that there are realtively few success stories out of the gazillions of schmoes who for a short time, sold (and bought Amway crap for themselves) and failed.

Selling household products doesn't change anything...Amway is just a fancy version of a pyramid scheme. Luckily for me, I recognized the ridiculousness of peddling expensive soap and never got involved.

My Vegas Club "sentence," working for a fourth of what I made at the Stardust, drearily crept along. I was dealing their "big" game, a one dollar minimum table, (the one other game was 75c...these minimums didn't even change on holidays). The pay was three bucks an hour and our tips averaged about $23.00/day. So when I got approached a second time by different multi-marketers...I was ripe for the taking.

Obscured by polished attache case toting "professionals" sincerely preaching their well-rehearsed company doctrine, this scam required its suckers to become licensed Nevada life insurance salesman. I took the bait and pictured my ton of acquaintances from the Stardust, other casinos, friends and neighbors...and fantasized, that they would line up to buy insurance. I then figured, by word of mouth, I could build my empire and escape casino drudgery and become a respected and successful man.

I remember one doubting friend say, "Life insurance salesman? You're going from one tough racket to another...why bother." Others avoided me like the plague. Even worse, I soon realized that this company, A. L. Williams, was nothing more than a clever pyramid operation. (Yes, a very small percentage of individuals did do well but overwhelmingly, people FAIL)!

Embarrassed by this revelation, I still persevered. While waiting to pass my licensing exams, I was "permitted" to introduce new recruits to the program. I apologized to my group leader when only three of the seven showed up for their introduction meeting. The leader smiled and said, "Don't worry three is still good...besides, around here, if you throw enough crap (he didn't say crap) on the wall, something will stick.

He called my people crap and indirectly called me crap too. I wish I had quit at that moment but I was influenced by dollar signs and a dynamic guy I brought in who I thought would make me a ton of money.

Shortly there after, I sold my first policy to a former Stardust coworker. For a share of my commission, I was provided with a sponsor who guided me through the process. I watched and learned but soon decided that this occupation was not for me. Plus, there was a hundred item health questionnaire that took forever to fill out. Most items were answered with a simple no. However, the fifteen minutes of questioning after each "yes" was boring and (to me) an invasion of privacy.

We were about three-quarters through when I started to read ahead. I was so confident that the next ten questions would be "no" that I joked to myself; I'll quit if he says "yes" to any of them. Minutes later after saying "no" to a question involving a history of lunacy in his family, my client was asked, "Are you missing any limbs?" My wry smile vanished when he said, "Do toes count?" And I was ready to slash my wrists with a rusty razor blade when the sponsor said, "Of course!" I was stunned! My friend had a toe amputated when he was in Ethiopia while in the army. AND! He couldn't remember dates, the hospital, doctors names or which commanding officer was involved. He vanished into his attic to look for twenty-year old paperwork and came back empty handed. At that point my sponsor said, "That's okay. We'll go back to the office and Steve'll make some calls."

The hellish afternoon seemed finally over. At the front door with premium check in hand we said our good-byes. All I could think was; how am I going to tell them; I QUIT! The client opened the door, looked over his shoulder and whispered, "Good, my wife finally went upstairs...remember that question about the 'clap.' Well, about ten years ago..." If I killed him at that second, at least he would have been covered!

My insurance selling career was over. Today there's no place in my heart for regrets because that would be the same concept of their brain-washing tactic but in reverse.

My only hope is that you never have to spill your guts on 100 personal questions to an acquaintance...unless you have lunacy in your family...that's always good for a laugh.

Thanks for reading...MGTP is nothing without you(s).

Monday, November 10, 2008


In observance of Veteran's Day, I would like to thank everyone who has fought and served our country as well as their families. It is difficult to remain glib when speaking of the military especially with the ongoing Iraq new threats all around us. But there was a time in my nearly forgotten youth that war seemed glamorous and fun.

With the threat of a nuclear holocaust all around me, at the height of my skewed idealism, (I was ignorant to the harsh realities of life), I saw a great honor in the concept of man-on-man warfare. You can prove this by excavating my mother's flower beds and backyard lawn where, circa 1962, I buried dozens of plastic army soldiers who died in my fantasy battles. After all these years, I specifically remember rehashing (many times) a sequence from the WWII movie, "A WALK IN THE SUN." In that scene, GI's hide on each side of a road and bombard a passing German half-track.

During that period, I was also influenced by the TV show, "COMBAT." It had a six-year, 152 episode run that lasted until after the 1967 season. Originally shot in black and white, Combat gained popularity with a gritty realistic depiction of an infantry platoon fighting in Europe.

In his most memorable role, actor Vic Morrow portrayed Chip Saunders, the All-American, no-nonsense sergeant. You may recall he died in a helicopter accident while filming the 1982 movie version of the, "TWILIGHT ZONE." COMBAT was so good, that the other networks produced less compelling "knock-offs;" "THE GALLANT MEN," "RAT PATROL," and "GARRISON'S GUERRILLAS."

Army shows spurred us kids to play "war" at night. Our street became a great battleground and every neighbor's bushes, yard, garden, shed and garage were incorporated into our games. In retrospect, because of today's intolerance towards guns as play-things, isn't it ironic to consider the arsenal of toy weapons we had. I had (amongst others) a cap-gun firing machine gun ala Sergeant Saunders. I also had a pearl (plastic) handled six-shooter, like "THE LONE RANGER" but that, as you might expect was used strictly for playing cowboys and Indians.

My friend Jason had a projectile firing toy bazooka and several GI Joe's (the original action figure...they were NOT dolls and the added paraphernalia were uniforms and gear...NOT a wardrobe and accessories)! Down the street, Ira had a rocket launcher that shot plastic grenades and he had his uncle's authentic naval, way before they were popular, army fatigue pajamas. Another, kid named *Jonny had a pre-transformer gadget that was aptly called, the "THE JOHNNY ACTION EIGHT RIFLES IN ONE." I was actually jealous that there wasn't a "steve" gun. Of course I was seven, so don't judge my value system too hard...even if I did think toy landmines were a great idea...ah, kids!
*Jonny also had a real (broken) policeman's service revolver. Even though it weighed a ton, he kept it tucked in his pants and rarely let us use it.

Somewhere along the line, we poked our heads out of the atomic bomb shelters and the Vietnam-era started...abruptly bursting our man-on-man war bubble. By the mid-60's, boys a few years older than us were being shipped to a place they never heard of, for a cause that was never made clear. Far worse, too many of them never came back. I was lucky because I didn't directly know anyone who went. Even luckier, I became eligible for the draft, the first year the war was over.

In the last years of the war, Selective Service used a lottery system and selected draftees by birthdays. In 1973, my first year of eligibility, even though they weren't sending anyone any more, they kept the lottery in place, in case the goop hit the fan.

To make it fair, they scrambled the 365 birthdays and randomly? assigned each day with a number. Hypothetically, if April 1st was chosen first, every one with that birthday was number one. This process would go on until each birthday was given a number. The general rule was if you were a 200 or higher, you were safe. Those in the 100's were iffy and anything lower was guaranteed to go. My original draft card, (I still have it as a wry souvenir) included my lottery number...16! That meant I would have had a front row seat on the troop carrier's first flight over.

If you ever have the time, in Washington D. C., visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Its an eye-opening jolt to the waste and horror of an unnecessary war. Designed by Maya Lin to be elegantly simple, it is hidden intentionally? along the great mall, amongst an innocent copse of trees, near the Lincoln Memorial, (across the street, to the left of the Reflecting Pool). Its aesthetic qualities include a subliminal walk down into a mass grave. Today, thirty-five years later, you can count on a continuous flow of mourners as well as personal messages attached to the long granite wall that bears the etched-in names of all the fallen servicemen and women.


Its unfortunate, because I think we'll see peace on earth before we ever see children playing army back in vogue. With that in mind, please, regardless of the politics that has...and is putting our people in harm's way, take a moment to reflect and thank those who have sacrificed their time, energy and lives to support our way of life and freedom.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Today's blog marks
MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND'S 99th edition. Thanks for your interest, comments and support...Steve

Monday, November 3, 2008


If you are as old as I am, you'd know the phrase; "DON'T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR McGOVERN," referred to President Richard Nixon's unpopularity. With that in mind, I envision savvy speculators to be investing in tee-shirts, bumper stickers etc bearing that sentiment with both Obama and McCain on them, (to prove my conviction to political correctness, kindly disregard the order of the candidate's names).

Tomorrow, I'm facing some dental surgery. Its an inconvenient, uncomfortable and painful ordeal but, a necessary evil...that as an adult...whether I want to or not...must be faced. Similarly tomorrow, I (we) have the rare once in four-year privilege of voting for president...which in this case could be also inconvenient, uncomfortable and painful.

This is the first presidential election that my son Andrew and I are discussing the important issues of the day. We compare McCain and Obama as best we can and try to make a salient decision on who serves our (the nation's) needs best. But like a sick joke, the race for head-honcho is difficult because both candidates are equally distasteful .

I wish there was a clear-cut choice because I try to instill in my son the concept of decisiveness but I can't make up my mind. Here we are on the eve of this opportunity to elect the leader (commander and chief) of our great county, the single most influential individual on the planet and we are stuck with a coin-flip, on a pair of duds. I hate the idea that the election has been reduced to choosing the lesser of two evils. Even worse, many people are being swayed by the prospect of which vice-presidential candidate would make the better executive if the goop ever hit the fan.

In this regard, Andrew, in an attempt to bridge yesterday's ridiculousness of Halloween with tomorrow's sublime nature of Election Day...has uniquely combined his decisive endorsement with a fashion statement--





Honestly, I tried to persuade him to dress as Joe Biden but alas, despite my homophobia, Andrew was adamant and decisively stuck to his choice for vice president. Hopefully, there aren't any lingering yearnings here that need to be addressed.

Personally, between the cross-dressing and the election, I might be better served to spend ALL of tomorrow with the dentist...and go with anesthetics.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Yes, its another installment of "EDELBLUM vs MACHINES."

In case you don't know, I'm a real weenie when it comes to machinery. The Xerox machine at the library has long been a challenge to me, I never programmed a VCR in my life and I have only recently mastered the high-beams in my 8+ year old mini-van. Of course every now and then I do succeed and this I'm happy to report, is one of those occasions.

First, we look back at the last seven months in which I lost 18 pounds...and kept it off. Somewhere after the summer I seemed to lose my momentum...and a few ounces crept back into my "glutes," belly etc. Powerless to combat this...I did my usual raising of the white flag or in this case, white napkin...tucked it under my chin and chowed down.

Unfortunately for me...nothing beats the smell of a 1/2 gallon of double-fudge-ripple chocolate ice cream at two in the morning. My diet was over and whatever self-control I had was gone... like the proverbial house-of-cards...the sugar rush engulfed me like a junk food tsunami.

Luckily before the under-tow of calories swept me away, the tide changed about three weeks ago. My son Andrew bought...with about $100.00 of his own money...the Wii Fit System. Being ignorant to it, I assumed it was, like other Wii products...a toy. Initially, I walked-in on Andrew "playing" with it and was convinced it was silliness but the next time I saw him, I saw what it was truly designed to do.

The Wii Fit System gets connected like other Wii games to your TV. But instead of a sports is a virtual personal work-out trainer. Whether you are a beginner (like me) or not, you can design an exercise regimen that suits your needs. Therefore, you can forget about buying several single-dimensional devices like a stationary bike which are not only cumbersome but soon fade into obscurity...and become a clothes hanger. And, unlike the expense and travel time of going to a gym, (not to mention the uneasiness of struggling in the beginning in front of strangers), all you have to do is turn on your TV.

The Wii Fit System provides you with a choice of virtual personal trainers, (I chose the dominatrix further encourage me to succeed while bolstering my self-esteem). Through your trainer, you set daily and weekly goals, have weigh-ins, balance tests and even a body composition age estimate.

Wii offers a wide-range of; strength training, aerobics, yoga and balance games. These activities are clearly if your technique or form needs adjusting, your trainer will recognize it and suggestion improvements. To help keep you motivated, your scores are ranked with others in your household (or visitors). Then, as you succeed more exercises are opened to you. At the same time, you are encouraged to increase your repetitions while being provided with health tips along the way.

The music is motivating and the animated graphics are cute. To represent you, you get to customize a caricature of yourself, (I'm the fat bald guy in the green shirt). Yet the cuteness shouldn't deter even the toughest guy from working with it. Also, the system was easy to set-up and an electronics GENIUS like me can actually turn it on and navigate to where I want to be. I was even able to trouble-shoot the one problem I encountered...figuring out how to shut it off.

Bottom line ! After 10+ uses, I still look forward to competing against myself and comparing how well I stack-up against Andrew (he's become a Wii work-out animal...I see how far he's progressed...the results on his already trim body are impressive). Me, I'm having fun, losing weight and toning my body like never before. I watch what I eat and most importantly, I'm conquering machines.

Wii Fit takes up almost no space to store and requires only a little room to use. Even though I'm not quite ready to rip phonebooks in half, I, like other MGTP readers, QUEENTHEE and SAND recommend it highly . LACC has already come by to check it out and is getting one. Anyone else who wants to see it in action are welcome to come by and give it a try.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Five years ago, on the Friday of the four-day (Friday through Monday) Columbus Day weekend, we took a disastrous day trip to Manhattan with two of Andrew's friends. In order of importance, we were to have lunch in Chinatown, visit Ground-Zero and spend a little time at Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty across the harbor.

Maybe disastrous is too strong a word but through no fault of anyone, nothing went right. Our first obstacle in town, aside from being anxious to get started and hungry, was that the main hub through Chinatown (Mott Street) was closed off. Soon I discovered that all the side streets were inexplicably also closed. Parking in Chinatown has always been a challenge but if you're willing to run back and keep feeding the meter there's never a problem.


Our parking search radius widened without any luck. Then because I had kids in the car, even though it's against my religion to pay more for parking than to eat, I, for the first time in my life, gave in to the horror of paying to park. My nightmare skyrocketed to Hitchcockian proportions when, thousands of live crabs crawled out from Pell Street and worse, all the parking lots were FULL! Oh, I was kidding about the crabs on Pell actually happened on Bayard Street however, the parking lots were indeed full-up.

We finally parked at a meter on the Bowery with distant Canal Street easily ten blocks away.
It was clouding up and I recall saying, "At least its not raining."
Perhaps it was a sign from above because a street urchin saw it fit to pee in the street right in front of us...ahhhh,the ambiance of Chinatown. I re-thought the situation and figured, by the time we got to our destination, I'd have to walk back a half mile to feed the meter.

We turned around and got back in the car. I drove to the corner where our favorite restaurant was (it was closed off, remember) and dropped them off. I took the fifty-cent tour and drove through oddball places I never saw. I stopped after thirty minutes when I realized that I was one of several other cars trawling for a parking spot.

Back in Chinatown, I pulled along side a traffic cop and asked why all the streets were closed.
He said, "They are gearing-up for the Columbus Day Parade on Monday."
I said, "Where is there a Columbus Day Parade?"
He said, "Little Italy."
Adjacent to each other, Little Italy and Chinatown are separated by Canal Street. Mott Street is on the Chinatown side and its called Mulberry Street on the Little Italy side.
I said, "They closed all the streets in Chinatown today, for a parade in Little Italy on Monday?"
He said, "Gets really crazy around here."
I said, "Its pretty crazy right now...I dropped my family off at the Wo Hop restaurant and they have been waiting almost an hour."


He said, "Tough break."
I said, "Well, can I leave my car here (in a traffic island, on the corner of Mott and Bowery) for five minutes so I can let them know where I am and get them out."
He said, "You'd be illegally parked...I'd have to give you a ticket."
This of course was in the pre-cell phone era.
I pointed up curvy Mott Street, "C'mon, gimme a break. It's only a half a block, I'll run and be back in no time."
He said, "If I let you, I'd have let everyone..."
I controlled my sarcasm and said, "I'll give you my wallet...please they might be panicking...don't make this an emergency."
"Okay. Keep your wallet but hurry." He then smirked, "If my sergeant shows up, I'm gonna have to nail you...and if she's in one of her moods, you'll probably get towed."

I ran off and luckily my family never went into the restaurant. So it was easy to gather them up. Back in the car, I explained the Columbus Day situation while they moaned in a collective high-pitched starvation tone. We wound up at the South Street Seaport (YAWN). The highlight was taking pictures of the East River and Brooklyn Bridge as a foggy haze set in. Of course we ate in what amounts to their up-scale mall's food-court first but the PHOTO-OP was clearly the better time. P. S.-- I paid through the nose to park!

We then found out that there is nowhere to park at Ground-Zero. I parked at a fire hydrant and we took turns looking around, reading the plaques, etc. Our last stop was Battery Park. There was no place to park their either. So I waited in the car while they walked out to the water's edge for their first up close glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. They got back to the car rather quickly and cheerfully explained the abundance of weirdos they saw in such a short time.
Looking for inspiration I said, "What did you think of the Statue of Liberty?'
Andrew said, "It was too foggy we couldn't see it."

Monday, October 6, 2008


Hostess Twinkies are 75 years old. YUMMY LOOKING AND STILL SO VERY TEMPTING

In 1933, Twinkies were introduced by the makers of Wonder Bread; the Continental Baking Company of Indianapolis. They were invented by baker James A. Dewar who was looking to use idle strawberry shortcake machines when strawberries weren't in season.

I had always assumed that they got their name from being packaged as twin cakes but that is not so. James Dewar was inspired by a billboard advertising the Twinkle-Toe Shoe Company.

The snack cake's originally had banana filling and cost five-cents for the two-pack. That affordability made them particularly popular during the depression.

In the 40's, to support the war effort, bananas were rationed to the general public. So, vanilla creme was substituted. The new flavored Twinkies exploded in popularity, therefore the recipe was never changed back.

Twinkies became a household name when it became a sponsor for the classic kids TV show, "HOWDY DOODY."

During the Cold-War, due to the fear of nuclear attack, many paranoid Americans built personal bomb shelters. It seems hard to believe these days, but Twinkies...due to the reputation...that they stay fresh forever...were among the survival foods that were stockpiled.

President Bill Clinton recognized their significance and included Twinkies in a time-capsule.

Today, a half billion Twinkies are sold each year.

Me personally, I loved Twinkies as a kid...especially if they were refrigerated. But because I was a choco-holic and still am...I preferred Ring-Dings, Yodels and Devil-Dogs (in that order) before Twinkies.

In the summer of '74 when RBOY and I worked at *Disneyworld, we together, discovered something that satisfied our love for Twinkies with our stronger love for chocolate...behold...the Chocolate Twinkie. Chocolate Twinkies, (the cake was chocolate and creme center remained the same) never really caught-on and were discontinued in a short time. Nevertheless, he and I were their best customers. At our apartment complex, we'd go to the convenience store buy them up. For our epic 24-hour car ride back to New York, we bought every one they had.
*On October 1st, Disneyworld celebrated its 37th anniversary, RBOY and I were there, year 3.

Over the years, most of our tastes become more adult. I left Twinkies behind twenty-plus years ago for better junk food and didn't look back...until I had a child. My son Andrew is 14 (I'm not sure if he wants me to include the half because he's actually, 14 1/2). Like all kids, he has tried every conceivable snack food there is. That means...I have RE-TRIED every conceivable snack food. Unfortunately, this time around, my adult palate found Twinkies to have a chemical taste...even refrigerated.

I swore-off Twinkies for another ten years until now. What I discovered is the "Cadillac of Twinkies," however, it must be noted...that these are NOT Twinkies. What they are can be summed-up in one word; ENTEMANN'S. More specifically, Entemann's Sponge Creme Cakes. Trust me, if you ever loved Twinkies, drop everything and find them...maybe your waistline will hate me...but your tongue will love me !

Monday, September 29, 2008


Frequently, we take our heroes for granted. Deep down we know they're human but when they begin to age, become less effective, lose their sexiness or die, we often seemed surprised.

Actor Paul Newman died yesterday, he was 83. I knew he had formally retired from acting and was strickened with cancer yet I was still surprised.


I won't be including a list Newman's acting credentials because its a click away on the information super highway. Plus, I feel his entrepreneurial savvy and devotion as a philanthropist speak for them self. Instead, I'd like to share with you something I saw a long time ago...that few other people I know have seen.


From 1953 through the mid-fifties there was a TV show, "THE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR." This program featured live stage productions. In 1956, they performed an adaptation of the Mark Harris novel, "BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY."


Bang the Drum Slowly is a metaphor for personal loyalties packaged in a baseball wrapper. Unlike the movie of the same name from 1973 there were no outdoor scenes. Nevertheless, its theatrical limitations served it well, by making the presentation more intimate, more sensitive and more stirring...because the overt theme was death and how friends rally together when the chips are down.


In Bang the Drum Slowly, Paul Newman is the headliner. He plays an articulate, star pitcher who learns that his inarticulate teammate (catcher), played by Albert Salmi has a terminal disease. The play delves into the relationship of friends and/or co-workers and any cost, unconditional support becomes the sole priority.

We can expect a lot of attention going to Paul Newman on the old movie networks this week. If by chance this 1956 production gets aired, you should make sure you see it. Also in that cast look for George Peppard in his TV debut as Piney Woods, and Clu Gulager too.

The 1973 movie version with Michael Moriarity in the Newman role and Robert De Niro in the Albert Salmi role should be easier to find. However, the movie comes off more like a baseball flick. Perhaps because it came out shortly after "BRIAN'S SONG," I think it was intentionally softened to a dark comedy...and to some people...nearly a full comedy. Nevertheless the movie's final message was...that when the players stopped harassing their dimwitted mediocre teammate, he, for one last season played better than ever. At the funeral the closing remark by the star pitcher was, "I'll never rag on anyone again."

The movie is pretty good even without Paul Newman. But with him in the United States Steel Hour production of Bang the Drum Slowly," it is far more moving and thought provoking. I hope you can find it. But literally, anything Newman, is bound to please.

Paul Leonard Newman January 26, 1925 - September 26, 2008.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Established in 1854, McSorley's Old Ale House is the oldest bar in New York City.LOCATED IN THE EAST VILLAGE (MANHATTAN) at, 15 EAST 7th STREET... STOCK PHOTO: KINDLY DISREGARD THE TWO GENTLEMEN IN THE PHOTO.

Despite the social changes going on all around it, McSorley's has remained overwhelmingly the same. From the moment you walk in, the pleasant scent of ale fills the air. Then with a quick scan of the walls and ceiling, you'll see original memorabilia that is *reputed to have never been removed since 1910. These items include: photos, political buttons, musical instruments and even a pair of Houdini's handcuffs. One exception is, the dust covered *wishbones hanging over the bar. The story behind the bones stem from the boys going off to fight in WWI. They would hang a wishbone up with the intention of taking it down when they whatever is still up there represents the men who didn't make it.

McSorley's boasts a veritable who's who of famous elbow benders; like Abe Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Boss Tweed, Woody Guthrie and don't forget me...during my college years. I had my first taste of McSorley's, sometime in 1976...and returned many times. I even had my "Going Away Party" there when I was re-locating to Las Vegas (first week of January 1979).

My memories of those festivities are sketchy. However, I do remember two things; 1) Standing on a chair to toast other friends that had already re-located that weren't there...this ended abruptly when a couple of (legal or illegal?) Irish immigrant waiters "suggested" I get down. Please note that the whole staff speaks with a Brogue, (Brogue means Irish accent) 2) My female friends did not like the single toilet facility. In fact they had to post a guard outside the lockless door while they did their business.

The reason McSorley's had the single restroom was; it was one of New York City's last "men only" pubs. It wasn't until 1970 that women were permitted. The only reason McSorley's began allowing women was...they were mandated by law. Women's libbers took McSorley's (kicking and screaming) to court and the women won.

At the time of my going away party, the entire McSorley's "menu" consisted of: light or dark ale, coca-cola or diet, ham, turkey or roast beef sandwich, a cheese platter with raw onions and NOTHING ELSE ! Also the only condiment they offered, English Unbleached Mustard, sat on each table in a beer mug. This mustard is so unbelievably hot that I once (and I stress once) put a drop on my finger and gingerly dabbed a millionth of that drop on my tongue...and regretted it for hours. Forget the hottest Chinese mustard you can imagine...this stuff is POISON ! Down through the years, I have mentioned it to a lot of people and nobody (without knowledge of McSorley's) ever heard of English Unbleached Mustard.
WAITER SERVING EIGHT DARK ALES. IN 1979 A HALF-PINT (served exclusively in pairs?) WAS 80c A PAIR. IN 2007, THE PRICE HAD JUMPED TO $2.25 A PAIR.

McSorley's has had three mottoes; 1) Be good or be gone, 2) We were here before you were born, and 3) Good ale, raw onions and no ladies. (This one, no longer in vogue since 1970).

Needless to say, I never took any of my dates there but I did take my mother. In the late eighties, (Geez, this story is 20 years old), I came into Brooklyn to take mom out for Mother's Day. We wound up in Greenwich Village and accidentally found GRANDPA'S RESTAURANT, as in "Grandpa Al Lewis from the "THE MUNSTERS" TV show. He was even there but that's another story. After lunch there, mom and I strolled around doing the tourist thing. Later, mom wanted her 3 o'clock coffee and I kiddingly mentioned that McSorley's was nearby. Mom knew of its "historical" significance and surprisingly wanted to go.

We took-in the "saw-dust joint" and all its charms while having an ale each. Before leaving, I took a couple of minutes to use the restroom. When I returned, my mom discreetly pointed out a fat, drunken slob on the verge of passing out. He was dressed like a motorcycle gang member and I still remember he had a large wad of spittle (it might have been 2 week-old mashed potatoes) in his beard.

When we got outside, my mother said, "That Hell's Angel guy approached me while you were in the bathroom and asked, 'is that dude coming back?'" That story never gets old. We still get a great kick out of telling it...especially when we try to guess how much fun mom would have had if she let him pick her up.

To help prove my point, check-out what poet E. E. Cummings once wrote in a 1923, "McSorley's ale never lets you grow old." Go check it out when you go to Manhattan...I insist...if you don't believe me, NEW YORK MAGAZINE ranked McSorley's in it's top five of "Historical Bars in New York City."

Monday, September 15, 2008


MSLEMMA reminded me of this story that happened to his dad.

At his dad's regular gas station in Brooklyn, another new face stood at the pumps ready to serve him. In that short moment, his dad reflected that as the neighborhood was changing, the turn-over of workers was high.
As usual he asked for, "Twenty regular." The new attendant was twitchy, avoided eye contact and said, "New rules, you gotta pay first." Even though his dad was personal friends with the owner and hadn't been told of this policy change...he paid. As soon as the kid got the money, he ran across the street, down an alley and hopped a fence...never to be seen again.

Even if you don't drive, we all have our funny/unusual car stories. Here are a few more.

From Monday September 15's ATLANTIC CITY PRESS, (region section).

Two women (ages 21 and 25) from out-of-town entered into negotiations to buy marijuana on Pacific Avenue. The seller said he would take them to his stash. The two geniuses got into his car and were taken about 15 miles to a dark country road adjacent to Atlantic City Airport. At that point he produced a gun and forced them out of the car. They were then ordered to take off all their clothes. The thief never touched them but went off with ALL their belongings. The moral of the story avoid one of life's great embarrassments... even adults shouldn't get into a stranger's car.

In 1981 while living in Las Vegas, my wife and I responded to a used car ad for her. We were way out on East Charleston where little sub-divisions were springing up in the desert, (its probably considered the middle of town these days). The seller lived in a cul-de-sac off the main road. He gave us the keys and we took it for a test-drive. About three miles past the "middle-of-nowhere," it stalled at a red light. I tried to re-start it but the ignition was dead. We decided to hitch-hike back but only a few cars went by. We were forced to walk back but luckily after a while someone picked us up. An hour had gone by when we were dropped off on Charleston. To shorten our walk, we went in a straight line, through some one's backyard.

As odd as it must have been to see us coming out from behind his neighbor's house, he surprisingly didn't ask what happened to his car. I handed him the keys, told him what happened and where the car was and we got into my car. At that point the guy said, "Hey wait, you didn't tell me if you were still interested?"

Me personally, I have always been attracted to less glamorous cars. To me there was some special about the Studebaker that looked like a mini-airplane (without the propeller), the Nash Rambler, Edsel and Corvair. Plus the Rambler American station wagon and Chrysler Imperial (both featured in my novel...Marco's and Rocky's car).

Of course main streamers like everyone else in the world gravitate to upscale wheels like, Corvettes, Mustangs, Cadillacs etc. My friend Manny in Las Vegas (circa 1982) reluctantly deprived himself of a Corvette throughout his adult life. When he was recovering from a messy divorce to satisfy what he termed; mental masturbation...he bought one.

Being the heavy thinker that he was, his first passengers were his 3 and 5 year old sons. He took them for a 125 MPH joy-ride through the desert on I-15. Then from out of nowhere two motorcycle highway patrolmen began chasing him. Manny knew Vegas cops had an especially ornery reputation. He pulled over and waited for them with both hands clearly on the steering wheel. As one walked up to Manny's 'Vette, his elder son poked his head out of the T-Roof and said, "Look, its Ponch and John." (For you yungins...that's a reference to the Erik Estrada TV show, "CHIPS)." The officer laughed and said, "Your kid just saved you a lot of grief." The lecture ended when he said, "If I ever catch you doing it again whether your kid says something cute or'll seriously regret it for a long time."

JOHN (left) AND PONCH (Right) FROM TV's "CHIPS," (California Highway Patrol).

Finally, in 1984 we (three couples) went apple picking in Haverstraw New York. Each couple took home a bushel of a few pounds. The next with a threat of rain, ZYMBOT drove into Manhattan with his apples left in plain slight on the back seat. While he attended to business, the skies opened up and it poured. While trudging through the storm, back to his car ZYMBOT saw the broken glass and cursed the whole apple picking excursion. Until he saw the apples in their place, his stereo intact, his collection of 8-tracks undisturbed and his unlocked glove compartment untouched. A steady drizzle soaked his car the whole way back to Brooklyn. But when he got home the rain torrents was then he reached for the umbrella that wasn't there.

P. S. ZYMBOT once bought a new car and on the way home from the showroom, he stopped at a BASKIN & ROBBINS and left the car running...I don't really have to tell you what the moral of this story I?

Monday, September 8, 2008


I really don't care that "ASTROLAND" is closing! But what is Astroland? And why would anyone care that it is closing when so few associate it's name with what it is? To prove it's lack of name recognition, I must explain that Astroland is, for the most part, the mere shadow of what was left--of what we Brooklynites call: Coney Island.

Before any of you shocked Coney Island buffs slit your wrists with rusty razor blades, it should be noted that the Cyclone (landmark roller coaster) and the Wonder Wheel (landmark ferris wheel), Parachute Jump (landmark, closed since 1964) and Nathan's original fast food restaurant will be unaffected.

When the harsh reality sets in, you'll realize that the property where Astroland is situated is prime beachfront real estate. Although Astroland is zoned for "amusements only" it now seems possible to work around it, (money talks and B. S. walks). Besides, by today's amusement park standards, Astroland is a small, filthy and insignificant conglomeration of twenty dull rides and dated attractions that seems to attract a seedy clientele...especially at night.

Coney Island has been an entertainment mecca for New Yorkers since the 1880's . Punctuated by its beach and boardwalk, it's located at the hub of several bus and subway lines and is convenient to the Belt Parkway. Coney Island it should be remembered, is NOT the name of a specific park. It is simply one of 37 or so sections or neighborhoods of Canarsie or Bensonhurst. Down through the years, some of the amusement parks in Coney Island were; Sea Lion Park, Luna Park and Steeplechase. However, somewhere down the line the individual names of the parks were forgotten and generalized to Coney Island. The last of these individual parks being Astroland.

Sea Lion Park burnt down in 1902 and was re-built as Luna Park, (1903-1944).

How amazing it must have been to visit Luna Park. Just the fact that it had thousands of light bulbs was a novelty when electricity was so new.

Overshadowing everything else on Coney Island was the more famous Steeplechase Park (1897-1964). Originally owned by George C. Tilyou, (the first impresario of controlled chaos), Steeplechase, a huge semi-enclosed structure made a name for itself with wild and dangerous rides that would boggle the mind of contemporary insurance companies and attract today's lawsuit-happy scam-artists like flies on...

In 1965, Fred Trump (Donald's father) bought the site with the intention of building apartment buildings. However, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce held firm and wouldn't allow a variance that would eliminate the area's "amusements only" zoning status. Trump decided to demolish Steeplechase before it could be declared a landmark. He held a "demolition party" and invited guests to throw bricks through the once opulent pleasure palace's facade


THE PARACHUTE JUMP - Purchased from the 1939 World's Fair. It was originally intended as a training device for paratroopers. One or two riders sat on a wooden plank (and held on for dear life). I was about five when my dad took me up there on his lap. The slow rise to the top (approx 250 feet) was agonizingly slow as the cross breeze rocked us side-to-side. As the ground got smaller, I looked up to the heavens for relief but all I could see was the ever-nearing intricate mesh of metal wires at the top-that when we hit it, would cause us to drop. The free-fall until the parachute opened was probably three seconds...some people refer to that as the "rush" but not me, I was never so scared in my life. Despite the calm descent the rest of the way--that once in a lifetime experience was terrible --I was lucky I didn't soil myself...and dad was even luckier!

The Parachute Jump closed with Steeplechase Park in 1964. It was considered too expensive to tear down and was given "Landmark" status in 1977.


THE HORSE RACE - (sometimes called the Steeplechase) was my favorite. A series of near-life-sized mechanical horses on tracks were lined side-by-side. The idea was to race the other riders with your speed determined by the strength and frequency of kicking your heels into the horse's mid-section. The track rimmed the outside of Steeplechase and had dips and cool curves. The only problem was I was too young and had to ride with dad. He'd only go once a trip and I had to share time with my sister...even worse, the lines were usually long, sometimes we didn't go on at all.


GIANT SLIDE - Was a highly polished, wooden, two-story slide. I recall more adults that children flying down that thing. Oddly, due to naivete, this "ride" was unsupervised. Nobody regulated when sliders could go and sometimes more than one went at once. The bottom of the slide was a rounded pit. It would often become "demolition derby" as slower exiters were crashed into by new riders. Even without heavy people traffic, I learned first-hand...or actually first-head...the dangers of going that fast and cracking your melon on the hard wood surface.

THE HUMAN ROULETTE WHEEL - I don't remember this one but I read about on Wikipedia. Try to imagine a round tilted platform spin with its unsecured riders spilling into one another. The gauze, splints and band-aid concession must have made a fortune.

To research more about Coney Island or more specifically the individual parks there you can Google photos or use wikipedia for more in-depth history. But if you really want to get a great taste of what the Coney Island experience was, rent an obscure 3-STAR movie from 1953, "THE LITTLE FUGITIVE." This movie features a no-name cast of little boys and an unimportant plot--what is truly wonderful is that a little kid is fooled into believing that he killed his brother's friend and he runs away to Coney Island. Once he arrives, it's like watching another family's home movies with Coney Island, in its prime, as the star.

Yes Astroland is closing but the Coney Island I knew; with its actually scary haunted house, its indoor bob-sled simulator, the freak shows, the infamous Half-Moon Hotel and a boardwalk juice store featuring about 100 different tropical juices has long since vanished. Luckily the great Coney Island landmarks will remain for posterity--to see from the distance or use when our sense for nostalgia lures us in.