IT IS INCREDIBLE TO THINK THAT A DISASTER OF THIS MAGNITUDE COULD EVER HAPPEN...EVEN IN 1980. EIGHTY-SEVEN PEOPLE DIED IN THE BLAZE.
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.
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).
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.
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.