Monday, March 1, 2010


In early 1979, I befriended three coworkers at my first casino job, (Slots-A-Fun). Interestingly, they all shared four traits; craps dealers, Italians, (Imperiale, Ianucci and Izzo), New Englanders, (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island), and being rather large fellows.

Once a week, the four of us went out on the town. At 185 pounds, I looked like a Lilliputian compared to them. Ianucci and Izzo were both about the same height as me but weighed 260+. And Imperiale, a former college football player, was a less than svelte 6 foot 5, 310-pounder.

Slots-A-Fun was one of the worst toilet jobs in Vegas. For a forty hour week, we grossed $150.00. Even thirty years ago that was a paltry pittance. So we were forced to spend our entertainment dollars carefully. We gravitated to downtown, specifically the El Cortez Casino.

The "Tez," was away from the other "Glitter Gulch" clubs. It catered to locals and won our hearts with a twenty-five cent craps game, free liquor and a $3.95 steak dinner, (it should be noted that my friends and I usually bought two dinners each).

Other casinos had similar amenities. But the El Cortez's allure to knuckleheads like us was, it had the feel of being in the wild west. The first week I was in town, a drunken old-timer in a wheelchair was denied a spot at a crowded craps table. He got pissed, pulled a gun and got off three shots. Luckily, the lowlife didn't hurt anyone. .Management must have figured that the three bullet a slot machine, wall and ceiling was good for business, (it certainly attracted us).

To keep things fresh, on three occasions, we went to the jai-alai fronton in the MGM Casino. That's the ballgame that originated in the Basque region of Spain. Similar to racquetball, jai-alai players use a long hook-like basket, (cesta), to catch and throw a ball, (pelota), off a wall. Each player has odds based on their ability and spectators place at the racetrack. THE SAFEST BET IN THE WORLD IS THAT JAI-ALAI IS RIGGED. NOTHING IS MORE FRUSTRATING THAN SEEING YOUR ACROBATIC GUY CLIMB THE WALL, FLING A "KILL-SHOT" FROM A MILE AWAY AND THEN WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE, DROP ONE THAT FREDDY MULLER'S 93-YEAR OLD GREAT-GRANDMOTHER FROM CANARSIE COULD HAVE RETURNED...WITH HER GOOD EYE SHUT.

The admission to jai-alai was $2.00 But the REVIEW JOURNAL had a dollar-off coupon every Thursday.
The last time we went Izzo said, "We don't need no freakin' coupons no more. I gotta connection, I'm gettin' us in for free."
At the turnstile, he mentioned the name Tompkins and we were welcomed in.

That night was the only time I ever won anything big. I gave my friends a deuce to bet while I went to the bathroom. When we were re-united, I was handed a ticket for the 5-2 exacta but I wanted the 2-5. I called them, "The idiots from the law firm of Imperiale, Ianucci and Izzo." But it was too wordy, so I switched it to the Law Firm of, DEWEY, CHEATEM AND HOWE. They liked the "THREE STOOGES," reference and after that "wrong" ticket won me $56.00, the nickname stuck.

When I returned from cashing in, we were approached by a wealthy looking little guy wearing Bermuda shorts and an Izod shirt. He was leading a posse of three zoftig security guards. The whole night, we had been immature, loud and profane. We guessed that they were dropping by to read us the Riot Act. Everyone got quiet and we took our feet off the movie theater-like seats in front of us. Like four choirboys ready to spazz-out into laughter, we sat-up, ready for our warning. The little guy in the shorts did all the talking but he was a stutterer.

We were already giddy so fighting off our snickers was almost impossible as he stammered, "J-j-j-just, w-w-w-where, d-d-d-do, y-y-y-you, g-g-g-get off." By the time he got that far into his statement, my eyes were glued to the floor to hide my hilarity.
Finally, this fellow burst through and announced, "Just where do you get off using my n-n-name to get in here !?!!!?"
We were ejected and under the threat of being arrested, permanently barred from returning.
That meant we had to become more creative for our next entertainment idea.  And the solution was a less traditional form of gambling.

One unseasonably warm April afternoon, we decided to go horseback riding. Somewhere in the middle of the desert, south of McCarron Airport was a stable. Before signing-up, we shot some pool in the barroom and threw away a few dollars each on their nickel slot machines. The cowboy dude at the window was indifferent to us. He made it seem like a chore to ask one of the three girls in the office to serve as our trail guide. They said it was too hot for the horses.

But Izzo defiantly pointed his Slim-Jim at the attendant and said in his pronounced mock-Bostonian accent, "Lookit, we came all the way from Providence..."

A tanned, hyper-skinny girl about 20, in long pig-tails stood-up and snarled, "I'll go."
When we were finished paying, she came out wearing tattered jeans and an open, buckskin vest over a white tee-shirt.

She didn't introduce herself. We managed to get a fast look at her rugged, bony, plain face that was dominated by a big hooked nose...before she turned to lead us outside. When her vest shifted as she looked back at us, her shirt's thin material revealed the sharp, erect nipple of her left pancake-sized breast. I grinned because Ianucci crowed, "Her headlights are on!" Then the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe began the competitive, clannish ritual of metaphorically banging their chests as if to signify that Olive was their "goyl."

The guide brought four saddled horses and one bareback pinto into the paddock.
"We're going for a walk," she said. "These mares don't like running."
She helped me saddle-up first. When I got on, the horse neighed loudly.
I said to my friends, "Mine is bragging because he lucked into the skinny guy."
The guide said, "HE'S a mare. That means, he's a she."
I said, "Oh. What's HER name?"
I said, "Good. And yours?"
She groaned, "Sunbeam." I said, "I meant your name, not the horse." The guide said, "Sunbeam is my name." Moon-eyed Izzo aggressively stepped forward and grinned, "Sunbeam? Are you an Indian?"
"No! I'm a Native American."
Trying to be funny he said, "Are you sure you're not from the O'Houlihan tribe?"
Sunbeam huffed, "I'm, part Choctaw and part Hopi...if that's what you mean?"
Izzo tossed what was left of his beef jerky on the ground and said, "Even if you're not a thoroughbred, you're very pretty when you're angry."
She gave him a dirty look and muttered, "Pig."
Izzo said, "What did you say?"
She ignored him and said to Imperiale, "Mr. BIG, you're riding Gussie."
Izzo walked back to face her, "Hey missy, after work, what do you do way out here for fun?"
Sunbeam looked past him and said to Ianucci, "You got Bella."
Izzo crowed, "You're saving me for last, I bet you give me something special."

Without speaking, the guide lifted the last horse's left, front hoof. She shook her head and led it back into the stable. Seconds later, she came back with a different, much larger horse. Behind her back, Izzo pantomimed grabbing Sun-Beam's rear-end.  He then gaped at her as she helped him mount-up.

Izzo was secure in the saddle as he stared down at her meager chest and said, "What's my cute little horsey's name...Cupcakes?"
Sunbeam self-consciously put her hand across her bosom and said, "His name is Budweiser! And like most WISE-guys, he spooks easy."

Sunbeam let out a primal scream, ran up behind her pinto, and like in the movies, she bounded up onto the horse's back. I was impressed.

Our journey on the desert trail was ugly, boring and slow. The encrusted, cement-like, brown terrain had much more people litter and horse crap than anything else. The only enrichment I got was the harmless jokes the other three made at the expense of the ranch and Sunbeam.

Izzo said, "C'mon honey, you ain't no real Indian...I mean Native American." When she didn't respond Imperiale added, "I bet she's from Cleveland and her real name is Sally Smith, Mary Jones or Shirley Quackenbush."

I was the only one not laughing so Sunbeam rode along side me.

In a short time, the glaring sun took its toll.
Izzo looked at the wasteland all around us and moaned, "Where can we go for a drink?"
Sunbeam said, "The horses will be okay until we get back."
He said, "I was talking about us. Us humans."
She whipped out a small crescent-shaped leather pouch from her back pocket, squirted water in her mouth and said, "You came into the desert unprepared?"
Izzo said, "You're as funny as an IRS audit."

Imperiale said, "Is that why you guys don't like coming out here?"
She said, "We usually only come out in the morning this time of year."
Ianucci said, "We aren't halfway through spring...what do you do in the summer...ride at night?"
"You city boys wouldn't understand."
Izzo said, "Yous ain't the kind of earners I'd want in my world. What are you guys, a non-profit organization."
Sunbeam said to me, "Yeah, you guys sound very organized."
I played dumb, "What do you mean?"
"You guys remind me of my dago grandfather."
Loud enough for all to hear I said, "Dago? What's a dago."
She said, "You know, a wop, a guinea..."
I said, "Heh?"
She said, "Are you sure you're an Italian?"
I said, "Positive, I'm not Italian at all."
"Oh," she said. "I thought you and your jack-off friends were all Mafia goombas."
I called back, "Hey Imperiale, Ianucci, Izzo...Sunbeam here, doesn't like you olive-skinned Mediterraneans. She thinks you're all Mafioso !"

Izzo coaxed Budweiser forward and rasped, "We been nuthin' but nice to you SUNBEAM and all we got back is attitude. Now turn your redneck ass around and take us back."
Suddenly there was a sharp hissy, clicking sound as a rattler arose from between two rocks. The snake startled Budweiser.  The huge horse reared-up like a bronco and Izzo screamed like a twelve-year old girl. Budweiser as if a firecracker exploded in his butt, took off. Izzo slipped sideways off the horse and hung on with his torso parallel to the ground.
Imperiale said, "Aren't you gonna help."
Sunbeam said, "Sure!  But I'll wait till your lard-ass Italian stallion hits the ground."

Like a fine Arab charger, Budweiser galloped for a half-mile before stopping. Somehow, Izzo didn't fall off. When we got to him, he was as pale as a sheet and swayed in the saddle like he was stoned. I expected him to pass-out or wretch. Sunbeam waited until Izzo was focused on her before offering a sip of water. He whined, "I'm one hurtin' buckaroo," as he made a feeble attempt to snatch her leather water pouch.  To stabilize Budweiser, she grabbed his reins to make it easier for Izzo.  Then she led us back.

Ten minutes later the stables were in sight. Izzo felt stronger and cursed like a longshoreman the rest of the way back. He was particularly ignorant to the snake and gave an earful to Budweiser and the ranch. But at no time did he swear at Sunbeam.

We were all pretty quiet when we dismounted. Imperiale, Ianucci and I politely thanked Sunbeam. Then Izzo took Sunbeam aside and gave her a ten dollar tip.

She thanked him and said, "No hard feelings?"
"Of course not. And I'm sorry if I insulted your heritage." Sunbeam smiled, "No.  Don't apologize.  You were actually right. I'm what you would call Heinz-57.  But there's no Native American blood in me.  It's just a good act for you eastern tourists." Izzo scratched his inner ear with his pinkie and said, "Any dago red flowing through your veins?"  She smiled awkwardly, "Yeah, my dead-beat dad..."  "It don't matter," Izzo said. "And to prove how bad I feel, let me take you out tonight?"
Sunbeam frowned and handed him back his ten.  Izzo said, "Don't be that way.  Lookit, we're not tourists...we're craps dealers at Slots-A-Fun..."

Sunbeam silently turned her back on him and disappeared inside.


Anonymous said...

Loved the story. Is any of it true. Sounds like it could be. You had to at least change all those "I" names? To protect the innocent. - Shel

Anonymous said...

I know that type of guy...they think they're god's gift to women. I just hope your Mr. Izzo was embarrassed - M&T

Anonymous said...

Steve - Great story, I really laughed...something tells me its true. I can't tell who was a bigger piece of work, Sunbeam or Izzo. - KING

Anonymous said...

Quoted here. Thanks for the good story.
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