In my craps dealing days at the Golden Nugget Casino, (September 1982-January 1984), it was common for groups of us to go across the street to the "Shoe," for a drink after work. The Horseshoe's marketing plan was genius. They'd offer all-day parking for fifty cents...with validation. Of course that meant getting your ticket stamped after your shift, inside their casino.
Once they weaseled you inside, you had to run the gauntlet of the saloon-like, main bar. It was strategically placed in the heart of the table games area and all drinks were fifty-cents. Of those who couldn't resist the cheap liquor, a high percentage were loosened up by the omnipresent gambling and were subliminally encouraged to join in.
If that tactic didn't get you to the blackjack and dice games, the next temptation came in the form of ubiquitous and scantily-clad keno runners. Keno is a simple, bingo-like game that can played anywhere in the casino. Back then for a 40c bet, you could win $25,000.00. Even better, keno at the bar, entitled you to free drink chits.
Another inventive device to keep you and your money in the Horseshoe was inexpensive food specials. For nine bucks, I made a meal out of both, the four-dollar steak and the five-dollar lobster tail...together, on many occasions.
THE MILLION DOLLAR DISPLAY, (100 TEN-THOUSAND DOLLAR BILLS), WAS A BIG GIMMICK TOO. FOR "FREE," THEY'D TAKE A POSTCARD QUALITY PICTURE OF YOU IN FRONT OF IT. THEN YOU'D HAVE TO HANG AROUND AT LEAST NINETY MINUTES, FOR IT TO DEVELOP.
Still another lure, combined the Shoe's wild west atmosphere with a certain level of hip electricity. To some, this excitement translated into an element of cool, danger. It was in that regard that I was reminded of Rick's...you never knew who you were standing next to...a celebrity, mega-high-roller, a criminal or a "narc."
THE HORSESHOE, WITHOUT OFFERING ENTERTAINMENT, DREW GREAT CROWDS AROUND THE CLOCK...EVEN BEYOND 4:00AM.
While I was at the Nugget, my ex-roommate, Ciro was dealing at the Four Queens. When our schedules meshed, we sometimes met after work for cocktails, at the Shoe.
THE HUB OF DOWNTOWN VEGAS...WHERE THE HORSESHOE, GOLDEN NUGGET, FREMONT AND FOUR QUEENS SHARE THE SAME CORNER,(FREMONT AND SECOND STREET).
Ciro and I first met at the New York School of Gambling. When we relocated to Vegas, on three separate occasions, we roomed together. In the early part of my thirty-four year association with him, his good natured disposition earned him the nickname "Ciro the Hero," (however his recent poor decision making caused his nickname to be permanently changed to "Ciro the Zero."
At one of our Horseshoe meetings, he brought along a dealer from his craps crew. Jay Gatling was short and despite blond hair and blue eyes...was an ordinary looking guy. Before we ordered our drinks, Ciro disappeared. I knew he was a wheeler-dealer, so I assumed he was chasing down someone who owed him money.
One-on-one, Jay didn't have much to say. However, once we started swilling beer, I did learn that he was twenty-one, living with his twin sister and that they were brought up Broken Arrow Oklahoma. When someone buzzed by and called him J. J., he confided in me, "My name is Jean Jamal. I was born in Morocco. My dad was French and my mom Lebanese."
Ciro returned. With an array of profanity he said, "That deadbeat Pete Watson, gave me the slip in the Fremont." While ranting, he flagged down Ossie the bartender. Without a word being spoken, the Spaniard delivered Jay and I another Budweiser and a Grolsch, (from a hidden stash), for Ciro.
Ciro's relationship with the barman impressed me. Then I was overwhelmed when Ossie said, "A girl with a Scottish accent was looking for you." Ciro said, "Did she tell you her name?" The bartender was scooping ice as he said, "No." Ciro said, "And it was definitely a Scottish accent?" Ossie was taking a biker's order as he looked back and added, "Yeah. And she wasn't wearing a casino uniform."
When Ciro tossed Ossie a five, for our dollar and a half tab I said, "I didn't know they served Grolsch. And what's up with you and the bartender?" Ciro said, "The 'O-Man,' is on my payroll." I didn't understand and changed the subject, "I thought things were going well with your new girlfriend....so, who's this Scottish chick?" He whispered, "It's a code, Ossie needs four lids (of pot), the day after tomorrow, same time, same place." Suddenly, Ciro sprang to attention and said, "Here comes trouble, let's get out of here."
The trouble was Agnes Carmichael. She was a knucklehead who liked Ciro. She was dating a mutual friend of ours, so for many reasons including her chipped tooth, being heavy, pimply-faced, big-mouthed and off-the-wall, he avoided her. Ciro grabbed Jay's elbow and said, "C'mon Dimi, let's get out of this toilet." (Ciro's nickname for me was, "Dimi." It comes from the line in the, "EXORCIST;" Dimi, vy you do dis to me)?
We decided to leave. On the way up to our cars, we were alone in the garage elevator when Jay pulled a small pistol from a leg holster, (above his ankle), and said, "BING, BING! Two to the back of the bitch's head and your problem is solved." Instead of being shocked Ciro said, "Is that the twenty-two you bought off Red?"
Ciro saw the shocked look on my face and said, "Jay, put that pea-shooter away...no one's killing Agnes." Jay joked, "Just for shits and giggles, a shotgun blast couldn't hurt her face." Ciro smiled, "You know Dimi, Jay has a frickin' arsenal." Jay said, "My sister is working, so if you want to see my gun collection, you can stop by now." I had no interest but to be social, I didn't see any harm.
Jay's west side apartment was about three miles from my place. In dawn's earliest light, his adobe-themed complex looked natural at the edge of the desert. When he opened the door of the second floor unit he whispered, "Shit! My sister is here. She must've blown-off work. We gotta be quiet or she'll murder all of us."
In his room, Jay pulled rifles and shotguns from under his bed. In his closet, hidden under piles of laundry, several plastic storage bins contained handguns. Ciro grabbed a rifle and said, "This is my favorite." He handed it to me and added, "See that Seven-Eleven on Sahara?"
Out the window, through the semi-darkness and across a block-long vacant lot, I saw the store. He said, "Adjust the scope and aim at the door's key hole." When the lock cylinder was in my cross-hairs, it was so close-up...it was scary to think what a sniper could do. They thought I would be excited by this, instead I was turned-off.
We heard stirring in the other bedroom. Jay groaned in a loud whisper, "Shit, you guys gotta get out. Now!" Jay was hustling us through the kitchen to the front door when his sister came out of her room. She was an unbelievably beautiful, petite blond. She was holding her arms around the waist of her incredibly short, terry robe. My hope for pleasant introductions was dashed when she started scolding Jay for waking her up. Through her hostile rage, I became transfixed on her robe's fuzzy, red hemline. Jay was flustered. But it looked like he was having a heart attack when a six-foot-five, Polynesian Adonis, wearing only a towel and scowl, obliterated whatever light was coming out of her bedroom.
The Atlas was twirling the white sash from the girl's robe as he stared-down Jay. He handed her the sash as he advanced towards us. Jay was humiliated as the giant's chiseled forearm shoved him aside. The Polynesian opened the refrigerator without interrupting his harsh glare. He took out the orange juice, (his eyes still fixed on Jay) and defiantly drank from the container. Jay was mortified. His sister broke the silence, "J. J., get these assholes out of here."
A month passed. I was asleep at seven in the morning, and there was a loud pounding on my condo's front door. I was only asleep about two hours. In a daze, I looked down from the bedroom window but didn't recognize the hyped-up man, banging on my door.
I opened the door a crack, it was Jay. He tried to burst in but I shut the door. I used the chain and talked to him through the slit. In a flurry of obscenities, he accused me of stealing his gun collection. (In last week's blog you may recall, that in 1970, I was accused of stealing Lee Richardson's dad's $50,000.00, gold coin collection).
I told Jay he was out of his mind. He said, "If you're innocent, then you have nothing to worry about when I search your place." Jay was angry enough to have pulled a gun on me so I figured his whole collection was robbed. When I was sure he wasn't armed, I showered him with some choice words before saying, "You're not coming in!" He lowered his shoulder and rammed the door. I said something along the lines that I had said to Lee Richardson, "Are you telling me, I'm the ONLY person you showed your shit to?" Jay dropped several F-Bombs as he yelled, "Just let me in!" I said, "Wait right there for ten minutes. I'm calling the cops. We'll let them straighten this out."
After loitering for a minute, Jay left. I assumed he went to round up the usual suspects.
Immediately I called, Ciro, the newly dubbed Zero. He was pissed that I woke him up. After I told him what happened I said, "I'll put two in the back of your head, the next time you give a prick like that my address." That incident with Jay was the beginning of the end...of my beautiful friendship with Ciro.