Everybody loves Las Vegas stories. Mine are usually sanitized for the enjoyment of the majority but today's has a hardcore spin on many politically incorrect issues.
The casinos in Atlantic City have their share of knuckleheads and oddballs. But in my experience, every other person I worked with in Las Vegas was an eccentric, weirdo or some other kind of character.
When I worked at the Holiday International Casino, it seemed like the whole staff was off kilter.
|"THE HOLIDAY" WAS MY THIRD CRAPS DEALING HOUSE. IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL, MODERN CASINO THAT WAS DESTINED TO FAIL BECAUSE OF ITS TERRIBLE, NORTH END OF MAIN STREET LOCATION.|
My pit boss, Paul Darrow (29) was a free-spirited coke-head.
My four main supervisors under him were characters too. Jess (24) the Vietnam vet who told tons of graphic sexual stories about the innocent civilians he "met" while in action. Dwayne (26) the pride of Bend Oregon was a ridiculous liar. If he told me the sky was blue, I wouldn't bet on it. He concentrated on gambling stories but his audience knew what he was saying was nonsense due to his "tell." He always gave himself away by widened his eyes and then leaning in close to the person hearing his whopper. Noah (29) was spacey but the most intelligent of the group. He made it clear that he missed the hippie lifestyle and as soon as he had a little money, he was moving to a commune in the state of Maine. But the biggest character of them all was Dick Paynlewski (41). He was a dopey loser, who drank too much, gambled too much and with the exception of prostitutes, had trouble relating to women. Oddly, he was only one of the bunch, I ever called a friend.
Dick was a prime character in the short story I wrote called, "AGNES CARMICHAEL, OF THE CARMICHAEL CALIFORNIA CARMICHAELS." If you think the title is mouthful then you are perceptive person. Because there was a two-year gap from the time I worked with Paynlewski at the Holiday until I saw him again...that's when Agnes "the Mouthpiece" Carmichael, (in a match made in heaven), became his first ever "real" girlfriend.
When I got fired from the Stardust Casino, the best rebound job I could get was a toilet called the Vegas Club. To lament my fall from grace, after my first night, I met my old roommate Ciro at Binion's Horseshoe. After a couple of drinks, at 5:AM, we went across the street to Hotel Fremont to play craps. Another player, a slightly plump woman around thirty with a face full of zits and a low-cut blouse tried to pick-up Ciro. When he lost his money, she approached. Up close, her frizzy, disorganized hair and chipped tooth added to her goofy look.
Ciro politely brushed her off. But as he passed, she stood in front of him, arced her back to show off her stretch-marked ravaged cleavage and said, "What's the rush? I just want to be friendly." Ciro got serious fast and said, "Get your fat tits and fat ass out of my face." She grabbed his arm and said, "My father can make big trouble for you. He's a big man in Carmichael...everyone in Sacramento knows him." Ciro said, "Well you ain't him and the last time I looked Dorothy, we ain't in Kansas no more." She said, "Dad's a big man here too. He has a forty-thousand dollar credit line at the Landmark alone. Everyone in Vegas knows the name Cyrus Carmichael. And when I finish blackjack school, he's gonna juice me into any casino I want."
Ciro faked an apology. She said, "That's okay, let's go for a drink." He said, "You're cute but I have a girl and she's the jealous type." It was a half truth because his girlfriend was a married woman that he was screwing every Thursday afternoon...and she didn't care how he spent the rest of his time. But coincidentally, this girlfriend was an assistant cage manager at the Landmark. The next day, Ciro called her at work and she confirmed that Cyrus Carmichael was indeed a big player from Carmichael California.
In the weeks that followed, I did not make the transition well to the lowly Vegas Club. In addition to making peanuts compared to the Stardust, one of my new supervisors named Ralph Winters, (a Wayne Newton wannabe), kept trying to jackpot me, (get me in trouble). Winters was such a prick that when a blackjack floorman (Edmund) of Arab descent came to take up a collection for the terminally ill casino manager's surprise birthday party, he scoffed, "Beat it you fuckin' pushy camel jockey."
Khalifa left in a huff. To change the subject Winters bragged to us, "There's a new keno writer, a real train-wreck, who loves to give head." We were stuck at our craps stations so when he continued there was no place to go. He then rattled off the names of our coworkers who, "The Mouthpiece" had already serviced on the roof of the Horseshoe parking lot.
The keno writer was Agnes Carmichael. Unfortunately, her Mr. Wonderful daddy, didn't make good on his promise to get her a great dealing job. So "Carmichael" as her name-tag read took her future into her own hands...or in this case, mouth.
Soon her persuasiveness or as she called it, "friendliness" paid-off as she sucked her way to a blackjack dealer job, at the bottom-of-the-barrel Vegas Club. She had a couple of weeks experience when I saw Dick Paynlewski walk in with a local casino hustler, Simon "Coat-Rack" Rhett. When Rhett left, fate brought Paynlewski to Carmichael's BJ table.
Later that night, Dick spent one of my breaks with me. Things hadn't changed in two years, he was still at the Holiday, he was drunk and frustrated from gambling away all his money. Typically, he said some unkind things about female Asian dealers and added, "I don't even know why they let scum like that in our country. Hell, they ain't even Christians." I said, "Dick, I'm not Christian." He burped, "Don't worry buddy, you know you're okay."
He wanted to know about Carmichael but I wanted to know why he was hanging around with that low-life Coat-Rack. Coat-Rack among his many sidelines was a walking pawn shop. He loaned down-and-out gamblers money but took disproportionally expensive items as collateral. Dick said, "I'm buying an attache case of eight track tapes off him tomorrow. Now what about Carmichael?" I shrugged, "She's new. I don't really know..." Dick interrupted, "She's really funny. Wanna hear what she said?" Before I could respond he added, "After I lost my last buck she said, 'After work, I'm having a party in my mouth, wanna come?''' He saw the look on my face and added, "Get this. Then she says, 'don't worry about my chipped tooth, I know what I'm doing.'" I said, "She sounds like a keeper."
We were walking back to my game and Dick said, "I'm tired of all the Pollack jokes...do you think I should change my name?" I said, "To what...Joe Paynlewski?" He called me an ass-hole and then said, "Remember the time Paul Darrow was so messed-up on coke that he threw that ferret on our (craps) game. At that split second, how was I supposed to know he did it. Shit, I broke my nose trying to catch that weasel."
How could I forget...that is the single funniest thing I ever saw inside the casino industry...or out. Dick then stuck his hand in my face to show the scar where the varmint bit him and whined, "I was a victim of circumstance. That could've happened to anyone but every god damned day, all I hear at work are dumb Pollack jokes......" I cut his rant off, "When did you splurge and get a car and since when do you listen to music?" He pointed to his temple and said, "My car doesn't have an eight track player, this is an investment, I'm going to resell those babies." I said, "Don't change your name. Save you money, that shit is expensive. Besides, you should be proud of your heritage. Don't let small minds influence you." I don't think was listening as he asked, "Could you spot me a twenty till pay-day?" I said, "Sorry, I'm broke."
Carmichael and Dick soon became a couple. In him, she got a nurturing mature father figure who provided unconditional acceptance to her many shortcomings. And he got his first prolonged relationship and a calming stability to his purposeless, helter-skelter lifestyle. But after a short time, their co-dependency on drinking and gambling accentuated their insecurities. Still, she came off as happy, go-lucky but when Dick found out that she didn't consider performing oral sex on other guys as sex, he became irritable.
Once in the middle of my Vegas Club shift, I snuck out to take an audition for a better job, (the Horseshoe). On my way back in the alley behind the Golden Goose Slot Parlor, I saw Dick and Carmichael having a violent argument. He said, "I heard you took on five guys last night." She said, "I'm faithful to you. That isn't sex...I was only being friendly...besides, it was only three guys." Dick grabbed her face like palming a basketball and shoved her down onto the filthy pavement. He cried, "Even one guy is cheating!" Dick was about to kick her in the ribs when I said, "Hey!" He ran the off and yelled, "Whore!"
Why they stayed together, I'll never know because she never changed. It seemed that whenever I saw them, they were drunk and arguing. One time Ciro and I took a drive, to a spa on an Indian Reservation, near the Utah state line.
|(STOCK PHOTO) I CAN'T REMEMBER THE NAME OF THE SPA. BUT I KNOW THE KIDDIE POOL WAS SHAPED LIKE A TOMAHAWK AND THE ONLY BUILDING HAD A BAR, GIFT SHOP AND SNACK COUNTER.|
Later, Ciro and I were walking to the men's locker room and Carmichael followed us in. She blithered about how great the mineral springs were and unzipped her swimsuit. She removed one of her shoulder straps and said, "Am I getting a sun burn?" Before we answered she said, "Maybe its hard to tell." So she pulled down the other side, to fully expose her chest. Ciro said, "A lady needs privacy when she gets undressed." She said, "A gentleman would look the other way." He walked up to her, guided her into a shower stall and began kissing her breasts. I scurried out.
Twenty minutes later, I went into the U-shaped bar. I found Dick passed out with his elbow on the bar and his hand propping up his head. He had half a hamburger, some onion rings and a scotch in front of him. I went on the opposite side and ordered a beer. Ciro, looking quite satisfied, came in. Then Dick suddenly woke-up and bolted out the door. Ciro and I laughed at his odd behavior. When Dick returned he gulped down his drink and said, "You can't trust a fart after forty." Ciro couldn't hold back his hysterics and walked out. Dick then turned to the bartender, held up his empty glass and used a poor, stereotypical Native American accent to say, "Hey chief, me trade-um wampum for heap more fire-water."
Outside, Ciro bumped into Carmichael and she led him back into the bar. Instead of sitting with Dick, she stood between Ciro and I. She pinched Ciro's nose and said, "I'll be your best friend if you buy me a beer." Soon she was massaging both of our crotches at the same time. Dick's vision was blocked by the bar as he said, "You better not be giving Ciro a hand job." Dick was walking out in disgust as Carmichael said, "I wouldn't think of giving Ciro a hand job." Then she whispered, "I'm giving Ciro AND Steve a hand job."
On the hour-long drive back Ciro gushed, "Carmichael is fuckin' talented. She puts these exploding Pop Rocks candies in her mouth when...wait!" He interrupted himself and said, "Check this out. She said Dick farts in his sleep, farts during sex and once shit in the bed when he came." I said, "No?" Ciro said, "Well, even a medium-sized wet fart would be shitting in the bed to me." We laughed all the way back to Vegas.
At the Vegas Club, Carmichael found out from Edmund Khalifa that Ralph Winters complained to the terminally ill casino manager about getting strong armed to donate to his suddenly non-surprise party. Carmichael lost interest in Winters and turned her interest on family man Khalifa. After a few oral sessions in the back seat of his car, Khalifa implied that he was going to leave his wife for her. She decided to dump Dick.
Khalifa's next step was to bring Carmichael to one of his brother's unoccupied rental properties...they spent four hours together. At six-thirty in the morning, he insisted on giving her cab fare. To save a little time, they waited for her to get picked up outside, on the second floor landing. Khalifa had become aloof. He looked at his watch and calculated that he might be able to get home before his wife. Carmichael didn't appreciate how the festivities were unfolding. She thought that Dick would never treat her this way. Then with a deep sigh she realized that nobody ever rocked her world like Edmund. Her disappointment in Eddie for not taking her back to her car subsided as a new sensation radiated within her. She smiled grabbed Khalifa's crotch, unzipped his fly and said, "Eddie, you were right, I did like it in the butt. Let's go back inside and..." Suddenly the yellow taxi turned the corner and he gave her a ten-dollar bill...and the bum's rush.
Back in her car, the digital clock atop the Mint Casino read, 7:11. She felt lucky as she headed home because she could cook her twelve-year old daughter, Harlene's breakfast and drive her to school.
Carmichael was going south on Paradise Road as the Gilbert O'Sullivan song "Alone Again, Naturally," came on the radio. She was singing along as she entered the Charleston Boulevard intersection. She smiled lightly as she squirmed from the pleasant feeling in her rectum as a speeding drunk ran the light and plowed into her driver side door.
Carmichael spent the next seventy-two hours in ICU, clinging to life with the help of a respirator. Harlene telephoned her rich and powerful grandfather but he didn't come to town or call the hospital beyond the first day. Instead, he adorned the private room he paid for in absentia with three, over-sized bouquets (a new one each morning).
When Harlene called Dick, he was there in fifteen minutes. He bickered with the nurses but because he wasn't family, he wasn't allowed in...until Harlene insisted. Carmichael had feeder tubes coming out of her abdomen. She was now breathing on her own but she was still in a coma. Dick's belly shuddered with nerves when he learned that Carmichael had a broken hip and internal bleeding. But he started to cry when he learned that in addition to her innumerable other inquires that Carmichael's spleen and a kidney had already been removed.
Harlene left with her friend's parents at 10:PM. Dick decided to stay the night. He lovingly rubbed Carmichael's back and whispered words of encouragement. Hours later, he was washing her bedpan after emptying it as he began rehearsing a marriage proposal. When he returned to her side, he contorted his body so he could clean her bottom. He was giving her one last wipe as she painfully moaned.
Dick sprang up. He was about to ring for the nurse as Carmichael softly groaned, "Eddie, put it in my butt again..." Dick couldn't believe his ears. He snuggled up to her and whispered, "What did you say?" When there was no answer Dick said, "This is Eddie, what do you want?" Carmichael was barely audible as she croaked, "You were right Eddie, I did like it in the butt...do it again."
Paynlewski punched the wall. He started pacing as he tried to figure out what to do. Then when Carmichael garbled, "E-E-Eddie," he grabbed her throat and choked her. Luckily, almost instantly, Dick's stomach seized up on him. He managed to get to avoid the ultimate embarrassment by a few seconds. When he got out the toilet, he slammed one of the big bouquets against the wall and stormed away.
Dick guessed that Eddie was Carmichael's coworker. He sped through the sparse traffic downtown. At 3:AM, he haphazardly parked on Ogden Street and entered the Vegas Club through the rear entrance. Dick began asking employees, "Is Eddie working tonight?" His quest made made more difficult because everyone knew Khalifa, only as Edmund. Finally someone said, "There's no Eddie's on this shift...unless you mean Edmund, he's the floorman watching the last BJ table."
Dick was already seething in hatred and bent on revenge. But when he recognized Edmund's Middle Eastern complexion, he wanted to attack the heathen who reprehensibly penetrated the girl he wanted to marry. But when Dick saw a nearby security guard, he decided that this was not the time to confront his rival.
Dick ran out and began searching every downtown casino. Hours passed. He was so sleep deprived that it looked like he was in a trance, the third time he checked the Golden Gate Casino. That's when he saw a low-profile hustler and asked, "Have you seen Coat-Rack?" The flea said, "No, he's probably at home, you know Simon only comes out at night." Dick said, "Night? What time is it?" The low-life said, "Half past noon."
Dick demanded, "Where does he live?" The opportunist extended his right hand and said, "My memory isn't what it used to be." Paynlewski slammed a five-dollar bill into the hustler's palm and yelled, "Where?"
Dick ran back to the car. He ripped a parking ticket off the windshield and drove off. Six blocks away, he saw the dilapidated garage behind 37 Cincinnati Street. Coat-Pack sipping apricot brandy from a pint bottle was there, sitting on a tree stump, in his green leisure-suit pants, a western shirt and bola tie.
Paynlewski grabbed the seventy-year old's elbow, prodded him inside and said, "Simon, you gotta gun for sale?" Coat-Rack said, "Whoa big fella...before I tell you if I have such an item for sale, you gotta tell me what you need it for." Dick didn't answer. Coat-Rack probed Dick's eyes and said, "This ain't another one of your stupid POE-LACK ideas...you know you still owe me five hundred from last week's Poe-Lack bullshit." Paynlewski silently absorbed the shame. Coat-Rack shouted, "C'mon now boy, swear to me that you ain't looking to kill nobody?" Dick was staring at the ground as he sniffled, "I-I swear."
Coat-Rack's suit jacket was dangling on a hangar from a bureau drawer. He shuffled through that drawer and pulled out a .25. The old man began a sermon about keeping the good name of Simon Rhett out of any police reports before he said, "If the shit hits the fan, you found this piece in a dumpster! If you fuck-up, remember, this pee-shooter might be hot. Plus you got no license and you ain't getting no paperwork. Jesus H. Christ, I don't even know if you know how to use this damned thing." Dick grabbed for the gun. Coat-Rack pulled it back and said, "Sixty, in cash, now."
Paynlewski returned to his tiny efficiency apartment. In a juvenile manner he stood in front of the bathroom mirror and practiced drawing the weapon like in the movies. When he felt like a pro, he concealed the Saturday Night Special in his pants pocket and left for the hospital.
Dick trudged up the corridor towards Carmichael's room like a zombie. At the nurse's station, he got mobbed and was given the rock star treatment. The nurses called it a miracle and congratulated his TLC and patience for pulling Agnes out of her coma.
In the room, a fourth bouquet was set next to the reassembled one that he had smashed against the wall. Dick was then surprised to see Harlene and her friend cheerfully sitting beside lucid Carmichael. The patient was sipping cranberry juice when Dick asked the two adolescents to give him a little one-on-one time with Carmichael. The girls were giggling on the way out as Dick confidently gripped the gun in his pocket. He was swooping in for the kill as Carmichael gasped, "I'm sorry." Dick withdrew his empty hand from his pocket. She continued, "I was weak, I strayed, please forgive me...I did 'it' with another man." Tears streamed down her face. Paynlewski's anger melted and he cried too.
He took her hand. She sobbed, "They told me what you did for me...I almost died." Dick gingerly kissed all over her face. She was becoming woozy and weakly grabbed at his groin. She was on the verge of passing out as she felt the gun's hard barrel and said, "Wow, you are happy to see me."
A nurse barged in, "Five o'clock, visiting hours are over." The nurse looked at Dick and said, "Looks like this one needs rest too. Go home, she'll be fine." Carmichael strained to be heard, "My own fuckin' father never came and neither did any of my friends.." She started coughing, "Dick, I'm never going to be 'friendly' again....I love you." Dick's heart was pounding but before he could spit out his marriage proposal, the nurse pulled the curtain and ordered him out.
Dick went home but Edmund's face was indelibly sharp in his psyche. He was so emotionally over-wrought and physically exhausted that he was still consumed with revenge. He decided to stay awake until eight. All he could think about was blowing away that sodomizing Arab bastard. Dick started hallucinating. To combat the problem, he washed his face and stood out on his tiny terrace. He stretched and took deep breaths of fresh air but still felt dizzy. Dick returned to the bathroom and splashed more water on his face. He stared down his reflection and drew his pistol as he mumbled cliches from old westerns. When he said, "Edmund, this town isn't big enough for the two us," he fumbled his weapon.
The gun went off. The sound in the tiny bathroom was deafening. It was followed by his lingering wail from the pain of shooting himself in the foot.
The next day, I was shocked that Dick phoned me. Then I was more shocked when he told me what happened and still more shocked when he told me he was handcuffed to the hospital bed. He added, "I told them I found the gun in a dumpster, I was screwing around with it and didn't realize it was loaded. The cops said they have to investigate, hopefully they won't press charges."
I agreed to visit Carmichael and tell her the candy-coated police version of his story. I was about to hang up when he said, "Do you think Coat-Rack sells engagement rings?" "I said, "Wow. I guess?" Dick said, "Lookit, I gotta run but one more thing. I went through with it and legally changed my name." I said, "Isn't that expensive...I thought you were broke?" "Yeah, I borrowed $500.00 from Coat-Rack." I was too stupefied to speak. He continued, "Anyhoo, you are now speaking with Richard Thomas Payne. You know, like Revolutionary War patriot, the guy who wrote the 'Common Sense' pamphlet. From now on, no more Pollack jokes." I said, "So you want everyone to call you Richard?" He said, "No, I'll still be Dick." I said, "Then your name will be Dick Payne...you know, like dick pain and Carmichael will be Mrs. Dick Payne." Richard Thomas Payne said, "Steve, you're crazy, nobody thinks like you."