My wife and I had dinner with another couple last night. We got on the topic of terrible casino supervisors and unfortunately for anyone who has ever been a dealer, a floodgate of stories gushed forth.
One of the jerks I mentioned was the main character from my short story, "BLESSING IN DISGUISE." I hope after you digest the condensed version below, you'll want to read the full-blown story...which I can E-Mail you.
In Las Vegas (1981), while I was dealing craps at the Stardust, I was meeting friends after work at our favorite watering hole, "Mickey's Appetizer." I got there first and was approached by a noticeably tipsy Vera-Lynne Kirby. This slinky, blond bombshell was a thirty-ish cocktail waitress who worked with me. She saw my uniform and wanted to vent about a prick she had been seeing.
The blood and guts of this piece were made possible by that chance meeting. Therefore, Vera-Lynne alone, is responsible for the intimate details on the life of her former lover...the Stardust's most hated craps supervisor.
Carl "The Mole" Blessing grew up in rural Utah. His father was physically abusive to his mom and verbally abusive to him. At a young age, he was an emotional cripple whose damaged personality was perpetuated by an exaggerated over-bite, bed-wetting and stuttering. All through grammar school he was picked on by bullies and left by his parents to fend for himself.
A friendless nerd and an average student, Carl's situation worsened in junior high school as his rodent-like facial features became obvious. Even some teachers called him "The Mole." If life through adolescence wasn't bad enough, this loner was forced deeper into obscurity by developing a severe case of acne.
In his high school years Carl outgrew his bed-wetting, his face cleared-up and he stopped stuttering. Still, he had bad teeth and little self-esteem when he enlisted in the army, at the height of the Vietnam War.
Carl wanted to validate his life. He envisioned getting a fresh start in the military and becoming a respected hero. On the day he landed in Vietnam, Carl's odd-ball personality made him an immediate outcast. None of his new platoon mates took an interest in him and the few that made reference to him called him, "Rat-Face."
On his first night, Carl was deployed (alone) on guard duty, in a foxhole at the perimeter of Danang Air Base. In ninety degrees and oppressive humidity, he shivered in fear for hours as he stared beyond the treeline, at the "in-country's" blackness. Carl fought off the ubiquitous flying insects as surges of fear shuddered his innards every time a branch snapped, an animal howled or he heard distant artillery.
Nervous Carl developed worsening stomach cramps. When the pain got the better of him, he tried to relieve the pressure with quiet flatulence. Unfortunately, a wet fart spewed out and he was forced to lay in his own waste all night.
Carl made a buddy on his second day, but it turned out to be the worst day of his miserable life. His platoon was sent out on patrol and got ambushed. In the early stages of the firefight, he saw his sergeant get shot through the neck. He was already in panic mode as a loud ping produced a hole in his helmet and a flesh wound in his scalp. Carl tossed aside his unfired M-16. When his friend came to help him snap out of his funk, Carl saw his buddy's arm get blown off. His friend without thought of his own injury staggered to his feet to rally Carl but a bullet zapping through his eyebrow ended his life.
Before the skirmish was over, Carl was shot again. When the enemy overran their position, Carl Blessing soiled himself again as he hid under the bodies of fallen comrades.
Private Blessing would be one of three survivors. In the manic hurry of getting air-lifted to safety, his rescuers and later the triage doctors (under fire themselves) didn't notice one missing boot.
Carl became a craps dealer in Las Vegas. His stormy life, adult shortcomings and cowardice would prove to be an asset in the casino industry. He got some experience and two years later was hired by the Stardust. His new bosses recognized him as insecure, spiteful and ignorant so they groomed him as a spy, to infiltrate the front-line employees. They called him their "Eager Beaver" because he'd step on anyone who got in the way of his upward mobility. Two promotions later, he had graduated to lead floorman on day shift, (a dual-rate pit-boss,in Atlantic City).
When I worked at night, I understood that all the day-shift dealers hated Carl Blessing and not surprisingly called him, "The Mole." Not only because of his face but because he was also a covert stooge of management.
He was so arrogant that he didn't realize that we knew he took joy in being a hatchet-man and "ratting-out" anyone who hustled tips, stirred unrest among the employees or otherwise strayed from the casino's best interest.
My situation got worse when Carl unforgivably insulted an Asian-American player's heritage. Blessing blamed the North Vietnamese army for maiming him but he outwardly hated all Orientals. This situation put management in an awkward position. They knew they had valuable asset so rather than cultivating another moron to take his place, they demoted Carl and sent him and his bad leg limping to my shift.
Carl did not endear himself to his counterpart on our shift. The nighttime lead floorman Werner "Ernie" Trohlmann was a psychotic, Neo-Nazi ass-hole himself. But he seemed normal compared to Carl Blessing. Carl confessed to Vera-Lynne that he wanted to undermine Trohlmann and take his position.
Blessing was petty and did everything in his power to make himself look good at the expense of others, particularly dealers. A couple of Ernie Trohlmann's golfing buddies complained about Carl. The hostile work environment every night was awful. Luckily, I had little exposure to Carl during his short stint on my shift. The only time he seemed human was when he came off like a big-shot and spoke about getting shot-up in Vietnam, (Vera-Lynne would later clarify that his courageous tour of duty...was only a two-day stint).
We received a breath of fresh air when a new dealer was hired who took the wind out of Carl's sails. "Combat" Harry Lorenz was a New Yorker and a Vietnam vet, (he kept laminated photos in his wallet of a couple of Viet Cong he killed). Despite the ghosts in the former corporal's closet and the uncool "combat" part of his personality, he was immediate smash with the dealers because he was mercenary when it came time to hustling tokes (tips). He and I became close and socialized outside work. One of the things we had in common was that we were big hockey fans, (specifically of the New York Islanders).
Harry was incredibly brazen. He approached the head of the Stardust sports book and asked him to put an Islanders playoff game on one of their twenty TV's. Harry was told, "Nobody bets on hockey." He didn't like being turned down, so Harry tried bribing the man. This gentleman wasn't going to risk his lofty position for fifty bucks...but to pacify Harry, he offered a free compromise. Two days later, he set-up for Harry, a single TV and a couple of dozen folding chairs, on the dance floor of a rarely unused lounge.
I explained to Harry that we weren't permitted on the property before or after our shift. He didn't care and said, "That lounge is completely away from the casino and no one knows us on day shift." I didn't have my heart in it as I agreed to watch the first two periods before work.
On game day, I took the precaution of leaving my uniform shirt in my car. Harry didn't and wound-up with a bulls-eye on his back. I didn't even want to sit next to him. But it got worse because when the seats filled-up, the casino provided cocktail service and that idiot Harry bought three beers before the first intermission.
In the second period, Harry sucked down two more. I was so antsy, I didn't even order a coke. During the second intermission, it was time for us to go on duty. Harry needed to pee and I had to get my dealer shirt from my car. On the way, we passed the arcade. There was a huge crowd watching someone play Pac-Man. We heard a voice say, "This guy is great, he's now going for the grapes."
Harry pushed through the throng to get a closer look. He recognized the player and called back to me, "Look, it's Carl Blessing!"
Secretly, Carl had Harry in his cross-hairs for two reasons. One was his sloppy way of hustling tips and secondly, Harry's actual knowledge of Vietnam might expose him as a fraud. So Harry's best interests (especially while reeking of beer) would have been better served by avoiding Carl.
Blessing was there early because he had a poor home life. To provide an outlet from mundane domestic accountability as well as a buffer between him and his wife, he tinkered with small appliances in his garage. Soon he was fixing other people's items, doing bull-work and using his pick-up truck to do light hauling. One of his repeat customers was Vera-Lynne. She was so satisfied by his work that she acted as an unpaid dispatcher and hooked him up with her wide range of friends. Carl's business skyrocketed as other waitresses and women from all walks of life kept him out of his house.
Some of these women occasionally bartered sex for his services, including Vera-Lynne. Vera-Lynne could have any man she wanted but she had a soft spot for Carl because he was wounded in Vietnam. Her sensitivity was proven by the MIA bracelet she wore because her twin brother was still listed as Missing In Action, (MIA) ten years later.
Mrs. Blessing had no idea that Carl was spending many afternoons with females. But she figured something positive had to be going on because he had a wall safe installed into their walk-in closet.
In the early stages of marriage, Carl had a chance to end the cycle of abuse that he had endured. Instead, he allowed his weak personality and thin-skin to overwhelm him. So Carl drank a lot. Sometimes he smacked his wife around and threatened their two grade school daughters. These episodes became more frequent when he was given the third degree after he partied with his customers. When Mrs. B. finally suffered enough, she took action.
One day Carl came home to an empty house. On his gimpy foot, he ran upstairs and found a hole where he had squirreled away $20,000.00 in the safe that had now been excavated out of the wall. On the same day, Carl's wife got a restraining order which forced him out of the house.
Carl was living in an efficiency at the Klondike Motel, just south of the Tropicana Casino. Sometimes, he got bored in the tiny apartment, so that's why on the day of our hockey game, he came to work early. Harry shouldn't have congratulated Blessing's success in the arcade. When we came into the employee entrance, Harry wasn't permitted to clock-in; Blessing had already had him fired.
At that time, the Stardust had one Asian craps supervisor, Byron Fong. This jolly floorman used the same line over and over, "I'm half Chinese, half Korean and a quarter Philippine...but I was born San Bernadino, so I'm just an American." Fong was a diabetic with a gambling problem who frequently needed to sit down when his feet swelled.
One night Vera-Lynne approached Carl Blessing and said, "That Chinese floorman is stealing from the casino." How do you know?" "Everyday, he gives me five bucks to bring him a plain tomato juice in a coffee mug." Carl said, "Yeah, you can't trust Charley (Asians) but as crazy as a coffee mug for tomato juice sounds..." She interrupted, "He takes one tiny sip, sets in on the craps rail and then replaces the boxman. While sitting there, he fixes up the chips and then just before he stands back up...he coughs." Carl said, "I see..." Vera-Lynne said, "Then he takes a big gulp of juice. When he goes on break, he brings the mug with him." Carl said, "I'll fix that U.F.O. (Ugly Fucking Oriental) but good!"
Carl reported these finding as his own to his boss. The next night, the surveillance cameras and the eye-in-the-sky were focused on Byron Fong. Throughout the shift, a cordon of undercover security guards were strategically positioned around the craps pit waiting to pounce.
The sting operation when into motion at 1:00AM when Vera-Lynne gave the signal by putting a paper cocktail umbrella in her hair. Everyone went about their business as the target repeated his usual MO. The posse followed him into the men's room and seized the mug. Inside, they found two, hundred dollar chips.
The big bosses fired Fong and planned (after the following week) to give Carl a raise, a package of goodies including dinner for two in their gourmet room and tickets for, "Siegfried and Roy." But more importantly, reinstating Blessing back to his coveted lead floorman position, on day shift.
During the next few days, Carl was especially full of himself. Even though he had no idea how well he impressed his bosses, he strut around the craps pit like he owned the place. A big part of his braggadocio was making disparaging remarks to Orientals.
On one of the rare days that Carl was my supervisor, he had no idea that he was about to shoot himself in the foot as "Crazy" Janie Kuhaulua marched towards the craps pit.
Janie was a junket rep from Hawaii. That meant she was a Stardust VIP because she brought huge groups of wealthy gamblers in from the islands, several times a year. Apparently, Carl didn't know her because he was new to our shift and she only hung out in the casino at night.
Crazy Janie was an obese six-footer with an entertainingly foul mouth. All the dealers loved her because she was the essence of positive energy and an incredible tipper. But on this occasion, she trudged past my table in flip-flops with her Vienna sausage-like toes sticking out of the front without stopping. Her black muumuu with embroidered purple orchids surrounded by golden hibiscus flowers was flowing in the breeze as one of the other dealers on my crew called out to her. Janie's thumping stride never wavered as she announced over her shoulder, "One of my people just hit a big jackpot on a one-armed bandit. Maybe later..."
Her one-armed bandit statement caused Carl Blessing to have a legitimate Vietnam flashback as he pictured his only buddy's arm get blown off. He leered at the back of Janie's flabby arms, enormous calves and unsculptured ankles as she disappeared behind a row of slot machines. He squawked, "I'd hate to get between that (her) and the last pork chop."
Months earlier in a drunken stupor, Janie confided in me and other dealers that she was once a fashion model. She showed us lingerie photos when she was a teenager, and she was gorgeous. Janie sighed, "My fiance got messed-up in Vietnam. He came back in one piece but he saw too much shit and it hurt him deep down inside. A year later, he was making great progress so we picked a wedding date and made all the plans. One day, at a lunch counter downtown, he collapsed in my arms and died...a brain aneurysm...I stopped caring about myself...it's been twelve years."
Janie didn't seem so crazy that day. She had a tear in her eye as she added, "His dad died a month after that. He had no heirs and willed me his small pineapple plantation. I can't sit in an office, I hired people to run it. Now I travel all over the world...I'm afraid to stop."
Luckily, an hour later Janie came by again. The same dealer from before made a "pocko-lo-lo" reference which is the nickname for high-grade Hawaiian marijuana. In a nasal voice Janie said, "I can use some. I feel like shit. We just came from Frisco and I froze my ass off. Now I have a fuckin' sore throat."
The dealer who flagged her down was going on break. He said, "Stay here a sec, I have just the thing that will help you." He scampered off and returned with a thirty-eight cent box of Ludens cough drops. Janie grabbed a bunch put them in her mouth and said, "I'm feeling better already...maybe I'll play a little." She threw down three hundred dollars and said, "Keep fifty for you guys." Carl didn't notice her cough drop generosity but his eyes bulged out of his head when she kept tipping us without being prodded.
Janie was doing well. But when she shot the dice, she got on a serious roll. Her five-dollar bets across the board were soon increased to a hundred. Her bet on the hard six was $25.00 and she announced, "When it hits, I'm splittin' it with the dealers." Carl looked at gratuities as money the casino could not possibly win back. So he showed his annoyance by pacing and cursing under his breath each time our ton of tips grew.
Carl's fellow supervisors could have have clued him in on Janie's superstar status but they hated him too. So by ignoring the rising tension, they set him up to take the fall.
Janie noticed Carl's lack of professionalism. To piss him off, she started making every odd-ball bet on the table for us. Carl slammed his clipboard down when she raised the amount of each tip. That's when she started adding to her hard six and said, "I'm gonna keep pressing that hard six till it hits...and then I'm splittin' it with the dealers."
To distract her, began Carl nit-picking us. Janie addressed Blessing for the first time by saying, "We gotta get you some pocko-lo-lo brudda." Carl said, "Just shoot the dice." After a short pause he mumbled, "Fuckin' gook." She heard him but maybe she wasn't certain or didn't feel well enough to cause a ruckus. But she was a powerful, liberated woman who wasn't going to take any sass.
Janie turned her ire on superstitious Carl after he started throwing pennies under our table. She was amazing as she concentrated on staring him down as she upped our bets. Janie was still shooting after fifteen minutes when the hard six (with $90.00 on it), rolled. She was so hoarse that she held her hand against her throat and shouted, "Boys, you take your half and I'm coming down." The boxman set aside $450.00 for us when Carl interjected, "The dealers have a $25.00 'max' on hard ways. They get 270! $250.00 for the quarter but they had no action on the other twenty."
Janie screamed, "That's fuckin' bullshit!" Carl said, "Watch your language...there's lady's present." "Do you know who I am?" Carl said, "Yeah, a woman who doesn't understand that this is a strict casino policy and there's nothing anyone can do about it." Janie sneered, "If it lost, you wouldn't have given them shit!" Carl smugly smiled, "That's not true. You know why they aren't complaining? 'Cause they know the rules. Isn't that right boys?"
Enraged Janie barked, "Then fuck the dealers! Give me the whole damned nine-hundred!" When she had the chips she added, "And let it be on your head that I never bet for the dealers again. So fuck the dealers, fuck this place and FUCK YOU too!"
Carl said, "Didn't I tell you to watch your language?" Janie was clutching her painful neck as he murmured the same insult from before. Janie yelled, "What did you say? Did you call me a fuckin' gook?" He went into damage control and snarled, "I said...you got your nine hundred. Now I'm saying...take down all her bets. This dragon lady has no action here."
Janie smiled, "You don't know who your talking to you weasly fucking piss-ant. Now answer me this. Before you try throwing me out, can I give my fuckin' money away?" Carl was dumbfounded. Janie winked at me, counted out $450.00, added an extra hundred and shoved it towards me. Janie said, "Now you can take all my bets down. I gotta find the casino manager."
Vera-Lynne said she saw Janie arguing with the biggest boss in the building. Janie was shaking as she rasped, "Your employee called me a 'dragon lady' in front of everyone. That's like saying I'm a whore and a mean-spirited, controlling bitch. Plus, he called me a 'fuckin' gook' twice! I want that ferret-faced imbecile fired!" He smiled, "Calm down..." She cut him off, "No! I'm a full-blooded Hawaiian and as much of an American as anyone...and so was my fiance, who died from getting messed-up fighting the Viet Cong..."
Carl wasn't fired and Janie didn't take her lucrative trade to another casino. So apparently a deal was struck because instead of Carl getting lavished with bonuses, a raise and being brought back to his former day shift position, he was re-demoted and send to the least desirable shift, graveyard, as a boxman.
Blessing didn't take well to working 4:00AM till noon. At the suggestion of his accountant, he called out as much as possible to minimize potential alimony while bolsterinjg his private enterprise and undeclared income. Carl got his own apartment and started exclusively seeing Vera-Lynne.
A week after being served divorce papers, Vera-Lynne was at his place when he got a call from his wife. She demanded money for ballet lessons for their girls. He said, "No." "Well, they are both going to need orthodontic work too..." Carl spat, "Hell, they don't need braces." His wife countered, "Yes they do! Looking like you, is much worse for a girl." "Shit, if you're that hard-up for cash, why don't you use your stolen money from the safe you ripped out of the goddamned wall."
Months later at an impromptu meeting with the graveyard shift boss Carl was threatened with dismissal because of pattern call-outs. The boss said, "This will be your only warning." Carl said, "Do whatever you gotta do." His boss said, "If this is an elaborate scheme to get fired and collect unemployment, you're sadly mistaken." "Shit! Is that what you think? Well, I don't give a rat's ass. I'll make it easy on you, I quit."
On the following Sunday, Mrs. Blessing marched past the crowded pool at Carl's apartment complex. Carl's door was ajar. She tried to peer in before knocking but her husband appeared at the door. Carl was wearing a swimsuit and black socks (he always tried to hide his war wound) as he stirred a pitcher of what looked like lemonade.
Mrs. Blessing came in peace. But she tried to look past him into the apartment while offering one last stab at reconciliation. Before Carl could react she added, "Of course, we insist on a commitment from you, to seek professional help for your drinking and anger management."
Vera-Lynne got up from her poolside chaise lounge and strolled over. She exuded confidence in a yellow string bikini that highlighted her deep suntan as she said, "Everything okay pumpkin?" Frumpy and pale, Mrs. Blessing in a black, polyester K-Mart suit was intimidated by her rival. To make matters worse, the door opened enough for her to see a bottle of Gordon's gin on the coffee table and a floor cluttered by clothes including a bra and panties.
Sweaty Mrs. Blessing was demoralized and ready to slither away. But she gave her outrageous proposal one last try. Carl had his arm around Vera-Lynne's waist, gave her a healthy fanny squeeze and said, "Get the fuck out of here!" His wife shouted, "You're pretty brave standing behind this bimbo..."
Everyone at the pool was standing, trying to get a better look at the brewing battle. Mrs. Blessing motioned towards Vera-Lynne's MIA bracelet and growled, "He was pretty brave in Vietnam too. You know what the 'million-dollar wound' is?" Vera-Lynne cautiously shrugged as Mrs. B. continued, "Did you know our little 'yellow' hero shot himself in the foot?" Had Carl not over-reacted Vera-Lynne probably wouldn't have believed her.
"Who told you that?" Carl seethed. His wife said, "You did!" She turned towards Vera-Lynne and self-righteously added, "I guess you already know he talks in his sleep..." Vera-Lynne broke free from his grasp and snapped, "You fuckin' bastard!" Carl didn't know the scope of what his wife knew and neurotically admitted, "We got ambushed...it was crazy there...everyone getting shot up all around me...it was only my second day..." The two women simultaneously said, "WHAT?" In tears, Carl purged his guilt, spilled his guts and unraveled the convoluted resume that he had for years sworn by. He might have been gaining some sympathy until he shot himself in the foot again by saying, "Blowing off my toe was the only round I fired..."
Sickened, Vera-Lynne went into the apartment and slammed the door. A minute later, clutching her scant belongings, she came out screaming obscenities. Carl limped behind her as she scurried to her Corvette. He begged her to come back. She said, "Don't call, don't look for me and don't expect any more help either." She burnt rubber as she sped away.
Humiliated, gimpy Carl hid in the shadows as he walked against the farthest wall away from his finger pointing neighbors. The day had been designed to be an emancipation from casino work. Instead it turned out to be a complete disaster. Inside, he found his wife waiting. He ignored her and advanced to the bathroom. He looked with disgust in the mirror and saw his sallow, ratty reflection. He realized he didn't have a conventional job, he was disconnected from the vast majority of his clientele, ineligible for unemployment, spurned by his lover and had his unwanted wife in the other room waiting for a decision.
Carl came out into the unlit living room. He didn't address his wife as he removed his socks. With a sense of purpose, without hobbling, he strode out into the sunshine and retrieved some personal items he left at the pool. Back inside he said to his wife, "I thought about your demands...and I'm not interested. I'll be fine...so get out."