Elvis led the dancing in Jailhouse Rock.
My uncle designed the set & the choreo.
Sep. 1, 2014
Ever see the movie “Jailhouse Rock?” It opened Oct. 17, 1957, with Elvis billed as the star. And even though he needed taps and dance moves, and a slide down a fire pole at the finish, he warned (asked) the choreographer not to give him “sissy stuff.” He worried until he met the choreographer; they liked each other at once. Alex showed him the moves and designed the set for the Jailhouse Rock musical number. Everyone loved my uncle – a guy named Alex Romero.
Boy, have I met some irregular golfers. I mean, Chi Chi Rodriguez could hit it from here to what happened. Jack Nicklaus, a point ahead with two more holes to play, called me out of the crowd and said he forgot to get seats for two friends in one of the big Las Vegas shows. Could I do it for him. Of course.
Later in the year a huge men’s golf club took over the Las Vegas Desert Inn. I followed one of these guys through 12 holes. His best shots scored up to ten on every hole. When he came to a 115-yard island he socked his first four balls into the water. After a pause for cursing and stuff, he fired 18 more balls into the deep. His 20th shot hit the green, and he took five more shots to gain a 28 on the hole. He threw his clubs into the lake, took an airplane home and none of us ever saw him again.
But maybe my good friend Flory Rodd, a pro who took care of the radio communications on a giant jet that flew from California to Honolulu, had the whole thing nailed down. About halfway to Honolulu the tower called Flory to tell him someone may have planted a bomb on board. He leaped from his chair, shouted, “I quit,” strolled out of the cockpit and into first class. P.S. The bomb call? A phony. Flory went back to work. Passengers cheer.
The Las Vegas Sahara stood pretty tall years ago. Stan Irwin, their entertainment genius, brought in The Beatles for two shows. Mob Scene! Girls filled the Sahara and tried to jump aboard every limo that drove up. We put the Beatles on the top floor where no girl had a chance to ride up and reach them. Clever girls! The security guards we had were blocking the exit from every elevator. This time the elevator doors opened and some of the girls threw off their bras. Have you ever seen a guard run for his life?
Chupacabras are back in Texas.
Just don’t offer them a chicken
May 10, 2014
Maybe you’ve heard of the Chupacabra. Go ahead; pronounce it a couple of times. But if the beast shows up, lock yourself in your home, draw your .357 Magnum and make sure it’s loaded.
They say I occasionally kid about the Blogs. Maybe so, but not when this type of creature is close enough to see. I first heard about the bloodsucking killer 45 years ago – or more. But I wasn’t afraid he’d take a chunk out of me. Hell, I had my own Magnum then and shot almost every day at the Las Vegas police pistol range.
The Chupacabra has never been an animal you could pet. Sure, he looks like a fat dog from a distance. But when you see one, kill it. I remember when the small towns would laugh when someone said the Chupacabra was around. It was a ghost town’s gift to target shooters. But in the beginning the Chupacabras didn’t show themselves that often.
What brought this back to me was a recent AP story from Cuero, Texas. It may have been one of the few times Chupacabras nosed into a small Texas city and made the kids stay indoors. The Associated Press broke the story, but Cuero gunners probably didn’t need anything except a clear shot.
AP did a nice job on Phylis Canion, a wonderful shooter who had a slew of mounted heads in her home. She didn’t find a live Chupacabra on her property but she did find a dead one nearby. Strolling with her neighbors she found three more. She described them as ugly, with large fanged teeth, a grayish-blue skin tone and weighing 40 pounds. She guessed Chupacabras killed as many as 26 of her chickens in the last two years.
Chupacabra, in Spanish, means “goat sucker.” The animals in Cuero didn’t gobble their meals after killing a chicken. As usual, they sucked blood. The town veterinarian named Travis Schaar says he still believes the Chupacabras are dogs.
Hang on to your .357 Magnum just the same. It settles a lot of questions.
Who drove 60 miles to shake my hand?
Who else but The Amazing Kreskin
Feb. 1, 2014
I know a lot of show biz guys who are imposing in person, majestic when
they sign a contract and magnitudinous when they win an Emmy – but only one
of these people sends me Admiral Fitzroy’s Storm Glass for Christmas.
Of course, it’s a wonderful gift. Tall, rounded, poised to tell you it’s snow
en route or a wicked band of ice crystals. Just a glance tells you exactly what’s
rumbling your way – even if this wonder was developed in the 19th century.
Now think a minute. Who else would send me the best Storm Glass made?
Who else would help me if my yacht got lost in the Sea of Japan, about two feet
from North Korea? Here’s a clue. This man can shuffle a deck of cards in less
than a minute, then pluck out your card in an instant. Think you know now? If
you yelled “It’s The Amazing Kreskin,” you’re a hundred percent correct.
Kreskin has been a part of my life for more than 45 years – including the day
in my office at the Sahara Las Vegas when my wife Robin strolled in about as
pregnant as you can get. Kreskin immediately leaped up.”What are you going to
call the boy, he asked?”
“He knows,” said my wife. Sure enough. Four months later, a boy.
Some time later he phoned us – just to talk.”Where are you?” my wife asked.
“Wait a second,” Kreskin said. “I’ll ask my Road Manager.” So what do you
expect? The man does close to 400 theaters and shows a year. In Atlantic City
one year, I called his home to say hello. He promptly drove from New Jersey to
Atlantic City, found me in the middle of the casino and shook my hand with such
gusto I almost flew out of the room.
I could continue with stories about this extraordinary man, revered by
all those who know him. But time and space run out. We cherish you, sir.
P.S. The Storm Glass came with a smart new key chain and Kreskin’s day
planner. I hid both. Did you think I’d just toss them on the table? Did you?
The casino security guard
who loved chasing cheats
Nov. 15, 2013
When I worked at Del Webb’s Sahara in Las Vegas, we had a team no one could match, much less overcome. One of my favorites was Eddie Warren, our Security Chief. The guy just loved to discover slot cheaters. He’d catch them, take them up to his office, and after some muffled conversation, boot them out the front door, screaming, “You’re gonna love it in Alcatraz.”
Remember the days when we called huge, beefy guys “husky?” Eddie was on the back side of that. I mean, his arms alone looked like cannons and his legs were the size of those electric poles along the highway. He swore a lot, probably because he was tail gunner on a Flying Fortress for 25 raids over Germany in World War II. The guy told me he was scared to death on every flight but never admitted it.
I’ve been told his Sahara office had indentations in its fiberboard walls – the kind the back of your head would make if some guy grabbed you by the face and shoved. Of course, I never saw anything like that. But I did see Eddie at work one night on the Sahara casino floor.
He had stalked a slot player for hours because the man played only dime machines. In the 60s and 70s few players went after dime games, and here was a guy hitting every one of ours and pocketing the winnings. Eddie couldn’t figure out how the player got dime machines to pay off, and he didn’t know where or how the man stashed his loot.
Here was a challenge Eddie couldn’t afford to lose, so he closed in on the cheater – who tottered off toward the front door. Now, Eddie was always the kind of cop I wanted to chase me if I stole anything. When furious, he weighed at least 300 pounds, frowned like a demented moose and was a very slow runner.
To my surprise, Eddie kept gaining on the player. He finally chased him out the front door, caught him, slammed him down on the cement and suggested the guy not move an inch. Then he stared down at his foe like an eagle sizing up a field mouse. The cheater was terrified, took off his boots and out poured dimes by the thousands. No wonder he couldn’t run away from Eddie – who turned to the crowd that had gathered.
Eddie held up the boots. “The jerk was wearing Tony Lamas,” he said. “Just my size.”
Is Las Vegas always like this? Sure, just forget the dime games.
Should a menu be funny?
It worked for the quiche
Oct. 15, 2013
Not long ago I saw a newspaper food section use a really different kind of headline. Instead of pitching the food, they went for the menu – and one of the best chefs in the country backed them. A little overblown, I thought, but cute.
I liked it because it took me back to the early 80s and a menu I wrote for my first casino client – Lady Luck in downtown Las Vegas. The casino had opened a new gourmet room but business wasn’t exactly sensational, so the General Manager asked for my advice.
“Tell you what,” I told him. “When people go out to eat in Las Vegas and pay the large bucks they want to love the works – food, design, lighting, smiling waiters, really good wine, a pleasant greeting and fun.”
“So we’re doing all those things wrong?” the GM asked.
“No,” I said. “You do them all very well. But the menu is terrible. Not the food – the writing.”
Okay, the GM said, write us a new one. The chef thought it was a fine idea, even when I started to ask for the food cost of every item on his menu. Turned out his quiche was lowest. So I wrote about 75 words on it. I said it was so good we had to keep it away from Californians, because they’d mob the place.
The chef loved that one. So did the General Manager.
I told the chef we had to warn the clientele with a little mystery. I wanted the waiters to pitch the quiche first when they came to every table. But after the pitch, I wanted them to get serious.
If the diners ordered the quiche they had to pledge never to tell anyone from California about it. The waiter would then tell them he had to have a pledge in writing before he delivered the quiche. Then I wrote the pledge in a kind of muddled lawyer lingo.
Bottom line: the quiche became a best-seller, the customers all wanted to keep the pledge they signed, and the chef turned into a believer. I wrote humorous stuff for a dozen more items. Prices on the menu all went up.
Mother and Dad made up jokes on stage.
Next thing I knew, they put me in the act
Aug. 10, 2014
Most people outside show business never knew my mother or dad in person – but the audiences loved them on stage. From the 30’s and into the 50’s my dad was a standup comic operating in China, Japan and throughout Europe. Anyone who ran an exclusive bar hired him. The audiences called him “Johnny.”
I mean, he told jokes that could put you under the table if you’d taken three or four shots of a Sidecar, Planter’s Punch or a swig of Whisky Sour. The man could make up a new joke in seconds.
One night he was cutting up and someone threw a penny on stage. He picked it up, examined it, and pointed to the guy who threw it. “I know only one animal who can throw a joke that far,” he said. The audience howled.
Mother didn’t specialize in jokes, but she knew how to make a female dancer on stage look like a million. How? Easy. She designed a special costume – half lady, half man. Then she danced alone. Half the audience thought my dad was filling in on the other side of her dress, especially when he faked a bow at the end.
The finish was a killer. When the crowd found out what mother had done, they applauded my dad. My mother, a small woman compared to dad, then grabbed him, hoisted him over her head and spun him around a dozen times. Then SHE took a bow as every member of the audience roared.
Thanks for letting me amuse a few people in 2014, even though I couldn’t tell you their entire yarn. Mother and dad probably had a thousand gags in reserve. Next time my dad will have more new jokes than ever. And mother will spin him around a few times just to show off. You liked vaudeville? This was it.
Read a novel; get your brain working:
But don’t try to follow Baldacci in NY
Apr. 1, 2014
Read any “gripping” novels lately? Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of a recent study at Emory University, says such books can bring on changes in the brain for about five days after you finish the book. Five days!
Is the Prof correct when he tells us changes can occur in the left temporal cortex – and lead you right into the body of the protagonist? Okay, so I’m not really sure what the temporal cortex is. But the Professor says to ask yourself if you’d rather pal around with a guy who can pump 600 pounds or a friend who just wrote a novel.
I mean, the Prof is talking about Baldacci, Thor, Rosenberg, Rollins and Grisham. These people have turned New York into Book City. The place has thousands of novelists nailing a “gripping” novel a year. How do they do it?
More research by Emory answers my question. Book City’s novelists can pound out Five Thousand words a day. And those who write “gripping” novels can cause heightened connectivity in the brain that leads to muscle memory. You can’t escape a book like that, so give up as soon as possible.
Can you see yourself having a drink with Baldacci? He hands you his latest novel and you dive into it. You read the rest of it at home. And for the next five days you trail the man. He takes about three hours of that, then turns and screams “Get out of my sight.” Hey, you’re pals for life.
P.S. I wrote a little novel, too. The Eisenhower Enigma is at the book stores now. The Trojan Stones is coming up soon. Lieutenant Hellfire will be in your hands before the year ends. And don’t worry, Baldacci. I won’t be following you, much.
Britain wins the best word in 2013,
with the US just a hot dance away
Dec. 1, 2013
London (AFP) – Oxford Dictionaries has just announced “Selfie” as the 2013 word of the year, stunning judges and other well-dressed men and women. The 6-letter shocker, which has a battery of meanings, edged out the US Army.
News from Yahoo.com and ABC Online showed the British and Americans fought like NFL quarterbacks to gain second place. The finest work from the British was schmeat (synthetic meat). The US entered a verb (to twerk) which means hot dancing. My wife says, stop it right there.
Selfie, according to the Oxford Dictionary and the Daily Caller News Foundation people who attended the “Word Conference,” also beat shortlist words that included “Bedroom Tax,” “Binge-Watch,” “Bitcoin,” “Olinguito,” and “Showrooming.” I did not conjure-up this spectacle.
Once again, the US word “Copacetic” failed to make it. In all US drinking colleges it means “fine,” “excellent” and “able to be coped with.” It should roll in a handsome manner off the tongue of every man.
Some Americans, I’m told, entered words such as “copal,” which is a hard resin used in varnishes, “cowslip,” a British wildflower, and “crabbed” to illustrate “sour” and “surly,” usually in Britain.” Just kidding, gentlemen.
US judges fought to the end, and sure enough one had to be carried out of the stadium as 37,000 (mostly British) screaming soccer fans booed him fiercely. Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said their language research collects about 150 million words of current English – a month. Please, Ma’am, see if you can get Copacetic in the contest next year.
Boss met guest about 5 years ago:
Could his memory click again?
Nov. 1, 2013
In the summer of 1965, I invited a Honolulu disc jockey named Hal Lewis to visit the Sahara Las Vegas – my roost as Marketing Director for 20 years. The man’s on-the-air name was J. Akuhead Pupule, which I think translated to “J. Fishhead Crazy.”
On the drive back from the airport I asked if he'd stayed with us before. Yes, he had. Said he had once spoken to Johnny Hughes, our casino manager. “Of course,” he added, “Johnny can’t remember everyone he meets.”
“Don't be too sure,” I said. In my mind, a diabolical plan had formed.
After I turned Hal over to the front desk and asked the manager to give him a suite, I sprinted over to see Hughes. Johnny wore thousand dollar Italian suits, stood as straight as a Marine and smiled a lot. And he never forgot a customer’s name.
I was breathing hard when I reached him. “Do you remember a Hawaiian DJ named Hal Lewis?” I asked. “Goes by J. Akuhead Pupule.”
Johnny looked at me warily. “No,” he said.
Well, I said, “I wrote some notes on this guy and he’ll be coming downstairs to play any second. When he grabs the dice he’ll be throwing black checks (slang for $100 bets) all over the table. Says he met you five years ago but you won’t remember him. He’ll be the only person in the casino wearing a Hawaiian shirt in the winter.”
Johnny smiled and said, “You got it.”
An hour later my phone rings. It's Hal Lewis and the guy can hardly talk. “I don’t believe it,” he shouts. “I’m in the casino and I hear somebody yell 'Hal! Hal Lewis from Hawaii.’ “It's Johnny Hughes. And he says ‘How's your wife, your two kids, your dog, your bird and your pet fish?’ He remembered everything about me. It's a miracle!”
When J. Akuhead went back to Hawaii he couldn't stop raving about Johnny Hughes. Our boss kept his string of memories intact and the Sahara got, oh, around $50,000 worth of free air time. A customer friend bet against me. Cost him $50.
Secret of press releases:
send ‘em a story instead
Oct. 1, 2013
Every now and then as I scan subject lines, I see some company trying to sell “The Secret” of a good press release. But I never open it and read the copy. Why? Because I’ve worked both sides of the street and I already know the secret – my secret. The one that works every time.
As sports editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal for ten years, I saw plenty of press releases. And in the 20 years I worked for the Sahara Las Vegas as marketing director, I wrote plenty of them. My stuff for the Sahara always saw print. Editors would call to thank me and tell me they always looked forward to my pieces. Why? Most of the press releases that crossed their desks were filled with syrupy praise for the company, or the owner. Mine told stories. I wrote them like newspaper and magazine features.
For a story about the Sahara’s many cash gifts to charities, I told about the night Buddy Hackett, a big Sahara star, wrote a $3,000 personal check on the side of a grocery bag and handed it to a dazzled younker who represented a Nevada Indian group. “Hey,” said Buddy, “you can write a check on anything. Just tell them to call me if there’s any problem.” Of course, I worked the Sahara’s largesse into the piece.
On sports pages, archery stories win little space. But my story about Joan Adams, a gorgeous Sahara cocktail server who almost won the indoor archery title two months after she took up the sport, scored big. Naturally, I slipped in how the Sahara encouraged its employees to enter all sorts of events and helped them become stars.
When the Sahara held an outdoor rally for the Johnny Mann Singers, we accidentally released a thousand balloons into the McCarran Field flight path. They missed the incoming planes by miles but I never mentioned that. The story about balloons got Johnny terrific ink in the local and national newspapers.
Good stories always run. “Press releases” make most editors roll their eyes.