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Best of Barney Vinson

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Vegas Tales

31 May 2006

Back in the seventies, I was working at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. Something funny was always happening, which made the job even more exciting. One day on my break I was walking past the buffet and saw this heavyset man in a leisure suit headed for his table carrying a plate of food in each hand. Right there in the middle of the restaurant, his pants fell down! But the guy was cool about it. He set one plate on the floor, pulled up his pants, picked up the plate, and strolled to his table like nothing happened. Meanwhile, not one person in the room even gave him a second look. Hey, this was Vegas.

There was this one player from the deep South who was a big wheel back in his hometown. He owned a hardware store, served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, and even got elected mayor. But he was nutty as a fruitcake. He'd walk up to the table, cock his head to one side like he was listening to someone, then say, "Seymour wants five hundred dollars." Later he'd say, "Seymour wants a drink." Or "Seymour wants an eleven this roll."

Who was Seymour? Perched on his shoulder, it was the man's imaginary friend! Well sure, the man was crazy, but when you got right down to it just about anyone who gambled serious money in a casino wasn't all there to begin with.

Working in a casino was like being in a movie, and I was one of the bit players. In fact, sometimes a whole section of the casino would be roped off, with cameras and klieg lights set up, and they'd be filming right there in the hotel. I even got to be an extra in a couple of TV movies that no one ever saw.

The Dunes hosted a celebrity golf tournament every year on its sprawling Miracle Mile golf course, over where the Bellagio sits today like a big bloated bullfrog. Joe Torre, Johnny Bench, Rollie Fingers, Roman Gabriel, Bucky Dent, Joe DiMaggio, Muhammad Ali . . . they were all there, getting free meals and free rooms just like the high rollers.

Everyone loved sports stars, especially the big players. Not only were they shooting dice with all their buddies, they were getting high-fived by celebrities they'd watched all their lives. It was fun, dammit. It was like being a kid again, even for someone running a multi-million-dollar corporation. It was fun for me, too. I even got Joe DiMaggio's autograph for my aunt and uncle. No one charged for autographs back then. I should've held on to it. It's probably worth a couple hundred dollars now.

Elvis used to come in the Dunes whenever he was performing at the Las Vegas Hilton. He'd show up around three in the morning, when it was quiet and there weren't too many people around. He'd be dressed to the nines, wearing big glasses and one of his customized jump suits, and he just walked around like a regular person. No one bothered him, and he liked that.

One night I was at the Flamingo with a friend of mine and his wife. They were from Texas, here for the weekend, wanting me to drive them all over creation. That's the problem with living in Vegas. Everyone and their brother come out here on vacation, and they think you're on vacation, too.

Anyway, we'd seen the Platters in the lounge and just as we were leaving my friend's wife spotted Elvis at a blackjack table. "Elvis!" she screamed, running to the table. Two bodyguards quickly jumped in front of her, but Elvis said, "That's okay." He signed his autograph on a piece of paper, and my friend's wife is still carrying it around in her wallet. I couldn't say anything. I had just gotten Joe DiMaggio's autograph myself.

(To be continued)

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson