I’ll be catching up with Norm Crosby in Las Vegas

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Imagine my surprise as I read the Feb. 7-13 issue of GamingToday. My poker column (“Stop being lazy, take notes!”) appeared on page 18. As I read this issue, what did I find on the opposite side of that page? A pic of Norm Crosby with the announcement he will be the star entertainer at the Suncoast in Las Vegas on March 3-4.

It seems our lives are destined to intersect.

Amazing! You see, Norm Crosby and I grew up in the same neighborhood in a suburb of Boston – back in the days before Texas hold’em was THE game. I recall once losing $2 and going home crying.

As teenagers, Norm and I both enjoyed the same neighborhood center and we both were enamored of the same beautiful girl. I rather suspected she favored him over me. He was so handsome as well as bright and charismatic. As it turned out, we were both dismissed when she eloped with a gambler and ran off to Miami. And Norm and I took different career paths.

Years later, as a young engineering manager in the aerospace industry, I found myself with a colleague in Washington, D.C., to make a presentation. As we walked along the thoroughfare after dinner, we came upon a restaurant/bar whose marquee proclaimed Crosby as the MC for the entertainment. But it was a scantily dressed young woman swinging from the ceiling who was the real star of the show.

Shortly after we ordered our drinks, Norm came on stage and spied me while doing his “thing.” Afterward, he came over to our table and we renewed “old times.” Norm was struggling to achieve his career goal but was determined to succeed. I should add that, as youngsters, we lived in relative poverty.

Our fathers worked hard to eke out a living to support the family. Each of us grew up, determined to be successful in life. Some became hugely successful, like Sheldon Adelson (owner of the Venetian and other gambling venues).

My close friend and high-school mate Danny Rudman was the discoverer of free radicals and their effects on our health. One of my closest friends, Saul Cooper, became an eminent dentist, a top golfer, and later was elected head of his Country Club. Eddie Masterson became a sought-out leader in the political arena.

I had no doubt Norm Crosby would follow suit.

Years later, my wife and I were vacationing in Las Vegas at the old Sahara where I enjoyed poker and blackjack. My wife was into Panguine at that time. Guess what? Norm was starring in the show at the bar. There was no way I would miss the opportunity.

By now Norm had achieved fame as a great entertainer focused on what GamingToday called “murdering” the English language since the 50s. He had developed a great skill in the use of malaprops that helped propel him into top entertainment celebrity status.

As Norm came on stage he saw me seated at the bar, pointed at me, and said to the audience: “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” He came over, grabbed my hand. “Wait for me after the show.” Later, as I took him to meet my wife at the Panguine table, people stopped playing as they gawked at Norm, the star of stage, screen, television.

Since then I have watched his star continue to rise. What’s more, just as I dedicate myself to helping seniors benefit from the game of poker as great recreation, I am pleased when I read about Norm’s wonderful philanthropic contributions.

I am so pleased to have GamingToday reintroduce us in such an unusual way.

It is appropriate to note the role of malaprops in Norm’s amazing success.

In Sheridan’s famed comedy, “The Rivals,” a play first performed in 1775 and later taught in many high-school English classes, Mrs. Malaprop was a character who frequently misspoke (to great comic effect). A malaprop has come to mean a word or phrase that sounds similar to what was intended but is, in fact, entirely different.

Actually, Shakespeare had “murdered” the English language long before. For example, the character Dogberry in Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing,” had voiced similar utterances in 1598, always gaining a humorous effect.

Other celebrities also have found the entertainment value of malaprops. For example, Archie Bunker in the TV classic “All in the Family” spoke of “a menstrual show” (i.e., minstrel); “Buy one of them battery operated transvestite radios.” (i.e., transistor); and “Patience is a virgin.” (i.e., virtue).

But it was Norm Crosby who came to be known as “The Master of Malaprops.” Two I recall: “Listening to the babbling brook;” and, my favorite: “This is unparalyzed in the state’s history.” There even is a star in his honor in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Thanks to GamingToday for bringing us together again.

Now, how about you coming up with a poker malaprop? A prize for the best one submitted to [email protected]

(“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher of poker in West L.A., is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame.)


About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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