Some people vanished into thin air in old Vegas

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A couple columns ago I went over the famous Stardust robbery and how the perpetrator, Bill Brennan, disappeared without a trace never to be seen again. Earlier I discussed Crying Kenny who also vanished.

Another mystery disappearance was that of “Willy the Watch.” He was a very likable man, a huge bettor, respected and appreciated by my Stardust staff.

Why the moniker “Willy the Watch?” Willy appeared perfectly normal except he wore watches up both arms, lots of watches. Don’t ask.

One morning he cashes out $40,000 from his deposit box in the sports book cage. Willy said he was going to New York to see his daughter and would be back in a couple days. The purpose of the boxes was so our bigger players didn’t have to carry a bankroll outside. Someone had to be watching, no pun, Willy the Watch because we never saw him again.

Another Stardust disappearance, though more of a vanishing act, involved Mike Thomas – the Oklahoma and UNLV running back and 1975 NFL Rookie of the Year with the Redskins.

Mike’s knees were shot but he had a Las Vegas juice job like so many other athletes. He was a security guard on the sports book detail. One of Mike’s duties was escorting cash from the book to the count room. The money was counted at the writers’ stations, recorded and then put in heavy canvas bags and padlocked. Mike simply cut a hole in a bag, took the cash, then stuffed the bag with paper.

We never saw Mike again. He didn’t get that much, not enough to retire anyway, but I guess he couldn’t help himself. Of course we never saw or heard of Mike again. We got a good laugh out of it and secretly rooted for him.

About a decade earlier in the summer of 1977 a woman came into Churchill wearing a plain plaid dress. Not many women ventured into the store front books at that time.

Only a few that I remember. There was “Cement,” because she was built like a brick house, Suzy Wang, a Chinese girl who was like one of the guys except for her enormous boobs. There was ”Da Da” from Beverly Hills with her boyfriend Gino. Women were rare in the books however.

Anyway, this very plain-looking woman walks in waving a brown bag of money. She’s chanting, “I don’t want it. It’s not mine. It’s your fault. This isn’t my money.” She’s going on and on about it, really raising hell. She puts it right on the counter.

Being the gentlemen we were we take a look, and the money is packaged neatly in bundles. We guess there’s about $50,000 in the bag (we’re good at that). So my friend Joey Boston, who’s working next to me writing tickets, says, “Well, I’ll take it back in the office and keep it safe for you. We’ll take it off your hands.” She didn’t let Joey have it, good move. Anyway, she’s raising all kinds of hell. “This isn’t mine, it’s your fault I have it.”

Turns out her husband was booking sports and pleading poverty to her at the same time. She found his hidden stash in a closet. We had nothing to do with it, but for some reason, she associated it with bookmakers, so she decided to take his deceit out on us.

She didn’t leave the money with us, thank heavens. The last we saw of her, she was walking out the front door and getting on a city bus out front on The Strip.

We never saw her again, but we did learn her hubby was a real piece of work. I hope she kept going and kept his BR.

This last disappearing act is not so sinister. My first job in LV was working for Jasper Speciale at the Tower of Pizza. What a joint. Soon we’ll take an entire column to capture it. The Sopranos could have been filmed there.

Anyway, a bunch of us are standing around in the parking lot out back. The daytime cook, Joe Freize, is loafing with us. Joe looks at his Caddy and says a tire looks low, he’s going to put some air in it and adds, “I’ll be right back.”

Two years later he comes back. Jasper gives him his job back, not even a “Where ya been, Joe?” What a joint.

Scotty Schettler began his Las Vegas journey in 1968. By the time he quit the race and sports book business he had booked over $1.5 billion for different employers. He says he knows where most of the cans are buried. His book,  is available on amazon.com. Contact Scotty at [email protected].

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