Stardust was full of character and characters

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Stardust Characters the sequel – continued from last week’s Churchill cast.

Crazy Jim: His legally changed name on his Wisconsin driver’s license. Big, tough, gun toting he ran for governor of Wisconsin and lost in an upset by two million votes. Once he pulled a gun when he went for coffee and lost his place in our morning lottery. He got his place back.

Once at the Royal Casino a bank of slot machines mysteriously “fell over on him.” As he lay under the machines “in pain,” shouting legal terms, he gave me a bunch of chips to hold for him in case he went to the hospital or jail.

Fast Eddie: A runner extraordinaire for the outfit, always blowing their BR and always working off a figure. He ran over a tourist on his way to his favorite pay phone. As the poor man lay there Eddie threw a Cecil ($100) at him and kept going.

When the race and sportsbook had nothing more to bet he went to the poker room or the big machine with little horses where he’d cheer like he was at the track. Once when Arlington was covered in fog, he stood by a big TV and swore he could see his horse coming in. No one saw anything but Eddie, who of course lost anyway.

Indian Joe Finesilver: Small, same clothes every day, sad expression. Indian Joe would sit in the sportsbook waiting for an “apple” to pluck. His apples were squares who he would tout games to. If one happened to win he expected, unbeknown to his apple, a touting fee. Joe was always rumored to be dead only to reappear at the track or back in Vegas. Joe and Montana Mel were known to sleep on the roof of Gary Austin’s race and sportsbook on occasion.

Montana Mel: Harmless, Mel’s eyes were opposite of crossed. He lived in a camper on his pickup although his family kept him in cash. He spent his stipend on a payroll of hangers on. Mel had a customer who he serviced with the Stardust line daily. Mel lived on raw hotdogs and warm Coors and I would 86 him for a day when he bothered customers.

On such a day he couldn’t copy the line for his client inside so he pretended he was on one of the Stardust pay phones outside. Mel listened to a person next to him giving out the line and copied it. Only problem was the other service guys set Mel up. The line he copied was bogus. His client is probably still paying off.

Faithful fan: Then there’s the guy who never missed sitting in the front row of our weekend Stardust Line radio show. Always had a sports schedule and never missed a show. What made him eligible for this column was he only had one lens in his glasses or glass in this case. Never got those repaired. Maybe he had 20 x 200 vision or something.

Sam “Spinner” Brown: He won more money, not games, but more money than any living human. He was called “spinner” because he spun numbers into middles and sides. Sam never read a sports page, didn’t do any handicapping or even watch a game. He was a genius if ever there was one in our business. He had a gift for knowing which way a number would move and take early stances so he could come back on the other side.

Sam had outs all around town and the country. He used them to middle and side games. If left with needing a side he usually had the right one there as well. He kept track of his laydowns on a piece of legal paper, making scratches with a felt pen only he could decipher, never making a mistake. His best quality was he was a gentleman, charitable and giving. A true friend.

Magic and Harvey: Two of the best at finding weak spots in propositions. If they were around today they’d probably be banned but they would still get down.

SS: The Little Guys’ main runner. He once had me burn the wrappers off a huge stack of bundled $100s in my office at the Royal Casino sportsbook. He watched them burn to make sure. The fire alarms must not have worked.

Joe Slyman: My boss at the Royal Casino, 1978-79. Joe told me one day to come with him. We went to the cage and he began looking in the vault. He picked up various bags and looked in them, “No, not this one.” Finally he peeked in one, “Yah, this one. Can you count it for me?” Did you ever count a $1 million? Took me half an hour.

The Stardust race and sportsbook had the best cocktail waitresses and porters in the business. They loved the joint like our customers did. There are many more characters, some in my book and in the archives of GamingToday.

Good memories all. Take care.

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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