The old Stardust Holidays, what a great night

The old Stardust Holidays, what a great night

December 05, 2017 3:00 AM


The Christmas season starts in September now so before it’s too late I better get with it. Some of the now gone race and sportsbooks were in a giving mood regardless of how the year was going for them.

Bob Martin at Churchill was generous as usual. He had cases of good booze stacked in the back office to give to his customers, big bettors and not so big. He also gave out other gifts like small radios or maybe a brief case or something.

A couple weeks before Christmas we had our bowl lineup on the boards. Each bowl was designated by a hand-made symbol like a Rose, Cotton Ball, an Orange, etc. Of course there were only around 10 bowl games and each one was a good matchup. No break-even teams and certainly none with losing records as happened last year.

The Stardust race and sportsbook book had private parties at a nice Italian restaurant. Our crew was close and didn’t need to be entertained. Getting together was all the entertainment we needed although Tiger Paul did his “Sinatra nightclub shtick.”

Our Christmas party in 1988 was especially memorable thanks to Paul. We had a big room to ourselves but in full view of other diners. Paul comes running out of the kitchen (backstage to him) grabs the microphone and does his Sinatra songs –the ones he choreographed when we exiled him to the sports boardroom. He just knew he was good, but the other diners didn’t know what to think. Was he a comedian? What the heck? Most just kept their heads down, kept eating, and pretended he wasn’t there. We understood him. What a great night.

Vic Salerno of Leroy’s Sportsbook fame, founder of Computer Bookmaking Systems(CBS) and now owner of USF (fantasy sports betting) and his onetime partner in CBS, Jim Feist longtime LV handicapper and tout, threw a yearly Christmas party for the Vegas betting community. That was before they ended up fighting it out in court. But prior to the breakup, Salerno and Feist had yearly Christmas parties – a bit more formal than the Stardust parties and not as much fun. Suit and tie, live entertainment, etc., you know the routine.

One year, however, Jolly Joe lit the place up. He worked in most of the sportsbooks in town at one time or another. Jolly Joe was a short man in his late 40’s, black horn-rimmed glasses, always wearing flashy, loud clothes, and a constant smile – thus “Jolly” Joe. He liked young girls. Maybe that’s why he was always smiling.

Anyway, at one of Vic and Jim’s Christmas parties in the Desert Inn ballroom, Joe shows up in a loud, checkered sport coat as usual with a pretty young thing on his hip. They settle in and decide to dance. They’re looking good; Joe twirls her around, up goes her skirt, and she has no panties on. The more refined guests pretend it’s not really happening, but most of us are howling.

Joe and his date think nothing of it and keep dancing up a storm. Vic and Feist, both in tuxedos, asked them to leave; not put panties on but just leave. Years later, Jolly Joe would be found floating in Lake Mead. He drowned although he didn’t swim and had no reason to visit the lake.

I remember my first Christmas as boss in the Stardust. I had presents piled up and had to have help carrying them to my car. Next year a few less and each year after that less and less till my last Christmas there I got an orange and a lump of coal.

It ain’t easy. Take care.