Monday, February 22, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 53


My Uncle Jim owned a successful convenience store and gas station with a large customer base. One of his customers knew that Uncle Jim was a spontaneous guy and he offered Jim the opportunity to go to Las Vegas as part of a chartered group tour. Uncle Jim called my wife, Mal, and I because he knew we’d probably also enjoy a quick trip to Vegas. The deal was almost too good to pass up. If we agreed to send the casino a check for $3000.00 for them to hold in the “cage” (their vault), then we’d get our hotel room, airfare, and all of our food for only $300.00 per person. Obviously, the casino hoped you’d gamble away the $3000.00 but they didn’t require you to gamble any of it. We had no intention of risking that much money. I was excited to go because the Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard fight was the same weekend and I thought it would be fun to see a major fight in person. Our good friends, Allan and Debbie Traylor, took care of our two children while we were on this trip. My employee, David M. Lynch, took care of running the comic book store for the five days I was gone.

When we got on the airplane at Logan Airport in Boston we realized that everyone on the plane knew each other except for us. They all seemed to be good buddies and they were all men. After the plane took off we were introduced to a large man who had been sitting in the back of the plane. It was evident that he was the man in charge. When we were introduced it suddenly became clear. This guy was the head of the Irish Mafia of the Lowell-Lawrence area of Massachusetts. Everyone on this airplane was involved in the “mob” except for the three of us! While Mal and I were nervous about this situation, these guys were all very friendly and courteous to us. My Uncle Jim seemed a little embarrassed about this turn of events but there was nothing we could do about it now. We might as well make the best of it.

When we arrived at the hotel we were issued badges that would identify us as part of this “elite” group of people. We were treated like royalty while we were there. The “pit bosses” (the gambling supervisors) would make it a point to frequently ask, “How are you enjoying your stay?” and “Is there anything you need?” They all must have assumed that we were part of the mob.

I was disappointed to find out that all of the tickets to the big Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard fight were sold out. I could get a ticket if I wanted to buy one from a “scalper” but I wasn’t willing to pay them the $700.00 that they wanted. I discovered that Frank Sinatra was performing at The Golden Nugget Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. Tickets were outrageously priced at sixty dollars each. In the mid-1980’s that was a lot of money for a concert ticket! Mal had seen Sinatra in concert a couple of times before and she didn’t want to pay that much money but she knew I’d enjoy seeing him in Vegas so she convinced me to go. I called and reserved a ticket.

When I arrived at The Golden Nugget I was surprised to see that Frank Sinatra was going to be performing in a room that only held 300 people! The show was “general admission” so there were no reserved seats. I gave my ticket to the maitre-d and he sat me in the very back of the room. I thought it was strange that he gave me such a lousy seat because I was the first person in the line. Then I noticed that the people coming into the room were tipping him and getting better seats than I had. I went up to him and said, “I forgot to give you this”, and I handed him ten dollars. He said, “Right this way” and brought me to a seat right down front. I had to sit through a “comedy” act with Jan Murray but it was all worthwhile when Frank Sinatra came out. In such a small, intimate setting, Frank felt comfortable telling stories of his old mafia pals and the Rat Pack days with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. His voice was in top form. It was like having Frank Sinatra in your living room. Eventually I’d see Frank perform seven times but this was the best Sinatra concert of them all for me.

We all arrived home safely and our “association” with the mafia was done.

Next chapter: An unpleasant tax surprise!

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