Monday, June 4, 2018
Real tales of the Boardwalk Empire.
In the early 1980's there was a basic dichotomy in Atlantic City. You had your big hotels for the high rollers. And the punters who came down on the bus. It was all the new stuff that had come in since they brought in gambling.
Then you had the old school stands on the Boardwalk that had been there since the beginning of time. Pizza joints. Gyros. Soft Ice Cream. Cheese steaks. Great eats. But you had to be out on the Boardwalk. Which was scary to a lot of people. They were scared of how dark it got out there at night if you know what I mean. Me. I was obvious.
You see I was a big fat Irish guy in a cheap suit covered in donut crumbs who looked like a cop. So most of the youtes would look the other way. I must admit I never had a problem. Just lucky I guess.
I had slacked off on the gambling and was concentrating on the eating and drinking. I would hit the various bars. Wandering around. Eating and drinking and then hitting the tables here and there in between a slice and a cheese-steak and a pint. Sparkys in the Claridge. Cleopatra's Barge in Caesars. The lounge on the Second Floor at Ballys. Lots of good joints.
Plus the food. The neat little coffee shop in the Irish hotel I stayed at with some decent steaks and great pancakes. Angeloni's off the Boardwalk. The pizzeria right on the Boardwalk on the pathway to the Claridge.
I was often on my own in those days. I would go down on my own or with one or two of my accounting friends. One time I went down with a crowd of people from Belfast. Man was that a drinking weekend. Anyhoo one weekend I was on my own and decided to have a nice Italian dinner in a small joint off the Boardwalk. It was within walking distance but I cabbed it because I wasn't a hero. It was on Atlantic Avenue as I recall. It was an old school joint and the owner was half a wise guy. Skinny was his name. Now he wasn't the Skinny Damato of the famous club. But I guess he liked to affect that notoriety for the rubes who didn't know any better. The food was superb. As good as the Parkside or Marco Polo's back in Brooklyn. It was one of my favorites spots in AC. It was pretty crowded on a Saturday night. A bunch of ginzo's like me who knew the joint and liked their food.
So I am enjoying the veal and a nice bottle of Chianti when these two big guys get seated at the table next to me. They definitely look familiar. I just can't place them. I just know I know them from somewhere you know. They weren't from the neighborhood. Not wise guys because one of them was a blond with a sorta Midwestern accent. They were big guys and put away the chow pretty good.
I was minding my own buisness watching the game over on the TV set in the corner and lingering over some Cognac. Skinny had some good stuff. My tab was pretty healthy for one guy so as I was getting ready to split and called for a check Skinny came over and bought me a drink. You see that is what a smart owner does. He doesn't buy you a drink until you are putting on your coat. This way you might stay a while and buy a few more rounds. He buys the two guys next to me a drink too. One of them with the longer hair turns to me and says "I don't know what you are drinking but it smells damn good." I tell him "Its pretty good and you can't get it everywhere. It a Camus VSOP. 1968"
He snorts and goes "What Camus made a Cognac? I just thought he just wrote incompressible crap." His buddy goes "Yeah that crap almost made me flunk out at school. Good thing I was an athlete." They introduced themselves as Luke and Bob. Sounded like an old time vaudeville act.
Anyway they got a couple of snifters on the arm and sat back as we caught the end of the game. They made desultory conversation and just chilled out. I got up to leave and said "Hey have a good night guys and I hope you have some luck at the tables." The one guy goes "Oh we ain't playing. We just got away for a meal. Hey you ever get to Philly? We are putting on a show tomorrow and I can get you a couple of tickets." "Nah thanks a lot but I have to get back to Brooklyn. Pleasure meeting you and enjoy the night."
So I go to the coat check to get my raincoat. I was wearing an expensive Burberry in those days. I see Skinny at the door and shake his hand. "Hey Brooklyn see ya next time." "Sure thing Skinny. Hey the clientèle has improved. Who are those guys? I seem to know them from some where. What are they comedians?" "What you don't know them? That there is Luke Scarpa. He comes in here alla the time." "Any relation to Greg?" "Nah get the fuck outta here. That's Chief Jay Strongbow and the other guy is Bob Backlund." Shit. That's were I know them from.
Channel 47. Lucha Libre Professionale.