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don quixote

Win Big And Play God In The Casinos

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One advantage of winning money from a casino is that it's not nine-to-five workaday money. You roll a pair of dice for a couple of hours and suddenly you're hundreds or even thousands of dollars ahead.

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My uptight former accountant, who never ever gambled, suggested: "It's time you took a business trip for the calendar year," so I figured what the hell, and took him along with me to Vegas on the way to Los Angeles. A man who never bought a $1 lottery ticket suddenly found himself at a craps table in the middle of a streak.

Melvin didn't know diddly about dice—he was just at the right place at the right time. When he came home with nearly $2,400, his instruction to his equally uptight wife was explicit: 'The money isn't to be used for anything practical. We don't buy a couch with it and we don't use it to repaper the kitchen." They finally blew most of it on a weekend cruise to Bermuda—their first ever.

My first adventure in spending "mad money" was at my old Las Vegas horn of plenty—the Sahara. I had made my usual hit for the day at the Sahara and was on the way to my suite. Along the hallway from the casino to the elevators was displayed exotic and eyecatching oil paintings for sale. I was near the elevators when my roving eye was attracted to a large, dramatic oil painting of Don Quixote on his horse, ready to tilt at the windmill.

It was gorgeous and priced at $500. Now I like art, but I wasn't about to spend $500 of my money even for the Mona Lisa. Sure, I liked Don Quixote, but my art appreciation up to that point had been limited to just looking at paintings on museum and other people's walls.

Impulsively I wheeled around and headed back to the casino. What the hell, I said to myself, let me see if I can win some more of their money to buy the painting. . . .

About a week later the large, well-padded UPS carton arrived at my Manhattan apartment, and for the next few years Don Quixote hung proudly over my couch. My wife is now into theatrical posters, so Don Quixote is currently relegated to a storage space in the spare room. If my workaday money had been in question, you better believe that Don Quixote would still be hanging on the hallway of the Sahara—unless someone else was similarly smitten with it.

If you really want to, you can even play God with casino winnings. I did it once, and let me tell you right off the bat that I am thoroughly ashamed of what I did. It was an arrogant, discourteous, and almost tyrannical act of mine, and I only relate it here as an example of what not to do when you're flying high with casino mad money.

Through our punctuated visits to Las Vegas, Stella and I became friendly with an extraordinary singer named Rouvan, who starred for years as the main attraction of the ongoing "Casino de Paris" shows at the Dunes. He recorded for RCA, and had a voice as good as Mario Lanza's. Rouvan "only" made $25,000 a week during the years when Sinatra made $125,000 and Elvis made $100,000, but as he starred for about twenty-six to thirty weeks-a-year at the Dunes, Rouvan's $25,000 a week totaled to more than the combined Las Vegas earnings of Sinatra and Elvis—who each only starred there for a few weeks a year.

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