He was about 60, a used-up and burnt-out alcoholic grill cook. He was fat, balding, and bitter. He had started cooking in his mom’s kitchen and never rose past the position of grill cook for a major breakfast chain. Thirty years of cooking and absolutely nothing to show for it. His pockets were usually empty, except when they were overfilled with casino chips and wadded-up c-notes. No girlfriend, no savings account, still bouncing checks all over town, and living with his mother.
Now at that time in history, it was freakin’ weird to do this. My mother passed away early, at 53, and as I got older, what I wouldn’t give to hug her once more. Today, it’s very common to see adults living with their parents. By all barometers Geno was a big fat failure with no future and no prospects.
But my boy Geno was The Wizard.
Why? You’ll love this.
Outside of myself, he had the biggest load of bullshit ever accumulated. Here’s a small example.
As the 70’s came to a close, I was working part-time at a franchised 24-hr breakfast restaurant just across from the Showboat Hotel and Casino. This is where I met Geno. He worked the same 2-10 shift as I did. I was attending UNLV with a chance to walk on to the soccer team.
We talked a lot and you could tell he really knew a lot about cooking and life. I mined his mind for both.
So it is Friday night and we were picking up our paychecks. I suggested we go to a local strip club and have a few beers. Right. Payday. Single. Friday night. Las Vegas.
We enter the dark club just as the first act of the night shift (like everything else in Vegas this place was 24/7) started. Now this was a small, but successful strip club located at the juncture where Fremont Street ended and started heading to Henderson. The girls who danced there were not Las Vegas Showgirls. They were Las Vegas strippers. Big difference. The 75 grand in income and at least that much in plastic surgery extended many Showgirls’ careers, but alas, some ended up their careers as Las Vegas strippers anyway.
As the next act brings us our shots and beers, Geno tells me his plan. He handed me a small writing pad and a pen. He said “when I tell you, start writing on the pad. It doesn’t matter what you are writing, just do it.” Geno got up from the table walked up to the bouncer, and then he approached our waitress. He chatted and returned to our table.
He explained “Works every time. I just let it slip to the bouncer and bartender that we were from a major casino and were looking for casting calls for local dancers for a new musical.”
For the rest of the night, every dancer gave us the shows of their lives, each trying to outdo the others as Geno and I scribbled away. The manager would not let us insult him by paying for our own drinks. There were probably a hundred of these small strip clubs in the city limits.
Told you Geno was a Wizard.
Here is a song I wrote in 1991. It is titled Love Me or Leave Me Alone. Hope you like it.