Friday, November 28, 2008

A Hollywood Star Was Once A Professional Casino Cheat!

Believe it or not, one of the ancestral members of the casino cheat team I was a member of, the Classon Pastposting Team, actually went on to become a major motion picture star in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Also believe it or not, she was discovered by a Hollywood producer while performing her “role” in a Classon pastposting roulette move at the old and famed Stardust Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Although I can not divulge her identity because she is still alive and would undoubtedly sue me for doing so, I promise that if she dies before me, which hopefully is likely, I will identify her at that time. In any event, here is an excerpt from my memoir American Roulette that shows “Ruthie” in action. Maybe after reading it you can guess who she is?

Excerpt from American Roulette:

Joe Classon found a dancer working the Lido show at the Stardust for whom he flipped. Her name was Ruthie and she was from Wisconsin. After accompanying the Classons on a Caribbean road trip that mixed pleasure with business, Ruthie accepted Joe's hand in marriage. They got married in one of the little wedding chapels downtown.
It wasn't long before Ruthie was "dancing" around Vegas’s roulette tables. An energetic sexy redhead, she found the Classon number on the roulette wheels as entertaining as any show she’d ever done on or backstage. She quickly took over Joe's role as roulette “claimer,” claiming pastposted winning bets on the tables. Joe became the check-bettor and his brother Henry continued popping in the moves. The new three-man (two-man-one-woman) operation was even more effective. With this diversification of roles, Henry was able to leave the table after he did the move, then circle around the pit and serve as team security. He observed Ruthie claiming from afar. From a distance he could better protect her. He could see the steam when it developed behind her.
When Caesars Palace opened in 1966, they did their first black-chip roulette move in the new heralded casino. And as Henry had by then mastered the straight-up move underneath the marker, they went right for the $3,500 payoff. They added a little twist. Knowing that the $3,500 was a big number, they decided to strengthen their chances of success with the implementation of a set-up. With Henry and Joe in position at the table—Henry already having swiped three of Joe's roulette chips under which he would slip in the black—the sexily clad Ruthie, in her cocktail dress bought in the Caesars dress shop, sauntered up to the table and bet a black chip straight up on number 28. Leaving the table, she had to take a tour of practically the whole casino to escape the line of sight between her and the gawking floorman and pit boss, who had zoomed through the pit to the roulette wheel at her arrival. The next time they saw the curvaceous woman, she was claiming the hundred-dollar bet she had just won on number 34. They couldn't pay her fast enough.
The advent of the sexy woman claimer was fabulous. It added a whole new dimension to the operation. Not only were you armed with a highly efficient portfolio of flexible casino moves, you now had an adaptable psychological weapon. Up against a beautiful woman claiming a bet, the casino bosses had no chance. In the heat of battle, Ruthie flirted to no end with the floormen and pit bosses as she sizzled up and down pits. She played their ids, their egos—in some cases even their cocks. When in the middle of a claim, she always gave the floorman and pit boss the impression she was available. When they asked the obvious questions: "Where's the good gentleman tonight?" or "Does your husband always let you bet that much at roulette?"—Ruthie had the answers that charmed them, titillated them. She would say, "When I find that gentleman, I'll let you know." And then, "Now you know why I'm not married." It was not beyond Ruthie to go right into a pit while her bet was still unpaid and rub up against the ranking pit boss whose decision it was to pay her or not. Even Joe could not be sure what she was whispering into that pit boss's ear. And while doing all that, the pit bosses knew she wasn't a whore. Even Las Vegas's finest did not bet black chips at roulette alone.
Ruthie was the ultimate performer. She had always wanted to be an actress. Before coming to Vegas to dance, she had tried a stint in Hollywood but couldn't land anything besides a few minor roles in sitcoms. Claiming in the Classon "road show" was ideally suited for her. She really took to it. And at craps she was a tigress. Male dealers being attacked by this fiery feline claimer on the felt dropped their chips in surrender. Once she was challenged by a boxman suspecting her of switching in a craps move herself and hiding the chips switched out in her handbag. Ruthie promptly turned her handbag upside down and let its contents spill out on the layout, stunning both the boxman and the dealer—as well as Joe and Henry. Just after the last vial of lipstick rolled toward the boxman, Ruthie asked him provocatively, "Is there anywhere else you'd like to look?"
Now that the Classons had Ruthie, they were able to work the casinos in Vegas without showing their faces. Henry and Joe took much less exposure because neither one claimed anymore. On the tables they began disguising themselves, without being obvious. Henry dyed his hair gray to appear older. Joe opted for the military crewcut he'd had in Korea. He also had himself fitted for zeros at a trendy optometrist's office. Together they now appeared like an experienced businessman and a young airline pilot. The effect of that makeover was that much of that dense steam in Vegas began to dissipate. And with that, the team went on a relentless attack against the casinos.
On New Year's Eve, 1968, Henry and Joe Classon, in full disguise, were sitting at a roulette table in the Stardust Casino. Unbeknownst to them, and also to Ruthie, who had just walked away from a gallery of staring eyes after losing her hundred-dollar set-up bet, a powerful Hollywood producer was sitting next to Henry at the bottom of the layout. When their number came in, Henry switched the chips and Ruthie returned to claim the $3,500. The Stardust was not Caesars and the bosses there had a little tougher time coughing up the prize. When Ruthie realized she was going to have to work for the payoff, she was equal to the task. She spun into a Marilyn Monroe number, swirled her dress as she danced into the pit, smooched up to the pit boss and must have had that mesmerized producer thinking that the name of that famous film should have been Gentlemen prefer redheads. Not only did she get paid the $3,500, she got the producer's business card before leaving the table. He had furtively slipped it into her hand, whispering that she should call him Monday morning at his Hollywood office.
Ruthie never claimed another bet in a casino. She called the producer Monday morning, was in Beverly Hills having lunch with him at one o'clock in the afternoon. It turned out that the producer had witnessed their entire New Year's Eve act at the Stardust. He saw Henry put the move in underneath the marker. Being an inveterate gambler, the producer understood everything. He even told Ruthie that he knew Joe was in on the caper because the move had gone in under his chips. He also told Ruthie that her playacting was the best he had ever seen. Where had she been all these years? When Ruthie told him she had spent nearly three years in Tinseltown and couldn't amass anything better than bit parts, he was pressed hard to believe her. Nevertheless, three weeks later, Ruthie started shooting her first role in a major film. Her marriage to Joe she had quickly annulled. Though she never married the already married producer, she did have a long affair with him, and during the 1970s and 1980s she became a considerable movie star, of course under a different name.
When Joe first heard about the producer it was by telephone from Hollywood that Monday afternoon. Ruthie was calling to tell him she wouldn't be home for the barbecue by the pool. Joe's first comment, in light of the producer's powers of observation, was that maybe he wanted to join the pastposting team. Or at least make a movie about what he'd seen!