My best friend, Mike Ponzo, was manager of my restaurant (Closed twenty years now) in Boston for perhaps fifteen years.
During that time, we were also partners in a host of small enterprises, the first, longest-lived, and the most profitable, was sports betting.
In the mid-seventies, Dom’s was one of the premier United States’ destinations of native and touring rock bands, attracting them with personal connections, great food, high prices, a prized wine list, hours that suited their late night performances, and personal services.
The musical stars felt so comfortable in the restaurant that it was a hangout for them in both the quiet time before the show and certainly after their performances.
In casual conversations they’d ask me, as a youngster might a father, if I had a couple of thousand in cash.
As easy as the ask, I counted it out and handed it over.
Often enough, several of the group might ask for cash, sometimes totaling near five figures.
I had their credit cards in my possession so payback plus the bank charges was an immediate event.
One night, one of our famous guests asked if we knew where they could place a sports bet.
A couple of phone calls later we had placed the bet for the kid.
And they were all kids, 19-22 years old.
Rich as Croesus, many of them.
Profligate, many of them.
He lost that, and I took the $5,000 lost plus bank charges from his credit card.
He didn’t blink.
After that, a majority of the visiting rock groups asked to place bets.
It wasn’t long before I said to Mike, "Are we nuts? We’re giving away a small fortune.”
Mike called a third fellow, a good friend who partnered with Mike in a weekend card game they sponsored, and who was loosely connected to the local Mafia as a sports-bet bookmaker.
When the restaurant was closing down for the night, the three of us went out to the Pioneer Club, an after-hours-bar in the South End, run by a good friend of mine, Big Daddy, who made his money running a stable of high-class white women.
Over whiskies and their famous Caribbean fried chicken, we discussed the details of running the sports bet, the most important aspect being collecting the losses. None of us were or wanted to be enforcers.
But to that issue we had a certainty of collection, credit cards in hand backed by America’s biggest record companies.
He agreed to join with Mike and I handling bets from Dom’s rock star patrons.
Next day, our new partner sought and received permission from the ‘boys’ to directly call our bets into the office without an established bookie go-between.
Approval was pretty much a given since we were all lifetime North End residents, known to the office, and both Mike and the other guy had longtime gambling connections with the ‘boys’ ever since they were grade-school sellers of football cards. The local bookies didn’t care for the competition but since our business was limited to a clientele they would never reach they had no gripe.
We ran this lucrative operation for a long time with no friction and no duplication of effort.
I gathered the bets and handed them to Mike who then dealt with number three who dealt with the office.
Our take was 25% of the bettors’ losses.
Marking the withdrawals as dinners, I withdrew the cash from the losing credit cards and handed the cash to Mike.
#3 delivered the payoff from the office to Mike, or Mike handed the cash our bettors lost to #3.
Mike distributed our winnings as we needed them, usually not until the end of the season.
Of course, no office passed on all of its action. Every week we had thousands of dollars bet on opposite sides of the same game. These bets we kept in house and when the game was over, we used the losing bettor’s money to pay the winners, and we kept the full vig.
(Vigorish, or simply the vig, also known as juice, under-juice, the cut of the take, is the amount charged by a bookmaker, or bookie, for taking a bet from a gambler.)
We had a favorable vig from the office, 10% instead of a common 20% so our bettors got a good break.
We earned that lower vig because of the size of our average bets, likely the biggest average bet in the state, and we, amateurs, small-time, perhaps sporting the smallest client list.
(One benefaction of our enterprise was to please my wife, Toni-Lee, who wanted to open a small restaurant on Cape Cod.
We used part of our winnings to lease a space, set it up as a restaurant, and put her in business.
Her restaurant was brilliant.)
The sports bet added another layer of excitement to the fun of hosting people from the entertainment world in general, and the rock world in particular.
Oh, yes. they did eat at the restaurant as well.
Monday, January 21, 2019
My 284th consecutive posting, committed to 5,000.
Time is 12.01am.
On Monday, Boston’s temperature will reach a high of 9* and a feels-like temperature of -9*.
We’re noticing that the cold but predictable weather patterns that we enjoyed in December and early January are gone, replaced by the more predictable unpredictable winter weather.
But permit me to remind you that according to the Blog’s Winter Calendar, Jan2 to Feb13, we have only 26 days remaining to our winter.
We can get through this short period.
Dinner is leftover goose.
Question of the Day:
What are the Neapolitan Novels?
Love your notes.
Contact me at email@example.com
From David, on the post dealing with washing the common stairs in a tenement. Not only did my mother wash our flight, she washed the flight of the elderly woman who lived above us.
I remember your mother telling us that.
She also told us that when she was a child, she would wait for the produce/fruit cart with the horse to come by.
She would run out to the street to scoop up the poop from the horse to use as manure.
Web Meister Responds: I remember that. My grandfather bought a slip of farm in Revere, Ma and spent the summer going back and forth, tending a prolific garden, applying whatever fresh manure they collected the day prior.
Answer to Question of the Day:
What are the Neapolitan Novels?
The Story of a New Name (2013)
No longer feeling anything for Stefano, Lila is cold to him during their marriage.
Stefano rapes her on their honeymoon, causing a further rift.
The Solaras gradually take over the increasingly lucrative shoe project and Lila, despite rebelling, is forced to help them with the shoe shop.
As Lila in different ways continues to rebel, both her family and her in-laws worry about her not having become pregnant yet.
Her doctor blames it on stress and prescribes a vacation.
Lila, desperate to not be alone with her mother and sister-in-law, talks Elena into coming with her.
Elena, who is meanwhile still doing very well in school and has fallen in love with a haughty older boy called Nino Sarratore, agrees on the condition that they go to a particular beach resort, knowing Nino will be there.
Elena is naively unaware of Nino's lack of interest in her and jealousy of her writing talent.
Soon Elena and Lila are increasingly spending their days with Nino.
Surprisingly, it is Lila and Nino who fall in love with each other and begin an affair, even using Elena as their common confidante.
Feeling dejected, Elena gives in to the advances of Donato Sarratore, Nino's father, who takes her virginity.
As the vacation comes to an end, Lila finally becomes pregnant and she and Nino plan to live together. However, their affair is brief, as Nino comes to resent Lila's intellect and abruptly leaves her.
Lila eventually returns to her husband Stefano.
After giving birth to a son, she becomes obsessed with the idea that early childhood education is the most important and tries her best to teach her son to read and write.
After discovering that Stefano is having an affair with Ada Capuccio, Lila finally decides to leave him for good.
She escapes to a smaller, more run-down neighborhood with Enzo, a childhood friend who is in love with her and has promised to protect her.
Elena graduates from high school with no concrete plans.
After hearing about a free university in Pisa, she passes their exams and is able to get a university education.
Elena has a difficult time there, because of her obvious poverty and the fact that she is sexually active.
Eventually, she meets Pietro Airota, who is an awkward, dry, but kind and proper intellectual from an important family.
The two become friends and upon graduation, he proposes to Elena, who accepts.
Before graduation, Elena writes a small story based on her life which contains a fictionalized account of the night she lost her virginity to Donato Sarratore, Nino's father.
Elena gives it to Pietro as a present.
He, in turn, gives it to his mother, Adele, who passes it along to a publishing house, which immediately accepts it.
The book leads to financial success and critical acclaim for Elena.
To her disappointment, no one from the neighborhood mentions the book except to comment on the sexual passages, and not even Lila shows any interest in it.
__________________________________Good morning on this Monday, January 21.
We talked about the entertainment value of sports betting and setting up a sports book.
In our time and weather section my friend, Tick-Tock, alerted us to a new calendar segment to be introduced on Tuesday.
David Mediano took us a couple of steps down memory lane.
We discussed the second of the four books of the Neapolitan Novels.
Time to go.
Che vuoi? Le pocketbook?
See you soon.