The other week I met and had lunch with an author whose books I admire and am fascinated with. What are they about? Gangsters, gamblers, hoodlums and assorted crooked politicians. So what else is new? I don’t think that there has been another individual who has been able to cross the line, back and forth, in order too get the stories that to this day have eluded all of us, including the vaunted FBI.
The author’s name is Bill Friedman, who I met through Irwin Zucker, and the names of his books are: “All Against The Law” and the newly released, “30 Illegal Years To The Strip”. If you would like to acquire copies of these books, contact bill@BillFriedmanAuthor.com<mailto:bill@BillFriedmanAuthor.com.
We met at the Gold Town Casino in Pahrump, NV, which is roughly halfway between Vegas and the Amorgosa Valley, where he lives with his wife Glady and a host of farm animals. Not at all like your typical Vegas casino with all the glitz, the Gold Town Casino could have been a substitute for a movie set of a decrepit old west casino. Before I left on the hour or so drive from Vegas, my wife said to me, “Are you nuts? You sure you want to do this interview? This guy sounds like he’s connected up the wazoo. Maybe you should take your Beretta with you.”
I have to admit that in spite of the reputation of his subjects and subject matter, Bill Friedman is a nice guy, down to earth, unassuming and straight talking, or in Vegas parlance, a “stand up guy”. I don’t remember what Bill had for lunch when we met but I had potato skins with extra jalapeno peppers.
I started the interview with the following questions, “Tell me, what’s a nice Jewish guy like you doing in a place like Amorgosa Valley? You’re not in the Witness Protection Program, are you?” It turned out to be a good opener because it got him to chuckle, albeit ever so slightly.
We talked about everything, starting with his fascination with gambling, gamblers and the world of casinos from when he was but seven years of age. I know what you’re thinking. So what? Don’t some kids declare at that early age that they want to grow up to be a doctor, an actor, a policeman or policewoman or maybe even, God forbid, an attorney or a politician?
Before Bill began to write about Las Vegas with everything and everyone that led up to it, he put in his time as a Blackjack dealer and eventually managed casinos for Howard Hughes, who he readily admits that he never met. He has also taught and written about successful casino management. In short, he’s been there and done that.
The people that he interviewed and got to know over a lifetime of dedicated research staggers the imagination. Whatever these individuals confided to Bill about themselves and their business of gambling, or gaming if you will, and the casinos they ran, they never did with anyone else. Although these people have all died, Bill has been able to verify, once he knew where to look, all of the stories told to him by people with names such as ‘Jimmy Blue Eyes’ who was Meyer Lansky’s closest friend and lifelong partner in both legal and illegal casinos or ‘System Smitty’ who developed the technique of card counting fifteen years before Mathematics Professor Edward Thorp came out with his New York Times bestseller, “Beat The Dealer”, as well as the erstwhile super secretive executives of the Summa Corporation.
The third volume in the series, as yet un-named, will be out in about two and a half years. In it, Bill will reveal who killed Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel and more importantly, why. I think I smell a movie in the making and I can’t wait to get hold of a copy.