“We can’t all be stars because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as I go by.”
What follows, unfortunately, is true. It was 1973 and I was 24 years old. At the time I was working at the Sahara Tahoe Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. I had just finished my shift on the casino floor and was still in my frilled shirt, dark dress slacks, and patent leather shoes. I decided to have dinner at one of the casino’s many restaurants, and I was seated in a corner booth whereupon I ordered dinner and a drink. My dinner arrived and I began to eat, and after a few minutes I casually looked up to survey the room. I noticed a table of folks looking my way, and smiling politely I returned to my food. A while later I took a long pull on my drink, and looking across the room I was surprised to now see several tables of people looking directly at me, and they couldn’t hide their excitement. It dawned on me that they must think me someone else – a performer or celebrity perhaps. The Sahara Tahoe was a venue for many top showbiz acts, among them Elvis, Tom Jones, and others. I discreetly looked down to ensure that I hadn’t dribbled anything down the front of my shirt, and then very carefully resumed eating.
I was suddenly very conscious of being watched, and didn’t want to miss my mouth with my fork and push green Jello up my nose. Reaching for a table knife I turned it on edge hoping to catch my reflection and see if my hair was right. As I took another sip of my drink my eyes flicked over the rim of the glass toward the room. Bedlam! Not only was the entire room now looking toward me, but people were actually pointing and breathlessly talking amongst themselves!I felt my face flush and my heart begin to pound. My mind raced and I lost myself in the enormity of the moment. So this is what it’s like to be a star! I wondered who they thought I was, not that it mattered. I was somebody!
An attractive lady held my eyes from across the room and I smiled back at her smugly. It was clear that she wanted me. I ordered another drink and with some flair tipped the cocktail waitress a $5 bill, which I couldn’t afford. She smiled down at me sweetly and I saw the desire burning in her eyes. I scribbled my number down on a cocktail napkin and tossed it on her tray, and giving me a strange look she walked away. As the chatter in the room began to build, I basked in the glory of it all, not wanting the moment to end.
My waiter came by and asked if there would be anything else. Catching his name off the nametag I replied, “No, Jimmy, I think that will do it – good to see you,” like I’d known him all my life. Finishing the second drink I rose, stretching my 5’9” frame as tall as it would go. I looked out over the sea of faces and, feeling their eyes on me, very deliberately took one last pull from my already-empty drink. I wondered if perhaps I should hum a few bars from My Way to leave my fans with something, but thought better of it and set my glass down on the table to leave – and then something caught my eye. I turned to look, and in the next instant dreams were dashed and what had been magical became the mundane. There, a few feet directly above where I had been dining, was a conspicuously garish, wall-mounted electronic Bingo Board displaying the winning numbers for “Game 26” for all who would care to see. I felt the air seep out of me like a spent balloon, and looking straight ahead I walked quickly out of the casino and into the night air – without even stopping to sign autographs . . .