Wilcock, Joe M. Interview, 2014 April 17, 18, & 30. OH-02094. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
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i AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH WILCOCK An Oral History Conducted by Claytee D. White The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV – University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editors: Barbara Tabach, Melissa Robinson, Maggie Lopes, Stefani Evans Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers and Project Assistants: Barbara Tabach and Claytee D. White iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of Dr. Harold Boyer. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank the university for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project. Claytee D. White, Project Director Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada, Las Vegas iv PREFACE Chef and longtime gaming executive Joseph “Joe” Wilcock was born in Detroit and raised by his mother, Ruby, and stepfather, Ross Johnson, in Sarasota, Florida; Gary, Indiana; and Harlan, Kentucky. After he graduated from high school in Gary he moved to Chicago to attend Washburne Culinary Institute. While attending Washburne Joe worked at Chicago’s Drake Hotel and lived at the Sears YMCA. After earning his certificate from Washburne, Joe worked at the newly opened Holiday Inn in Chicago, the Sea View hotel in Bal Harbour, Florida, and a resort at Blowing Rock, North Carolina. At Blowing Rock he heard about the new School of Hotel Management at UNLV and in August 1969 23-year-old Joe headed for Las Vegas with $400 in his pocket. Las Vegas was a disappointment. Joe could not get a job as a chef without first joining Culinary Workers Union Local 226—which he could not afford to do. Also, because he ran a poker game and cooked at the Chuck Wagon Diner during high school his high school grade point average was roughly a C-, which hindered his admittance into the School of Hotel Management. Undaunted, Joe found a job bussing tables at the Frontier Hotel and joined the Culinary Union so he could work as a chef. He also took three classes at UNLV that semester, earned an A in each, v and was admitted to the School of Hotel Management. While at UNLV he affiliated with Sigma Chi fraternity. In his career Joe has worked in all facets of the gaming industry in such Las Vegas properties as the Flamingo Capri, the Frontier, Caesars Palace, the Tropicana, the Dunes, the Golden Nugget, the Mirage, Treasure Island, the Sands, MGM, and the Downtown Grand. He learned the business from the ground up. He also worked at Caesars Tahoe and at different times owned and operated a sandwich shop and a bar. Joe married his wife, Linda, 38 years ago in Las Vegas, in 1976. He is currently employed as a casino shift manager at the Downtown Grand hotel and is affiliated with the House Corporation of Sigma Chi Alumni, UNLV Rebel Golf, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, and Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada. vi TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Joseph Wilcock April 17, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Claytee D. White Preface…………………………………………………………………………………………..iv Discusses parents and early life in Detroit, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; and Harlan, Kentucky, before moving to Chicago, Illinois, to attend Washburne Culinary Institute. Recalls working in Bal Harbour, Florida, and coming to Las Vegas to attend the School of Hotel Management at UNLV. Explains how he ran a numbers game and sold parlay cards as a schoolboy in Gary and discusses the curriculum and graduation project at Washburne………………………………. 1-6 Recalls working at the Drake Hotel and living at the Sears YMCA in Chicago. Tells of roommates who were drafted and sent to Vietnam and of working at the Holiday Inn in Chicago after graduation……………………………………………………………………………….6-11 Revisits his winter employment at the Sea View hotel in Bal Harbour and at Blowing Rock, North Carolina, before coming to Las Vegas in August1969 and working at the Frontier Hotel while going to UNLV. Discusses why he chose not to join the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas and why he eventually had to...........................…………………………..11-15 Talks about working as a chef in the employee cafeteria at the Frontier and go to the Silver Slipper to bet on horses; discusses freestanding sportsbooks and how he had to raise his grades before getting into the School of Hotel Management……………………………………….16-20 Recalls working as a busboy and dishwasher in sixth grade; going to school and joining Sigma Chi fraternity at UNLV; leaving the Frontier for the Tropicana and leaving there to open his own catering business/sandwich shop....…………………………………………………………21-25 Discusses trying to sell his business, learning to deal cards, auditioning, and getting a job dealing at the Flamingo Capri………………………………………………………………………..26-31 Remembers leaving the Flamingo Capri to deal blackjack for Caesars Palace in 1978; discusses his first day on the job at Caesars on a reserve table…………………………………………32-35 Tells of switching to a three-dollar table and explains gaming terminology………………...36-41 Discusses dealing craps and the way dealers split tips; opines on Steve Wynn’s system of tip-sharing………………………………………………………………………………………..41-46 vii Explains more gaming terminology and the process of dealing and cheating the casino; recalls how Italians and Jews ran casinos and what people had to do to get gaming licenses………46-50 Speaks of how the Perlman brothers became owners of Caesars Palace after Jay Sarno and how the Perlmans sold out and Terry Lanni became the chief operating officer of Caesars; discusses the relationship between Caesars in Atlantic City and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and between operating a gaming company in New Jersey and Nevada……………………………………51-56 Discusses areas where casinos are vulnerable to cheating. Recalls starting Ceasars Tahoe with coworkers from Caesars Palace and breaking a blackjack cheating scam ……………….…57-61 Recalls how his boss Mike Velardo and Caesars Palace president Harry Wald did not get along; Velardo and a team left Caesars Palace to open Caesars Tahoe………………………….…61-65 Discusses how he joined the team in Tahoe in 1979 and his wife gave notice to leave her job in Las Vegas as Phyllis McGuire’s personal assistant in March 1980. ………………….…….66-70 Tells about how McGuire’s boyfriend made the move to Tahoe difficult; discusses Tahoe and work at Caesars Tahoe for four years, when Velardo and the team considered going to the Stardust to clean it up……………………………………………………………………..…71-75 Discusses the Chicago mob, reasons for not going to the Stardust, and return to Caesars Palace in 1984. Describes how a hot score scam works……………………………...…………..……76-80 Recalls surveillance system at Caesars Palace and breaking a hot score scam involving three employees, who lost their sheriff’s cards but were not prosecuted. Discusses importance of juice in the gaming industry……………………………………………………………..………..81-85 Explains why Caesars Tahoe was not profitable……………………………………..……..86-91 Discusses being part of Dennis Gomes’s Clark Management group that took over the Dunes hotel in 1988 and leaving for the Golden Nugget ……………………………………..……91-96 Describes working for Steve Wynn at the Golden Nugget and preparing to open the Mirage in 1989……………………………………………………………………………………..….96-101 Recalls opening day at the Mirage…………………………………………………….….102-106 Tells of the first few months at the Mirage………………………………………….…….107-113 Talks about leaving the Mirage to open Treasure Island…………………………….…....113-119 Explains owning his own bar and having knee surgery after leaving Treasure Island …...120-123 Talks about opening the Treasure Island and how Wynn hotels hired and promoted from within but instituted a minority recruitment and training program to diversify the workforce; discusses viii the program and why it ended. Recalls leaving Treasure Island to work at the new MGM and tells of MGM’s battle with the union……………………………………………………..123-128 Continues with opening a dealers’ room at the MGM and trying to convince leadership not to reduce worker benefits………………………………………………………………..…..129-133 Discusses history of Culinary Union, work rules, being let go from MGM and opening his own bar………………………………………………………………………………..………..133-138 Talks about leadership style in gaming and becoming Vice President of casino operations at the Downtown Grand hotel…………………………………………………………………..138-143 Discusses downtown renaissance; future of gaming in Las Vegas; and current Las Vegas gaming leaders…………………………………………………………………………………….144-155 ix 1 This is Claytee White. It is April 17th, 2014. I am in the Oral History Research Center in the library and today I'm with Mr. Joe Wilcock. Joe, would you pronounce your name and spell it correctly? Yes. It's Joe Wilcock, W-I-L-C-O-C-K, and first name is Joseph, J-O-S-E-P-H. Wonderful. So I'm going to call you Joe if that's okay? Yes, that's great. I just want to started today by talking about your early life. Tell me where you grew up and what that experience was like. My mother met my father during the war, during World War II. He was a sailor and she was working at a drugstore in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. And so they got married postwar after his discharge. They didn't get along so well, so they got divorced. My mother was a waitress and a hostess at the Howard Johnson's there in Detroit and she fell in love with the manager of the place—his name is Ross Johnson—after my mom and dad got divorced when I was four. So they were married for quite some time. He got transferred to Gary, Indiana. They were opening a new Howard Johnson's there and they asked him to go open that store. So they both went. And then I went to grade school. Took a year off and we went to Kentucky to live with my—my mother was from Harlan, Kentucky, which is a coal mining area. We went down and lived on the farm for a year down there. I went to a one-room schoolhouse down there, grades one through 12 in a one-room schoolhouse. It was pretty primitive. I remember as a kid the roads were so muddy that when it rained there they would just wash out, and so none of the kids could go to school. Why the detour from Indiana to Kentucky? Well, my mother moved down to Kentucky for about nine months when I was in first grade 2 because her mother lived in Harlan. But I mean they lived way back in the woods. They were moonshiners, actually. Then my mother decided she better come back to Detroit and she fell in love with Ross Johnson and then we moved to Gary, Indiana. I remember them opening the Howard Johnson's there. And then later on through my childhood my stepfather—he was a chef and manager. So we bought our own restaurant. I started getting interested in kind of being—I worked in the restaurant as a dishwasher and buttered toast in the morning before school and stuff. And then through high school, they were having their problems. So I was working in a restaurant at that time called the Chuck Wagon Diner. Anyway, my stepfather died when I was a junior in high school. So it was just me and my mother. We did not get along at all. My mother was an alcoholic, actually. And so anyway, when I got out of high school I moved to Chicago on my own. I was 17 at the time. I went to Washburne Culinary Institute there. Now it's a pretty famous school for culinary arts. There was a two-year program. And I worked at really nice clubs there, like the Drake Hotel and the Standard Club in Chicago, South Shore Country Club; places like that, very haute cuisine places. And then when I got out of Washburne, I started traveling seasons; worked down in Florida and we'd go to North Carolina in the summer and up in the mountains. I went one summer to Atlantic Beach outside of New York City; worked a summer up there. But I met this girl down in Florida when I was working at the—I always went to the same place in Florida. It was called the Sea View Hotel in Bal Harbour. All the cooks used to live above the limousine garage there. We all had private rooms and maid service, which was really nice. So when you're 19 and full of testosterone, it was a lot of fun. So she was telling me they were opening the School of Hotel Management out here at UNLV and her stepfather lived out 3 here. She goes, “You ought to think about coming out here.” By that time I was 22 and I thought, “Well, maybe I'll go to college.” So I came out here. When I was a kid I got started in gambling. I was running a poker game at home and then I was selling numbers to the Polish ladies. Gary is a gigantic Polish community and Czech. All the people who worked in the mills there were emigrants that had left Europe after the war because it was devastated. Many of them, frankly, couldn't speak English. And so after their husbands would go to the mill, I would go sell numbers. They played like a quarter a day. So explain what selling numbers is. Okay. Numbers is a game where you pick three numbers, from one to 999 in those days. So whatever the stock market would close at, actually the paper they published the exact number of shares traded, not like they do today where they round. And they would pay 600 to one; if you hit the number, they would pay 600 to one. But if you think about it mathematically, you've got 999 numbers to choose from and you're only getting paid 600 to one. But the Polish ladies played it every morning. That was one thing I did. Then I sold parlay cards, too, during football season and baseball season. So before you leave the numbers, who were you working for to do something like that as a teenager? Well, you're working basically for organized crime. But I mean, I was a small fish. I understand. But how were you approached to even do something like this? Actually, my buddy, who was the local newspaper boy, he said that they had approached him about it, because he had a newspaper route. But I knew everybody in our neighborhood, of course. So he said, “You'd probably be interested in doing this because you like getting up early 4 in the morning; I don't like getting up early in the morning.” Actually, the Gary Post Tribune was an afternoon newspaper. And so they delivered newspapers in the afternoons, so he didn't like getting up. His name was Stanley. Everybody called him Stosh. Anyway, he's Polish. So I started selling. And then I would drop my money off at a place, a pizza place called Pete and Snook's. It was on Broadway in Gary, Indiana. Then they got me involved in selling parlay cards, which are sports bets, and they're parlay cards just like you see today in any sports book. They would give me 10 percent right off the top. So whatever I sold— To whom? The public, anybody. We were selling them to high school kids. I was selling them at school all day. Probably accounted for my poor grade point average. [Laughing] So when it comes time for me to graduate, my mother's organizing this whole graduation party and I was a quarter of a credit short to graduate and I hadn't told her yet, right? Well, when I had to tell her, of course, she's getting ready to send out invitations that I'm going to graduate from high school. So that didn't go well. And that was just a culmination of a lot of problems with my mother. Did they allow you to march? Yeah, they let me walk with an asterisk by my name. Of course, totally embarrassing to my family. So they let me walk. How I graduated was I took a class in driver's ed. [education]. It was worth a quarter of a credit. So I already had a driver's license. So I would drive up to school, get out of my car, go to the hour and a half driver's ed class—for the whole summer. I had to go the whole damn summer in boiling heat. In Gary nobody had air-conditioning in those days. I finally graduated and I left home the day I graduated from high school. I didn't go home 5 all the time I was at Washburne, which is almost two years. So now, the first place you moved after leaving home was Chicago? Yes, from Gary. Tell me about the course of study of Washburne. Well, Washburne was a very regimented school. In order to get in there you had to have a member of the Chef de Cuisine in Chicago write you a recommendation letter. Well, my father died when I was a junior in high school, but his best friend was a guy named John Blaze, who is a chef at the Gary Country Club, and John was a member, too. Actually, he wrote his son [a letter]—John's son went to Washburne with us—and he wrote me a letter. There were only 60 students at Washburne and it was free in those days. Now it's almost, oh, probably a twenty-thousand-dollar a year curriculum. What do you mean free? It was free. It was operated by the Chicago public schools. But Washburne was a gigantic building of trades. It was a trade school; the whole place was a trade school. There were literally—they had every trade you could think of—carpentry, plumbing, all kinds of stuff. But the culinary part was just a tiny, little piece of it. There were only 60 students in the school. Well, you spent the first month there hand copying the Escoffier Cookbook before they would even allow you to go out in the kitchen. There were four chefs there. There was August Forrester, Bob Dimoff, who taught saucier, and Wally Leven, who taught garde manger, and a world famous pastry chef named John Zenker, who taught six months in the pastry shop. So before they would even let you go out in the kitchen, you had to wash pots for a month and you had to hand copy the Escoffier Cookbook, which I still have this. Oh, the Escoffier Cookbook is over 600 pages. We had to hand copy it. So anyway, you spend six months in the garde manger 6 first and then you went nine months to the saucier and then six months in the pastry shop. But this was really haute cuisine. We did ice carving. Your project like in the pastry shop was to decorate this dummy 14-foot wedding cake that they had. You chip this royal icing off of it. Anyway, so I was really involved in some really nice restaurants there in Chicago, and I worked at the Cape Cod Room at the Drake. So that was pretty special. So tell me about that time in your life. You're working at the Drake. What was that like for a young man that age? Oh, my god. It was sensational. If you were working at the Drake, you were working at the best hotel in Chicago. It was right on North Avenue. We had all the great clients. Washburne students were spread out amongst every good restaurant in Chicago whether it be Maxine's or the Standard Club or the South Shore Country Club, and there were some gifted, gifted kids. We had one guy there...I'll never forget this guy. His name was Jerry Woseki. He was a gifted pastry shop guy. He just had it. There's guys that are naturals at it. I had to work at pastry, but he was a natural at it. They made him the pastry chef when he was 22 at the South Shore Country Club, which is the best club in Chicago. It's still there. And then he got drafted. See, the good news was we all graduated; the bad news was the Vietnam War was raging. You had a 2-S [student] deferment when you went to Washburne, but everybody got a [draft] notice within two weeks of their graduation. So give me some time frame. So I graduated from high school in 1964, which was actually my on-time year except I had to go the summer. And then at Washburne it was unique. You started when you wanted to and you finished two years later. In order for you to graduate, you had to cook for everybody in school. See, the curriculum ran like this. They would meet in the morning. All the students would walk 7 into the dining room and they would describe how they were going to make—they assigned two students to each item on the menu. The menu was posted the day before. And then you had to stand up and describe, in front of the panel of chefs, how you were going to make whatever it was, soup, appetizer, whatever it was. Did you know in advance what you were going to make that day? Oh, yeah, sure. And you had to nail it in front of everybody. Then you would go out in the kitchen and prepare it. Then we'd all eat lunch together. It was all gourmet lunches. Every day you're eating gourmet lunch. Then in the afternoon they would do lecture and buying and the actual administrative part of being a chef. But to this day Washburne guys are spread all over the city and they're gifted kids. So what about the country, do you find Washburne people all over the country? Yes. Now? Yeah, it's known pretty nationwide. If you looked it up on the Internet—gosh, I think Washburne's been around for, what, 50, 60 years now, yeah. And so when we would graduate—you started when you wanted to. Now see, I started in December—no, I'm sorry—September of 1964. It was an eleven-month school and there were no holidays; we went to school on Christmas Day. Oh, this was a grind. And then you had to work at a job that they put you at. And they had connections with all the members of the Chef de Cuisine in Chicago. When did you have the opportunity to work? Oh, at night. You had to work at night. So we'd go to school from seven to three. We'd race over to the loop. I mean that was like a train wreck every day, in rush hour traffic. We would 8 start our job at four and we'd get off at one o'clock. In those days you worked six days a week, so you only had one day a week off. It was brutal. It was a brutal schedule. But we were all young kids, too. So where did you live? Well, we lived all over the city. When we first went up there, we lived at the Sears [Roebuck] Y [YMCA] for eleven bucks a week. The only reason we did was because it was straight down Kedzie Avenue. You could get on the bus and go there. We didn't have a car. Then as we kind of acclimated to the city—Sears Y was in a real dangerous spot of town. It was in the west side of town. It was on Kedzie and the Eisenhower Expressway, scary. Couldn't go outside. No, couldn't go outside, at all. And so then we kind of moved into some safer neighborhoods. We started living over on the north side. We lived everywhere. We lived in Cicero and in Lincolnwood and everywhere. So that friend of your father who lived in Chicago, had you stayed in touch with him all these years? I have. I mean prior to going to Chicago. Oh, yes. His son and I went to high school together, yeah, John Blaze. He was a great chef. He was really a sweet guy. His actual name was John Blazovich. But many of the people in Gary had dropped their actual names and stuff. But he was a great guy. He was the chef at McCormick Place there. He was the executive chef there. And so he asked me to come to work for him. He was working for Saga Foods, and the guy who owned Saga Foods absolutely loved John. I remember he catered the biggest party in the world. I think it was like 22,000 guests at McCormick Place. Oh, it was huge. So I would go over and help him do parties, but I was 9 working in regular restaurants, usually like at the Drake. And then I opened...Holiday Inn was building its first high-rise and it was on Ohio and Lake Shore Drive and it was a revolving restaurant. It's still there. It doesn't move anymore; it doesn't revolve anymore. But at the time it was a brand-new restaurant and they were experimenting with all kinds of stuff. I was the sous chef, actually, when I left there. And then after I graduated, I didn't get drafted, but all my roommates did—Barry and Ronnie. In fact, my old roommate from culinary school came out here last year. He looks exactly the same as he did. I swear to God. It's like, man, what happened to you? It was wonderful because Ronnie was always a cheapskate. He was a complete cheapskate. Well, he got hit in Vietnam. He was an APC [armored personnel carrier] driver. All the rest of these guys, they never even went to AIT school, advanced individual training, because people would read their background, like they're working at the Drake or they're working at...and these generals would grab them to be their personal cooks or to be the cooks at the Officers' Club. So they never went to AIT; they all got promoted to sergeants and, bang, they were cooking for the base general. Except for Ronnie. Ronnie got nailed. He went to Fort Polk, Louisiana, and they put him in an APC and he was driving and he got hit and it was pretty bad. He spent about six months at Fort Carson, Colorado, and they reconstructed his face. And he got interested in dentistry while he was there because he became an assistant there. Then when he got back home—he was from Hammond, Indiana—when he got back home he decided he was going to go to dental school and he didn't. He married this wonderful girl, who he's still married to, and they had several kids and he couldn't do that. So he got a loan somehow through the GI Bill and he started buying Subway sandwich shops and he ended up with four of them. Then his feet got so bad he couldn't work them anymore. Then one of his stores got robbed and the girl got murdered 10 and they never did find the killer and it just broke his heart. I mean he could never face—he couldn't walk in the store anymore. So he sold them and he became a financial planner. But he was a notorious cheapskate. So I'm on the classmates’ [website] thing and I'm always looking for him and I can't find him. So they had a special, like for one month search for anybody. And then if you find the person you wanted to find—and he's been looking for me all this time. And it was just wonderful. So every year I go back to Chicago to see the Cubs play. Like four years ago he contacts me, “Hey, I got a freebie and I've been looking for you for years, blah, blah, blah.” I mean he's really wealthy. He's got this beautiful home in Joliet. It's gorgeous. I said, “Man, what happened to you? Did you rob banks after Vietnam or what?” But he became a very successful financial planner. He sold his practice. He's retired now and he goes hunting and fishing. He always loved hunting and fish. He's a great guy. Wonderful. I'll never forget his mother—it chokes me up thinking about it. They lived in the projects in Hammond, Indiana. They were Polish. And so their father left them when they were like six or something. They had two daughters and Ronnie. I remember, I'll never forget, they would buy milk and they would put it in two jars and then fill the balance up with water. That's how poor these guys were. So Ronnie took care of his mom; bought her a house. It was a happy ending. But, man, I'm telling you, they struggled. So I want you to go back to Chicago and tell me— Right. We're living at the Sears Y. How long were you in Chicago after you finished? Two years. I finished in '66. See, the bad part of Washburne was this. You started when you 11 wanted, but you finished exactly two years later. The test was this. You had to come in—what we used to do is one person would take their pastry test and the other person would take the kitchen test and then you'd reverse the next day. If you messed up, if you made a mistake, you flunked. And if you flunked you had to stay another 30 days and you had to pay to take another test. If you flunked the second one, you're just out. Man, it was pressure, I'm telling you. You're working your butt off. All we did all day was cook. If you're cooking at school and you're cooking at your job, all day, sixteen hours a day, you get pretty good. So I passed my test on the first try. They would flunk probably 25 percent of the students. They'd just kick you out. These guys were all German-Swiss guys and Italian-Swiss guys. They were tough birds. They'd come up and they'd kick you all the time. You couldn't chew gum. They'd kick you out of school for the day. You've got to come back and beg to get back in. Or they'd put you on pots for a month or stuff like that. What does that mean, put you on pots? Well, you had to wash pots. If you've ever been around a kitchen with a bunch of culinary students, I mean they burn shit all the time. It's terrible. So it was a punishment and it was a tough school. But when you walked out of there, you were a cook. You could cook. And so I went down to Florida after graduation. So did you have friends working in Florida at the time? I didn't. I did it cold turkey because this friend of mine said, “You ought to think about traveling seasons because you're really quick to pick stuff up.” And so I wrote the guy. I was working at the Holiday Inn in Chicago, which was the biggest unit they had at that time. We had eight hundred rooms. That's a big hotel. It was 33 stories. This friend of mine Clarence, he says to me, “Why don't you write down to this guy? I know this chef down in Florida.” 12 So I write him and he writes me back. He says, “Well, you're too good for me, but I referred you to a guy named Frank Betencourt, who runs the Sea View [hotel] in Bal Harbour,” which is a very elegant American Plan hotel. It was owned by 33 families. We lived over the limousine garage. It was snooty. I remember one of the owners was Hubert Humphrey and he had just lost the  presidential election, just the sweetest guy you ever met in your life, honest to God. He was a prince. But wherever he would go, he would attract a crowd. So he'd go out to the snack bar by the pool in the afternoon—they had this one Cuban cook out there—and now 200 people pile into a 12-seat diner. So now I had to get up—they had some special rules there where if you lived in the hotel, you had to do night duty. So the kitchen would close like at nine o'clock at night. You were there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But if you had night duty, like if somebody wanted a snack or something, you had to get up and make it. You had to be on call in the kitchen. So I'd just go over there and sit. I was smoking in those days. I would smoke and drink coffee. Well, Hubert Humphrey loved popcorn. But you've got to pop it in front of a Secret Service agent. The week before he arrives down there, they cleaned the whole dish washing crew out. They were all illegal immigrants. They're all Cubans. So I got friendly with the Secret Service agent. So I'm asking him, I said, “Do you do a background check on everybody?” And he goes, “Oh, absolutely.” He goes, “I know everything there is to know about you.” I go, “Are you kidding me?” He goes, “No.” He goes, “I know about your mom, your dad, I know about everything.” And then he would eat the popcorn before we would send it up to the room. And Mr. Humphrey would come down, “Hey, thanks a lot,” and stuff. He was a sweetheart, really a good dude. The guys who owned Johnson and Johnson, they were owners, as well. 13 The television company? No, the medicine company. Oh, the pharmaceuticals, right. Yeah, the pharmaceutical company. So they were part owners, too. So I would spend the winters at the Sea View in Florida. Then I went up one summer to the Atlantic Beach Club in Long Island and then I came out here. Then Frank asked me to come—I didn't go to the Sea View that winter and then Frank asked me to come— Frank? Betencourt. He was the executive chef at the Sea View in Florida. He asked me to come work for him in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It's way up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a million miles from anywhere. They got one stoplight in the whole town. Just a wonderful summer. I was chasing co-eds from Chapel Hill. There was all these girls from—we had private rooms there, too, so that was kind of sweet. We just partied, drank beer and acted like a bunch of wild Indians, basically. Then I came back here. I was working at the Frontier Hotel. Wait, wait, wait. You came back here? Yeah, I came out here August 27th of 1969, and I got a job at the Frontier Hotel. Actually, I got a job—I couldn't figure out the union [Culinary Workers Union Local 226] thing here. The union was very powerful here, as it is today, and I couldn't figure out how to get a job. And so w