JOHNNY ROSELLI, SLOT MACHINES, AND THE FBI





the Wanderling


"The slot machines that were in a secret hidden room at my stepmother's ranch had been in storage in a lumber yard in Big Bear City, California, after having been removed from an upstairs room in the Sportsman's Tavern. My stepmother's ranch foreman Leo and another man, with me tagging along, took a big old truck, actually an old canvas covered four wheel drive World War II army truck, up the back road into Big Bear and with the help of a couple of other men already there, loaded the machines into the back of the truck."(source)


In April 1961, under invite of a really good friend of mine in those days, master Ferrari and Maserati mechanic Joe Landaker, I had gone to Las Vegas for the SCCA road races at McCarran Field staying in comped rooms at the Freemont Hotel. During that same period in Las Vegas there was an individual of major influence by the name of Johnny Roselli, dapper, silver-haired and carrying all the outward appearance of a gentleman, that had gone out of his way to help my ex-stepmother, who he knew, after she found herself experiencing some hard times.

While there that weekend I decided to send him a thank you note to express my appreciation and gratitude for his efforts. Without really thinking about it I used Fremont Hotel stationary. From that he was able to track me down and make contact because that evening Landaker and I were sitting in one of those infamous all you can eat, cheap (in those days) buffets having dinner when a man stepped up and told me Roselli wanted to see me. We had a cordial meeting, I thanked him for the help he afforded my stepmother, and we parted ways.

About two months after that meeting in April 1961 there was another meeting --- actually a series of several meetings that sort of added up to one meeting because they were all connected and interrelated into a single issue --- slot machines.

Within a couple weeks or so of that race weekend I just happened to catch up with my Stepmother and during general conversation I brought up the fact that I had seen Roselli, telling her one of his henchmen caught up with me at an establishment my stepmother and I had history with outside of Las Vegas called the El Rey Club. Actually self-named as a resort by the owner, the El Rey Club was mostly not much more that a casino and brothel located in Searchlight, Nevada. Right away, brushing aside any potential nostalgic aspects I may of had regarding the El Rey Club, my stepmother got all jacked up and wanted me to go see Roselli again, only on her behalf, as soon as I could. It seems she had 35 fully operable vintage slot machines hidden away in storage that nobody knew about and wanted me to see if Roselli could market them.

Although I didn't know the slot machines still existed I remembered them well, even having played them on occasion. I had first come across the slots as a young boy when I was playing in the lumber yard where my grandfather worked and stumbled upon them stored away in a back room. They had at onetime been in a bar called the Sportsman's Tavern in Big Bear Lake, California, owned by the gravel-voiced western movie sidekick Andy Devine. But, as attested to in the quote at the top of this page, they had been stashed away in a backroom of a lumber yard in Big Bear City after word got out his tavern was going to be raided and the machines confiscated.(see)

Several years later I mentioned I had seen a whole room of slots to my stepmother, telling her they were the ornate highly-polished one arm bandit types just sitting there in a lumber yard collecting dust. She got all interested and had me check with my older brother who had been living with my grandparents until my grandfather died. He said as far as he knew the slots were still there hidden away and nobody very far up the food chain except for my grandfather, who at one time had been a bookkeeper at the lumber yard, knew about them. My brother then went on to say the only way to really confirm if the slots were still at the lumberyard was to visit the place on the sly and check it out. He searched around and eventually found a whole bunch of lumberyard keys that had at onetime belonged to my grandfather. So said, my brother was sure at least one of the keys would allow access to where the slots had been stored. Not long after that he called and confirmed the machines were still hidden away in the storeroom looking all the same as they always had.

Since nobody knew the slots existed or who they actually belonged to, as soon as my stepmother could put it into motion she got a hold of the machines and set them up in a hidden area behind a false wall in the dancehall of her ranch near Edwards Air Force Base --- to provide the flyboys a little extra fun. Just before her place mysteriously burned down, without anybody knowing about it, she had moved the machines to an unknown location after hearing of a possible compromise. Most people who knew about the slots, like me for example, thought they had been destroyed in the fire like everything else. At the time she and I talked, the slot machines and a genuine 1847 Colt Walker pistol were the only things my ex-stepmother had left of any value. The Colt was long misplaced or lost somewhere in her junk. Needing the money she wanted to dispose of the slots. The problem was, not only were they illegal in California they had a history of a tie-back to the mob. To keep them operating without any hindrance at her ranch required a certain kick back. Once they were assumed destroyed that was the end of it. The thing is they weren't destroyed and now she wanted to market them. Enter Johnny Roselli.

The first meeting of the series with Roselli was on Sunday July 2, 1961 in Los Angeles with the other two in Las Vegas a few weeks later during the last two or three days of July. I remember the July 2nd date well because it was the same day Ernest Hemmingway was found dead from a gunshot wound first reported as an accident but later a suicide. After hearing my story Roselli said he couldn't promise anything because he wasn't sure if the machines didn't ultimately belong to the mob in the first place. However, if that glitch proved to be not so, or if it could simply be bypassed or overlooked without anybody's knowledge, in so many words, for a reasonable cut from my mom's side after any sale, he would see what he could do.

Following the L.A. meeting and consultation with my ex-stepmother with Roselli's conditions, the aforementioned other two meetings in Las Vegas transpired at the end of July, one on the night of the full moon over coffee at the Desert Inn, the second three days later during the early morning hours in the casino at the Stardust. Between those two meetings my ex-stepmother agreed to everything Roselli presented, with the second meeting basically me telling him of her OK. After that everything was handled by an unknown third party, the results of which I never learned.


In a pure coincidence of bad timing on my part, it just so happened that at almost the same second the feds decided it was necessary for whatever reason to put into place a 24 hour around-the-clock surveillance on Roselli I contacted him on behalf of my stepmother regarding the possible sale of the slot machines and got caught up in it. Re the following from Footnote [7] of the source so cited:


"The thing is, unbeknownst to me, during those months before I was drafted was, in Roselli's life, the exact sametime the feds put into place the most serious and intensive non-stop around-the-clock surveillance on him. In the process of that surveillance I got caught up in it to such a point that at least two of our three meetings were documented.

"As well, there is a good chance Roselli and I may have been photographed together sub rosa. In trying to identify who I was, my connection through to the U-2 Project most likely was determined and brought to the attention of upper echelon personnel. Instead of impacting me adversely it granted me a certain beyond the norm status."(source)


In the Johnny Roselli Dossier, which contains copies of onetime classified files accumulated by FBI and CIA during that period, the following, albeit redacted in some areas, is found:


Page 11 LA 92-113

***** furnished information that during the evening of July 10-11, 1961, an individual believed by the informant to be JOHN ROSELLI visited the residence of ***** and that SAM GIANCANA was also present. According to the informant, ROSELLI offered to put GIANCANA in touch with an unknown individual in Los Angeles regarding some business venture in which ROSELLI would also have an interest. ROSELLI is reported to have remarked it was a good location and would have slot machines and there was no reason why they would not make money.


Page 3 LA 92-113

On July 28, 1961, SAs of the FBI observed ROSSELLI in the coffee shop of the Desert Inn Hotel during the evening.

On July 31 1961, SAs of the FBI observed ROSSELLI conversing with ***** at approximately 9:15 a.m. in the casino of the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.


During that same time frame as the above I had a couple of other things on the burner going on at the same time as well. Quite by accident I had met a woman of extraordinary beauty and talent that in my writings elsewhere I call the most beautiful woman in the world. As it was, although I wasn't aware of it at the time of our "quite by accident meeting," she was on her way up in the entertainment industry, TV and movies to be exact. In that Roselli was semi-behind how it was and why I just happened to be where I was when she and I met, I didn't get into any of the particulars. Not everybody is receptive to the likes of someone with the reputation as Johnny Roselli, so, not knowing her at all during our initial stages, I saw no reason to bring him or his role up.

I continued to remain silent about him all through the period of time from the time we first met to the ultimate demise. However, during a good part of that same period, in a pure coincidence of timing in that it never happened before nor happened afterwards, I was, as a go-between, conducting some business with Roselli in behalf of my stepmother.

Any silence perpetrated by me was consciously done based on several co-factors as I perceived them. One, the assistance I was rendering my stepmother on her behalf relative to Roselli wasn't typical of any regular on-doings I would normally participate in --- therefore, in a sense, as a one-off deal, it wasn't anything I would be continuing on any sort of a long term basis so I felt there was no reason to bring him up. Secondly, even though it may have been excessively grandiose on my part to think it so, I didn't want to impact adversely any favorable momentum that might have impeded the two of us from moving forward by having Roselli in the picture. And third, after I discovered who she was, career-wise, I didn't want anything to come back and haunt her in the same fashion as to what happened to actress June Lang and her career.


ENTERS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD


The second thing I had on the burner during that post-high school pre-draft period was a growing and continued deepening and upwelling of a certain embryo-like spiritual insight, particularly as it related to Zen. It was all forced to a head as the time shortened just prior to my involuntarily imposed departure for the military, the exact same 1961-1962 period as the woman I met and the business transactions with Roselli for my stepmother.

At the start of my junior year of high school a highly unusual man moved into the house next door. The first time I saw him I was set aback by the calm serenity he seemed to abide in. Over time he revealed he had studied under the venerated Indian holy man the Baghavan Sri Ramana Maharshi at his ashram between the wars. As the years passed and I got to know him I began asking him then nearly begging him to "make me like him." Time after time he brushed me off.

Finally, I guess, thinking he would never get rid of me he began making a few suggestions. As my Mentor he began gently coaching me through the finer subtleties of deeper and deeper meditation; he urged me to read a whole raft of Zen related books; and eventually it was he who sent me to do "real" study under a Japanese Zen master.(see)

He told me he would soon be leaving, but prior to his departure a highly honored Japanese Zen master was visiting the United States for a short time and since what I seemed to be seeking and what Zen is paralleled, suggested I see him. He had taken it upon himself to make the arrangements for me to attend a special week long sesshin under the master, re the following:


"The sesshins ran from four in the morning to eight at night. About thirty people attended and we sat in two rows of fifteen facing one another across the room with our backs toward the wall.

"By the final day our numbers had diminished greatly and though the master spoke in private with the others, he refused to have private consultation with me. When the last day finally ended and we were leaving, thanking heavens we even survived, the interpreter came to me and said the master wished to speak with me. The master told me three of the our group had realized Kensho and berated me for not being among them. He said I had vast opportunities in my daily existence far beyond most and had not fulfilled the expectations of either him or my mentor. I thanked him, bowed, and left."

ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds


It should be brought to the attention of the reader that my attempts at study-practice under Yasutani turned out less than successful, eventually in the process returning then to my mentor a few years later, post-military, with much more positive results.


JOHNNY ROSELLI


THE JOHNNY ROSELLI DOSSIER


GAMBLING IN BIG BEAR AND THE SPORTSMAN'S TAVERN




















On March 30, 1949 the tabloid-like Los Angeles Daily News began publishing a series of exposť articles concerning slot machines in California. The very first article they printed was titled "Slot Machines Flourish In San Bernardino County," and without pinpointing specific locations per se' informed the reader there were quite a number of cash pay out machines in operation, a large portion of them in the Big Bear area. With the slot machine articles showing up in the Daily News March 30, March 31, April 1 and April 8, 1949, it was becoming apparent Andy Devineís reputation was becoming more and more at risk. In Gambling in Big Bear and the Sportsman's Tavern, linked previously above, the following is found:


"(With} the press doing a lot of investigations, it was most likely at this point that gambling came to an end at the Sportsmanís Tavern. It is not known what happened to the slot machines from the Tavern, but considering that they cost $200 to $1000 in 1949, they most likely were sold off to someone else in the town (or out of town such as back to Las Vegas as used equipment)."


For anyone who may be so concerned, be assured there is no offense intended toward the on-screen persona or personal integrity of Andy Devine, an ardent exemplar and defendant of the Cowboy Code of the West, but more or less here, taking a cue by harkening back to the old days of the wild and wooly west and saloons.