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."


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 there was a person of major influence, a man about town who more-or-less ran Las Vegas, by the name of Johnny Roselli, who was a friend not only of my stepmother, but who I had known personally, through her, since I was a young boy. Roselli, dapper, handsome and silver-haired, carried ahead of himself all the outward manners and appearances of a refined gentleman, and sometimes it had even been said, a gun. Several months before, an acquaintance of both, mentioned in passing that my stepmother, who Roselli had known for many, many years, had fallen on hard times. Because of their friendship and because she was someone he thought very highly of as well as one of the few people who actually had the guts to step forward years before to help him out when he was all but finished rather than shit on him while he was down, Roselli, in a very discrete unassuming way, made it a point to offer his assistance in what ever manner he could to ensure her overall well being.

While I was in Vegas that weekend, because of what he had done, in a kind of an impromptu fashion on my part, I decided to send him a thank you note to express my appreciation and gratitude. Without really thinking about it I used Fremont Hotel stationary. From that he was able to track me down and make contact because later that evening while Landaker and I were sitting in one of those infamous all you can eat, cheap (in those days) buffets having dinner, a man stepped up to the table and told me Roselli wanted to see me. Per the man's request I left with him immediately. Roselli and I had a cordial meeting, I thanked him for the help he afforded my stepmother, and we parted ways.

About two months after that April 1961 meeting 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 few 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 pint-sized casino and brothel in the little speed trap town of Searchlight, Nevada located in stark barren desert land maybe 50 miles south of the strip. Right away, brushing aside any potential nostalgic aspects I may of exemplified in some fashion regarding the El Rey Club, my stepmother began slipping into a near tizzy wanting me to go see Roselli again, only right away 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)

Sometime after stumbling across the machines, probably a few years or so, albeit still a young boy, for no particular reason I can recall, I brought up the fact to my stepmother that I had seen a whole room of slots, 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 wanting to know more, even to the point of arranging it so I could spend a weekend plus a few days with my older brother in Big Bear to find out what I could about them, however, as she said, on the sly.

My stepmother and I had a long and special relationship from the very beginning, she having from early on taken me under her wing and into her confidence. Until everything she had came crashing down and she lost everything, I think she was grooming me for a very special high position in whatever it was she did, as she always made it a point for me to know important people and for them to know me and who I was, and that I was a person, even though a kid, someone that could be trusted. When she told me that the slot machines should be dealt with on the sly I knew exactly what she meant --- and she knew I knew. It went no farther than between just she and me.

My brother had been living with my grandparents until my grandfather died and continued to do so with my grandmother until, because of the loss of income due to my grandfather's death, they or my father or both could figure something out. When I caught up with my brother he told me 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. He then went on to say the only way to really confirm if they were still there was to visit the place 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, by simply unlocking a gate and a few doors, in a sort of an unauthorized night time breach of the premises, we confirmed, after dropping down through an access from above, that the machines were still secretly hidden away behind a specially built false wall my grandfather designed and had built in the storeroom, looking all the same as they always did.

Since nobody knew the slots existed or who they actually belonged to, as soon as my stepmother was able to put it into motion, in her own inimitable way she got a hold of the machines, moving them out of the lumberyard, completely bypassing both my brother and his knowledge of her having done so. Once the machines were in her hands she set them up in a hidden area, also behind a false wall, in the same building as the dance hall was in on 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 specifics of which I never learned. However, even though I never learned the specifics, I have been able to extrapolate the results. Without getting into it a whole lot, the following is found in a footnote on the page I've devoted to my stepmother, which in turn may clarify the outcome somewhat, an outcome that seems to have worked out favorably for all involved:

"Seems that an arrangement for the sale of some items of worth that unknown to me or anybody she had mysteriously stashed away in storage since just before her ranch burned down --- and that a few months before she requested I approach a certain go between for a potential buyer --- paid off big time, at least considering the level she was operating at in those days. She was able to get a favorable price for the items, move into a place nearer town, and, no longer needing the 88 acres, sold it throwing in all the goats. She wasn't totally on top of the heap for sure, but at least she was no longer under it for awhile. The items? Thirty-five illegal slot machines. The go between I approached on behalf of my stepmother for the sale? A big-time mob heavyweight, who, in my life, I had met at least three times previously prior to the negotiation for the sale of the slot machines."


In a pure coincidence of bad timing on my part, it just so happened that at almost the same second I contacted Roselli on behalf of my stepmother regarding the possible sale of the slot machines the feds decided it was necessary for whatever reason to put into place a 24 hour around-the-clock surveillance on him and I 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 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 the scenes in how it was --- and why it was --- I just happened to be where I was when she and I met, I didn't get into any of the particulars with her. Not everybody is receptive to the likes of someone with the reputation as Johnny Roselli, so, not knowing her at all during our early stages, I saw no reason to bring him or his role up. I was also somewhat discrete that Hollywood's onetime top madam, Brenda Allen, was involved as well.

I continued to remain silent about Roselli 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.


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."


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.



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In 1958 I went to the Bahamas Speed Week in Nassau with the aforementioned Joe Landaker. In February 1958, ten months before going to the Speed Week with Landaker, the Cuban Grand Prix was held in Havana, Cuba. The whole Cuban race event, from the start of practice early in the week to the calling of the race, ended up being nothing but a major fiasco for almost everybody involved. The day before the race, after a full day of practice, the world champion race driver Juan Manuel Fangio went back to his hotel and was immediately confronted by three armed men who took him out of the hotel, put him in a car and drove off. The men were pro-Castro guerilla fighters trying to embarrass the head of the Cuban government, Batista and his regime. The race went off the next day without Fangio, starting two hours late. Six laps into the 500 mile race a car went out of control and slammed into the crowd killing six or seven people and injuring upwards of thirty. The drivers voted to stop the race with England's top driver Stirling Moss awarded first place and the Americans Masten Gregory and Carroll Shelby awarded second and third. Fangio, like Castro's semi-second in-command Che Guevara, was an Argentine and got along well with the guerillas. He was returned unharmed.

While it is true there was a much larger umbrella casting a shadow on everybody all around, Roselli and the Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana had their own huge personal and financial motivations for eliminating Castro when he came to power. One of the first things Castro did was shut down all the Mafia's very lucrative brothels and casinos in Havana, costing Giancana and Roselli --- and those associated with them --- dearly. They still hoped to revive the swank Sans Souci resort and casino that they had run in Cuba with Spanish-speaking Mafia boss Santos Trafficante, Jr. As they saw it, elimination of Castro, then paying off or putting the old regime back in place would be a big step into getting things back to the way they had been.

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According to FBI reports, Trafficante gained a controlling interest in the Sans Souci nightclub in the mid-1950s, maintaining a small apartment there. Norman "Roughhouse" Rothman managed the Sans Souci for Trafficante before renovations, but after it reopened following renovations on December 31, 1954, Trafficante put Eddie Cellini in charge of the casino. However, Rosselli spent time in Cuba representing Chicago Godfather Sam Giancana's "hidden interests" in the 1950s. Rosselli worked as a "manager" at the Sans Souci. He also organized gambling junkets to Cuba for wealthy North Americans.


From the very second Fidel Castro took over Cuba and began initiating his communist policies on Cuba in 1959 until President John F. Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas, Texas, in November, 1963, the U.S. military and all of the closely-related heavily acronym correlated intelligence agencies were almost 100% fully focused on Cuba --- Vietnam being nothing but a not known "where's that?" backwash. It wasn't until Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to leave Kennedy behind and have his own war that the focus shifted away from the Caribbean to Southeast Asia. I was drafted in the military right at the end on one and the start of the other.

"For a vast number of young men growing up around the same time I did, after reaching a certain age, they were uprooted from whatever they were doing by the then in place friendly Selective Service System, otherwise known as the draft, and plunked down into the military. And so it was for me. Following a crowded ruckus-filled overnight 400 mile train ride from the induction center in Los Angeles to Fort Ord I, along with several hundred other potential GIs, at 4:00 AM in the morning, was herded into one of a whole line of cattle trucks and taken to what they called the Reception Company Area. Then, after being issued two pairs of too large boots along with several sets of too large olive drab shirts and pants, and having the good fortune of completing eight weeks of basic without incident I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia to attend the U.S. Army Signal Corps School for what they called Advanced Individual Training, or AIT."

IN AS A BOY, OUT AS A MAN: The Draft, Active Duty, Active Reserve

After my completion of Basic Training at Fort Ord, California, unlike most bottom-of-the line two year draftees who got not much more than on the job training (OJT), I was sent to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at the U.S. Army Signal Corps School, Fort Gordon, Georgia, to be school trained. Except for a short detour to Fort Benning, also in Georgia, I was then sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. From Riley, on TDY (Temporary Duty. i.e., serving at a location other than one's permanent assignment), I continued participating in an never ending series of so-called covert related training activities both in and out of the country --- some of it even, up until the time of the assassination of JFK, being sent by the military to Panama, Cay Sal Bank off the north coast of Cuba, and Swan Island located between Cuba and Honduras, Cuba related.

Many years after that, thinking I might write a book someday, I sat down on-and-off over a roughly two year period with a couple of other than Army buddies, yet at one time covertly affiliated with me in some fashion or the other, and wrote down everything either I or we could think of or remember regarding my military service connected adventures. I never wrote a book, but I still have pages and pages of the notes and their are parts that refer to Cay Sal Bank, used as a staging base for a variety of operations against Cuba, Colonel Rawlston (a known Roselli pseudonym) running twin high speed boats full of commandos into Cuba, and a CIA safe house located down along the Keys.


Roselli, originally stemming from his early connections with the Sans Souci resort for Trafficante, in and around Havana, had forged a number of contacts with the Cuban underworld. When those same contacts found themselves displaced by Castro's takeover, Roselli, expanding on those contacts, under CIA request and CIA backing, began putting into place a network of anti-Castro operatives. Under the code name Colonel Rawlston, Roselli was making midnight raids to a string of pearl-like islands off the northern coast of Cuba, offloading U.S. trained anti-Castro Cuban commandos and weapons using twin V-bottom double-hulled aluminum high speed powerboats. On one of his raids a Cuban patrol boat caught the boat Roselli was on in its searchlights, blowing a hole in the bottom and sinking the boat almost immediately. Roselli was pulled out of the water by the other boat as they machine gunned the searchlights, slipping away into the night.(see) It is not known what happened to any of the anti-Castro Cubans set ashore, but not one of them returned or reported back. Operating out of Cay Sal I was set down on one of those pearl of islands islands alone one night providing communication, not knowing for sure if I would ever be picked up by anybody on the way back.

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As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.

On March 30, 1949 the tabloid-like Los Angeles Daily News began publishing a series of expose 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 Devine's 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 Sportsman's 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.


THE WASHINGTON POST: Tuesday, February 23, 1971, Page B-11

Roselli made midnight dashes to
Cuba with his hired assassins in
twin powerboats. Once a Cuban
patrol ship turned its guns on
the darkened boat, tore a hole
in the bottom and sank the boat.
Roselli was fished out of the
water by the other boat, which
escaped into the shadows.

------------------(original source for the above quote)