The Butt Factory Spa, Rub Joint & Casino
They liked to meet in the steam room, and while half-naked gangsters left something to be desired in the visual aesthetic spectrum, it seemed to insure the absence of any recording equipment that couldn’t fit up your ass, and which could attenuate the muffled booming from a mic situated there.
Paul was swathed in a towel, radiating naked power like God in that chapel roof thing. And he acted like God, if God was just a bit more arrogant about running stuff.
“But, as far as entertainment,” pressed Ollie, ”what do you actually do?”
“I produce the Lido Show.”
“The Lido’s been running for 28 years without a burp. The producer lives in Palm Springs. He comes in twice a year!”
“Yeah, well, maybe he disappears.”
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Ollie said. “In fact, don’t say stuff like that ever. It’s important to rehearse this stuff. For real.”
Paul just glowered. Ollie took that for agreement.
“Now, let’s try again.” he said. “What do you do?”
“I look for new talent.”
“You check out tits, is that it? Try to sell that. Give ‘em a little credit. No, you want them to buy the entertainer bit, you’ve got to do something new. A new show.”
“Can’t close the Lido, there’d be a riot.” said Paul. “The… Um, the Boys like the Lido…”
‘The Legends.’ Can’t change that. It’s all the talent of the Beatles, without the actual Beatles, so it’s a moneymaker.” insisted Paul.
“Something new. Something that’s never been done.” suggested Ollie.
Paul was up, waving at the Sports Book screens which were piped in special; football, horse racing, golf, basketball, hockey, all together in one gambling media mash-up… an adrenalin palace crank house multichannel multiverse, with all the money flowing one way.
“How many people watch Monday Night Football?”
“Right. And how many people bet on Football?”
“And who sets the line on football?”
“You do, Paul.”
“Right. I do. Coast to Coast.”
That was true. Paul set the odds. And everything conformed to those odds and the immutable laws of the universe. He set the odds and the odds controlled everything. Well, wouldn’t that be what God would do? Paul thought about that. Who knew it would go to his head?
“Why the old farts in Chicago, what do they know?” he said. “They know old stuff; bootlegging, extortion, loan sharking. Old stuff. Outta the Past. The future is gambling, and drinking, and pretty girls. They should know that. The boys have always been in the clubs. It’s where the action is.”
His eyes lit up red and blue and pulsed like a cop car had skidded into his brain.
“Media, that’s the thing! Bugsy’s old sports wire was the basis of his fortune, but now I can set the odds on TV. On all these screens! The Gangster…ahhh…Gaming… Channel. That’s the deal! A whole channel dedicated to ‘Action’.
“ I don’t know,” quibbled Ollie.
“So we go on before the game and set the final line,” Paul continued. “Just enough time to get that bet down. And it’s got the Starburst logo on everything. When they come to Vegas, where are they gonna go? We set the line for the whole country. So everybody’s gonna want the show?”
“Where do we do this?”
“Right in the Sports Book, right in the action. We just put a stage up and bring in the girls. A band over there. A couch, what else?”
“How about some hookers?” offered Joey. “I like having hookers around.”
Paul stared at him like at something you find under your fingernail.
“What is entertainment after all?” Paul then asked rhetorically.
“It’s like when you laugh or gotta look at something.” Joey offered helpfully.
“Like would a train wreck be entertainment?” asked Paul, philosophically.
“If you caused it, and like, it worked. I could see where you would laugh. And you’d be sure to watch it, assuming an alibi, so I’d have to say yes.”
Ollie just shook his head. But Paul was right on it.
“I looked it up.” Paul produced a scrap of paper and read. “’Entertainment consists of any activity,” he explained, “’which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time.’ That’s it! That’s our angle. It’s ill-defined! Who’s to say what’s amusing?”
“Yeah. Who’s to say?” mused Ollie.
“Not you, Paul.” said Ollie. “You’re not amusing. You’re a lot of other things. But amusing? I think not. And you don’t want to go on TV.”
“For one thing, you look like Death on the Subway.” He sipped his drink. “You scare people, Paul. You’ll probably scare the camera and the people at home and they won’t like it. And you’ll talk. You’ll say things. It’s inevitable, should you lose your mind and host a television talk show.”
“I’m gonna talk sports. And headliners and comedy acts and chorus girls. What’s wrong with that? I aim to entertain.”
“It’s not really entertainment.”
“Ah, but can they prove it’s not!? Beyond a reasonable doubt. I’ve seen those crime shows. A reasonable doubt. ‘Your honor, it amused me.’ Can they say you’re not amused? Beyond a Reasonable Doubt? ”
Ollie took a deep breath and a deeper pull of scotch. He sighed, leaned in conspiratorially. “Paul,” he intoned, “it might not be the best tactic to intentionally and publicly insult the Gaming Commission. I’m just saying… that’s all.”
“Well those two-bit cowboys think they can push me around. But I got the media and I’ll get the public on my side. I can be famous as Donn Arden. I can. I can be bigger than Fluff LeCoque! Then let them try to say I’m not entertaining. Just let them try. Plus, anything happens around town that hour, I got the perfect alibi; I’m on TV!”