Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Fast Freddie

I often wonder what a cruise ship would be like if not for the casino. On our recent Weekly Standard jaunt aboard Holland America's Westerdam, I found myself ending my nights with either a few hands of blackjack or a quick roll of the dice. Two of my colleagues, Jonathan V. Last and Stephen F. Hayes, also dropped by to check out the action. And by the second day, there was no question where that action was to be found--at the craps table. There, around midnight, as the ship rocked to and fro, a crowd gathered to watch one of the gaming industry's most colorful players: Fast Freddie.

Truth be told, I don't know if Freddie's fame was limited to the Westerdam or if he was known in Reno, Vegas, and AC. What I do know is he electrified the audience with his lob of the dice. And he was hard to miss: Freddie (last name unknown) was in his late forties or early fifties, wore tropical shirts buttoned down to about midchest, and sported gold necklaces and a rock on his finger that would have earned the gaze of Liberace. Most of all, Freddie had a permed reddish-blonde head of hair that someone described as "porno-style" (I believe it is a loving tribute to Mike Brady).

I had one good streak as a shooter and Freddie knew it. He dropped hundreds in chips on the six and eight. Maybe even a nine. And I just kept on hitting it. There is nothing better than getting an approving look from Fast Freddie. He would then stretch out his arm and point to you in knowing silence. I pointed back in acknowledgment. No words, just looks, and all while the crowd went wild. A couple of nights later, Jonathan Last became the hot shooter. Last, too, received the point and the nod. And both of us were fortunate to be tipped by Fast Freddie. Each of us received $25 chips.

According to rumor, Freddie is in the "NASCAR asphalt business." He is also, it turns out, a staunch conservative who loves Ronald Reagan. As it turned out, at the end of my run, I won Fast Freddie about $3,000. Still, as I saw him on our last day at sea, he told me he finished down. I don't know if I'll ever see Fast Freddie again, but I'll keep an eye out for him and his flashy shirts, his bling, and, yes, that unmistakable point.

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