Inside Let it Ride

I saw your column about gambling movies and noticed that “Let It Ride” was on top. I couldn’t agree more, since that’s my book. The book was called Good Vibes.

A convict (my fan base for this one) in New Jersey wrote me recently and said that he had found a hardback of Good Vibes on one of the Internet auction houses for $275! I used to sail hard backs like Frisbees people at speaking gigs. Out-of-print movie books get rare fast. The woman who wrote the movie did a terrific job. She did the book exactly as written. Her name was, is, Nancy Dowd. She is the sister of Ned Dowd, who produced it. Ned Dowd was Ned Braden and the focal point of Slapshot.

As for the movie, I went to Hialeah a couple of days before shooting started. The night before, a bunch of us went to a dog track so Richard Dreyfuss and the others could get in the proper frame of mind. All night, the old woman who owned the dog track whispered winners in Dreyfuss’s ear. Says a lot about dog racing, doesn’t it?

The most interesting angles of that film, besides Jennifer Tilly’s red dress, were the actual races themselves. Given insurance liability, the film company had to actually buy those horses, stage the races, and then sell back the horses to the original owners. They had cameras in the dirt, all over the place. It’s the best racing stuff I’ve ever seen.

Anyhow, thanks for making my book, Good Vibes, your favorite gambling movie. Jay Cronley

Twice I have written a Top-10 gambling movie column. And yes, Let it Ride was numero uno both times. Even with some of the newer gaming movies recently released, like Casino, Rounder’s and Ocean’s 11; it is still my personal favorite. For those who haven’t seen it, Let it Ride is a fervent tale about a compulsive gambler (Richard Dreyfuss) who finally hits a winning streak at a Florida racetrack. Dreyfuss is superb in that role, but then so is everyone else. The cast of characters so faithfully mirrors the individuals I have encountered over the 18 years working the Green Felt Jungle, that I eventually bought a copy for the smell and feel of what I may or may not miss about working some of the grind joints of Northern Nevada.

If you are ever in Reno, Jay, check out the sportsbook, top deck, at the Club Cal Neva. All the cronies you penned in the bar scenes reside there, 24/7. I discovered Let it Ride when my boy, Nick, was cast as Artie in Lost in Yonkers. He needed to rent that movie to develop his character (that is, the character he was playing). Since it was two-for-one Tuesday, and Let it Ride was right next to Lost in Yonkers in the comedy section, a Richard Dreyfuss night was born. Household whining began when I sidelined Nick’s needs and rewound and played Let it Ride a second, and third, time.

Things did work out for Nick, though. After watching Lost in Yonkers more times than he viewed Lady and the Tramp when he was three, he nailed the part, including the NY accent. He parlayed that performance into playing Eugene in Brighton Beach Memoirs the following summer, using of all films, Let it Ride for the cadence and swagger of the Dreyfuss character. Great stuff, Jay. If I ever find your book at less than e-bay prices, (this column preaches cheapness), it will make my bedside gambling library.

Gambling thought of the week: “Beware, above all, of the man who simply tells you he broke even. He is the big winner.” -Anthony Holden, Big Deal (1990)