And that's how gambling addicts are made.
DISCLAIMER: The following text may be considered offensive or triggering to any and all clowns, Dreyer’s ice cream, my mother, all three of my grandmothers, Paris Hilton, Native Americans, the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, and biker gangs.
At four years old, I got cast in a commercial for Circus Circus, a local casino in my hometown that inexplicably combines the circus and gambling.
It’s basically just a ploy to get kids to become lifelong gambling addicts. Their parents, who are no doubt gamblers themselves, take their kids to Circus Circus for some wholesome family fun. Little Jimmy takes his sticky $10 bills and runs off to throw rings on bottlenecks and shoot Indians with a BB gun (Tumblr social justice warriors didn’t exist when Circus Circus opened, so they weren’t around to point out the blatant racism of children’s carnival games.) Meanwhile, mom and dad run off to throw dice on the craps table and flush a college education down the slots.
Then one day, little Jimmy wants to play grown up games, and that’s how gambling addicts are made.
So obviously, the casino desperately needed some four year olds to promote this quality family time. They chose me, because clearly they could see in my little eyes that I would one day love video blackjack.
Tangent: I had a GameBoy as a kid, and my mom would only let me play Tetris, because that was the only game that she considered educational enough. Something about solving puzzles. Well, the joke was on her because not long after I got my GameBoy with Tetris, my mom and dad both started stealing my GameBoy so they could play Tetris. They’d compete to see who could get to 100,000 points the fastest and get the little rocket to go off.
Of course, this meant that I no longer had a GameBoy. The solution was not to cut off this Tetris addiction, but to instead buy two more GameBoys so all three of us could have one. So, my father and I went to the toy store, and we came home with two more Tetris Original cartridges, Tetris Blast, Tetris 2, Tetris Plus, and Caesar’s Palace. Caesar’s Palace is exactly what you think it is...a virtual casino. Mom rationalized that Caesar’s Palace taught me life skills like strategy, odds, and math, so it was deemed educational. Also, eight year old me was already pretty great at blackjack.
Tangent on a tangent, because I’m pretty sure you are wondering how exactly an eight year old got good at blackjack. My grandmother taught me to play. Well, not my grandmother, but my mother’s first husband’s mother. My paternal grandmother, my mother’s second husband’s mother, lived in Seattle, and the only form of communication she could master was lengthy, handwritten letters, so we only communicated as often as one can write lengthy handwritten letters, which is approximately once every six months. My mother’s mother lived down the street from us, but she hated me, so we also communicated once every six months. I didn’t take it too personally. That woman hated everyone.
Back to the important matter, which is why an eight year old was taught to play blackjack while she was getting babysat by a grandmother she wasn’t related to. Auntie Ellie — I called her “Auntie” because none of the lineage made sense and she was the only grandma who cared to watch me — was a blackjack dealer at Harold’s Club in Reno for over 30 years. She was a 4’8” baller. She dealt for Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and was regularly courted by Barron Hilton. I hold Auntie Ellie personally responsible for the existence of Paris Hilton, because if she had just married the man then Paris wouldn’t exist. But if she had married Mr. Hilton, I suppose I wouldn’t have been sitting in her double wide trailer, learning blackjack, just so I could swindle Jimmy on the playground.
Anyway, though the people at Circus Circus did not know they had a future elementary school gambling ringleader on their hands, they did think I was cute. They rounded up myself and a few other kids, and we were told that we were going to eat lots of delicious ice cream sundaes in front of the circus game/slot machine monstrosity. They put us in place, got the cameras all set up, and from behind the curtains, a clown brought out the most beautiful ice cream sundaes I’d ever seen. They were in those stemmed, old fashioned sundae glasses with multiple scoops of ice cream piled high. The chocolate sauce was pooled in the crevices between the glass and the bright white ice cream, and each one had a swirl of whipped cream and a perfect red cherry.
With the cameras rolling, the clown placed these works of art down in front of us and told us to dive in. A small group of thrilled four year olds grabbed our comically large spoons and went in for the...FAKE ICE CREAM SUNDAES. Fake! All of them! TV magic at the expense of an innocent child’s dream.
Not only that, and Jimmy and the other unprofessional child actors could not get their four year old shit together, so they kept screwing up the shot, which meant we had to be subject to fake ice cream over and over and over again for hours and hours. What sort of heathens convince a bunch of kids that they’re getting ice cream for breakfast, then bring them fake ice cream sundaes, and then make them experience the trauma repeatedly? Clowns. Clowns and business people who think carnival casinos are a good idea.
We did eventually get real ice cream, but it was like one scoop of melted Dreyer’s in a styrofoam cup. Also, the commercial never even aired, probably because Jimmy kept screwing up.
I asked my mother to confirm this story, because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t write a full blog post about fake ice cream only to have her read it and tell me, “Honey, it wasn’t fake. It was real, you ate four sundaes and puked all over your bed.”
She confirmed that I was remembering that part of the story correctly, but she told me another part of the story that I’d entirely forgotten. This is what she told me, verbatim:
So, the idea was that all of you four year olds were a motorcycle gang rolling into Circus Circus. Of course, the point was that Circus Circus has that big area for kids, with clowns and circus acts and carnival games. You were all on "Big Wheels" and we spent a lot of time at a local cemetery (because it has hills and dirt) filming you guys motoring in a group. Then the filming moved inside the casino. I still have your vest. I can take a picture of it if you want. I know exactly where it is.
I thought I'd peaked on the day that JWOWW tweeted about my boozy cupcakes, but it turns out that I really peaked on the day I joined a biker gang, trespassed on a cemetery, relieved an ice cream trauma, and was forced to wear a matching denim vest and skirt. Thousands of dollars of therapy was born on this day. Thank God my mom still has the vest, just in case my therapist and I need to work on some sort of immersion therapy.
My original intention for this post was to tell you about how weird my day was today, because today’s weirdness involved a barefoot monk, losing my credit card, a gecko, something called a “Mantis Prawn,” and getting abandoned in the middle of a rice paddy. I really thought that would be sufficient but instead, you got this. This blog is just like when someone brings you fake ice cream or steals your GameBoy. It’s full of disappointment, but if you stick around, there might be some off brand ice cream or a gambling addiction in your future.