It was days before Super Bowl Sunday in 1992 and a $50 betting pool had passed around the Pineapple Hill Saloon, where an assortment of retired judges, assistant prosecutors, public defenders and other justice keepers from the Van Nuys courthouse were having lunch and buying a few squares.

Bartender Perry Alt never noticed the two guys sitting at a corner table get up and start walking towards him. They were vice cops and they weren’t there for the Philly Steak sandwich.

Someone had reported the hill for hosting multiple Super Bowl pools – a violation of Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 43.01 – “Gambling and Dice Shaking” – passed in 1917.

Dice shaking? Who knew?

They handcuffed Perry, got everyone out and took him to Van Nuys police station where the desk sergeant asked the young NCOs what the charge was? Section 43.01, they said. He played, ran several Super Bowl pools.

The desk sergeant sighed and called them to the side. “Boys, we have 10 Super Bowl pools going on in the back room right now. Are you going to break them too?

Ah, the power of Super Bowl Sunday – even the law bets a few bucks on the big game.

By now you’ve read everything you need to know about the Super Bowl, so let me suggest something else you probably don’t know. The collapse of the Pineapple Hill Saloon in 1992 had nothing to do with the ancestor of the dumb Valley game collapses that occurred a few years earlier.

The big pot next to $8 from Granada Lanes, Book’em Dano, bowling bust. A classic.

Every Thursday morning, a group of local housewives would drop their children off at school and go bowling in a league at the Granada Hills bowling alley. To spice things up a bit, some of the women had a little side action on strikes and spares.

They put loose change in the pot, shuffled a deck of cards and placed it face down. Each time one of them had a spare or a strike, they took a card from the deck. At the end of the game, whoever had the best poker hand wins the pot. Bust day was a whopping $8.

However, the ladies were unaware that there was a rat among them who informed the LAPD that there was gambling in River City. Two vice cops, a male and a female, showed up on a Thursday morning and watched the women for three hours, observing the action and moving in for the bust around noon as the women prepared to leave. Five of them were cited for a violation of article 43.01, and ordered to appear in court 10 days later.

“We wondered who this woman was, hanging around, watching us bowling,” said one of the mothers, who called me after the bust. “She said she was interested in joining our league and was wondering how the parallel pot worked. I didn’t know she was a vice officer until she stopped me outside as I was going to get my son in kindergarten. I was an hour late picking him up.

I called the head of the vice squad in the valley to ask him why, in a city with a rising crime rate and a need for more officers on the street to fight serious crime, two vice- Cops sat in a bowling alley for three hours watching housewives gamble the milk money.

He took a little umbrage at the question. “You are playing, it is illegal, and if we see it we will enforce the law,” he said. “There’s no King’s X (on the game) just because they’re housewives.”

In fact, there were. After some consideration, the LAPD went into damage control mode and issued release certificates to the women at their homes that night. All was forgiven, but that was not the end of the story.

The next day, my bust column appeared on the front page of the Daily News, and the housewives were soon invited to Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” So much for the discreet.

To its credit, LAPD took its pieces for a silly bust and bit the bullet. If they really wanted to stop playing seriously, the women said, they should have staked the men’s league at night. They never found the rat in their league who turned them in.

So good luck with your pools, but remember that Super Bowl Sunday is the busiest day of the year for the city’s Municipal Code Section 43.01.

Don’t get caught shaking dice.

Dennis McCarthy’s column airs Sunday. He can be reached at [email protected]

About The Author

Related Posts