By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Men, dressed in spiffy black pants, the ones with his name embroidered down the side in gold, smugly refused to look at the last two cards he drew, then brazenly raised his bet blind. He turned over his first four cards — the highest was an eight. If his last card, still face down, was lower than that, he would win. Somehow certain of victory, Men ran a flamboyant victory lap around the table before flipping that last unseen hole card. He was right. An ace of diamonds, the lowest card of all. A slam-dunk win.
“This is my sixth, man! My sixth!” Men yelped as he held up the solid-gold bracelet that came with first place. He hardly looked at the stacked-up purse of Ben Franklins dished over to him by tournament managers. His prize: $48,000 after starting with a $1,500 buy-in.
“This small change,” he told me, barely bothering to count the money. “I’m up about $600,000 so far overall.”
With more than 700 players bunked here into Binion’s, Men has spent the last several weeks qualifying for the final rounds of this year’s World Series of Poker, a mind-boggling five-day marathon of treacherous Texas Hold’Em with a $10,000 entry fee. The winner, to be crowned Friday night, is expected to bag $2 million. And even those who finish in the top tier of 25 or 30 are expected to walk away with substantial sums. But then again, Men the Master isn’t in it for the money.
Remembering L.A. writer Eddie Little
If Eddie Little had never put a pen to paper, he’d have been just another charming junkie and con man. Not to mention a career criminal arrested for armed robbery, fraud and attempted murder. But he did sit down to write, a statement in and of itself for a working-class ex-con with a fifth-grade education.
Little always imagined himself as more than what he seemed doomed to be. Maybe that’s partly because he fancied himself a good con man, so he had to talk a good game. But it was more than that. Little saw possibilities and deeper meaning. As a criminal, he liked art well enough to steal it — as his fans know from reading Steel Toes. And he liked art well enough to write it.
Little died of an apparent heart attack on Tuesday at 48. It would be nice to say that he overcame heroin addiction to lead the good, writerly life, but that wouldn’t be authentic. It wouldn’t be true to Eddie. He died in a hotel room, his expansive heart unable to withstand one more cycle of self-punishment.
Pretty much all his writing was autobiographical, a life of addiction, violence and crime that no sane person would aspire to — despite the alluring adventure of it. Little didn’t choose his upbringing; rather he survived it long enough to find writing as a partial way out.
And though he never quite escaped, he did transcend. First came the novel Another Day in Paradise in 1998, which was made into a movie starring James Woods and Melanie Griffith. Steel Toes followed in 2001, and he was halfway through another book despite declining health. Little also shared, with his friend, writer Johnny Angel, a defining column several years ago in the Weekly called “Outlaw L.A.,” whose anti-heroes were hit men, burglars and prostitutes. The feature earned Little recognition as Columnist of the Year from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies in 1998.
“The difference between him and a skid-row junkie is that he lived long enough to tell about it,” said Mark Ebner, a Los Angeles journalist. “Eddie lived the life that he wrote about and there’s a grudging respect in that. And during those rare periods when he was clean, he’d try and help others out with the same vengeance that at other times he’d go out and chase his next high with.”
Writer Lisa Derrick recalls that Little was the first person she called when she locked herself out of her house. “Eddie said, ‘OK, I’ll tell you how to break into your house, but I’ve got to be quick because People magazine is here taking my photo right now.’ Underneath his hard, criminal exterior and his jailhouse tattoos and his tales of mayhem and murder was a true chivalrous gentleman.”
Little’s mood was never more transformed than when he gave a reading: Smart people, chicks with nice clothes, people who went to Harvard were digging him. Now wasn’t that the coolest?
“He felt like a rock-and-roll star,” recalled his friend Angel. “There’s a point where you can say ‘I’m not a worthless junkie.’ Where you know you have something and you want the world to know what it is.”
Little told the Washington Post in 1998: “I always wanted to be an artistic guy. I wanted to leave a mark as something other than a thug.”
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