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My Dad Hustled Dean Martin For $5,000, Then Gave Him A Chance To Get it Back

It’s the Christmas season and every morning on 96.5 KVKI Erin McCarty and I are playing all your favorite holiday favorites, both current and from years gone by. And my favorite, year in and year out, is ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ by Dean Martin. And now I’m going to tell you why.

After my Dad got out of the Air Force at the end of World War II, he, like a lot of ex-servicemen, spent a little time traveling across the US, holding down a number of jobs. But, as anyone in my family will attest, his number one ‘job’ was…golf hustler.

Bill Wright was loud, brash, liked to have a good time and, more than anything else, liked to gamble at golf. And in the spring of 1947 he found himself in Los Angeles looking for a game. It was at LA’s famed Riviera Country Club that my Dad, a wise cracking ex-pilot from Palestine, Texas, found himself in a golf game against show business icon and Rat Pack member, singer Dean Martin.

My Dad never gave too many details about the match that day, other than to say, ‘Dino wasn’t nearly the golfer he thought he was. But he sure liked to gamble.’

And, at the end of the day, Ol’ Bill had taken Frank Sinatra’s pal for a cool five grand. And then my Dad’s brush with the legendary entertainer became, well, legendary.

Dean suggested that he and my Dad head to the airport and take his private plane to Las Vegas. Yep, Martin wanted a chance to get his money back.

Through the years, my Dad wouldn’t say exactly what happened on that trip to Sin City. He didn’t have to. The $100 dollar bill autographed by Martin remained one of his most prized possessions his entire life.

 

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