One of the most beloved bridge enthusiasts I have met since relocating in Nevada was the gentleman who was so warmly remembered yesterday at The Henderson Bridge Club overseen by Dixie Sue Allsbrook and Carol Warren, with Rick Price officiating. Proctor, who passed away on June 22nd after a lingering illness, was a legend among us and was recalled warmly by several close friends. Loveable Proctor was like Peck’s bad boy and always sported a devilish smile and halting laugh. About three dozen friends and admirers attended a special duplicate in memory of a very unique individual with a sense of humor second to none. Bobby Hayes, Proctor’s lifelong companion for close to half a decade, welcomed and thanked everyone and was moved by the beautiful remembrances of days gone by. Laughs, chuckles and smiles were the order of the day. Tears were put on the back burner. His close friend and oft times partner, George Kovarik, opened the informal ceremony with some delightful tales of Proctor in action. My Bobby (a good friend and occasional teammate for over forty years) followed and others piped in with funny stores which created a happy aura .. not one of sadness which usually dictates the mood of the audience. Before the duplicate began, the tribute was completed by a close old friend who oozed with charm and sported a fantastic voice and, accompanied by a musical background via a computer, sang a touching rendition of one of Proctor’s favorites .. On Route 66. He really stole the show. Another outpouring of love surfaced in the mouthwatering hand prepared luncheon goodies brought by many of Proctor’s friends which adorned the table in the back room. A beautiful afternoon I will long remember!!
Allow me to preface my title and introduction with a disclaimer as I am in no way qualified to make the judgment alluded to as what constitutes these so-called world class players, whose names today are bandied about as if they are cast in stone. However, being married to two gentlemen whose uncontested records and reputations for a combined total of close to fifty years affords me the privilege of sharing their thoughts and up-close-and-personal eyewitness accounts and I seriously doubt if anyone can challenge their individual entitlements to make that call.
For those of you very old timers who knew Norman, he was very soft spoken and never made waves and one of the most beloved individuals to compete for Zone 2. He played with and against the best of his era and had great respect for those whom he considered the legends of his day… beginning with his dear friend and partner of short duration who passed on in 1963… Sidney Silodor (the predecessor to his multi-talented partner of forty-some years, Edgar Kaplan), Alvin Roth and Tobias Stone (often teammates), Helen Sobel, Lew Mathe, Eddie Kantar, Harry Harkavy, Howard Schenken, George Rapee, B. J. Becker, Bill Root, and Canadian superstars… Eric Murray and Sammy Kehela. Those were just a few off the top of my head (and definitely in no particular order and certainly with some omissions). You know from past performance, I do not pull any punches and I must admit not all named enjoyed sterling reputations, and I zero in on their bridge talents only.
Although Norman and Bobby fell into the abyss and became addicted somewhere around the same time (in the mid fifties), Norman became entrenched in another field he adored .. starting out as a printing clerk (ink-blotched apron and all) for Merrill-Lynch and retiring some forty years later as an Executive Vice President. Bobby, on the other hand, became totally immersed in the game and though he held down some jobs working for Michigan General (via Ira Corn, of Dallas Aces fame) has devoted his entire being to the game for over sixty years in more capacities than you can shake a stick at. He started out at the tender age of twelve, as you may remember from The Lone Wolff, catching a glimpse of a friendly bridge encounter, kibitzing his parents and friends on a round trip train excursion from his hometown of San Antonio to Chicago where his father had a business appointment. That did it… never to return to normalcy again. It is of particular interest that both Norman and Bobby were the youngest of their playing peers, but talent overcame youth.
Bobby’s bridge involvement actually encompasses seventy years as he approaches his 82nd birthday in October (and fit as a fiddle I might add). He co-owned a bridge club, played as a pro at his club at five bucks a session, was instrumental in the formation of The legendary Dallas Aces, was adopted by some of the greats of his day who began grooming him for stardom, served as a substitute on the ACBL BOD, then elected as a full fledged member, and onto the presidency of the ACBL and World Bridge Federation (WBF) and held dozens of positions that made earth-shattering decisions to affect the improvement of the game. However, despite his record breaking victories in world championships, he considers himself a failure as he was not able to light a fire under those in power here to get bridge into the schools in America to rival the 200,000,000 kids in China who are learning and playing every day. Incidentally, it was Bobby who back in the nineties proposed and had the curriculum approved by the Chinese Ministry for teaching in their schools; however, ugly American politics at a WBF meeting in Aspen (fighting over who would help get it off the ground and present it) put a damper on his efforts and the confrontation sent it to the back burner until a few years ago).
Back in San Antonio, Bobby was fortunate to be discovered and taken under the collective wings of such luminaries as Johnny Gerber, Curtis Smith, Oswald Jacoby and especially George Heath (who Bobby considers as great as ANYONE although he was disadvantaged by the absence of sophisticated modern day bidding). On a personal note, Bobby served as a whipping boy to his first three named mentors, but the end justified the humiliating and embarrassing means that were part of the process. Also prominent and considered at the top of the heap were Sidney Lazard, Dave Carter, Edith Kemp, Billy Rosen (belatedly inducted into the 2014 HOF) and Meyer Schleiffer. I repeat once more: These lists are in no special order, not proclaimed to be all-inclusive and off the top of his head. However, the point being made in the case of both Norman and Bobby is all of the above named have one characteristic in common: Consistent World Class Players
O.K. Down from my soap box and onto the crux of this blog: No doubt there are oversights above and I do apologize for some unintentional omissions. Very few of those saluted above are alive today to enjoy their recognition. However, their mind boggling longstanding successes adorn the record books and cannot be challenged. They are not what is commonly referred to as “a flash in the pan.” It is consistency over decades in the Winners Circle that entitles someone to be classified and celebrated as a bridge icon. That is why I take strong objection and exception when I read matter-of-fact references to ‘world class players’ or “one of the top players in the world” from people who are hardly qualified to make that call. To witness persons rave and rant off the top of their head based on what others might say is gibberish. It is fine to consider a rather new performer as upcoming, potentially great, talented, sensational, unbelievable and all the other glowing deserving tributes. But “world class”? You’ve got to have bruises, scars and crowded shelves of premier championship trophies to accept the title in good conscience.
Bobby and I are ecstatic to share the following:
The other day at our weekly Tuesday and Friday haunt (The Las Vegas Bridge World), we encountered one of the ‘regulars,’ Bert Kulic, who was originally from New York. I only knew him as a quiet, polite, respected opponent. Not until the other day, did I learn what a contributing factor he was in the world of bridge… dating back a few decades, holding high administrative positions on the New York bridge scene. We had a brief discussion before the round was called and I was so captivated by the inroads he had made teaching bridge on a regular basis, I requested Bert to send me information about his generous involvement here in Las Vegas and I was delightedly shocked to read the following:
My wife Judy and I have been teaching bridge courses at OLLI (associated with UNLV) since 2009. Judy also taught beginner and intermediate bridge courses in New York for more than 20 years.
In 2009, we started teaching a mix of beginners and intermediate players as part of the OLLI @ UNLV program (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).
For the past four years, we have concentrated on novices, people returning to bridge after 30-40 years away, and advancing intermediate players.
In the Fall term (September to December) we are focusing on DEFENSE.
We have previously taught courses on BIDDING and DECLARER PLAY.
We use various ACBL texts, originally written by Audrey Grant, covering Bidding, Declarer Play, Defense, and Commonly Used Conventions.
We typically get between seven and thirteen tables each week.
The format is a 40-minute lecture by Bert, followed by a 3-hour “Supervised Duplicate,” where students can ask Judy or Bert questions while they are bidding or playing 14-16 duplicate hands.
The cost for OLLI is only $75 per term ($40 over the summer), which entitles the student to attend any or all of the more than 70 courses offered by OLLI at UNLV Paradise Campus, plus at seven satellite learning centers in Las Vegas, Summerlin, Henderson, and North Las Vegas.
To register, request a catalog, or get more information about OLLI courses, call 702.774.OLLI or call 702.895-3394. You may also call Bert or Judy any time at 702.837-6467.
Here is the course description that will appear in the Fall OLLI catalog, available approximately August 11th.
Bridge: Focus on Defense (143EC9585)
This course is intended for intermediate/novice bridge players (not for bridge beginners). You must understand the basics of bidding, declarer play, and defense. There will be a 40-minute lecture (12:15 pm Fridays) on defense at bridge. The required textbook, Defense in the 21st Century by Audrey Grant, is available at Amazon.com or from the instructor. There will be a supervised duplicate bridge game, where OLLI students may ask questions during the bidding or play of the hands. You will play approximately 14-16 hands each Friday, from 1:00 to 3:45 pm. Limit 52 members.
BEGINS: Friday, September 12
TIME: 12:15PM -3:45PM Merrill Gardens Retirement Community
Coordinator: Bert Kulic has been playing bridge for 35+ years and previously served as Board Vice President and he is a recipient of the OLLI at UNLV Lifetime Member Award. Judy has been playing bridge for 35+ years and has taught bridge for more than 20 years.
Here are two additional links which may be of help:
UNLV-OLLI website: Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
The catalog will be available online about Aug. 11th. Until then, you can see the 70+ courses planned: OLLI at UNLV Fall 2014 Schedule
Having played bridge for what seems like an eternity, I’ve been lucky enough to be partnered by a few truly world class players. Among my favorites were of course Norman, Bobby and Edgar — identified as Husband #1, Husband #2 and Edgar’s self styled description of himself .. “Partner-in-Law”. However, today was a first for me. I never thought I’d see the day when the most revered player in the world would be seated directly across the table from Yours Truly. I kid you not. Here I was .. staring into the eyes of a true bridge legend. It occurred here at The Westgate. However, as you may have suspected, the site was not in the Convention Center .. but rather at the Westgate Casino’s Blackjack Table where Benito sat in the leadoff position and I was the last batter. He’s not too bad a blackjack player either!
Wow, was I ever impressed!!! The ‘girls’ (Patty Tucker and Melissa Bernhardt) outdid themselves. My daughter Robin and I volunteered as table monitors so I could see the reaction of the newbies who were anxiously hanging onto every word. Patty and Melissa took turns at the mike .. poised, charming, entertaining and did a marvelous job of relaxing those in attendance. They dealt in bare basics .. just enough to arouse interest, without any pressure, in pursuing local lesson-taking when the visitors return to their native locales, including those Vegasites who were in attendance. One of our local teachers, Karen Kimes, already had people signing up to get their teeth into their newly discovered hobby. It was a refreshing five hours and a feather in the caps of these two fantastic entrepreneurs who presented a first class bridge introduction to Sunday’s recruits. I was the liaison between LBIAD and the Las Vegas Review Journal who, as promised, sent a representative and photographer to witness the Seminar in living color. I look forward to seeing their coverage in the next day or two. A fantastic time was had by all.
Let me begin by stating that perhaps I should have been wary of Horace Greeley’s directional recommendation!
After four days here at the LV NABC, I am ready for the funny farm (and haven’t even played any serious bridge yet). Though the staff is off the charts congenial, the hotel is hopelessly short staffed to the point of chaos, inconvenience and frustration. Our original weekday preordained early registration rate of $49 plus tax for weekdays was only honored for the first two nights of our stay, beginning Wednesday night and since I did not save my confirming emails from three months ago, I waged a losing battle.
The Westgate is definitely not prepared for the bridge throng that has been thrust upon them and understandably so, as the hotel officially changed hands only two weeks prior to our arrival and is in an obvious state of flux. The rooms are reasonably sized and adequate though they offer hardly enough drawer and closet space for our eleven day stay… and …you have to be a Rhodes Scholar to learn to operate their fancy coffee mechanism. After private instruction, I finally got the hang of it. And, by the way, there are two circular coffee cylinders which each room is allotted on a daily basis. Replacements are $4.00 each. Guess someone has to pay for these high tech machines. Can you imagine at $106.40 per night… having to be budgeted to one cup per person. Absurd!!! Incidentally, there is no distinguishing regular from decaffeinated — just one size fits all. Just to make a point, Bobby devoured three cups this morning between breakfast and lunch (they had replaced two from yesterday) which equated to $12.00. It is rather infuriating that you can buy a huge container of caffeine at the market for less… and just imagine how many cups it affords a household. No one likes to get raped!!!
And, how about $4.00 for the consumption of one quart of Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water? Oh, and there is a $10 premium for having a fridge, but I overcame that charge. These old tubs are not accommodated to prevent water from rising above a certain level but I did not become aware of the potential danger until our bathroom floor looked like Lake Mead. Luckily I caught my naive assumption in time to prevent an avalanche of H2O from descending upon my downstairs neighbors.
Backtracking to my unpacking experience, I had requested additional hangers and two luggage racks as the shortage of drawer space is causing us to live out of open suitcases as well — which actually is not such a hardship. The problem? I was held hostage in our room until their arrival. After an hour, I dialed Housekeeping again and inquired about their failure to be delivered. A lovely telephone receptionist kindly explained: “Oh, I am so sorry dear, but there are four or five people ahead of you.” I finally left the room in despair and joined Bobby where he was having a very late lunch. I am basically not a drinker, but that White Zinfandel sure felt great! The food venues are fairly expensive but offer a huge array of restaurants to meet everyone’s diversified needs. However, at the Paradise Cafe, it irked me to spend $3.25 for coffee and $1.95 is excessive for each extra topping for one’s morning egg selection.
The playing space is sensational and rather close to the lobby, but be advised… tend to your needs in advance as the bathroom accommodations are a continent away from the site. One last bugaboo is the playing schedule. I read there were 10 and 1:30 Daylight Pairs in which I played yesterday and assumed what I saw for those starting times today was a repeat performance… Wrong! I missed the small print. When I got in line to pick up my entry at 9:45, I spotted the sign 0-3,000. Absolutely no morning two session pair game for over 3,000 point holders. Who arranged this schedule and why?????
Four days down and seven to go. Ugh!!!
Thanks to the all-out efforts of ACBL Marketing Manager, Darbi Padbury ….. on Wednesday, July 16th, Las Vegas Channel 13 (KTNV) will be doing a feature on both the American Contract Bridge League Summer Nationals and LBIAD being held at the former Las Vegas Hilton (renamed The Westgate) located on Paradise Road. The program MORNING BLEND will be aired from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The Nationals officially begin on the 17th and run through the 27th. This year, LEARN BRIDGE IN A DAY, under the supervision of Patty Tucker and Melissa Bernhardt, will be holding their much publicized five hour seminar from 1:00 until 6:00 on Sunday, July 20th .. an opportunity for both newcomers and old timers. (See details on my earlier blog). Another exciting bit of news .. our popular Las Vegas Review Journal will also be covering LBIAD and have advised that on Sunday they will be sending a photographer in addition to some LVRJ executives to witness LBIAD in action. Las Vegas is proud to be supported by our popular city’s wonderful media!!!!!!!
I must confess, other than the nearby SF National in the Fall of 2012, we have not attended any NABC in five years since our locale hosted it in Vegas. It is hard for me to believe .. as these three annual happenings were an indispensible way of life for me for fifty-five years. I still keep in touch with many bridge cronies from days of yore, but it seems they too are in attendance less and less. I attributed it to normal attrition (ala the aging process), and I never gave too much thought to it when people said that it had become too costly. After all, the fun of playing bridge should not have monetary restrictions. To some people .. it is more important than life itself. Besides, weren’t we talking about pennies? Apparently not! Though early room reservations (especially for the upcoming one) were amazingly cheap at $49 for weekdays, I went into shock when I noticed on the ACBL site today the card fees had skyrocketed in the last few years. It ONLY costs you anywhere from $15 to $20 a session per player, depending upon the type of event you are entering. With the use of Bidding boxes and Bridgemates, wouldn’t you think that the reduction of manual labor (fewer caddies and less directors) would tend to lower card fees – rather than increase them??? Perhaps I am just out of touch. Could some knowledgeable soul please enlighten me?
…and how many players alive today are actually qualified to make that judgment call?
From the endless bridge ramblings on the various sites, countless self-appointed authorities seem to believe that they are in that position. I beg to differ. There is an incredible variance between the classifications… good, great, excellent, marvelous, sensational, up and coming, talented, super, terrific, fantastic, ingenious, promising. etc. The different strata into which these gifted individuals fall is enormous but many mistakenly overvalue their own expertise… not unusual as few bridge players suffer from deflated egos.
I am no fan of the illustrious Blue Team (for personal reasons that are not secret to the public), but there is no doubt that three of their stars (Benito, Pietro and Georgio) were among the best that ever played the game… and on a consistent basis. Bobby is unyielding in his belief that no one comes close to rivaling Mr. Garozzo as the greatest bridge player ever. That is a HUGE statement coming from a world class player himself, but Bobby has vied against just about every renowned participant over six decades and believes Benito has no equal. Witness him in action in the July 2014 Edition of The Bridge World on pages 36 and 37 in an article entitled “Fifty Years Ago.”