Center for Labor Education & Research, University of Hawaii - West Oahu: Honolulu Record Digitization Project
Honolulu Record, Volume 9 No. 18, Thursday, November 29, 1956 p. 1
Jason Lee, Who Tried for Monte Carlo Golden Fleece, Was Victim of Locals
There was something heroic about Jason Lee who set out to pull the Golden Fleece on the most famed gambling center in the world, the Monte Carlo Casino, writes Toni Howard in the latest issue of the Saturday Evening Post, only the heroism fled the Korean-American at the wrong time, Lee and his two partners tipped the cops off to their guilt, and they wound up in the Monaco Jail.
The 60 year old gambler and businessman is probably as well known in these parts as in Las Vegas, Chicago, Tokyo, or any of the other places he operates, and here, too, he is remembered best for his hard luck. It's a story the local gamblers have never liked to tell too freely, but now with the passing of a couple of years and, presumably, the cooling of Jason Lee's hot temper, the tale is told a bit more freely.
What it amounts to is that Jason Lee, the man who clipped the Monte Carlo Casino and almost got away with it, was himself clipped by enterprising local gamblers for an amount reported from $100,000 all the way up to a quarter of a million dollars. And according to Lee's story of how he came to be here at the time, he was just stopping over to see old friends on a sort of vacation in mid-ocean on his way to Japan.
The local boys were ready for him and the wealth they had heard he carried. They set up as elaborate a "shop" for the fleecing of Jason Lee as you'll read in "The Big Con," the pocketbook which has served as a textbook for aspiring local young fleecers, and possibly many elsewhere.
To begin with, report has it, they had the assistance of a very beautiful young woman who had suggestions of how to while away the hours, and one of these was a small bit of action at a game of "Cho Han." Now Cho Han is a game of "odd" and "even," usually played with dice, but on this occasion the players were using Japanese sakura cards.
The five players were the most innocent looking one might imagine, some reportedly old ladies, but the action turned out to be bigger than one imagines old ladies taking part in. To Jason Lee, they must hare seemed as guileless as the young lads who are usually asked to pull numbers from hats in raffles, or drawings for church prizes.
But every player knew the whole purpose and function of the game was to relieve the wealthy traveler of as much cabbage as possible. Lee proved himself a gambler and perhaps even a heroic loser. Whatever he lost, it was big, though it's difficult to credit the amounts one hears.
A little later, thinking the whole thing over, he decided he must have been fleeced, and there are stories that he came for one of the local gamblers with a gun. If that is true, someone must have talked him out of it, for no gambler was reported shot, or even shot at, around the period of Lee's visit here, and he appears to have continued on to Tokyo--not broke, but pretty badly bent temporarily.
Met Old Friend
There is one other item, of a quieter sort, reflecting Lee's kindly impulses when not rolled by some situation like Cho Han games or dice games at Monte Carlo. Before he was clipped on that visit, report has it, he ran into an old friend of his, a haole who had assisted him in earlier days in Honolulu, before he'd made any big score. Lee found his old friend somewhat down on his luck, holding a lowly, poor-paying job, and offered to put him back on his feet. But the old friend, though glad enough to see Lee, rejected any offer of help. He claimed he was doing all right the way he was.
In Monte Carlo, according to Toni Howard's article in the Nov. 24 Post, Lee and a couple of accomplices, Philip Aggie and Arif Shaker, descended on the Casino with a bag-full of loaded dice. Their dice were green — as it turned out, slightly too deep a green to be perfect matches for those used at the Casino. Perhaps they were aided a bit by the comparative newness of the game. Craps has been played at the Casino only since 1950.
In any case, pretty soon Aggie was making passes like crazy and Jason Lee was getting bets down as fast and as big as possible. But the biggest bet allowed at the Casino crap table is only $115, so Lee had total strangers putting down bets for him. Aggie made 20 passes before he crapped out, and the boys waited for another go-round.
Red Dice Stopped Action
It never came. The croupier must have spotted the action clearly, for he changed to red dice. Lee put up an awful yell, but it did no good. The red dice stayed, and the three Americans sifted sadly out through -the Casino crowd.
Lee returned a little later, maybe to see if the green dice were back in action, but they weren't. He rushed home, packed his bag, picked up Shaker, leaving Aggie as a decoy, and hide the pair across the border to Nice, in France.
But he didn't bribe the taxi-driver, and there says Toni Howard, is where he upset his apple cart. The cabbie told the cops about the strange pair, as Monte Carlo cabbies always do when unbribed, or maybe bribed too gently.
The cops descended on Aggie. Aggie claimed he didn't know the other two. But then one phoned Aggie from Nice, and the cops had everything they wanted. In short order, with the aid of the cooperative French cops, they had jugged all three for breaking one of Monte Carlo's most important laws—cheating at gambling.
There were a number of delays in the trial, one because it was thought to be bad taste to be trying three Americans in a Monaco court when its regal head, Prince Rainier, was marrying the American, Grace Kelly. When it finally did go to trial, the game of craps came in for considerable explanation, says Toni Howard. There was talk of "Le Petit Joe," "La Petite Phoebe," and "Ten-the-Hard," and the judge was a little shocked when a defense lawyer told him a player may tell "love stories" to the dice.
And a witness is quoted as saying, "This game of craps, in effect, does not take place in a very silent or distinguished atmosphere. Unlike roulette or baccarat, one says and does many things while playing, while throwing."
Prince Rainier, however, knocked off the rest of Lee's sentence shortly afterward. But it's doubtful if he ever got back the 166 pairs of loaded dice confiscated in Aggie's bag at the time of tine arrest. The Casino probably kept them for further study.
I do not say that at odd hours a patient must be given the regular hot dinner or supper. Few people would expect this.
But what is so complicated about opening and heating a can of soup, making some toast, or preparing instant coffee or tea? Why cannot a night nurse do these simple things after the kitchen to closed? Is it just too much trouble?
It is only common humanity to feed the hungry. If our hospitals are too big, too complex, too impersonal to do these small kindnesses for the sick, something is very wrong.