He’s Driving Me Nutz! Tony Giorgio and His Obsession

Juliet Mills

It was interesting to read Tony Giorgio’s column in Genii this month.  It was interesting in the same manner it would be interesting to read the ravings of an obsessed stalker.  Not the kind of stalker that innocently writes your name down over and over on a piece of paper in minute script so as to arrive at a schizoid-significant number of 7272 separate signatures in alternating cursive and print. No, his obsession is more than that; something more abnormal than that.

 

Okay, time for a disclaimer:  I have never met Mr. Giorgio.  I have seen movies in which he starred.  I have an appreciation for his knowledge of the secret world of card sharks and their swindles.  I enjoy reading his writing because his prose matches the context.  He is less polished than Damon Runyon is but I think that is the intent.  Mr. Giorgio is a fine writer. 

 

However, just as I had to let go of the notion that Cheryl Tiegs or Juliet Mills (older sister to Hailey Mills and star of “Nanny and the Professor”) would fall in love with me, Mr. Giorgio needs to let go as well.  We do not know S.W. Erdnase’s identity.  Some have guessed he was a magician looking to make a quick buck by publishing a book allegedly exposing the secrets of the card cheats, Expert at the Card Table. 

 

Others say he was a true card shark looking to make a quick buck by publishing a book allegedly exposing the secrets of the card cheats.  Some, including Martin Gardner, suggest S.W. Erdnase is actually a nom de plume (literally, a “name of feather” — I had to look this up after reading an Eugene Burger article.  I still don’t understand what it has to do with Mr. Erdnase’s real name but it sounds so cool).  The author’s real name was S.W. Erdnase reversed, or “E.S. Andrews.” 



Juliet Mills

It was interesting to read Tony Giorgio’s column in Genii this month.  It was interesting in the same manner it would be interesting to read the ravings of an obsessed stalker.  Not the kind of stalker that innocently writes your name down over and over on a piece of paper in minute script so as to arrive at a schizoid-significant number of 7272 separate signatures in alternating cursive and print. No, his obsession is more than that; something more abnormal than that.

 

Okay, time for a disclaimer:  I have never met Mr. Giorgio.  I have seen movies in which he starred.  I have an appreciation for his knowledge of the secret world of card sharks and their swindles.  I enjoy reading his writing because his prose matches the context.  He is less polished than Damon Runyon is but I think that is the intent.  Mr. Giorgio is a fine writer. 

 

However, just as I had to let go of the notion that Cheryl Tiegs or Juliet Mills (older sister to Hailey Mills and star of “Nanny and the Professor”) would fall in love with me, Mr. Giorgio needs to let go as well.  We do not know S.W. Erdnase’s identity.  Some have guessed he was a magician looking to make a quick buck by publishing a book allegedly exposing the secrets of the card cheats, Expert at the Card Table. 

 

Others say he was a true card shark looking to make a quick buck by publishing a book allegedly exposing the secrets of the card cheats.  Some, including Martin Gardner, suggest S.W. Erdnase is actually a nom de plume (literally, a “name of feather” — I had to look this up after reading an Eugene Burger article.  I still don’t understand what it has to do with Mr. Erdnase’s real name but it sounds so cool).  The author’s real name was S.W. Erdnase reversed, or “E.S. Andrews.” 

 

I grew up in the culturally rich neighborhoods of Chicago and in all my cavorting in the various “little Italy, little Poland, little Finland” I never once came across an “Erdnase.”  This proves nothing.  We know that S. W. Erdnase wrote the book or at least assembled it for publication in Chicago but it is unlikely that he was a Chicago-native.

 

There are many E.S. Andrews in Chicago and virtually every major city across the U.S. and Canada.  There are almost no E.S. Andrews in Guatemala — even in the metropolitan Guatemala City. 

 

I too am obsessed with the story of S.W. Erdnase.  I want to know how he came to be, who he was, what he was, and where he went after publishing his now famous book.

 

But, unlike Mr. Giorgio, I do not fixate on tearing down the reputation of a mystery man.  There is no sense in it.  Mr. Erdnase may never have walked this mortal plane.  He may be an amalgam of different authors.  Regardless, Mr. Erdnase and his estate (if there is one) ain’t getting a dime from the many republished editions of his Magnum Opus.  (Literally, “Big Opie” ? Max Maven used this phrase a couple of years back and sounds so neat.  Please note, it is not a “Big Obie” although Obie O’Brien is big.)

 

Months ago, I wrote a column in response to Mr. Giorgio’s first Giorgio Letter on the subject of center deals.  Do you remember that one?  Mr. Giorgio’s thesis was that S. W. Erdnase was no card player and he was talking through his hat.  Fair enough.  To substantiate his point, Mr. Giorgio quoted Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller on the subject of center deals. 

 

These are good authorities and I agreed with Mr. Giorgio’s logic that the need for a center deal is practically nil in a big-stakes game.  It is a nice legend to explore with a close-up audience but you would be foolish to try the move in a game when you cannot be sure the card you need from the center of the deck is actually the one you are dealing. 

 

Nevertheless, in that first Giorgio Letter, there was a scary tone.  He was not interested in pointing out why S.W. Erdnase’s account of the Center Deal and its use was fiction; he wanted to establish S. W. Erdnase was a fraud.

 

Using the same type of contextual analysis scripture scholars apply to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Mr. Giorgio hoped to prove Mr. Erdnase’s use of certain words proved he was not a big-stakes gambler. 

 

He uses the same analysis in his most recent Giorgio Letter.  He argues that true gamblers don’t call a “pass” a “pass” but a “hop.” Therefore, if Mr. Erdnase was truly a gambler, a big-un, he would not refer to the pass as a pass.  Ergo, Mr. Erdnase was not a shark bu a magician who knew gamblers but not well enough to speak their language or understand why they would use certain sleights.  QED.

 

Mr. Giorigo seems to miss the point of Mr. Erdnase’s work.  He was trying to teach magicians how to use moves and philosophies from the card table in their magic.  Magicians do call a pass a pass.  I have never called it a hop — not once  I have not even been tempted to call it a hop.  I did not know it was called a hop in the big games. 

 

But so what? 

 

It is a good thing Mr. Erdnase did not refer to the pass as a hop.  I would not have known what he was describing and would have likely skipped the section.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I read the section when I was twelve and became obsessed with performing the perfect, invisible pass.  It consumed hours, days, and weeks.  Eventually, I gave up.  I used Mr. Erdnase’s advice and changed the moment in which I did the sleight. 

 

If Mr. Erdnase had used the gambling term of “hop,” I would be a doctor or lawyer now.  My years practicing the sleight caused me to neglect my studies and condemned me to my current career path as freelance nose hair trimmer.

 

Nevertheless, the point is; who cares? 

 

You may be wondering why I care so much about Mr. Giorgio’s obsession with a legendary and perhaps fictional character.  I do not know why. 

 

In the same way I cannot protect this mythical Mr. Erdnase, Mr. Giorgio cannot tear him down.  For all practical purposes, he does not exist.  He receives no royalties, does not lecture, has no other books, videos or DVDs.  I am reminded of Gertrude Stein?s observation of Oakland, “There is no ‘there’ there.” 

 

Perhaps Mr. Giorgio is not trying to tear down the myth but trying to add to the scholarship about the legend.  It could be that his terse and harsh dismissal of Mr. Erdnase’s instruction or knowledge reflects Mr. Giorgio’s writing style and not his intended tone. 

 

His theories are not substantially different from those Martin Gardner or others have advanced.  He is just a little less gracious and a little more indignant.  If this is the case, I need to look past the constant refrain of dismissive taglines and see into the heart of Mr. Giorgio.  Just as our space program employed scientists with varying personalities in its effort to advance the state of the art, maybe Mr. Giorgio is one of those gruff personalities we need to heed to move the scholarship forward.

 

Um. Probably not.

 

If we have to discount his tone and word choice in determining Mr. Giorgio’s true motives, we do not have to overlook his obsessive reiteration of the thesis.  He reiterates his evidence against Mr. Erdnase in virtually every Girogio Letter. 

 

He could be discussing cocktail waitresses and he would find some slip-up in Expert at the Card Table.  “Erdnase writes, ‘cocktail waitresses often push drinks in an effort to get the mechanic off his game.”  Mr. Giorgio would respond, “The seasoned, Big-Stakes gambler never referred to cocktail waitresses as “cocktail waitresses.”  The true gambler knows they are called, ‘drinkie-gals’ or ‘whisky women’ or ‘mix chics’ but never “cocktail waitresses.”  This shows Mr. Erdnase could not have been a professional gambler and must have been a professional magician used to performing in night clubs where “cocktail waitresses” work.”

 

Let it go, Mr. Giorgio.  I will take up a petition drive to have Mr. Erdnase be declared a magician and a fraud.  No one should consider valid anything he wrote in within the Expert at the Card Table.  Finally, we can track down his true mother and father, dig them up from their earthen repose, and slap their little skeleton heads so hard they will pop off their bony skeleton necks and roll past next payday. 

 

In the Big Book, we learn that we are powerless over persons, places, and things.  I should let go as well.  I should read my own ravings and consider the log in my own eye before I look to remove the small sliver in Mr. Giorgio’s cornea. 

 

However, this subject is like jock itch for me.  It feels so good to scratch but when I finish, I am in pain.  I will ease my way out of the debate and go sit in a psychological bath of rubbing alcohol to bring intense, instructive pain. 

He’s Driving Me Nutz! Tony Giorgio and His Obsession

Juliet Mills

It was interesting to read Tony Giorgio’s column in Genii this month.  It was interesting in the same manner it would be interesting to read the ravings of an obsessed stalker.  Not the kind of stalker that innocently writes your name down over and over on a piece of paper in minute script so as to arrive at a schizoid-significant number of 7272 separate signatures in alternating cursive and print. No, his obsession is more than that; something more abnormal than that.

 

Okay, time for a disclaimer:  I have never met Mr. Giorgio.  I have seen movies in which he starred.  I have an appreciation for his knowledge of the secret world of card sharks and their swindles.  I enjoy reading his writing because his prose matches the context.  He is less polished than Damon Runyon is but I think that is the intent.  Mr. Giorgio is a fine writer. 

 

However, just as I had to let go of the notion that Cheryl Tiegs or Juliet Mills (older sister to Hailey Mills and star of “Nanny and the Professor”) would fall in love with me, Mr. Giorgio needs to let go as well.  We do not know S.W. Erdnase’s identity.  Some have guessed he was a magician looking to make a quick buck by publishing a book allegedly exposing the secrets of the card cheats, Expert at the Card Table. 

 

Others say he was a true card shark looking to make a quick buck by publishing a book allegedly exposing the secrets of the card cheats.  Some, including Martin Gardner, suggest S.W. Erdnase is actually a nom de plume (literally, a “name of feather” — I had to look this up after reading an Eugene Burger article.  I still don’t understand what it has to do with Mr. Erdnase’s real name but it sounds so cool).  The author’s real name was S.W. Erdnase reversed, or “E.S. Andrews.” 



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