Covering the Story … A Glimpse of the Press in Action … Ugliness & Failure

from the above book:

The racers were ready at dawn. Fine sunrise over the desert. Very tense. But the race didn’t start until nine, so we had to kill about three long hours in the casino next to the pits, and that’s where the trouble started.

The bar opened at seven. There was also a “koffee & donut canteen” in the bunker, but those of us who had been up all night in places like the Circus-Circus were in no mood for coffee & donuts. We wanted strong drink. Our tempers were ugly and there were at least two hundred of us, so they opened the bar early. By eight-thirty there were big crowds around the crap-tables. The place was full of noise and drunken shouting.

A boney, middle-aged hoodlum wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt boomed up to the bar and yelled: “God damn! what day is this–Saturday?”

“More like Sunday,” somebody replied.

“Hah! That’s a bitch, ain’t it?” the H-D boomer shouted to nobody in particular. “Last night I was out home in Long Beach and somebody said they were runnin’ the Mint 400 today, so I says to my old lady, ‘Man, I’m goin’.” He laughed. “So she gives mea lot of crap about it, you know . . . so I started slappin’ her around and the next thing I knew two guys I never even seen before got me out on the sidewalk workin’ me over. Jesus! They beat me stupid.”

He laughed again, talking into the crowd and not seeming to care who listened. “Hell yes!” he continued. “Then one of ’em says, ‘Where you going?’ And I says, ‘Las Vegas, to the Mint 400.’ So they gave me ten bucks and drove me down to the bus station . . .” He paused. “At least I think it was them. . . .

“Well anyway, here I am. And I tell you that was one hell of a long night, man! Seven hours on that goddamn bus! But when I woke up it was dawn and here I was in downtown Vegas and for a minute I didn’t know what the hell I was doin’ here. All I could think was, ‘O Jesus, here we go again: Who’s divorced me this time?'”

He accepted a cigarette from somebody in the crowd, still grinning as he lit it up. “But then I remembered, by God! I was here for the Mint 400 . . . and, man, that’s all I needed to know. I tell you it’s wonderful to be here, man. I don’t give a damn who wins or loses. It’s just wonderful to be here with you people. . . .”

Nobody argued with him. We all understood. In some circles, the “Mint 400” is a far, far better thing than the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and the Lower Oakland Roller Derby Finals all rolled into one. This race attracts a very special breed, and our man in the Harley T-shirt was clearly one of them.

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3 comments so far

  1. Anonymous on

    I always felt like the stupid hangover movies were a tamed down version of this disaster.

  2. Old School on

  3. Rasta on


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