Lucky Lady by
50
(88 Stories)

Prompted By Dice

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Going into business is always dicey, you might even say a crap shoot, but I have a habit of it. 

Back in the early ‘90s, I was also in the habit of playing poker in casinos around the southland.

I’d recently come back from a trip to Africa and used some of the photos I’d taken there to make little packets of notecards as holiday gifts. Which kind of explains why, sitting at a poker table at the Commerce Casino, I suddenly I came up with the idea for a line of greeting cards for gamblers. You know, “SLOTS of love on your birthday!” and “As friends go, you’re ACES…Happy Birthday!” Kind of tacky, sure…but perfect for Vegas gift shops, right?! 

I spent months taking photos of playing cards, dice, and slot machines in various permutations, having thousands of them printed onto cards with pithy sentiments inside, then peddling them to casino gift shops across the country. And they sold!

Another favorite (blank inside)

At first I had 24 designs. Then I began hiring real artists and came up with 24 more, some of which were actually pretty cool. Plus a series of Bingo cards (and if you’ve ever been in a Bingo parlor in Vegas, you know it’s a world unto itself).

Biggest seller overall: “It’s your birthday…hope you hit the jackpot!”

My favorite: A colorful joker with the inside greeting, “Wild about YOU!”

Oh, and did I mention holiday cards? 

 

“Twas the night before Christmas 

And all through the casino 

Santa’s elves were playing blackjack, 

Roulette, and Keno. 

 

There were several at the slot machines

You could spot them by their caps 

One or two played stud

And another one shot craps.” 

Etc.

One thing led to another and the MGM Grand hired me to design an entire line of gambling-related stationery products featuring Betty Boop (!) for their new emporium, and my then-husband and I ended up moving to Las Vegas to be where the action was.

As crazy as it sounds, this was my introduction into the world of art, be that as it may. It didn’t take long for me to outgrow the genre (and to stop playing cards), and as luck would have it, someone else thought it was a great idea and bought the business from me.

So, would I do it all over again? No dice! 

 

Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a fascinating story, Barb! Also a brilliant idea. Even as I read it, I kept thinking, “You know, this might just, well, hit the jackpot.” And so it obviously did. I just hope you were fairly rewarded when you sold the business. (By the way, was your own quitting of cards related to or independent of this sale?)

    Your description of yourself as “an inveterate dabbler” only hints at all you’ve done. So please keep sharing with us all your stories!

    • Thanks so much, John! I do feel I was fairly compensated for the business, although I felt a little guilty because I wasn’t sure the woman I sold it to really grasped just how much work would be involved in keeping it running. Publishing is tricky…you print in volume to save on costs, but then there’s the whole inventory control issue that’s really tricky. I could write an entire story about that in itself, although it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. Re your question, my quitting playing poker happened organically…I lost “interest” after a long losing streak. Luckily for me!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Love this, Barb. Clever, artistic, entertaining. What became of this line of merchandise?

    • Thanks, Bets! You know, I’m not sure what became of it. My selling the business and moving back to L.A. was due to my husband’s illness, and after he died, I didn’t look back for a long time. I think I blocked out a lot of our Vegas days, and slowly lost contact with almost everyone I knew there, including the woman who bought the business. I just Googled “Lucky Lady Casino Cards” and nothing came up.

  3. Wow Bebe, now we learn more about your dicey past!
    We are indeed the lucky guys and dolls to know you!

  4. This was a really fun trip down a lane I didn’t even know existed, in your life, or at all! You left me wanting to hear more examples. Please, dealer, hit me again!

    • LOL, Dale! Since you asked…another one was a stylized drawing of a king and queen of hearts holding hands, and on the inside: “Perfectly suited…Happy Anniversary!” Another: “I hit the jackpot…when I met you!” And, a photo of an ace and a king on a blackjack table, and inside: “We were meant for each other.” There were some real groaners as well: “I almost forgot your birthday…guess I’m not playing with a full deck!” “I love you…with all my hearts.” “You’re another year older…no big deal.” I could go on but I won’t…remember, there were 48 different designs!

  5. Suzy says:

    Wow, Barb, with all the twists and turns your life has taken, this is one of the most amazing! I love your line of cards and stationery! I’m so glad I suggested this prompt so that we could learn about this wonderful facet of your past.

  6. Marian says:

    Amazing, Barb, I never would have guessed at this part of your life, but it’s wonderful that your foray into this business led you into art, and all that this endeavor has meant for you. Going into business is indeed a gamble, and you won that round.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I never cease to be amazed at how many creative and interesting things you have packed into your life, Barb. You are never afraid to roll the dice. Can’t wait to read your memoir.

  8. Ah, another chapter in the thick volume titled “Ms Buckles Encyclopedia of Mishaps and Adventures” available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. I urge you to buy a copy!

  9. I’m looking forward to seeing the cover design. You should create it yourself!

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