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Victor Niederhoffer and Uncle Howie Eisenberg: How to Lose

Vic's Message to Daughter Galt:

I learned many things from Coney island. Perhaps I can list a few of them and then you can tell me which sound interesting and I might elaborate as did Joseph Heller who was born there. That reminds me of my favorite Coney Island anecdote. You used to get 50 tickets to Steeplechase for 50 cents and each one was punched as you used it. So the kids would wait until the old geezers left and then say "Mr. can I have the tickets you didn't use?" and then they could go on rides for the whole day for free. And Joseph Heller did this.

  1. 60 years later he's sitting in Steeplechase circa 1970 with Puzo and Heller. Puzo gets caught in the moving circle and they sit down on a bench and talk about their fucken agents for 3 hours. This one screwed me on the royalty, that one didn't try to get it published et al. As they're leaving Steeplechase, some kids come up to them: "Mr. can I have your tickets?" They look. each has 48 of the 50 tickets left.
  2. Why did people have an unholy interest in "under the boardwalk." Every book on Coney Island reveals with relish that there are dirty things going on under the board. Sailors and girls and gays. But now the under the boardwalk is closed. Boarded up. The sand is flush with board. So no places to buy sodas on beach.
  3. I was at Coney yesterday. Amazing that it's just as busy now as it was 60 years ago and then 80 years ago. The property held up. The rents were lowered. New uses such as paint ball and rap talk scooters and politically correct freak shows have come back. And now the Hispanics and Russians use it. Real estate is timeless. As Scarlett's father, (who was it?) said "Land is the only thing that's permanent." And it's also the reason we have cycles of bus. As Henry George said, because land becomes too expensive in many places and the bizzes on it can't afford to sell anything on it.
  4. Howie Eisenberg...... see EdSpec how to snatch defeat from jaws of victory. He lost 85 national doubles tournaments on W 4th street. One of his favorite methods. Tell the referee what a schmuck he is before the game and warn him that if he makes any bad calls against you, he'll kill you.
  5. Walking back from the Coney Island park with my dad. My favorite memory. We'd stop for a watermelon on Emmons Avenue then walk to Nathan's for a French. Finally walk to what's now the aquarium and watch my father play a game of checkers or two. That was the life. He'd tell me stories and say it would be the happiest day in his life the first time I beat him at tennis. It came when I was 11.
  6. Of course we'd go to Coney from Brighton during the Jewish holidays. Wouldn't want the neighbors to know we were playing ball on Rosh Hashanah. So we'd all meet our neighbors...and Willie Sutton also trying to hide from his police friends in Coney Island during Jewish holidays.
  7. My first job. Collecting bottles on the beach. Did it every July 4. Make 5 bucks. Then had it stolen.
  8. My father playing football on the sand on the beach. Still got pictures. Got his nose broken 15 times. Couldn't ever swing a racket straight.
  9. My father and brother walking on the boardwalk in white shorts with tennis rackets. People calling them fairies. Of course everyone who played tennis then.
  10. Picking up girls. A popular thing on the boardwalk. My father the best at it because he so handsomely but then he 'd always have to bow out. Never had the nickel for a cup of coffee.
  11. Going to Coney to make a private call from the tel box to my girlfriend so my parents couldn't hear me.

Howie Eisenberg's Clarification


While I won't tell you not to believe a word your father says in his flair for the dramatic, if not the fallacious, I will point out the inaccuracies in item 4.

  1. I lost a mere 15 national open handball doubles championships (in the finals); 6 singles finals
  2. None were at W, 4th St., although 2 were at W. 5th St., 1 singles finals there
  3. Although I may have verbalized my great affection for a referee or 2 with selected choice epithets, I never called 1 a smuck - maybe schmuck.
  4. I didn't make a point of castigating them prior to a match. It usually took several points of foreplay to arouse my ire.
  5. I never threatened to personally kill any referee. That's what contracts are for. See Godfather, The; Puzo.

My best wishes to you, your baby, your fiancÚ, and even to your father whom I love in spite of his predilections.

Great (OK, almost great) Uncle Howie