“I demand that your son return my wife’s diamond necklace,” shouted Mr. Tomesen as he commanded the front hall of my parent’s apartment on East 72nd Street. My mother and father were mid-dinner party and their guests—which included the flamboyant gay walker and gossip Swizzy Ziegler, rail-thin fashion plate Nony Martin and fashion editor Divina Fields—watched in horror and amusement as Mr. Tomesen tried to shove his way past my father who mumbled and wobbled in his brown suede Belgian slippers.
“I think you’ve made a mistake,” my father replied, and then screamed down the hall, “Charlie Campbell, come here right this instant!”
I was already around the corner listening to every word (I often hid under the dining room table and eavesdropped on the conversation or looked up lady’s skirts).
“Yeah. What? I’m here,” I groaned, entering the front hall and facing Mr. Tomesen whose face rouged from pink to fiery red.
“Young man,” he started, wagging his finger like a billy club, “you have something that does not belong to you and you must return it this second.”
“What the heck is going on?” my father demanded, confused as the dining room fell into silence.
“Listen, I have your son’s dumb necklace” I told Mr. Tomesen, rolling my eyes, “and he can get it back when he pays me the $300 he owes me.”
“You will return the necklace now, young man. That necklace is worth a lot more than $300.”
Fast-forward and I very, very reluctantly forked over a large sparkly diamond necklace to Mr. Tomesen, who marched out in a serious huff.
Why did Alfie Tomesen, son of Ambassador Alfred Tomesen owe me 300 bucks? Well, in fifth grade at Barclay school, I ran a very successful gambling ring, replete with lottery tickets (instant—I made the scratch off numbers with crayons), a roulette wheel (charged to my parent’s account at Mary Arnold Toys), playing cards and a 6’4” Barclay boy bodyguard/muscleman named Alejandro. Every recess the Barclay middle school, boys would huddle on the stairs where I would hawk daily lottery tickets (always rigged—a friend would win and be paid 20 percent of the winning ticket), run a roulette wheel and card games like blackjack (with Alejandro standing guard). The tools of my trade were shoved into my Barclay blue backpack along with boring textbooks and a black ledger of who owed me what. Most days I raked in around $400. This left the Barclay boys’ blue blazers emptied of their weekly allowances. There were many annoying IOUs, but Alejandro was great at collecting debts and I rewarded him with a small fee. I kept my cash wad rolled up with a rubber band around it and spent it on candy, video games and occasionally a new deck of cards. It was a phenomenon and Barclay’s faculty was clueless—until Mr. Tomesen’s unfriendly face came into the picture, destroying both my fun and my profits. The mini-casino was disbanded (I was put on disciplinary probation, once again) and Mr. Tomesen’s wife got her “precious little necklace” (as I described it) back. But fear not, I soon found a new lucrative way to line my blue blazer with bills.
Next month: Little Charlie Campbell and his multi-media pornography empire.