I wrote a guest piece for the Asian American culture blog "You Offend Me You Offend My Family." Modified and reposted here.
4 Super-Villains Who Really Exist Inside of California Casinos
If you ever need a reality check on human nature and its propensity towards evil, go to a Los Angeles casino. I mean, in these complicated times there is good and bad in everyone and there are grey areas and moral ambiguities and blah blah blah, but chronic gamblers are just some villainous motherflowers. It's because their pursuit of money, and constantly losing it, has replaced any human feeling in their hearts with pure black tar.
(Explanatory side note: California casinos are specially-regulated dens of gambling which originated as cardrooms for poker and expanded to include the so-called "Asian" games: modified versions of blackjack, pai gow poker, baccarat. They tend to be in the verdantly-named cities of Los Angeles like Bell Gardens, Hawaiian Gardens, Gardena. Never heard of those places? Maybe because there are no actual gardens there. There are, however, casinos: the Bicycle Club, Commerce, Hustler, Normandie, and the eponymous Hawaiian Gardens. The main differences between Cali casinos and Vegas or Indian casinos is a) you have to pay a service charge for placing a bet, because usually you're not playing against the house, you're playing against the corporation banker [that was my job....more on that later], and b) unlike Vegas, which only has Tons of Asians, Cali casinos have a 24/7 Gigantic Horde of Tons of Asians.)
Since it's very tricky to get actual photos of these major threats to humanity (they tend to shun photos, or destroy the lens with their laser eye-beams, and never mind it's also inside a casino...) I'm drawing from my considerable and arcane knowledge of comics and pop culture to present to you 4 Super-Villains Who Really Exist Inside of California Casinos:
1. Storm Shadow
I don't really get why all the ninjas in hollywood are played by Korean actors lately, but that's a separate issue. In the casino, Storm Shadow leads a whole clan of white-clad muscley Korean males who fight for the side of gambling evil, albeit with a kind of ragged honor. That is, they come in, bet big, get real macho, give you a big headache, lose tens of thousands of dollars, and eventually inebriate themselves into shameful submission. Of course, Casino Storm Shadow's ivory garb is usually from A&F or Armani Exchange (or reasonable fascimiles thereof), but he does favor the bright white that allows him to blend into the shadows of, uh, nothing. Fortunately, Casino Storm Shadow does not as a rule come with sword and shuriken accessories, but he may be that guy who still has a chain attached to his wallet, so watch out.
Whether it is the original Cheshire Cat or the somewhat obscure DC Teen Titans foe, both have their doppelgangers within the casino. Casino Cheshire is probably an Asian woman with a radiant lingering smile, a ridiculous booby outfit from Bebe or Juicy Couture or whathaveyou, and catlike reflexes that enable her to snatch up any casino chip that comes within her 15-foot radius, even if it's, like, in your pants. Her smile is the secret weapon here: Do Not Look At The Smile. If you know what is good for you, Watch Her Hands. Basically, a superficially awesome-looking femme fatale who exists to give you a headache.
3. Fat Karma
Fans of the original New Mutants series (an 80's Marvel classic) may remember the storyline in which Karma (the Vietnamese member of the New Mutants) was somehow possessed by the telepathic crimelord Amahl Farouk, who ate and indulged and sat around thinking evil thoughts until Karma's petite frame ballooned into gigantic Kingpin-esque massiveness. (I'm serious, that really happened, I told you it was a classic.) Eventually her teammates rescue Karma's mind, but she is still saddled with the fat evil body, and has to go to Asgard or something to sweat off the pounds. Then they fight Loki, and...
ANYWAY, this character EXACTLY exists inside California casinos. That is, an extremely hefty Asian woman who was once a waify young thing and whose mind is that of an evil madman. 5 gets you 10 she is Vietnamese, like Karma. Also, Karma's mutant power was the telepathic control of other people. Casino Fat Karma is similarly able to control minds and exert her will over others, through some paranormal combination of feminine wiles, her perceived harmlessness, and sheer force of personality. It is the only way to explain why certain casino staff supervisors allow Mama/Fat Karma to keep coming into the casino despite the fact that the only things she contributes are a) stealing money, b) battling people, and c) hating the sight of innocent life. And what more can you ask from a supervillain, really?
4. The Gambler
There was one specific guy at the casino whom we nicknamed “Kenny Rogers” because of his full head of salt-and-pepper hair and bushy beard, and also 'cause, of course, Kenny Rogers was The Gambler. The one who knew when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
But while Kenny Rogers' Gambler character was a mythic hero of song, California Casino Kenny Rogers was the most evil human I have ever known. Seriously. Not like someone who'd kill you, but the most obnoxious, mean, loud, petty, rude, lying scheming cheating slimy sack of dickbag that ever lived. The kind of guy who thinks he owns you, lives off hurting others' feelings, screams at you FOR ANY STUPID REASON WITH NO WARNING WHATSOEVER CONTINUOUSLY FOR AN HOUR, then complains to the supervisor about your behavior, and ten minutes later tries to give you a hug and a too-friendly kiss to apologize, because he was having a diabetic blood-sugar-related issue and didn't mean it. One time Kenny Rogers verbally harangued one of my co-workers to the point of the co-worker having heart palpitations and passing out. He was always going on about his endless supply of money and did in fact seem to have a fortune from doing some Rich Dickbag Activity. Because he was a high roller, he was allowed to behave like this, and liked to lord it over the underlings and casino staff, e.g. harassing all the women and ordering all the men to get stuff for him. One of his favorite games was to pick on a rotating dealer (or prop player) and follow them from table to table, ordering them to leave. His typical routine would be something like this;
“You again...? You kill me last time. I never bet with you. Never in my life.”
“Get up, go. You're done. Go. “
“WHY WON'T YOU GO? SHE DOESN'T WANT TO GO!!! WHY YOU KILL ME EVERY TIME! I'M A NICE PERSON. I NEVER TALK BAD TO ANYBODY. GO. LEAVE.”
(At this point the harassed employee might make some mention of the fact that they have no option to leave, but would very much like to....which everyone knows.)
“WHAT DID YOU SAY? CALL YOUR SUPERVISOR! CALL HIM RIGHT NOW! CALL YOUR SUPERVISOR. YOU LOSE YOUR JOB. DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? NEVER IN MY LIFE. GOOOOOOO!!!! WHY DON'T YOU GO!!!!! KISS MY ASS. I SEE YOU IN THE PARKING LOT!”
(Starts throwing things.)
(Then waits for dealer to rotate to another table, follows them to that table, repeat.)
NOTE: “See you in the parking lot.” = casino expression meaning, “I'll find you later in the area with no camera surveillance so I can steal your money and maybe beat you to death.”
I mean, it was just nonsense. He was a true villain, that Kenny Rogers, and although no hero myself, in my limited capacity as prop player in a shady East LA casino, I swore to stop him, and thwart his evil games once and for all. No matter the cost.