Monday, May 7, 2018

Tails I Lose

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Tails I Lose
Tails I Lose

When I was a college student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA., I saw two movies that left a deep impression on me. Both dealt with alcoholism and they opened my eyes to the powers of an alcoholic drink.

One was titled 'The Lost Weekend' and the other starring Jack Lemon was 'The Days Of Wine And Roses.'

Like a lot of people of my generation, I saw the films, forgot about them and then set off on my own lost weekends and days of wine and roses. I had a lot of company.

The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, a daily newspaper owned by the Hearst Corporation, had some legendary drinkers. They included my City Editor Tom Caton, columnists James Bacon and Al Stump, syndicated columnist Walter Winchell, and a wonderful rewrite reporter named Walt Egger.

I was part of one of the greatest editorial staffs in America. We knew it. We beat our opposition including the Los Angeles Times, City News Service, and the Long Beach Press-Telegram on breaking news stories and we did a better job on writing feature stories day after day after day.

After work and on weekends, we would retire to one of the many trendy bars in the Los Angeles area like Corky's Bar and Grill, the Alexandria Hotel, the Sports Page, the Brown Derby or the Beverly Hills Hotel to imbibe and to share our news triumphs of that week.

It was fun, exciting and sometimes devastating.

Some people, sadly, should not drink. It took me years of discovery, but I finally found that out.

And, sadly, some people should not gamble.

Ronald Reagan once told me in an interview that Ted Kennedy was a good friend of his. But he said Kennedy would never be President because he could not stop drinking after he had two drinks. And he was proven to be right.

Justin Rees Larcombe is a native of Kent, England who recently published a book titled 'Tails I Lose.' It is an autobiographical account of his life as a compulsive gambler and it is a powerful reminder that there are some people who should stay away from gambling.

Larcombe seemed to be living the perfect life. He was a swimming champion in high school and at Uplands Community College. Handsome with an outgoing personality that easily made friends, he was earning a six-figure income as an insurance adjuster with Lloyds of London and driving a Porsche when he met his future wife, Emma, who was attending college and working at her parents' hotel.

They fell in love, married, and had two children.

Larcombe loved his wife and family and provided them with a good lifestyle. He had his suits custom made, they vacationed at exclusive resorts, and their lives were happy and fruitful. He was even presented with the Sword Of Honour by the Queen.

One day while his wife was away, he was bored and made a small bet on a rugby match at one of Britain's many gambling establishments. That led to another sports bet...then another...then another.

Larcombe loved the rush the gambling gave him. He escalated the size of his bets and began wagering on horse racing, darts, roulette and other events where you could gamble.

Emma was not aware of what her husband was doing. He made many of his bets on his personal computer. But as his gambling addiction deepened, he began using their savings and writing overdrafts on his company credit card.

He borrowed money from his mother as well as a close friend. And as his gambling debts increased, he even pawned his wife's jewelry, silverware, and wedding ring.

When she discovered the extent of his gambling, her faith and trust in the man she loved was shattered. She left him and took their children to her parents' house where she began planning for a divorce.

Larcombe was so caught up in his gambling that this move failed to stop him. He continued gambling until one day he woke up and realized his life had become a nightmare. He had lost his wife, his children and his job when his company discovered he was using the company credit card to pay for his gambling. His gambling losses totaled in the millions.

Slowly but surely he returned to normal. He found a debt counselor who helped him with his credit cards. He found another job and started earning good money again. And he tearfully persuaded his wife to give him another chance.

His mother is a well known British novelist Jennifer Rees Larcombe. She forgave him for his betrayal.

Larcombe and three friends who were former gamblers created an organization called 'Rethink Gambling.' They also petitioned the government to do more to help problem gamblers, pointing out that alcoholics and drug addicts have support organizations.

And he wrote a book, 'Tails I Lose', that has become a best seller.

Today he and his wife are back together raising their children. Although she has regained her love and much of her trust in him, they are working on their marriage with a counselor.

'I never used to live in the present, but that is all I do now,' said Larcombe, smiling.


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