"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Matthau’s Love for the Long Shot


Dig this gem from Brad Darrach, People magazine, 1974:

“I thoroughly disapprove of gambling,” actor Walter Matthau explains primly as he whooshes toward Hollywood Park racetrack in his bronze Mercedes at 80 mph. “But I’m too rich and it’s good for me to lose.” He chuckles wickedly, rolling his eyes like dice. “Actually, I wallow in the pain of it all. It’s like an expensive psychoanalysis.”

“Big Walts,” as he is known, is Hollywood’s most flamboyant loser—one way or another he drops about $75,000 a year. “He will bet on anything,” says a Walter-watcher. “Sunspot cycles, mouse races, toenail-growing contests.” But the nags get most of his action, and on rough days L.A. horse-players see some Oscar-worthy Matthau performances.

“There he is!” the gateman cheers when Matthau arrives, and the actor does a little ramble through the turnstile. Once upstairs at the Turf Club dining level, Matthau airily dopes the daily double, then goes off to plunge $200 on Perla in the first race (“a shoo-in”) and War Souvenir in the second. A waitress arrives at the table Matthau is sharing with the track physician, Robert Kerlan. Matthau inquires about the chow mein. “Any roaches in it, Velma? Don’t like roaches. Too many calories.”

Cee’s Flair wins the first race. Matthau groans and claws his dewlaps. “Jerk! Why do you come here?” he asks himself. “Wasn’t one coronary enough?” (Matthau is referring to his 1966 heart attack.) Lunch arrives. Matthau stares at it. “I don’t know what it is, but I’d rather eat it than step in it.” Leaning close to a table mate, he mutters earnestly, “Do you think [film critic] Pauline Kael has put a curse on me?” After he bets War Souvenir again, Swordville wins a 30-to-1 shot. As the horses parade before the third race, Matthau whips out his field glasses. “Look for one with a bowed neck!” he whispers fiercely. “A horse with a bowed neck is a horse with confidence!” Dropping his glasses, he leers. “Though what I really like is a horse with a shapely ass.”

You’re welcome.


1 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 18, 2014 2:53 pm

Beautiful guy.
Recently, my sons finally saw the orgiginal Bad News Bears.
They agreed the kids and the coach, especially the coach, were much funnier in the version I grew up with.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 18, 2014 4:06 pm

And they were right!

3 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 18, 2014 4:07 pm

I always knew Matthau was a gambler. Man, People magazine had some nice stories back when. This is just a lovely little piece, right?

4 thelarmis   ~  Nov 18, 2014 4:52 pm

Yup, this was highly enjoyable!

5 MSM35   ~  Nov 18, 2014 5:38 pm

Isn't that picture from Pehlam 123 when he heard Martin Balsam cough. Great movie, much better than the remake.

6 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 18, 2014 8:59 pm

5) You bet it is!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver