Seeking a new con, Drapeau envisions a ship of fools

John Robertson October 6 1975

Seeking a new con, Drapeau envisions a ship of fools

John Robertson October 6 1975

Seeking a new con, Drapeau envisions a ship of fools

John Robertson

Ah, the good, patient people of Montreal. So what if they were burned out during last year’s illegal firemen’s strike—the city’s outdoor-theatre version of Some Like It Hot? Who cares if they haven’t been to work for three weeks because bus and metro drivers are in study session trying to learn how to read street names without moving their lips? What matter that property taxes have risen to Tilt to help pay for the 1976 Olympic Games? (All they have to do is call Marvin the Torch, and then their friendly fire insurance company to haul away the ashes.)

Minor inconveniences, perhaps, but nothing to get upset about. Not with the resolute hands of Mayor Jean Drapeau firmly on the ship of state. Not with Premier Robert Bourassa ready to impart his sage counsel. Or at the very least call a royal inquiry. Olympic spending estimates may be up 600% and the mayor may have refused to disclose his cost projections, but His Worship has His reasons. Why, he even has a grand strategy to pay off the entire Olympic deficit—Master Charge.

Frankly, I think it’s time someone presented the Mayor’s defense on the Olympic spending issue, and now that it’s done, maybe the critics will kindly get off his back. How would you like to listen to stadium architect Roger Taillibert humming “It’s nice work if you can get it” 18 hours a day. (You’d hum too if you got $18 million for finger painting on blueprint paper.)

Who else but Drapeau had the vision— his most recent—to suggest buying the SS France and converting it into the world’s newest established floating crap game? And for a mere $40 million at that. Granted, the ship was too tall to make it under several bridges en route up the St. Lawrence to Montreal. But that was no problem: Bourassa did some quick mathematics and asked Paul Desrochers, “eminence grease” of the Liberal Party, to take 10% off the top of the ship.

Bob-le-job subsequently vetoed the France’s purchase, but Drapeau apparently has a new vehicle in mind—the old Canadian aircraft carrier Bonaventure, refitted more times than Xaviera Hollander’s diaphragm. With its wide, flat deck, it’ll make a super bingo and whist emporium. It’s understood His Worship has even come up with an apt name for the Maiden Voyage: the Posiedon Adventure. That’s another form of French roulette: the wheel stays still and the bettors spin the ship. Actually, the Bonny wasn’t the Mayor’s first choice. He tried for the Titanic but he didn’t want to get in over his head. It’s rumored he even has plans to reopen his old restaurant on board. This time, however, he’s refusing to hire unemployed politicians as waiters, because they keep serving meals under the table.

Of course, refitting the Bonaventure into a floating casino is a lot harder than you’d think. For example, the Mayor has ordered 8,000 sun cots so no one will accuse him of playing without a full deck. He’s flatly refused, however, to hold the Olympic diving competition on board; there’ll be enough swan divers around the tables.

Drapeau believes a seagoing casino could generate enough money from the rubes to pay off the mounting Olympic deficit. In the unlikely event that he’s wrong, he’ll simply put two of everything onto the boat and cast off for the Virgin Islands. If he can’t find the Virgin Islands, he’ll go to the Bay of Pigs and make virginity retroactive. And if he can’t find the Bay of Pigs, he’ll dock as Jean and his World and play Perquacky until Judgment Day. He’s already sold television rights to the European Broadcasting Union for $3.95. His Worship was holding out for $18 million, but compromised a little when they threw in a color portrait of Napoleon.

The floating casino is a grand idea. After half a dozen lotos, will one more crap game make any difference? But Jean cannot live by backgammon alone, so I strongly recommend we put a house of ill repute on board. Gambling on the port side, situations on the starboard. Or vices versa if you like. Corridor conversations should be interesting. “It’s an odd time but I’ll be there.” Or, “I’ll lay you two to one.” Or, “Hit me again, Jean.”