Donald Sterling On Basketball, The Lakers And Those Itty-Bitty Finger Sandwiches

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I had this brilliant idea a few days ago, which is unusual for me, so I've been looking for a good opportunity to implement it. That opportunity came yesterday.

Here's the idea: I decided that a good way to help this blog get some juice would be to watch the hashtagged "trending topics" on Facebook and Twitter, and if a subject should come up that I feel I can write about, I'd do just that and then promote my post by hashtagging it with the hashtag that caught my attention in the first place.

This would work as long as I "strike while the iron is hot." I'd have to write about something that's a trending topic and then publicize it while it's still a trending topic, which means I'd have to respond within about 12 hours, unless the topic is that missing Malaysian airliner, in which case I apparently have through the rest of 2014.

Yesterday a "trending topic" caught my eye and I decided to write about it. Here's the topic..

NBA investigating if Clippers owner Donald Sterling made racist comments.

I decided to tackle this particular subject because not only have I met the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, Donald Sterling, but I used to hang out with him. So I have an opportunity -- nay, a duty -- to provide a scathing first-hand report and really dish the dirt on Mr. Sterling.

I was employed for a couple of years as a "manager-on-duty" at the Palm Springs Hilton Resort down in Palm Springs, where Mr. Sterling was a frequent guest. He dropped in often and could usually be found in the hotel bar at his favorite table, watching sports on the big-screen TV. Sometimes it'd be a Clippers game, so we'd all hush and try not to distract him.

Regarding the trending topic of the past few days, he allegedly made some racist remarks to his girlfriend about black people and it got caught on tape and publicized. People, some of whom happen to be big-shots in the NBA and some athletes, have called for everything from a public apology to his resignation. I'll do my part by giving you a few personal observations about the man before I go hashtag the hell out of it on Facebook and Twitter.

First of all, please keep in mind that he took frequent trips to Palm Springs and would show up every other weekend, so I had a LOT of conversations with him, which usually went something like this..

ME - "Evening Mr. Sterling, nice to see you again."
STERLING - "Thanks Dave, good to be here."
ME - "Richard taking good care of you tonight sir?"
(Richard was the long-time bartender who worked evenings; he was on-duty every time Sterling showed up).
STERLING - "Damned straight! Mind asking him to bring me a refill? And we could use some more popcorn and finger sandwiches too."
(Most of the time he had guests with him. I never knew who they were).
ME - "No problem sir, back in a sec.."

I'd pass the request to Richard, and Sterling would have drinks refreshed and a replenished popcorn bowl along with finger sandwiches on his table within a couple of minutes.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling, sporting the effects of a
few too many finger-sandwiches
I realize I'm stirring up quite the hornet's nest here, but at the risk of litigation from Sterling's camp I need to press on and dig even deeper, as I have intel that's sure to fan the flames of this smoldering controversy, so here goes..

There was an overnight desk clerk employed at the time who I'll call Charles, which isn't his real name, but I don't want him suing me later. It's going to be bad enough when Sterling's army of lawyers read the account I'm about to give. I really should just purchase a one-way ticket to Mexico within ten minutes of hitting the "POST" button.

You see, Charles is black. And he was on duty late one night as Donald Sterling arrived alone and checked-in. Sterling usually arrived earlier in the evenings but he explained that he'd gotten tied-up in a business meeting down in LA, and then he thanked Charles for holding the room for him. I happened to be helping Charles with something at the front desk the moment Sterling arrived, so I witnessed this entire exchange.

What Charles said next resulted in a shocking and entirely detestable reply from Sterling that disgusted me so much I remember it to this day. Charles said, "Oh, you know we'll always hold your room for you sir! So the Clippers haven't been doing so well this year, eh? Think you guys will start gaining some ground during the next few weeks?"

Sterling's reply angered and upset me so badly I fought back tears..

He said, "I certainly hope so Charles! Say, do you play basketball yourself? You seem pretty athletic.."

Charles didn't seem to notice the obvious slam that Sterling had just thrown at him, or he was too big of a man to take issue with it. His reply was this..

"Oh, I played on the varsity team in high school but was never really good enough to get serious about it. But I still get down to LA when the Clippers are home, which goes for the Lakers too.. sorry to bring THEM up!"

Charles then awkwardly laughed.

Sterling cracked a big grin and said, "Oh hell that's okay, they're a good team and well worth watching, I catch their games myself from your hotel bar whenever I'm here."


Charles had apparently caught on and had had enough of this abuse. He quickly changed the subject with a clever retort..

"Okay sir, here's your card-key and of course you know that if you need anything just call down, as Dave and I are on duty all night tonight. Welcome back!"

Then Sterling actually took the key, thanked both of us and WENT UP TO HIS ROOM.

I'm still reeling from the impact.

DAMN, I forgot to mention that he did indeed call down for something about a half-hour into his visit. It was so late the restaurant and bar were closed and all of the other staff had gone home, so I personally went to the wine cellar and grabbed a bottle of vintage whatever-the-hell-he-wanted and personally delivered it to his room. Then he tipped me.

I don't think I'll ever recover.


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