• North Carolina, Neil Diamond, New York, Bermuda, Rome, Ernie Wise, Gloria Estefan, Manchester United, George Best, Russian Mafia – to Benijofar

BENIJOFAR businessman Martin Ronald Dean took a gamble with life as a teenager – and ended up travelling the world – as a Croupier! In Part 2 of a fascinating story he talks exclusively to Andrew Atkinson.

Having sailed the waters of the Caribbean on the cruiseliner The Sovereign of The Seas, Martin’s whirlwind ventures continued when he met a girl from North Carolina.

“It was fantastic! An amazing place to be. I was invited to a wedding while in North Carolina – with 150 guests –  when I arrived I thought I was at The White House!

“A huge building, with stone pillar columns at the entrance of the property. Me, a lad from Salford, Manchester,” said Martin, born in Lower Kersal.

Martin, who penned his own songs as a teenager, and formed his own band, aged 16, said: “I did karaoke at the wedding – and was told I sounded like Neil Diamond!.

“Amazingly, I was listening to the radio one day, and there was a competition to sing Neil Diamond songs – which I entered. I sang ‘Hello Again’. And ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’. I came second – with the winner being a lady!.”

Undettered, Martin who went to see Neil Diamond in concert in North Carolina, said: “I wasn’t that impressed to be honest. Got bored – went to the bar – and got drunk!.”

Martin’s journey continued after spending six weeks in North Carolina – working on the cruiseliner The Song of America – finding himself in New York: “I stayed at The Marriott Hotel on Times Square, and visited Broadway, while in America,” said Martin.

And during a spell in Rome, Martin saw one of his favourite groups, The Everly Brothers: “They were supporting Simon & Garfunkel in concert,” said Martin.

“During the time working on the cruiseliner on the journey from New York to Bermuda, when the ship was not in international waters, playing in the casinos was forbidden.

“A journey took three and a half days – meaning the money you could earn, mainly in huge tips, dried up,” said Martin, who stayed at Bermuda’s capital Hamilton.

Martin recalled the time he was a croupier on The Nordic Empress, and Ernie Wise was on board, at the time of his comedy partner Eric Morecambe’s untimely death, in May 1984.

“A tragic thing happened on that ship. I was dealing blackjack, when Ernie Wise appeared. He wasn’t playing at the table, he was walking by with friends,” recalled Martin.

“One of my colleague dealers inappropriately sang the Morecambe & Wise famous song ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, and shouted ‘maybe I can be your new partner!’.

“It was so disrespectful. Nobody spoke to him for weeks. He was ‘sent to Coventry’,” said Martin.

Amongst a tally of stars that Martin has seen, includes legendary singer Cuban-American Gloria Estefan: “I found it somewhat strange that she invited one of the lady croupiers for drinks.

“The croupier in question was a stunning looking woman. Beautiful, gorgeous. Gloria Estefan even asked her to babysit her kids! I never did find out why?,” said Martin.

Manchester United fan Martin also recalls his youth days, when he was more interested in going to watch the United stars training, than going to school.

“As a big United fan I have fond lasting memories of watching the players training. A mate of mine knew all the players, and they all knew him, by name!

“They didn’t know me, by name, but to be with my mate was fantastic. Once we got a lift home from the training by United’s captain Bryan Robson!

“The players at the time included Martin Buchan, Gordon McQueen, and Lou Macari, a nice man. The manager was ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson – who I remember told my mate to get off the players coach one day. But the players loved him,” said Martin.

“Martin Buchan was getting boxes of brand new football boots for the players out of his car boot one day and my mate asked him for a pair, in which he was told to ‘bugger off’,” laughed Martin.

Martin, who has met many world stars throughout his career in the casinos, spoke about legendary footballer, iconic Manchester United and Northern Ireland star George Best.

“As a croupier at Albion Sporting Club, Salford, George Best came in one night – ‘pi**** out of his head’ – and was trying to cheat at the roulette table!

“George was living his flamboyant lifestyle image, with a girl on each arm, but in reality he was a complete nightmare,” said Martin.

Casinos and gambling have their success stories – but on the other side of the coin – losses too: “The biggest loss I can recall was a client losing ‘everything’.

“It was in Bournemouth – the client had nothing left – so much so he ended up arriving at the casino in his pyjamas!,” said Martin.

Martin’s croupier lifestyle, images that of Mafia movies, of which he revealed an insight: “I had an interview in London and landed a job to work in Moscow, to train Russians how to play roulette and blackjack,” said Martin.

“I had to learn the Russian language – and came across the Mafia. They loved me, being a Manchester lad,” said Martin.

“You watch the movies with the Mafia – gun scenes, of which I witnessed – such as placing guns on tables. The Mafia placed a gun on a table – and told me they’d shoot me – if they didn’t get blackjack!,” said Martin, who lived in Semyonovskaya.

“While I was there the Mafia groups comprised of the Government Mafia; Izmailovsky Mafia, Chetzin Mafia, and Malova Mafia. I met the ‘main man’ Anton, and Lucia. We spoke about Manchester United. The Godfather – lovely people,” said Martin.

Martin, who worked at the Rendevous Hotel and The Elite, in Moscow, said: “They pulled their guns out all the time.

“I was in Moscow for two years. I got on very well with them. The Mafia were nice people.”