Skip to comments.Nick '666' Perry dies
Posted on 04/23/2003 2:05:09 PM PDT by evets
Nick Perry, a Pittsburgh broadcasting pioneer who was convicted of rigging the state lottery's Daily Number drawing of April 24, 1980, died yesterday.
Born Nicholas Perry Katsafanas in 1916, Perry was the well-known host of bowling broadcasts on WTAE-TV and the announcer for the state lottery number drawing, which was conducted at WTAE studios.
When the Daily Number came up 666 on that spring evening almost exactly 23 years ago, rumors about a fix began to surface, many of them from illegal bookmakers who took bets on the lottery and had to pay off.
In the 666 fix, every ball except those numbered four or six was injected with white latex paint so it would not rise high enough in an air tube machine to be drawn. The idea was to wager on every number combination containing fours and sixes. The drawing caused a record payout of $3.5 million -- $1.18 million of which was won by eight people involved in the fix.
A grand jury called Perry the mastermind behind the plan, and a jury in Harrisburg convicted him in 1981 of criminal conspiracy, criminal mischief, theft by deception, rigging a publicly exhibited contest and perjury.
He served two years at Camp Hill State Penitentiary and spent another year at a halfway house in East Liberty, not far from his home in Highland Park.
Also convicted in the case was lottery official Edward Plevel. Two WTAE stagehands, Fred Luman and Joseph Bock, pleaded guilty to participating in the fix. Two other men who cooperated with prosecutors received fines and probation.
A popular TV personality best known as host of WTAE's "Bowling for Dollars," Perry began his career as a broadcaster in 1949 on radio station WPIT. He joined WTAE-TV when the station went on the air in 1958.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, when playing poker, trip sixes was called a "nick perry".
It was a big organized crime scandal. word on the street that day was to play fours and sixes. It was the biggest lottery payout in history at the time.
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Good grief. I'm reminded of Chilly Billy anytime I spot somebody with a bad toupee.
I remember the joke after the scandal was that he had a new show called "Bowling for Bail Bond"
YUNZ GET A SMACK ON THE DUPA AS YER PUNISHMENT!
My guess is that we're probably both right.
The stations operated on shoestring budgets back then,
and most of the local personalities wore a number of different hats to add up to a full time job.
I'd like to see more locally produced shows like that return.
But the economics are such that the only way I can see it happening is if the FCC (ugh!) mandated it.
Until then, we're likely to continue being cursed with nationally syndicated reruns. Local broadcasters are merely re-transmitters who occasionally show local news and weather.
Now yenz all talk nice, or PaMom gonna hafta smack yenz upside the head, n'at.
Wow, had to be 40some years ago!
i don't know if Nick put the fix in on 666 or not (bet he knew who did if he didn't though). But, he should have been put away for bad taste because of those damned plaid polyester sports jackets (BARF!)
1320AM was once WKTQ, the infamous 13Q, with Jim Quinn. They had this gimmick where they'd spin their 45's at 50 rpm. It worked, the other station's music didn't "sound right" to us, because it was slower. The station could play more music, and get just as many commercials in.
That brings back some memories...
Kukla, Fran & Baldy?
If I remember he had a magic wand and he said Down goes the "wand"
There was another character he did that wasn't as popluar as Nosmo King, the name was Randy Rocket.
i don't quite remember the magic wand, but i remember the Magic Sword. Saw a picture of it in a Post Gazette article on Shannon (he went to Florida after he retired n'at) 10 years after he retired. Shannon died in 1995 i believe, he was 85 years old...He is and will continue to be missed.
Can you believe that? Nosmo was the older brother of Nopar King. I thought everyone knew that.
I don't know for sure, but I suppose it is possible that Nick was set-up as a fall guy to cover up for state involvement in the scandal.
Here's some excerpts from his obit in today's Post-Gazette:
Mr. Perry, who didn't testify during the trial, later complained about his legal representation and that he never got to tell his side of the story in court.
Days after he was convicted, he told KDKA's Burns, "It's a nightmare. I can't believe it. I wake up at night shaking my head. Why would I get involved in something like this? I was making good money. They were the best years of my life, actually. I had too many things going for me. I didn't need this."
He continued the theme in a 1988 Post-Gazette interview, the first time he spoke in depth about the case after his release from prison.
"No one in my family and none of my close friends ever hit the three sixes," he said. "Why wouldn't I give it to them -- my family, who could have used the money?"
In the 1988 interview, Mr. Perry said the bitterness he once felt was gone and he tried not to fret about the past.
"My philosophy is just work in the present and look forward to the future. When you try to live in the past, you grow old too fast and there's no gain. I can honestly say I have no vindictiveness in me. I don't hate the people involved, and I feel God willed it that way."
His bitterness began to abate as he sat in prison and read what a minister passed along to him -- the Bible and a book by Charles Colson, the former aide to President Richard Nixon who found religion while in prison for Watergate. "I put myself in mind that I was back in the service and that this was another stint in my military life," he said.
Still, he endured taunts from inmates who saddled him with the nickname Triple Sixes. Describing the process of stripping down and being doused with bug repellent and handed a foul-smelling soap to wash his hair when he entered prison, he said, "It's like taking the spine out of a person."
In 1980, Mr. Perry's son Chris wrote a letter to the editor of The Pittsburgh Press proclaiming his father's innocence.
"He couldn't. He wouldn't. Not Nick Perry," the letter said. It went on to mention two honorable medical discharges from the Air Force and Navy in Mr. Perry's scrapbook. He had blacked out during a training flight, and the problem was diagnosed as a heart murmur. He re-enlisted in the Navy, only to have the murmur found again.
He said his dad worked on Christmas morning even though he didn't have to, because it wouldn't be fair to ask someone else to take his place.
In a 1982 letter to the editor published in the Post-Gazette, Chris Perry said his father was made into a scapegoat and offered his theory as to why.
"I am one of many who watched helplessly as the state manufactured a case to shift the publicity away from one of their own and on to another. Not just any scapegoat would suffice. This person would have to have a high profile. Someone who could corner the entire attention of the media. Someone who could transfer the public focus from political corruption and coverup to a soap opera drama of a man's life falling into ruin before the camera."