Only You


It was my first year of teaching at Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, New York and I was finishing my first master’s degree. I would drive into the City to meet my advisor and this particular trip was to discuss my thesis on Ernest Hemingway titled “Hemingway Mystic.”

We met at a restaurant and got down to business. We discussed this, that and all the other things about Hemingway and I showed the professor point by point and line by line why I thought Hemingway had a strong mystic streak in his writing. When we were done my professor said, “Frank, is it true that every Italian has someone in his family in the Mafia?”


“I heard that all Italians have at least one member of their family in the mob,” he said. “I just want you to confirm that.”

“No, no, my family doesn’t and none of the Italian families I know have Mafia guys in them,” I said.

“Ah,” he said. “But you really don’t know about them do you? You only know what you think you know or what people lead you to believe.”

“Doctor Carlson, I’m sorry, but give it some thought. There are so many Italians in America that if every family had at least one person in the mob, and maybe even more, there would be hundreds of thousands or a few million Mafia in America. It just isn’t so.”

“So you don’t know about the ones in your own family? You are not a good representative of your people” he laughed.

I shook my head. This guy was dense. Obviously I couldn’t change his mind, but the fact that his information was wrong, that I knew I didn’t have Mafia members in my family, didn’t seem to sway him in the least.

And what was this idea about me being a “representative” of my “people”? I didn’t speak for the Italians in America, nor the Germans nor Irish who also made up my heritage. I didn’t actually speak for anyone but myself.

“Italians get really offended when people make jokes about them don’t they?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Come on, you’re Italian, you should know.”

I learned something from this guy. No one represents his or her group, especially in the classroom. Yes, you might want to have fun with students, crack jokes at a kid’s expense as kids will cracks jokes at your expense; you do have to have a sense of humor about yourself, after all.

I realize that I can crack jokes about Jim and June and Bob and Jaime as Jim and June and Bob and Jaime – but not on what race, ethnicity, or religion they are.

Sometimes a stereotypical trait exists in the person with whom you are dealing. Fine. But that stereotype does not dictate all the traits of such an individual. And that stereotype is not that individual and, worse, that individual will feel slighted if he or she is made to feel you are stereotyping him or her. (“You people are all alike.”)

I am a man but I don’t represent men. (“All men are alike,” she says.)

Because she is a woman she does not represent women. (”All women are alike,” he says.)

Because a kid is Italian, he doesn’t represent Italians.

Because a kid is Jewish, she doesn’t represent Jews.

Because a kid is black, he doesn’t represent blacks.

And so on.

In the classroom; in the school; in professional or personal contact, then, it is just me and the other person, no matter who that person is.

Stand in front of your classroom; look at each and every student and say, “Only you.”

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

I Have Stalkers!

I am a minor celebrity in the great scheme of things. I have a good fan base for my gambling books, some fans have seen me on TV, and as I expand into other areas of writing I hope that fan base grows. But I mean I am “minor” as in completely, utterly minor—almost atom-like, as in I still take the damn garbage out on Mondays and Thursdays.

But I can now understand how real celebrities such as movie stars, sports stars, television stars, big-time writers like John Grisham must have it. There are nuts out there. There are seriously whacked-out people who write you, call you, show up at your house, knock on the hotel room doors where you are staying to invite themselves in.

I have stalkers, for crying out loud. I know many celebrities have stalkers. But they should just be for major celebrities, not the flea-sized kind that I am.

Newspaper articles report stalkers that have been brought to court by some of the real celebrities and almost none of them look really, really weird or even really, really scary.

But I can’t believe that in the past 20 years I have had my share—although I am not quite sure what my share should actually be.

A rabbi from a town near mine dropped by my house several times and asked to come for dinner. I made pleasant excuses the first couple of times. (“Oh, sorry, I had dinner already.” “It’s only two in the afternoon.” “I eat early.”) Finally, not to be offensive, I said, “Look, I eat pork and shellfish every damn night and down them with milk.” Now he just constantly emails me.

I had two women who seemed to always know where I was staying when in Vegas. However they did it, they were always able to take the elevator to my floor (often a floor that was secured), knock on my door (actually ring the bell of these particular rooms) and ask, “Oh, Frank, want some fun?” I would tell them that I was calling security in twenty seconds and they would go away. My wife would ask, “What was that?” I’d say, “Oh, just some fans.” She’d reply, “Oh, yeah, right,” turn over and go to sleep.

I have had several horrendous looking women, more like Morlocks than Eloi, who send me photos of themselves scantily clad, posing seductively, or rather, what they think is seductive. I completely ignore them because showing interest in them—even negative interest—would just encourage them.

I had a woman who would call me to tell me she was staying in Atlantic City in a beautiful suite and she would pay for everything if I joined her. I put my wife on the phone with her. That settled that.


I had one woman who offered me a “world-class *&^%**!!!” (I had never heard of that term before) if I did a favor for her husband. That was awkward. I blanched at the thought and immediately told my wife.

Oh, and men? Oh, yes, men too. “How do you know you don’t want to have sex with a man if you have never tried it?” If I were interested, I’d know it by now.

I did have one dangerous individual who had a severe mental illness called erotomania. This is when a person imagines and believes he or she has an intimate relationship with you. (Remember that woman who kept breaking into David Letterman’s house saying she was married to him when she had never even met him?) It is just the opposite of “Fatal Attraction” often with the same conclusion—the person (in this case, female) wants to harm you because she thinks you belong to her even if you don’t even know her or just know her in passing. That was scary. Thankfully that woman disappeared into the ether.

These crazies aside, I know this; I do enjoy people who have enjoyed my work, in whatever field it might be—teaching, writing, or acting. It is certainly an ego boost.

But these nuts, these fans who are certainly fanatical, are sad people. There is far, far more to a good life than bedding or bothering a person with even a modicum of fame.

Is fame important? No. I am happy taking out the garbage two days a week.


Teachers: The Great and the God-Awful

Most of us probably remember the teachers who were bad or so awful that calling them “bad” would be a compliment. I had a nun in third grade who called me up to the front of the class to cut my tongue out of my mouth for talking. I really thought this was about to happen so I gave it some logical thought, If I just put my tongue out a little she won’t be able to stop me from speaking in the future. It will be just a little snip. I was actually more worried about telling my parents I had been punished. (Oh, by the way, she did not cut any part of my tongue but as a kid I didn’t doubt she meant business.)

I had one biology teacher at St. John’s Prep who never hesitated to throw his heavy textbook at one or another of our student’s head for misbehaving according to his definition. Sometimes he hit them with that ponderous tome, once breaking a kid’s nose. He’d call us “monkeys” and say that “Your parents are monkeys too.”

I was always able to duck in time and was never wounded.

In seventh grade at Our Lady of Angels grammar school, I was taught by a Franciscan Brother Lucian, a red-faced, six-foot five mega-monster who would bring a misbehaving kid to the front of the class and wallop him. He did this in a unique way, holding one hand against the student’s check and walloping the other side of the kid’s face with his other massive hand. No one wanted to get hit by Brother Lucian. It was devastating and such walloping even made some of the tough kids cry.

He’d also fake a slap and if the kid flinched, “Well now sonny, you get two slaps for flinching.” The side of the face that was slapped usually had a big, red imprint of Lucian’s hand on it. That imprint would last almost all day.

He once brought me up to the front of the room and I was thinking quickly about what I could have done to merit this guy’s animosity. He laughed at me when I was standing trembling before him; he was looking down his high body at the small kid before him. “You did nothing wrong except fake me out in the basketball game last night.” He laughed. “Don’t do that again Scoblete. Now go sit down.”

Brother Lucian coached our seventh-grade basketball team. I was on that team but I never got to play. I just sat on the bench. I didn’t know what the hell that guy had against me but he evidently had something. I was the best player on the team.

The following year in eighth grade I not only started on a team that went undefeated, even beating Lew Alcindor’s team St. Jude in the LaSalle Christmas Tournament but I dominated every game along with our awesome center Pat Heelan. (Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar and became one of the greatest players in NBA history.) That year I received several basketball scholarships to Catholic high schools in New York City. I was one of the best players in the city at that time. [You can read the full story of “The Real Dream Team” in my book Confessions of a Wayward Catholic.]

Fortunately, those abhorrent, angry, abusive teachers I had weren’t the ones to leave an indelible mark on my life. Instead, there were three others who gave me the tools and encouragement to equip me for success. They all taught at Our Lady of Angels grammar school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

In fifth grade I hated my teacher, Sister Patricia Michael of the Sisters of Charity, who seemed to have a real hatred of me too. “Francis, this essay is awful. You make statements you can’t prove. You keep writing this poorly and you’ll work as a garbage man – and be lucky to get that job.”

Every time I handed in something I wrote she would keep me after school to show me where I went wrong. “Francis, no one can be a good writer who doesn’t prove his case to the reader. I don’t want these statements unless you can back them up. You say here that Lincoln made very anti-Negro statements in some of his speeches but you do not quote any line from a speech. Where is your proof?”

And sometimes she would hit my hand with the strap if it looked as if I were daydreaming. She didn’t hit too hard – nothing like Brother Lucian.

In sixth grade I had Franciscan Brother Jonathan. He was a young man but a kind guy who never once hit a student. He was delighted by my writing and told me that “Francis, you will become a professional writer someday. Never give up writing. Just keep practicing.”

He knew a lot about theatre and never stopped praising the performance arts. We actually got to read real plays with real meaning. He would often be told by his superiors not to have his students read “adult” literature. He finally left the brotherhood, married a former nun, and pursued his love of theatre.

My third great teacher was Brother Barnabas, who demanded that I achieve an average of 90 or I would not be allowed to play on the basketball team. In those days you were seated according to your academic performance: the top students in the front of the class and the failures in the back. “You are too smart to be sitting in the back of the class with the idiots. You’d better get those grades up or you will remain a nobody.”

Barnabas was the coach of the eight-grade basketball team and I really wanted to be on that team so I brought my A-game to my academic life.

He also once told me, “Scoblete, you are going to be the guy to guard the best player on the other team. I expect you to shut down these great players. And kid, you are going to be the guy who will take the last shot in a close game and dribble to stall for time.”

I was even one of the three players guarding Lew Alcindor from the front, conveniently stepping on his feet as often as I could get away with. Alcindor was 6’10” at the time! I was 5’7”!

So my three elementary teachers put thoughts in my head. Thanks to Barnabas I was never afraid to put myself on the line. My father also had that philosophy and it stuck.

Jonathan was right, I did become a professional writer. He had seen a talent in me and told me about it. He also got me to love theatre. In 1978 I started my own theatre company with a fellow teacher. We worked the boards for a dozen years. I enjoyed performing before audiences. I considered teaching a performance before an audience – an audience that didn’t pay to get in and some who really didn’t want to be there (toughest audience in the world!).

My family was poor when I was graduating high school. I was lucky that I had a scholarship that paid my St. John’s high school tuition. Would I go to college? No one in my extended family, all of us from working-class parents, had gone to college. If I did, I would be the first.

I didn’t even know what the SAT exam was; just that one of the priests at the high school told me, “Scoblete, you are taking an exam tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep. Bring a pencil.”

I applied to Ithaca College because it had a special program for 12 students called Triplum where you would major in three subjects, literature, history and philosophy. If I could get into that honors program a scholarship was possible.

My parents had no money, so I had to get a scholarship or go into the navy. I also knew that even if I got a scholarship I’d have to work, maybe full time, to send money home to my parents. But first things first: that scholarship.

On the entrance test you were given a topic and the honors committee would read your essay and let you know if you made the program and whether you’d be one of the three to get a free ride at the college.

I knew that if I didn’t get a scholarship I’d never make it to college. I journeyed to Ithaca, took the test, journeyed back home to Brooklyn and waited. Several days later I received my results. Yes, I had made Triplum and, yes, I did get the scholarship. I would become a college student.

That September I went to college and on the first day of the first Triplum seminar the professor said, “We had a remarkable essay handed in for entrance into the program. It had everything an essay should have; strong statements of opinion and facts to back up those opinions. I was quite impressed by it.”

I looked around the conference table at the members of the seminar. They all looked so intelligent. Which of them had written such a great essay?

“Mr. Frank Scoblete [holy shit!], you should be applauded for such a fine example of writing. You should be proud of yourself and you absolutely deserve the scholarship to our college. Keep up this good work.”

At that time I was so Brooklyn-born, that I used “yous” as the plural of you. I said “terlet” instead of toilet. When I first opened my mouth at the seminars I would get looks and some of the students would snicker at me. It didn’t matter. I was in college on a free ride!

On the winter break I went back to the convent of Our Lady of Angels. I asked to speak to Sister Patricia Michael. She met me in the lobby.

“I don’t know if you remember me,” I started.

“Oh, yes, I do, Francis,” she said.

I then told her how grateful I was that she took the time to teach me how to write a proper essay. I told her about Brother Jonathan liking my writing and then I told her about the scholarship based on writing a single essay and how it was considered an excellent essay.

I then told her that I had done this because of her. She had taken the time to develop my talent. I thanked her.

She cried.


[Read Frank’s book Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! Available on, on Kindle and other electronic media, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

The Making of a Teacher (1): Mr. Grillo

He sat in the top section of the Brooklyn to Staten Island ferry. We were halfway across the Narrows on our way to Bay Ridge’s 69th street pier. I should add that this particular ferry service no longer exists. When the Verrazano Bridge was completed there was no need for that particular ferry service.

This was my junior year of high school and Mr. Grillo was my social studies teacher.

On this day, a few days before Halloween, Mr. Grillo looked awful. There were dark spots under his eyes and he was quite pale. He looked sick.

“Good morning Mr. Grillo,” I said.

“Good morning Mr. Scoblete,” he said. Mr. Grillo always called his students “mister” followed by their last name.

He looked out at the skyline of Manhattan. His eyes were distant and a little dull.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m tired,” he said. “I have a long day ahead of me.”

A long day? It was just a regular work day.

“Can I ask you something Mr. Scoblete?”

“Yes, yes, sure,” I said.

“Why do the students hate me? I can’t even get a lesson going and all of a sudden there are spitballs thrown at my back and weird noises when I am not facing the class. Why?”

He was right. When his back was turned as he wrote notes on the board, chaos ensued behind him. Yes, spitballs flew across the room and some hit him and stuck to the back of his suit, and half the class raised their hands in the air with their middle finger prominently displayed.

There were sneezes that only slightly covered the word “fuck” and loads of derisive laughter. You could see the back of Mr. Grillo’s neck getting redder as the chaos behind him increased in intensity. (For your information, this was a Catholic high school— one of the very best in the city!)

Once in a while Mr. Grillo would whip around trying to catch someone doing something, anything, but he never nailed anyone. In fact, the pimply-faced Sullivan, the one I thought of as “Captain Disgusto,” once had the audacity to say, “Mr. Grillo, someone threw a spitball at me.” Sullivan held up the spitball – a dripping spitball he had just taken out of his own mouth.

“Oh, ho, that’s a wet one,” laughed Sullivan’s best buddy, a kid known as black head because of the number of black heads he had on his face.

“You should control the class,” said Jimmy DiResta. “I’m here for an education.” DiResta was a moron of the first order and another of Sullivan’s followers.

Then Mr. Grillo would lose whatever reserves of calm remained and he’d start yelling at everyone and everyone he yelled at snickered and laughed at him.

“Why do they hate me so much?” Mr. Grillo said to me. I thought to myself that Catholic saints all supposedly experience the dark night of the soul. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Grillo looked so sick. He was experiencing the dark night of teaching. I wondered how many other of my teachers went through such a trial.

I tried to analyze Mr. Grillo’s problem. The very first day of class in September, Mr. Grillo had lost the students even before he knew he had lost them.

I came into the room and his back was towards me. That was fine by me. I took what I figured would be an area close to where he would seat me since the teachers tended to seat students in alphabetical order.

Then the mob came in, meaning Sullivan and his gang of eight, but Mr. Grillo did not turn to look at them, instead he wrote his name – Mr. James W. Grillo – on the board. Sullivan did an exaggerated middle finger behind Grillo’s back. His gang roared with laughter and Grillo turned around. “Yo, Mr. Brillo!” someone loudly whispered.

“What is going on here?” Mr. Grillo asked in what I took to be his disciplinary voice.

Sullivan’s gang remained silent but one of them finally said, “It was that kid over there. Balloon Head. He’s a troublemaker,” pointing to Lynch, a top student, the short, big-headed chain smoker whose only friend was me. Lynch’s face pulsed red. He was afraid to speak against Sullivan’s mob.

I wasn’t. Since I had bested Sullivan in a schoolyard fight two years before, he and I had an awkward truce. He left me alone; I left him alone. But on this one, with Lynch about to have a heart attack, I decided to take up his cause.

“Mr. Grill,” I said.

“Grillo, young man,” scolded Mr. Grillo.

“Sorry, Mr. Grillo,” I said. “Lynch here did not make any comments. He’s one of the top students in the school.”

Sullivan’s mob threw me looks. Then Sullivan said, “Naw, Balloon Head didn’t do nothing.”

So that took Lynch off the hook.

“Take seats young men,” said Mr. Grillo.

“But we don’t have assigned seats,” said Sullivan pretending to whine.

“I’ll assign seats when class begins,” said an irritated Mr. Grillo and just then the bell rang. Sullivan’s mob laughed as did most of the rest of the class who had come in during the Lynch episode.

The line had been drawn between students and teacher just like that. Grillo was the enemy and an easy one to torture and get a rise out of. Bringing blood from a teacher was fun and even “good” kids would join in the fun. With a few exceptions, Lynch and me being among them, the class had turned on Grillo. At first, Grillo didn’t have any idea but then he learned the sad news quickly.

What had he done wrong? He allowed the students to get him early by turning his back on them. You never turn your back on sharks, I thought. They are looking to devour you. These kids, none older than 17, had become man eaters and Grillo was their man. They knew they would be going at him before he could even introduce himself. He showed he was uptight from the very beginning. And his disciplinary voice carried no discipline in it.

Students don’t just go to school, they are schools—schools of predators. The Lynches of the world are exceptions. Students are sharks; that truth I had learned early in my student career. Even good kids often can’t resist the temptation of torturing a teacher.

Mr. Grillo awaited my answer. I was looking at Manhattan. I was looking at the water. Under that water might be real sharks. Sharks can smell blood. Students can smell the blood of teachers. Once they smell such blood they will often go after that teacher unmercifully.

“Mr. Grillo,” I ventured. “I don’t know what you did wrong.” I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him the truth.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Mr. Grillo left teaching after Christmas vacation. The sharks had eaten the bloody chum.


[Read Frank Scoblete’s Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! Available from, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores,]


How (not) to Stop a Fight


[At Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, New York.]

The girl was maybe 4’10”— if that; slightly built, but she was a tigress. I think she was a sophomore. She had gotten the bigger girl down on her back and she was pounding away, punch, punch, punch.

I knew I had to stop the fight, so I did. In those days, the early 1970’s, I was in great shape, running 10-mile races, boxing, doing amazing numbers of calisthenics. Today, sadly, I am Jabba the Hutt. But then? I was close to a god.

I went behind the tigress and grabbed her, thereby squeezing her back against my chest. I lifted her easily off the bigger girl. I had a tight hold on the tigress.

But tigress was kicking like crazy, trying to break my hold but being small, her feet were where a man doesn’t want someone’s kicking feet to be.

She did a backward kick, a backward kick and then – two feet, one after another, landed on an area I had treasured since I first discovered it — my balls, or in polite terms, my balls!

I can’t let go of her I thought. My other thought was that I’d never have sex again thanks to this tiny monster. I just hoped my private parts didn’t fall to the floor.

I was gasping in agony when the assistant principal came over and took the tigress out of my arms. That’s the first time in my life I wanted a female out of my arms.

I leaned against a desk, breathing deeply, when a female teacher said, “You look so pale Scobe. Are you all right?”

“I’m great; I’m fine,” I falsettoed.

My balls did recover. I did end up being able to produce children. But I will never forget that little tigress. I hope she comes back as a man in the next life. So I can kick her you-know-where.

[Read Frank’s latest book Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! Available on, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

Teacher Hiring

I am not sure if Lawrence High School still does it this way but here is what I had to do.

There were hundreds of applications during that time period (1971) and the Department Chairmen Greg Monahan (a great teacher by the way) selected about 10 applicants to come in to be interviewed by him and the Principal Edwin Krawitz.

I lucked out because I attended the same high school and Monahan taught there before I went there. He saw that and decided to interview me. More as a lark I think because I had been fired from my first teaching job and I never hid that. (I wrote the full story of my epic fight with the principal of that school in The Virgin Kiss.)

So I was interviewed. I evidently did okay and I was told I’d have to teach a lesson to Lenore Israel’s junior honors class (she was a great teacher). The night before my lesson I was called and given a poem to teach, T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” — a bitch of a poem at first sight.

I read it; thought about it a little and went to bed early to let my “sleeping mind” figure out what the hell the poem meant and why it was structured as it was structured. (I write that way too. Later today I have a 2,000 word article to write for one magazine and a 1,000 worder for another. I’ll sleep on those and when I wake up those articles will be more or less written although right now I have no idea what the heck I will write about.)

So I taught the lesson. Principal Edwin Krawitz, Monahan, Israel and social studies teacher Gabe Uhlar (genius) watched it. The students obviously watched it. When I was done I was told they would be in touch with me one way or the other. Then Krawitz, the teachers and the students discussed my lesson. The students, a very bright group, had a strong impact on the discussion.

Monahan was a little hesitant to hire me. Hell, I had been booted from my first job. Did he really want to handle a firebrand? That’s when Israel and Uhlar told Monahan, a brand new chairman, to take a chance on me. They thought that the firing was actually a good thing and that (and I quote Israel) “we need teachers like him here.” Monahan took the chance; called me and gave me the job.

Thirty-one years of my life I spent teaching at Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, New York. Yes, I wrote during that time; I acted during that time; I ran a youth center during that time. But I was (and am) “Scobe the teacher.” It defined me.

This section will be the stories from my teaching career and, perhaps, some commentary on today’s teaching profession.