lawyer made a big mistake. He should have taken the
money. If he and the medical providers compromised, some
money could probably be left for the plaintiff. Better a little than
A year later, the case went to trial. The jury came back with a
verdict for the skateboarder and awarded him $61,000.
They found Pee Wee’s owner was 90 percent at fault.
It was another lesson for me. You never know what a good
lawyer can persuade a jury to do.
A tailhook is a device fastened under the tail of
all jet fighters flying off aircraft carriers. When a plane returns
to the ship and lands at high speed, the tailhook snags a cable
stretched across the ship’s deck and slows it to a stop.
The Tailhook Association Symposium began in 1963 in
San Diego as a reunion of Navy and Marine pilots. In 1965, the
four-day affair moved from San Diego to the third floor of the
Las Vegas Hilton Hotel in Nevada. A four-day convention at
the Las Vegas Hilton in 1991 nearly ended the Tailhook’s 28-
year tradition. I helped settle most of the claims that came out
of the debacle.
In the beginning years, the symposium
consisted of a series of seminars on naval
aviation and other military activities.
More than 50 military defense contractors
sponsored formal dinners, golf tournaments, and other sporting events for the
association’s 15,000 pilots and other
members. The defense contractors made
an enormous sum of money from the
military and were eager to cozy up to the
But the Las Vegas Tailhook convention
evolved over the years into an annual
excuse for raising Hell. The party grew
year after year until by the mid-’80s it was
a lurid brawl. Hospitality suites for 22
Navy and Marine Corps squadrons of
pilots, and 50 corporate sponsors were set
up on the third floor of the Hilton. Navy
admirals and Marine generals attended
the affair and promoted competition between the squadrons to
host the best Tailhook hospitality suite. The hotel billed the
pilots association each year for carpet replacement throughout
the hotel’s third floor, plus painting, furniture and room repair,
as well as any other damage. In 1991, the bill was $23,000.
The squadrons each offered a river of free alcohol of all
brands and types. A Las Vegas beer distributor delivered 271
kegs ( 4,200 gallons) of beer to the pilots over that weekend.
Getting drunk was the order of the day. Drinking beer for
breakfast, lunch, and on the golf course, the men drank
whiskey after dark. They competed to remain conscious despite
One squadron flew in a huge mural of a rhinoceros. A hose
hung from a hole cut in the painting where the rhino’s man-
hood was depicted. On the backside of the mural, the hose was
attached to a keg of 180-proof grain alcohol mixed with
Mountain Dew. The fliers called the powerful drink “rhino
spunk.” Women were urged to perform fellatio on the rhino by
drinking directly from the hose. Another squadron assembled
a suit of armor called the Green Knight that was equipped sim-
ilarly to the rhino. A C- 13 from North Carolina flew it into the
huge airbase outside Las Vegas, where the squadron could pick
Leg and pubis shaving was offered to the women visiting
the suites. Some of the strippers, hookers and groupies working in the suites accepted and were shaved
in front of a cheering crowd. Other
women, including a few Navy and Marine
officers, allowed their legs to be shaved.
The pilots were a mob, insistent and
yelling suggestive remarks. A sexual vulgarity hurled at the women by any of
the drunken officers drew a roar of laughter from the approving remainder.
Hardcore pornography ran from projectors in nonstop loops on the
walls. Naked strippers gyrated
and jerked, performing first for,
then on, the men.
The biggest kick for the
men came from the gauntlet. Unsuspecting
women were lured
by pilots garbed
in their white
dress uniforms, medals, gold
braids and all, from the lobby and casino of the hotel into the
elevators restricted for the pilots. They escorted the women up
to the third floor. When the elevator door opened, the aviators
lining the walls of the third floor corridor would yell out coded
evaluations of the lift’s occupants: “Clear deck,” “Foul deck,”
or “Wave off.” When the women entered the long hallway, the
men closest to the elevator allowed them to pass, then moved
into the corridor behind them, sealing off their exit. The other
pilots moved away from the hallway walls, constricting the
women’s path. They began pinching, grouping, fondling and
feeling the protesting women’s breasts, crotches and butts. As
the women screamed and spun, they were passed down the hall
to the next assailant. At the end, the women found themselves
in one of the hospitality suites witnessing lurid sex acts and subjected to drunken personal assaults. Men ran their hands inside
All we could tell those well-intentioned women lured into a sexually tinged night- mare was that settlement allows a person a certain dollar amount and avoids the trauma of reliving the experience in a courtroom.