Editor's note: This story originally printed in the Press of Atlantic City in July 1990. 

It was a simple case of being in the wrong place at the right time.

A Tony Bennett fan from northern California called the Harrah's box office, ordered four tickets to one of the singer's shows and charged them to her credit card.

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At 8 p.m. on opening night, the woman and her guests arrived at Harrah's ready to spend an evening with one of the last saloon singers in the business. Only problem was, there was no sign of Bennett in the hotel.

Well, the customer marched right up to the front desk, tickets in hand, demanding to know what was going on.

The desk clerk was equally confused until he examined the tickets. Then he had the unpleasant task of informing the guest that Tony Bennett was, indeed, performing at Harrah's - in Atlantic City.

The woman, however, was at Harrah's in Reno, Nev.

"It was an honest mistake," said Paul Pavis, entertainment director for Harrah's Marina Hotel Casino here. "She apparently thought Tony was playing Reno, but she accidentally dialed the toll-free number for our box office (in Atlantic City)."

Pavis got involved in this mix-up because the desk clerk in Reno, not knowing precisely how to handle the situation, called Harrah's in Atlantic City. The call eventually reached Pavis, who was sitting with Bennett in the star's dressing room as the singer wound down after his show.

"Even though it wasn't our fault, I told the woman we were sorry about the mistake and that we'd immediately issue a refund credit to her credit card," he said. Bennett, who'd overheard the conversation, was chuckling, which gave Pavis an idea.

He told the woman that someone else at Harrah's in Atlantic City wanted to talk to her and handed the phone to Bennett.

Without identifying himself, the singer began questioning the customer in Reno. Within a minute or so, the fan recognized the voice.

"Excuse me, who am I talking to?" she asked.

"This is Tony Bennett," the singer responded.

Pavis said you could have heard the scream without the long-distance connection.

"Needless to say, the lady was very happy that she got the chance to speak to Tony," Pavis said. "But she was still disappointed that she didn't get to see his show."

What made the incident even more ironic - on the Atlantic City end, anyway - is that as the phone call came through to the dressing room, Bennett had been kicking around stories about Harrah's founder Bill Harrah, and many of those stories had to do with the company's Reno casino.

"Tony was saying how much he enjoyed playing in Reno, and that was the moment the phone rang and the desk clerk from Harrah's Reno was on the line," Pavis said. "It was like something out of 'The Twilight Zone.'"

Idol Gossip: Obituaries don't always tell the whole story. An obit in Monday's editions of The Press noted the death of Richard Ozersky, who owned a theatrical design company and was a member of the local stagehands union.

But Dick Ozersky was much more than that. He opened Atlantic City's first casino hotel in 1978 as lighting director and eventually headed up technical operations at Resorts International.

About five years ago, when former Resorts Entertainment Vice President Tibor Rudas began presenting Luciano Pavarotti all over the world, Ozersky signed on as the opera star's tour manager.

"I know it's a cliche, but there's no other way to say it: Dick Ozersky was the kind of guy you never heard anyone say anything bad about," said Dwight Baldwin, stage manager at the Sands Hotel & Casino who worked with Ozersky during the early days at Resorts. "Everyone who worked with him knew he was a brilliant person when it came to every aspect of the theater, and we're all very much shaken by this. Dick was a guy that everybody loved."

(Press staff writer David J. Spatz's column appears in The Press every day except Monday and Wednesday.)

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Features reporter, Flavor magazine editor

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