September 14, 2016 - 1:00 pm
From time to time, this column talks about some interesting and entertaining personality. Or, more to the point, a “character” I have come to know during the more than 21 years since Fran and I settled in Las Vegas, following an earlier lifetime of having known a wealth of similar individuals in New Jersey.
The latest to cross my threshold is Houston Hartwell Reed II, a visitor to five continents — including “at least 15 countries” — all due to a proficiency that makes him legendary in the world of professional darts. But he’s better known as Howie Reed to the “Lunch Bunch,” those of us who gather weekly at a popular downtown Las Vegas pub.
The reason I chose this world itinerant is a book that Howie wrote and recently had self-published. It’s an autobiography that matured from a manuscript that Fran and I agreed, voluntarily, to edit with the advance stipulation that there would be no remuneration.
Moreover, let me make it clear we have no proprietary or any other economic interest in the publication.
By its very title, the book — Howie’s initial venture into the ranks of the literary elite — will give you your first clue on how he earned his status among ranking characters I have met. It’s titled “One Night, While Out Drinking With the Fat Swede.” Indeed, the cover depicts Reed and his Swedish colleague, Stephen Lord, sitting at a bar in Patong Beach, Thailand.
Why Thailand? Well, when Reed doesn’t show up for lunch and can’t be found at his home in North Las Vegas, it’s a good bet that he’s in Pattaya Beach, Patong Beach or some other beach in Thailand, a dart player’s paradise that he has proudly proclaimed his second home “since the early 1980s.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself in this effort to depict Reed. After all, how else would you begin to characterize a guy who began his career in 1964, quite traditionally, as an advertising executive after graduating from San Jose State University, which he fondly refers to often as “the Harvard of the West?”
After a short spell as a bartender, he ventured into rodeo, specifically 10 years of riding the circuit on bulls and wrestling steers as a full-fledged member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He also tried wrestling humans for a while and said he was “terrible at it.” That was followed by the kind of prominence in the darts world that resulted in memorialization of his name into the International Dart Throwers Hall of Fame.
Oh, but that’s not all. Howie attended his first boxing match in Carson City in 1990 and has ended up writing a column twice a month since then, titled “The Square Ring.” That’s in addition to a column related to darts that he has written almost weekly since 1978 for newspapers in Thailand.
“I was into darts more for the involvement as an administrator than as a player, and that’s what has taken me to so many countries,” he reflected.
So how does one become so acclimated to the world of darts?
“It was Jan. 1, 1977. I was 38 years old at the time and I was tending bar in Martinez, Calif.,” he said. “It was 2:15 a.m., and I asked if anyone would help me clean up, since I had to close the place soon so I could reopen it at 6 a.m. A man and a woman who ran the local dart players league promised to help me clean up if I played a game of darts with them.
“Little did they know what they had just unleashed.”
Darts took him to Thailand, soon afterward. “I became a Thai delegate to the World Darts Federation, made up of about 95 countries. The rest is history,” he said.
Or, if you would like to learn more about the newest entry to my catalog of characters, you can obtain Howie’s book by contacting him at Mrfwonderful98@hotmail.com.
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at email@example.com.