Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: A policeman promised a waitress half the winnings from his lottery ticket. All the numbers came up, and he kept his word by sharing the jackpot with her.
Origins: Not just the fanciful plot of the Nicolas Cage movie It Could Happen To You, this did happen to one lucky Yonkers plate-slinger back in 1984.
Phyllis Penzo was a waitress at Sal's Pizzeria in Yonkers, New York, for twenty-four years. During that long tenure, she saw nice customers, difficult customers, generous tippers, and skinflints. But Robert Cunningham, a police detective from nearby Dobbs Ferry, was in a class by himself. Cunningham gave Penzo a tip of $142,857.50 a year for twenty years.Barbara "service with a smile" Mikkelson
Cunningham, a thirty-year police veteran, was a regular diner at Sal's, where he liked to order linguine with clam sauce and maintain a steady flow of banter with Penzo, other employees, and regular customers. True to his lighthearted style, Cunningham was making a sort of joke on Friday evening,
Penzo laughed, then forgot the incident until the next night, when the detective walked into Sal's Pizzeria after work with the winning ticket triumphantly clutched in his hand. It was worth six million dollars: three million for each of them. Cunningham, who ordinarily might have left a couple of dollars on the restaurant table, had no regrets about splitting the prize. After all, he says, Penzo helped pick the winning numbers.
Last updated: 10 August 2007
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