In a suite atop Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Ninn was ushered into the gloom to find a certain Mob boss—a connection from acquaintances in New York—gingerly eating his meal.
It was the early 1990s, and Ninn was in Vegas for mainstream television production work, having traveled there on a route that included a New York ad agency, drug rehab in Tucson (several times), a stint helping to build the experimental desert community Arcosanti, and finally the Vegas branch of a startup 24-hour news channel.
“He didn’t look at me,” Ninn says. “His goons sort of retreated to the back of the room, and I stood there, watching him eat.”
“That seems kind of rude, to leave you waiting,” I say.
“Maybe, but I didn’t tell him that,” Ninn says. “After a while, he points to the salt and pepper shakers, and he says, ‘What’s this?’”
“Mob bosses get to talk to people that way,” I say.
“Especially when goons are involved,” Ninn says. “So I said: ‘It’s pepper.’
“He says, ‘How do you know?’
“I put some on my hand, and tasted it. And I said, ‘I can taste it.’
“And then he points to the salt shaker, and he says, ‘What’s this?’
“And I say, ‘It’s salt.’
“‘How do you know?’
“‘Because I can taste it.’
“So he motions me to come closer to him. All the while this is happening I can sort of see the goons smirking out of the corner of my eye. He grabs my ear and says, ‘And you’re not gonna tell me salt is pepper.’
“After that, he gives me this box with $80,000 in it, and that’s how I started making movies.”
Ninn’s latest movie, “The Four,” has been released after a grueling legal battle. Next time, we’ll talk about Ninn’s years with the late, lamented porn studios Western Visuals and VCA.