‘Lucky Lou’ is hop­ing Fri­day the 13th pays off

The Palm Beach Post - - FRONT PAGE - Fcer­abino@pbpost.com

Lou Eisen­berg won $5 mil­lion in New York’s lot­tery in 1981. Now 89 and liv­ing in sub­ur­ban West Palm, he’s try­ing again to win big.

It’s an­other Fri­day the 13th, Lou Eisen­berg’s lucky day.

Eisen­berg, 89, who lives in a mod­est town­house in sub­ur­ban West Palm Beach, will do what he al­ways does on days like this: Play his six lucky num­bers 3, 14, 22, 24, 25 and 29.

It was on a Fri­day the 13th, nearly 36 years ago, when Eisen­berg hit the New York Lot­tery’s $5 mil­lion jack­pot with those num­bers, be­com­ing what was, at the time, the big­gest lot­tery win­ner in Amer­ica.

“Lucky Lou” they called him. He went from a guy mak­ing $225 a week re­plac­ing light bulbs in New York City of­fice build­ings to a happy-go-lucky man of leisure with a guest ap­pear­ance on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Car­son” and a slew of celebri­ties — in­clud­ing Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Ben­nett, Lainie Kazan, Joan Rivers and Don­ald Trump — pos­ing for pho­tos with him for good luck.

At the age of 53, Lucky Lou imag­ined he was set for life. Af­ter taxes, he be­gan re­ceiv­ing his an­nual pay­outs of $239,005 for the next 20 years.

He quit his job im­me­di­ately. When re­porters asked him in 1981 what he would do with his lot­tery win­nings, Eisen­berg had a ready an­swer.

“Num­ber one, I don’t have to go to work,” he said. “I don’t

have to go like a lit­tle mouse back and forth on the train to the city; a lit­tle mouse do­ing a me­nial job.

“For 53 years, I’ve been eat­ing bread,” he said.

“Now, I want to eat cake.”

He did. And the crumbs went ev­ery­where: Three wives, for­eign travel, a Brighton Beach condo, a lot of sub­se­quent bet­ting that didn’t pan out, and a slew of friends who needed a lit­tle cash.

“I had no idea I would get to be 89 years old,” Eisen­berg said this week. “I didn’t lose all my money. I used all my money.”

The money went, but Lou’s still here.

“Now, if I want $20, there’s no­body around,” he says.

It has been 16 years and run­ning since his last an­nual lot­tery pay­ment, and his high-fly­ing days are get­ting more and more re­mote, which has led him to re­con­sider some choices he made.

“I don’t care what you have, you need to put some­thing away,” he said. “Be­cause you never know whether you’ll get to be 89 one day.”

“The years go by and you don’t re­al­ize it,” he said. “Get­ting old isn’t bad when you are get­ting older. But when you get there, it sucks.”

But Lucky Lou’s still a guy with a ready smile, and he’s not glum about how things turned out. He doesn’t like his arthri­tis, but he’s still feel­ing lucky.

And still play­ing those num­bers, this time for the Florida Lot­tery, twice a week, and still wait­ing to hit the next jack­pot.

“A dol­lar and dream, that’s it,” he said.

In the mean­time, he fig­ures he hit the jack­pot with his 65-year-old com­pan­ion, Jane Ann Walker, a woman he met while she worked the $50 win­dow at the Palm Beach Ken­nel Club, where she still works, part time.

They’ve been shar­ing a home to­gether in the An­dros Isle com­mu­nity, and Eisen­berg now calls meet­ing her at the dog track the truly luck­i­est moment of his life.

“She was the best thing that ever hap­pened to me,” he said.

Walker fills out their lot­tery slips. Three $1 bets twice a week. Week af­ter week. Year af­ter year. When Eisen­berg won his jack­pot in New York, the odds of him be­ing a sin­gle win­ner in that draw­ing was 1 in 5.4 mil­lion.

He fig­ures it’s just about time for him to hit it again. So Walker’s go­ing to buy the tick­ets for the Satur­day night draw­ing on Fri­day the 13th — be­cause that’s Lou’s lucky day.

“He’s never neg­a­tive; he’s al­ways pos­i­tive,” Walker said. “We’re hop­ing this Fri­day the 13th is go­ing to be lucky again.”

CALLA KESSLER / THE PALM BEACH POST

“Lucky Lou” Eisen­berg, 89, won the New York Lot­tery decades ago on Fri­day the 13th and now lives mod­estly af­ter spend­ing his win­nings. Lou is the first $5 mil­lion win­ner, play­ing the num­bers based on his pre­vi­ous ad­dresses.

Frank Cer­abino

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