In the coin-op business, all anyone ever had to say was “Ira” and you knew exactly who they were referring to. Ira Bettelman, the top man at the old C.A. Robinson & Co. dealership in Los Angeles since his father “Mr. B” and Mom Leah predeceased him, passed away on March 31. He would have turned 77 on April 5.
The announcement was made on Facebook by his brother Sandy. Even though the family had exited the industry years back, people still inquired about them. Now, we have an answer, and not a welcome one.
The news shocked and saddened many in coin-op with friends inside and outside the industry sharing their condolences with Sandy and his family via social media. Phone calls and messages resonated throughout the industry with friends sharing their grief at the loss of a respected member of the coin-op family who many were proud to call a dear friend.
Ira Bettelman earned a master’s degree in child psychology from Long Beach State and armed with a teaching credential earned from USC, began working with emotionally disabled children in the Torrance Unified School District. There, he set up a room with some games, rewarding the children with points for every time they turned in homework, answered questions or participated in class. He logged it all into a little bank book, Sandy explained, and when they had enough points, they’d get a half hour to play games.
“Ira was part of the court case to legalize pinball in the state of California,” Sandy said. “The state had outlawed the game for many years because some people would gamble on them. Ira testified about how he would use the games as a reward for the emotionally challenged children he taught in Torrance.”
Ira went to work for his father at C.A. Robinson & Co. in 1972 and rose to become second man. Combining his attention to detail and salesmanship, the company prospered, especially during the electronic pinball and video game booms when they represented most of the top lines in those spheres.
Ira was roundly considered one of the smartest people anyone had ever met, if not one of the more fearsome if you crossed him. As one of the premier distributors in the country by anyone’s standards, he could be tough on any supplier who didn’t do right by one of his operator customers. RePlay’s Eddie Adlum recounts one of his favorite Ira anecdotes to illustrate this:
“As the story goes, Ira got a call from a customer who’d just put out a new video that popped a glitch right off. They isolated the problem and Ira called the factory to get a replacement part. He was told they didn’t have one on hand, so Ira asked if they were still building them and the answer was ‘yes’. ‘So, go out on the line, open the cabinet, pull the part out, and ship it overnight!’ was his response (expletives deleted). The part, I would believe, showed up the next day,” said Adlum.
Al “Mr. B” Bettelman passed in 1984 and his bride Leah in 2011. Their daughter Sylvia Sanders died in 2015 and with Ira’s passing, Sandy is the last of the immediate family. Ira had six nephews and six great-nephews and nieces. He passed away at home in Malibu. (And for those who remember that beautiful yellow Jaguar he bought new in 1966 and kept all those years, he still owned it.)
It was Ira’s wish that there be no memorial service. Said Sandy, “Ira didn’t want people to cry over him or to be put out by making plans to attend a service. So, we are following his wishes. Ira was always concerned about other people.”
For those who would like to remember him, the family suggests a donation in Ira’s name to a cancer organization of their choosing. For those wishing to send their condolences to the family, you may write to: Sandy and Adrea Bettelman, 1015 Casiano Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90049.
RePlay will have more about Ira in the May issue.
Industry Friends Share Their Condolences
Among the messages sent to brother Sandy Bettelman and family on social media are these:
Paul Jacobs: I first met Ira in 1975 and thoroughly enjoyed our relationship over the years. What I respected most about Ira was that he was an honest man. And that is no small compliment.
Chris Brady: Today we lost my great friend and patriarch to our industry.
Kevin Hayes: Ira was a pillar of coin-op and a unique personality in his own right. I was due to call him on his 77th birthday April 5. I will miss him. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis!
Jon Brady: A tremendous loss for the industry. Ira was a true gentleman and a class act. Thoughts and prayers to Sandy and to the entire Bettelman family.
Mike Pace: Ira sold thousands of my countertop games in the ’80 s… Pico Blvd in LA. I miss Ira already”
Steve Dooner: Oh this breaks my heart. So many years that I worked with him in the ’70s and ’80s. So sad.
Glenn Kramer: Ira was a man of men. Always sincere and eager to help any way he could.
Jim Bennington: Ira was a great mentor, businessman and dear friend. God Bless and keep him.
Mark Sherman: A pillar of the vending and coin-op industry in Southern and Northern California. Tough but compassionate. His legacy lives on. A gentleman.
Pete Casas: Ira will be remembered for his straightforward assessment of every device he sold. He told it truthfully. RIP Ira
Betty Noble: “So sorry for your loss for you and your family. Ira will remain in our hearts forever. He was a man hard to forget and I say that with the utmost respect. May you rest in peace, Ira. You will be missed!”
Fred McCord: So sorry…Sad to hear, Sandy.
Matt Osborne: It is so heart-wrenching to hear this. So sorry for the loss of your brother. He was an amazing man and a very good friend to my father (Don Osborne). I bet they are frolicking and having some good laughs right now. Lots of blessings and hugs to you guys.
Lance Chantry: Oh Sandy, I am so very sorry to hear that. Ira was such a generous, classy man. You both were the best bosses ever! My sincere condolences.
Rus & Carol Strahan: Sandy, so very sorry to hear about Ira. He was one of the truly good guys! I always enjoyed coming to visit you guys and spent many enjoyable evenings relaxing over good food and great conversation with Ira in nice surroundings around town. I know you will miss him a lot. I have not missed a lot of people since I retired 23 years ago. You, Leah and Ira I have always missed. Please accept our heartfelt condolences.
Joyce Kaehler Corkos: So sorry to hear this. Ira was a great guy. May his Memory be Eternal.
Bob Boals: So very sorry to hear this. Prayers.
Lisa Chapman: Oh no!!! I’m so sorry, Sandy! Ira will be incredibly missed. Please accept my condolences!!
Patricia Osborne: Hi Sandy, I so remember how close he was to my husband, Don Osborne. I can remember all of the family trips…I always felt like Ira had a seat in our car, he was so close to Don. The Osborne family loved and cared for him, my husband loved himand saw Ira almost like a brother including him in everything our family did from trips to parties. Well, they are together again and I am sure enjoying seeing each other! Sending my condolences to the family!
Pete Gustafson: This is a tragic loss. Authentic sympathy for you and your family, Sandy. Ira was an industry icon that was/is so dearly loved. May you and your family find comfort in the many fond memories you have of this remarkable man.
Brian Duke: I am so very sorry to see this note of his passing. And during Amusement Expo time. All who knew Ira will miss him.
Mike Taylor: I am shocked and really saddened. Sandy, I am so sorry and offer deepest condolences to you and your family.
Elaine Shirley: I did not know. I loved Ira and your entire family. Seriously, I am at a loss for words. My tears are flowing.
Mike Rudowicz: Sandy, I am so sorry for you loss. Ira was a true gentleman – truly one of a kind – and will be missed.
Marlene Gordon: I’m so sad. He was a great guy. I’ve known Ira since we started working for our fathers.
Tom Guagliardo: I am so very sorry, Sandy. We all did do great work in the day. My sincerest condolences to you and the family. I’m stunned. He and you will be in my prayers.
Jeff Walker: Sandy, I’m very sad to read this. Ira is the most interesting man I’ve ever met. He is on my mind.
Frank Ballouz: Wonderful memories. A wonderful family.
Jon Kleiman: Very sorry to hear, my condolences.
Jerry Momoda: I’m shocked. This must be so hard for you, Sandy. Your family has meant so much to the history of this industry. Ira, may you rest in peace.
David Swafford: What terrible news! Ira was a great man! The whole Bettelman family, a true class act! My sincere condolences! RIP Ira!
Howie Rubin: So sorry. Ira, you, your mom and dad are in my all-time hall of favorites in the coin-op world we grew up in.
Marc Haim: I’m so sorry, Sandy, my condolences on the passing of a great person.
Ben Harel: Deepest condolences from Tel Aviv, Israel. Ira and the Bettelman family are in the coin-op hall of fame.
Jerry Marcus: Sandy, l’m shocked at the terrible news about Ira. He was a great friend and great person. Denise and I send our deepest condolences to you and your family on such a very sad occasion.
Frank Cosentino: Sandy, so sorry for you and your family’s loss. RIP Ira, one of the great ones.
Morton Ansky: Please accept our condolences. Ira was a special kind of person.