But why Ascot when
Aggie could probably have any job in racing, at least USAC racing, if he would
only make himself available? He says he would not like the USAC presidency, for
example, because it would be a full-time job and would take time away from his
other business interests. The real reason, however, is probably simpler. Aggie
always deals with people one-on-one, whether the problem at hand is a
six-figure sponsorship for his race car or a one-figure question involving a
mimeograph machine, and an organization such as USAC, replete with its myriad
committees and a host of middlemen, simply would not allow Aggie that
Then, too, there
is his family.
J.C. Agajanian is
very much his father's son. James Thaddeus Agajanian fled Russian Armenia with
his pregnant wife Hamas Kardashian in 1913 at the age of 21 to avoid service in
the Czar's army, and settled in Los Angeles as a $1-a-day dishwasher at the
posh Alexandria Hotel. He quickly parlayed a fee of $25 to bury a friend's dead
horse into the Municipal Service Company, became a wealthy man and over the
years financed passage for 22 assorted relatives from his ravaged homeland to
In 1942 J.T.
Agajanian made his oldest son J.C. a full partner, and today their desks sit
facing one another in the cement brick offices of the Municipal Service
Company. Aggie's first act when he arrives in the morning is to kiss his
father, first on the left cheek, then on the right, an awkward but affectionate
and totally unembarrassed gesture. It is part of the Armenian tradition, and is
reciprocated in turn by his three sons—Cary, 31, a lawyer for the City of Los
Angeles, and Jay, 26, and Chris, 24, who work for the track. Deference to age
is still strong among the Agajanians. In a small way it is shown by the
distribution of the season tickets Aggie holds for Los Angeles Ram home games.
Two on the 50-yard line are for him and his father, two on the 30 are for Cary
and his wife, and another pair are for Jay and Chris—on the 10.
When Agajanian was
asked to list his closest friends, he named all of his immediate relatives
before he even considered anybody in racing.
Still, there is a
certain Agajanian perspective. At a recent banquet honoring him for his long
service to the Armenian-American Citizens' League, J.T. heard himself lauded to
the skies, then stood up and said in his native Armenian, "Don't praise me
so much or I'll stand up and break a leg."
From his position
at a back-row table, Aggie folded his arms and nodded quiet agreement.