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GIN RUMMY AND RACING CARS
Kim Chapin
February 19, 1973
Dad wouldn't let him run the old Studebaker so J.C. Agajanian became a sponsor instead. Now he wheels and deals as the high-rolling dandy in a couple of sporting worlds
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February 19, 1973

Gin Rummy And Racing Cars

Dad wouldn't let him run the old Studebaker so J.C. Agajanian became a sponsor instead. Now he wheels and deals as the high-rolling dandy in a couple of sporting worlds

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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 pleasure.

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 Los Angeles.

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.

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