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In the 2001 version of Oceans Eleven and the subsequent films, Twelve and Thirteen, a lot of references are made to cons with names.

For example:

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Looky Lou
  • Bundle of joy
  • Lost in translation
  • Susan B Anthony
  • and many more

Are these real names for real cons as used by real con artists or are they a figment of the film makers' imagination?

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According to this,

it's mostly just a series of references to famous people that refer to different aspects of the job that they're planning (and it sounds pretty damn cool)

For example,

Boeske - Probably a reference to Ivan Boesky, a stock trader famous for his involvement in insider trading prosecutions in the 1980s. You could probably say that the character of Lymon Zherga is based in some way on Boesky - he's a money man who opens the way to the vault.

Jim Brown - the confrontation between Frank Catton and Linus Caldwell, staged to distract Terry Benedict so that Linus can lift the security codes to the vault. Named for the famous American football player

Miss Daisy - references the SWAT truck our con men used as their getaway car. 'driving miss daisy' is a movie about a woman who has to get a chauffeur to drive her around. under the guise of the SWAT truck, Danny, Rusty and the gang can escape without a hitch.

Two Jethros - refers to the Malloy brothers, Turk and Virgil. The two jethros are the 'hillbilly, gear-headed types" who are hired to look after miss daisy. In the movie, they provide general two-man work like the distraction they pull with the balloons covering the security camera on the casino floor so Livingston can get into the video surveillance room.

Leon Spinks - the distraction in the form of disrupting the boxing match. there was this episode of NCIS once where the director went home to Chicago to investigate the death of his boxer friend. in the episode, they mentioned this boxing match where Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali, and it was a total upset that no one expected. no one expected the power to go out in the middle of the match in the movie, either, and it created absolute chaos, which was great for our con artists.

Ella Fitzgerald - the idea to loop a tape of a robbery over Benedict's security system, a robbery which had actually been staged the previous night as a distraction while the real robbery takes place. it comes from a commercial for memorex i saw in my ad production class the other week where a recording of Ella Fitzgerald's voice breaks a glass, then the voice over says, "is it live or is it memorex?" the concept is that Benedict doesn't know if the robbery he's seeing is the robbery that's actually happening.

Lost in Translation - When Danny and Rusty take Linus to meet with Matsui, they pull a "Lost in Translation" on Linus, which means they're talking in complete gibberish to confuse him.

Smugglers Paradise, Swinging Priest, Crazy Larry, Soft Shoulder, Bakers Dozen, and Hell in a Handbasket - In the scene where Linus, Basher, and Turk are trying to come up with cons to do with three people, they mention the Smugglers Paradise, Swinging Priest, Crazy Larry, Soft Shoulder, Bakers Dozen, and Hell in a Handbasket. All go undescribed as they need more than three people.

Looky-Loo with a Bundle of Joy - refers to them bringing in Danny's wife, Tess, played by Julia Roberts. they all agree Tess looks a lot like Julia Roberts, and they bring her in to impersonate the celebrity, who happens to be pregnant (the Bundle of Joy part) at the time.

Reverse Big Store - Rusty describes the entire plot as a "Reverse Big Store" which I think just means rigging all the casino games.

Billy Martin - Billy Martin was a famous second baseman for and manager of the New York Yankees. Martin was fired (or quit) as the manager in 1978, rehired in 1980, and given a second chance. Martin was then fired and rehired by the Yankees numerous times over the course of the 80s. The implication is that they are offering Bank a second chance to do the right thing.

The Gilroy - The special scent that Linus puts on his neck to seduce Abigail is noted in a title card as "The Gilroy." This is an in-joke on Tony Gilroy who wrote the screenplays for The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), all starring Matt Damon, and also wrote and directed Michael Clayton (2007), which stars George Clooney and is produced by Steven Soderbergh.

The Brody - Linus's fake nose ploy is "The Brody", a reference to actor Adrien Brody.

Irwin Allen - Linus tells Reuben that Rusty is pulling an "Irwin Allen". This is in homage to the producer Irwin Allen who is widely popular for his disaster movies and TV shows that depicted ways the world would end. His one technical contribution to the world of film and TV was his pioneering of the "shaky-cam" technique to imply aerial turbulence or an earthquake. His approach was to simply tilt the camera back and forth, and have his actors throw themselves across a set. This goes along with Rusty telling Bank there is a possibility of an earthquake, and their exit plan for the end of the movie to cause one to get all the people to leave with their winnings.

Susan B. Anthony - This is a reference to the Susan B. Anthony dollar manufactured by the US mint in 1979. It was similar in appearance and size to a regular quarter and many people dropped it into a slot machine without realizing what it was worth. This method was used twice in the film, though the people are using an ordinary coin they don't realize that it will be worth millions in the slot: first by the woman in The Bank who wins the jackpot and later by the VUP at the slot machine in the airport.

Cartwheel - when Boomer decides to impersonate the motorcycle stuntman. Basically doing something crazy as a distraction.

The link has the meaning for (all?) the con-names used in the 3 movies.

  • I still think not all of the scams are made up. For example a 'big store' is a con where everybody except the victim is in on it (think of 'the sting') so a 'reverse' big store is a con where no-one is in on it (except the con-artists). In Oceans 13, the 'winners' were unaware a scam was being performed. See here : scams.wikispaces.com/The+Big+Store – Pat Dobson Feb 23 '17 at 11:11
  • The term “reverse big score” meant instead of the con men robbing the casino and getting all the money, the patrons of the casino unknowingly actually reaped the rewards of the con and the con men don’t actually get the money, therefore their hands are clean but the victim still took a huge loss by still being robbed. So they technically robbed the casino but can’t be accused of the crime because they came away with nothing, but achieved their goal by causing the owner to lose millions to everyone that was gambling at the time of the heist that wasn’t actually in on the crime. – Jesse Sep 15 '18 at 9:47
  • @Jesse The term is "big store" not "big score." A big store is setting up a fake brick and mortar enterprise and scamming unsuspecting marks. In this case, the casino is a real enterprise and the customers are unsuspecting and win instead of losing. – Brian McCormick Oct 18 '18 at 17:23

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