Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March Madness

It’s the first weekend of March Madness. Go UCLA!!! This year I’m on the east coast but usually I’m in Vegas for the first round of insanity. Here’s my account from a couple years ago:


March Madness has arrived again -- the NCAA basketball tournament. Thus the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for me and three of my middle aged sports nerd television executive buddies. Slater, the Banger, and Mr. Syracuse. Slater brought his girlfriend (who goes by either Karen or Valerie -- long story) thus increasing his chances of "getting lucky" by maybe 1%. Mr. Syracuse brought his wife thus decreasing his chances. My son, Matt flew in from Boston. He's now 21 so what better way to see Las Vegas for the first time than with his dad and three guys who look like the Pep Boys?

We stayed this year at the Paris Hotel. The theme is French hospitality (an oxymoron). I'm sure I would have been given a nicer room if I registered as Himmler. The casino features a low ceiling that is painted to look like the sky, a la the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. It's an odd shade of blue however, one that suggests nuclear winter. There are cobblestone streets and carpeting. A replica LePont Alendre III bridge overlooks the nickel slot machines, and there is an Eiffel Tower that is fifty stories high. Tours are offered. There is a sign at the entrance that reads "No food, beverages, smoking, weddings" (true story).

I don't know why these hotels opt for these elaborate themes. The truth is: NO ONE CARES. People schlepp around in t-shirts and shorts and flip flops. If I ever put up a hotel in Las Vegas I would use as my theme the HOME DEPOT.

Matt and I went to Le Cafe for breakfast. They said "inside or outside?" What??? Outside of course meant under the sky painted ceiling. We chanced that it wouldn't rain and took the outside.

The in-house cable had a channel that spelled out emergency exit procedures. Leave it to the French to provide a surrender strategy.

Remember when Frank Sinatra used to play Vegas? This weekend it was Carrot Top and (at the Riviera) "America's Tribute to Neil Diamond". Not even the real Neil Diamond, an impersonator. In two weeks the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (true) will be appearing. I'd love to see Shecky Green open for them.

Of course you could always pay a gazillion dollars to see Celine Dion screech out five songs a night. Or is that just a Barbra Streisand impersonator??

The Paris had "Arabian Nights Spectacular", something else to make the Jews feel comfortable.

This stunned me: The Mirage features "Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat". The ad says: "come face to face with Royal White Tigers". How drunk do you have to be or how much money do you have to lose to want to do THAT??

One thing you can say about Vegas, it has the most amazingly beautiful women in the world. And so where did we spend 90% of our time? At the Sportsbook, the one place that none of them would ever be caught dead in. There were 48 games in four days. At times four were going on simultaneously. I'm betting on teams I've never heard of. The place was packed with rowdy men and good old boys chugging long neck beers. We ordered White Russians, Tequila Sunrises, and Rusty Nails. No one messed with US.

One hazzard: you see the same commercial seventeen thousand times. Especially the one for "Cialis", designed to keep a man ready for 36 hours. Too bad I'm not single. One of those magic pills would be perfect for me. 35 1/2 hours to find a woman then a half hour to perform.

The Banger bet on exhibition baseball. Even Pete Rose never did that.

Matt was carded at the Sportsbook for ordering a Sprite. If you bet $500 a day on horses by the way, you get a coupon for a free drink. Again, French hospitality.

Interesting that it is politically incorrect for colleges to have team names of Indians but it's okay to have the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Manhattan Jaspers.

In keeping with the French theme, accordion music came out of the urinals. Finally, the correct venue for that music.

Elegant dining = no Keno boards.

I rode down the elevator with a beautiful girl who was wearing a white top with two Chinese letters on it. I said, "Do you know what that means?" She said, "No, I bought this because it looks good with the pants." "So you have no idea what that says?" I repeated. "What does it say" she asked. "Kill me!" I said and stepped out of the elevator leaving her aghast.

Slater's girlfriend Valerie/Karen is vegan, which means there are only six things she can eat and she's allergic to four of them. She and Slater are the two nicest people on the planet but I have dubbed them "America's Waiter Killer Couple". Slater switches every table and sends back every order while Valerie/Karen has the kitchen prepare items not on the menu every meal. I would give anything to see these two on SURVIVOR.

Valerie/Karen's back was bothering her so she toted around a pillow to make sitting more comfortable. But a hot girl walking through the casino with a pillow -- she looked like a hooker who advertised.

On Saturday night Mr. Syracuse and his wife hosted a dinner for sixteen of us. They got a private room in the Paris restaurant. I was sure Slater was going to walk in and ask if there was ANOTHER private room for sixteen?

Late one night we went to the Bellagio for a drink. Easily the classiest hotel in Las Vegas, but that's like saying hard salami is the king of luncheon meats. The crowd was the same as everywhere else. We were sitting on an overstuffed couch enjoying a drink (Slater sent his back twice) when a guy who looked like Jerry Garcia plopped down on the easy chair across from us. Told us all about his plans to buy a little shack on the river in an area known as the "California Ozarks". He said he didn't bet on any of the basketball games because of all the "Unsavory element". I asked him if he was there at the Bellagio to see the Monet collection on loan from the Boston Museum? Yeah, the Bellagio is really the Algonquin Round Table West.

Spotted at the Paris pool -- a guy in a ball and chain. I'm guessing (hoping) it was a bachelor party but there he was with a bowling ball attached to a chain handcuffed to his arm. Either that or the hotel was presenting "Les Miserables" poolside.

What is Pai Gow poker???

My sincere thanks to the Banger for getting down to the Sportsbook every morning at 5 to reserve us some seats. Personally, I think he was "In-Seine".

Never, NEVER take America West (America WORST) airlines if you can avoid it. Truly the most inept "shitbirds" in the sky. ALWAYS late, sardine cans for planes. And when you finally do arrive to Totie Fields Field (or whatever the Las Vegas airport is called) it takes a good hour to get a cab.

What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas primarily because you can't count on an America Worst flight to ever get off the ground.

Featured at the Paris Hotel: drinks in plastic Eiffel Tower glasses. $12.50 (true). There was a line. I wonder how many of those people thought they were buying the "actual" Eiffel Tower?

At the end of the weekend all of us either made a little money or broke even, Stanford and Kentucky got eliminated, and the waiters at the Paris hotel got together and paid for Slater's cab to the airport. It was great great fun. Go Jaspers!!!

Kenny "the OTHER gambler" Levine


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
By Ken Levine said...

I just deleted a cheap shot comment. Some ground rules -- you're welcome to take shots at me or the content on this blog. But you must give your name. To hide under Anonymous makes you dickless and will result in my deleting you.

For the record, this guy didn't like various posts, my past travelogues and award show reviews. Said I reached new lows with the current post.

In the future, please leave your name. Or better yet, just don't log onto this blog.

Hawise said...

Seems like a fair rule to me. I don't understand why he felt the need to take shots at general tone of content. If he doesn't find your work amusing, why doesn't he just head off to a new blog? It isn't as if the blogosphere is a content-free zone.
For the record I post under Hawise, a name I have used in some circles for 20 very odd years but I was christened Cynthia. (just as weird in some circles)

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Yea, the dummy probably is jealous, can't write and has a performance review this morning at Starbucks...and he's nervous.

This is a great blog.

Anonymous said...

For the record, "Tar Heel" is not a racist term. It refers to the contant tar and feathering early North Carolina colonials were all about. That's why it's the Tar Heel state. Texas can keep its bigness. Don't mess with us or we will melt you in tar.

Anonymous said...

i worked for almost a decade in the "old" vegas whose demise was signaled by the introduction of the theme park casinos. i have tried going back a couple of times and all it does is make me homesick for my old love. back then, vegas was a place where a competant musician could earn a decent living. now, well, i'd rather flip burgers than play for a neil diamond impersonator. hell, i'd rather flip burgers than play for neil diamond. . .

Eugene said...

I did Vegas for March Madness once a few years ago - it was amazing.

Hanging out in the Sports book as a #1 seed has a 29 point lead on the #16 seed - and people are SCREAMING THEIR HEADS OFF because the spread on the game was 29.5. With one minute left and bench warmers in on both sides, people are standing on chairs in the sports book screaming, "SHOOT THE BALL! FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD, SHOOT THE #&@K-ING BALL!" Pure pandemonium for the last minute of the game.

Lesson - never bet on a #1 vs #16 seed game. Unless it's the NIT...

MB said...

Ken --
Great blog; just discovered it and am reading through the archives. Quick correction on the Tar Heel moniker: it actually has nothing to do with tarring or feathering.

The name was originally derogatory: North Carolina was a huge supplier of tar and turpentine to the English navy. The tar-making process was tough and dirty and the workers generally had a layer of it over their boots at all times. Hence, literally, "tar heel." A blue-collar job if ever there was one and about as respectable as miners and ditch-diggers.

Later, after a particularly fierce battle during the Civil War in which North Carolinians held their ground and Virginians retreated, a general was overheard commenting that the North Carolinians didn't retreat, they were "stuck to their posts as if they had painted tar on their feet." The comment was in praise, but referred in a derogatory manner to the now-common "tar heel" slur.

I know no one will read this. And that I'm a huge dork.