Saturday, March 27, 2010

Who needs France when you have Las Vegas?

This was my travelogue from a few years ago when a bunch of us idiots went to Vegas for the first week of March Madness. I highly recommend it -- the experience not the travelogue.
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.

There was an Anti-Aging conference in town. Am I the only one who finds it odd to hold an Anti-Aging conference in the one place where people stay up all hours drinking, gorging, smoking, and enduring the enormous stress of losing their money? I guess it's held there out of respect for Joan Rivers. My feeling is if the President of the Anti-Aging organization isn't 117 then it's a sham.

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 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.

Next morning before the games, Matt and I hit the beach. Mandalay Bay has it's own beach. Unfortunately, the ocean was turned off. No waves. But we took a long walk along the grid that serves as the shore and gazed out at the horizon to see the Lance Burton Magician billboard on Las Vegas Avenue.

Somewhere in the great beyond Bugsy Siegal is saying “If this is what I ultimately created I deserved to be shot.”

From the Mandalay Bay we hotel hopped. Had to stop in at the Excalibur -- a casino in Sleeping Beauty's castle. This is home to the black socks, shorts, and wife beater shirt crowd. You know you're in trouble when they have a special parking lot just for motorhomes. Handing a pair of dice to one of these idiots is like handing a gun to a monkey.

Then it was on to the Bellagio, where Matt and I checked out the Monet exhibit at their fine arts gallery. (How can you go to Vegas and not stop in a museum??) I imagine when most of the tourists saw the ad for the exhibit they said, "Hey, they spelled money wrong!"

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 fucked with us!

One hazard: 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.

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

Elegant dining = no Keno boards.

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’m afraid to eat with them. The cook or waiter might spit in my food.

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.

You're not allowed to use your cellphone in the Sportsbook. And I so wanted to make reservations for the “Curt Kobain on Ice” show at the Aladdin.

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?

What is Pai Gow poker???

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. And I picked up a new name:

Kenny "the OTHER gambler" Levine


Ian said...

I've never understood the appeal Vegas has for some people (I've still never been there) and your comments did nothing to change that. I see enough tackiness without even leaving the Valley. Were you serious when you said the women there were beautiful? Seems at odds with the whole black sock/flip-flop/wife beater aspect...

mental lint said...

I remember staying at Paris in June 2003, a few months after the start of the Iraq War, when even french fries had a bad name. Taking a break from the locust din of the slot machines I went walking outside the hotel, admiring the recreations of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the facade of the Gare d'Orsay. Over the entrance of the hotel the US flag was proudly on display, but the flagpole next to it was empty - of course the hotel thought it could disguise its French connections and maintain the business of the patriots if it hid the Tricolour. How sad, the one city in the US with a deep appreciation of the Moulin Rouge, the Lido, and the Crazy Horse turning its back!

A. Buck Short said...

Liberté, Equalité, Liberacé

Monet / Money, heh. I think those may have been the same flip-flop tourists who passed on the Rodin show, because they wanted to wait for the travelling Godzilla exhibit.

I see the comments aren’t exactly pouring in. I guessing it’s because most of this crowd were cleaned out at the table commenting the first time.

So what’s the over/under on it not being too late for a Sandra Bullock observation/anecdote? Sorry but I’ve been under a sink with monkey wrenches for most of the day.

The only time I almost met Sandra Bullock was at a loud rock performance at the Gypsy Tearoom bar in Dallas. I was standing right next to her up against the stage watching the band – I’m not certain but I think they might have been “The Scabs” – and wondering why they don’t provide seats at these kinds of small club venues.

There were two reasons why I didn’t bother the good woman, neither of which had anything to do with any right to privacy.

The first was, what would be the point? I couldn’t hear myself, what were the chances that I’d come across as anything but some old dude lip synching some lame comment as to not knowing wtf I was doing in a crowd half my age. The other reason, was at the time, my son Tyler was inquiring as to whether or not she’d consider being in the SMU student film he was directing. Why she politely declined I’ll never know. But right there I think it contradicts the conventional wisdom that the woman may lack a degree of judgment.

Anyway she was just standing there, totally demure and unassuming, like the rest of us, who also hadn’t bothered with hair/and makeup, or even dressing up, just being really, and I mean really ordinary, grooving to the performer on stage.

The point here being how that air of unassumption contrasted with the raging and somewhat suggestive lyrics of the hirsute Austin (grunge? funk? punk?) rocker on stage – Bob Schneider, whom Ms. Bullock just happened to have been dating for two years. (Yes I realize this would have been a better anecdote had the love interest been Rob “Deuce Bigelow I & II” Schneider; but I think I can get to the same conclusion with the lesser evil.

Not having any precognition of a Jesse James in the Bullock future, most of the folks I know thought this was already a Felix and Oscar odd couple. Now maybe it was the odd circumstance of their both being from Austin and both having mothers who were former German opera singers (I looked it up as soon as we got home) --- I mean what are the chances? Sort of the way I always thought Jane Fonda and Ted Turner might have hit it off at an exclusive singles club for the children of suicidal parents.

But I just assume there’s just some attraction to folks who appear to be “bad boys” on the surface and an ability to see the good in them. (It turns out the guy did have talent, and some nicely introspective pieces too.) So it’s not inconsistent to have apparently seen the same in the tattooed biker whose prior marriage had been to an almost equally heavily tattooed, formerly imprisoned, tax dodging porn star. In the words of the late Pat Paulsen, “Picky, picky, picky.”

My take is if you think the woman is talented, and more importantly, smart, as I do, then there really did have to be something there. As for the sequential infidelity messiness, the simplest explanation might be that under all that ink, there may be many redeeming features, and he’s a guy with a penis. I’m not too sure that with JJ, it’s not one of those situations of there but for the grace of God… and an absence of imagination and opportunity. Forget all this sex addiction counseling, tearful regrets, etc. If they'd just let us enter a plea with "Hey, we're guys,alright?" there'd be a lot less fuss. Isn't that the way they do it in both the real and Vegas/faux Frances? At least that’s my story.

Cap'n Bob said...

Loved the urinal remark. So true. Hell, I loved the whole blog entry, as usual. My favorite remark about the French is that they're so screwed up they fight with their feet and fuck with their face. Then there's the national aversion to deodorant and hairy armpits on women. Otherwise, Paris is a lovely city.

gih said...

But still Paris is one of the best places that tourists most visit.

Anonymous said...

Ken, this was one of your best...I laughed out loud! (true)

Joe W. said...

Pai Gow is the slowest table game in existence. I was in Vegas two weeks ago, someone sat down and asked me how I was doing: "This is the only bet I've placed...and that was 20 minutes ago."

If you want cheap free booze, sit down at Pai Gow and ask to play the House Way. They'll set up your cards for you. You'll lose about one hand an hour. And they'll still bring you free drink.

Anonymous said...

I remember this hotel on the Girls Next Door where each room had a different theme. Rainforest, Cave, Beach, Golf, Love etc. Seemed pretty cool.

CindyLV said...

On behalf of all my fellow Las Vegasns, thank you for visiting our fair city (and especially thank you if you left some money behind!) Your description of the unbelievably tacky interior of the Paris Casino is spot on.

Thanks for bringing up the black sock/flip-flop/wife beater clad tourists. Why do all you visitors lose your sense of fashion when you arrive here? Is there a sign at McCarran telling you to change into your "Vegas Tourist Costumes"?

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Ken, you are being too hard on yourself referring to yourself as one of the "Pep Boys", however, now that I think about it...there is a resemblance. I can't remember, are you Manny, Moe, or Jack?

Mormon Soprano said...

"Nuclear Winter" sky - LOL!! Thanks for a very entertaining post. Just to set the record strait RE: Tab choir - not true, (but, funny). Perhaps only place that tops Vegas for tacky heathanism would be subect to post about first-hand, if you happen to come into about $20 grand in the near future. :-)
Cheers, MoSop