Saturday, September 20, 2014

Who needs France when you can have Vegas?

I've gotten a number of emails from readers asking for more travelogues.   The problem is I haven't traveled much this year.   But to fill your request (and plug my book of travelogues,  WHERE THE HELL AM I?   TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED, available here) I am reposting one from 2003.  This was the time a bunch of us idiots went to Vegas for the first week of March Madness.
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


Mike said...

all of us either made a little money or broke even

Canda said...

Thanks for now labeling old posts as such. They still read great, and show your writing has always been good.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I am surprised you do not mention the breakfast buffet at the Paris (which I believe is actually called Paris, Paris). AFAIAA it's the best food deal in town: the earlier you go in the cheaper it is (and the shorter the lines), but you can stay as long as you want and there's everything from personally cooked crepes and a giant cheese board to various types of smoked fish and every kind of egg. In 2003, earlyish entry (before 11am, I think) got you all of that for something like $13.

They held the anti-aging conference there because at that time hotel rooms were cheap because Vegas made its money from gamblers. Now it makes a lot of its money from conferences and they're not so cheap any more. You should look into the anti-aging folks. Some great wackiness in that movement.

Also: What Canda said.


Scooter Schechtman said...

regarding the urinal music: "A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion, but chooses not."

Jason said...

Nothing to do with Las Vegas, but since is a slow day and since discussion of unsold pilots and "Failure Theater" crops up here regularly, thought I'd report on this. Last weekend, the Paley Center ran a program of unsold pilots from their collection. Here's what we saw:

MAGGIE BROWN (1963) A vehicle for Ethel Merman as a saloon owner, with Susan Watson as her teenage daughter. Merman belts out two songs. Depending on how you feel about Ethel Merman, that was either a good reason to pick up the series, or the best reason in the world not to. CBS actually gave this two prime time airings, on two subsequent summer editions of VACATION PLAYHOUSE.

THE CAROL CHANNING SHOW (1966) Carol moves to New York to break into show business. With Richard Deacon. More notable for the talent behind the camera: Desi Arnaz was producer-director, and Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll Jr., who co-wrote I LOVE LUCY and the first two, decidedly superior, seasons of THE LUCY SHOW were creators-writers. Jerry Herman wrote the theme.

THE LAUGH MAKERS (1962) Woody Allen wrote this one, about an improv troop in Greenwich Village. With Paul Hampton, Alan Alda, Sandy Baron, Louise Lasser, and Marilyn Sobol.

WHERE'S EVERETT? (1966) Alan Alda's in this one, too. A more typical 1960s gimmick comedy about a family that finds an invisible alien baby on their doorstep, decides to adopt him, and names him Everett. MASH be damned. I'm sure there are many nights Alan Alda sits up late, alone with a glass of wine, brooding because WHERE'S EVERETT? didn't get picked up.

THE SHAMEFUL SECRETS OF HASTINGS CORNERS (1969) A spoof of soap opera serials like PEYTON PLACE. Karen Black and Hal Linden were among the cast.

MacLEISH AND THE RENTED KID (1975) Dick Van Dyke as a cartoonist raising a friend's eight-year-old son. Van Dyke was unhappy with the final result and talked ABC out of picking it up.

Can any pilot truly be called a failure that managed to get a showing at the Paley Center decades later?

Well, okay, maybe yeah, they can. :)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Jason: Marilyn Sokol, perhaps, rather than Sobol?

Having seen them, what was your sense about why they failed?

(I've been meaning to pay a visit like that to the Paley Center.)