Saturday, October 29, 2005

Mr. Long Island Humor Column: Sin City? More like Sad City

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Las Vegas has jumped the shark.

I am sorry to be the one to break the bad news to you all, but it is true. Las Vegas is no longer the coolest place on the face of the Earth. If anything, it’s a glorified theme park with card games instead of roller coasters. It’s sad, really, especially considering the current state of New Orleans. There is a tremendous void in the realm of hip and happening across the United States, which is why my experience earlier this week in Sin City was all the more depressing.

I left for Vegas last Saturday morning for a business conference. I’d be lying if I said I was not looking forward to my little sojourn, even if it was business related. It was raining hard when I left JFK yet 80 degrees and sunny five hours later when I landed at McCarran Airport. My excitement was stoked further when I saw my first bank of one-armed bandits, right there waiting to greet me like a money-grubbing relative as I went from the gate to the baggage claim. Before I even picked up my luggage I went over to stake my claim to the millions I was sure to win gambling.

At this point I realized that the slot machines no longer took quarters. I had to start with a dollar bill, which disappeared faster than Harriet Miers is about to. Plus you don’t even have to pull the lever anymore. Just push a button and watch those silly things spin around. That’s about as much fun as using an ATM machine and just as enriching. This Vegas thing was not going well.

This trip marked my third journey to Vegas. I first went as a reporter fresh out of college, assigned to cover the industrial fabric industry’s annual convention in 1982. My most prevalent recollection of the trip – besides being painfully hungover, having spent the night before visiting my sister and her friends up at Fairfield University – was seeing beautiful, statuesque even, waitresses walking around carrying trays of free beer. I thought my head was going to explode. Vegas was on the last legs of the Rat Pack era back then, but the city was still cool because Frankie, Deano and Sammy were still alive.

Nearly 18 years later I was lucky enough to go on a three-day, all-expenses paid trip to Vegas with my wife, Sharon. Although the city by this time had swung full force into family mode, it was still a lot of fun and almost as cool. Of course, anything’s cool when somebody else is paying for it. The only thing harder to get than tickets to see Wayne Newton was tickets to see Siegfried & Roy.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The biggest headliner was Barry Manilow, of all people. Manilow is to Las Vegas cool what Jm. J. Bullock brings to the acting profession. Somewhere the Rat Pack is spinning in their respective graves, except of course for Joey Bishop, who is still alive. He only wishes he was dead. And then there is the class of people going to Vegas these days. From what I could see, the crowds walking the streets and clamoring through the casinos were no different than what you might see at your typical American mall on any given Saturday afternoon, the only difference being they were drinking daiquiris instead of Orange Julius. No more statuesque waitresses serving scotch and water. Rather, all I saw were nice ladies who in a prior era would be found working the local IHOP. While there is nothing wrong with that, per se, it just wasn’t the Vegas I knew and loved. It was all kind of sad, like realizing the Prom Queen from your senior year in high school was now the lunch room lady in the school cafeteria.

That is not to say my trip did not have its amusing moments. One night I stayed out way past my bedtime and as a result I found myself walking the streets of Sin City around 2:30 in the am (I did not know the monorail / mass transit system shut down at 2 am and I am way to cheap to spring for a cab). As I was walking – still a good mile away from my hotel – I realized I had to go to the bathroom. Bad. And not number one, if you know what I mean. How ironic. Before I left for Vegas everybody and their brother reminded me with a wink and a giggle that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but I am sure nobody had having an accident in your pants in mind when they said it.

So there I was, trying to stay cool, calm, collected and clean while striding as fast as I could. I finally got to the lobby of my hotel and tried to get through there as furtively as possible when these two prostitutes caught my eye. At least I think they were prostitutes. If they weren’t then I made a hell of a first impression. They called out, “Hey sexy, looking for a good time?” I did not reply, of course, but I did laugh and kept moving. Just my luck, I figured. My whole life I’ve been looking for a good time and when the opportunity presents itself I’m waiting for the elevator, squeezing my cheeks like Richard Simmons on a blind date.

I made it to my room and the fact that I did was the highlight of my trip, which ought to tell you something. I am sure Vegas will continue to draw the crowds and rake in the big bucks. Not me and not my money, however. Not unless the Rat Pack comes back from the dead.

Thank you for reading this column. [2005-10-28]

1 comment:

samuel sutter said...

that was hilarious!! i guess TV has been lying to me all along.