I believe it was Truman Capote who first said "Fame! I'm gonna live forever!" in his popular novel which was later adapted for the big screen. Or perhaps it was Irene Cara, I can't remember. The important thing is that I now know what Truman meant. Thanks to the unjustified popularity of the Big Empire, Stinky and I recently met the bitch goddess of fame, and we're hooked on her tempting ways like I have only previously been hooked on Percodan and Dexatrim.
KABC-TV in Los Angeles was doing a "Secrets of Las Vegas" segment for their local news. Now, you can argue until your blue in the face that "Secrets of Las Vegas" is not a newsworthy subject, and that it's just another example of why local news stinks to high heaven. You'd be right, but they had already decided to do this, and if we had declined their invitation, they would have done the segments anyway, only with someone more intelligent and talented than us. We learned long ago that the road to the top is paved with the bodies of more talented and more intelligent people than us who did not have bullet-proof vests.
Also, we had an ulterior motive. Many of you Buddies don't know this, but in real life Stinky and I are television producers ourselves. Quite successful ones, actually. While we have never had any of our ideas made into shows, or any of our scripts read by people in Hollywood, we have successfully thought up a lot of great stuff, and we have had great success at finding the telephone numbers of many Hollywood production companies. It's probably safe to say that some of the most respected receptionists in Hollywood know our names and voices.
Now, with a local news show interested in interviewing us about Las Vegas, we had the perfect opportunity to pitch the greatest TV series ever. Think the very best elements of "Gentle Ben" combined with the very worst of "Mannix." It's "Presto, P.I." and it's the story of two flamboyant Las Vegas magicians who, along with their bionic lion, solve crimes and bed showgirls.
Of course, as many of you insomniacs know, Stinky and I are no strangers to television cameras. I have previously had my bald spot covered with "Miracle Hair" on "Amazing Adverscoveries" and some of you might remember me as the guy who says "That engine can't run without oil," in the Duralube infomercial. Stinky was just recently on the New York Channel 4 News as one of the people behind a police line at the scene of a homicide, and before that he had a gig as one of the people trying to get Al Roker's attention on NBC's Today show.
This opportunity was different, though. This time we had been invited.
After some last minute wrangling with the airlines for tickets, we arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada, very late Saturday night. At the crack of dawn on Sunday, when only the most dedicated gamblers and hardest-working people were awake, Stinky and I were still asleep. We didn't get up for several more hours, and then we had to rush to meet the camera crew at Boulder Station. Jean Scott, a friend of ours and a real expert about Las Vegas, also met the camera crew at this time. They quickly figured out that Jean was less likely to scare away the KABC viewer with armpit fart noises and fake boogers, so they dedicated the morning to filming her. We sort of just stood around wondering if they would need us for anything at all. Basically, we wondered if the slant of this story was going to be on quality information presented to help Las Vegas travelers. If it was, we could kiss our shot at fame good-bye right now.
A side note: the ABC crew was really unorganized. They came to Las Vegas not knowing what the heck they wanted to film, but figured they would get something and then cobble it into a segment for the news. It didn't matter if it was informative, just so long as it appeared that way.
Luckily, local news needs lots of filler around the useful bits, and two stars named Stinky and Matt were born - filler extraordinaire.
I know what you have heard about Hollywood people: they're all bisexual jerks. That might be true of most of them, but Alan, the field producer, was a pretty decent bisexual. He looked at his schedule, and tried to accommodate us. "We'll be doing the funbook at the Lady Luck and getting their $0.75 hot dog. Is that something you guys would do?" Oh, yes, we said eagerly. "Then, we'll be going to the Golden Gate for the $0.99 shrimp cocktail. Do you guys eat those?" Absolutely, we said. "And then we'll be going down to the dog park to show people shoveling dog crap into their mouths. Do you guys do that?" You bet, we shouted, eager for any chance. "Heh," Alan smiled, "I was just kidding about the dog park. I just wanted to see how desperate you were."
We agreed to meet Alan at the Lady Luck in an hour, and were free to do as we pleased in the meantime. Stinky said, "Well, since he doesn't want to film us at the dog park, want to go there now?" Instead we came up with our scheme. As long as we were in the casinos giving them free publicity, we should hit people up for free stuff. We would get casino bosses to give us free rooms and fancy food. They owed it to us. Plus, we would tell girls we were big stars and they should take off their tops. It works on Zalman King's "Red Shoe Diaries," doesn't it?
The Lady Luck was the setting for our first foray in front of the camera. Alan told us to walk around the casino, just like we normally do, and then he stopped us when I kept shoving Stinky and he tried to steal drinks from the cocktail waitresses. "Tell you what," suggested Alan, "why don't you try walking around like other people do?" Finally, we moved on to them filming us signing up for slot clubs so we could show all of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area how to get a cheap hot dog. Quality news content.
Between you and me, the Lady Luck hot dogs are nasty, but they're probably good enough for folks in SoCal, so we happily recommended them on camera. The thing that stuck in my craw was that those cheap ABC jerks didn't even offer to buy them for us. We had to shell out some of the Big Empire's hard earned cash. The cameras caught us buying and eating, but not Stinky stuffing his pockets with free condiments. As soon as the little red light on the camera shut off, we spit out the wieners and dumped the uneaten portions in the trash.
Now it was on to filming me making the free two-minute long distance phone call that the Lady Luck offers. This is where TV magic happened. They filmed me talking to someone on the phone, but you see, I wasn't really talking - I was only pretending!
It's amazing how otherwise normal folks act when there's a TV camera around, especially when they are already under the influence of alcohol, as most of the Lady Luck's customers were. Complete strangers readily hammed it up and asked what was being filmed and when they could see it. Everyone was eager for their fifteen seconds of fame, even if it was a clip of them dancing at a blackjack table until they fell into a chair and smacked their chin on the table. Nobody associated the cameras and us in front of them with the fact that we were celebrities. Perhaps we don't have the auras? Maybe the wrong cologne? Whatever it was, nobody treated us any different.
Stinky and I pulled Alan aside for a minute and asked, "Alan, want to hear a really great idea for a TV show?" He said, "Later, later."
Finally, we moved on to the craps table, where we showed ABC how to turn a pair of matchplay coupons into an easy five bucks. For this, one of us would get to wear the little remote microphone. Of course, Stinky and I fought over it until Alan said that if we didn't stop that neither of us would get to wear it and that was final. So, after besting me in a Ro Sham Bo series, Stinky got the mic. I just stood next to him, talking really loud into his T-shirt. We played our match play coupons while the other players at the craps table stared at the TV camera like deer into headlights. Again, even though we had the mic and the camera was on us, two items that literally scream "celebrity," nobody bothered to treat us special. That was fine, we still had "Presto, P.I." on our side.
It was time to move on to the Golden Gate for shrimp cocktails. Once again, the $0.99 cost would have broken ABC's little piggy bank so we were forced to buy our own. Neither Stinky nor I are big fans of these delicacies, but for the sake of the Los Angeles market and our own stupid ambitions to be on television, we forced them down as the cameras rolled, and we waxed philosophic about how delicious they were.
"Alan," I said, "we really need to talk to you about our idea." "After the Sahara," he said.
We had one task left. We were to meet the camera crew at the Sahara and show them $1 blackjack. This was the only place where we were treated well. The marketing people were giddy as schoolgirls that we were there. They showered us with compliments and thanked us for bringing a camera crew to their hotel. They even liked my T-shirt, or so they said. They still didn't give us any free stuff, though. Stinky and I worked our way into a blackjack table and bought chips with our own money while Sean filmed. As we played, we extolled the virtues of dollar blackjack, apparently fooling our table mates who started asking questions like "Why are you guys experts?" "What are the cameras for?" "Why don't you shut your pieholes?"
When we were done, we approached Alan and cornered him in the men's room. We explained, in fevered tones, the idea for our TV show. Stinky said, "Here's the hook: Matt and I would be the flamboyant magicians and we're really honorable guys, so we aren't just having casual sex with dancers. You see, in the first ten minutes of each hour-long episode we impress the girls with sleight-of-hand, then marry them and promise to love them until death do us part. On to our Las Vegas honeymoon in some fabulous suite. Only, after about a half-hour, the girls get murdered. Stinky and I spend fifteen minutes grieving the loss of these two great gals, and then we spend the last fifteen minutes tracking down the killers, and then our lion eats them! See, the key is having the girls die, so the viewing audience gets to enjoy a new, exotic whirlwind romance every week."
Alan thought for a minute, nodded, dried off his hands, stroked his beard and said, "I like it. I like it a lot." He explained that most people don't know it but each local news producer is allowed to create one show for the networks, it's in the union contract. He hadn't used his because he wanted to save it for the perfect opportunity, and he thought we had it. "I can get the budget, the crew, and I have the seniority to get a Wednesday night prime time slot. Only one thing."
"No bionic lion."
"The bionic lion is the key."
"Lose the lion."
Stinky and I agonized for a few minutes and finally said, "No sale." You see, we have another opportunity. Next week I will be taped by "Dateline NBC" in a story about peeping toms, and I think I can get their producers to go for "Presto, P.I." with the bionic lion.
Alan and his cameraman didn't need us anymore. They were off to shoot more content to splice into our filler, and we all wished each other well. Our moment in the sun was over, and now it was up to the editors at ABC to make magic happen.
I have seen the segment as it ended up on ABC. Stinky and I look like idiots and there is no real value in it for the viewer. Neither of us have gotten rich or famous, and nobody has recognized us or respected us more for having done this. Jean Scott came out looking better than we did, but that's because she knows what she's doing. I have no idea if she pitched some sort of private eye show, but she's pretty smart so I bet she would go with the bionic lion, too. Would we do it again if given the chance? Absolutely. Not because it was worth it, but because we don't learn from our mistakes.
Who are we? ©1998 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. Questions or Comments?