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Part 4 - Sunday and Monday
Part 4 - Sunday and Monday
Once seated, the hostess, "Rocket," explained the rules (push the button, try to win) and instructed them to make as much noise as possible when they hit a jackpot. This kind of festivity was a far cry from the uptight gathering of socialites at the Gold Spike. It was time to get down and boogie! The three young men soon discovered that the other participants needed to concentrate in order to hit jackpots, and they were as quiet and studious as church-mice. Matt more than made up for the lack of obnoxious enthusiasm, though, as he ran around the other contestants yelling, "I'm beating you!.. and you!... and you!... you? You're a loser!... I'm number one!" This turned out not to be true, and Matt, Robert and Stinky left empty-handed.
Feeling free and easy, Matt and Stinky pulled out the Santo funbooks once again. Without a third person to drag them down like a chunk of concrete, the two-for-one coupons were again an option. Since they were in the neighborhood, they stopped at the Town Hall, a small and completely empty casino, which does not house the offices of the mayor, chamber of commerce, or really any of the town's governmental departments. The boys picked up the free funbook, which included a coupon for a lousy plastic bottle opener (both have since broken), and a free cocktail. They took advantage of four ounces of nice cold beer poured lovingly into a plastic cup, and watched a couple of minutes of football on the fuzzy TV hanging over the bar.
Thumbing through the funbook, they were enticed by the match-play coupons, which offered $2 of play for $1 at the blackjack tables. Figuring that even if they only won one of four hands they would lose only a combined dollar. And winning two or more hands meant extra money in their empty pockets. They decided to go in together and split any winnings. Instead, they lost all four hands to the crookedest dealers this side of Crooked Dealerville and they gave the Town Hall its first (and probably last) $4 of the day.
It was with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouth that they trudged across Flamingo Boulevard to the Maxim. Printed on the Maxim's funbook coupon were promises of free cocktails, exciting gambling deals, and most importantly, free ice-cream. The cruel reality, however, was that every free item required a purchase of some sort. The trip to this out of the way casino would have been a complete bust had Matt not seen the "marquee" for the comedy show. It was a three-foot-high wood board. To Matt and Stinky's delight, the sign featured, in small black letters, the name Steve Rossi.
Steve Rossi, the "straight man" of the consistently unfunny comedy team Allen and Rossi, had been in absentia for quite a while and rumors swirled that the duo's "hilarious" comedic honeymoon was over. From the Westward Ho web site (www.westwardho.com) Matt and Stinky had gotten free tickets to see Marty ("Hello Dere") Allen, the "funny" part of Allen and Rossi, later that evening in "Hurray America." The answer to what could have possibly torn apart the seemingly inseparable pair was becoming evident.
The management at the Westward Ho had clearly approached Mr. Allen and told him, "Marty, we love your stuff. We want you to be part of our show. But the truth is, that Steve Rossi guy is holding you back. He'll always belong a block off the strip. Don't let him keep you from your glory, Marty. You are pure gold." Marty Allen replied, "Hello Dere."
The next thing Steve Rossi knew, he was dumped by his partner of more than thirty years, and left to back up a bunch of comics making Circus Circus buffet jokes at the Maxim. Unfortunately for the research purposes, there was no way to get into Rossi's show for free, so no comparisons between the two could be made.
Sunday night was the boys' last night in town, and they planned on going out in style. In the early evening, Caesars offers free drinks and a preview of their "Magical Empire" dinner and magic show to new members of their slot club. As soon as they wandered into the casino, Matt and Stinky were lucky enough to be formally invited to enroll in the exclusive slot club and cooled their heels for a while in their race book. It being a Sunday afternoon, football fans packed the sports book, and there was plenty of lame-ass hootin' and a-hollerin' going on. The guys weathered it purely because they were pretty tired of walking.
At the appointed royal hour in Caesars empire, 4:30 p.m., Matt and Stinky joined the crowd of liquor-thirsty cheapskates outside the entrance to Caesars Magical Empire. They were ushered into a magical world of faux rocks and stage lights. Caesar's teenaged minions directed everyone to enjoy free drinks and prepare themselves to be mesmerized by a "special surprise guest named Caesar." Stinky got his gin and tonic and Matt his whiskey sour, but all the other cheap-ass guests had magically stolen all the seats before the boys could get to them.
Our two world-weary travelers strolled around, looking at the mish-mash of decorations from the world's "great" magical ancient empires. They wandered down a long hall and through a door marked "employees only." If it was for employees only, the owners should lock the damn door. Beyond the door, Matt and Stinky sat in a lounge, where they were amazed and stunned by the collection of tunic-clad wannabe actors and actresses bad-mouthing each other and the cheapskate guests. They referred to one guy as looking exactly as "Beaker from the Muppets," and to one of Caesar's helpers as thinking "he is so great because he does that thing with the flash powder." The whole time, as the boys sat in the corner with their backpacks on and sipped their free drinks, no Caesars employees asked them to leave. Maybe they just looked like Greek gods or something.
At precisely 5:15, the surprise guest Caesar arrived with great fanfare and a heavily made-up Cleopatra, to try and hawk the dinner and magic show. In his best patrician accent, the ancient Roman emperor sang the praises of the Magical Empire, explaining that later a bunch of two-bit magicians would walk around performing tricks while tourists ate overpriced meals.
Then the meat of the preview began. From behind a loud (really loud, Stinky's ears are still ringing) explosion and puff of smoke, some guy dressed up like he escaped from Merlin's gift shop at the Excalibur appeared. He again explained how important it was that the audience realize they were surrounded by all kinds of magical powers, and he focused their attention on the various light projections on the wall. Everyone said, "Oooooooh." Then, from a big vat in the center of the room rose a flame, which was pretty big and warm, but not as big and warm as some of the bonfires one might see on the beach in San Diego when drunk landscapers make them from leftover building supplies. The show culminated with another unbelievably loud explosion and the sorcerer guy disappeared. At this point Caesar wrapped up the free show by reminding everyone that they could get more of the same, only for pay, later on that night.
Matt and Stinky exited the Magical Empire, through a magical portal that delivered them directly into the other-worldly Magical Empire gift shop. Matt loudly commented on the convenience of dumping Magical Empire guests into the overpriced gift shop, to which the store cashier defensively replied, "Well, if you owned this casino, wouldn't you do the same?" Stinky surmised that Julius and Cleo must be letting the cashier work off his casino marker rather than have his face busted, and he was probably very grateful.
They had some time to kill before the big "Hurray America" show at the Westward Ho, so they stopped by Slots-A-Fun to see if they could spot prize dwarves and get some more popcorn. Just to see if anyone would squawk, Matt and Stinky each took two cups of popcorn. Nobody squawked. And they ate the evidence. They also saw a guy buy two of their half-pound hot dogs for $0.99 each and then throw one and a half away.
From the outside, the Westward Ho doesn't seem large enough to contain the crowds that Marty Allen surely draws. Matt and Stinky walked in and searched, to no avail, for some indication of where and when the show would be held. They rode up the escalator, where instead of "Hurray America" they found pay lockers. These were a welcome sight since they had been lugging around all their stuff all day. Each dropped a quarter in the locker (the lockers are $0.50 for up to 48 hours), put their bags in and resumed the search. Finally they broke down and asked a woman at the registration desk when they could see their favorite comedian, Marty Allen. She informed the boys that the show was "dark" for the season, and wouldn't start again until some time in February. In fact, she said it like maybe Marty wouldn't be coming back.
Both young men were absolutely crushed. One of their goals of the trip was to see an actual Las Vegas singing, dancing revue. They explained to the clerk that Marty Allen was the whole reason they came to Las Vegas, and wasn't there some way she could call him and arrange something real quick? Stinky explained that even if Mr. Allen took them out back and told them some dirty jokes, that would be great. She insisted that the show was "dark" until February, but assured them the slot machines were working. Marty's absence threw a giant monkey wrench in their plans.
With some extra time on their hands, Matt and Stinky headed for the Debbie Reynold's casino, because they heard she had Planet of the Apes costumes on display. Somehow, however, they walked down the wrong street and found themselves closer to the Hilton than anything else. They went in to see the new SpaceQuest casino. Stinky loudly announced to a cocktail waitress that Matt was the world's biggest Star Trek fan and he wanted to immediately speak with Captain Picard. Confused, she scrambled away, having to climb over a space-themed roulette wheel.
The place was crawling with Spock-eared Trekkies, jaws agape in wait for a Borg to assimilate them, or for someone to try their Captain Kirk impersonations on, besides each other. The slot machines required only a swipe of the hand between two sensors to send the reels spinning, instead of the laborious pressing of a button. After a while, the space luster wore off and the boys realized that this place looked exactly the same as Bob Stupak's Vegas World, only with less dust. The overall impression of the SpaceQuest casino is "F" for effort, "F" for results, and "F" for the number of geeky dorks in there. Matt also got an "F" in citizenship for shoving Stinky from behind when he was getting a drink at a fountain.
From there they figured out the right way to get to Debbie's joint. When they got there it was depressingly empty, but had some old movie stuff on display. It was mostly from the old movie "Cleopatra." The Planet of the Apes masks were in the gift shop, which at that hour was closed. The place was so dead that someone actually asked the bartender if the slot machines were real or "movie props" since they were dusty and nobody was playing them.
By this time, Stinky's legs were achy and both men were hungry. They headed back to the Westward Ho and collected their bags from the locker, then took the bus downtown.
They checked into a $19 LA Times special room at Fitzgerald's, just to have a place to lay their stuff. For $19 this place reeked of high-class, with pillows that still had fluff and hole-less bedspreads that were not a faded brown color. The bathroom was clean and smelled good. The TV got more than just local channels, too.
They had match play coupons for the Fremont. With a $5 wager, a player won $10 on any even money play. At a craps table, Matt played his on "pass", while Stinky played "don't pass". The end result, Matt lost $5 while Stinky won $10, for a net profit of $5, which they split. This was money they were allowed to add to their budget, because unlike gambling, there was no risk.
They walked over to the Gold Spike to cash in the 2-for-1 meal coupons the hotel gave them upon check-out earlier that day. For the low price of $1.92 apiece, they ate like kings, including thick french-dip sandwiches, macaroni and potato salad, chips, and pie. Not only was it filling, it wasn't that bad either. Over dinner, they figured out how much money was left. Being about $10 under budget each, it was time to start foolishly risking money. The time to actually gamble was finally here.
Off they went to the Plaza, in search of a pair of spots at the quarter craps table. They cashed in $5 each, and played for a little over an hour, all the while watching their piles of orange quarter chips grow larger and larger. The dealers were new and tended to make lots of errors, and spill chips comically like Jerry Lewis did in "The Clumsy Craps Boy." The pit boss was a 400 pound tub of goo that loomed over the table and almost made one of the new dealers cry from unnecessary abuse.
The boys decided that any money won gambling could be applied to tipping for free drinks, acquired as a direct result of playing. So they got a couple of beers, and tipped in clear conscience.
During the craps session, the Plaza's dazzling "Xtreme Scene" show took place in the nearby showroom. Although the boys couldn't hear boobs jiggle, which was the main purpose of the show, they did hear the "Tarbak Motorcycle Team" revving their mini-bikes before defying death by driving around inside a chain-link sphere.
When the arousing, erotic "Xtreme Scene" was over, who should emerge from the showroom but the lovely girls. Matt's and Stinky's girls. The lovely ladies didn't see the boys in the clamor of the craps table. The boys didn't want to yell since they didn't know their names. The girls, dressed in tight floral dresses that accentuated their more feminine features, oblivioulsy stood but a hundred feet away, and they weren't running to escape.
Stinky motioned to Matt, who had the dice at this point. He said, "Not now, I'm hot." The girls stopped at an empty craps table no more than 25 feet away. And, to add to their legend, they knew what the hell they were doing. They threw a bunch of money on the table and started bossing the fawning dealers around. "Matt," Stinky said, "this is important." "Later," he growled. Then Matt threw the dice and everyone cheered. Stinky said, "Look, I'm going over to that table." Matt got real upset. "In the middle of my throw? That's tacky." And he said it in a way that reminded Stinky of who had the only room key, and who had locked people out of rooms for lesser transgressions in the past. One thing most folks quickly learn about Matt is that he is a cold-hearted bastard when he's drinking. So Stinky stayed and kept his mouth shut. And Matt kept rolling, and he kept winning more quarters.
As Stinky danced an antsy dance, the girls quickly got bored and left their table. They walked right past Stinky and he felt the heat from their 1000 watt smiles, even though they still didn't see the boys. Matt's hot roll was over and he lost the dice, just as the girls disappeared from sight. This girl-chase was getting old, and for the first time in his life Stinky feared becoming a spinster.
Stinky pouted and wanted to take a break from the table. He and Matt carried their beers to the Omaha Lounge, in hopes that the girls might stop by. They sat down at midnight, just as the lounge acts changed shifts, leaving the boys with no entertainment but a bunch of boisterous drunks leaning against the bar. One slightly belligerent rodeo aficionado would teeter on the brink of being thrown out for hassling a cocktail waitress or yelling too loud. Just as the bartender would pick up the phone to call security, though, he piped down and remained to explain to some other drunks how they were the only people that understood him, and that he loved his son.
An old smiling woman carrying a drink in each hand approached Matt and Stinky. She came to see the Laura Ash band, who was the next act in the lounge. She loved the band, she said, and promised the boys that they would really enjoy them. She further explained that she used to be a showgirl some time ago. She said she was 75, but that people often thought she was much younger. Matt agreed, saying she didn't look more than 50, to which she took some offense. Apparently, when people lied about how good she looked, they usually were much more flattering in their estimations.
She asked if they would like to see her dance like a robot. How could they refuse? She was not a bad robot, but truthfully, more could be expected from someone with a showgirl background. Then she asked if they wanted to see her mannequin. And when she started the stuttering movements, Stinky commented that her mannequin looked an awful lot like her robot. She stopped the dance to say, "Yeah, the mannequin and robot are the same." Why she showed both is still a mystery. She went on to repeat her positive feelings about the upcoming Laura Ash Band.
By this time, the band had started and the old woman directed her undivided, and strangely obsessed, attention to them. She danced and clapped and had the best time of anyone in the Omaha Lounge. Every now and then, she'd jig over to Matt and Stinky's table and put her arms around their shoulders, all the time keeping the beat. There was a sign in by the bar that said "No dancing" but this lady had it in her soul, and she had to shake it out. The band, not accustomed to seeing someone enjoying herself while they played, didn't know quite how to react, and ended up poking cruel fun at the poor woman when she called out her requests.
Having heard enough of Laura Ash's lame oldies and heartless mockery, Matt and Stinky headed for the nickel slot machines where, thanks again to winnings, they treated ourselves to complimentary cocktails. There were 9/6 nickel video poker machines at the Plaza, and they were generous to a fault. A fault that a slot technician came over and fixed about an hour and several drinks into the play. With the lucky machines under repair, they took leave of the Plaza
By now the cocktails had hit their mark and both boys were a little tipsy. They didn't want to sleep, and instead walked to the Gold Spike for dollar blackjack. They sat down at one of many empty seats. The dealer was clearly too good to be dealing at the Gold Spike. He was professional, courteous, fast, and didn't pay anyone on a hand that should have been lost. After grinding a few bucks out of the Spike, they went back to the Fitz to get some rest.
Free stuff they got: Bottle opener, cocktail at Town Hall; funbook at Maxim; Cocktail and show preview at Caesar's; more keychains at Plaza; Slot tournament at Casino Royale.
Instead, they wandered aimlessly about the strip in a vain search for cheap food. They finally, shamefully, ate at a Burger King because Matt thought he was going to pass out. Also, it was in O'shea's, right next to the Imperial Palace where they were going to see a car collection.
After an overcooked meal of cow meat and bones, they walked over to the Imperial Palace Auto Collection. Employees force free auto collection passes into everyone's hand when they enter the casino, and every publication in Nevada has a coupon in it. To get to the collection, Matt and Stinky had to walk through Ralph Englestad's weird casino, but it was worth it. There isn't much funny to say about the cars because it was actually good. There is an entire room of Deusenbergs, old Lincolns, rare autos, a rare Shelby Mustang, Gullwing Mercedes, Fords and Cadillacs. Three hundred cars in all are on display.
After the collection, there was still time to kill, so they walked over to the Casino Royale for another exciting free slot tournament. Rocket wasn't there to cheer them on to victory, but "Rodney from Malaysia" did a passable job in substitution. He didn't get people nearly as "pumped up" as Rocket, and he seemed a little embarrassed by the whole thing. But Matt hit a plethora of jackpots, giving him plenty of time to walk around and demoralize other contestants. Halfway through the tournament, one woman even left the casino in tears when Matt leaned over her shoulder and said, "That's not a jackpot. Why don't you come over to my machine so I can show what one looks like?"
Amidst a flurry of high karate kicks and disco dance maneuvers, Matt was given the champion title and placed on a list to compete for a free dinner the next night. Of course, the two of them would be gone by then. "For winning the tournament," Rodney told Matt, "you have your choice of a T-shirt, a baseball cap, or a cheap bottle of champagne." Matt asked "Do you have San Diego Padres caps?" Rodney said, "No, just Casino Royale." "Hmmm," said Matt, "What about The Mirage or Treasure Island?" Ultimately, Matt selected the cap because their bags were already way too full for any more heavy free crap.
Still feeling like a winner, Matt talked Stinky into a craps session at the Royale's quarter table. They quickly dropped $5 apiece and scampered out of the casino with their tails between their legs.
It was nigh on time to get to the Frontier for the free airport shuttle. A kindly, scabrous employee at the front desk told Matt and Stinky to catch the shuttle at the front curb. The free shuttle delivers anyone from the Frontier to the airport, without making any stops, regardless of where the passenger stayed. It's free except for the driver's tip.
Walking away from the Frontier's registration desk, Matt and Stinky bumped into the girls. There they were, the beautiful Plaza babies that had haunted the boys since Friday morning. They sat at two video poker machines. Their unprecedented beauty beckoned, like two flashing lighthouses in the middle of the casino, and Matt and Stinky knew not to crash their barge-like existences into them.
There was no avoiding this fated meeting. After so many near-misses, this was the true moment. Stinky's little hear pitter-pattered like it would burst out of his chest and splatter the room with blood. The girls hadn't yet seen the boys, but Matt and Stinky maneuvered so that they had to be seen. Still playing on the assumption that the girls thought they were celebrities, Stinky loudly said, "Yes, it is tough to be so famous. But, the smiles I can give my fans are worth it." Matt lamely replied, "I understand. Me too."
First one girl turned her deep blue eyes toward them, then the other. Their mouths were agape as Matt flashed a withering smile. Flustered, the girls quickly looked away. Stinky said, "It's working. Let's talk to them," and the boys edged a bit closer. Stinky was about to say something when the prettier of the two looked him square in the eyes.
She stared. She stared with a look that faded from incredulous to confused. And when Stinky said "Hi," she said to her friend, "Oh. Uh-oh." Then the other girl, the homelier of the really pretty pair, looked up and saw Matt's million dollar smile. She tugged on her friend's shirt and said, "Oh, my God. We were so totally wrong."
And the two girls, the two really ugly, stupid girls, fled from the Frontier with the gaits of Olympic speed walkers. Matt and Stinky stood still for ten or fifteen minutes, letting the cheesy smiles fade from their un-celebrity-like faces. They blocked the progress of many change girls, who had to wheel their carts around the slouched, rejected bodies.
Finally, Stinky snapped out of his shock enough to remind Matt about the airport shuttle. They walked out to the curb and waited.
Neither Matt nor Stinky said anything as they rode to the airport. The driver chattered incessantly, filling the van with misinformation half-truths about Las Vegas, but all Matt and Stinky could think was this was the worst trip they had ever been on.
We succeeded in living for under $19/day and we would have had a blast if it wasn't for those damn girls spoiling everything.
Free stuff they got: IP Car collection; free IP magnet; Free IP sun visors; slot tournament; free casino Royale cap for winning tournament; airport shuttle.
Epilogue: If we could have upgraded anything with another $5 a day, we agreed it would be better transportation. We would have taken Ted Newkirk's advice and bought 40 transit tokens for $15, and then Mark (Stinky) wouldn't have had to have surgery on the bone spur in his foot when we got back. We also figured out we could vacation in Las Vegas for $14/day, but it wouldn't be much fun.