PART 4 -
My Girl Likes to Party All the Time
Brunch at the Main Street was the first order of business
for the long day ahead of us. We needed plenty of strength to
get through the Ice Cream Social, the Cocktail Soiree, and what
would surely be a night of keepin' it real, Vegas style.
Peanuts talk business by the Plaza's Casino-top pool.
It's difficult to look particularly hip in a group of fifteen
or more people, because there is always somebody who deserves
a face full of Jell-o, and the opportunities for making sculptures
out of cantaloupe rinds come fast and furious. A few plates of
food and lots of hastily emptied tables surrounding us later,
we made like a bunch of trees and left.
At noon, Matt, Amy, John Knee and I gathered up all the photo-contest
cameras, asked participants if there was anything on them that
would get us detained at Costco once the photos were developed,
and headed out to take care of some serious bidness.
After dropping off the cameras, it took us a while to find
Mr. Ice, one of many dry-ice suppliers in the valley, but when
we finally did, we were rewarded with pounds of the smoking chemical,
and very swank business cards with a picture of Mr. Met's long-lost
cousin, Mr. Ice. Dressed to the nines in a tuxedo, with a top-hat
covering his icy cube of a head, we knew he was our ice cream
treats' savior from the desert heat.
We then hustled back to Costco to get the developed photos
and pick up a variety of tasty ice cream treats. Matt, in a very
uncool fashion, wouldn't let us open even one box of gelato pops
before the Ice Cream Social started.
I dreamed I was a Buddhist senator with an eye for teenage
nipples--but only when the attached teens were girls who would
listen to my spiritual truths, my political platforms, or both.
"You're on, Senator," was the last thing I heard in
my dream, then I woke up.
Lauren was already up, showered, and acting perky and ready
for the day, a good indication that she was enjoying herself
and that the pervasive tobacco stench was not aggravating her
too much. After I showered, we went to meet the gang at the Main
Street Station buffet. Pussy the Duck Billed Thing came with
us, but it was hung over and didn't want any photos.
The Main Street Station buffet, glorified greasy spoon though
it is, has always been among my favorites. Lauren wasn't wild
about it, though, summarizing it, and many buffets, succinctly:
"Everything looks good until you taste it." This is
especially noticeable in the case of Eggs Benedicts and German
chocolate cake. But the grapefruit was very nice, and Phil ate
Jell-O with a straw, which was a delightful auditory experience
When the crowd dispersed so that Matt and Mark (who I call
"The Bigwigs") could gather supplies for the Ice Cream
Social, Lauren and I decided to check out The Attic. This is
the one and only clothing store I've seen in the Vegas Metro
that caters to the ultra-hip. Go to Haight Street in San Francisco
or Greenwich Village in New York City, and you'll find five stores
like this in a city block; but out here where youth culture must
grow through cracks in gaming culture like weeds through a sidewalk,
The Attic is the one Mecca for retro duds at tomorrow's prices.
It reminds me of that Luna lyric: "Well, raise my rent and
turn the clocks back!"
stopped and fondled by the ladies of Mermaids.
Walking into the Attic is like walking into the 70's and 60's
and early 80's all at once. You bump into a late teen with spiky
orange locks who charges you a dollar for a life-time pass to
The Attic--as though we tourists are going to keep it for the
next time we feel like being ripped off. We found a few cool
pairs of shoes for Lauren, a bitchin' fedora that wanted to ride
out on my head, and some furniture that would have looked swell
in our pad back home. But the costs were prohibitive, so we left
We went across the street to Opportunity Town Thrift to see
what this opposite-within-genre store might have by way of hidden
treasures. I've never been in a more depressing store in my life.
People wallowed in the utterly refused: they browsed through
it, they tried it on, they wore it home. They could have taken
ensembles into the dressing corner and hung their own clothes
back on the racks. Everything had the faintest of bad smells.
The prices were rock bottom, of course, but even at two dollars,
the most alluring pair of pants I could find wasn't worth the
space in my suitcase.
The Attic must surely send regular raiding parties across
the street to pick all juicy morsels from this refusalon. Their
turned-up-nosed sales managers dectuple their prices in the name
of hip, give them a good ironing, and wait for the moneyed dolts
to swarm like posh flies to expensive shit.
We really have to give credit to John Knee for letting us
use his Costco card, ice chest and for guiding us through the
mysterious side streets of the Las Vegas Valley. The Ice Cream
Social was scheduled to start at two, and it was already after
noon by the time we hauled our bloated carcasses out of the Main
After getting the ice cream and slapping Amy and Stinky's
hands several times as they tried to sneak some out of the cooler,
we rushed back downtown and lugged the hundreds of dollars worth
of treats into the Gold Spike parking lot. I had to rearrange
the cooler so that the more expensive treats like nutty drumsticks,
rich Choco-Tacos, tangy fudge-covered fruit and smooth Creamsicles
were on the bottom, and the crappy Popsicles and other cheap
frozen sugar water were on the top. Why give the good stuff to
people who will grab whatever's on top?
Joined by the rest of the Buddies at the Spike, we hauled
the cooler over to the undisclosed secret location (the Fitzgerald's
balcony) which had been secured with Big Empire funds, and without
Randy Shandis's knowledge.
The Ice Cream Social. We wait all year for some lovely novelty
bars only to have our hands slapped as we reach for the best
them. The "party" organizers, Matt and Stinky,
look at you as though you have less couth than a singed condom
if you try to take a second helping. The Ice Cream Social was
saved only through the music I played on the accordion. Oompa-oompa
the masses at the Ice Cream Social.
Though I played last year too, I could tell that I had improved
a great deal in the intervening time because I made a whopping
2/3 of a dollar in tips, plus a slot club card, a keno crayon,
a key chain from the Plaza, and some Popsicle wrappers. Phil
and I had a Fleischmann Brothers reunion with Tom Lehrer's "Irish
Ballad" and, of course, "Sloppin' the Hogs with God,"
the farm ditty that Phil and I used to sing growing up on the
plantation in Kansas.
Late into my set, someone slipped me a note. It simply said,
"Rock You Like a Hurricane." I looked up and saw Slotsy
of the Handsome Homepagers give me a knowing wink and a forefinger
gunslinger style. What he didn't know was that I'd given up playing
heavy metal on the accordion back in 1988 when a transition I
made from "Beer Barrel Polka" into "Cum On Feel
the Noise" caused a brawl between the elderly residents
of Vista Shores Retirement Community and three young long-hairs
who'd wandered in by mistake. Though no knife-wielding elderly
appeared to be at this gig, I wasn't going to take any chances.
Yet I did recognize Slotsy's earnest desire to bang his head.
Thus, I launched into that bastion of rock anthems: Misty Eyed
Lady. It took about all I had to belt it out to the captive buddies
and the Lookie Loos below. But since it seemed to be catching
on, I barreled into that great psychedelic bridge that Hendrix
added in his '69 version. It seemed to do the trick as far as
Slotsy was concerned (a full 1/3 of my tip jar came from him),
but it left me too weak to play my usual "Downstairs Set"
at Fitzgerald's on the way out once the ice-cream bash melted
to a halt.
At the Fitz, the pre-party jitters set in. Matt couldn't stop
talking about the day of his prom, when he had invited some of
the cool kids to come by his house before the dance. Apparently,
nobody showed up, not even his twelve-year-old cousin, who was
supposed to be his date. She went to the arcade with some friends
and left him alone. I wasn't really listening, because the whole
time I kept trying to get my hands on an Oreo ice cream sandwich.
Soon, though, the balcony started to fill up with greedy Buddies
who wasted no time diving into the cooler. It would have been
nice for them to say hello, or at least, "please" before
"Get out of my way!" We had a fabulous turnout, bigger
than ever, but who knew so many Buddies were homeless men living
right there on Fremont Street? Some guests came bearing gifts,
like homemade "Shandis for Internet Mayor" magnets.
Most, though, brought nothing but empty stomachs which were soon
stuffed with ice cream sandwiches, gelato, pure fruit bars, drumsticks
and various other cheap, sugary treats.
Balcony tilts toward the free ice cream as greedy Buddies stuff
One dazed woman talked my ear off, saying she was a "huge
fan" of the Big Empire. Clearly she had recently escaped
from a mental hospital, so I motioned to Ghizal to come over.
I told her that he also contributed to the site and made my break.
Just as everyone's hands were getting good and sticky, Fozano's
thugs showed up and started pushing folks around. Slotsy, who
at some point had arrived in Vegas from his hoity-toity New york
residence, scattered the Shandis magnets, and caused a general
commotion. Since we couldn't remember which ice cream treats
had been laced with cyanide, we had to get rid of them with more
conventional means. We drove them off the balcony with jeers
and taunts, and photos of their candidate lying in a Houston
gutter, wearing nothing but his boots and a ratty cowboy hat.
(As a side note, if anyone reading this ate a poisoned treat,
sorry about that.)
Dan snapped open his accordion case and blasted through incredibly
rousing renditions of old-time favorite, "Misty-Eyed Lady,"
the "Presto P.I." theme, and the Peel Sessions mix
of "Misty-Eyed Lady." The singing and dancing and clapping
up on the balcony attracted a lot of gawkers down on Fremont
Street. They were rebuked with ice cream in their eyes. Let this
be a lesson to people who stare up at sugar-crazed revelers everywhere.
Photos from the contest were passed around, along with ballots
to vote on which team took the best shots. Jeff and Jerry had
slowly torn their stuffed mascot to shreds, and documented the
dismantling. They won big votes from the sick electorate, but
not enough to beat Ghizal, Mike and Steve, who had risked arrest
at every turn to get shots of their mascot perched upon all kinds
of private property. The contest ended in a tie. Congratulations
are in order to both teams, but especially to Matt, Amy and I
for taking the best pictures, even though dirty politics prevented
us from getting the most votes.
As the sun began to think about where it might bed down for
the night, I took my wife to see Caesar's Palace. We snapped
some shots of Pussy The Duck-Billed Thing in the Forum Shops.
Lauren was pleasantly entertained, but completely un-wowed by
Bacchus's automaton show. First off, Diana's jaw was stuck, so
she couldn't talk even though the sound track had her voice going
non-stop. Apollo was missing two fingers: his latex hand was
blown away past the middle finger. Even Bacchus's mechanisms
were on the fritz: his belly laughs and jowl-shakes were way
off cue and were accompanied by the distinct sound of mechanisms
about to walk off the job. Doesn't the emperor care? We left
two minutes into the downscale Disney spiel. Caesar's Palace.
After the party broke up, a large group of us headed
for another meal at Lotus of Siam. We called ahead to make sure
there would be a big fat catfish staring at us from the plate.
Bill seemed slightly overwhelmed by the size of our group, but
also clearly happy to have so many eager diners in his restaurant.
The food was, again, spectacular, and totally wasted on jerks
stuff their maws some more at Lotus of Siam.
Back at the LV Club, it was time to get dudded up for the
night's adventures. I had selected a tangerine-colored leisure
(leh-zhure) suit. They call it a leisure suit because even if
you overeat incredible Thai food, it will expand to fit your
waist. Plus, it's belt-less and machine washable. You can tear
it and cauterize the rip with a match. Similarly, if it gets
a hole, you can simply gather the "material" around
the opening and melt it closed over a flame.
his latex ladies. Talk about burnin' rubber.
I topped this off with a skull ring on each finger, each more
bad-assed then the last. Though I love puttin' on the put-on
for a night romp in Sin City, most of this was for Lauren's benefit.
I figured that if she were getting tired of all the neon and
glitz, she could always feast her eyes on her man! Lauren matched
me of course, in a Flamingo Hilton pink and orange dress with
honkin' bauble accessories. Strutting down the Fremont Experience
with my change cup and gin and tonic in a glass I'd stolen from
the Las Vegas Club (stealing glasses is Cool!), I ran into the
coolest encounter ever had by man or beast. Strutting my way
were three ladies: The Latex Ladies.
They wore matching black wigs, black shades that hid their
eyes, blood-red lipstick, and latex suits that hugged dangerous
curves from napes to ankles. The only difference was their colors:
Blue, Green, and Violet. I made a suave move in front of them
and they stopped and looked.
"I wanna picture," I opined. That's when I learned
that these objectified shills were even cooler than I'd first
suspected. They spake not a word! Trading quips with the touristas
was so far beneath them; they would not even say "whatever."
Instead, they surrounded me in a HOT pose, and Lauren snapped
the immortal photo. Shit damn! Say it with me, now! Shit gaw-damn!
Who's that Orange Stud in the middle, there?
Back at the Spike, I was put on uncool duty, greeting
early arrivals to the soiree, while the others went upstairs
to get prettied up. I eased up to the bar and braced myself for
the annual wrath of the Gold Spike's enormous bartender. All
I ever say to him is, "Gin and tonic, please," but
bystanders would assume I just accused his mother of screwing
sailors for a nickel by the looks shoots me. I couldn't worry
about that, though. For once in my life, I had guests to meet.
of the soiree attendees, or about half of those who took the
The first arrivals included some regular attendees. We caught
up on the weekend's activities. Shortly I was cornered by the
Big Empire's number one fan again. This time she had her husband
in tow. Her praise was really starting to freak me out. I thought
she must have gotten us mixed up with the proprietors of a real
web site, but she insisted she really liked our stories. I was
on the verge of rethinking my desire to be cool when Matt came
into view, bearing tubs of rolls of pennies.
By this time, soiree attendees were clogging up the aisles
between the slot machines, and the security guards had their
eyes, both glass and real, trained directly on us. Matt passed
out 47 rolls of pennies, and the third annual Penny Slot Tournament
Because we're always on thin ice at the Gold Spike, we staggered
the penny slot tournament, with contestants trickling in at a
rate that did not threaten the Copper Mine locals. Otherwise,
47 of us would intimidate them and blood would be shed.
I handed out rolls of pennies with a warning that the Big
Empire was not responsible for any injuries that players might
encounter in the Copper Mine, especially if they tried claiming
a machine already in use. I explained the rules, and how the
five people with the most pennies at the end of the first round
moved on to the Championship round, a five-minute Sudden Death.
"And remember," I shouted after the first batch
made their way through the thick smoke toward the penny machines,
"they're as afraid of you as you are of them."
Invitees and a couple of strangers who had swindled Matt out
of fifty cents descended on the Copper Mine, much to the chagrin
of the people playing there, and jockeyed for spots at the machines.
savors his victory and title of Penny Slot Tournament Champion,
I elected not to participate in the contest this year, due
to my ongoing protest against the crooked competition and that
swindler Ghizal, who cheated his way to a win last year. That
didn't mean that I wasn't watching out for cheaters, and right
away I saw one. Phil Feldman, under the auspices of "strategy,"
was standing around with his full roll of pennies. He figured
that keeping his fifty cents would easily get him an entry into
the second round. I cried foul. Then I cried it again. Then I
just about started really crying. Nothing worked. His strategy
paid off, and he was one of the five players to advance.
He parlayed his fifty coins into a winning bid in the second
round, and seemed quite happy, even though I told anyone who
would listen, and even some woman with an ugly "Taz"
sweatshirt, that his win was tainted. I guess being the most
beloved man on the Internet, thanks to his selfless gathering
of hotel deals from the LA Times every week, made him think he
was above the rules. For some reason everybody but me agreed
with him, and he walked away clutching his prize, a smoky Gold
After the contest, we left the hazy Gold Spike and swaggered
down Fremont Street. Dan led the way in his papaya-colored leisure
suit, and Matt strutted by his side, looking smooth and slightly
scary in his all-black ensemble, accessorized with a bolo tie
and two-foot high pompadour.
At the Golden Gate, the serious cocktail-eating competitors
staked out their places. They were joined by Skip from LA, who
was intent on bankrupting Mr. Randy Shandis by eating the shrimp
without really competing. John Knee, last year's winner, put
in a brave effort, but the shrimp at the Golden Gate had apparently
gotten "nasty" over the course of a year, and he dropped
off relatively early. Newcomer Burt Cohen pulled off an impressive
second-place finish, but when the last of the grayish water sat
in the bottom of the final cocktail, it was Ghizal who raised
his arms in victory. He had polished off nine. While not beating
the previous record of 11 cocktails in one sitting, his performance
was still considered quite a feat considering the overall horribleness
of the shrimp.
At the midpoint
of the contest, John Knee explains the nuances of his strategy
to Burt Cohen.
Ghizal plows through
the shrimp, never once contemplating their innocent, lost lives.
It is worth noting that Ghizal has completed the Big Empire
hat trick, winning the shrimp cocktail-eating contest, the penny
slot tournament and the photo contest. Okay, not all in one year,
but it's more than you, or we, ever did.
Ghizal posed for some victory photos with the Golden Gate
security, and folks started planning how to spend the rest of
the magical evening.
I don't know why, but we're always welcomed by the Golden
Gate. They are fascinated by our contest. I would think half
the people going in the joint are there to see how many shrimp
they can eat. Or, that the hotel would have its own annual contest.
But they don't, and for one hour on a Saturday night every late
spring, we provide entertainment and leftover shrimp cocktails
to the casino employees. It makes me feel a bit like a celebrity
and that's cool. How cool? Very cool.
declared the official victor by Golden Gate security.
Last year, Ghizal ate seven shrimp cocktails only minutes
after gorging himself at the Main Street Station buffet, so he
was my odds on favorite when I found out he had fasted since
lunch. It was exciting watching the three main eaters plow through
sundae cup after sundae cup of tiny pink, rubbery carcasses covered
with red and gray veins. They always start so quickly and then
slow down, filling their mouths before laboring to swallow.
It's a bit gruesome, and probably cruel, to subject people
to eating shrimp cocktails that get gradually warmer and grayer
since we buy them all at once and the eating goes slowly. But
gruesome and cruelty are what the Big Empire is all about.
At least this year we didn't force anyone into going to Larry's
Villa to watch the large, pink, rubbery dancers covered with
red and gray veins.
to Part 5