Part One || Part Two || Part Three || Part Five

by Dan, Matt and Stinky

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.

Stinky and 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 for all.

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!"

Ghizal is 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 empty-handed.

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 Street Station.

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 of

Dan entertains the masses at the Ice Cream Social.
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 it went!

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.

The Fitzgerald's Balcony tilts toward the free ice cream as greedy Buddies stuff their maws.

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. Huh!


Buddies stuff their maws some more at Lotus of Siam.
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 like us.


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.

Dan and 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?


About half of the soiree attendees, or about half of those who took the free pennies.
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.

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 got underway.


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.

Phil Feldman savors his victory and title of Penny Slot Tournament Champion, 2000.

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 Spike T-shirt.

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 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.
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.

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.


Ghizal is declared the official victor by Golden Gate security.
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.

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.

On to Part 5

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