When I do get around, I write about it. If you want to read exclusively about my visits to United States presidential sites, you can do that over here.
All of this stuff revolves around a trip to a comedy festival in the late fall of 2007.
Las Vegas attractions
I was in Vegas from a Tuesday morning through a Sunday morning for a Comedy Festival. I had to perform a grand total of 14 minutes. I had free time. And I had friends in town. So here's what we did ...
Greetings from the 20somethingth floor of the glorious Caesar's Palace hotel and casino and snack bar and health spa and shopping mall and sociological experiment and ... etc. It's good to know that if an actual Caesar were to travel through time and see Caesar's Palace, he'd probably crap his toga on the spot (except Nero, he'd be down). God bless America.
I'm here for the "Lucky 21" portion of The Comedy Festival, but this is actually my first ever trip to Vegas. After one day, I have learned that if anyone ever asks you, "Why do we even need organized religion?" a good answer is "Las Vegas!"
1) The Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City is like downtown Grozny compared to this place. They should really change the name of the A.C. branch to "Caesar's Crappy Beach House That He Bought As a Real Estate Investment." I swear to you, C.P. Las Vegas, like the Tardis, is bigger on the inside than the outside. And I say this knowing that the outside is huge. They clearly have a black hole in a storage closet somewhere so they can fit in more video poker.
1.5) All the supercasinos (C.P., Bellagio, New York New York ...) are very, very, very large, to the point where it is exhausting walking down the road to the next casino. I think their hope is that you will collapse of exhaustion before you reach the next casino, at which point hotel workers will drag your body to an empty slot machine and leave you there until you wake up. You check in, but you don't check out.
2) I walked the Strip once in the afternoon, and then I jogged it at night. It's a little different when the sun goes down, because there are some casinos that only exist in the evening. I swear. At 2 p.m. I'm pretty sure that some of the lots were just tumbleweeds. Around 6 p.m., with all the lights blaring, the number of casinos triples. I don't know where they go during the day. Maybe Lance Burton makes them DISAPPEAR!
3) Speaking of Lance Burton, there are many performers here in Las Vegas, and judging from the signs, they have all been named the "Comedian/Entertainer/Hypnotist/Female Impersonator/Topless Dancer of the Year." The signs never specify who named them that, nor which year. Astonishingly, though many of these people are the greatest entertainers who ever lived (and have the 50-foot-high billboards of their heads to prove it), you have never heard of them. Danny Gans, I'm looking at you. Also, someone thought it was a great idea to make a very large poster of Louie Anderson for the Excalibur. You could drive a truck through the gap in his teeth, and oh yeah, in the poster he's LYING DOWN. At more than three bills, that's not a good look, Louie. A head needs to roll for this. Also also, every casino has its own Cirque show. If China wants to cripple Nevada's economy, they can just recall all of the acrobats. Done and done.
4) The casinos here at C.P. are pretty clean looking and reasonably well lit. The casinos in the second-tier establishments are the most horribly depressing rooms in the world. Really, they give you the overwhelming urge to shoot yourself. There's nothing worse than a dark smoky room of ugly people playing slot machines. I don't mean that as a joke. That being said, I highly recommend the Stage Door Casino, one block off the Strip. $2.50 gets you a Miller Lite and a hot dog, plus they have video poker. It is the size of a small 7-11. In fact, it probably started out as a 7-11, because everything is a casino now. You get off the airplane and the first thing you see in the terminal is slots. I'm sure if they can figure out how to get video poker on public buses they'll do it.
5) Everything costs money, at least at C.P. I'm trying to breathe as little as possible in case there's an "extra air" surcharge. I decided to use the fitness center, and as I tried to walk in I was informed that it costs $25 to work out. Fortunately, because of the size of C.P., I had already walked three miles just to get to the fitness center.
5.5) Before my run on the Strip, I walked through the casino in a skin-tight underarmor top and the floral print bathing suit I often jog in. After my run, while sweaty and smelly, I walked through the mall attached to C.P. to get back to my room. Ordinarily, I'd feel self-conscious walking through big crowds dressed like that, but in Vegas it's impossible to feel like an a-hole. Really. Every time you worry about how you look, someone 10 times worse walks past within a minute. It's great for the self esteem. They should build an ad campaign around this.
6) Every 10 feet or so on the strip, there are Mexican immigrants trying to hand you pamphlets for prostitutes and call girls. Sometimes there are about five of them standing shoulder to shoulder, like a "wall" in a soccer penalty kick, but handing out hooker pamphlets instead. I know these guys aren't making a ton, but they wouldn't have so many guys out there if there wasn't some kind of demand for the services. The moral: wash your hands a lot when you visit Las Vegas. It's just good sense.
7) I ate at the Burger King in O'Shea's Casino (now with New Beer Pong Tables!) for dinner. There was a skinny guy there, white as can be, who had ridiculously oversized pants that were almost literally falling off of him. Anyone walking by could see quite easily that about 50 percent of his bare butt was actually touching his seat. And yet he tucked a napkin into his shirt while eating. VEGAS!
8) Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden (The Mirage)
What's not to love here? First off, there are dolphins. They don't perform, do tricks, or talk, but they are definitely dolphins. They swim back and forth and look very dolphinesque. You can also go view their tank from below surface level. And as an added bonus, you can watch overweight tourists watch the dolphins. They are great.
But that's not all! Beyond the dolphins lies the Secret Garden, where Siegried & Roy keep their lions, tigers, leopards and ... alpacas. Yes, alpacas. The most fearsome of the ... uh ... furry herd animals. Do not bring little children or they will have nightmares.
The lions in the garden look like bottle blonds. Plus, you never see Siegfried and Roy in public anymore. We must therefore conclude that S&R are lycanthropic lions, living in their own Secret Garden during the day and crusing the white-trashy end of the strip at night. In wigs.
9) The Comedy Festival (Caesar's Palace)
I'm not just a participant in The Comedy Festival -- I'm also a client. I couldn't get (i.e. wouldn't pay for) tickets for the big names -- Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, etc. So we decided to go for the second-tier attractions.
Lucky 21. I watched all the other participants in the contest -- a veritable all-star team of comedians who voted themselves into a comedy festival. The best part was that everyone seemed to admit it. Also, since internet voting (in progress now, and by the way I'm not going to win) was the deciding factor instead of judges, all the competitors seemed to be pretty friendly / civil. The showcases were fairly well attended, which is shocking, because for paying customers, it would have cost $35 to see relative nobodies. I guess everything costs at least $35 in Vegas, though -- we were the cheap alternative. I liked a lot of the comics I saw, with special mention to Michael Palascak of Chicago and Eddie Pence of Los Angeles. I chatted with both guys offstage a bit and they seemed pretty solid. Not to imply that they might be holograms. They're just nice guys, is all. Plus, Eddie Pence's lawyer was Chunk from "The Goonies." I have a great job.
Broadband Comedy. The idea here is to take a bunch of internet videos, and then show them to a live audience. Sounds great, huh? Yes, it's all the fun of sitting at your desk and chuckling mildly, but now in a room full of strangers. I'd say the internet is a great incubator for the sketch and comedy stars of tomorrow, but I don't think the "internet funny" skill set really translates to live performance in most cases. Case in point, a part of this show as was a live performance of this video. I hated it live and I hate it only slightly less on video. It's not all garbage though: check out Every Eminem song. On the fence: they debuted a new "Funny or Die" video, now posted on that site. I was talking a club owner after the show and he hit it on the head -- these things aren't really equal to the talent level involved. They look like videos that celebrities made in 45 minutes on a dare.
Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job Live. About 5 percent of the audience thought this was hilarious. 95 percent despised it. After the halfway point there was a steady stream of people walking out in the middle of the show. One of the worst questions for me to answer is "what kind of comedy do you do?" I would love to see the people behind this answer the same question. It's smart people intentionally doing things that are grotesque, over-the-top awkward and utterly moronic. There seems to be minimal structure and minimal editing. Some people love this stuff and think it's astonishingly brilliant. I've never heard a great explanation as to why, and part of the problem is that once you explain comedy, it's not funny anymore. I guess you either get it or you don't.
10) The Festival Lounge (Caesar's Palace)
The best part about being a celebrity like me is that you don't have to pay for anything. There was a festival lounge set up where the beautiful people could hang out, play foozball, eat free food and drink free booze. There may have been call girls available but I never got around to asking. And celebrity sightings? OH YEAH! Hanging around the casino, we saw Chris Rock (who did not want to be bothered, judging from other people approaching him), George Wallace (who was trying to remember all the girls from En Vogue while getting on the elevator), Jeffrey Ross, Chris White, Mark Maron, Carrot Top, Ze Frank, Chris White (in a mirror behind the bar), Frank Caliendo, Nick Swardson, Chris White, Chunk, Wayne Newton, Jared Stern, Jim Florentine, Kevin Pollack, Patrice Oneal, Chris White ... Gliteratti indeed.
The main attraction of the lounge was the foozball table, where bookers were betting weeks of work against hopeful comics, and the many free Twix bars. Twix was a festival sponsor, and if the sight of me walking through a casino eating a Twix bar helps move some candy, then their investment was totally worthwhile.
The secondary attraction was watching socially inept comedians try to network and make connections. My advice to the lonely: 1) Shave; 2) Don't smell like pot; 3) Wear something dressier than an ill-fitting t-shirt; 4) Try not to ask for work or offer your card in the first three minutes.
11) Shopping (All over)
Vegas is not all about food and gambling and shows -- there are also luxury malls attached to just about every major casino. This seems odd, because most of the people in the casinos do not appear to be wearing luxury clothing, and judging from their actual dress, even buying one piece of luxury clothing would force them to make the tough choice between owning one dry-clean-only shirt and having enough Ramen noodles to feed their kids for the next five months. And so I give you this new slogan: "Vegas: Where Luxury and Ugly Do It In a Stairwell."
As it turns out, I didn't pack the right clothes for the trip; I had nothing see-through. Also, I needed more short-sleeved shirts. So my friend Allyson and I walked to the finest clothing store on the Strip: Ross Dress for Less. I had never been in a Ross with a neon sign out front, and I am happy to report that the glitzy sign in no way reflected a change in the values that Ross was built upon: cheapness and partially damaged clothing, mostly in ugly patterns. On our way back, we tried on some hats at an upscale haberdashers:
James Bond movies probably give you the wrong idea about gambling; that it's all table games and tuxedos and large-breasted women in cocktail gowns. Total crap. Gambling is all about video poker, played at great establishments like the Stage Door Casino (a hot dog and a Bud Light, $2.50).
For the record, I lost $80. I am seeking help for my very serious problem, the problem of being too much of a sissy to bet more. I mean, it's not like I have mortage or anything.
Fun note: All the ATMs in Vegas come with special signs posting numbers to call for gambling addiction. Also, most of the time, I take $200 out of an ATM, and it is the final option on the withdrawal menu. In the casinos, $200 is the FIRST option on the withdrawal menu, which goes to at least $1,000. If you try to withdrawal anything less than $100, security guards appear and punch you in the stomach on general principles. I swear, it happened.
13) Fine Dining
Do you want the key to eating cheaply in Vegas? It's free Twix bars. Sure, you'll start to get migraines and violent mood swings after three days of an all-Twix diet, but think of all the money you'll save for gambling!
Still, you want to have a few nice meals. My friends and I ate at Spago (Caesar's), Trevi (Casear's) and Noodles (Bellagio). And you can get a nice meal on the cheap, if you're smart -- the key is to have a waiter spill water all over Jared Stern, and then have the restaurant void out most of your bill in apology. You will have to travel with Jared Stern for this to work, but I hear he's open to this. Zap him an e-mail.
Now, you also might want a fine beverage or two. You can get alcohol almost anywhere. But there's only one SexxPresso. SexxPresso, for my uncultured readers, is a drive-through coffee place, shaped like a coffee cup, in which the workers are relatively young women in lingerie. Skanky, skanky lingerie. All the drinks come in "cup sizes": A, B or DD. They also all have dirty names, like "Slap-accino." I would show you a picture of the workers, but my overwhelming Catholic shame prevented me from taking one. So instead, here's my friend Becca getting ready to order an iced coffee. If you are businessman, there have to franchising opportunities here. Get down on it.
14) Shark Reef (Mandalay Bay)
They bill this as a "carnivore-based" aquarium, but do you see many things eating other things? The closest thing we saw was one moray eel trying to put its mouth around the head of another moray eel. But for all I know, those eels were just making out. If that is the case, then they should advertise it as a topless moray eel sex show. I want to know what I'm paying $15 to see.
But this is a neat aquarium with quite a few sharks, and also one of those super cool aquarium tunnels that you would totally put in your house if you were a rich, evil genius. I was thinking for a while that it would be neat to have an aquarium ceiling to your bedroom -- it's classier than mirrors, but just as sensual. But then you have to figure that some pretty romantic moments would be spoiled by shark poop settling on the glass. Sigh.
They also had a neat jellyfish tank, a stingray petting zoo, and the rare Japanese Soft Focus Fish, pictured left.
The only thing really missing: alpacas.
15) Atomic Testing Museum
Sometimes it's nice to step back to a simpler time, before we all feared death at the hands of terrorists. A time when the only thing to keep you up at night was the threat of nuclear annihilation rained down from above.
Such is the charm of the Atomic Testing Museum, a mere 15 minute walk off of the Vegas strip! The deserts near Vegas were the home to hundreds and hundreds of atomic tests, both underground and in the atmosphere, and if you can look past the cancer and birth defects and decades of mortal terror, the whole thing is kind of of kitschy.
They have old-school 1950s instructional videos ("The Atom and You"), a theater that simulates the aftershock of watching an atomic test, plus lots of stuff on the development, testing and photographing of the A-Bomb. And a cardboard cutout of Miss Atomic Bomb? Oh hell yeah:
See, the mushroom cloud covers up the naughty bits! And the radiation pretty much kills any kind of bacteria. It's the ultimate birth control.
Stuff I did not know: There was a (mostly successful) effort to build a nuclear powered rocket engine, but the project was basically scrapped for political considerations. It might have put us on Mars by now. Also, there were pilots whose job was to fly THROUGH a mushroom cloud to collect data. That is a crappy, crappy job.
You can buy some old government pamphlets in the gift shop, which have great informative tidbits like this (from "You and Atomic Warfare"): "The first thing that happens when a big bomb goes off is a tremendous flash of bluish-white lite. This light is about fifty times as bright as the sun and a lot closer to you."
Yes, it's closer than the sun. So heads up.
In summary, go to the Atomic Testing Museum -- it's a BLAST! Ha. Ha. Hee.
16) The Eiffel Tower Experience (Paris)
I've been to the actual Eiffel Tower, and it sucks, because it is in France. You get to the top, and all you can see is more France. The Eiffel Tower Experience, however, is in the heart of the Vegas strip, offering a great view of the surrounding casinos, at only half the height of the actual tower. That's American efficiency and awesomeness all in one.
The E.T.E. starts with you buying a $9 ticket. Easy enough. Then you take a ride up to the top in an elevator. Then you look around the top and take pictures, especially of me looking sensitive:
Then there's a 40-minute laser-light show and topless French cabaret. Everyone gets a baguette and they squirt you with perfume on the way out the door. Ooh lah lah!
Me and my posse timed our E.T.E. well -- we got to enjoy sunset over the mountains, plus we had a bird's eye view of ...
17) The Bellagio Fountain Show
This is one of the cooler attractions in Vegas, because it is both impressive and totally free to watch. The only other thing in Vegas that is both impressive and totally free to watch: the immigrant men and women who stand on the Strip and hand out cards for prostitutes. They are tireless. If we could somehow work them into the Bellagio fountain show, I think we'd really have something going.
The human soul, resilient though it may be, can only absorb so much -- world-changing events overwhelm us, leaving us unable to comprehend the magnitude of what we have experienced. Only over time can we process such things, returning to a state of relative clarity, free to describe what has transpired.
The human soul is alot like the human liver that way.
After two weeks, I feel like I'm finally able to tell you about "Bite," the best topless erotic vampire review I've ever seen.
It's a simple, timeless story: Boy loses girl, boy becomes Lord Vampire, boy spends next 400 years scouring the earth in search of the next incarnation of lost girl so that he might make her into a vampire and spend the rest of their damned existence together. Realizing that there are bound to be some lulls along the way, boy also assembles a coven of hot vampire babes to pleasure him.
Vampires fascinate us for many reasons: they are soulless avatars in human form; a sordid reminder of our darkest impulses; creatures blessed with eternal youth yet cursed to serve evil. But "Bite" brilliantly sidesteps these concerns, by making the lady vampires topless, and having them dance to the classic rock hits of the '70s, '80s and '90s -- a narrative path as refreshing as it is bold.
We begin by meeting the coven -- or, to use their official title, the Erotic Angels of Rock. Fire, Ice, Pain, Shimmy, Cat and Tush are introduced to us through the universal language: topless flashdance. Then, we meet the Lord Vampire, who enters in casket levitated in over the audience. Have you ever seen the chandelier fall in "Phantom of the Opera"? It's like that, but ten times more emotional. As to the Lord, I yield to the Bite web site:
He is the most powerful creature on earth and has dwelled here for hundreds of years. He is a majestic, intelligent, talented and passionate creature searching for his Queen of the Night. He is a martial arts expert and performs spellbinding magic and illusions to seduce and display his control over the elements. He plays the piano like Chopin and composes his magical music of the night.
That is a well-rounded resume. Also, he looks like the Undertaker. After some good-natured hi-jinx, the story moves forward, ever forward: audience members are brought to the stage, and then they are eaten.
At this point, you are probably thinking: "What a horrible fate!" Well, you could not be more wrong. Because the bite of the vampire not only makes you a soulless minion of the night, it also grants you amazing gymnastic powers. And so, before my very eyes, a regular white-trash patron of the Strosphere hotel and casino was transformed, along with a lady friend, into a Cirque du Soleil ribbon climber, doing astonishing routines while dangling above the audience.
[NOTE: There are a lot of Cirque shows in Vegas -- five, by my count. Plus there are touring shows. How can there be enough gymnasts and acrobats in the world to fill the demands of Cirque du Soleil? Answer: The managers are French Canadian vampires. They are not "finding" talent. They are making it. You have been warned.]
What's more, a sad, lamentable character -- a man disfigured by life, cursed with a limp arm -- was given through the bite of the vampire the amazing gift of song, and also intimate knowledge of the lyrics to "Come Sail Away," "Desperado" and "Moon Dance."
And who could forget the lovely queen? She was a humble woman plucked from the audience, but within moments of her stepping on the stage, all of us in the room knew that the centuries-long search was over. As we took a collective breath, we inched forward in our seats to see the dramatic conclusion. Again, the web site:
QUEEN. She is a mortal woman that is chosen by the Lord to be his Queen. She must be stunningly beautiful, have an amazing hard body and be willing to live immortal. Once bitten, her innocence is forever lost.
But as in all great romances, there must be struggle -- for at first the Queen resisted the mighty Lord's advances. He pulled out all the romantic stops to woo her -- playing the piano, having his six topless sex slaves dance for her -- and yet she was still hesitant. But love would prevail! After the male ribbon-climbing vampire (apparently ungrateful for his awesome new abs and abilities) tried to steal the Queen and usurp the throne of the Lord Vampire (to the tune of "Fight For Your Right to Party"), the Queen finally realized the depth of the Lord's passion as he fought for her. And she rewarded this love with the most compassionate gesture know to man: she took her top off. And I swear to you, the crowd, or at least one guy with a mullet near the front, gave a heartwarming cheer.
Sadly, at this point, the Erotic Angels of Rock no longer showed their boobs for the remainder of the show, probably because of something in the Queen's contract. And so I tuned out a little bit. But then the show was over.
There is nothing I did not like about this show, from the total lack of dialog, to the set which appeared to be made from papier mache, to the excellent use of the song "Lady" by Styx. The universal themes of vampirism and toplessness united the crowd -- I could not help but feel kinship with the Mexican couples at my table who sat stoic and expressionless throughout, transfixed by the life-changing show before them.
To those of you who say that the theater arts are dead, I say unto you: you must go to the Stratosphere hotel in Las Vegas, and go see "Bite." The show is at 10:30. Dark Thursdays.
Hoover Dam FAQ, As Written By Someone Who Went to the Hoover Dam a Few Weeks Ago and Didn't Take Any Notes
December 2, 2007
Where is Hoover Dam?
Hoover Dam is near Las Vegas, on the Nevada-Arizona border. It is not a large casino with a water-management theme. You are thinking of The Venetian.
How Can I Get to Hoover Dam?
You can reach Hoover Dam by renting a convertible at Caesar's Palace, then driving there while listening to the pop hits of the 1980s on satellite radio. If there is another way to reach Hoover Dam, you don't want to know it.
Isn't it called Boulder Dam?
No. It is named after President Herbert Hoover, a former mining engineer who brokered the water-management deal among the many states that share the Colorado River. He resigned the presidency in 1931 to supervise construction of the dam, and on his death in 1933, his bones were dispersed into several batches of concrete being poured into the dam. Hoover's skull is encased in lead box embedded in the top of the dam, with one eye socket in Nevada and one in Arizona.
Howard P. Boulder owned a hot dog stand popular with dam workers. "Boulder dam" refers to constipation brought on by an all-hot-dog diet.
How big is Hoover Dam?
Hoover Dam is very, very big. Expressed in terms of athletic fields, it is ... one or two very big athletic fields thick at its base, and a couple of athletic fields high. The fields are for manly, dam-worthy sports, like Canadian Football or anything played under Australian rules.
Is it the biggest dam in the world?
It's the biggest dam in YOUR world. Assuming you've never been to China.
What are the two towers on the Lake Mead side of the dam?
The "intake towers," one in Nevada, one in Arizona, contain complex hyrdro-powered timing mechanisms that keep the official time for their respective states. Due to turbine failure in the Arizona tower in 1986, that state did not celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day until 2000, when the replacement part finally arrived.
What is Hoover Dam made of?
Hoover Dam is made of concrete, and Herbert Hoover.
What can I visit in Hoover Dam?
For $12, visitors to Hoover Dam can learn about the dam's construction through a series of exhibits and films in the visitor's center, as well as explore one working station inside the dam itself and the generating station at the base of the dam. For $25, visitors get a commemorative hardhat and probably get to visit the skull chamber and touch it for luck. For $50, and if they know the secret password, visitors can enter Beavers, the 24-hour exclusive VIP nightclub located in the center of the dam.
For $1, visitors can enjoy this bench:
How was Hoover Dam built?
Why do you have to ruin everything by asking so many questions? Can't you just enjoy the fact that it's a really big dam? Look, they blew some s**t up and poured a lot of concrete. What, do you think this information is going to help you chat up a girl at a party? Try moisturizing. It's a better use of your time.
How much did Hoover Dam cost?
And now with the money. All you seem to care about is cost and size. Why is it all surface with you? It's a very big, very expensive dam. In Great Depression figures, it cost $23.43. Happy?
What is a powder monkey?
You racist piece of trash. This tour is over.
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