Is it me, or is there a decline in the number of Vegas trip reports? I'm going through withdrawal symptoms. To help alleviate this condition, I thought I'd share an account of one of my earlier Vegas trips; it took place over thirteen years ago. It was at a time before they had built the Bellagio, Paris, Wynn, Venetian, or a even had a canopy over Fremont Street. My visit took place over the Columbus Day weekend: Oct. 8 through 11, 1993.
Some people do "it" when they're still in their teens. Others wait until they're in their 20s. Still others wait until they've reached the age of 30. I waited until I was 50. Yes, the ripe ol' age of 50...and with my 23-year-old daughter...no less! No...it's not what you're thinking. It's not that unmentionable "it". I'm talking about the first time I visited Vegas!
It all got started over the dinner table: "You want to go where!" my wife asked. "Vegas," I said. "Are you out of your mind?" she added. "Do you want to come?" I asked. "No way!" my wife replied. But then my daughter chimed in, "I'll go with you, Dad." I might mention at this juncture that my daughter loves to travel. She's been to just about every continent, except Antarctica.
Well, the next day, I call a travel agent to book a Vegas trip. Because of the late date (it was already October), the agent said that the best she could do was a non-stop from BOS to LAX...and then a backtrack to LAS. She did say she could get me into the Flamingo. I thought for a moment...and then I said, "Book it."
About a week later, my daughter (a college senior) and I (a high school teacher) rode over to where we'd pick up the Logan Airport shuttle bus. We were bussed into Logan where we boarded our AA flight to the West Coast. I remember that we left about 5:30 PM and arrived at LAX at about 8:30 PM. We then had to endure a two-hour layover before boarding a puddle-jumping prop jet for the hour's flight over the desert.
As we again became airborne, the excitement was beginning to build. We were less than an hour away from "The Gambling Mecca of the World." About three-quarters of the way to Vegas, I begin to notice these bright lights. At first I thought it might be the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights); however, it seemed that we were too far south for us to view that phenomenon. Then...it dawned on me: "We're approaching Vegas." Those bright lights are emanating from all those Strip properties. We're almost there.
As we headed closer and closer to McCarran, I could feel my excitement building to a climactic crescendo. Soon, I began to make out some of the individual hotel/casinos: the Tropicana, Bally's, the Flamingo, the Excalibur, Caesars and a host of others. In a word: spectacular! The colors were so vivid. So vibrant.
Minutes later, we landed. It was now around 11:30 PM. My daughter and I made our way to the baggage carousel and retrieved our luggage. We then caught a shuttle (part of our package) to the Flamingo. Finally, a little after midnight, we arrived at "Bugsy's place." What immediately caught my attention was the Flamingo's bright-orange floral neon display. There seemed to be lights just about everywhere...even in the stairwells.
Seconds later, I was in front of the registration desk. I was quickly assigned a room and given a key. My daughter (now totally exhausted) and I made it up to our room. I open the door. Shock of shocks! It's occupied...at least there was luggage on the bed. I quickly shut the door. As we rode the elevator back down to the registration desk, I was fuming. What if a couple was engaging in some carnal activity? Who knows what could have happened? I gave the clerk who assigned me the room a piece of my mind. She was apologetic. We were given another room. I was told it was an upgrade.
My daughter quickly went to bed. I, on the other hand, headed for the elevators and the casino, below. I recall being like a kid in a candy store, but instead of strips of "buttons," licorice, caramels and bubble gum, there were slots and VP machines, plus an array of table games. It was, in a word: titillating. I ended up sampling a little bit of everything. Hey, as my former Latin teacher used to say: "Vita celebratio est." (Life's a ball!")
About 3 AM I headed next door to the Barbary Coast. Although smaller, its casino was equally enjoyable. In fact, I remember that the minimums were lower. I recall playing roulette and then walking over to the BC's sports book to chat up the weekend's football games. I remember tauting the New England Patriots over the Arizona Cardinals.
A couple hours later and I'm back at The Flamingo. All the while, both at the Flamingo and the BC, I'm downing several Bloody Marys. If you take into account the fact that I haven't slept in over 24 hours and that I haven't eaten, except a bag of peanuts, in over 12 hours, those Bloody Marys are going to my head faster than a fast-acting painkiller.
It was back at the Flamingo that I spotted this mechanical horse racing game. I'm a sucker for the horses, even the mechanical kind. Initially, I watched as race after race took place. Soon, I'd begin to call the races (I had been a harness racing announcer at a MA track in the mid-1980s). "Now they're all in. The flag is up...and they're off!" That's Citation ( I used thoroughbred stars from an earlier era) moving ahead quickly on the rail. But now Whirlaway's found his best stride. And now it's Seabiscuit moving quickly into contention. And, at the wire, it's...Beetlebaum" (with a tip of the hat to Spike Jones).
Well, I did this for three or four more races when I notice these two guys off to the side are glimming me like sheep eye a blade of grass. At first I thinks they may be house "dicks," but when one of them comes up to me to ask me where I'm from, I realize they're just tourists. One of the guys asks, "Are you from Boston?" I reply, "I was originally from Boston, but I now live in Framingham." Under the category: "It's a small world (it would be the first of three on this trip)," both of the guys (I later learn they're pharmacists) grew up in the Boston area. In fact, one guy lived just a half-mile from me in my old Boston neighborhood. He even graduated from the same high school as I did, albeit almost twenty years later.
After a little more "renewing old acquaintances," the three of us leave the Flamingo and head across the street to Bally's. It's there that we sit down to play some $5 blackjack. Not one of us is having any luck. I end up losing $50 in about fifteen minutes. It's then that one of my "back home" friends suggests we go upstairs to Bally's Big Kitchen breakfast buffet. As the escalator's taking us upstairs, I don't know what to expect. This would be my first Vegas buffet.
It was now close to 7 AM. The buffet was just about to open. A few minutes later, we walked in. The only analogy that I could think of at the time was when the movie, "The Wiizard of Oz," suddenly turns from black & white cinematography to technicolor. "Viva la difference!" As I looked at all the breakfast treats, I began to salivate like one of those Pavlovian dogs. Hash browns, eggs, sausage, bacon, muffins, rolls, cereal, yogurt, Danish and even strawberries. Oh, of course, coffee and juice. As George Gershwin might have said: "Who Could Ask For Anything More?"
All I could think of were the lyrics from the musical "Oliver." "Food, glorious food!" This whole spread was quite a treat for a guy whose morning fare usually consisted of a cup of coffee ("alarm clock catastrophe") and a doughnut. I must say that up to this point --- despite my early-morning forays into the gambling world --- this was the highlight of my trip.
After breakfast, I split with my newfound Boston friends (I told them I'd hook up with them again at The Mirage Sportbook shortly before 9 AM) to check on my daughter back at The Flamingo. It was now after 8 AM when I reached our room. My daughter was already up. She asked if I had had breakfast. I told her I had an outstanding breakfast at Bally's. My daughter then told me that she was going to grab breakfast downstairs at the Flamingo and then spend the morning at the Flamingo's health spa. I indicated to her that I was going to The Mirage to make some bets on football games. We both agreed to meet back at the room aound 1 PM.
By 8:30 AM, I arrived up the street at The Mirage. I quickly found my Boston "friends." The sportsbook was a beehive of activity. I had never scene so many wide-screened TVs. The whole thing reminded me of the betting parlor scenes from the movie "The Sting." As I'm standing there eyeing all the spreads and over-unders, I hear this voice call out "Walter." It was not my newfound Boston chums (they were on the other side of the room). I heard the voice again: "Walter." I thought for a moment: maybe it's some other "Walter," or maybe I'm hallucinating (I did have several Bloody Marys). But then I recognize a familiar face. It's my next-door neighbor, Frank. He'd been at a teachers' convention in Denver, but he flew into Vegas for the college football games. All I can say is: "Unbelieveable!"
I decide to bet on Rutgers, getting three points, in their game against Boston College at The Meadowlands. The Scarlet Knights start off very well and are leading at halftime. However, the Eagles roar back in the second half and cover the spread. I lose a couple hundred dollars.
By now it's nearly 1 PM. I head back to my room at The Flamingo to hook up with my daughter. My daughter's waiting for me. "How'd you do on your sports bet, Dad?" "Not well," I replied. "I lost two 'yards' betting against Boston College," I added. "Yards," my daughter said with a quizzical look. "That's normally three feet, but in betting parlance, 'a yard' is $100," I said.
My daughter and I take the elevator downstairs and have some lunch at one of the Flamingo's cafes. After lunch, I head back upstairs. Frankly, I'm "bushed." It's been nearly 24 hours since I last caught some zzz's. I'm going back up to the room to take a nap. My daughter tells me she's going to walk around the hotel and then take a look at some of the nearby hotel/casinos. I tell her to meet me back at the room about 4:30 or 5 PM. I tell her we've got a big night ahead of us.
Well, I'm up a little over two hours later (who can sleep in Vegas). I take the elevator downstairs to look at the college football results from around the country. As I'm looking at the boards with all the scores, a guy comes up to me to ask the time. I tell him it's about 3:30 PM. The guy who asks for the time then says, "Your accent sounds familar." I tell the man that I'm from the Boston area...actually the town of Framingham. He then says, "Small world. I'm originally from Framingham myself." He went on to tell me that he had moved out to the West Coast about fiften years ago. He then mentioned the names of people he knew who lived in Framingham I told him that I knew some of those people. The man went on to tell me that he was in Vegas with his Chinese wife. He added that many of her relatives and friends from all over the country are here to celebrate her 50th birthday. Apparently, it's a Chinese custom to make a big deal over decade birthday and anniversary observance. Thus, the celebration.
Minutes later, I leave my "Framingham connection" and head back to my room. My daughter arrives a few minutes later. I go ahead and shower and get dressed. It now about 4:30 PM. I've got two tickets to see Howie Mandell as Caesars' Circus Maximus Theater. My daughter and I head across the Blvd. to Caesars. I remember that we got something to eat and then walked to where the Forum Shops are located. What blew me away was the faux sky overhead. It was absolutely surrealistic. I recall that we browsed in some of the shops and then headed over to the Circus Maximus.
We had great seats...right on the floor. Howie Mandell (with hair) was quite funny. I don't think I laughed so hard in months. His routine touched on many themes. He used some of "the voices" from his earlier voice-over days. He also touched on his Canadian roots. Yet, I think the funniest theme was his dialogue about Monistat. It was hilarious. After the show, my daughter and I headed back to our room at The Flamingo. It was nearing midnight. Time to get some shut-eye for our last full day in Vegas.
My daughter and I were up early that Sunday morning. My daughter wanted to hit the health spa again; I was going to do some gambling at The Flamingo and Barbary Coast. I again tried my luck at a variety of games. I don't recall losing alot, but, then again, I wasn't winning much, either. In any event, my morning session could be labeled "a push." I subsequently met up with my daughter a little before 10 AM She wanted to make a pro football bet I recall the game she wanted to bet on was the Dolphins vs. the Browns (this is the game that Dan Marino suffered a torn Achilles tendon). My daughter wanted to bet the Dolphins, but I discouraged her. As it turns out, the Dolphins won...despite Marino missing most of the game (if I had allowed my daughter to make that bet, it would have been the only football bet we would win all weekend; I would later lose my bet on the Patriots vs. the Arizona Cardinals).
I remember that we played a little father-daughter roulette at Caesars for awhile before deciding to have Caesars Sunday Champagne Brunch. It was expensive, but well worth it. I recall that it came with a split of champagne. Yet, what really blew my mind were the variety of offerings: shrimp, piled eye-high, steamship round of beef, rack of lamb, carving stations and an omelet station. Just about anything you could image. A culinary delight. And, the desserts were scrumptious.
After the brunch, we both went back to the room. My daughter wanted to nap; I decided to watch the Patriots game (with the sound off). Not only did my Patriots not cover the spread (I believe thet were favored by 10), but they lost the game outright. Ouch!! That evening my daughter and I had something to eat at the Flamingo before heading across the street to see Donn Arden's Jubilee! at the Jubillee Theater. I recall that we were seated at a table with three other people, one guy was from Baltimore (he was talking about Johnny Unitas), and a couple from the Miami area.
The show itself was enjoyable. It reminded me of a lavish Broadway musical production. Glitz and Glamor. The only thing I didn't realize (how gauche of me) is that there were topless women. I wasn't quite sure how my daughter would react. She took it quite well. After the show, my daughter and I played some side-by-side slots. We didn't win, but we had alot of fun. We left Bally's around 11 PM and headed back to the Flamingo where we both called it a night.
The next morning, Monday, was our last hurrah. We had a morning flight from McCarran to LAX, and then a cross-country flight back to Boston. I recall we tried the Flamingo's breakfast buffet. It was adequate, but I didn't find it nearly as satisfying as Bally's buffet that first morning. We then gathered our luggage, settled our bill and checked out. We then caught a cab to McCarran. A short time later we were again on our "Piper Cub" (actually Saab-engined prop jet) back across the desert to Los Angeles. Our jumbo jet was there waiting for us. No sooner did we board and fasten our seat belts then we were airborne.
Several hours later, about 8:30 PM, we arrived back in Boston. My wife and one of her friends were there at Logan to meet us. I recall my wife asking, "Was it worth it?" I said, "Yes!" I then said, " I did 'it'. I'm no longer a virgin," I then paused for a moment and added, "A Vegas virgin."