This is my fourth time in Las Vegas. The other three times I was here I stayed at the Hilton, which is a Hilton like almost every other Hilton except it has a casino next to the lobby.
The Hilton is attached to the convention center which is not on The Strip or near anything else that I can determine, which I can't because I never actually stepped outside the doors.
I have taken a cab there. Checked in. Gone to my room. Slept. Gotten up. Given a speech. Checked out. And gone back to the airport.
I am a very, very lot of fun on the road. Just everyone says.
As I was taking a cab back to the airport the last time I was here, the driver asked me how I liked Las Vegas.
"I don't think it do, very much," I said.
Then, after mulling it over, I thought "maybe I just don't like the Hilton."
I got a chance to test the theory by staying at the Venetian Hotel.
The Venetian is a purpose built structure. It was built for the purpose of separating guests from their money.
Don't get me wrong. The building is beautiful. The rooms - all suites - are terrific. The staff is very well trained and friendly.
But you cannot get from anyplace to any other place without going through, across, around, or near the casino.
I think I had to go through the casino to get to the bathroom in my suite.
The bad news is I'm not much to look at 2:15 am and again at 4:25 am and again at 7:40 am. The good news is I still looked better than almost everyone in the casino.
Las Vegas is the Mecca for Elvis impersonators. There are guys with big guts and long sideburns everywhere.
But there is a new industry starting here: Las Vegas is attracting a whole slew of Anna Nicole Smith impersonators.
There were a lot of big women stuffed into little dresses walking around. I mean, what do you think the mirror says to these women when they're smoothing out just before they ooze through the door and into the public domain?
"Hey, baby. You look good. You look real good."
And that was at the Venetian which appeals to a pretty classy clientele.
If you've never been to an actual casino let me explain something: No one ever smiles. The players don't smile. The dealers don't smile. The pit bosses don't smile. The pit bosses' bosses certainly don't smile which might be because they all look like they just stepped off the set of the Sopranos.
Remember the line I had to stand in (or, if you're from New York, on) to get a cab? There was a similar line at the front desk of the Venetian.
I didn't go there. I went to the VIP reception area which is exactly where I belonged.
I have a theory that goes: If you're standing in a line, you're in the wrong place because somewhere someone knows how to get what ever you're waiting for without waiting in a line.
I guarantee you that there is a double-secret taxi line at the airport that doesn't require you standing in front of "Two Wild and Crazy Guys" from Miami as I had done.
The VIP reception was excellent. The bellman who took my things up to my suite (I didn't want my roll aboard squeaking all the way through the casino) was excellent.
My suite was big enough to house my entire freshman pledge class. Actually, I think my entire freshman pledge class once went on a trip to Cleveland and, um, nevermind.
I thought about getting room service so I looked through the guide to restaurants in the hotel. The Star Canyon (by Chef David Woodward) claimed it is the "home of the Tamale Tart with Roast Garlic Custard and Tender Corn Chili."
You know, just last week I was wondering where the home of the Tamale Tart with Roast Garlic Custard and Tender Corn Chili was.
Having found out, and as it was 11:00 PM PDT, I went to sleep.
What a swinger.
The next morning, which was Saturday, I had to prepare for my regular appearance on Tony Snow's Saturday show on Fox Cable Network. Susan Estridge and I generally do 15-20 minutes of a political wrap up and we've got the rhythm down so it is pretty entertaining television.
I like Susan but she sounds like Charlie Rangel on Hormone Replacement Therapy.
There is a clothing store in the lobby of the Venetian which had, among other things, a light peach-colored blazer for sale. I thought I might buy it and wear it on Fox to demonstrate that I was, in fact, in Las Vegas. But I decided it would be the male equivalent of a mauve, taffeta bridesmaid's dress. I'd never wear it again.
I hung out in the casino after the show hoping people would recognize me, but no one did. There were a group of people standing behind a middle aged woman playing a slot machine. One of the watchers said in that "out of the side of your mouth to show you're really in the know" voice: "She's really good."
I was really, really hoping the other guy would say, "Big time," but he didn't.
Really good? She's putting coins into a machine and PRESSING A BUTTON. How good can you be? How BAD can you be? I mean as long as you don't keep dropping the coin on the ground, or missing the button with your index finger ... YOU'RE GOOD AT IT!
I went around to the blackjack tables which featured a tasteful sign informing me that there was a minimum bet of $15 and a maximum bet of $1,000. Fiftee ... ! Er, I didn't play because I don't like to waste my time at measly thousand dollar tables.
I walked some more and found tables with minimum bets of $100 and maximum of $5,000. I didn't play those because, because, I didn't like the looks of the dealers. Any of them.
In a separate room where you could play Baccarat just like Bond, James Bond the blackjack tables accepted bets, I think, up to $10,000. I didn't play those because that would have been ostentatious. Is that the way you spell it?
Walking quickly, but not running, out of the casino I went past another slot machine which was dropping coins into the tray like hail in a Dallas thunderstorm.
There was an old guy sitting at the next machine, watching the old guy at the machine that was paying off. Neither of them were smiling.
I said, "Smile! You've won!"
The old guy sitting in front of the machine which was STILL paying off said, "I should have doubled up."
The Venetian will send a car to pick this guy up at the airport the next time he comes to town.
On the elevator back to my room - oh, the Venetian has the best elevator system. Three sets of elevators go to groups of floors and there are six elevators in each set. Think of every Hyatt you've ever been in. This is the opposite.
Anyway on the elevator a couple get on, we go one floor and two women and a guy with lots of chains get on. He looks at the floor indicators and says, "Dis is the wrong elevator," and they get back off.
Simultaneously, the guy and I say, "TWO?"
Hooking is legal in some counties in Nevada, but Clark - where Las Vegas lives - is not one of them. Nevertheless there seemed to be a significant number of women of the night walking around, even in the day.
That night I had to speak at the first annual Free Republic Network convention at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino.
The Treasure Island is catty corner across Las Vegas Blvd. from the Venetian so I just walked.
It was 110 degrees. That's not hyperbole. It was really 110 degrees.
I know what you're saying, "Yes, but it's a dry heat.
Here's a secret. A blast furnace is dry heat. A blow torch is dry heat. The SURFACE OF THE SUN is dry heat. It's still HOT. Got it?
I walked verrrrryyyy slowly so as not to begin sweating like Albert Brooks' character in Broadcast News.
There is a huge sign for a guy named, Danny Gans who is listed as "Entertainer of the Year."
I've never heard of him, but there wasn't a 75 foot billboard of me, so I would have doffed my hat to him if (a) I were wearing a hat, or (b) I knew how to doff one.
Treasure Island is the downscale attachment to the Mirage. Walking through that casino was like walking through a 120,000 square foot, very crowded, very noisy truck stop on Route 22 in Paramus, New Jersey at two o'clock on a Sunday morning.
These people weren't just ugly regular. Oh, no. They were shudder like you drank some spoiled milk - the kind with the chunks - ugly; They were howl at the moon - in the daytime - ugly; They were coyotes chewing off their own arms just so they wouldn't wake up with them ugly; Turn your face to stone ugly.
I'm telling you, these people were YEW-GEE-ELL-WHY!
And well dressed, too. Unless they were all attending an Italian t-shirt convention - the women as well as the men - these were not attractive get ups.
And lots of tattoos.
And lots of jewelry. All of it poking through some body part.
Treasure Island is very proud of its newest bar, Kahunaville.
I'll bet the Venetian management fired someone when they found out that Treasure Island got the idea for "Kahunaville" first.
Are you getting the idea here?
On the floor where the dinner was to be held there was also a wedding chapel. And three wedding receptions. One of which was on the other side of a retractable wall, so I got to speak over the tones of some guy singing old Eddie Fisher favorites.
I took a picture of two of the reception notices:
Hey. Do you suppose the guy getting into the elevator was named "Todd?"
(copyright � 2002 Richard A. Galen)