Vegas: A Secret History

Sin City, Crusher of Dreams
Sin City, Crusher of Dreams

In the last 5 years, I’ve been to Vegas three times and learned a great deal about this fabulous city from tour guides, cabbies and the like. If you ever get the chance to talk to a guy on the bus at two in the morning, or maybe drink with hookers at the Peppermill Lounge, do it! You won’t regret it!

Fountains of Wayne

To date, the role of ‘Wayne Newton’ has been played by four different people.

Dan Blocker as Wayne Newton c.1972
Dan Blocker as Wayne Newton c.1972

It began with the original Wayne Newton, who was not only named Wayne Newton, but beat out such notables as Don Ameche, David Niven, and Ricky Nelson in 1958.  He played the part for 12 years without a break until 1970, when  Dan Blocker of Bonanza fame filled in for two weeks at the Sands in 1970 after Newton fell ill with a brief addiction to cocaine and whores. On the strength of that performance, Blocker was hired by the MGM to play Elvis for a series of filmed concerts and most of the footage seen in Elvis on Tour is of him. Unfortunately, Elvis’ grueling regimen of Percocet and lard was too much for Blocker, and he passed shortly thereafter.

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Tony Orlando was given the role in 1989 following the accidental death of the original Wayne Newton on the set of the Bond film License To Kill (he leapt into the giant cocaine shredder believing the drugs to be real). Convinced he was nothing without Dawn, Orlando agreed to a lifetime contract in the spring of 1990. Despite enjoying enormous success as Newton, relations between Orlando and his handlers began to strain over Tony’s increasingly ‘Mexican’ spin on the character and his tacit refusal to sing ‘Danke Schoen’ in English. When Tony asked to be released from his contract to pursue a career as himself, the producers quickly agreed. His last appearance as Wayne was June 30, 1992. To hide the fact that they were without a Newton for the first time in nearly 30 years, producers employed a variation on the ‘Chapter 11/Back Taxes’ ploy first used by Nashville booking agents to gloss over the death of Willie Nelson.

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In 1993, comedian Paul Rodriguez took over the role in a move that had been described as ‘flat out ballsy’. The former star of aka Pablo turned out to be a natural fit for the role. Despite rumors that Saved By The Bell star Mario Lopez is in negotiations to assume the role this spring, Rodriguez is currently preparing an entirely new show and tour for his 16th year as Wayne Newton.

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Blame Canada, eh

Fucking Canadians
Fucking Canadians

Cirque du Soleil is hard at work establishing a beachhead for the coming Canadien Français (French Canadian, eh) invasion. What started in 1993 with one show has mushroomed into a full blown cultural attack. There are currently six Cirque shows running with a planned seventh in the works. Captivating audiences in ways normal Canadians such as Anne Murray and Chilliwack could only dream about, Cirque has managed to snatch key marquee venues from the grasp of deserving American magicians, hypnotists and ventriloquists. Cirque’s hypnotic blend of bendy Canadians, incomprehensible music, minimalist costumes, dance hall lighting and ribbons, lots and lots of ribbons, has conned an entire generation of American show-goers into believing it is perfectly natural for someone to stand on one foot, bend over backwards, lick their own anus and twirl a hula-hoop with the other foot.

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How successful has this plan been? They paved the way for five years of Celine Dion.

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When Celine Dion extended her contract with Caesar’s Palace in 2005, one of the stipulations was that the bodies of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra were to be exhumed and placed in a tomb deep underneath her theater so that she could ‘dance on the grave of Old Las Vegas’. After much negotiating, only Joey Bishop was placed under the theater, where he remained until he was sacrificed to the French Canadian Blood God, Quebecoatl, following Dion’s last show in 2007.

Magical Mystery Tour

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Like all Vegas magicians, Lance Burton lives in a magical shoebox when he is not performing to prevent his escape. Charmed by the mystical Blackstone Amulet, these shoeboxes replace the gilded cages that were once used to trap and imprison magicians. The decision to transition from cages to boxes was made when the Trusted Guardians Of The Sorcerous Keep realized how easy it was for their charges to get away. All a magician had to do was assume his proto-human, Smoke-shadow state and the prevailing winds would blow him into nearby Henderson, where he would regain his human form and simply walk away, as did Siegfried and Roy. The Sorcerous Keep is located several hundred feet below the Mirage in the Mystic Grotto and is now guarded by a pair of enchanted griffins, a toothsome troll, and the Knights Templar of the Holy Masonic Order.

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Eat a Peach

Every restaurant on the Las Vegas strip, including fast food and chain restaurants, are owned in full or in part by Wolfgang Puck. Any move onto Puck’s Turf (dinner service at Postrio– mixed greens, baby sparrows, crème de la resistance with horseradish avocado dressing on the side, $22.95) has been met with hostility and hollandaise sauce: the spontaneous, suspicious grease fire being the weapon of choice. The lone exception to this situation is the House of Blues, which is owned by a man named Fred Garvin. Fred Garvin was a character played by Dan Aykroyd (another Canadian) in the SNL skit Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute. In 2002, Garvin -who’s actually an actuary- successfully sued Aykroyd for defamation of character and was awarded the House of Blue’s family of restaurants as part of his settlement.

Male Prostitute/ Restauranteur
Male Prostitute/ Restauranteur

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Of all the restaurants that never made it in Vegas, none are more fondly remembered than Irwin Allen’s Restaurant ’89! Themed around Irwin Allen’s disaster movies, the restaurant featured a quaking floor, jets that alternately shot water and fire into the air, and a wait staff that would flee, screaming, from your table while you were placing an order. On weekends, a drag queen dressed as Shelly Winters served as hostess while paid stuntmen ran through the restaurant engulfed in flames. If you were lucky, your table would collapse mid-dinner and they’d comp your meal. It remained open for only a few months, citing higher than average insurance premiums and the skyrocketing cost of replacing most, if not all, of their dinnerware on a daily basis.

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It’s a gas, gas, gas

Card counters are no longer beaten to death and dumped in the desert to be eaten by voles. Instead, they are put to work in labor camps housed deep beneath the strip, where they produce and grind crystal meth into a fine powder that is mixed with pure oxygen and then pumped through the casinos’ ventilation system. The oxygenated air, combined with the meth, makes gambling more exciting and more addictive. Prior to 2002, crop dusters used to buzz the strip at night, coating Las Vegas Boulevard in a fine layer of crank, a practice known as ‘Angel Dusting’. Angel Dusting was discontinued following 9/11, citing security concerns and a ‘vague terrorist threat’, which turned out to be completely bogus, but only after the FBI responded like a pack of jackbooted ninnies. Regardless, it is likely that the program would have been discontinued anyway as it was not nearly as cost effective as slave labor. Also, the prevailing winds blew most of the powdered methamphetamine into nearby Henderson.

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Bow Wow Wow

Give me your 'Huddled Masses'
Give me your 'Huddled Masses'

Those icons of the southern strip, the Eifel Tower at Paris and the Statue or Liberty at New York, New York are both built in 1/3 scale. The Eifel Tower was constructed from the original plans and would have been full-sized had the Metric to English conversion not been botched (it was not subtract 12 and cut it in half as suggested by Canadians). Little Lady Liberty was based on a live model, ‘Huddled Masses’, the stripper hired to fellate the project’s architect on his 40th birthday.

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Girls, Girls, Girls

Any recent visitor to Las Vegas is familiar with the pamphleteers that crowd every intersection, handing out nudie cards. These cards can be used to play a game much like Yu-Gi-O. Collecting a full-set grants you magical sexual powers of attraction amongst nerds (a power that might not be that magical). A full set is comprised of four suites: Blondes, Brunette’s, Redheads and Shaved, and two Arcanna: Minor Fetish and Major Asian. Within each set is an easy to play ‘Girls To Your Door In 20 Minutes’ card. Playing this card guarantees that a real, live girl will magically appear in your hotel room within 20 minutes or the service is three dollars off. The brainchild of a failed Domino’s franchisee, ‘Girls To Your Door’ succeeds where other services failed (Jiffy-Blow, Threesomes-R-Us) by keeping a ready supply of hookers in refrigerated trucks that constantly cruise the strip. Once a call is placed, a girl is warmed, prepared to your specifications and delivered to your door. When finished, the service will retrieve your prostitute and take her to an off-strip warehouse where she will undergo a rigorous 13 point inspection and cleaning before being returned to one of six 20 Minute ‘mobilewhorias’, wrapped in cellophane and sanitized for your protection. Always make sure that the protective cellophane wrapping is in place before you begin. You’ll be glad you did.

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