|Archives Pt. 3 Scoop Does Vegas! It's 'Quality Time' as Scoop, Mrs. Scoop, & Scoop Jr. hit Sin City! PLUS VEGAS TIPS!!!|
Scoop #2, 2001
Scoop Does Vegas!
Memo to the IRS: This column is tax-deductible!
November '00:Mrs. Scoop and I travel to Las Vegas every year. We have to: They keep changing things, mainly by blowing them up, and you can never catch up. Last year we stopped at the Desert Inn, a beautiful casino with a golf course, one of the originals from "Ocean's 11". Good thing we did, because shortly after, two Vegas-honchos went to war. When the dust settled, Kirk Kerkorian had bought the Mirage from Steve Wynn, who then bought the Desert Inn for his wife, who apparently didn't like the drapes or the carpeting or something, because right away Steve is planning to…blow it up!
And last year they were still re-building the Aladdin. It just opened up, and already they need more money, which only we, the gamblers, can supply. OK, I'll do my part! Also, I have figured out an angle. In the event that I do win, perhaps enough to buy a large-screen TV, I'll need a tax-deduction. I can do this by angling my story towards camping in a travel-related way. I can deduct nearly all my expenses, I figure. Thus, somewhere along my journey, I'll talk about…camping! But first, before I go, Mrs. Scoop and I must prepare!
OK--after months of intensive research, I am now again prepared to visit my favorite city--sinful Las Vegas. I will tell you secret tips and facts most ordinary people aren't aware of, and will show you how to save mucho dollars on shows and unnecessary trips for ice cubes. Also, for all women who are not rich or French, it is imperative you read my Warning Tip about bidets. For this vital information, check out Scoop's Vegas Tips immediately following this travelogue.
My intensive research consisted of 3 vital training segments:
·Mrs. Scoop went to Biloxi, where her sister won $500 at Caribbean Stud Poker. Mrs. Scoop herself missed a straight flush by one card, narrowly avoiding 10% of a $300,000 Jackpot. This of course made Mrs. Scoop an expert.
·I got on the Internet every day to check out www.vegas.com for room rates and shows and weather conditions.
·I asked Mrs. Scoop to dress up in a skimpy outfit and serve me cocktails every 15 minutes. Apparently this was not a training segment Mrs. Scoop felt was vital.
And away we went. Now, I certainly don't want to bore you with my gambling adventures, nor do I particularly care to repeat them. Let's just say the IRS won't be calling me, and that big-screen TV is further away than ever. But first, some background info…
Last year we were in Vegas for two weeks, which I know sounds degenerate, but we detoured to San Diego in the middle of our vacation to visit Scoop Jr., and to be on 'The Price Is Right', which I can never do again. This is because we had to get up at 5AM and wait in various lines for 7 hours, which is not Mrs. Scoop's idea of "quality time". Also, our motel shower curtain had mold on it and Mrs. Scoop didn't want to touch it, and was stuck inside the shower for several hours until I returned from exploring the not-so-glamorous neighborhood. As a final insult, Rod Roddy did not tell me to "come on down", for which I will never forgive him, that Liberace wannabe.
Also, it rained most of the time we were in Vegas, which led my father, Big Daddy, who lives just outside of Vegas, to declare that if we kept visiting in February, Vegas could soon grow crops in the desert, ha-ha. Thus, being the intelligent man that I am, I suggested we move our trip schedule up a month to avoid the rain, and that Scoop Jr. visit us in Vegas, rather than face the chance that I might see Rod Roddy crossing a Hollywood street in front of my rented vehicle.
And so we begin…finally...
Sun. 1/21: We get up at 3:30AM and fly out of Milwaukee Airport. We do this instead of O'Hare because we are just not that big of a gambler (joke that all delayed passengers will surely get a chuckle out of!) We have always used Midwest Airlines, which served us a great filet and garlic mashed potatoes last time, but our travel agent has gotten us a good deal on a FunJet Sun Country airline, which serves us Fritos, a cookie, and some sort of "pepperoni-roll", which we are afraid to eat. But we are still ahead of the game, thanks to the savings on airfare and rooms.
We check into Paris, which has a 1/2-size replica of the Eiffel Tower out front. All the service people are instructed to greet and thank you in French. We will be here for two nights, and it is my sinister plan to get them to goof up and say "Thank You" in English. I know I can do it, especially when our bellman, straight from New Jersey, drawls "Bonjour!" just like Gary Cooper.
Also, I have been e-mailing Steve Lippia, a great singer now appearing in "The Rat Pack Is Back", and there may not be a show because he has been invited to sing at one of the Inaugural Balls. Just prior to leaving Wisconsin, I get a final e-mail that the "Rat Pack" show will go on with Steve Lippia, one show only, this night. I am happy.
I gamble a bit and am not able to get any cocktail waitresses to say "Thank You" in English. Managing to stay on my feet while doing all this research, Mrs. Scoop and I travel to the Sahara to see "The Rat Pack" at 7:30 that night. We pass the Desert Inn, which is closed but not blown up yet. There is a big sign out front telling everyone that THE GOLF COURSE IS OPEN! Way to go, Steve Wynn--those greens fees can really add up! My cab driver informs me a movie is being filmed inside the casino. I wonder if the finale of the movie is a big casino explosion. I also wonder if the actors know about Steve Wynn's impending plans.
The show is great, and Steve Lippia and the other performers come down into the audience afterwards. By this time I have been upright, more or less, for about 18 hours. Steve informs me he didn't get to do a Ball because of the short time after the election to prepare all the Balls, probably due to pregnant chads. I get a quick photo with Steve, and Tony Tillman as Sammy Davis Jr., before a crowd of admiring women swarm over us. Apparently it is actually Steve they want, because I get shoved out of the way like a cheap dollar-player at a high-stakes Craps table. Mrs. Scoop and I finally go to bed, but only after I do a bit more research at Paris.
Mon. 1/22: We arise early and decide to try the tables. Mrs. Scoop is eager to test her skill at Caribbean Stud Poker. Now, Paris is connected to its sister property Bally's by a long cobblestone street lined with restaurants and shops. We are halfway to Bally's, sightseeing, when I see a sign announcing The Arc de la Conventions, or something similar. The entrance is fully a hundred feet wide, and the massive hallway is deeply lined with doors. Suddenly, on cue, every door is thrown open simultaneously and--I am not kidding--at least 500 men wearing blue blazers with name-tags come spilling out, surging towards Mrs. Scoop and I. We stand there in shock along with other strollers as these lemmings with wingtips flow around us, all intent on reaching some other meeting place. It is 9AM, and I wonder who the brain is who scheduled two successive meetings at different ends of the hotel. (Hint: there was a sports-toy convention in town. Please investigate, Mr. CEO).
Later at Bally's, we are checking on show tickets when we are convinced to attend a sales tour for a Vegas condo the next day. Mrs. Scoop thinks this is a great money-saving tip, as we will get free tickets to our show if we go through with this, and I tend to agree, due to more research on my part. I will later come to regret this decision.
Back at Paris I find a Let It Ride table and Mrs. Scoop checks out the slots. She is getting antsy, and spots a Caribbean Stud table directly across from me. I remember the dealer as being very friendly as we had passed by earlier, encouraging us to play. She does so, but I am surprised to see her return 10 minutes later. The dealer did not qualify for the first 4 hands, which negates the hand, and when Mrs. Scoop finally gets a pair of ten's, maybe finally a winner!--he qualifies with 3 of a kind. Mrs. Scoop has just lost $160 in 10 minutes.
However, there is a silver lining: She has gotten someone at Paris to speak English, although it can still be considered French, as in 'pardon my French' as you'll see…
(Final hand; Mrs. Scoop finally gets a pair, only to be beaten by the 3 of a kind):
Mrs. Scoop: "*#%*!"
Dealer: "Madam, here we would say 'Merde!'"
Mrs. Scoop: "Is that what you'd say if you just got dealt these crummy cards?"
Dealer, thinking deeply: "No, I guess I'd say '*#%*!'"
Tues 1/23: We visit the Flamingo Hilton to get the condo sales spiel. On the way, Mrs. Scoop admonishes me not to dare buy a time-share condo in Vegas, no way! "Just be polite," she tells me. "Then tell them no and we can get our tickets." The woman salesperson is very cordial, of course, but after almost two hours of tours and talk, I am getting irritable. The salesperson gets up for some coffee for me, and I am astonished to hear Mrs. Scoop whisper to me: "Honey, this is a really good deal! Let's get one!" Somehow, I get out of there without buying a condo, and realize once again that no mere man can ever fully understand his wife.
We travel to Imperial Palace down the street. The IP is not a prestigious place, but we like its down-to-earth atmosphere, and there is a Gimme 5 slot machine that was the very 1st slot Mrs. Scoop ever won at, years ago. She must try to best it again, although the machine is now 3 years ahead of her on the win/lose scorecard. Alas, she does not win, but I win a sizeable sum at Let It Ride by noon. We take a break, and decide to check out the Embers Restaurant on the 5th floor for dinner plans. But we are stymied; after getting off one escalator, we find the next escalator to the 5th floor is not working: it's just sitting there. We go back down. I spend the next four hours losing every bit of my earlier winnings at Let It Ride. We try the 5th-floor escalator again, but it's still out of commission. I figure that's a heck of a way to run a restaurant…can't even get to it!
I also notice a lot of new Chinese decorations going up, but, hey, we are at the Imperial Palace. I don't want to sound racist here, but the showerheads at the IP hit the average-height American at about navel-level. I also see some new tables being added to the gaming area. These tables have their legs sawn off so they are a foot lower. I think nothing of it at the time.
Wed. 1/24: I am at the Let It Ride table at Imperial Palace at 4AM, trying to get my money back. I do not. Aiming to change my luck and prove my expertise, I lose only $100 at Caribbean Stud in ten minutes. I try the escalator to Embers on the 5th floor again--it still isn't moving. I am perplexed, and worried. We are meeting Big Daddy and Mother Scoop tonight for dinner…at Embers! I feel desperate.
Mrs. Scoop joins me; she heads towards the Gimme 5 with a vengeance, only to return with a sad face. Some oaf has taken over her machine, and has just won $350, the dirty rotten scoundrel! In a foul mood, we both go to the escalator to Embers and wait until an employee comes by. "Hey!" I say, "when are you going to fix this escalator?!"
The woman gives me a look as if I'm Forrest Gump on a bad day. She points to a sign on the wall that states in big letters: 'This Is An Automatic Escalator. Take One Step Forward and It Will Start'. "Ah…very clever," I say, and we run away before anybody laughs at us.
The Folks are late for our noon rendezvous. I continue to lose money. Mrs. Scoop comes up to me nearly in tears. She has found Big Daddy. He is waiting to collect quite a bit of money at…her Gimme 5!
That night we all go to Embers and have a great meal. I recommend it. As we leave, a maintenance guy is hanging an even larger sign by the escalator. I don't even want to know what it says.
Thurs 1/25: Things have been relatively quiet. Vegas is never silent; people are everywhere. But until today you could still get a drink in under 10 minutes and easily find a low-stakes $5 Craps, Blackjack, or Poker table.
And then 3 unnopposable, unstoppable forces met today in Vegas like a triangle of overwhelming tornadoes:
·It was Chinese New Year
·It was SuperBowl weekend
·Scoop Jr. came to town
Before I continue, I feel I must give you some background info on Scoop Jr. 1st, he is tall, dark, and handsome. 2nd, for Christmas he bought me a new convertible top for the Scoopmobile, and thus I love him even more. 3rd, he is a great Blackjack player, but sometimes the fact of the matter is that he forgets those free vodka and tonics are given to you by the casino for a reason…duh! This is why his first trip to Vegas years ago resulted in the following events at the Orleans casino:
·I leave him at an Orleans Blackjack table at 11PM. He has $1,000.
·I find him at the same table at 8AM with two $5 chips. He bets those and loses.
·I offer to buy him breakfast, but don't need to. The casino has already bought him dinner, a 3AM snack, and breakfast. Oh, and did I mention the countless free vodka and tonics?
Anyway, while waiting for Scoop Jr. to arrive, we have breakfast at The Peppermill. It's a nice throwback, with comfy leatherette booths and short-skirted waitresses. It's near the Stardust, but also close to Circus, Circus. This could be my tax-deduction opportunity, because I know they have RV parking there, but we journey to the Stratosphere instead.
Oh, and by the way…it starts to rain, and will do so for the next two days. Crops are sprouting.
My purpose at the Stratosphere is to win big. Last time there, two years ago, I won a nice pot at Let It Ride with 4 Fives, which paid handsomely. I am now wearing the same shirt (since washed) and the same lucky ring. I am at the same chair at the same table. Of course none of this has any effect. But at least I was dressed nice.
We go to Excalibur to meet Scoop Jr. It's a bit gaudy, even by Vegas standards (Mrs. Scoop: "Like a bad Motel 6"). Some punk kids are behind us all the way from MGM, where we cross the street and get on the walkway. I use all my self-control to avoid sticking an elbow out as they race past us. It is yet another bit of evidence that parents should not bring their kids to Vegas (see "Scoop's Tirade" at the end of this tale!)
Scoop Jr. is on his cell phone, lining up plans for tomorrow. He has an 'in' to Baby's at Hard Rock Café. There are many late-night dance clubs, but Baby's is like Studio 54: you might get in to dance on the floor with the common folk, but if you know somebody, you get a booth upstairs overlooking the peons. Yes, these are hard to come by. I sort of hint that I've never been to a Vegas nightclub. Mrs. Scoop merely laughs. I haven't been up past midnight yet.
We gamble some at Mirage, and Mrs. Scoop and I both win. Scoop Jr. loses. Back at Bally's, I run out of refreshments in the room and a helpful bartender gives me a great Vegas Tip if you're staying at the center of the Strip, which I am. I am able to replenish my beer and gin supply in under 15", and that includes a detour around a bus-Lexus collision. We go back to the Mirage to see Danny Gans with the Folks. It's a great show, we are center-stage second row, and it's all due to the Folks and their condo outside of Vegas. This is due to another great "Tip", but even I, Scoop, cannot reveal it without prior permission. At this point, I can't, but we'll see…
Fri. 1/26/01: It is getting very busy. Caesar's and other casinos are putting up more Chinese characters on their giant illuminated signs, and there are Superbowl Specials advertised on banners everywhere. Friends of Scoop Jr. arrive and we meet at Paris. They are all eager to play Blackjack. Mrs. Scoop and I wander about. I win a bit at 3 Card Poker, and she hits a slot. We find Scoop Jr. on his cell phone confirming his Baby's booth. He is smiling because he has just won $3,000 at Blackjack and is surrounded by several beautiful women. Mrs. Scoop worries about Scoop Jr., what with all that cash and going to Baby's and being only…27! I beam with pride when Scoop Jr. wisely gives his mother $2,300 to hold. Like father, like son…except in this case she will give it back to him the next day! Mrs. Scoop and I go back to our room at Bally's and feel old.
We are tired of buffets and walking around. We order room service; the pastrami sandwich and the wings are excellent. We watch 'CSI' on TV; it's about forensic crime-scene investigators, and it's filmed in Vegas. Hmm, I think…there may be possibilities here. Yes, I am an autograph-hound.
Sat. 1/27/01: Scoop Jr. is alive and well, although his wallet has been wounded by the Hard Rock, specifically, 'Baby's'. But he seems quite happy.
I want to check out Aladdin. The three of us have a great lunch at P.F. Chang's. Try the lettuce wraps. Then we go into the Desert Passage, a winding street of shops and restaurants (Hey--sound familiar?). Scoop Jr. and I go into a men's clothing store to check prices. He holds up a sleeveless camo T-shirt. I guess $30 (In Wisconsin, I would say $5). Actual price: $150. I am outside the difficult-to-find bathrooms when Mrs. Scoop shakes her head. "I shouldn't tell you," she says…and I beg her. "That actor from 'CSI' is down there shopping. But you cannot accost him! You're not going to do anything stupid like follow him, are you?"
I ask you now, is that a trick question? I admit I chased Charlie Pride all through Ho-Chunk Casino in Madison, Wi., to finally shake his hand in the bathroom. But would I do that in Vegas?
Har-har-har! That actor is damn lucky he had his wife and kids with him and was shopping in a kid's-clothing store. But speaking personally, Mr. Paul Guilfoyle, can you send me an autograph?
That night, we see "Jubilee!" at Bally's. These are the show tickets we earned by visiting the time-share condo deal. We must redeem them at the Ticket Booth, and young Nick advises us to upgrade. We do, but Mrs. Scoop wants seats over there, while Nick keeps staring at me and telling me to sit over here. I pick 'over here', and will forever be grateful to young Nick. This is a topless show, and while I am there strictly to admire the precision dancing and the sinking of the Titanic, I will never forget the topless showgirl who descended directly over my head and hovered there for a palpitating three minutes. Thanks, Nick!
Sun. 128/01: Now it all comes together. We have agreed to meet at Caesar's for the Superbowl. Scoop Jr. is grinning again. He won another $1,500 last night, after we parted. Bets are being placed, and luckily he is already in line--people are backed up almost out of the betting area. I have placed five bets for friends, but none myself. I feel left out, so I pluck a Parley card from a table. I circle ten bets, for a total of $10. If I win, the odds are $575:1. Am I smart or what?
Note: I see a lot of "side" bets". One is that Shaq will miss more free-throws than Trent Dilfer will throw incomplete passes. (I don't see this other particular one, but I am told it is 2:1 that George W. calls the wrong team to congratulate them on their Superbowl win.)
Things are very, very busy. Caesar's Sports and Race Book is the size of a football stadium, with humongous TV screens at the front wall and row upon row of seats at banks of curving tables for individual gamblers. Each lucky guy or girl gets a miniature TV at their partitioned table spot. So, on the far wall, we have one TV about the size of a movie-theater screen, four or five others about half that size, one "small" one measuring perhaps 10x20, and maybe 2,000 others right at the tables, and every one of them is of course tuned to the pre-game show. And every seat is taken.
We discuss this, and Scoop Jr. and his friends Chad and Jason and Chad's Dad, Ken, go into action. They search the outer casino area for feeble old people, and swipe the chairs right out from under them. Many bald men and ladies with grey hair fall down unexpectedly.
OK, I'm kidding. But they get us chairs, except for Scoop Jr., who is apprehended by a Security Guard. He is forced to give up his chair. Even so, we have enough, and take turns getting Coronas from a far-away bar, which is not 20-deep like the others. The game starts, and the fans are evenly divided. There are so many people that it is now standing-room only, unless you were there since yesterday, and I realize I must plan a half-hour ahead to get to the bathroom. People are camping out in the fringes as if they were at Woodstock, playing cards on the floor and not really paying attention to the game. To them, it's just a "happening". By the way, I need the first score to be a field goal to start my winning parley card on its road to riches.
So, just like at Stratosphere, my dreams are dashed when the Ravens score a touchdown. Giants fans are subdued, but I mean that in a way such as the demolition of a skyscraper or the Desert Inn has a calm before the building actually explodes and falls. The entire room is ready to erupt. Naturally, Scoop Jr. wins most of his bets as the game progresses.
There are piles of Coronas at our feet as employees struggle to keep up with the trash. I carry what I can through the crowd as I attempt to visit the bathroom. I have often been amused by stories of the plight of women at sports events, lined up outside the bathrooms. I will never make that judgment again. I wait with knocking knees at the end of the long line, while the women move briskly in and out. Some of them are smirking. But ladies, I will say this: Don't ever complain about your husband or boyfriend "missing" the toilet. I'm not saying we don't, because we certainly do. However, by this time the bathroom looked like every toilet and urinal has gone through a carwash. So…just be grateful you didn't have to clean that mess up! (Note to Caesar's: I love your place; it's at the top of the list. You were simply inundated for a while there, but your employees quickly responded in a friendly way. The place was almost spotless when I left. See you next year! And remember: I did help clean up. You'll want to give some freebies, like Room and Beverages, to make sure I return).
The game is in the third quarter when Scoop Jr. has a frightening realization: To catch his plane, he must leave within ten minutes. Gee, those darn kids--don't they ever think ahead?! In spite of ever-present warnings signs explicitly stating that NO PHONES OR TRANSMITTING DEVICES ARE PERMITTED IN THE BETTING AREA, he calls on his cell phone and switches flights. He's staying over…he wants to finish Superbowl and then hit the Blackjack tables one more time! Meanwhile, Chad and Jason#2 are on their phones, nonchalantly telling faraway friends "Hey, by the way, I'm at Caesar's checking out the Superbowl. What are you up to?" To be fair, I can't tease them…I look around and see people everywhere on their cell phones. There are Chinese, Japanese, American, French, people from countries that don't drink--but that ain't just orange juice in that glass--, rich people, medium people, young people who look like they just came from a softball game, people who look like druglords and their women, women who look like kingpins (actually: "Queenpins") of the business world, and mainly people just like you and I. Luckily, I don't have my cell phone with me at the time--I have just saved about $200 in long-distance roaming charges.
Mon. 1/29/01: I read USA Today at Paris, sipping a $2.68 cup of coffee. (Secret Tip: Go to O'Shea's, to the Burger King at the rear, for some good, cheap coffee. The walk there will clear your head). Mrs. Scoop is packing upstairs at Bally's. I find several discrepancies in the paper, all concerning the "Ad Meter" of the Superbowl commercials. OK, they list Cedric's dream-date as #1 in popularity (Cedric sprays his date with Bud Light), and that was pretty funny. I'll give it a 3-way tie at Caesar's for 1st Place. But at Caesar's the other two top-spots were the Doritos ad with Ali Landry using a tennis-ball machine to lob chips at her, and, in my humble opinion, really at #1 in regards to laughter and cheering: Budweiser with the alien dog yelling "Whassup!"
Hey--I was there. USA had the space-dog at #10, and Doritos at #14. And who thought up that Volkswagen ad with the car up in the tree? In the immortal words of one Chinese spectator: "That commercial sucks!" So…maybe some of you guys should hire me! USA Today: just pay my way to Caesar's next year (gambling dough included). Advertising guys, especially Volkswagen: I can do better; I'll put you in the Top 10 for $50,000…plus a big-screen TV!
I'm not sure if I read it in this day's paper, but I know Howard Stern is trying to lay a $1,000,000 bet at Hard Rock. They finally settle on one $100,000 bet at Blackjack. Howard will give it to charity if he wins; the put-up dough comes through an insurance policy. 'I'm not wagering my own money', or words to that effect, are spoken.
Scoop Jr. calls our room. I await the bad news…all his winnings could be down the drain. A final night in Vegas can be a killer. Mrs. Scoop hands me the phone. "Scoop," he says quietly, "I did a bad thing last night. I bet $1,000 on one hand of Blackjack."
"Oh," I say.
That darn kid!
As we leave the hotel, I grab a copy of 'Las Vegas Style' magazine to read on the plane. I haven't done any research on camping in Vegas, other than to get lost in the Imperial Palace parking lot, where I was told that RVs can park at the far end in Employee Parking. Hey--it's something, Mr. IRS Auditor. Then again, I don't have to worry, do I? Do I get a rebate?
On the plane, still at the Vegas airport, I leaf through the magazine. And there it is, on the last page: information on RV parking in Vegas, courtesy of "Ask Barney" (Bvinson987@aol.com) , a very knowledgeable guy! The plane takes off, but I am still technically in Vegas--I can come back again anytime this year and win and still be covered for this year's taxes! Ha!
We get home tired but filled with happy memories and stories. I've gained ten pounds from 8 days of buffets and steaks and crab legs and chicken wings. The first thing Mrs. Scoop and I do is empty our pockets. There is a bowl on the kitchen counter, now empty. We toss our change in there. I add it up. The bowl now has two dollars and sixty-seven cents in it.
It's a start…
Vegas, here we come!
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER TO IRS: Certain portions of the preceding story may have been embellished regarding $$$ won by Scoop Jr. at the game of Blackjack, in case you're in an auditing mood.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER TO SCOOP JR.'s GIRLFRIEND: Certain portions of the preceding story may have been embellished regarding beautiful women hanging around Scoop Jr. Don't worry--he was a good boy. It was a "guys' weekend" and "parents" sort of thing.
SCOOP'S TIRADE: I'm a nice guy--I understand the Family thing. But there are things I really don't like:
|WARNING!!! Remember, things change constantly in Vegas. These are but mere clues...Good Luck!|