The last time I was in Las Vegas was for a convention of day spa owners and aestheticians. I was representing the New-Agey health and travel magazine I used to work for, along with my boss, Stan, and the office manager, Marcia. The Las Vegas convention center is just down the street from the Hilton, where we were staying, just a block off the Strip. We got there a day early, driving from California in a rented van filled with thousands of pounds of magazines that we were going to hand out for free. (Was it a reflection of how little Stan believed in the value his own magazine — and a measure of his own lack of self-esteem — that we were giving away free magazines and free subscrptions to people who were standing there with their checkbooks out?)
The three of us had loaded the van rear-heavy, and every time we hit a bump the front of the van would almost lift off the ground. Halfway across the desert Stan pulled over and we shoved everything as far forward as we could. We were going to Vegas a day early so we could “smell around,” in Stan’s words. The convention hall was ruled by Teamsters and Stan was going to find a way for us to get all our stuff — display booth and magazines — in without paying the extortionate portage fee that all the other chumps (exhibitors pushing everything from cosmetics to massage tables to aromatherapy) were paying.
What Stan lacked in practical knowledge about growing a subscriber base and loading a van he made up for with a sixth sense for petty larceny. He had a working class New England background, and he once hinted that he’d beaten a man so badly that the man later died. I tended to gloss over this sort of thing — who knew if it was actually true? But I wanted to keep my job so I listened to his nutty stories (including highlights of what he did in bed with his girlfriend) and carried another box of magazines into the hall.
Marcia and I were sharing a room and Stan was next door. Marcia was about ten years younger than me, very cute, had absolutely no tits whatsoever, and was claiming that she hadn’t taken a shit in about three months. I gave her some herbal laxative and we got ourselves settled and waited to hear from Stan what our next move would be, preferably dinner. He called us about an hour later to tell us that there was an adult-film industry convention going on in the hotel, and that downstairs was an absolute parade of porn stars.
We had Mexican food and margaritas for dinner at a little place just off the casino. After we finished eating, Marcia suggested that we all have a scotch to kick off the night. So we went over to a lounge on the other side of the casino and had some well scotch. Stan was paying for all of this.
At some point we decided that absolutely the best thing we could do next would be to go to a strip club. The Palomino was the only one I’d ever heard of, so we got in a cab and went downtown to the older part of Las Vegas. Two pitchers of margaritas and two scotches each at this point.
The cover ended up being something like $25 each and Stan didn’t have enough cash, so I paid and he promised he’d pay me back later (which he did). The place was big and dark and not very full — just a few guys sitting around the stage — I think it was only about 9:00. So, feeling discreet, I guess, we picked a table away from the stage and ordered the first of two required rounds of drinks. I think I ordered a Coors Light, which tells me that maybe I was drunk, since I normally wouldn’t drink that shit on a bet. After a few minutes of getting used to being a woman in a place where other women took off their clothes for entertainment — it took Marcia a minute, too, and I think Stan needed to digest the fact that he was in a room with a bunch of naked women and a couple of women he couldn’t lay a hand on or he’d be sued right into the twenty-third century — we decided that we might as well go right up and sit by the stage.
This was a good plan. We got a great view and the dancers seemed to like having us there. Stan went and got a bunch of $1 bills and gave us each a few so Marcia and I could tip the girls we liked. I remember some wacky costumes — cowgirl, I Dream of Jeannie, 70s biker slut — and I also remember that one woman looked like she had just had a baby, her stomach was all poochy and stretch-marked, which kind of freaked me out.
Then one dancer came out who was really cute. She had long-ish dark hair and a lean body and real breasts (there was a lot of silicone on stage that night, or, as Sam Shepard says, “silly cone”), which, after several more terrible beers now, made me want to stand up and applaud her integrity. Instead, though, I took one of Stan’s dollars and, when she made her way around to me, stood up, tucked the bill in between her little tits, and told her, You’re beautiful.
After a while the whole parade became kind of a blur. A terrible comedian came out. I mean terrible. He was making those “Am I in a mortuary? Because all I see out there stiffs”-type jokes, and he was too mean for me to feel embarrassed for him. After he left and more girls started coming out I think we’d all had enough. So we started to get ourselves together to leave. Then the cute dancer that I’d given a dollar to came running over to me, put her arms around my neck, and gave me a kiss. We went to a diner and had omelets and Stan started moaning about how superior women were to men. I was like, That’s crap, and Marcia was like, Does talking like that get you laid?
The next day I was so hungover I wanted to kill myself. But when you’re the editor of a magazine at a convention full of quote healers unquote, people will trip over themselves trying to show you how their particular shtick will make you feel better. (The aromatherapy was helpful, actually, and so was lying down and putting my ankles in a “chi machine,” which rocked my legs back and forth for three minutes — “it’s how fish exercise!”) Plus, the air is so bloody dry in Vegas that you have to drink bottled water pretty much constantly just to keep a normal level of hydration, so if you’re already dehydrated due to poor drinks management the night before, you will suffer almost no matter what you do.
The second night we ended up at a party where the bartender was so drunk that when Stan asked him for a rum and Coke the guy filled up an 8-oz. glass with rum and cracked open a can of Coke and said, Enjoy! Later he had to be carried out, so Stan started tending bar while I screamed into a cell phone as Jack gave me a play-by-play of a Lakers playoff win against I no longer remember who.
Poor Marcia never took a dump the whole trip, even after Stan bought her a Fleet enema two-pack and massaged her abdomen. (On his bed.) I did get to meet a famous porn star– Houston 500 — actually, now I think it’s Houston 620. I have another Vegas/porn convention story from a different trip there with Stan, our art director, two salesmen, and Oscar de la Hoya’s girlfriend, but this post is way too long as it is.