August 4th, 2013
by Wayno & Piraro
Bizarro is brought to you today by Ernie’s Right-Hand Man.
I’m not a gambler but I’ve been to Vegas a few times for various other reasons. It’s one of those places that is fascinating for a while just because it is so surreal. The buildings, the people, everything is crazy. The first time I went, however, I was 18 and things were different. I had won an art contest of sorts, the prize for which was a weekend in Vegas for two. At that age, I had barely been on a commercial flight before, much less traveled to a place as strange as Vegas without adult supervision. I remember drinking and going into casinos and strip clubs but I can’t remember why they let me in. I was clearly underage (at 18, I could’ve passed for 16) but I suppose the laws then were not very strict. Or at least the enforcement wasn’t.
It wasn’t as big as it is now and the family-oriented hotels and entertainment did not yet exist. So, unlike today, the city wasn’t overrun with families of tourists from the Midwest and nothing there looked like Disney built it. The casinos and hotels were huge, glitzy, and outrageous, but they were the old-school casinos. The contest got me a room at The Sands, which was old even then, smaller than the hotels of today and more like a luxury motel from the 50s. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Liberace, all of the old classics had played the nightclub there but the room itself was so unimpressive it was difficult to believe. The people I saw on the streets and in the casinos were jet-setters, hard-core gamblers, rich eccentrics, obvious prostitutes (but dressed to the nines and clearly well-to-do). You could spot the mafioso guys who ran the casinos because they looked like characters out of a gangster movie.
I remember being particularly amazed by two things: it was the first place I’d ever been where the lights were so bright that it looked as though it was high noon even in the middle of the night, and upon leaving the hotel for breakfast fairly early on Sunday morning, I saw a man with a big cowboy hat, a sparkly cowboy suit like a Grand Ole Opry singer, and a high-dollar prostitute with jewels and sequin dresses on each arm, walking down the street with martinis in their hands. They had clearly been up all night and were still laughing and stumbling down the street at 8am on Sunday. For a dumb teenager from Tulsa in the mid-70s, this was a shocking sight. Somewhere in storage I have a couple of rolls of pictures from my crappy mid-70s camera. Wish I could find them and share.
CLASSICS CORNER: Here’s an old favorite cartoon of mine about a different kind of casino; one owned by Indians instead of the Mafia.
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