Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Of Residencies, Air Fryers & Gibson Guitars

I haven’t been to Las Vegas since January 2020. Was there for CES, not the tables. Things were still normal then. At least as “normal” as Vegas can be. Although the massive influx of the rabid technology enthusiasts who go to the city for that event—so many people that the only amount of social distancing that occurs would be measured in millimeters, not feet—change the dynamic. Because the Uber and Lyft networks are crushed, cabs are sometimes necessary. The cabbies are not particularly happy with the tipping that doesn’t happen—or happens at an infinitesimal rate—from those who can’t wait to see the latest from Samsung or Qualcomm or companies that essentially only the employees have heard of.

I was staying at The Delano. A hotel within a hotel. A means by which the proprietor can jack the rates disproportionately by providing a modicum of upped amenities. And a separation from the gaming floor. But in order to get an extraordinarily expensive cup of coffee it is necessary to go through to Mandalay Bay, where the shops and restaurants are found.

It was necessary to pass the theatre hosting “Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil.” Given what came out about Jackson’s proclivities it seems like a strange show. Yes, there is the music. There is the man. But somehow the sale of jeweled gloves seemed strange. And the pre-show gift shop was always jammed.

But that’s Las Vegas.

One of the things that Las Vegas has become known for regarding concert performances is the “residency.” As in the individual musician or group plays at one of the multitudinous theaters night after night. Presumably they also stay at said hotel casino. But probably in a place like The Delano.
During the past few years there have been seemingly endless runs by people like Celine Dion, and shorter ones for the likes of Van Morrison (five dates at the Colosseum at Caesars). Other performers have included Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Cardi B, Britney Spears, Elton John, Cher, Mariah Carey, Billy Idol, Aerosmith, Bruno Mars, Bryan Adams Christina Aguilera, Chicago, Santana, David Lee Roth, the Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, Sting, Gwen Stefani, and, of course, Rod Stewart.

(I once met Donny Osmond in the jetway of a flight going from SLC to LAS. We chatted a bit. Yes, he was going back to perform at the Flamingo with his sister. He was (a) not surprisingly, nice and (b) taller than I would have expected.)

Know that residencies is not a new phenomenon by any extent.

Elvis rocked the Las Vegas Hilton from July 1969 to December 1976. Six-hundred and thirty-six nights of “Burning Love.”

Turns out he was a slouch compared with Donny & Marie: they had a run of 11 years, doing 1,730 shows. And Donny was still nice to some stranger on a Delta flight.

One of the other interesting things—and this is more of a new(ish) phenomenon—is that it has gone from a place where you could find lavish buffets for under ten bucks to a place where you’re going to pay dearly for a meal at a restaurant that is owned and possibly operated by a celebrity chef.

Among them are Wolfgang Puck, Guy Fieri, Gordon Ramsey, Bobby Flay, and Emeril Lagasse. To name but a few.

Which brings me to the Emeril Lagasse Power Air Fryer 360, the device you can buy for about $200 that allows you to bake, broil, toast, slow cook, air fry, and more.

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“Can You Find Me Soft Asylum”

The Soft Parade was the fourth album from The Doors. It was released in 1969. Given that ’69 was the year of such releases as Led Zepplin, Kick Out the Jams, Beck Ola, Ramblin’ Gambling Man, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Tommy, and The Stooges, it is somewhat surprising that The Doors had the opportunity for redemption and were able to release Morrison Hotel the following year and hadn’t been driven off into the sketchy concrete wilderness of L.A.

One of the most peculiar cuts on what is a peculiar album is “Touch Me.” It was the first single from the album. And for some odd reason, it became the highest-charting of the singles from The Soft Parade. “Wishful Sinful” is beyond understanding.

At the time of The Soft Parade, The Lizard King was in full bloat, resembling a boa constrictor in full gorge. One can imagine him rolling around in the studio—figuratively, although literally is not something that takes too much imagination—carrying not a long-neck, as would be appropriate for the next album, but a mixed drink. A martini would not be outside the realm of possibility were it that the drink was contained in a glass less shallow and thereby less likely to spill during an inertial turn of mass.

“Touch Me,” with its horns and sweeping, “I’m gonna love you. . .” passages, is a song that would not be inappropriately covered by contemporaries like Michael Buble. Yes, Morrison and Buble.

It has always seemed to me that “Touch Me” as performed by The Doors could be an audition for a months’-long gig at Las Vegas circa right now, had Morrison not gone the way of all flesh at an all-too-early day.

One survivor of that period—who covered Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” and “All Shook Up” on the aforementioned Beck Ola—, Rod Stewart, has opened an 18-concert series at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

After Stewart overcame his hiding-behind-the-amps shyness, he became quite the performer. And this leads to a question: is there a difference between “a performer” and “an artist”—or perhaps it gives rise to a series of questions, including, is there a continuum of when the artist morphs into a performer, or whether most all of the people that we use “artist” as shorthand for are really performers, and were they not we would not be aware of them. Can anyone listen to the 66-year-old Stewart, who has lived lifestyles of the rich and famous, sing, “Spent some time feelin’ inferior, standing in front of my mirror” and take it at all seriously anymore, or is it simply something that’s about having a laugh?

When Stewart isn’t playing at the venue (all of the shows aren’t sequential; there’s a split), Elton John will be, with a show titled “Million Dollar Piano.” Indeed.

Let’s say the Morrison hadn’t died. That Morrison was playing down the street at The Bellagio. Can we imagine a duet on “What Made Milwaukee Famous” between the two performers? And would it be good?

Video: The Doors – Touch Me

The Doors - Touch Me

Video: The Faces – Maybe I\'m Amazed

The Faces - Maybe I'm Amazed

Defying Gravity

The ad shows Sheena Easton in a tailored two-button suit. She is sans blouse. She is wearing one of those Victoria’s Secret support bras. Presumably, back in her heyday, the bra would have been superfluous. Time and gravity have their effect. On the next page there’s a photo of Dennis DeYoung, once of Styx, who has been heard of late in the VW “Mr. Roboto” commercial. The ad is black and white. Perhaps this is done for purposes of being kind to this paunchy crooner. Yet the fact that his hair is white makes the color choice not particularly flattering. The kiosk display in the lobby announces the Scorpions, Deep Purple, and special guest Dio. Another is for ZZ Top. The billboard shows Rick Springfield in “EFX.” And lest this seem as though this is only a case of stale Wonder Bread, there are signs for bands including The Who.

Yes. Las Vegas. When I caught a shuttle from the airport to the Strip, I was directed to the van by a man resembling the old Elvis. He was wearing a golf shirt and Sans-a-Belt slacks. I didn’t know whether it would be appropriate to comment on his excellently eerie appearance: “Gee, you look just like the image on the rows and rows of slot machines.”

The city is clearly an Entertainment Zone, one that transcends the exaggerated creations found in William Gibson or Jean Baudrillard. The facade is promise. Gravity is the enemy. Gravity in terms of seriousness. Gravity in terms of the universal force that drags us into heat death. Entropy.

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The tables are surrounded by young men with dark, cheesy mustaches. Behind them stand their raven-haired girlfriends with sparkle-filled makeup and dresses two sizes too small. The tables are surrounded by dazed-eyed convention attendees from Topeka and Toledo, giddy with the comped bottles of Bud. The slots are peopled by retirees with gimmie caps and oxygen tanks. By waitresses with hellish jobs, hoping for a break better than the alimony they’re not getting.

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The question: What happens to an old act? Do the Boomers who are frequenting the gambling arenas (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. . .) want to see their images of youth—freshness, vitality—replaced by the time-ravaged memories of these performers? Sure, we all age. The sustained popularity of, say, Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain, is largely predicated by their dying young. We capture their images. They will never age. And as we relate to them, we have not aged, either. Strength retained after exhaustion.

(One of the problems faced by the Elvis Industry is that he was seen post-prime, so there is always the young Elvis undercut by the amphetamine-gobbling.)

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Even with every light turned on in my room at the Aladdin, it seems sepia-colored inside. Even though the Desert Passage Shopping Mall—all 500,000-square feet of it—sells jewels, Hugo Boss, Faberge eggs, Tumi baggage, etc., there is no bookstore. You probably aren’t meant to read in brown rooms. Outside my window I can see—and hear—the labor of a clever entrepreneur, who offers helicopter rides over the strip. But the perspective would be all wrong. The edifices that line the strip are meant to be looked up at, to put you in your proper perspective.

Where else would an impersonator be a favorite?

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It’s not that I begrudge these people their livelihood, nor do I want to keep the people who find them entertaining to be entertained. It just seems rather odd to see that performers who have (mainly) disappeared from the ordinary world have this huge presence. Presumably, if Sheena Easton were to play Detroit there might be a small ad in the entertainment section of the Sunday paper, her visage (and cleavage) wouldn’t be on taxi-mounted signboards. Billboards wouldn’t be erected in Chicago announcing the Scorps and ‘ Purple back together again for the first time in almost as many years as the people arriving in cabs at the Aladdin at 4:45 am on a Saturday morning have been alive.

Where else would an impersonator be a favorite?