(In Part 1, my friend Karen and I go to the Barry Manilow concert in Las Vegas. Here’s all of the fun that happened next.)
9:00 p.m. The concert over, I’m trying to decide between a rhinestoned Manilow tee or a silk Manilow pillow case at the Paris gift shop. Karen pulls out her camera and looks at the pictures she took of Barry. “Oooh, here’s one of Barry smiling!” she says. “And here’s one of him…grinding his pelvis? I don’t remember that, but…”
Suddenly a short woman with a Pixie hair cut wearing what appears to be the JC Penney version of Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat sticks her finger right on the camera’s screen. “No pictures allowed!” she snaps. “Didn’t you see the sign? BARRY doesn’t like photographs at his shows. You need to delete those now!”
We stare at her, open mouthed, until Karen jams her camera into her purse. “That isn’t BARRY in those pictures,” she snottily tells the militant Fanilow. “It’s my nephew…Ethan. So, good-bye to you, you lady!” Then she turns to me, hisses, “Get your Manilow crap. NOW!” and hotfoots it past the blackjack tables to the safety of the mini-Arc de Triomphe. I quickly pay for my Manilow wine glass and wonder if the crowd at Bon Jovi is this dangerous.
(Note: From here on out, all times are approximate.)
9:30 p.m. We’re safely outside on the Strip, and while the entire night has left me feeling drained, Karen is now amped up from the Fanilow confrontation. “Let’s go fist pump at a club!” she yells as we pass drunks carrying two-foot long margarita glasses. “Just like those orange kids do on that one show!” Since dancing like The Situation is about the last thing I want to do, I distract her by offering to buy her candy at Caesar’s Palace. She agrees, but makes me throw in a $14 martini, too.
10:00 p.m. I’m still desperately trying to avoid “clubbing” (which I know for a fact I’m too old to do because I use air quotes whenever I say it), so I tell Karen we can get free drinks if we gamble. While we sit at the loud, flashing machines waiting for the cocktail waitress to show up, she pouts a little, then tries to help me win my video game.
Karen: Save your Jack!
Karen: Save your Queen!
Karen: Save your King!
Karen: You’re never going to get to 21 at this rate. You suck at Blackjack.
Me: That’s because this is video poker, dummy.
10:30 p.m. Back on the Strip, the crazy energy of the crowd is making Karen act younger as the night progresses. Unfortunately, it’s having the opposite effect on me as I’m rapidly turning into a cranky Senior Citizen mourning the old Vegas. “That’s where the Desert Inn used to be,” I rasp, “right where that pack of brodouchebags now stands. And the Tropicana was that way. I saw the legendary Gallagher perform there once. What a night. And down the street you could get ten shrimp cocktails, a porterhouse steak and a shot of whiskey for just 99 cents…”
“Knock it off, Charo,” Karen huffs as we pass men handing out escort service business cards. “It’s not like you were hanging out with the Rat Pack. You’re nostalgic for 1995. Now let’s find a club before you break a hip, grandma.”
11:00 p.m. We decide to stop for a drink in a dark Bellagio lounge packed with herds of 20-somethings on the prowl. The guys think they’re Vince Vaughn from Swingers and the girls are wearing the equivalent of a man’s black sock turned into a tube dress. I sit there with my Manilow fan club credentials in my bag, nursing my white wine spritzer, and feel like I have “PTO Loser” stamped on my forehead. This is later confirmed when the cute bartender calls me “ma’am” and refuses to check my ID despite my repeated requests.
11:30 p.m. During a restroom visit, we see a leather-clad woman with 5-inch long fingernails who we suspect is talking to her pimp on her cell phone. “SHE’S A SHOOKER!” Karen whisper/slurs. “Do you think she’s one from the skanky business cards they were handing out?”
“Maybe,” I whisper/slur back, “but back in my day, it was more sophis…sophis…classy. You got your shookers from a taxi driver.”
While we not-so-subtly watch the maybe-hooker reapply her lipstick, Karen launches into a long, convoluted story about a girl we knew in high school who’s now allegedly a Vegas escort, too. “But I don’t think she’s a very good one,” Karen opines, “because her prostitution territory is the Excalibur casino buffet. This lady looks like an A-List hooker! Whooo! Good job, you shooker! Norma Rae!”
We’re becoming really good at making fast exits.
12:00 a.m. Much to my horror, someone hands us two “Ladies Night” passes to the club at the Bellagio. Karen squeals “Fist pump!” and giggles happily as we approach the velvet ropes; in contrast, I look like I’m headed for my annual pap smear. We stand near the front of the line for quite a while, but for some reason, the thick-necked bouncers won’t acknowledge us. Instead, they’ve ushered in Sock Dresses, Japanese high-rollers, and a few guys who look like Ed Hardy threw up on them. Frustrated, Karen taps the bouncer on his shoulder and shoves our “Ladies Night” passes into his face. “Sir!” she yells, drawing the attention of everyone within a 20-foot radius, “We have COUPONS! TWO COUPONS! So let us in! WE HAVE COUPONS!”
For some reason the word “coupons” doesn’t grant us entree into the VIP lounge, so then—in a move that would make her Jersey Shore friends very proud—Karen screams, “I’M A 41-YEAR-OLD WOMAN AND I DO NOT NEED THIS FRIGGIN’ BULLSHIT!” and we stomp away. Thank you, Jesus, there will be no club tonight.
1:00 a.m. Or maybe there will be. Because after wandering aimlessly for a bit, Karen finds a club in the Aria that has even more Tube Dresses and Douchebags waiting in line. She saunters up to the front and tries to charm the bouncers, but once again, no go. I try not to smile as I pat her back to console her and wonder where the 40 oz. Budweiser in my right hand came from.
1:15-1:35 a.m. Unclear and debatable.
1:40 a.m. We’ve decided to head back to the hotel, thank God, but on our way home, we pass one more club. I suck it up and tell Karen we can try again, then I take out my iPhone to call my sister. Suddenly, the phone starts blaring Manilow singing “Even Now” and I realize that I somehow recorded an illegal bootleg of the concert. (And, as I would find out the next day, I also emailed said bootleg to about 25 not-so-thrilled people on my contact list.) The bouncer hears the music, but rather than screaming, “FORTY YEAR OLD FANILOWS—GET ‘EM!”, he gives us a small smile, and unhooks the velvet rope. OMG, we’re in! Manilow magic works again!
2:00 a.m. The small club is completely packed with people nearly half our age, most of them dancing to an ear-blasting hip-hop song that they all know but I’ve never heard before. Karen gets us mojitos, then we plop down on a very low black leather couch near the dance floor. We lean back and begin to enjoy our “clubbing,” but suddenly Karen’s head is rather violently smacked by a shiny, yellow booty that’s shaking to the music like a paint can at Home Depot. I look up at the booty’s owner and scream, “Oh, my God! It’s the chubby Kardashian! It’s Kamilla! It’s Kamilla the chubby Kardashian!” This gives Karen the shakes, and soon we’re laughing so hard that I slip off the slick couch and onto the floor. “Your Spanx is showing!” Karen shouts. “I don’t care!” I shout back and look down at my spandex bike shorts glowing radioactively in the strobe lights. “BECAUSE I’M A 41-YEAR-OLD WOMAN AND I DO NOT NEED THIS FRIGGIN’ BULLSHIT! Whoooo!”
2:30 a.m. For some strange reason, the bouncers have decided to pay us a visit. The biggest of the two, a 25-year-old wide shouldered guy with bright blue eyes, tells us that we need to move because we’re sitting at a reserved table. “Is that really the reason?” Karen snorts. “Come on, Bouncer Man. We’re not that naive.” He looks us up and down, and grunts, “Follow me.” We grab our purses, my Manilow wine glass, and our drinks, and trail him past the dance floor, past the bar, past the bathroom, past another bar, and over to the darkest, most desolate corner table in the entire room. “Here you go, ladies,” he says. “I think you’ll feel a lot more comfortable here.” Karen and I stare at each other and realize that in six short hours, we went from being the hippest people at the Manilow concert to being banished to the part of the club even the busboys and roaches avoid. Nice.
3:00 a.m. At long last, we’re finally ready to leave in defeat, but then Karen declares she has one more thing to do before we go. She slams the dregs of her cocktail, then runs out to the middle of the pack of sweaty, grinding twenty-year-olds on the dance floor. With a huge, crazy grin on her face, she sticks her right arm in the air and fist pumps like a freakin’ Jersey native. Awesome.
As I’m cheering her on from afar, the Bouncer walks up behind me. “Hey,” he grunts and sticks his big meat paw out for me to shake. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m Brandon and if there’s anything I can do for you…” I stare at him and wonder again what that offer really means. But as he holds on tightly to my hand, I begin to think that maybe I’m not such a PTO Loser after all. Maybe Brandon actually thinks I’m…hot? So I lean over to his huge, bouncer ear and yell, “Brandon, I just want to say thank you for being so nice! You know, to two old ladies!”
Then he drops my hand, punches me hard on the arm and says the words that will forever define my grand adventure in Las Vegas: “Hey, lady, you guys have as much a right to be here as anyone else. Now be safe and don’t get hurt, okay?”
“Okay,” I answer and clutch my bag to my chest so my Manilow Fan Club card doesn’t fall out and get destroyed in the puddle of vodka and glitter at my feet. Our Vegas adventure has finally come to a fitting end.
Looks like we made it.