Sunday, October 3, 2010

ZOUNDS!-REALLY!-OOPS! (Or, “MEET ME AT THE FREMONT AT NINE O’CLOCK” – Part Three)

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Tuesday, September 28:
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The next day, I went up Las Vegas Boulevard to where my parents tied the knot and I took a few pictures:
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[Hey, I didn't know that Michael Jordan married Joan Collins, did you? And to think I thought it odd when I first moved to Airheadzona and saw drive-through liquor stores!]
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Now, truthfully, The Little White Chapel was not nearly THIS cheesy when my parents were married there in 1958. I mean, at least at that time, the couple was expected to get out of their car in order to be hitched. But yes, just so ya know, my parents said “I do” at The Little White Chapel, and I am a byproduct of “those kinds of people”. If you don’t like that, you can just stay on The Strip with your people.
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I had a beer at Slots-A-Fun and stared out at the Circus-Circus sign, remembering all the good times I’d had in Vegas with my Pa in days long past. It was a sweet melancholy moment, and in hindsight, I realize I should have just sat at that table reminiscing and drinking cheap beer all day. But instead, I decided to go play Keno.
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To my shock and disappointment, I discovered that there are no Keno lounges in Vegas anymore. One casino manager told me there might still be one or two downtown but he wasn’t sure. Man, Keno used to be my favorite form of gambling; it was slow and relaxing, it offered the chance to get impossibly lucky and really make a mint, and the Keno lounge cocktail waitresses came around pretty regularly with free drinks. BRING BACK THE MOB! WE WANT THE MOB!
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With Keno out, I went to the Sahara and eventually found myself in the NASCAR Café Bar where they think NASCAR is “America’s greatest sport”. No, seriously. Nobody really noticed how out of place I was there because I had on my cowboy hat and by mere coincidence happened to be wearing my L.A. Rocka Pistons shirt:
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While drinking a shot of Harlem at the NASCAR bar (Yuck! – stick with Grand Marnier!), I got into a debate about literature with this 295 pound woman. She said that Louisa May Alcott, the author of ‘Little Women’, and Eve Ensler are the English language’s greatest writers. I told her she knew nothing about “little women” and I argued for William Shakespeare and Bret Easton Ellis.
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OK, I’m just kidding. What we really argued about was which were the all-time greatest sponsors of NASCAR automobiles. She said it was Goodyear Tires and Holley Carburetors; I said it was Aflac Insurance and the Muppet, Rowlf the Dog, during the 2002 Winston Cup. Boy, that shut her up. She didn’t even know about the Muppets/NASCAR connection. What a rookie! (In my line of work, I gotta know a little bit about nothin’.)
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The next time you’re at the Sahara, check out the Old School Kool framed photos of celebrities at the Sahara during The Golden Age of Vegas, which are hanging around “The Thirsty Camel” bar. But avoid that really laminated bloke at the bar who went with the “All The Margaritas You Can Drink With Breakfast For $7.99” deal and actually drank more than he could drink. Some dudes just don’t know when to say “When”.
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[A Monkees slot machine. Now that's "Neo-Old School".]
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[Hey, Bozo, who said you could wear my Stetson?!]
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Back in 1984, I made a trip to Vegas with my friends Marty, Eric, and Dean. I also brought along my buddy Muddy. (You remember I told you about him in an earlier blog bit, right?) Well, I recall that I wanted to get a picture of Muddy posing with the gorilla statue that stood on the sidewalk out in front of Circus-Circus. It breaks my heart that the gorilla is now gone. But just like it was yesterday - although it was 26 years ago! - I can remember that as my friends and I were arranging the Muddy photograph, a woman walked by, paused for a moment and then said, "Oh, you guys are BAD!" Ha! God bless that woman wherever she is today. And may the gorilla rest in peace (or pieces?)
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[Muddy does Vegas in 1984.]
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I went back to Circus-Circus and walked as quickly as possible past the bar ‘Rock & Rita’s’, the most obnoxious place in the entire world, and I called it a night a little earlier than usual because I wanted to get a decent start for home the next morning. I just watched a few episodes of Seinfeld and took this picture looking north toward downtown from my 29th-floor window:
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Wednesday, September 29:
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By some stroke of good fortune, I found myself at the old Las Vegas Sign Boneyard the next morning. It’s a place I’d heard of and have wanted to visit for several years now. I had been hoping to find the location and the remaining façade of the old Moulin Rouge casino which was a hotel/casino that catered to African-American clientele during the segregated years of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I learned that the last remaining vestiges of the historic building had been razed just months earlier. (Somewhere I still have a gaming chip from the Moulin Rouge that my Pa gave me decades ago.)
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However, the same cool bartenderette at the El Cortez who had told me where the Moulin Rouge was located also told me where to find the Las Vegas Sign Boneyard. This is a fenced-in area north of downtown where some of the classic signs saved from the Las Vegas Golden Era are stored. With little trouble, I found The Boneyard on the morning of my departure and got a few decent pictures, including one – to my tremendous surprise and elation - of the old Algiers sign (more about the Algiers in an upcoming blog bit).
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I even managed to take a picture of “The King”, the subject of Troy Paiva’s great 2002 photograph. This is the stuff bad dreams are made of – one of the creepiest pictures I’ve ever seen and a real favorite of mine!
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["Somebody must have an orphanage for
All these things that nobody wants any more."]
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When you have the time, be sure to check out Paiva’s other fantastanightmareistic photos at his ‘Lost America’ website! He’s one of my all-time favorite photographers.
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[From the old Golden Nugget Casino.]
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[A view of an old Desert Inn sign. This one's for you, L.C.]
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Well, that was enough excitement for one old geezer for one trip and I got back “on the road” heading south. Listening to the ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ movie soundtrack while driving over the Hoover Dam was just ideal. I felt like I was actually in the movie.
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It was a fairly uneventful 6-hour drive back to Phoenix and to the 106 degree temperature waiting there for me.
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["Whellcome Back, Stephen!"]
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Yeah, I may have walked alone, but it was a fun trip nonetheless. I hate to break it to y’all because, truthfully, y’all’r good friends of mine, but, I don’t need none y’all in order to have a good time. All I need is me. And fortunately for me, I’m never far behind me.
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This trip to Las Vegas represented yet another perfect inning in the game of life for "Yours Truly": no runs, no hangovers, no errors, and no women left on base.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
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13 comments:

Mr. Paulboy #VI said...

Sounds like a fun trip, and you do indeed get along so well with yourself that you make an ideal traveling companion.

I like spending time with me, also, but after years of marriage to a great companion I actually prefer her company to mine.

That sign boneyard sounds really interesting. Are the just saving them? Are they for sale? What will happen to them eventually?

Thanks for the travelogue.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

MR. PAULBOYGANBOY #VI ~
Oh, yeah, I know me so well, and we get along famously - until me has one too many drinks and then the internal arguing starts, which usually leads to self-battering and a phone call to the cops. ("Police! Please make me STOP!")

For many years, the signs have just been collected and saved in a haphazard way, and the location of them has been kept kind of quiet. But now an organization is in the process of building a genuine museum for them, which I think is GREAT!

Fortunately, the Moulin Rouge sign has been saved (and so was a sign from the Algiers). YAY!

I was at the site where they're constructing the museum and I noticed the odd shaped building that will be the museum's lobby but I didn't put it all together in my mind (because it actually looked newly constructed) that the lobby is actually the front of the old La Concha Motel.

That is SOOO cool, because I believe the last time I stayed in Vegas with both of my parents (circa 1992?) we were at the La Concha. I remember I flew home earlier than they did because I developed a bad cold.

Anyway, if I ever do get back to Vegas again, I'm sure the Boneyard Museum will be in full operation by then and I will make visiting it Priority #1. As it was this time, I only took pictures of old signs from outside the locked gates.

Thanks for your great comments, Brotherman!

~ "Mad Dog" McElvis

DiscConnected said...

I must have bored ya to tears on our little Vegas excursion. You packed an awful lot into each day.

I didn't realize there was so much in Vegas BESIDES the Zia CD stores...

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

DISCDUDE ~
Ha!
Yeah, there's more than just Zia Record stores to see (Elvis) and do (Marla, Lizzy, Miss Zounds, Miss Really, and especially Miss Oops) in Vegas.

Where was Miss Oops when I needed her most? Probably smokin' dope with Betty Boop. "Boop-Oop-A-Doobie!"

It was actually our abbreviated trip to Sin City that cemented it in my mind that I needed to go back again soon when I had a little more time to spend there. Our trip was like giving just an ounce of beer to a thirsty camel.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Arlee Bird said...

Another epic 3 part adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You take a road trip like I do. I like to set up a CD soundtrack before hand. My biggest challenge was a few years ago when my wife and I drove across country. Handel's Messiah at 4 AM leaving Albuquerque at 13 degrees and In-a-Gadda-da-Vida crossing southern Indiana after there had been a big snowfall. Had it all planned, keeping my wife in mind by interjecting stuff I thought she'd enjoy which isn't too much.

I had dinner at the Peppermill several years back when I was at a Halloween Trade show at the Riveria. Joined some other costumers, but I didn't drink.

You left me wanting to take a road trip, but it never takes much to do that.

Good story.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Hey, thanks, LEE!
Yeah, the Peppermill has two parts: you enter and you're facing the restaurant's hostess, but veer left and go through the door just beyond the restrooms, and you're in the lounge.

The lounge is great, but I didn't eat in their restaurant. How was the food? You remember?

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

Arlee Bird said...

I don't really remember the food at the Peppermill so it must have been just average. And I was tired after spending the entire day on the trade show floor so I probably was anxious to just eat and get back to my room. My companions were nice people who owned costume businesses in L.A., but were also manning booths at the show as representatives of vendors--however I wasn't much into their banter either.
Your trip sounded more fun than any of my trade show trips, but I've had some good trips with my wife, family, and friends.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Mr. Paulboy #VI said...

Hey, Stephen ~

Thanks for edificating me (hey, if Shakespeare can make up words...) about Troy Paiva. I just checked out your link.

WHAT a photographer! As a former darkroom technician and practitioner of the Zone System, I am always really interested in good photography. This guy is very creative. The images are haunting!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

MR. PRODIGALPAULSHEBOYGANBOY SIXZ ~
>>"Thanks for edificating me"

Edificating you? I didn't edificate you! What kind of a guy do you think I am? I ain't that Sort O'Boy, boy!

Yeah, ain't Paiva sumpin'?! I LOVE the subjects he chooses to photograph!

I don't know what the Zone System is, but I used to fool around in the darkroom myself. [Ahem!] Back when I worked for that gun magazine publisher. They had me transforming photographs into the dot-pattern pictures for publication. (Can no longer recall what that process is called.) I didn't really know what I was doing, but I was getting paid to do it and the photos I transformed were published.

That's all I know about photography. Well, that and how to arrange a picture so that my friend's name will appear in the background.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Mr. Paulboy #VI said...

Nobody reading will care about this, including you, but I will expound on it anyway.

You were making the photos into halftones. I used to do that, too, for many years.

And the Zone System was invented by Ansel Adams to achieve sharp and dramatic black and white images. You test your film type and developing solution type at different exposures, and then figure out a system for overexposing the film to light when you take it (thus giving you more detail), but UNDERdeveloping the negatives in the solution. You leave them in the liquid less time. You end up with very sharp images that are exposed the correct amount, even though none of it is what the manufacturer planned.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

MR. PAULBOY VI ~
Ahh, yes, "HALFTONES". Thank you, Brother! That is indeed the word I was searching for. I only did that work for two or three months, but I was beginning to get half decent at it.

At one time or another, I've worked at just about every sort of job one can imagine. Except bounty hunting. I haven't done any bounty hunting yet. But my current job seems like it may be coming to an end at this time next year, and I think I may try my hand at bounty hunting next.

Interesting about the Zone System. Does anyone still do that sort of photographing and developing, what with the advent and refinements in digital photography?

~ D-FensDogg

Robin said...

That was fascinating. Vegas has so much history for you. I can appreciate that. So many places are memories with your Pa. Other places hold memories with your friends or maybe your brother. Now this trip even chalked up a few memories. I really like downtown Vegas, too. For one, it is so much easier to get from one place to the next. But the other thing is that still feels a BIT like OLD STYLE VEGAS.

Interesting commentary about how Vegas was a better place when the Mob was running the show. It's hard to believe that the world is a better place when the criminals are in charge. That really says something about where we are.

I know it was not on when you wrote this, but have you watched the show Vegas that came out on CBS this past fall? I find it interesting. It is all about old Vegas and the mob is still running things. I find it fascinating. Since I don't really know the Ins and Outs of how all that went down, I can't say with any degree of certainty how "correct" they are getting the story. You would probably know better than I...

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

ROBIN ~
Thanks for taking the time to read this and to comment. I was a little hesitant about directing you to it, seeing as how it's 3-parts long and each one is pretty lengthy. So I'm pleased you enjoyed it anyway.

No, I'd not even heard about the CBS program you mentioned. I do, however, have a 10-DVD set (each disc about 45 minutes long, I believe) titled 'VEGAS: The City The Mob Made' and although it's sort of a "B" production (reusing some of the same vintage clips over and over) it's still very interesting to me.

It tells the story of how Vegas' beginnings, how the Mob moved in with Bugsy Siegel, and how major corporations eventually got the majority of control of the city.

There were some interviews where longtime residents recalled how much safer the city was when the Mob was largely in control. They did not tolerate much street crime because it would cut into business and scare customers away, so Organized Crime would pretty much rid the city of the more violent Petty Crime.

Also, the Mob was interested in luring out-of-state gamblers to Vegas, so they were pretty free with complimentary items (cigarettes, booze, even rooms). Corporate America, however, wanted every penny it could get, so the giveaways were largely curtailed.

Vegas is very different today than it was when I traveled there regularly, and the way it was when the movie 'One From The Heart' was made.

Thanks again for sticking with this and for leaving a comment, Robin.

Yak Later...

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'