Rodeo, Santa Rampage, and the Downy Unstopables Scavenger Hunt

Soooooo….. the other day, I wrote about the shittiness in my life of late. Well, that was so boring I had to spice it up with a photo of my bush sprayed green, just to get people to read it! But now, I’m ready to write about the FUN stuff of the last two weeks.

December in Vegas is a weird time. No one really comes to town during the Holidays, so it’s eerily deserted, in a creepy, post-Apocalyptic kinda way. Fortunately, some marketing genius figured out a way to get warm bodies into town during this slow season: have a Rodeo!

It’s true — every December, just as the last post-Thanksgiving partiers are straggling out of town to devote themselves to more important things, the National Finals Rodeo comes to town, bringing somewhere around 176,000 rednecks, hillbillies and buckle bunnies (buckle bunnies being the awesomely awesome name they give rodeo groupies). It’s a TRIP! Everywhere you go, from the Bellagio right on down to Fremont Street, the bars, casinos and restaurants are jam-packed with cow-folk. As a veteran people-watcher and connoisseur of freaks, I love this time of year above allllll others…because it’s so much fun! All the casinos roll out the burlap carpet and deck the halls (and nubile waitresses) in denim, plaid and hayseed. Talk about pandering!!!

Everywhere you go, there are Coors, Crown and Jack specials…and every unused nook & cranny houses a mechanical bull. Like I said…pandering: it’s what Vegas does best (you should see how thick they lay it on for Chinese New Year)!

Even the showroom where I slave away taking souvenir photos got into the act, hosting a couple nights of this AWFUL, lamentable, regrettable ventriloquist (no, not Terry Fator…someone even worse) (if you click that link, incidentally, it takes you to my scathing review of Terry F’s show, which was soooo obscene it was censored by Yelp!! Tip: the “XXXXs” replace the words “fag,” “Nigra,” and “suck horsecock,” FYI).

Anyhoo, I suffered through two nights of this miserable ventriloquist and a roomful of fat know-nothings, guffawing at heartland buffonery ranging from a dead terrorist to a Jalapeño on a stick. The show was so bad, in fact, that my friend J.R., who is visiting town again, bought a ticket but then got up and left halfway through. He’d rather bleed money at a poker table than have his ears bleed from listening to that crap.

J.R. came to town at just the right time, since he loooooves country music… and hot country ass. Fortunately, after the aforementioned two nights of hillbilly hell, I didn’t have to work…so I had plenty of time to hang out with him and make the rounds of Rodeo society. We attended the American Country Awards one night (yeeeeeeeeeeeee haw! That dumb bitch Taylor Swift was locked out, ha ha!) and then another night we went to the big grand opening for the new Lynyrd Skyrnd BBQ & Beer at the Excalibur.

J.R. was being wooed as an investor by the people behind this new hillbilly hotspot, so he got free VIP tickets to the opening night gala, at which none other than “Lynyrd Skynyrd” themselves played a concert! I say “Lynryd Skynrd” in quotation marks, because only one original member is still in the group — so it’s really more of a cover band. Still, they were great! All the classics were played, from “Gimme Three Steps” to “Sweet Home Alabamy.” And, of course…. “Free Bird.” Gooooooooooood times!

The best part of the whole show was seeing that fish-lipped beast Skanki Sue (she runs some kind of half-assed stripper school at the Excalibur)…but she didn’t have a VIP wristband, ha ha, so we had better seats than her herpetic, Ex-Lax-chafed ass). Score! We rocked the night away, swigging booze from Mason jars and getting jiggy with the bullriders, cow babes and washed-up Vegas detritus littering the audience (which included society cougars, young chippies and none other than Jose Canseco). It was great, except for at the end, when J.R. (who has been trying not to be such a sucker and easy mark for greedy bimbos) broke down and bought a round of drinks for a bevy of Rodeo babes. He asked me to sign the receipt for him (he didn’t trust himself not to overtip the busty bartender), and I wrote “SUCKER” on the signature line, as a joke. I thought I wrote it on his copy…but come to find out, I accidentally wrote it on the bar copy…so the pissed-off bartender threw away my ENTIRELY FULL drink while I wasn’t looking, in revenge. Bitch!

Incidentally, looking at all these Rodeo photos of myself…I realized I need a new, badass, GINORMOUS dinner-plate-sized belt buckle that says “WONDERHUSSY.” Hmmm!

So anyhoo, aside from all the yee-hawery, J.R. had mainly come to town for one thing: the Great Gift Giveaway at Caesars Palace. Every year, the casino has this big event where high rollers get to cash in their gambling credits for junk — just like back in the day at the arcade, when you won tickets and traded them in for crap. J.R. is a Seven Stars member, which is the Caesars version of the top tier (I think you have to gamble a minimum of $100,000 per year; next is Diamond, then it goes down from there)…so he had a TON of credits to cash in for crap.

Basically, it’s a ballroom filled with junk from the SkyMall catalog (I think the same people run it, actually, LOLZ) — stuff like toasters and tents and golf carts and TVs. J.R. was generous enough to share his credits with me, but all I wanted was a tool kit — I’m going to need a decent set of tools when I move, so I figured I might as well be practical. The tools I have right now are a joke — mostly free promotional screwdrivers and junk from trade shows; nothing that really works. J.R. himself bought all kinds of crazy crap…but since I’m about to pack up and move, the last thing I need is more crazy crap. Ya know?

Anyhoo, lest you think the last couple of weeks have been nothing but fun and games for me, be advised that I *DID* work as a plant in a couple of corporate scavenger hunts — I played a horticulturist in one, and a double agent in another. Good times, but nowhere near as good of times as this other scavenger hunt I participated in — as a contestant!!

Downy fabric softener was sponsoring the “World’s Biggest Digital Scavenger Hunt” on the Strip last week, and one of my media friends emailed me, asking if I wanted to team up with him and try for the $20,000 prize money. He didn’t have to ask twice! This friend is totally Type A, and verrrrrrrrrrry competitive…plus he’s really smart and a total go-getter (the little prick is younger than me by several years, yet has already published three books!)…so I knew he’d be a great teammate. And he was! He even made me come out and meet him at a Starbucks a couple nights before the game, to bone up on Vegas history and Downy trivia. Now THAT’s dedication!

On the day of the game, we had zero idea what would be required of us, so showed up woefully underdressed, in jeans and Uggs and totally un-runner-ish clothing. Meanwhile, all these other hardcore competitors were wearing Under Armour and Asics and shit. It freaked us out briefly, but we still smoked that fucking game, running up and down the Strip (ALL THE WAY from Venetian to MGM and back…over 3 miles!) for around 90 minutes. Between the two of us, we knew every shortcut and secret passageway, so we were able to beat out the other 400 contestants to win the $20,000!!! We got one of those giant novelty checks you always see on TV, presented to us by Miss Amy Sedaris, and it was crazy! (Yes, I know that’s a TERRIBLE photo of me, but I was tired and sweaty and as previously mentioned have been crying a lot lately.)

I had promised J.R. I’d take him to dinner if I won, so I made good on my promise and took him downtown to one of my favorite old-school restaurants, Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse, located high atop the ever-so-classy Binion’s Hotel in fabulous downtown Vegas. This is one of those places that hasn’t changed since 1969, and the maître d’ looks like a cross between Larry Flynt and Liberace. Need I really say more?! I told J.R. to order what eeeeeeeever he liked, and to spare no expense. For some reason this made him very nervous, and he spilled no fewer than three drinks over the course of the evening, LOLZ!

After dinner, I dragged him down the street to the Beauty Bar, a hipster hotspot I normally avoid at all costs, but which that night was hosting a faaaaaaabulous wrestling match featuring Jesus vs. Santa Claus!! “We’ll decide who’s REALLY the Reason for the Season!!”OMG, it was absolutely incredible. In addition to Santa eventually beating Jebus’s ass (with none other than Lucifer himself officiating), a big zaftig pinup chick in the audience stapled dollar bills to her twat. Just another night in downtown Vegas! Why would you ever bother going to the Strip (unless it was to win $20,000 in a scavenger hunt)??

Now, speaking of Santa and downtown Vegas, last Friday was the big semi-annual Santa Rampage, wherein hundreds of local kooks and freaks dress up like Santa Claus and go on a big pub crawl on Fremont Street. It was mostly Burning Man people at first, but more and more wackos caught on, and now all kindsa people participate. Last year I went as a Bettie Page Domme Santa, which was awesome, but I didn’t want to be unoriginal and wear the same thing twice. Thankfully, I had some leftover green hairspray from when I sprayed my pubes, so I rigged up a sort of sexxxy Grinch domme thing that went over fairly well. I partied medium-hearty from around 9pm-1am, then went home to bed. I’ve been too upset lately about my house stuff to really party…but today I decided that THAT is going to STOP immediately! Worry doesn’t help anything anyway, so I might as well eat, drink and be merry. Ho, ho, ho.

After all that excitement died down, the Rodeo left town…and now every night is a Silent Night. It’s creepy and weird, like the Rapture came and sucked up all the God-fearing, Jebus-lovin’ cowboys…leaving just us wrathful sinners languishing in Vegas, waiting for New Year’s. I personally LOVE this creepy, deserted window between Rodeo and New Year’s…I don’t care what Andy Williams says; this is truly the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! You can actually drive down the Strip in less than 40 hours, and parking is abundant. I personally feel like we locals should make this little period our own municipal holiday…all we need is a clever name for it. So far I’ve had suggestions like Foreplay, the Taint, Stripocalypse and Las Vacancy…any others?

Anyhoo, the town being basically deserted, even J.R. decided to finally leave. I took him to the airport this afternoon (I love the irony of my beat-up-ass old pickup truck rolling into the valet to collect his Seven Stars ass), and he hemmed and hawed the whole way there…FINALLY spilling his guts when I was already idling in front of the Southwest checkin: he had decided to stay a few more days! So I got back on the freeway, took him to the Rio, and then headed over to my next adventure: the Michael Jackson fan fest.

A word about Michael Jackson: I’m huge fan, but not really of his music or his treacly sappiness. I just dug his weirdness. I met him once, backstage at the Celine Dion show when I was taking photos of them together, and he was awesome (I wanted a pic with him so bad, but I could hardly hand my camera to Celine and ask her to snap one…she prolly woulda broke it).

He used to live down the street from me, in fact, back in 2008…I used to walk my dog over there now and then, hoping to catch a glimpse of him (it wasn’t even a gated community or anything, just this really weird old sort of Spanish mission-style compound near downtown). I never did see him — just an odd assortment of international fans, who would camp out in the street 24/7, waiting for him. Bizarre!

Anyhoos, ever since he died, everyone’s making a huge fuss about him and everyone likes him again. So much so that they created this abomination of a show based on his life, as interpreted by — who the fuck else — Cirque du Soleil. Bah! My most loathed of all pretentious Quebecois circus troupes, and they’re always meddling around my city, creating shows around this, that and the other. IMO, all their shows SUCK ASS, but on a sliding scale from Least Sucky (The Beatles’ LOVE, which is actually really cool, and Zumanity, which is OK) to Soul-Searingly Asinine (Viva Elvis, everything else).

My friend Guy is a huge MiJac fan, and ponied up the cash to see the new Cirque Michael Jackson show. He invited me, but I politely refused — I’ve been burned before, when my Arkansawyer girlfriend brow-beat me into going to see Viva Elvis with her in 2010 (the ONLY time I’ve ever paid for a show ticket, to my immense chagrin). Just as I suspected, he said the show sucked balls, but he invited me to at least attend the adjacent Fan Fest with him — a convention area full of Michael Jackson’s memorabilia, clothing, etc. It was pretty cool, I guess…but DEFINITELY not worth $35 plus taxes and surcharges. I did get to sit on the throne from the “Remember the Time” video, but that was about it.

One other thing I’ve been doing, now that Vegas is deserted, is try my hand at Acting. Yes, that’s Acting, with a Capital A — very serious business! I always thought it was just a matter of blowing the casting director, but come to find out there’s all this “technique” and “craft” involved…who knew? My friend Guy (from the MiJac thing) is a local actor, and has appeared in all kindsa fun stuff like Pirates of the Caribbean and Deadwood, so he convinced me to sign up for this acting workshop taught by none other than Gary Coleman’s old manager, a delightful old-school East-Coast Italian who actually had a lot of very interesting things to say. There were only about 8 people in the class, which was held in a local hotel room, but it was fascinating. The other students were straight out of “Waiting For Guffman:” besides my friend and I, it was a motley assortment of all ages and types, including an ardent Ron Paul supporter, a long-haired, thickly-accented bespectacled German named Günther, and this poooooooooooooooooor slightly chubby, homely chick with a fierce camel toe, who broke down in tears when the teacher critiqued her for her robotic delivery: “I don’t want to be a waitress forever,” she sobbed. WOW! It was STRAIGHT OUT OF A MOVIE — I even kinda had to look around for a hidden camera. Amazing!

As for my own budding acting skills, idk if I’ll make it…but it’s definitely interesting. I’ve been an extra in a bazillion movies, commercials and TV shows…and have had a few bit parts in student films and independent stuff, but I’ve never really Acted. So let’s see where this latest adventure takes me!


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John Rush

It’s impossible for Lynyrd Skynyrd to maintain their “original” line-up, since half of the band’s members from its 1970s high point are dead (two in the plane crash, another from pneumonia). And “original” has to be in quotes, since they went through many personnel changes from the start. Rick Medlocke, who was with the band when you saw them, was also with them for about a year before they recorded their first album – does this make him “pre-original”?

But your point remains valid. Some decades-old bands maintain their original names without ANY original members; they’re essentially tribute bands playing oldies for oldsters. They apparently don’t realize that the magic of the moment doesn’t span generations: the songs of then rarely appeal to the youth of now.

Belated congratulations on winning the scavenger hunt and half of its prize. I hope it at least somewhat helped your economic situation.

As for a name for this time of year, you might consider something with Barren in it, perhaps as a play on Baron.

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