Viva Las Vegas

There are cup holders in the toilet stalls at the Orleans Hotel. I think the official name for that phenomenon is "Hog Heaven," non?

We were there, several thousand of us crowded four or six to a room in Sin City's shittier hotels, for the fourth annual Viva Las Vegas. And except for Viva Las Vegas, it was a swell time indeed!

The problem wasn't the music—except for the occasional set by Germany's Lucky 13, it was excellent —or the way promoter Tom Ingram ran his rockabilly festival. Lines ran smoothly, which is pretty much the apotheosis of good festival planning. There was no frowning Hootenanny Gate Nazi to block the way; instead, there was pretty Suzanne Hawkins (grown-up daughter of Greg the Fireman's colleague at the Hermosa Beach Fire Department), smiling and handing out wristbands. Even United Airlines was going with the program: my flight arrived 25 minutes early, and they let us off the plane right away instead of making us sweat on the runway, carry-on luggage at the ready in our hot little hands. (The flight was 20 minutes early on the way home, too—on United!—and my brain was dangerously close to exploding from the cognitive dissonance of it all.) The scene over at the Orleans, where vendors of vintagewear had set up in the Bienville Room, was friendly and relaxed. Dave "The Chairman" Mau, Pauly with the big mustaches, and La Femme Cassandra manned the Linda's Doll Hut booth (Linda Jemison herself was mostly busy availing herself of the Jacuzzi-jet tub in her room) while Goldenvoice's Bill Hardie; his pretty wife, Michelle; and their good baby, Hannah, chatted from the table next door—not drinking. The Frenchmen at the booth across the aisle gave massages on Linda's merch table. And did I mention there are cup holders in the toilet stalls?

But I've said it before, and I'll say it again now, if only to save myself the grim burden of original thought: with the lone exception of a Delta Gamma party, the rockabilly scene is as exclusionarily high school as they come. It just wasn't any fun doing perimeter checks through the casino at the seen-better-days Gold Coast (site of the convention), where the music was jumping and dreams go to die. I swear, it was like Reno in there, with all the seniors hobbling to the Video Poker machines, Pall Malls dangling from their gnarled fingers and big-lipsticked mouths.

But the oldsters weren't the problem, and by Friday, when the greasers moved through the aisles like fat through George Argyros' arteries, les anciens had retreated to midnight at a different oasis anyway. The soul-sucking sadness of the whole thing was the overwhelming feeling of being judged (and found not just lacking but also irrelevant) at every step through the casino's smoke. My hair wasn't right: it was Big Vegas instead of sleek Bettie Page. I wasn't wearing a pretty vintage dress or the right pants. My whole life is not wrapped up with which car show I will attend this weekend. I am not a slave, happy in my captivity.

Nor was I being overly sensitive. I heard girls comment incessantly on the parade passing by—a parade that included a glad-handing Big Sandy; a happy Pedro the Hairdresser; and bouncing at the show, none other than Alex (of Alex's Barfly), such a gentle bruiser. And while the girls watching the pomade promenade were often complimentary ("Oooh, her dress is beautiful!"), nothing was getting past their eagle eyes, right down to the kind of underwear girls were sporting beneath their pedal pushers. Others who attended, like former pro skater and fabulous dancer Li'l Mikey Folmer, said the same thing. He had just arrived and was wearing jeans and tennis shoes when a friend chastised him. "Dude, you should be wearing your best gabardines!" his friend instructed Mikey.

Fuck that. Last time he was here, his best jacket got stolen. I haven't seen a scene based so narrowly on looking like everyone else since last time I was at a Black Flys party in Huntington Beach.

The less time I spent in the mix, the happier I was. I headed down to The Strip, where the casinos took a lot longer to take my money than the tables at the Orleans and the Gold Coast. At least they gave the impression of a sporting chance, despite the fact that they built their Taj Mahals on all the winners who've come to chase bad money with good over the years. At Paris (the only casino as pretty—and just plain pleasant—on the inside as it is majestic on the outside. Everywhere else was magnificently built, but once you hit the air conditioning, all you could see was the ugliness of the carpets, each more shockingly hideous than the last), I was hitting ace/deuces and yos (11 to 1) left and right, plus a couple of high/lows (31 to 1), which looked really cool and made everyone jealous.

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But the most important attribute of a good craps table, obviously, is the sex appeal of the dealers. Those at the hotels off the Strip (Gold Coast, Orleans and the Rio) are nice but not that pretty. The dealers at the Rio wear ugly shirts and have Tom Selleck mustaches, but down at Caesar's (on the Strip) the dealers look like Ray Liotta—if you like that kind of thing. And let's face it, I do like that kind of thing.

But then I'd start feeling guilty —I was, um, working, after all, and was supposed to be getting snubbed by the rockabillies at the Gold Coast, not having fun by myself down on the Strip—so I would head back to the Show, where I chased bad money with good and helped build another Taj Mahal. With the craps needle in my arm, I made like the boys of Peepshot before me and got another free $40 beer.

Final score: Vegas, $250. Commie Girl, a bit short on the rent. Yo!

Momma needs a new pair of shoes!

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