I’ve been to Las Vegas three times. Once to get married; once to try and sell a television show and now, to interview Nightmare on Elm Street baddie Freddy Kruger. The movie is called Freddy Vs Jason, and in an effort create a buzz around the film’s August 15th opening, New Line Cinema has invited the press and a few dozen radio contest winners to Bally’s Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard to attend a press conference followed by press one-on-one interviews with the characters. To be clear, I will not be interviewing Robert Eglund or Ken Kerzinger, the actors who play Freddy and Jason, rather I will be interviewing them in character as Freddy and Jason. It’s a cute idea, but remember, Jason doesn’t speak… this is going to be a challenge. I hope this trip to Vegas is more successful than my previous ones.
On my flight to Vegas I got bumped up to first class. Thanks Air Canada! The food was tasty up in the pointy-end of the plane. I had a salad course with a spinach pie, Edam cheese and grapes, followed by broiled chicken with broccoli with a light peach cheesecake for dessert. Thanks Air Canada! I hope you don’t go out of business.
I arrived at McCannan airport exactly on time after a four-hour flight from Toronto.
When I arrive it’s noon – the hottest time of the day – and I have to wait outside for a cab. A digital sign nearby reads 115 degrees. Later I find out that the high for the day was 128 degrees. I don’tknow if you have ever experienced that kind of heat, but when the hot breeze picks up it feels like Satan himself is breathing on you.
Like everything in Vegas, Bally’s Hotel is huge –five restaurants, hundreds of slot machines and almost three thousand guest rooms. That’s enough guest rooms so that every man, woman and child in the small town that I grew up in could have their own room. Park Place Entertainment, the company that owns Bally’s also owns Caesars, Paris and a number of other hotels in Vegas and across the world. In Vegas alone they offer up over 14, 600 rooms.
At least it is nice and cool inside. The air con bill must be astronomical… you can almost see your breath in the casino.
My room is large with a king size bed, a giant blue velvet sofa and a floor to ceiling window that runs the length of the room. Too bad it overlooks the hotel’s giant air conditioning units. Stuck in the window is a small sign warning that it is moth season. “Swarms of moths flying around the building are attracted by the lights…” Vegas is the “brightest” city in the States. There are lights everywhere – bright neon, flashing bulbs, 80 foot tall lit up signs – no wonder there are clouds of nasty moths attacking the city and the hapless tourists who are foolish enough to open their windows.
The interviews are on Tuesday so I have Monday to wander around and get acquainted with the Vegas strip. I’m glad to have some down time. We’ve been busy lately with screenings and in the last couple of days I have had to interview Peta Wilson (from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), cover the Toronto Trek, a science fiction convention, tape interviews with the stars of the television show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Gil Gerard, Erin Gray and Felix Silla and Buffy the Vampire Slayer actor Anthony Stewart Head. When I insisted on calling him Anthony Michael Hall, I knew I needed a break. Vegas came along at the right time. I’m reminded of the Hunter S. Thompson quote from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas… “Every now and again when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is top load up on heinous chemicals and drive like a [email protected]&(%@$ from Hollywood to Las Vegas…” OK I didn’t load up on heinous chemicals, and I flew rather than drove, but you get the idea.
There is something about Vegas that makes me feel excessive. I want to wear shiny shirts and tip cocktail waitresses crisp fifty-dollar bills. I want to drink champagne and take Jacuzzis. Ride in limos and bet everything I own on a roll of the dice. In short, I want to behave like Robert Evans every time I come here.
I manage to keep those dark impulses under wraps, and spend the next few hours walking around. Vegas is like no other place I have ever been. At Harrah’s I see an eighty-year-old woman wearing black leather gloves playing two slot machines at the same time. There is a blank look on her face, and while she is playing a game, she doesn’t really seem to be having any fun. I wonder to myself how often she sits there, all alone, gambling. Later I see a man the size of a Coke machine teaching his nine-year-old son how to play slots on a miniature toy machine. I start to feel kind of numb, with the strange sights and the constant clanging of the machines dulling my senses.
I don’t feel so much like Robert Evans anymore. I think of Fear and Loathing again, this time a quote from the movie. “What was I doing here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was I just roaming around in a drug frenzy of some kind? Or had I really come out here to Las Vegas to work on a story? Who are these people, these faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used car dealers from Dallas, and sweet Jesus, there were a hell of a lot of them at 4:30 on a Sunday morning, still humping the American dream, that vision of the big winner somehow emerging from the last minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.”
I need to get away from the throngs of slot-crazed tourists. What better way to ditch the crowds in Vegas than to seek out something cultural? Sure enough, I made my way over to the Venetian Hotel, a massive place with canals running through it that is supposed to replicate Venice. It does a pretty good job, all that’s missing is the smell of the real Venice and the pushy Europeans… I make my way to the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, located deep inside the hotel. As I suspected it is a vast wasteland, there isn’t a soul inside, despite the crowds that are hanging around the casino and shopping areas. I spend an hour or so looking at the American Pop Icons exhibit, undisturbed by @#@#$. (Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Rauschenburg and Warhol)
I’m meeting some friends who are coming in from Austin, Texas. They arrive at 10 pm, and I meet them at the front desk. My friend Teri checks in, and gets a room on the 73rd floor. I help her up to her room with her bags. We open the door and are greeted by a long marble foyer. There is an echo when we speak. We continue through the foyer and into the room. All of a sudden my room doesn’t seems so big. As we step into her sunken living room we are blown away by the view just outside the picture windows. We can see the dancing fountains at the Bellagio and the Eiffle Tower that stands in front of Paris, Las Vegas. Wow. We turn around… there is a Jacuzzi, a shower stall the size of my apartment in Toronto and gold fixtures everywhere. We nickname it the Frank Sinatra Suite, and all of a sudden the excessive Vegas fever hits me again.
Before I can get into too much trouble I go back to my (tiny) suite and go to bed. Vegas will have to wait to see my Robert Evans impression…
Tuesday July 15, 2003
Up early. First up today is an event at the Jubilee Room downstairs in the casino. It is usually the home of an old-style Vegas show, complete with showgirls and loads of glitz and glamour. In fact, when the clothing designers were making the costumes for the show, they used so many sequins, that they caused a worldwide shortage. Apparently there are over 8000 feet of sequins on display. I don’t think there will be much in the way of sequins today. I’m here to see a mock conference between Freddy and Jason, where they will face off against one another.
The theatre is big… no surprise there. According to the hotel’s press info the stage is half the size of a football field. Should give Freddy and Jason lots of room to tussle.