Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: las vegas (page 1 of 2)

Thoughts On An Important 50th Anniversary

ONE

There’s a first time for everything, the praying mantis said to his new bride, and she smiled.

TWO

The great ones have eras. Sinatra had the Teenybopper years, and the Rat Pack, and Bored, Old, Mean Frank. Madonna was a Boy Toy, and then the Material Girl, and is now Crazy Aunt. Mohammad Ali: His mama called him Clay; No Viet Cong ever called me n—-r; ALI BOOM-AH-YAY; a shaky finish.Even the bush league ones have eras. Baby Dead, Keith Dead, Brent Dead, Sad Dead. The last chapter’s always the same.

Elvis had Vegas.

The first era was Tupelo Elvis. Truck-drivin’, hip-swivelin’, mama-lovin’ Elvis with his two goober buddies on guitar and bass behind him, atop a flatbed truck at the county fair, captured in black-and white. Resetting his leg after he boogedy-shooped his way down the stage. The Elvis whose crotch was a danger to teevee audiences, possibly democracy itself. The Elvis about whom 50 million fans weren’t incorrect regarding. Tupelo Elvis still lived with his mother.

Army Elvis buried his mother. Army Elvis also met Charlie Hodge, who would thereafter procure for him both scarves and water,

Hollywood Elvis was next. Let’s play a game. I’m gonna ask you a question, and you’re not going to look it up. No googling. Follow the tenets of Without Research. Here we go:

How many movies did Elvis star in?

Wait! I didn’t give you the time frame. 1960-1969. Honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant in 1960, donned the jumpsuit and cape in 1969. How many movies did Hollywood Elvis make?

No, you’re wrong. Guess again.

Stop guessing. 27. Twenty-seven. 3^3. Two-and-a-quarter dozen. Hollywood spat out 27 Elvis movies in a decade; there aren’t 27 Godzilla movies in total. In the 60’s, Elvis movies came out on the same schedule as Marvel movies do today. All the same thing: Elvis tries real hard to deliver his lines like a big boy, and then he sings, and there’s a girl. Give him credit: the King tried, real early on, to make serious pictures. To get his teeth into a real character. To act, man. The craft, maaaaaan. Elvis made Flaming Star–he was a half-Kiowa rancher torn between love and country, or something like that–and he made Wild In The Country, which was written by Clifford Odets; nothing begs “Please take me seriously” more than letting Clifford Odets write your script.

“Oh, no,” the Audience responded. “This is not the Elvis for us. This is not our preferred Elvis. Bring back the one who sings and dances.”

Blue Hawaii was his next movie. The King saw as true and beautiful what the Audience had declared: they could never see him as anyone but himself. He was singular in their eyes. How could Elvis hide beneath a bushel? Let Tony Curtis do all the acting. Elvis must be Elvis.

Sometimes, Elvis was a stuntman. I think he was a professional water-skier once. He raced cars in at least several films. Carnivals, rodeos. All kinds of manly shit. And Elvis is always in a band so that he could serenade the girl. The rest of the run-time was taken up by rear-projectioned action scenes and light comedy.

After some years of this, the King became bored with being a movie star, and wanted to go back to being a rockyroll star. Did his ennui begin around 1967’s Clambake? I would imagine his feelings of frustration began earlier, but were crystallized upon production of Clambake. There’s no way Elvis didn’t pitch a fit upon initial receipt of the script.

“CLAMBAKE? WHAT IS THIS SHIT? JOE ESPOSITO, TELL ME AH AIN’ CRAZY!”

And then the black leather suit, the teevee special.

THREE

The mob built Las Vegas, but did not control it for that long at all. The city made too much money for the honest businessmen not to steal it from them. Big money always wins, even when the big money is pissing in jars and cosseting itself with Mormons and buying the local teevee station so it’ll play your favorite movies late at night. (That last one sounds pretty cool, actually.) If nutty Hughes could make bank in Vegas, than so could any half-bright fink with deep pockets.

Kirk Kerorkian was that fink. He built this:

FUN FACT: That’s Pauly Shore’s dad!

FACT FACT: You literally never have to stop playing baccarat.

“The baccarat, my sister, does e’er it cease?”

“Blessed one, no, it does not. The baccarat gallops on like time THE BACCARAT CANNOT BE BROKEN!”

And so on. It was at the time the largest hotel in the world, and the theme was international, because the name was the International, and so there was all variety of foreign bullshit everywhere. Henry the VIII furniture on top of rugs woven by sherpas who had become scared of heights. Tons of African masks. Lederhosen nailed to the walls of the elevators. Real classy joint. But it was not on the strip, and so needed a greater draw than the other casinos; the enticement would be the entertainment. Liberace! The Coz! Ann Margaret! (And you know Ann Margaret put on a high-energy show.) And the King.

Elvis was not the showroom’s first headliner when it opened in 1969; Colonel Parker would not allow that. His boy was the star, let someone else do the soundcheck. Booked to inaugurate the room was Barbra Streisand, whom the gentile crowds did not appreciate. The building having been shaken down, the King entered. This was to be his West Coast Graceland, his seat of power in the scorching desert beyond the mountains. This was a fine land to rule, the King thought. It is suitable for my guests, who are high-toned kind of people, and deserve luxury and comfort.

FOUR

Million dollars. Twice a year, summer and the holidays. Four weeks. Two shows a night. Elvis did ’em straight through, too. The International Theater did not go dark on Mondays when the King was in residence. That first engagement in 1969? He did 57 shows in a row. Now, Elvis only did an hour and change, so perhaps we can liken each show to one of the Dead’s individual sets; thus, we can equate his contracted run to 28 Dead shows. The Grateful Dead would have openly and violently revolted had they been scheduled to perform for 28 nights in a row. At least two members would have simply stormed off somewhere around day 11.

Elvis was a working man.

FIVE

It wasn’t a rock concert. Your ticket didn’t buy you a seat; it allowed you entrance to the showroom. You were assigned placement by a maitre d’,  who needed to be bribed. The eight o’clock show was the dinner show. Food was served while the King sang, and displayed karate. Can you imagine such impertinence? Slurping spaghetti in his presence. While the man is singing to you about the ghetto, among other subjects. Fuckin’ disrespectful, that’s what the dinner show was.

SIX

1969 was not Elvis’ first engagement in Las Vegas. There was a misbegotten booking much earlier in his career, when he was a different man and it was a different town. He appeared at the New Frontier alongside Shecky Greene and a pared-down version of Oklahoma. The crowd was older, and had dibs on sophistication, and so sniffed at the youth. He was uncouth, that youth. That redneckery was not going down in ’56 Vegas. The Audience wanted Xavier Cugat and an end to the Missile Gap.

The reviews were poor, and the crowds unreceptive, but Elvis used his time in town to befriend Liberace.

SEVEN

The big stars came out for Elvis. Nowadays, big stars hang out backstage or in VIP, but big stars would sit at tables just like they people at Elvis’ shows. He’d introduce them from the stage.

“STAN’UP, CAROL CHANNING! EV’RYBODY SAY HELLO T’ DOLLY! THASS CAROL CHANNING RIGHT THERE!”

It was an event, the ’69 run. It was glamorous, and so attracted the big stars. Sinatra didn’t go, because Sinatra was an asshole, but Sammy Junior Davis was in a booth making sure the whole room saw him being present. Cary Grant, and two of the three Catwomen from the Batman teevee show, and Tom Jones. Mac Davis. There were writers, who planned on writing things, and reporters, who planned on reporting on things.

Stonewall was a month before, and the moon just two weeks. Woodstock would be several weeks after.

EIGHT

Whether or not Elvis founded the city of Las Vegas depends on if you put your stock in history or historicity. It is believed by some that the King erected the first city walls, or at least had Sonny and Red do it.

NINE

The first band was two pieces. Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on upright bass. You could fit the whole touring group in one Cadillac. Not so much for the Vegas band:

“AH TRAVEL HEAVY!”

We see that. This is ’69, and Elvis had not quite figured out his presentation yet. The iconic jumpsuit would not appear until 1970, along with a fancier set, a new piano player, and the legendary Also Sprach Zarathrusta  theme he stole from Stanley Kubrick. (You know that’s what happened. Elvis rented out the local theater so he and his slackjawed buddies could watch 2001 at three in the morning, and when the tune played he said, “THATSS GONNA BE MAH WALK-OUT MUSIC. THEM KETTLE DRUMS GONNA HERALD MAH ARRIVAL.”)

James Burton has the telecaster, and rhythm guitarist John Wilkinson is next to him. Piano player is Larry Muhoberac. Jerry Scheff on bass. You know Hard-Hitting Ronnie Tutt. Behind them is Buddy Morris and the Buddy Morris Orchestra. At stage left are the Sweet Inspirations, one of whom was Whitney Houston’s mother, and behind them–out of frame–are the Imperials. On the acoustic guitar which was never plugged in is Charlie Hodge. Charlie also snag backup, and fetched scarves and water.

It was a fine band.

This is from that opening run. It was a fine band, and Ronnie Tutt surely is due a place in the heavens of all theologies for his playing here. He was a nuclear reactor, he was a fierce attractor, he every drum at once on every single beat; it worked well. Ronnie Tutt eyed the King like a border collie. Never distracted. Keep your eye in, Ronnie Tutt. And when there was karate, it was accented.

It was a fine band.

TEN

Go buy this book.

ELEVEN

Is he not everywhere?
Is he not everything?
Is he not everybody?
Is he not still the King?

Zucchetto Trick

Hey, Pope Francis! Haven’t seen you in a while. How you doing?

“Is all-a good. Woke up with-a da health. Said-a da prayers. Maybe gonna rain dis afternoon, but-a maybe not. I can’t-a complain.”

You have a good outlook on life, Your Holiness.

“Is all-a da Jesus. Bad day? That’s-a on me.”

Sure. That’s a nice Golden Knights jersey. Are you a hockey fan?

“Is-a jersey? Dis-a guy keeps-a calling it a sweater.”

That’s a hockey thing. Or a Canadian thing. Although, a “hockey thing” and a “Canadian thing” are kinda the same thing.

“They’re-a proud of their game.”

Oh, yeah.

“Is-a not for me. I-a grew up in-a da Argentina. Not-a da hotbed of winter sports.”

And I don’t suppose you’ve ever been to Las Vegas.

“No, no. Is-a da Sodom. Or-a da Gomorrah. Unlimited shrimp in-a da desert? Is unholy.”

I can’t argue with that.

“When-a da Jesus come back? Vegas is-a da first place to go.”

What’s second?

“Philly.”

They deserve it.

“Si, si.”

Thoughts And Prayers At The Lapin Agile

“Hey, Thoughts!”

“Prayers! Get over here, you mug.”

HUGGING NOISE

“Man, we’re seeing a lot of each other lately.”

“I’ve spent more time with you this year than I have with my wife.”

“How is Best Wishes?”

“She’s really suffering from the Munchausen-by-proxy. Well, she isn’t suffering. The kids are. But, still: terrible.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“What are you gonna do? I guess we should get to work, huh?”

“Nothing’s gonna get done without Thoughts and Prayers.”

“This is our biggest job in a while.”

“So sad, Thoughts.”

“It is, Prayers. And that’s why these people need us so badly. Nothing heals a broken heart like Thoughts and Prayers.”

“Most of these folks have gunshot wounds, though. Do we heal those?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

“But don’t let that distract you. We have a job to do.”

“Uh-huh. What is our job, Thoughts?”

“We get sent.”

“Like mail?”

“No, not really. Not like mail. Mail’s a tangible thing.”

“So, um, like a message? Like, Randolph tells Klaus to tell Marguerite to go fuck herself?”

“Not quite like that, either. A message has a specific recipient and may alter behavior. We’re more diffuse.”

“Okay. So, what is our actual job?”

“I’ve told you that: we get sent.”

“And then what?”

“And then nothing. That’s all there is to it.”

“We’re not actually doing anything, are we?”

“Not with that attitude.”

“I’m just saying what if instead of sending us, people did something. You know: committed an action.”

COLLAR-GRABBING NOISE

“Okay, listen here you little shit. This is the best gig I’ve ever had and you will not fuck this up for me. I have a mortgage, motherfucker.”

“Let me go.”

COLLAR-RELEASING NOISE

“You’re a dick.”

“I’m a dick with a good thing going, and so are you, bucko. Stay on the reservation. I can do this job on my own.”

“Really? You think people are just gonna send thoughts? Fuck that. I’m the headliner here. You’re nothing without me, asshole.”

“Bullshit.”

“You’re Andrew Ridgeley, buddy.”

“FUCK YOU, PRAYERS!”

“SUCK MY BALLS, THOUGHTS!”

CONCEPTS HAVING A SLAP FIGHT NOISE

“Are you done?”

“Yes. Are you?”

“Yes. Check your Twitter.”

“Ooh, Rhianna just sent us to Vegas.”

“Vegas, baby.”

Fourteen Thoughts

ONE

Dancing With The Stars was on tonight. I’m not a regular viewer, but I caught the first few minutes. The host is a man named Tom Bergeron; he looks like a model from the 1979 Sears catalog; he was born with sincere eyes. Tom looked right into the camera, right at me, and he asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the most recent massacre. The lights in the studio dimmed for a second, two, three, and then they came back up and Terrell Owens and Frankie Muniz jitterbugged to Everybody Dance Now. Frankie was wearing double denim that had undergone bedazzling.

C’mon out here, Frankie, and show ’em what they’re fighting for.

TWO

Tom Petty just got off tour. Big one. 40th anniversary for him and the Heartbreakers. They played baseball stadiums, Wrigley and Coors Field, and the world-famous Hollywood Bowl. After the news of the day cleared out from the trending list on Twitter–real late at night–his name would pop up. The shows were all sold out, and Tom Petty played all his hits. Folks would post videos. They were invariably Free Fallin’. Every man, woman, and child in those stadiums would sing along in the chorus. The part where it jumps up an octave. A lot of things made that song a hit, but the bit where it jumps that octave is the true hook.

THREE

The stage where Jason Aldean was performing, closing out the festival at around ten pm, is 400 yards from the Mandalay Bay. The room the shooter had chosen for his blind was on the 32nd floor. This means that the distance from the window to the crowd is over 1200 feet. Around a quarter of a mile. At that distance, faces cannot be made out with the naked eye even in daylight. Just shapes. Human silhouettes.

Just like at the range.

FOUR

Go and fetch a pen. Your favorite, the one that writes so smooth. Pad, too. If you don’t have a pad, use an unpaid gas bill. I’ll wait.

You ready? Good.

Write an opening line this good:

She was an American girl;
Raised on promises.

You’ll run out of ink before you do.

FIVE

In the doctor’s office this afternoon, MSNBC was playing; I’m not a regular viewer. Brian Williams was speaking. They let him do that, for some reason. He had a man from some sort of security consulting firm on, one of those companies with the vaguely threatening names. Brian asked what was to be done, and the man began speaking about the need to harden soft targets. I put in my headphones and listened to the Hold Steady. There was a magazine with an Audi on the cover, and I looked at that.

SIX

I kept hearing the shooter’s name as Tom Stoppard, and wondering how tough the life of a playwright must be.

SEVEN

Tom Petty made driving music. Songs for an American highway. Driving music needs a particular tempo: too slow and you’re causing traffic jams, but too fast and the law will take an interest. Driving songs don’t need speed, just momentum. Forward thrust. Put on any Tom Petty record and your window will roll itself down.

EIGHT

The initial burst from the shooter’s automatic weapon was nine seconds long. Close your eyes and count off nine seconds. One Mississippi, etc. Close your eyes and count off nine seconds. I’ll do it with you.

It was longer than you thought it would be, wasn’t it?

NINE

As I write this, 59 are dead. More will die, but right now the toll stands at 59. An NFL roster is 54 people. It is the worst massacre in modern history, beating the previous massacre by 9 corpses. The previous massacre was last year. We do not count historical massacres, as they were more complicated than we’d prefer. These new massacres are simple. They are just like the superhero movies everyone loves.

A very special man uses force to change the world. He succeeds, temporarily, but by the mid-credit scene everything is back to the status quo.

TEN

#VEGASSTRONG

Ah, go fuck yourself.

ELEVEN

Classical physics deals with position. A physical object occupies one at a time. Quantum physics disagrees, as quantum physics is an inherently belligerent science. Objects cannot be said to occupy any position with certainty until they’re pinned like butterflies by an observer’s eyeball. Nothing’s here, and nothing’s there; particles have a 50% chance of being here, and a 30% chance of being there, and a 10% chance of being there, and it continues on asymptotically. This is called superpositionality.

Tom Petty was superpositional today.

TWELVE

Will he pick a fight with a survivor or a bereaved family member? He will make this worse.

THIRTEEN

Tom Petty was born in the panhandle of Florida and had a massive heart attack in Malibu. I cannot think of a more American sentence.

FOURTEEN

59 people were murdered and 527 injured at a country-music concert last night by a stranger with a machine gun. I thought of a more American sentence.

Hey, That Guy Stole Josh Mayer’s Outfit

Hey, Bobby. Whatcha doing?

“Karate time.”

Oh, goddammit.

“He’s not here.”

Phew.

“Yet.”

Oh, sure. Can’t have a summer tour without Elvis showing up for some reason. Bobby?

“Uh-huh?”

Why does it look like you’re playing in a Sam Ash?

“The lack of presentation.”

I’m just saying that at this point, it’s almost a hassle to be this bush league.

“Well, you know: the fans expect a pretty high level of not-giving-a-fuck.”

True.

“Deadheads come to the show and there’s not road cases strewn all over the place lazily, then they feel cheated.”

Give the people what they want.

“Unless they want money.”

Yeah, sure.

“It works the other way. They give us the money.”

And then someone steals it from you.

“Right. It’s a system.”

If it never quite worked in the first place, don’t fix it.

“Exactly.”

Billy’s Back, And There’s Gonna Be Trouble

“Thoughts on my Ass!”

Hey, Billy.

“Summer!”

You look happy.

“Course. Looking at the kid.”

Oh, that’s nice. You two have developed a friendship.

“Nah, fuck that. Every time I see him, I get an enormous check.”

Right.

“And usually a tugger. Not from him, but once from him. Didn’t like it. Kid’s got some paws on him. Made my drumstick look like a chopstick.”

I’m so glad tour has started.

“Here’s some advice: if you wanna think your cock is huge, get a midget to stroke you off.”

Can we talk about anything else?

“We’ve talked about money and skank. What else is there?”

Music?

“Hold on.”

THUMP-THWACK

“Okay. What?”

What was that?

“We’re in the middle of a song.”

I don’t get it.

“Tempos are so slow that I only have to hit my drums, like, once every 20 seconds.”

Ah.

“Sometimes I run down to the casino between beats and make a bet or two.”

What game do you play?

“No game. The bet is how long I can wander around with my dick out before security tosses me.”

Do you win?

“Of course. Everyone has to look at my dick. That’s a solid victory.”

Nice to have you back, Billy.

“Yeah, I’m the shit.”

The Return Of Josh Meyers

Ah, Christ.

“Heeeey, buddy.”

Summer kinda snuck up on me. Thought I had at least another Mayer-free month.

“Nah. I’m in the house. Summer of Douche!”

Fuck.

“You have no idea how many celebrity friends I’m gonna take selfies with, and the ridiculous interviews I’m gonna do, and OH MY GOD am I gonna Snapchat the fuck out of this tour. Got my outfits lined up. You and me, buddy.”

CELL PHONE NOISE

“I hate you.”

Yeah, yeah.

“John Mayer here.”

“I got celebrity friend, too, Hot Dog Dick.”

“Fuck.”

“Obama.”

“That is not President Obama.”

“You no recognize because he wear sunglasses. Is Obama.”

“I don’t want to go through another summer of this, and quite frankly I don’t think the readers want to, either.”

“Why you not in Jewish propaganda?”

“What?”

“Movie. Very long. Band plays song for hours and do drugs and die. You in band. Why you not in Jewish movie?”

“I think you’re talking about Long Strange Trip, and I also think I’m just going to ignore this entire line of inquiry.”

“Was good movie for Jewish movie.”

“Please stop.”

“Hot Dog Dick getting wrinkles in forehead.”

“I could pass for 36.”

“Oh, nooooo. White people show age. Is like white car. See dirt faster.”

“I’m gonna hang up on you.”

“Is okay. I got Obama now.”

“Not Obama.”

“We have all summer.”

“Motherfucker.”

DIAL TONE NOISE EVEN THOUGH PHONES NO LONGER DO THAT

“What did I ever do to you?”

Besides the video with the pandas?

“Besides that.”

I’ll think of something. We got all summer, pretty boy.

“Fuuuuuuck.”

Separate, But Unequal

2017 and we’re still dealing with this kind of racism.

Excuse me?

The non-whites get segregated. That is the textbook definition of racism.

Jeff Chimenti is white.

Italians are white now? What next, the Irish?

You gonna be like this all night?

Yup.

Okay. Hold on.

Ahem: ERDOGAN CAN SUCK MY ASSHOLE.

RUNRUNRUN

WHOMP

WHOMP

WHOMP

WHOMPWHOMPWHOMP

Did you just deliberately get beaten to death by Turkish security goons?

Yes.

Okay.

They’re A Bag Of Nerves On First Nights

Summer’s here, Enthusiasts, and the time is right for sitting on your couch. I’m doing couch tour at my desk, but that’s because I’m a rebel.

Bunch of streams here, and the show starts when the show starts. Pop your corn, why don’t you?

Not Cool, People

SO not cool. It is wrong to do this, and it will be wrong to do this for the entire summer and send me the pictures so I can make fun of Bobby’s nipples. WRONG.

Wink.

Did you just write “wink?”

I wasn’t sure my sarcasm was translating.

It is indeed getting tougher and tougher to tell lately.

Yup.

Is that a mini-fridge sitting on the pool deck of the MGM Grand?

Yes.

Rich people get pool-fridges?

Apparently.

Damn.

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