All You Need Is Cash

las_vegas.jpgDirty Disneyland.

The real Sin City.

A town without ballast.

Lost Wages, er, Las Vegas.

An effigy like this could only exist in America.

Remember the Hall & Oates song “Las Vegas Turnaround” from their 1972 classic Abandoned Luncheonette?

“Sarah’s off on a turnaround/Flying gambling fools to the holy land Las Vegas…”

Lucky for me I’m not one of those fools. Richard and I were getting paid to lecture about the merits of podcasting, iTV, and the convergence of new media at NAB (National Association of Pod, er Broadcasters).

We’d brought the gear along in case we happened upon a CC-worthy interview.

I wasn’t feeling optimistic with our chances until Richard reminded me that we’d lobbied hard to get press passes -- and an interview with Sir George Martin -- for The Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil back in December. Of course! Cirque du Soleil. That franchised classy art-circus (four shows in Vegas alone) from Montreal. One of the few bright spots gleaming amongst the faux marble statues, columns, and perpetual indoor sunlight in the desert. (That, and Prince’s weekend-only show at the Rio.) It could only exist here because it wouldn’t work in Branson, Missouri. Or New York, not that Broadway could ever afford it unless they built out a permanent theater.

I started working the CC press angle immediately and before you could scream “helter skelter” I’d secured two tickets and an interview the day after with Gavin Whiteley. But before relaxing on Penny Lane, we had to do our due diligence at the NAB. Damn, we still had two lectures/sessions on Saturday before we could kick back on Sunday.

Sunny Sunday afternoon. Richard’s changing hotel rooms, so I contemplate a stroll in real sun-in-the-sky sunlight. The Bellagio looms across from me, the fountain display like a computer-generated Esther Williams-geyser. The Paris and Eiffel Tower next to me. Fear and loathing is creeping up on me.

Everything looks so close, these mountainous gamblers’ monoliths. Should I walk to the Mirage or cab it? I lace up my sneakers and decide to collect my Love tickets on foot. On my hustle, sidestepping strollers, and Japanese tourists snapping photos of every faux façade/Eiffel Tower/New York cityscape/fountain/etc. you can imagine. I duck into Caesar’s Palace to shortcut. But there’s no shortcut and I soon find myself lost in its circular retail nightmare. Every mall shop USA plus some high-end retailers blur together as I search the horizon for an easy exit. Dead end after dead end, my pulse racing, my vision blurring into the fabric of this crazed surreal world. I spy an Elton John swag shop with the promise of a nearby exit.

cirque_love.jpg

I see daylight, real daylight, and I know that I’m close to finding the real exit. And when I do, I feel a rush of earthly delight. I’m in real time again. Not Vegas time, where every casino and indoor passageway is painted with a faux daylight ceiling as though it was perpetually 4 PM and not the real time.

I find a driveway and then hustle through the maze of the Mirage and make my way to the box office. I secure my tickets and then get sucked into the Beatles’ retail shop next to the box office/theater entrance. No! I can find any of these items in New York, I tell myself. But it’s no use fighting it. I’m stuck in a moment in time when my youth rushes back to me. When I first heard the Beatles in grade school and I knew that my life would forever be changed by rock and roll. I bathe myself in all that is Beatles and ponder my purchase. Should I buy something for the kids? For my wife? For myself? I’m in the land of hi-rollers. I need to drop some cash, fast. Yeah, the whole family. Why not? I’m in Sgt. Pepperland. And I got money to burn...

I call Richard to meet me post-haste so he too can bathe in this youth-affirming ritual. He does. After wandering over to the Wynn for a late lunch, we roam the vacuous streets of Vegas looking for the spirit of America. It was not to be found. But the streets were packed with tourists from all over the globe looking to risk part of their “nest egg” (thanks, Albert Brooks) to potentially win the American dream.

We would eventually make our way back to the theater and take in the spectacle. And what a theater it is, in the round, with speakers built into every seat as well as speakers and multi-media screens/scrims everywhere. It only took the Mirage and company two years and $150 million to get it up and running. (To think that this extraordinary theater once housed Siegfried & Roy's long-running show.)

“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream…”

Yes, Cirque-founder Guy Laliberté and his forward-thinking troupe of merry pranksters –- and The Beatles franchise, of course -- have created one of the greatest multimedia/circus/acrobatic/audio/visual sensory smorgasbords you will ever see me/feel me/hear me. And even if you despise the “what-happens-here-stays-here” mantra of Vegas, this show is worth the road trip. It’s that good. (Look for our behind-the-scenes video podcast very soon.)

I will not offer my critique of the show, because I truly believe that one cannot take it all in seeing it just once. If you've never experienced any Cirque shows - and I have - you'll be awe. Adding The Beatles to the mix only heightens the experience 100 times. Critics have flung deserved praise at it. The Toronto Star proclaimed, “It’s a Magical Mystery Tour you’ll never forget.” I, myself, plan to see it again, risking the family nest egg and all.

“Roll up/Roll up for the mystery tour…”

Converge.

Dusty

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Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at the William Morris Agency!

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