Despite my affinity for the song*, few of the lyrics to “Viva Las Vegas” apply to my recent trip to Sin City.
I gambled, not at all. Of the thousand pretty women, I only saw a few fairly attractive faux show girls working their “Pictures with a Show Girl” schtick on the Strip. The neon flashing and the one-armed bandits crashing have even been mostly replaced with LED screens and push buttons. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a “swinging” time, it just means that Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman didn’t take into account going to Las Vegas to see magic.
For someone who’s lived in Phoenix for nearly 20 year and wrote a book partially set in Las Vegas**, this trip was rather overdue. Since Eric and I are both retired/taking a break from ultimate frisbee tournaments this year, we decided to I should plan a trip to Vegas if I could catch when Penn & Teller: Fool Us was taping. As soon as I heard, I checked out hotel prices. The cheapest (that day) was at the Luxor.
What I really didn’t realize about the Luxor is that the pyramid part is hollow. That’s how it gets the world record for largest atrium by volume: 29 million cubic feet. It’s impressive. All the hotel rooms in the pyramid part are on the “crust.” That’s where we stayed. The pyramid rooms are also on the older side. That’s okay, the sloping window on one side of the room was cool, though the diagonal elevators were disconcerting. The Luxor is also near the bottom of the Strip—everything I wanted to see what nearer the north end of the Strip. Next time, I’ll plan a little better.
Monday: Penn & Teller: Fool Us
We drove from Tempe to Las Vegas on Monday morning/afternoon. It’s about a five hour trip, which went fine. We checked in to the Luxor at about 3pm. That happens to be check-in time. To get our room there was a line to rival many airport checkins and lesser Comic Con panels. With some time to spare, Eric and I walked around the connected Mandalay Bay and Excalibur hotel/casinos and had dinner at an unimpressive Irish pub-style restaurant.
The crux of the trip was to watch a taping of the TV show Penn & Teller: Fool Us. Tapings are free. Of course, you don’t quite know what you’re going to get. I can’t write too much about the acts we saw because I signed a nondisclosure agreement on the way in, but I can say that we waited in another pretty long line, sat three rows from the stage, and I left with my face hurting from smiling so much. Also, I clapped a lot.
Tuesday: The Strip & Mac King
Our Tuesday plans were to see the Mac King show at 3pm. With time to kill and the Strip to see, we decided to walk from the Luxor to the Palazzo*** and backtrack to Harrah’s. I don’t have fancy fitness tools; GMap Pedometer puts the trip straight up the Strip from the Luxor to the Palazzo at ~2 miles. We did not go straight up the Strip. First of all, Las Vegas does a good job of handling foot traffic by providing pedestrian bridges. These aren’t set directly on street corners, so you go around the corner a ways before going up. We decided to mostly forego escalators and elevators on the way there in favor or stairs. It was a decent workout.
Some people find Las Vegas to be…fake. And true, it’s not the real Eiffel Tower, or the real Statue of Liberty, or the real Venetian canals, but there is an artistry to it. Sometimes it works better than others. The shopping area in the Venetian and Palazzo is really quiet beautiful, and I was somewhat surprised by that. I expected more garishness, I guess. All in all, homebody that I am, I really liked Las Vegas because of the sheer amount of stuff at hand. It is a strange place, a very extra place. And I also heard Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well” about four times in 48 hours. What is that all about?
We did not see Mac King on Fool Us but I will share his second appearance from the show:
The magician I wanted to see most behind Penn & Teller was Mac King. The problem with comedy magicians is that often only the comedy *or* the magic is good. This is not the case with Mac King. His act is a finely polished gem. It is funny, funny in that smart way that’s full of improvisations, call-backs, puns, and innuendos. And the magic is superb. Yeah, I’ve seen a few of his videos, but in context, man, there were things that were totally unexpected. Just excellent. I feel like I’ve beating a dead plaid horse for the past week and a half, but if you’re going to Vegas, go see Mac King.
Elvis would be very disappointed in us. By the time we’d eaten at Harrah’s buffet and walked back to the Luxor (taking fewer stairs and more escalators, but still with a side trip into the MGM Grand’s shopping area), we returned to our room at about 7pm, beat. Seriously. We flipped through channels for a while before each of us retreated to reading before going to bed at, like, 10pm. And this on Fat Tuesday!
But I did really enjoy the trip and hope to do it again sometime in the next 20 years.
* My grandmother loved Elvis. I’ve seen every Elvis movie at least once and kind of wish they were on Netflix right about now.
** Luck for Hire
*** The Palazzo plays a part in the Luck for Hire sequel, which is still a work in progress. Much to my mother’s chagrin.