EAR CANDY goes to Las Vegas 2002
By Ronnie

Las Vegas has become one of my favorite places. Where else can you drink around the clock, see glitzty shows, gamble and people watch? It is a never-never land painted by unbridled, unrestrained excess, which I find entrancing. Sure, it can be cheesy and gaudy, but for me that is part of the charm. Other than the allure of slot machines, I don’t gamble much. But, I do love to people watch in Vegas! Some of the best free entertainment is to watch what the abundance of (sometimes free, but at least cheap) alcohol will do to people. Its like a spring break for those over 25!

Las Vegas is one of the greatest entertainment cities on the planet. Where else can you see showgirls in feathered headdresses, assorted music, dancing, comedy, magic and of course impersonators. Yes, I’m talking about those Elvis “evokers” that can be found all over Vegas. In my short 4 day stay, I saw an average of 4 Elvi. It's no accident that mimics are the toast of the town, whether it is Elvis, the Beatles, the Rat Pack, Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc.

Right: WOW! They even welcomed us on the marquee...ha ha

When DJ Ivan and I met in Las Vegas recently, I had no intention of covering the trip for EAR CANDY. It was truly a pleasure trip. However, with so much showbiz and music in “sin city”, I started to casually take notes. This eventually grew into the multitude of Vegas stories in this issue!

DJ Ivan had a few thoughts about our Vegas trip:

"Las Vegas is to the United States what Rome was to the Roman Empire - at least in terms of entertainment/number of pleasures offered. All the creature comforts one could want are offered - provided you can afford them. It is a very orderly, clean, city considering what goes on there. Vegas is in essence a mirage; millions of people go there hoping they will beat the odds, looking for their lucky break, or for the party that never ends The numerous Elvis impersonators in Vegas are entirely appropriate. I liked Vegas much more than I thought I would."

DAY 1 - Saturday

I arrived at the Las Vegas airport Saturday morning met by DJ Ivan, manning a rental car. In all the travel info I’ve read about Vegas, they always say DON’T get a rental car. Well, I’m here to tell you, don’t believe it, it is THE way to get around. Since I’m accustomed to the nightmare that is Atlanta traffic, the so-called bad traffic of Vegas was a cakewalk. We drove to our hotel Westward Ho although we couldn't check in until 4:30. We proceeded to the margarita bar/showroom to have margaritas and plan our afternoon. There was a lounge act called "Mary Jane & Co." which was pretty hoaky. We decided to check out the neighborhood CD store, where DJ Ivan found the new Bob Mould CD.

Right: Elvis A Rama

Then it was off to the Elvis A Rama, which was just around the corner from our hotel. At the Elvis-A-Rama, we arrived just in time to see the Justin Shandor impersonation of the young Elvis. He played for about 15 minutes, doing such standards as "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" and a much rarer, "You're So Square" (see our Rate-an-Elvis for our review of Justin). We then wandered through the museum, which featured everything from rare records & gold record awards; signed documents & letters, photographs, clothes, cars & boats that belonged to Elvis. Also there were several video screens. Now why can't someone do this with the Beatles? The closest I've come to seeing a Beatles "museum" was when I visited the Cavern Mecca in Liverpool many years ago (I don't know if it is still open?). We also had tickets for the hour long tribute to Elvis featuring Sonny Boline. He did a '70s-era Elvis, with songs including: "Love Me Tender", "Can't Help Falling In Love With You", "Viva Las Vegas", "Don't Be Cruel/Teddy Bear", a gospel tune (which name escapes me) and the "American Trilogy" (see our Rate-an-Elvis for our review of Sonny).

We returned to the hotel to finally check in. Westward Ho is pretty cool, where you can pretty much drive up to your room. Our room was a mini-suite, with 3 bedrooms (one with a fridge), a living room, a bath/toilet and two sink areas. It was really convenient NOT having to mess with elevators and parking decks! We just walked right outside to our car and went. Plus, the location is great on the strip, right across the street from the Riviera.

Right: The Gold Nugget

The Tony Orlando show was in "downtown" Vegas at the Golden Nugget. Although the show wasn't until 8pm, we left early so that we could find parking and get the tickets. After the show, we walked along Freemont Ave. There was a live band with a Mardi Gras theme, so there wasn't the famous light show going on. The band wasn't that hot, so we left to head back to the strip. We walked around the strip, margaritas-in-hand, people watching.

DAY 2 - Sunday

Right: Little Ale'Inn in the thriving metropolis of Rachel

Breakfast at McDonald's then off to Area 51. On the long drive to Area 51 we listened to a Tony Orlando CD (yes, I DID get one after his show) and the new Bob Mould CD. Other than the “Extraterrestrial Highway” sign, there are few directions to tell you where to find Area 51. But, we visited last year during our trip to Vegas and knew the way. We finally reached Rachel, which is the “town” closest to Area 51. I use the term “town” loosely because the population is only about 68. We were disappointed to find the Area 51 Research Center vacant. That left the Little Ale'Inn as the only tourist-type place in the area. The Little Ale’Inn is a little diner during the day/karoake bar at night-basically the heart of Rachel! Their souvenir stock has even gone down; I guess there aren't many visitors anymore. After coffee among the fake aliens that are propped around on various seats, we headed to the long road to the Groom Lake entrance.

Right: DJ Ivan and Ronnie on the long dirt road (about 14 miles) which leads to Area 51 It is about a 14-mile gravel road and the security can see you coming many miles away. Plus, they also have ground sensors to tell them when someone is coming. The road is pretty deceiving, since there are no trees for perspective. You keep thinking you are getting closer and you’ve really got a long way to go. The only break in the long road is about the middle, where there is a group of Joshua Trees. Not a nice place to have your car break down!

Right: The warning sign at the first entrance to the Groom Lake facility. Note the 'photography prohibited' sign. The other sign said "use of deadly force authorized"

We arrived at the “entrance” to see the security team over the next hill, just far enough away to be imposing. There are just two signs on each side of the road with NO gate. But, if you cross the imaginary line in the desert between the two signs, the security team will swoop down and detain you!

Right: Ronnie flagrantly violating the posted rules

DJ Ivan started to turn the car around at the gate. Although the sign said “photography prohibited”, I jumped out of the car ran up to the sign saying, “take my picture”. And no, they didn’t arrest us. I guess they could tell we were just harmless tourists.

Right: DJ Ivan and Ronnie find a joshua tree in the desert- "wow, our very own version of the 'Burrito Brothers' album cover"!

On the 14-minute drive back to the main highway we stopped to get photos at the Joshua trees. The weather was very mild, especially for the desert. We had bought a couple of gallons of drinking water before our trip, but we got back to Vegas without even touching it.

Back at Vegas, I called box office that sold the Day Tripper tickets and talked my way into an interview (I had brought my handy-dandy portable cassette recorder) for EAR CANDY. We stopped for a bite to eat at Caesars Palace before going to see Day Tripper. All I can say is that Caesars Palace was phenomenal! And, they are in the process of building a re-creation of the Roman Coliseum at the entrance. Whether this will be a show theater or more guest rooms, we’ll have to wait until next year to see. The Day Tripper show was at the New Frontier, with the interview scheduled after the 7-8 show. Waiting for the show, DJ Ivan was very lucky at the slot machines! I guess that kiss on the head by Tony Orlando was good luck!

There was a short break between the Day Tripper show and the “Rock ‘N Roll Legends" show (both at the same theater), so we passed the time at the margarita bar. After seeing "Rock ‘N Roll Legends", I sat down with the members of Day Tripper for a short interview.

Back at the hotel, we went to the casino for a bit, of course the margarita bar and then people-watched along the strip. We decided to walk just up the street to Treasure Island, where they have a free show (in the evenings, every hour) in front of the hotel/casino. The show was very Disney-esque with a live pirate fight on full size boats with explosions and stunts galore. Plus, a very imaginative way to get people into your casino! The crowds are so packed that the easiest way to leave after the show is through the casino.

DAY 3 - Monday

Right: Elvis and DJ Ivan

After a short trek to find a dry cleaners, we ate at IHOP and swung over to the Elvis A Rama to interview Justin Shandor. After the interview, we decided to do our souvenir shopping, starting with the “Worlds Largest Gift Shop”. DJ Ivan found a Jesus action figure here, but I found most of the souvenirs overpriced. We walked along the strip where there are a group of souvenir shops in a row. Stopping for coffee at Starbucks, the “waitress” was a very unshaven man dressed as a female…only in Vegas! We also stopped by the Riviera for our "free pull" on their giant slot machine. Of course we didn’t win anything (there are HUGE white spaces between the images, so you can imagine what your chances are), but they do give you a free deck of cards.

In the afternoon, we checked out the Day Tripper show a second time so that I could take photos for EAR CANDY. I asked the band a few follow-up interview questions and we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening show of… Wayne Newton After the show, we hung out at the Splash Bar at the Riviera Casino.

DAY 4 - Tuesday

After coffee and breakfast buffet at Stardust, we stopped by the Riviera to get another “free pull”. Can’t get enough of those free decks of cards, ha ha.

Right: The Liberace Museum

In the early afternoon we headed to the Liberace Museum. The first thing I noticed when we entered was the overwhelming smell of mothballs! Then I looked around and noticed that…besides DJ Ivan, and myself the over-65 crowd surrounded us. Blue-hairs galore! This aside, the museum was interesting with its huge collection of Liberace’s pianos and various gaudy automobiles.

Maybe it was the influence of the Liberace museum, but DJ Ivan and myself then found ourselves at the afternoon bingo game at Westward Ho. Hell, it was free for guests and the prizes were CASH! After promising to kill ourselves rather than do this when we were old, we headed to the Westward Ho margarita bar where yet another Elvis impersonator was scheduled. While we were waiting for the KING to appear, DJ Ivan and I decided to do a Rate-an-Elvis for all the Elvi we had seen in Vegas.

There are billboards and advertisements all over Vegas for Steak & Lobster deals. So we decided to try one at the Stardust. Not bad, but their Steak & Lobster buffet was basically one of those “images are smaller than appear” kind of deals. Afterwards, we headed to the Hilton to see the Star Trek Experience. Although I like the show, I am by no means a “trekkie”. However, you can’t help but leave the ride impressed! Plus, you get a free picture at the end of the ride as part of the crew on the bridge!

Right: The Riviera

My last show for my Vegas trip was Splash at the Riviera. It has been called "The Must-See Show of the Year" in Las Vegas. Splash has everything from topless showgirls; street, jazz and classical dance; world-class ice skaters and more. There were impersonators of Madonna, Michael Jackson and his sister Janet Jackson. One of my favorite acts was the antics of Splash's Latino funnymen: "Los Latin Cowboys”, who divide perfectly timed drumming with comedy and swinging bolos. Also, the juggling of the Richard Brothers is amazing, with the brothers juggling everything from hats, boxes, rings and of course bowling pins. Another highlight is the 'Riders of the Thunderdome’, which features a 13-foot diameter ball of metal mesh with 4 motorcycle-stunt drivers inside.

Splash has just about has something for everybody in a fast paced, MTV like production. The cool thing is that the acts are varied from year to year. I saw the show last year and I was still entertained.

DAY 5 - Wednesday

Although DJ Ivan had 3 more days to his Las Vegas trip, this was my last day in Vegas. We had breakfast at McDonalds – did I mention that this McDonalds has one of the most garish night-signs that I have seen in true Vegas style? Unfortunately, I didn’t get a night picture.

Anyway, it was off the airport for the adventure of my flight back to the east coast via Los Angeles! But, that is another story…

All in all, it was a fantastic trip and I can't wait for next year!

EAR CANDY in Vegas 2002:
Tony Orlando live review click here
Justin Shandor (young Elvis) interview click here
Day Tripper interview click here
Day Tripper live review click here
Rock 'N Roll Legends review click here
Wayne Newton live review click here
EARCANDY's Rate-An-Elvis click here
Johnny Thompson interview click here