What Vegas junket would be complete without a survey of wedding chapels?I start with Candlelight, where the likes of Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Caine, and Barry White have tied the knot. Couples may buy refrigerated corsages, opt for the Elvis wedding, with impersonator, and choose from among 11 illustrated wedding certificates. My favorite is the one signed "Your Loving Son." It reads, in part: "Dearest Mother, even as I take her into my heart and life, I promise to keep you, Mother dear, in my heart and life always." Don't tell my husband's mother just yet, but I have every intention of renewing our vows at the elegant (really!) Long Fung Wedding Temple in Vegas's sparkling new Chinatown Plaza. I will wear an ivory cheongsam and chopsticks in my hair.
Thinking I might finance that fantasy second honeymoon, I shed my antigambling resolve faster than you can say "Craps." It begins innocently enough. I cross the Strip to Circus Circus. My morning horseback ride made me miss the free daily craps lesson at nine. Tough luck. I venture upstairs to the Midway arcade, which allows gaming novices to start small. Literally. This place is designed for kids, so the stakes are negligible, as are the prizes (stuffed animals). For 50 cents I play a game of Three-in-a-Row, tossing three balls in perfect vertical formation and, incredibly, collecting a Sonic the Hedgehog piggy bank.
Flush with the satisfaction of winning a game of skill, I soon outgrow the Midway arcade. The time has come to graduate to games of chance. I could go for high-tech glamour at the just-opened Hard Rock Hotel, but instead, driven by a longing for seediness past, I head to Fremont Street in historic downtown, where the carpets are neither as clean nor as themed as they are at the newer joints. Because of the closeness of the buildings, downtown has a perfectly desperate air, as if the walls are closing in fast.
They do for me, at any rate. I begin by playing baccarat at the Golden Nugget, where the unthinkable happens: I win. Then I win again. And again. I am on the proverbial roll.
I want so much to quit while I'm ahead, but the voice of the benevolent Bugs Bunny on my left shoulder is drowned out by the demon Bugs on my right, who exhorts me to go for it. Trouble is, I can't seem to stop until I run out of chips. I leave the baccarat room in self-imposed disgrace and cross the street to Binion's Horseshoe, where I take a beating in their baccarat room. We won't discuss how much I lost in how many minutes; let's just say I may have set a Guinness record of my own.
McDonald's seems a suitable place in which to lick my wounds. At least it doesn't have slots. Over a Happy Meal, I ponder my situation. I am a card-carrying loser. Surely the dealers are all having a laugh at my expense. Then I see the light: chumps like me help sustain the Vegas economy. At Treasure Island, only a few hours before leaving town, I celebrate my conversion—how else?—by pouring $20 into a slot machine.
Because I'm due at the Mirage theater for the 7:30 Siegfried & Roy show, I retrieve my bag from the Treasure Island bellman's desk, catch the tram, and stop for Japanese food at Mikado, in the Mirage. The sushi is perfectly decent, and the service lovely. But what I really wanted was Chinese. Alas, Rik Shaw, home of "authentic Chinese cuisine" at the Riviera (the "Tangier" of Martin Scorsese's "Casino," due this month), is closed tonight.
Siegfried and Roy neatly live up to the "Masters of Illusion" moniker. But after the third or fourth disappearing act, reluctantly, I must vanish myself. I have one more show to catch.
The Luxor has installed in its Pharaoh's Theater the performing phenomenon known simply as Wayne. I learned earlier that he holds Guinness records for the greatest number of performances as a solo artist in Las Vegas; for the greatest number of attendees; and for the biggest ongoing draw. (I wonder if he holds the Guinness record for the greatest number of Guinness records.)
It's Wayne's world; we're just tourists in it. He may be modest to a fault, but Wayne Newton is the wonderful wizard of this Emerald City and, appropriately enough, he appears onstage in a puff of smoke. Wearing a casual tux with red satin panties for a pochette, kissing the "pretty ladies" full on the lips and buying them bottles of champagne, cracking wise at the expense of his Cherokee heritage ("If you don't like the show, I can always go back to the reservation"), the Man is larger than life, bigger even than the sphinx guarding the Luxor gate. Of course, the Man doesn't send me any champagne. Danke schön for nothing, dude.
I suppose I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the bubbly anyhow; I'm obliged to leave long before the finale or risk missing my Delta 737 out of town. On the way to the airport, as I contemplate the end of this Dream Vacation and plot the next, my car passes Wayne Newton Boulevard. I wager that next time, the Man will send me champagne. Bets, anyone?My deck will be stacked—I'll be the one sitting ringside in a Wonderbra and a skintight cheongsam, with golden chopsticks in my hair.