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Best of Barney Vinson

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Barney Vinson's World

9 September 2001

Planning a trip to Las Vegas in the near future? Each month we'll spotlight a different casino so you'll get a better idea of what each resort has to offer. This month, it's the Orleans Hotel.

Now I'll have to admit that I'm not much of a party animal. My idea of a big evening on the town is picking up a pizza and maybe a couple of tapes from the video store. After all, working in a casino eight hours a day is enough excitement for anybody.

So when my wife broke the news that her girlfriend Terri was flying in from California for the weekend . . . well, I wasn't overly thrilled. Even worse, she was bringing her boyfriend with her -- someone I had never met —- which meant I would actually have to leave the house and play tour guide all over Las Vegas.

The plan was to take them out to dinner and then see a show. "Do we have to go on the Strip?" I whined. If so, we would have to leave the house at three o'clock to get to a casino by six o'clock.

"No, we could go to the Orleans. It's just down the street, and guess who's playing in the showroom?"

"Big Tiny Little?"

"The Smothers Brothers!"

The Smothers Brothers? Were those two guys still alive? I hadn't heard of them since their old TV show back when Viet Nam was tearing the country apart. But I mustered a smile and said, "Sounds great."

Personally, I like the Orleans Hotel. When it first opened, though, I thought it was kind of hokey. I figured it would really be like New Orleans, with a French Quarter and Dixieland jazz and everything. Aside from a few statues and a few Cajun-sounding names, it turned out to be just another Vegas casino. So I didn't really go there very often. But then the twelve-theater movie complex opened with first-run movies and stadium seating. Then we found a great little Mexican restaurant called Don Miguel's that dished out free guacamole dip with every order. The next thing you know, we were at the Orleans all the time.

Terri and Jim arrived late Friday night and wanted to see a few of the sights. By the time they got to the house, I was already in bed. Here I was, safe and secure in my own cozy little abode, and a complete stranger was sleeping in the very next room. I could just see the headlines in the morning paper: "Vegas Man Bludgeoned to Death in Cozy Little Abode."

But Saturday came and I was still alive. The four of us ate breakfast together out on the patio, and Jim turned out to be a nice guy. He'd been here before, but was interested in all the changes that had taken place in the last few years. I mentioned a few places —- Paris, New York-New York, Mandalay Bay. "Mandalay Bay's got this martini bar, and the bar is solid ice. Keeps your martini ice cold."

"What's it called?"

"Uh, I'm not sure, but there's a statue of Lenin in front of it. Without the head. They took the head off because everybody complained."

I went inside the house to change clothes. When I came back out, Jim and Terri were gone. "Where'd they go?" I asked Debbie.

"To Mandalay Bay. They want to see that martini bar."

"Oh, for crying out loud. I don't even think they open until five o'clock. And we're supposed to eat at six."

"Don't worry. They're going to meet us at the coffee shop at the Orleans. We'll have dinner there and then go see the show."

"What show?"

"The Smothers Brothers!"

"Oh, yeah. Sounds great."

It took us a scant ten minutes to get to the Orleans and another 20 minutes to find a parking place. The Orleans has a new parking garage, but it's for valet only. Personally, I like to valet park, but the problem is getting your car back after the show lets out. Plus there's something kind of scary about handing your car keys to some guy you've never met before.

There was a line waiting to get into the Courtyard Cafe. At some casinos, you can get a line pass just by asking a casino supervisor. Those are the guys wearing the suits and the shoulder holsters. But most neighborhood casinos won't give out line passes. So if you want to eat, you've got to get in line like everybody else. Or you can eat at the counter. The atmosphere isn't as great, but you'll get quick service (and learn the life history of the guy parked on the next stool).

We waited for a booth, and Terri and Jim got there just as we were diving into a couple of cold martinis. No ice bar at the Orleans, but the drinks wouldn't last long enough to get warm anyway. We decided on Chinese food, and I ordered some exotic dish called "egg foo young." Appetizers, cocktails, a round of entrees, and dessert came to around $80 with tip, which isn't bad considering today's inflated restaurant prices.

Almost as much fun as dinner was watching the people as we headed to the Bourbon Street Cabaret. Let me put it this way. Have you ever really looked at the outfits that people wear in public nowadays?

I was going through some old photos of Las Vegas recently, taken back in the late 1950s. All the men in the pictures were wearing ties and hats, and the women wore dresses and high heel shoes. Some were even wearing gloves, believe it or not. Now anything goes. Thongs, shorts, t-shirts with dirty sayings, baseball caps -— and the men are dressed even worse. It makes you wonder what they wear when they're at home! I walked into a casino one time wearing a suit, and three people asked me for directions.

Getting inside the showroom was a breeze. An employee named Bob showed us to our seats. Like the Century Theater movie complex, the seating was stadium-style, without a bad perch in the place. First came a warm-up act featuring a teenage group named "Streetwise" headlined by the 14-year-old daughter of singer Bill Medley. Bravo!

Then the lights dimmed and out came Dick and "Mom always liked you best" Tommy Smothers. For the price ($29.95) it was one heck of a show. A couple of vignettes:

Tommy: "I just did a jigsaw puzzle, and it only took me three months."
Dick: "It took you three months to do a jigsaw puzzle?"
Tommy: "Hey, that's pretty good. The box said four to eight years."

Raucous laughter from me, shushes to me from the rest of the audience.

Tommy: "I was at the airport, and a man walked up with a dog to get on the plane. The ticket-taker said, 'Sir, you can't take that dog on the plane.' And the man said, 'It's a seeing eye dog.' So the ticket-taker apologized and the man got on the plane. Then another man walked up with a Chihuahua. And the ticket-taker said, 'Sir, you can't take that dog on the plane.' The man said, 'It's a seeing eye dog.' The ticket-taker said, 'A Chihuahua?' And the man said, 'Is that what they gave me?'"

There was a standing ovation at the end, which would have been the perfect cap to the evening if I hadn't knocked over my wife's drink with my foot. Thank goodness it was only water, or her dress would have been ruined.

The good news was that our night on the town was a roaring success. The bad news is that Terri and Jim had so much fun that they're coming back next weekend.



Rating 1* to 5*****
Smothers Bros.   *****   
Bourbon St. Cabaret*****
Courtyard Cafe***
Century Theaters*****
Orleans Hotel (overall)     ***
Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson