g beat goes to VEGAS

by David Gans

I am a co-host, with Evelyn Pine (evy@well.com) and Kay Hardy (kayo@well.com), of the BEATLES conference (g beat) on the Well. LaborDay weekend 1992 we flew from Oakland to Las Vegas to see RINGO STARR AND HIS ALL STARR BAND at Caesars Palace. The following is my account of the trip, from notes taken at the time and on the plane ride home.

Boarding the plane with a latte moustache. Airport "latte" made with coffee-mate (Latte-mate?). Elvis seen in overhead compartment eating all the in-flight snacks.

09:51 - before we're even airborne, Evy brings the conversation around to VTM (Van Morrison. You'll need to know this later, probably).

Flight attendant's BIG HAIR visible above the bulkhead. Vegas bound! The hosts of g beat consider getting BIG HAIR upon arrival.

Carcinogenic or hallucinogenic: the choice is yours.

Evy has brought a care package for each of us. A box from Crabtree and Evelyn containing: a money clip full of play money; Hanukkah gelt; a sheriff's badge (evoking Elvis as only Evy can); a blue- haired troll doll in a red convertible. There will be red convertibles everywhere, it turns out.

Pleasant discussion of Ringo's songwriting. "You were in a car crash and you lost your hair." The BIG HAIR concept is abandoned.

We're saving our peanuts for the COME line.

11:17, on the ground at LV: DG's first quarter pays 10 quarters. DG will leave the airport $5 ahead.

Cab driver takes us in the back way - "The strip is a parking lot today!" - and as we approach Caesars Palace (no apostrophe - we're all caesars on this bus) we see, in letter as big as Evy, RINGO STARR AND HIS ALL STARR BAND (no hyphen).

Anatomically correct statuary. Lots of it.

Keno runners are in "red goddess uniforms"

E: "Where do I pee?"
K: "Try to find a bathroom."

12:15 - Evy wins $2 @ keno while in the bathroom or (we fear) lost in the casino. We play her ticket again.

First tie-dye sighted.

12:28 - Evy still has not returned. We suspect she has fallen in love with an Egyptian Elvis impersonator whose command of the language is none too good.

12:30 - Evy returns without an explanation. Pledges her $2 winnings to the Pickle Family Circus.

Kay notes "grotesque souvenirs" and then refers to the statuary as "Bernini wannabini."

Lunch at Lombardi's in The Forum, trying to talk over the roar of the faux-Bernini fountain in the gathering artificial dusk. We decide this "four-hour-day" bizniz (the lovely painted sky grows bright again in a few minutes) is so they can charge dinner prices during the day.

Motto of Boogie's Diner: EAT HEAVY, DRESS COOL. Boogie's seems to be more souvenir shop than restaurant.

Amazing talking statues in The Forum mall, except their sound track is unintelligible.

We find a photo booth that electronically mattes us into a Las Vegas picture postcard. We push the HELP button and it talks to us. "Please insert three one-dollar bills into the bill acceptor, one at a time." We choose one of the three excellent postcard backgrounds and the voice says, "GREAT CHOICE!" We wind up getting three pictures, one of each background, and each time we select the machine says, "GREAT CHOICE!" Kay got the best one.

Not far from the animated godz, a handsome blond mannequin man in the window of North Beach Leather imitates their mechanistic movements. The blurring of reality and fantasy threatens our sensibilities yet again.

E "Life is rich, so we don't have to be."
K: "That's fallacious."
This town is a push-up bra.

Lobsters for dinner! The line for "lobster buffet" at the Sands is way long, so we walk up to the Rosewood Grille. Lobsters the size of dachshunds, but at $17.50 a pound we'd have to do some serious winning to cover it. So we walk back to the Sands and take turns waiting in line. Three nice lobsters each and all the roasted potatoes we can eat. "Pastries of the World" dessert display includes red jello. America, is beautiful country!
K: "That canned corn flavor, right on the cob!"
E: "Don't make me spench my eclair."
Actually, Evy and Kay only have two lobsters each. Two rounds of keno during dinner, no joy.

After dinner we head over to the Mirage to watch the "volcano."

D: "Stoopid."
K: "A colossal waste of natural resources, but I loved it!"
E: "Fabulous! Great! I was screaming, 'Go! Go! Go!' through the whole thing!"
Finally, the show:


Todd Rundgren took the stage wearing one of those ridiculous Centurion costumes that some hapless Caesars Palace employees must wear every day. Plastic breastplate, plastic shin guards, big red plume on the helmet - awesome!

They opened with "I'm Great" (is that the name of it?) and followed with "The No No Song." Then Burton Cummings stepped up for "No Time." The vocal harmonies were magnificent all night - the whole front line sang, and they obviously put some work into the arrangements.

Dave Edmunds followed with "Girls Talk." That was the song that was still running through my brain as I tried to get to sleep several hours later.

Timmy Schmit was next up with "I Can't Tell You Why," then Nils did a song whose title escapes me - "Shine" something-or-other? The man is a powerhouse.

Todd then performed "Bang the Drum," a totally awesome and fun song that I want to learn for my band! Todd clearly had the most fun of all the musicians, switching off between electric and acoustic, marshaling the vocal ensemble and (of course) clowning to beat the band. He pulled off some of that stupid plastic armor for a while but put it back on again, then took it off again later and played a few songs bare-chested, posing and bump'n'grinding in that silly Roman skirt.

Ringo did a k00l song from his new album, with the line "Don't go where the road don't go" (I think), then followed it with a great sing-along "Yellow Submarine." The house went bonkers, of course. It sounded like he got the original sound effects track from the Beatles album for the middle part.

Then the band left the stage and Burton Cummings performed "Undun," playing the flute and accompanied only by Nils on electric guitar and Tim Cappello on percussion.

Edmunds followed with the neat musical moment of the night: a solo electric guitar fingerpicked "Lady Madonna"!

Then Schmit came out with an acoustic guitar and all the vocalists joined him for my favorite blast-from-the-past of the night: "Keep on Tryin'," a latter-day Poco hit that I sang with a bar band in the mid-'70s and haven't heard since. Vocal tour de force.

The sax-/keyboard/percussion guy, Cappello, took the band into a wild space for a "Wiggle" song. Not the high point of the show, but what the hell. Todd followed that with a sludge-rock parody (Evy and Kay didn't think it was meant to be funny; they were certainly Not Amused).

Ringo returned and the band swung into "You're 16" and another one from the new album, "Weight of the World."

The next tune was a big anthem by Nils, whose repertoire I am shamefully unfamiliar with. "Walkin' Man," maybe? Inspiring stuff.

Edmunds did the much-anticipated "I Hear You Knockin'" next. I liked his earlier offering better, but I always have.

"American Woman" followed. Neither Evy nor Kay has anything good to say about this, and I must admit I thought it sounded pretty dumb, too. The already-loud sound was cranked to Guess Who level for this one. After it was over Ringo made a pretty sarcastic remark that indicated he wouldn't miss that particular moment of the tour, which ended with this performance.

"Boys" was an unexpected highlight, with a spectacular background vocal arrangement and Todd taking a spin through the audience while playing a guitar solo and finishing it onstage with Nils' trademarked somersault.

The main set ended with "Photograph," and the encores were "Act Naturally" and (of course) "With a Little Help from My Friends." During the ride, Todd put down his acoustic guitar and moved over to Ringo's drum kit.

I loved it. It was a "nostalgia" show in many ways, but the band was truly all-star caliber and no one was phoning it in. It is to Ringo's credit that he knows his limitations, and it is to everyone else's credit that they put a great deal of professionalism and enthusiasm into their performances.

Zak Starkey did a hell of a job on the drums.

Most welcome surprise revival: Keep on Tryin'
Least welcome: American Woman
Best legs: Todd
Best Hair: Zak Starkey (runner-up, Period Look division: Dave Edmunds)
Best enormous great hooter: Ringo
MVP, guitar: Nils
MVP, show: Todd (Evy and Kay will dispute this)
Best bump and grind: Todd
Best solo feature: Lady Madonna (Dave Edmunds)
Best Ringo number: Boys
Best sing-along: Yellow Submarine
Best technical glitch: failure to make link to Jerry Lewis Telethon
Best seat scamming: Evy
Most glaring omission from the g beat itinerary: we forgot to visit the Liberace museum.

Back to the casino:

Video poker is the most efficient way yet devised to separate you from your money. NO moving parts.

We meant to go back to the Fraternius Warnerius store but we ran out of time. Video poker can be SO engrossing.

We slept well, I think. Went down to the buffet for breakfast. Talked about some important topics; Evy sliced straight to the heart of a certain matter and delivered the perfect advice. Then we scattered into the casino, each to her favorite game, for 90 minutes of desperate disbursement.

I spotted Evy in the lounge near the front desk of the hotel (which is damned hard to find. That place has no exit signs, no clocks, and very few rules to guide), quietly reading The Secret History. She stopped playing video poker well in advance of our scheduled meeting time because, totally excellent and self-aware humanoid that she is, she knew she needed some time to decompress from the intensely weird atmosphere of video poker land.

Either that, or she ran out of cash.

Is it possible to be jet-lagged without changing time zones? The whole trip seems to have taken me to another planet altogether.
E: "What a short sweet trip it was: ten vulgar years crammed into twenty-four
hours and fifteen drinks."
All was tranquil and pleasant in our traveling party - what excellent company we are! - until 2:10 pm in the boarding lounge at the airport, where Evy made us go a full hour earlier than we needed to go, the BUTTHEAD! I think Kay's and my surliness had to do mostly with the fact that there were no 25-cent video poker machines at the airport. Anyway, we got into a bitter dispute over the identity of the lead vocalist on "Good Night." Evy thinks it's Ringo, can you imagine that?

An innocent bystander was drawn into the fracas, but he had no definitive information to offer. But he was a Beatle fan and also a Grateful Dead fan, so we let him live.

Still, the contretemps was short-lived. We picked on each other between Vegas and Burbank, but then we moved to the front of the plane, where we were joined by a pleasant young college student who sat down in the rear-facing seats in front of us, moving Kay to mutter something caustic that didn't inspire the young lady to move. So we picked on her mercilessly all the way to Oakland.

No, we didn't. I made that part up. We were very nice to her when we weren't in our own private world of Big Fun.

Las Vegas: a city without exits. "This is what makes America great. Plus, it's all indoors!" said Kay, several times. Those casinos are designed to keep you moving through them and to keep you from finding an exit.

The nice thing about video poker is that you lose your money as slowly as you do playing keno, but there's a lot more action. If you're quick enough on those buttons you can play a game in eight seconds, whereas keno takes fifteen or twenty minutes. And you don't have time to drink while playing video keno.