This one doesn't have all that much to do with Comics or Show Business but it's kind of a funny story. Now, at least. It's the story of
a trip I made to Las Vegas about, oh, eight years ago.
A fine gent named Lyn Pederson had asked me to fly in to do a signing at his fine book shop, Page After Page, located only a die's
throw from the majestic hotels of The Strip. The same time Lyn wanted me there, a comedienne-friend, Louise Du Art, was performing material I'd
written at the Riviera; all the more reason for a fast twenty-four-hour excursion to the Entertainment Capital of the World, as they call it when no
one from L.A. is about.
So here was the plan: I'd hop a flight at six o'clock Friday evening, get into Vegas at around seven, take a cab to the hotel and check
in, raid a buffet, head over to see Louise for the 8:30 show, then explore/enjoy Vegas until noon the next day (pausing briefly for sleep) before
heading over to Lyn's store and, from there, to the airport and home.
A simple plan. What could go wrong with it? Well, let's start a list, shall we?
Three hours before my departure, Debi called to see if I was free that evening. She was an actress I'd been dating and she had nothing
to do that evening and wanted to know if I was in the same predicament. I told her The Plan.
"Ooooh," she said. "I love Las Vegas. Can I come with you?"
Fine by me. I told her to meet me at the departure gate by 5:30, then I hung up, called Western Airlines and changed my reservation
from one to two.
A little before five-thirty, I arrived at the airport, picked up both tickets and hustled over to the gate, carry-on luggage in hand.
The airport was packed, as it usually is, with odd-looking folks. And easily the oddest was a woman standing over by the wall...an obvious,
cheaply-dressed hooker. She was clad in gaudy, tight-fitting clothes and looked for all the world like someone who could get drummed out of Times
Square for exceeding the Dress Code. But that wasn't the worst of it.
The worst of it was...it was Debi.
Took me a minute to realize it but there — clad in spray-on leather slacks, a zebra-striped halter-top with sequins, platform
shoes that could have used a bannister and three days' output from the Revlon make-up factory was my travelling companion, Debi.
I was very calm. You would have been proud of me. I yelled, "What are you doing dressed like a hooker?" (And she was dressed like a
hooker; already, flocks of Japanese businessmen were circling.)
"This is how I was dressed for the audition I was on when I called you," she explained. Debi, like many an actress, keeps an array of
"looks" close at hand, usually in the car. If her agent calls and says, "They're looking for a Young Housewife," out comes the Young Housewife garb
and she climbs into it, often in some gas station restroom or worse, and toodles over to the Casting Director's office, looking the part. Debi played
a lot of hookers and so was well-equipped. Moreover, she said, "This is how I dress for Vegas. Vegas is a trashy place so you oughta dress
"Not that trashy," I said. "I feel like I ought to get a magenta suit and a fuchsia Cadillac. Can't you change into something
"This is all I brought," she said. Her large purse contained a change of underwear, toiletries and nothing else in the way of
Oh well, I thought. Maybe no one I know will see me. And then it was time to get on the plane.
Flight 27 was supposed to take off at six sharp. At 6:25, we were still on the ground.
At 6:30, the Flight Attendant announced that there was a mechanical problem with the plane we were sitting in and it wouldn't be taking
off that evening. Moans from All Present. "We're attempting to locate another craft," he said. "In the meantime, there are some seats still open on
our 7:00 flight to Vegas and we'll try and get as many of you as possible on that flight."
There was a brief pause while the crew huddled...and we passengers wondered aloud how it would be decided which of us would get on that
seven o'clock flight and which of us would have to wait to see if they could find us another plane. Would it be decided by our check-in time?
Alphabetically? A random draw? A few minutes later, the Flight Attendant got back on the P.A. system to tell us how it would be decided. He said,
"We've decided to let you run for it." He actually said that.
The 7:00 flight departed from Gate 3B, all the way on the other side of the terminal. Suddenly, most of the passengers on our flight
began pushing up the aisles, fighting to get out and get over to Gate 3B.
I decided not to run. Not only was there the danger of Debi falling off her platform shoes...but several little old ladies had a good
twenty-yard headstart on us. Instead, as soon as we got off the plane, I went over to the pay phone, dialed up Western Airlines' reservation number
and booked Debi and myself on to the 7:00 flight.
We strolled leisurely over to Gate 3B where we found most of the passengers from our flight panting in a long line, waiting to see how
many no-shows there would be on that flight. Congratulating myself on my ingenuity, I ambled up to the counter, forked over our tickets and said,
"Evanier. We have a reservation on this flight."
Just then, someone in the stand-by line yelled out, "Hey! Wasn't she on our flight?" Someone else yelled, "Yeah! The hooker. They were
on our flight." A woman rushed up to the attendant and blocked him from giving us our Boarding Passes. "They were on our flight. They have to get to
the end of the line!"
I argued that we had bonafide reservations on the 7:00 flight and, therefore, every right in the world to be seated before the
stand-bys. And I am still convinced that I had Justice on my side but, alas, the "line" had about fifty people on its side...and the attendant,
perhaps fearing a riot, refused to let Debi and me onto the plane.
So we waited. We and umpteen-other folks loitered about LAX, waiting for the airline to rummage up another plane from its fleet. I
phoned Louise and told her that we'd try to make the 11:00 show instead, then phoned the hotel and told them we'd be a late check-in. And we
Round about eight-thirty, another plane finally showed up at the gate and we all filed aboard, relieved that our long wait was over.
There was a feeling of exaltation throughout the plane as it finally taxied out on the runway and took to the air. It had taken a while but we were
finally on our way to Las Vegas.
Somewhere over Barstow, the pilot came on the speaker to announce that they had a little, uh, problem. "Nothing to be alarmed about,
folks," he said. "We have a mechanical problem that does not — repeat, does not — affect the safety of our flight but, for technical
reasons, it will be necessary to turn around and head back to Los Angeles." Loud moans from everyone aboard.
A half-hour later, we were all back in the same lounge at LAX, waiting for the airline to find us yet another plane.
I headed for the phones again. I had already given up on finding another airline that could get us to Vegas that night — all
booked solid. Now, I phoned Louise and said it didn't look like we'd be making the 11:00 show, either. I also phoned the Executive Offices of Western
It took around six calls, being referred from one office to another, but, by God, I was going to get to someone in charge and apply a
little heat to the situation. I finally reached the Vice-President of Something-or-Other who heard my tale, took the number of the pay phone I was
calling from, and promised to call me back.
Ten minutes later, he did — to say he'd found out what was wrong with the plane we'd just been on. "The refrigerator was
I asked, "The refrigerator? That's, like, some important part that keeps the engine cool during the flight?"
"No," he said. "That's where the crew keeps the Pepsis they serve you in-flight."
"For that, we went back to Los Angeles?"
"Well," he explained. "They don't have the part to fix it in Las Vegas or the technicians or something. Anyway, they assured me they
had to go back to LAX to get it fixed."
"Forgive me for interjecting a note of Logic into these proceedings but why couldn't they have dropped us all off in Vegas and then
flown the plane to L.A. for repairs?" (I felt like I was interviewing Chico Marx in that routine of his; you know, the one about how he flew his
plane across the Atlantic and, three feet before he was going to land, he ran out of gas and had to go back for more.)
"That plane — the one you were on — had to go on to Seattle for another flight later. We didn't have time — "
"Yes," I said. "God forbid you should make people in Seattle wait for fifteen minutes." Does it sound like I was getting steamed? I was
getting steamed. "Well what, pray tell, are you going to do for us now?"
He said, "We're looking for another plane to take you to Vegas. And, to compensate you for the inconvenience, I've authorized some
vouchers for free travel in the future."
I said, "On what airline?"
He said, "Western, of course."
I said, "Do you really think I — or anyone from our flight — is going to fly this airline ever again? "Furthermore," I
added, "I'm going to devote a lot of my energy to telling America about Western Airlines."
"What do you mean?" he said.
It was at this point that I decided to pull rank, even if it meant invoking a slight bend of the truth. It dawned on me that, because
of a recent (brief) employment, I could almost-truthfully say the one thing that would strike Abject Terror into this man's heart. A planeload of
F.A.A. inspectors would not have frightened this man as much as I did when I said — semi-accurately but effectively — "Well, I've been
writing monologues for Johnny Carson's show..."
Did you ever hear a man go pale? Over the phone?
And, like I said, it was almost true: I'd written monologues for a couple of comedians who had been on the Carson Show and one guest
host. Close enough.
My revelation struck a synapse somewhere. With renewed determination in his voice, the man said, "Let me put some pressure on our
routing people. Stay right there." Five minutes later, he called back and said a plane would be there for us within the half-hour, "even if I have to
fly it there myself."
This all happened around 10:00. At 10:25, a gleaming Boeing-7-something-7 pulled up outside the gate and threw its doors open to us.
What some people won't do to avoid being the butt of a TV joke.
"At last, at last," everyone said as we filed aboard...those of us who hadn't given up in despair. At half-past-ten, we took off for
Nevada, thinking our ordeal was at an end. Not, alas, true.
At 11:15, only minutes from our destination, the pilot came on the intercom. "We have a little problem, ladies and gentlemen...our
terminal in Las Vegas seems to be closed."
Ordinarily, Western's last scheduled flight arrived around 10 PM and then that whole section of the airport was closed down. No one had
told them that our flight was still en route.
For the next twenty-or-so minutes, we circled McCarran Airport while someone somewhere attempted to find a spot at one of the other
airlines' terminals for us to land. One of the stewardesses came back and explained that someone from Western had to sign off on this by
agreeing to accept all insurance risk, should we crash upon landing in another airline's assigned space. There was a problem locating anyone
from Western who would authorize such a thing.
"What happens if you can't find someone?" Debi asked.
The stewardess shrugged. "We have to go back to Los Angeles, I guess." Much teeth-gnashing heard throughout the
Finally, around 11:45, the pilot announced that someone at Western had arranged to have their terminal opened again so that we could
land (cheers!) and, around midnight, we did.
We spilled out into a dark, deserted terminal. Here and there, a cleaning lady or two could he heard running the vacuums...but, for the
most part, the terminal was deserted and dark. The lights weren't on, the slot machines were dead, the movable walkways weren't moving, the TV
screens that show arrival/departure times weren't operating...and, as it turned out when we hiked through the darkness to the usual exits, most of
the doors were locked. The two-dozen-or-so passengers who'd made it this far dispersed throughout the darkened terminal, groping for some way out
onto the street. "We're trapped in the airport," Debi moaned, holding a firm grip on my hand as I tried one bank of doors after another.
I don't know how long this part took. Probably only ten minutes...but it sure seemed like longer. Finally, a little custodian with no
command of any known language gave me a few hints in mime and I found a door that opened out onto the street.
Once again, I thought the ordeal was ended. And, once again, I was wrong. You'd think I would have learned by now.
Debi and I were now standing outside a deserted airport with no traffic going by. By now, the airport had been closed for over two
hours so it wasn't likely that any cabs were going to happen past.
We hiked — which, given Debi's footwear, was no small feat — over to another terminal. And, before we leave the "airline"
phase of our disastrous tale, I feel compelled to point out that Western Airlines is long gone and I am still here. Let this be a lesson to any
future airlines that give me trouble.
After a twenty minute walk and an awkward fence-climb, we got to where we could flag down a taxi and we collapsed into its back seat. I
moaned the name of our hotel, momentarily wondering if our room would be waiting for us. Surely our room would be waiting for us.
Our room wasn't waiting for us.
"I phoned and said we'd be a late check-in," I told the Desk Clerk. She consulted her watch. "One o'clock in the morning is not a late
check-in," she said. "It's the next day. And we're completely booked. I don't have a single room vacant." I was about to do something drastic (just
what, I still don't know) when she said, "However, I can book you into an overflow hotel...and we'll pick up the cost of one night's lodging."
That sounded very equitable to me. Little did I know that the term "overflow hotel" referred to its sanitation system.
At around 1:40, Debi and I found ourselves about a block away at a motel that was...well, let me set the scene for you: The Manager was
in a little bulletproof glass booth and you slipped your money to him through a sliding drawer. Does that suggest to you that these were not luxury
Apparently though, they had some standards in this place: Just as I was reaching for the registration card to fill it out, the Manager
caught a glimpse of Debi and yanked it back. "Sorry. I won't have none of them in here. Not after the last time."
I blinked. "One of what?"
He pointed to Debi and said, "One of them." He meant "hookers."
"Oh, no," I started to explain. "She's with me."
"I can see."
"No, I mean, she's my date."
"No, I mean, she's not one of them, she's an actress."
"No, I brought her with me from Los Angeles."
"Why? We have tons of them right here."
This went on for about ten minutes. I finally hauled out our airline tickets and showed them to him. He studied them and said, "Western
Airlines? Crappy operation."
"Tell me about it," I moaned. "Listen...we've had a horrible, horrible night...we haven't eaten or anything...she's not a hooker. She's
a friend of mine...honest. Could we please have a room? Please?"
He studied me for a long beat, then shoved the registration card back at me. "Okay..."
It was a little before two in the AM that we finally got into our room...if that is what you can call it. It was more like four walls,
a mattress and some feeble attempts at indoor plumbing. The toilet was running continuously and was close enough to the bed to be a major
annoyance...though not quite as annoying as the cockroaches that went skittering out of the place in drill formation as we entered, no doubt in
search of better accommodations.
"Hey," I said to Debi, "do I know how to show a girl a good time?"
"I don't care," she said. "I just want to sleep...but, first, feed me. I'm starving."
We slipped out of the motel (lest we disturb the sleeping vermin) and walked about two blocks over to what was then called the M.G.M.
Grand Hotel. We went into its open-all-night coffee shop and downed some adequate sandwiches. "Let's play some Blackjack and then go back and go to
bed," I said, little realizing our "evening" was closing in on some semblance of a Happy Ending.
At around 2:45 in the morning, I sat down at one of the Blackjack tables in a casino that was surprisingly-unpopulated for a Friday
night/Saturday morn. (I guess everyone had decided to fly there via Western that weekend) Debi hovered by my side, watching me play,
cheering every time I won. And I won quite a bit.
It was one of those moments: No matter what I did at the table, I won. I started with a hundred dollars and, while I would usually have
retired from the table upon doubling my buy-in, my luck was running so hot...and Debi was having such a good time...that I kept on playing. Every
time I got a black ($100) chip, I would pass it to her to hold and continue playing with the rest. And winning.
Around half-past-three, Debi had thirty-some black chips in her mitts and I still had my original hundred plus change. As I started to
make quitting sounds, the Pit Boss slipped up to my side and passed me his business card. They always get friendly when you have their
"Are you a guest here?" he asked.
"Unfortunately, no. Our hotel gave away our room so they put us in a dump around the corner."
"A bad room?" he asked.
"There should be a paper strip across the doorway," I said. "'This room sanitized for your protection.'"
The Pit Boss laughed. They always laugh when you have their money. "Give me a second...let me see what I can do." He went over to his
podium, made a fast phone call and then came back. "You're all set...comped into one of our high-roller suites."
I fingered the black chips which I had pried out of Debi's mitts. "This isn't a lot for a high-roller."
"Well, we're having a slow night here. Go ahead. Enjoy yourself."
Debi was giddy with excitement as we rushed over to the desk and were registered into what we were told was one of their luxury rooms.
She ran off to the suite while I hustled back to the Roach Motel to pick up my overnight bag.
An evening that had begun with everything possible going wrong ended in (relative) glory: A big cash win and a free $500-a-night hotel
room. I will long remember, staggering up to the room with my bag, walking in and seeing Debi luxuriating in the Jacuzzi, smack dab in the midst of
the plushest, most beautiful hotel room I have ever seen.
But I'll tell you: I will even longer remember going back to the fleabag motel to get my grip, walking out past the Manager in his
little glass booth. He was noticing that I was checking out, two-and-a-half hours after checking in and he was muttering, "I knew she was a hooker. I