When I arrived at McCarran it was raining. I know, I know, it's not supposed to rain in Las Vegas. The gaming commission has banned weather anomalies and the casinos pump sunshine to the strip when needed. I left my umbrella at home since the weather forecast for Las Vegas was supposed to be clear and sunny. At the time I wasn't thinking this, but rain is probably a good thing for the strip. It keeps the guys on the strip that shove hooker trading cards in your face away - also makes it hard to smoke outdoors.
The inclimate weather was short lived. In fact, the skies cleared up just as our taxi exited the airport. It's like the casino bosses slipped a little somethin' in mother nature's front pocket to keep the machine rolling.
New York, New York is a fine example of Las Vegas. I took the panorama below at about 8am. The only way you can tell is the lack of people at the slot machines. I think I see two people at the bar though. A little hair-o-the-dog action at 8am.
My travel companion and I ate breakfast at the Italian diner just adjacent to the casino floor, blaring 80's music and all. Although at that time in the morning he was a bit grumpy that the coffee wasn't arriving fast enough to wake up for morning business meetings. Maybe a morning roller coaster ride on the Manhattan Express would have done him some good. I found the healthiest thing on the menu and chased it with a vitamin C and zinc just because I've learned the consequences of not doing that the hard way.
It's obviously hard to ease your way into the day when you're immediately inundated with pop music while entering the elevator for breakfast. They might as well just install a megaphone for an alarm clock. Then you get down to the casino floor and walk through the chiming casino to overwhelming choices of an American eatery, Italian Cafe, Steakhouse, Starbucks, pizza, donuts, Chinese, an Irish restaurant, and likely a few more choices I've forgotten by now. Why leave the casino when it's all right here? - hmmm, wonder if they thought of that? At least the hotel hasn't installed slot machines at the restaurant tables (yet).
As one of my former colleagues once put it so succinctly, "Las Vegas is an example of what you can do with an infinite amount of money."
The show was, well...a typical trade show. The high end folks had their gigantic mega-booths with blaring speakers, booth babes, and big flashing displays. The low end companies were off in the fluorescent lit world of dull vinyl banners and Pier 1 folding chairs - sans hired gun booth babes.
There were three announcements that blew my socks off and will change the shape of film making, but I'll get to those in a future post. Back to (not really) reality of Las Vegas.
Like most of the masses of conventioneers, my feet and back felt like they were run over by a bulldozer, maybe too, by 5pm. We settled into a nice dinner at Nine Fine Irishmen, only missing the obnoxiously loud Irish band by about 30 minutes. I wanted another vegetables side, so the waiter recommended that we order a size of zucchini - which wasn't listed on the menu. I have to say that the peas and zucchini were some of the best of my life (sorry mom). I'm sure that they were fried, buttered, oiled, and spiced so much that I'm not sure they counted as a healthy vegetable anymore, but so good. Great service.
The trick with any convention is to find a ridiculously extravagant party attend while hosted on someone else's dime. This particular evening I was invited to the Miller Camera Support (i.e. tripods and heads) party at the Fantasy Tower at the Palms Hotel. My initial impression from the world of gray corporate-ville was that this was going to be a chips and drinks meeting room type of event with a corporate banner prominently display. For the record, Miller only had one banner about the size of a large loaf of bread.
But no... We were in the Hugh Hefner fantasy penthouse. All two stories of it with grand views of the strip. The room where the bathtub fits one "Hef" and up to five bunnies. No one was daring enough to go swimming in the balcony pool that hangs over the size of the building, but I soon realized I was in partying company.
Time line 10pm:
Looking for a conversation starter, I mention the conference bags to two guys standing in the kitchen area. OK, so the the satchels were a bit of a man purse, but it's cool because I think I see an Arri logo on them - which obviously negates any form of femininity. I think some men would wear spiked high heels as long as they had an Arri logo. The boys from Sky Sports Australia had been drinking enough by this time, so one of them offers to wrestle me for the man purse. I decline the offer.
Time line 10:15pm:
I realize I'm surrounded by drunk Australians (Miller is an Australian company). At least I think the people around me are Australian. Some of them are slurring so badly that I'm not sure if it's an Australian accent or just a sloshed conversation. Hard to tell moment by moment. It keeps me intrigued.
Time line 10:30pm:
We start keeping track of the body count. By body count, I mean the number of Playboy centerfolds hidden throughout the two stories of the penthouse. A guy from Sony Australia wins through his exploration efforts. Somebody discovers the circular bed rotates on motor drive and there's a conveniently placed mirror above the bed. The Sony Australia folks take turns going for a ride and posing for incriminating pictures.
Time line 11pm:
The over head mirror provides a convenient self portrait for a couple. I also offer to take a picture of them using her iPhone. Doesn't she know the rule about Vegas...oh wait...never mind.
Time line 11:05pm:
One of the Australian (or just plain sloshed) guys at the party turns on the hotel porn. Sara tells us to turn it off (good girl!). I'm the only one left with a clear sense of hearing, so I walk over and turn it off. As a side note, I caught up with Sara the next day at the Kessler booth and for the record she really is a nice person. She even keeps me from bopping Rodney Charters on the head with one of their demo cranes.
Time line 11:20pm:
I've pretty much lost track of time by now, so the time line is just a guess. I realize it's late and I'm about to leave when an Australian producer offers to screen my film on television down under. I guess after all the film festival rejections I've been going after this screening process all wrong! I leave the party after a good time meeting interesting people. Note to self: buy products from Australian companies more often, especially before NAB.
I can only deal with Las Vegas in two day increments. By the end of day two my throat and eyes are raw from the recirculating air and multiple brief encounters with cigarette smoke. It's good to be going home to sleep in my own bed, eat recovery foods, and shower in a known germ environment.
I stopped by Jose Cuervo's Mexican restaurant at the airport and had the best pulled pork green chili burrito. Surprisingly good for airport food. Highly recommended.
My friends Steve, his wife Elsa, and son Peter are also on the flight back. We spend 30 minutes discussing the latest bank account destroying gadgets from the show next to the slot machines at gate 11. Homeward bound. It takes another twelve hours for reality to sink in.