The Casino
Episode 1

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Just Take the Penicillin Now, Save Some Time

And Up Chuck has arrived at the Golden Nugget, calling himself a professional gambler (lofty ambition). Talking about how he loves to party, yells into his cell phone about how the person on the other end needs to make sure there are women there, or he'll take care of it, one of the two. He's a "high roller," the "big guy." He's got "five grand" on him but has brought "one hundred grand" with him, because apparently that's what you bring to Vegas. Well, that and a righteous vendetta: he's here to take down the Golden Nugget, he says, without laughing. "I'm probably the winningest gambler I ever met," he says, and I spit water all over him, but it runs off immediately because of the excessive oiliness. Whatever, "Big Guy." Up Chuck 15, Reality 0. The hundred thousandth commercial for the King Arthur movie comes on, so I make a tick mark, but then I have to move to a new wall of my cell so I can continue counting them.

Matt "Velvet" Dusk, his manager "Wolfie" (okay?!), and Joe, the Nugget's Entertainment Director, have a little sit-down. The man currently being called the Midnighter spots Joe's Viet Nam Veteran quality immediately. This is a Joe on the Edge. Joe takes us there with him now, as he begins spinning a web of terror and confusion in the air, describing the desire for "really nice adult contemporary," citing Billy Joel as a jumping-off reference. The only thing that keeps this conversation from being an Edgar Allan Poe story is that he talks about running the "gambit" of the really nice adult contemporary music, and means the "gamut," but I think he really means something like "abattoir" or "siege perilous," or maybe he means "gauntlet," in the Tailhook sense. Matt "Velvet" Dusk reveals a bit of his kind of pitiful side when he tries to draw a nonexistent line between "standards" and "covers," implying that singing "Fly Me to the Moon" or that damned "one shot sad" song for the four hundredth time is somehow more pure and holy than if it were "Jumping Jack Flash" or, say, "...Oops (I Did It Again)." He talks a little smack about Las Vegas and almost says, but does not quite say, something to the effect that he hates cheesy lounge singers. At least he gives me that much, because I really couldn't like him if it went that far. This way, he preserves himself from the tide of active self-loathing that already claims the rest of this show's participants through setting up meaningless categories and divisions for himself, these little loopholes that excuse him from his own life, of such delicate and crystalline intricacy that, well, you have to love it, don't you? Plus, his name is Matt "Velvet" Dusk, I should point out. Right there you know this is a man capable of superhuman feats of self-scammery. Matt "Velvet" Dusk: Lifestyle Illusionist.

Joe the Vet wants to get Matt "Velvet" Dusk to agree, though, that if a song is requested, he should be able to perform it. Matt "Velvet" Dusk balks a little bit at this insinuation that people would not be attending his shows for the express purpose of seeing Matt "Velvet" Dusk perform, but he's obviously terrified that he's going to wake up one day and still be Matt "Velvet" Dusk, so he will really promise Joe the Vet anything he wants at this point. It occurs to me that the whole Vegas Hotel entertainment deal is kind of like going out to the veldt and promising a mighty lion, or proud tiger, or silent giraffe, comp lunches and a private green room if he'll just come live in your zoo for the next fifty years. (Or if you're Celine Dion, 5,000 years. That bitch'll outlive us all.) Anyway, in private, he calls Joe the Vet "regimented," but allows that he is on board for Tim and Tom's "vision," which so far seems to be a Trump-esque "Small World After All" pretense at Vegas glamour on the cheap. On the other hand, if that is in fact their "vision," then I have to say that A) they are doing a terrific job and B) Matt "Velvet" Dusk is the fellow for them.

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The Casino

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