Published Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009 | 5:01 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009 | 5:10 p.m.
My two favorite spots to set up and work in Las Vegas are the Suncoast sports book and Binion’s Cafe. I can say precisely why that is. Ambient noise, football, people-watching all play into it. Last month, a friend called me while I was working at Suncoast and, hearing all the hooey, asked, “Where are you?”
“At Suncoast sports book, writing about U2,” I said. Sensing the muted confusion on the other end, I added, “There are too many distractions at my house.”
I live with two cats and no humans.
At this writing, I am back at Binion’s, waiting for Mayor Oscar Goodman to flick the lights on the official Las Vegas Christmas tree (it’s better than even odds Goodman will somehow remind the crowd he is Jewish). It’s mid-40s out there, but I sense the mayor will be satisfactorily warmed by his favorite beverage.
As I’ve waited, I’ve inhaled a $5.50 Binion’s cheeseburger that was every inch as satisfying as the foie gras “popcorn” hors d'oeuvres served Friday night at the opening of Mandarin Oriental. It’s funny, you can push all the extravagant chocolate-covered raisins and berries and almonds at me you like, but there’s something about popping a Twinkie in the microwave for eight seconds … mmmm-hmmmmm. Maybe I’ll hit Mermaids down here for some deep-fried Twinkie action.
Anyway, let’s get some notes out before I get tossed from here:
I call him ‘Sam’
Ever have a question you’re just dying to ask a particular person? Maybe not. But for more than 25 years, I’ve wanted to ask Sammy Hagar the last time he’s received a speeding ticket. This, after “I Can’t Drive 55” was released when I was in high school, and we all decided that we, too, could not drive 55. On Friday, hours before the opening of Cabo Wabo Cantina at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood (whew), I finally asked Hagar this question during a phone interview. (This interview was supposed to be an in-person interview, except one of us -- and that would be Johnny -- wound up at the wrong hotel.)
“Oh, man,” he said. “I don’t get traffic tickets anymore. I had gotten 37 when I wrote that song, I paid $25,000 a year in auto insurance because of my driving record, and I was driving exotic cars. It was hell. I had my license suspended three times.”
Since, Hagar recalls receiving two tickets.
“It’s like, I get pulled over -- and I still get pulled over, trust me -- and the officer is like, ‘No way! You can’t drive 55! I’m not giving you a ticket,’ ” Hagar said, laughing. “It’s like the song inoculated me, but it wasn’t meant to serve that purpose. I’m not that smart. I’m just the luckiest guy in the world.”
Hagar had decided to stay at Flamingo instead of Planet Hollywood because he thought his friend and Harrah’s exec Don Marrandino would be in town. Marrandino couldn’t make it. When I noted that Marrandino had long seemed to aggressively emulate Hagar (even in his appearance), Hagar said, “Don is a lot like me, but he can’t rock.” About 550 fans turned out for Hagar’s free show, with Kenny Chesney, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and the ever-awesome Vinnie Paul of Pantera playing that rock ’n’ roll the kids are so excited about. On Saturday, Hagar's band Chickenfoot played to 2,500 in The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Hagar also said he kept his voice in top condition by drinking a lot of tequila and coke and warming up by screaming. “I don’t warm up,” he said. “I go, ‘YEAAAAAAAAAHHHH!’ ” I try that at the gym, and everyone gets mad at me. …
This Robin Williams -- funny
Robin Williams has lost nothing off his fastball. I say that metaphorically, though if he pitched, he’d still bring the heat. He’s still a fury at age 58 and opened his show at MGM Grand Garden Arena with several minutes of Vegas-specific humor. “Donald Trump built a hotel in Las Vegas!” he shouted. “There goes the f---ing neighborhood! They have his Miss USA Pageant here, which is like a catch-and-release program for him! It’s like Michael Vick opening up a pet store!” Of Tiger Woods’ alleged trysts with Vegas women, he said, “Tiger is trying to find Kobe Bryant’s jeweler right now!” He also went on a several minutes-long description about the assembly-by-committee approach to male and female genitalia that was so outrageous -- “We’ve added some topiary down there” -- that words alone can’t suffice. He uses the f-bomb as frequently as always, talks of his stint in rehab (referring to himself as an alcoholic at least a half-dozen times) and even joking about his open-heart surgery. “They offered me a pig valve, so we cured my swine flu, too,” he laughed. He’s one to see, but only if you feel like laughing for 90 minutes.
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