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August 30, 2014

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Of beer pong, Lucky and ‘Freaks’: O’Sheas performs its last jig

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John Katsilometes

An inside-out look at O’Sheas on the final Saturday before the Irish-themed casino closes.

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A photo of Psychic Universe at O'Sheas. They knew this was coming.

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T-shirts imploring "Save O'Sheas" have not succeeded in sparking such a movement.

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Lucky the Leprechaun (aka Brian Thomas) pours shots of love at O'Sheas.

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El Gringo Loco, O'Sheas home of Mexican fare.

Final Countdown for O'Sheas

Pedestrians walk by O'Sheas Wednesday, April 25, 2012. The Las Vegas Strip casino will begin The Final Countdown closing party on Saturday, April 28 at noon. OSheas will permanently close at noon on Monday, April 30, to make room for the Project Linq development. Launch slideshow »

O'Sheas Tops It Off

T-shirts imploring Launch slideshow »

Holly Madison and Brian 'Lucky the Leprechaun' Thomas Beer Pong

Holly Madison defeats Brian Launch slideshow »

On the final Saturday of operations at O’Sheas, green T-shirts imploring “Save O’Sheas” were offered to casino guests. Just behind one of the casino’s blackjack tables, a guy who appeared to be in his early 30s argued with great urgency with a woman seeming to be about that age about ownership of one of these souvenirs.

“It’s mine!” he said. “Give it back, bitch!”

“You’re a douche!” she shouted back. “I got it first!”

Any high school debate coach would have awarded victory in this back-and-forth to the woman, stressing ownership of the item and an accurate assessment of her opponent. Frustrated, and likely besotted, the guy then turned to a nearby O’Sheas representative who happened to be walking nearby.

“Hey! You!” the guy shouted, his desperation amplifying. “Knock her out, will ya?”

“Cool it,” the rep said, then turned to the woman and advised, “Just try to stay away from him.”

This might be the time to note that the O’Sheas mediator was the esteemed Brian Thomas, who portrays Lucky the Leprechaun. Thomas was not exactly clad in a security uniform in donning green slacks, a matching driver cap and a clover-splashed vest. One of the city’s best-known spokesmen, Thomas also happens to be a little person, standing 4-foot-2. He is rarely, if ever, asked by a male to assist in a dustup involving a female over a dispute over a souvenir T-shirt.

Shortly (pun) afterward, Thomas weaved his way through tourist traffic to climb atop a bar and pour shots into the gaping maws of eager partygoers. I asked what he’d miss most about O’Sheas.

“The people,” he said. “Everyone who comes in here. It’s wild, but they make it possible. I’ve loved it here.”

After a nearly 24-year run on the Strip, in the cluster of resorts operated by Caesars Entertainment, O’Sheas chains its doors shut at noon Monday. In place of the 22,000-foot standalone casino will be the upgraded resort Project Linq (write it down in inq), which is set to open in 2013. The more pedestrian-friendly resort is an attempt to tap into the vibe of the Meatpacking District in New York and the Grove in L.A. It also is attempting to tap into the vibe of riding a 550-foot-tall observation wheel, which is different from a Ferris wheel in the sense that … well, I don’t know how it’s different. But it is tall and rotates in a large circle.

During a final walk-through Saturday afternoon, I’d remembered a lot worth remembering about the joyous little casino:

Vince Neil Ink: When the place opened 5 years ago, I was offered a tattoo -- my first -- by the business’s owner. We never did make that appointment, but one first for the tattoo emporium did unfold in rather dramatic fashion Saturday: A pedestrian fell hard into the glass facing the Strip, cracking in a million places. It was something of a work of art and reminded of how a similar incident occurred at the front entrance of the Sahara on the day it closed. Moral: Patrons aren’t all that are smashed at Vegas casino closings.

Three words and a colon: Holly: Beer pong. Madison played the game in one of her appearances at the casino, and for many O’Sheas revelers, there is no greater sight in all the land than Holly Madison leaning over a beer pong table. Beer pong, in general, is moving over to Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, and moving to a new venue at Harrah’s is Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee, who will not be playing beer pong but will be singing such hits as “Poke Salad Annie,” and the pokeweed plant looks a little like a clover cluster, so it all makes sense.

Casino War: This is the card game where you don’t even have to be present to play. High card wins. I guess you do need to be at the table to perform the act of flipping the cards for each hand, but the game is totally devoid of strategy. There is a version of War in at least one other resort, Excalibur, and its popularity seems iffy. Table was empty Saturday.

One of the great names of a bar anywhere on the Strip: Dublin Up. That’s where Lucky pours the shots.

Lucky: Thomas has certainly appeared in thousands of photo albums over the years while portraying the character. When he was mayor and performing a key-of-the-city ceremony at the casino, Oscar Goodman remarked at Thomas’ sense of humor in and out of character. Thomas is going to be working for Caesars Entertainment, still, overseeing the new beer pong courts at Bill’s. He came out pretty, um, lucky.

Distinctive food options: El Gringo Loco has always been the chosen spot for anyone looking for quick Mexican food in the Irish-themed casino’s Food Mart. You could get free WiFi at Burger King (and, thus, anywhere in the Food Mart). Also offered was a $3 hot dog-and-a-beer package. What kind of beer? Name brands! Miller Lite and MGD Draft!

'Freaks': Not casino patrons, necessarily, but the stage show “Freaks” in the 175-seat O’Sheas Showroom. One act impaled himself on a spearhead; later, he lifted weights from chains attached to his eye sockets. Don’t laugh -- he was said to be world’s greatest eye-socket weight lifter. Another performer was a woman sipping wine from the glass -- then munching on the glass itself. A most gross production, “Freaks” didn’t live long after its May 2009 opening, but it was distinctive in its appeal. How distinctive? Branded barf bags were sold at the souvenir stand.

Psychic Universe: For those looking to chart their future in a small enclave tucked off to the side of the casino floor, P.U. offered tarot card readings to bored gamblers and was a convenient complement to the nearby oxygen bar. Certainly, the psychics knew long ago that O’Sheas was going bye-bye. As someone far wiser, and far more Irish, than I once said: A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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