Saturday, February 18, 2006

Copious Cocktails and the Checkmates

I'm sitting in the Enterprise Branch of the Clark County Public Library on the far south end of the Las Vegas Strip because I'm too cheap to pay $10.95 per day for wireless access at the hotel.

Otherwise, the new South Coast Hotel & Casino is pretty swank for a couple of low-rollers like Kevin and myself. They have 42" plasma TV screens in every room. We've also made good use of the 2-for-1 buffet coupons in the funbook.

Upon our arrival Thursday night, we began drinking in the hotel's dueling piano bar. Kevin gave the pianists four bucks to play "Tiny Dancer," so you know we were a little bit lit. I was running two hours later than everyone else, but I still managed to keep going until about 2:30am.

We were checking out our entertainment options over coffee Friday morning when I noticed Isaac Hayes was playing the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. We immediately called to see if there were any tickets, but Black Moses had cancelled due to illness. The other reasonably-priced shows were mostly topless revues. I saw a topless show here once and it was like watching a bunch of campy drag queens. I'm not even sure those were real women underneath all that plumage. At least a couple of parts probably weren't.

Kevin hadn't seen the Strip, so we hiked from the MGM Grand to Caesar's Palace and back. When night fell, we went downtown and meandered about on Fremont Street. We had dinner at the 777 Brewpub at Main Street Station. My steak and shrimp scampi combo was decent, but Kevin's veggie foccacia was drowned in a sea of vinegarette. All the food out here has to be salty so you drink more and then gamble more. That's how they get you. Not me, though. I haven't gambled a nickel.

I'd been wanting to see Vegas lounge veterans The Checkmates for years and they were playing at the Sahara's Casbar Lounge. Aside from the $4.75 beers, it was a great show. The Checkmates had a big hit with "Black Pearl" in 1969, but Sonny Charles and Sweet Louie are best-known as a top-notch R&B revue these days. They played everything from "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" to "Bad Mamma Jamma." The three musicians backing them were solid, too. If you're ever in Vegas, you should definitely "check" them out.

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