Chance Encounter

"What do ya think?" asks Nick, my 74-year-old stepdad, as we watch the same Casino Arizona commercial on the television for the zillionth time. You know, the one with the Showstoppers Live bit.

"The fuckin' Blues Brothers rule," I tell him.

"You wanna go check them out?" he asks.

I tell him I'd rather not see impersonators, but he tells me he's tired of reading all the women's magazines that are lying around the house, and I start to feel bad for him.

So Viva Las Vegas it is.

Or Viva Scottsdale.

As we exit the 101 at McKellips Road, it's not hard to notice the place, with its giant billboard right out front.

We pull into the parking lot and catch the shuttle, which is really just an old guy driving an oversize golf cart. His name is Will, and he tells us all about the wonderful restaurants inside the casino, and about some woman named Linda, who was employee of the month last year.


We enter the place after tipping Will with a George W., and the air conditioning hits us like a tsunami. Well, that and the odor of cigarette smoke and old people's perfume and cologne. But it sure is pretty with all the colored blinking lights. It reminds me of the old days on 42nd Street in New York, when porno palaces ruled the land, and Disney just stuck to making movies and hosting theme parks on its own space.

And the fun back then cost the same as it does now. A quarter. You'd get five minutes of hard-core sex on video, or better yet, two minutes looking at a naked woman who was always more than happy to show you her insides.

Money very well spent. Then you were, too.

We walk around for a while to really get a good look at the place. And the people. Nick tells me he feels "young" around the clientele, and I tell him I feel like sperm. Everyone has blue hair and is sitting at slots pushing buttons.

"What happened to those bars you used to pull?" Nick asks me.

I look around, and he's right. All the slot machines are now push-button, and we locate only a few one-armed bandits. And even those have people pushing buttons on them.

It's all very surreal.

Then Nick pops the question.

"Did you hear that?" he asks.

"Hear what?" I ask him, sort of listening to some "Blue Velvet"-type singers off in the background singing the hits to a crowd no younger than 80 years old. I want to scream, "Candy-colored clown they call the Sandman!" but I'm too chicken-shit.

"Do you hear it?" Nick asks again.

I look at the 74-year-old dude and tell him I hear nothing.

"Ed Zachary," he tells me, rehashing an old joke about a Chinese doctor.

I try not to laugh, then I realize what Nick is talking about. There are plenty of slot machines, but none of them is paying off. There is no sound of dropping coins, that "plunk" into the metal bin that makes those machines so satisfying.

Playing these things is like tapping a mute chick. No pleasurable noises. And that ain't no fun.

Upon further inspection, we find people with credit cards attached to mini-telephone cords plugged into their machines. It's all very The Matrix. For the Geritol generation.

"Gimme a quarter," I tell my stepdad as we near the nickel slots. Those we can afford.

He gives me his last one, and I put it in a machine with a video display of little green men. What the fuck? Anyway, I play the game, and the machine tells me I've won. I now have 70 cents.

Excited, I push the "cash out" button and nothing happens.

"Where the fuck is my money, bitch?" I moan under my breath.

An old lady next to me points to a white piece of paper with a UPC bar code printed on it, and the amount of 70 cents. Plus the words "Casino Arizona Cash Out Ticket."

I feel ripped off.

But not nearly as much as I do when I realize that there are NO stewardesses walking around with free drinks. What the hell? I just won a whopping 70 cents and I want my free drink.

So Nick and I leave the casino area, disgusted. But not before trying one more nickel slot, where, when I push the cash out button, I hear the faint sound of change dropping into a bin. But there is no bin. I look closely at the slot and realize it's got tiny computer speakers that make that sound digitally.

The world really is going to hell.

After checking out a few of the restaurants and some Native American art, we finally check out Showstoppers Live, the in-house impersonation show. Or, as the ads say, "A musical tribute to America's greatest superstars (with a special comedian)."

The show opens with Casino Arizona's Elvis putting his scarves around screaming senior citizens. They get so excited by Elvis' moves and stretches, I swear they must be wetting their Depends.

He rocks and rolls and looks and sounds the part.

As he says "Thank you very much," it becomes clear he is no Bruce Campbell, but he gets a wild round of applause. I bet you lots of the old ladies would have stood up if they weren't stuck to their seats.

Next up is their "Gloria Estefan." Nice camel-toe goes along with her talent, but does this age group even know who the Miami mama is?

After that, comedian George Kantor rocks the house with some decent dirty humor. Punk rock.

Then the Tina Turner impersonator takes the stage. She looks and sounds like a crack whore, which is probably right on target. But she does a great version of "Proud Mary," and the Showstoppers Live dancers, who dance along to everyone, look hot.

Finally up are "The Temptations."

But no Blues Brothers. And I was really looking forward to those dark suits, Ray-Ban glasses, and Madonna's cleavage. Oh, well, they probably would have sucked anyway.

But it doesn't matter. The Temptations blow me away. They make me feel nostalgic for tunes that were written way before I was born.

And it turns out that the band's singer, Greg Austin, is the show's producer. When he introduces his nephew and son, who are on stage with him, I'm truly touched. I almost shed a tear.

And with that, Nick makes fun of me the whole way home.

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George Tabb
Contact: George Tabb