Friday, February 19, 2010

Swinging from the Chandeliers

In honor of the Winter Olympics, I want to share my own little Olympic encounter.

In 2007, I was in Las Vegas for the NATPE convention (National Association of Television Program Executives) in January. Most of my colleagues were staying at the Mandalay Bay Hotel where the convention was being held. But I chose to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel instead. It's more intimate and fun, the rooms are cooler (and for the money - bigger) and I wouldn't have to worry about running into drunken old station affiliates trying to chat me up in the casino. When I checked in, there were a lot of beautiful long haired boys milling about...not abnormal for the Hard Rock but enough for me to take notice. I dropped off my stuff and headed to the Mandalay Bay for a meeting.

At the convention hall, I put two and two together. The bounty of beautiful boys were in town for the SnoSports Trade Show which was sharing space with NATPE. When I got back to the Hard Rock to change for dinner, a faux mountain with real snow had been erected in the parking lot. I had a ring side seat from one of my windows. With an hour to kill before heading over to the Wynn, I cracked a bottle of Jack (You go Hard Rock, you gotta go Jack!) and enjoyed the show. It was a spectacularly incongruous sight. At times the boarders flew so high, I could almost touch them! I could have easily blown off my dinner and just watched them all night.

But my due diligence paid off...

While wandering the the newly opened Wynn, I happened upon this great quiet little moment. Steve Wynn and his wife walking the hotel as well...seemingly just enjoying the fruits of their labor. There was no one else in the hallway at that moment and they were stopping here and there, to look at the fixtures, the art on the walls, the carpet. Mr. Wynn noticed something amiss...his wife spoke quietly into a walkie-talkie and out of nowhere, an employee appeared to right the wrong. Priceless.

Business dinners are always exhausting because you have to be "on" the entire time. So, at 10PM, I was dragging my weary self back to the Hard Rock. There was nothing outside the entrance that prepared me for the scene inside. As far as the eye could see - which at the Hard Rock is the entire casino floor - was a sea of bodies. You literally couldn't see anything but the writhing mass of humanity. And some of them were, literally, swinging from the chandeliers! Seriously. The hotel staff, had ceded control of the hotel and were kind of huddled behind the reception desk. It was one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen. The kids (and they were mostly kids) weren't being destructive. The energy was pure and good. My immediate reaction was to hang out and experience this for a while. So I did. I just kind of moved with the tide. And while I definitely didn't "fit in," no body made me feel that way. There was no psuedo 'too cool for you' poseur action here. These kids were just having too much fun and if you were there, you were O.K. I ran into Shaun White at the bar and he helped me get the bartender's attention. When I congratulated him on his Olympic win, he blushed! The bartender shouted that I should put my money away because the drink was taken care of. Shaun had already disappeared back into the sea of bodies.

After downing my drink, I was ready to go upstairs. After tiptoeing my way through the people sitting on the floor in the hallway that lead to them, I found out that none of the elevatorswere working. The hotel had completely broken down in the few hours I had been gone! Hilarious. I guess even the Hard Rock wasn't prepared for this kind of hard core partying! Some people were starting to climb the stairs but I, in my stilettos, was not going to do that. I noticed a very young boy (eh, say 12) looking tired and forlorn as he leaned on his board. I asked him if he was ok and we connected on some mother/child plane. I was so touched by this baby boarder that I took him under my wing. The kid already had a contract but - in that moment - no one looking out for him. It turns out we were on the same floor, so I took off my shoes and told him we'd walk the 10 floors together. Just then, maintenance got one of the elevators working and their was a surge toward it. But a couple of older boarders blocked people from getting on "Hey, she's gonna take the little dude upstairs, let them on first." It was like getting on the last helicopter out of Saigon!

Now, normally, when you're in Vegas, no matter how crazy it is downstairs, when you reach your floor it's usually nice and quiet...When the elevator door opened on our floor, the hallway was choked with bodies...dancing, clowning, partying hard. Little Dude found his manager (who should probably have been fired for leaving his client alone downstairs) and I made my way to my own room. Here's where the Hard Rock has succeeded in a huge way. Once I got inside and closed the door, I could barely hear the noise out in the hallway. But just to be safe. I grabbed the bottle of Jack, still full but for a two shots, and opened my door. I offered the bottle to the guys hanging just outside of my room "You can have this if you promise to keep it from getting too noisy outside of this door." They were so happy to get an almost full bottle of Jack it was adorable. Was I irresponsible for giving it to them? Not my job. They were already drinking and partying. And it worked. They kept it quiet in front of my far as I know, because I had one of the best nights of sleep I've ever had!

The next morning, there was no sign of the night before. The faux mountain was gone, the hotel staff was back in charge and everything was clean and orderly again. I was a little sad when I returned from the convention that evening and there was no bacchanal in the casino. The magical, mystical snowboarder tour had moved on but I was left with one great rock n roll night to remember.

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