by Sam Hutchins
Being a longtime bachelor (at the time) with a bit of money and a healthy appetite for debauchery, I have spent a lot of time in Vegas. Not only does it offer all the pleasure you like, it’s an incredibly easy weekend getaway. Two phone calls are all it takes. One to JetBlue for a ticket on flight 197 and one to Caesars’ for a room. Make the calls and the hotel will have a limo waiting for me at the airport, room is comped and it’s post time. That is pleasure, however, and this was work. I was heading to Las Vegas with no intentions of misbehaving. Felt sort of odd.
In retrospect I clearly should have used my rating at Caesars to get the three of us a nice suite. I didn’t, however, as Kar Wai had made it quite clear that he wasn’t interested in scouting the strip. He was much more interested in the seamy underbelly of the town, so I had us staying downtown at the Golden Nugget. The rooms were booked before I got to know the fashion in which Darius and Stephane liked travelling. They were horrified by Fremont Street and downtown Vegas. The hotel was dingy, loud and offered terrible service. I looked at it as a compromise between the really sketchy places where Kar Wai wanted to be and the nicer accommodations available elsewhere. They looked at it as an awful dump of a hotel. They made no secret of their feelings about staying there.
Wanting to compensate for the misstep, I took them to one of my favorite spots for dinner: The Palm steakhouse at Caesars’. We had a truly spectacular meal of oysters, shrimp, crab, salads, creamed spinach, fried potatoes and onions, huge slabs of prime beef and copious amounts of wine. One benefit to working with the French is the quality of wine you drink. Darius ordered the bottles and he really knows his grapes. We dropped close to a grand on dinner for the three of us, and it was worth every cent for the bonding we did around the table. Particularly as we charged it to the film.
After many glasses of wine we really opened up and got to know one another, bragging of our victories, mourning our losses and reminiscing lost loves. The only part that got a little weird was our toasts. I was lectured on the etiquette of raising a glass with one’s confreres the proper French way. Darius insisted, and Stephane confirmed, that it is a grave insult to drink with someone without looking them directly in the eye. Darius is very seductive in the way only a Parisian can be and locking gazes with him like that made me uneasy. I felt like the cat that Pepe le Pew used to chase. I’ll take my cocktails without the intense stare, thank you.
After dinner we made our way to Cleopatra’s Barge for some more drinks. Nothing says class like a gaudy floating bar replete with strobe lights, dry ice fog and the whitest black man in America covering Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.” I’ve had some truly epic evenings in that joint. I taught my new best buddies the game “Guess which one is a hooker,” which is a rigged contest because at Cleopatra’s Barge they pretty much all are. The guys were fascinated by the concept and kept pressing me for details as to how I knew a girl was working. Darius didn’t entirely believe me; he’s innocently charming like that. As we were leaving one particularly innocuous looking young woman approached us and asked if we wanted to party with her, helping prove my point. All in all a very nice night and a big help in getting to know each other better.
Arriving back at the Golden Nugget, I turned to my companions and made the effort once again.
“Meet in the lobby at eight tomorrow morning?”
I barely got the words out of my mouth before I was told it would be nine-thirty at the earliest. As we got to our rooms Stephane pulled me aside for a private word.
“You know, Sam, I have a great location scout in Paris that I use all the time. Best location man in all Europe. When we work together he comes by my room in the morning with a nice cappuccino and maybe a little fruit and water.”
“We have an expression for that sort of thing in America, Stephane.”
“What ees that?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
My friend and mentor Jonathan taught me long ago that you can say anything at all to someone as long as you keep the tone light and smile when you say it. Turns out he was right.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.
Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.
Photo courtesy H20man