A Scouting Life: Viva

March 4, 2010 | Sam Hutchins

I was planning on dinner at Nobu, but Kar Wai surprised me by asking for a steak. Very uncharacteristic of him. Fortunately my friends at The Palm were more than happy to oblige. Rare strip steaks, trays full of oysters and many glasses of cold vodka laid the base for a great night. Fully sated, we stayed at Caesar’s for a few drinks and some more uptight white cover band music at Cleopatra’s barge. More white, uptight cover songs and some dry-ice smoke made nice accompaniment for a game of guess which girls are working. As usual at Cleopatra’s Barge, the answer was “all of them.”

From there the evening went rapidly downhill, and I mean that in the best possible way. We headed over to The Wynn and scored a table in the little basement nook overlooking the private lagoon. Darius graciously bought us a lovely bottle of Champagne to share. Many glasses were raised and smiles exchanged. Darius taught Kar Wai the proper French way to toast. Getting into our cups a bit we headed to Circus Circus so we could drink at the Carousel Bar. We meandered ever deeper into the gutter, eventually throwing down shots with an Elvis impersonator in a punk bar downtown. My mission to entertain Wong Kar Wai was more than successful.

Late in the evening I remembered a place I needed to take them. Jumping a cab, we headed up the strip to The Peppermill. If you have never been, all I can do is urge you to do so. The Peppermill is many different things, all of them fun when the sun is down. At heart it’s a diner, but calling it that is like describing the Taj Mahal as a nice gravestone. While it is at heart one of those diners with a twenty-page menu, the décor is astounding. Neon lights run floor to ceiling and everywhere else. The waitresses are all showgirls and the uniforms emphasize their best assets. It has a full bar and if you order a drink it comes old Vegas style. That is, in a large and very full glass. They do not stint on the alcohol. The perfect place to finish an evening.

It was many hours since we had dinner, so we ordered some food to go with our cocktails. Kar Wai was swooning over the place, and went to town with his camera. While he wandered around grinning and shooting pictures, Darius worked his magic on the waitress. Amazing how good this guy is. If he weren’t married he would be damned dangerous. Before long we were a foursome in the booth, laughing, drinking, and about as far away from the previous evening as it was possible to be.

I saved the best for last, however. Finishing our snack we took our drinks mobile and headed for the fireside lounge section of the establishment. You may have seen it in the opening of the film “Casino”. Right there, on the seedier end of the strip, in a diner wallpapered in neon, is a pit in the floor. The pit is ringed by upholstered sectional seating like you would find in an Aspen lodge in the 70’s. The seating wraps around…wait for it…a flaming fountain. God I love that town. Drinks in hand, seated by the column of fire, I was just drunk enough to tell them about a recent experience I had in that very spot.

When I was first called to do the job I was in Vegas for the weekend. I had gone there with a crazy, curvy Swedish gal I met in New Orleans. Feeling lonely in New York, I arranged to meet her at Caesar’s. An exceptionally fun evening was wrapping up at that very fountain. We were drunkenly making out fireside when our waitress arrived with another round. She did that classic “Bunny Dip” they first taught at the Playboy Club in Chicago, easily lowering herself almost to the floor to serve us our drinks in our little sunken bunker. While doing so she made a dangerous comment.

“Well now, that certainly looks like fun.”

Bound by no sense of propriety, I engaged.

“Why don’t you join us then?”

With a smile and a quick glance around she leaned in and kissed my date. More than casually. Now here’s a story I’m familiar with. Leaning in, I gently separated them and tried to get involved. In my mind the three of us started an increasingly heated makeout session that ended with us all skinny-dipping back at Caesars. The reality, alas, was slightly different. What actually happened was that my move caught them both off-guard. The waitress yelped briefly as she lost her balance and tumbled ass-over-teakettle, doing a complete flip before landing screaming in my lap. The drinks flew off her tray and shattered against the wall and her leg briefly lingered in the fire. Not long, but long enough for the smell of burning nylons to fill the air.

Pressing what I perceived as my advantage, I attempted to continue the kiss. Somehow my perceptions differed from everyone else’s, a fact made clear by the waitress’ crying, the managers’ yelling, and the security guard bouncing my head off the floor as he dragged me out to the parking lot. Needless to say, there was no threesome happening that night.

Finishing the story, I had Kar Wai and Darius absolutely tearing up with laughter. Glad to be of service. What I had forgotten was Kar Wai’s deep perverse streak. The laughter trickling off, he turned on me.

“You think you really had a chance at both?”

“At the time I certainly thought so.”

“Interesting,” he nodded at a passing server. “Was that her?”

Despite my assurance that I had been drunk and could not pick her out of a lineup he proceeded to ask the same about every waitress that we saw. Being well into the evening, he asked about a few of the women several times. At that point I was realizing just how lit up I was as well. With my wealth of experience in the area, if I notice that I’m drunk that means I have really, really drank a lot. I decided it was time to wrap it up.

“Guys, it’s almost three in the morning. We should call it a night.”

Kar Wai flat-out giggled.

“Oh boy, is Stephane going to be mad.”

“Yeah, he missed a good night.”

“No, not that. I promised him we would leave early.”

“What time is early?”

“Five A.M.”

“Are you crazy? I can’t leave in two hours. I’m wasted.”

“Don’t worry, Stephane will drive.”

He couldn’t stop laughing as we crawled back to the Luxor. I set my alarm for two hours in the future before the bed swallowed me whole.

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