Fantasizing About an Early Curtain

Bloggified by Jake on Monday, February 11, 2008

I spent this weekend in Las Vegas for a friend's bachelor party. There were some highlights, like the Mac King Show, which is already the best show on the strip for $25 but only cost us $10 apiece (including a drink) thanks to a coupon being handed out on the sidewalk outside Harrah's.

There were frustrations, like the rash of upsets in college basketball and the Knicks' improbable victory in Milwaukee killing all my sports bets or one of the wedding party members spending more money than I made in the past four months to take a stripper to the champagne room at Scores. He admitted to spending $3000--but we guess it was closer to five grand--and didn't even get to third base. As another of our cohorts growled, "All that money and all he has to show for it is a hangover."

I suggested to him that since I'd been laid off on Friday and that we'd had to pull my son out of school because we can't afford the tuition any longer, that if he'd be willing to pay the tuition for March through May, I would allow him to come over to my house, sit on the couch, and not have sex with my girlfriend for three hours. Hell, if he'd given me $3000, I could have bought him a $1000 hooker and a bottle of champagne from room service, and still had enough left to put my kid through school for the rest of the year.

But sadly the most memorable part of this trip will be the Luxor's topless revue, Fantasy.I've spent three days trying to think of something nice to say about the show, and the best I could come up with was: "Compared to what's happening in Darfur, it's not fair to call Fantasy an atrocity." The CIA should book the Fantasy Girls to play a week in Guantanamo Bay. The detainees would be begging for waterboarding within three days.

The supposed concept of Fantasy is that we all have fantasies and will see them become reality on stage. This, however, presumes everyone in the audience has the same fantasy of watching eight topless women get coked out of their brains and writhe around in their panties while doing absolutely nothing else, sexy or otherwise.

When I was in college, I dated a stripper who told me the worst part of her job was when a guy would buy time in the private room and go for the hour long package. Generally, within ten minutes she'd exhausted all her dance moves and the thrill of having a naked woman all to himself had worn off, leaving the customer fifty minutes to reflect on how wasteful he'd been with his money. Fantasy wastes no time in getting the boobies out for the paying public, losing the bras about five minutes into the opening number. However, after watching the same sixteen boobs bounce (or in many cases fail to bounce, being tightly packed so full of silicone they could likely be used to club small game to death and larger game into submission) gets dull fast. Unfortunately, while lowly hole-in-the-wall strip clubs have the common sense to rotate dancers on stage every two songs at most, big budget Vegas stage show Fantasy does not.

Shortly after the tops come off, we meet Stephanie Jordan, a singer with a powerful voice who serves as one of two emcees for the show. As you can see from the photo to the right, Stephanie's doing her best to blend in with the 20-to-early-30-something sorority on stage, but all the work she's had done below her neck can't overcome the fact her face appears to have been manufactured from the same leather they use for first baseman's gloves and stored inside a barbecue smoker.

Stephanie runs around the audience singing a song about "Goin' to Vegas" that brought to mind all those parts of "Bret Michaels Rock of Love" where he'd play some crappy song from his new solo album. The chorus was an embarrassing juxtaposition of Stephanie's powerful, overzealous, from the bottom of her lungs belting out "WE'RE GOIN' TO VEGAAAAAAAAAS!!! What are we doing?" followed by shoving the microphone into the face of some retired Iowa corn farmer who, startled, mumbles, "Koff... um, gointavegas?"

After that, the dancers come back out and the show's producers give us a glimpse of their creative process when they replace the "women writhing around on the floor in their panties" motif with "women writhing around on a couch in their panties." Part way through the awkward attempt to fit eight girls on one sofa and make it look somewhat erotic, a black guy comes prancing on the stage, staring lasciviously at the girls and looking out knowingly at the audience.

My first thought was that this was a daring choice for the second fantasy of the night, but considering the large number of interracial porn sites on the net, I couldn't argue that "swarthy Negro humps bevy of lithe white women" was a legitimate fantasy for a large number of Americans. I just thought it was a daring one to kick off the evening and expected "naughty librarian" or "confused virginal schoolgirl" or "bawdy pirate queen" to be more in the theme of the show.

The man, Sean Cooper, wasn't part of a porn fantasy at all. In fact, he was the star of the show. Let that sink in. When you go to see the show that plasters every flat surface of the Luxor with images like this:The majority of it actually features this douchebag:Sean is, according to his MySpace page, "a multi talented entertainer - Comedian Impressionist" who "incorporates his UNIQUE COMEDIC impressions of MANY of the Greatest Entertainers of all times! Cooper has been referred to as an 'Impressionist Extraordinaire'." To put that title into perspective, Cooper does impersonations of James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Elvis, putting him just a Nixon and a Casey Kasem away from the full gamut of "impressions everyone can do." He also does Sammy Davis Jr. and Tina Turner, both of which simply involve Sean talking through his nose, one while going cockeyed and saying, "cat" a lot, the other while wearing a fright wig and dress. (Videos of these impressions can be found at his MySpace page, but I couldn't embed them here.)

Cooper is a talented dancer, but somehow I think Danny Gans--who plays in the Danny Gans Theater at the Mirage, outside of which stands a marquee bearing his face that happens to be the largest freestanding marquee in the world--might find it a bit presumptuous for Coop to proclaim himself the "BEST COMEDIC IMPRESSIONIST VEGAS HAS TO OFFER!"

Sean also did a stand up routine that lasted seemingly seven hours, during which he simulated masturbation by holding the base of the microphone to his crotch with one hand and punched it with the other while squealing. The fact is wasn't funny the first time didn't stop him from repeating it seven or eight more times.

His cutting edge routine also involved singing "U Can't Touch This" with an Indian accent and observations on how black folks and white folks be different y'all. One was left to wonder, however, what his feelings about airline food are. As soon as he stepped on stage as Michael Jackson, performing "Smooth Criminal," the inevitable pedophilia joke hung like a cinderblock on a thread over the crowd.

Incidentally, between Stephanie and Sean I concluded that you can mathematically express how much fun a show is as an inverse proportion to the number of times the emcee/hypeman tells you how much fun you are having. People who are having fun do not need to be constantly reminded they are having fun.

The slapdash nature of the show seems as though the producers opened a trunk of costumes and planned around what they found inside. Cowgirl chaps? Let's have all the girls dance to "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy." We just had the girls out dancing in their panties and hats... how about next we have them go out in panties and ties?

Ultimately, Fantasy's biggest problem is that it doesn't know what it wants to be, which seems ludicrous given the simple, straight forward nature of the concept. A topless show about fantasies coming true should not be that difficult, yet instead we're given bad impressions, unfunny stand up, uncomfortably force audience participation, and outright pandering. It's like ordering a 12-ounce steak dinner and having the waiter bring you a 3-ounce steak, half a tuna sandwich, some tapioca pudding, and a tube of toothpaste, then sing you a lullaby. Yet their constant reminders that we're going to see our fantasies come to life makes it out as though they are dictating to us what we should fantasize about.

At no point is that more blatant that when Sean pulls an audience member on stage to "make his Vegas fantasy come true." The guy--Jeff in our case--goes backstage and emerges a minute later in a big Elvis wig, gold cape, and huge sequined sunglasses to shake his hips to "Hound Dog." Sean celebrates the service they are doing Jeff by letting him live out his fantasy while Jeff politely plays along, punished for not simply saying, "No, thank you," when asked to come up on stage.

Jeff goes on to be a constant reference point throughout the show. Every time Stephanie comes on stage, she'll say some side comment to Jeff. Sean mentions that Jeff saw somethings backstage that will cause him to masturbate so furiously he'll use all the complimentary hand lotion provided by the hotel, demonstrating with another three or four illustrations of the phallic microphone punching technique. It doesn't take long to both feel sorry for Jeff and to feel relief that its him being picked on and not yourself. Need you guess who was the butt of the aforementioned inevitable Michael Jackson pedophile joke?

Fantasy also wants to be "naughty," but defines that term by some Midwestern, evangelical, middle-aged Bush-supporter standard. There is an undercurrent of social conservativism, such as Sean's constant attempts to reassure the audience that he's not gay and a joke about being kept away from the white women that just carries an overall tone of trying to prove he's one of the "good ones" as far as black people go that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I can only imagine Wayne Brady and Bryant Gumbel shaking their heads sadly as they watch him, muttering "Uncle Tom" under their breath.

Also, if you're curious just how erotic the "most erotic show on the strip" is, there was one man who brought his Down's Syndrome son to the show. So it's erotic to a degree that you wouldn't have any qualms about exposing someone with the mentality of a four-year-old to it.

In short, Fantasy is one of the worst things I've ever seen at any price and when you consider Ryan dropped sixty bucks a ticket to get us in the door, it had to have been dollar-for-dollar the worst entertainment I've ever experienced.

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