I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve done this, but every now and then I like to dive deep into the memory banks and tell a story from long, long ago, back to my earlier days of Vegas visits. One such blast from the past can be found here.
Back in the day, long before I played poker, my buddy Norm and I used to visit Vegas 2-3 times a year, for a few days or maybe a week at a time. We had more or less regular 9-5 jobs and this was how we would spend our vacation time.
So this story takes place a long, long time ago, and it probably has remained in my memory for all this time because it is the origin of one Norm and mine’s favorite catch phrases. What’s important to remember is that this happened when not only Vegas was very different, but so was the world.
There were no cell phones back then, and the internet didn’t exist, or maybe it was in its infancy but certainly didn’t resemble what it is today. If you said, “Google” to anyone you would have gotten a look like you were speaking a foreign language (or baby talk).
It was so long ago, naked women had just been invented.
Oh, ok, that’s not quite true. I think naked women have been around for at least several hundred years. Naked men too, but no one cares about them.
But it used to be naked women were hard to see. Many guys actually had to marry a woman to see one naked. But then, in the 1950’s, Hugh Heffner accidentally discovered that men liked naked woman when he added a few pictures to his magazine that everyone read for the articles, which he called Playboy. And since then, naked women were easier to see. Men would go to newsstands (anyone remember those?) and buy a few of “those kind” of magazines. To make it look ok, they’d also buy copies of Newsweek, Time, Life and Sports Illustrated (before the swimsuit issue was invented), which they’d throw away as soon as they left the newsstand.
“Burlesque” shows turned into strip clubs which had signs like “Live Nude Girls!”—which had to be better than “Dead Nude Girls,” no? And thus another way to see naked women was born.
Las Vegas, a city long known to cater to all of man’s sins (hence the nickname, “Sin City”) started producing production shows with almost completely naked women.
Then Hollywood got into the act. They started putting naked women in their movies. Aspiring and established actresses would be asked to shoot a scene or two in their birthday suits in major and not-so- major) movies. The directors and producers of said movies would insist to these actresses that it was essential to the movie’s plot and to tell the dramatic story that they be seen without their clothes on. But of course, the real reason was they wanted to see them naked.
Hmm, I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent there. Sorry about that, that is so unlike me.
Anyway, back to my Vegas trips with my pal Norm. Norm and I had somehow discovered this phenomenon of actresses appearing sans clothing in movies and, as keen observers of popular trends and culture, had started paying attention to it. Although the sight of a naked female certainly didn’t offend us, our main interest was as researchers. You see, not all of Hollywood’s stars and starlets were willing to remove their clothing for art. So our main interest was learning who would and who wouldn’t take their clothes off for the camera. We were really more like scientists studying this trend than anything else.
Again, I have to remind you of the times. Today, there would be no need for our research, because the internet lays it all out for you. This may shock you, but I’ve heard that there are websites that not only list what actors have appeared in their birthday suits, but in which movies they have done so—and some even have the scenes (or pictures) available for your viewing pleasure. Further, it is announced long before the movie is even made if Star X will be showing the goods. By the time a movie comes out, it’s a safe bet that the most interesting scenes are already on the web. If not, they soon will be.
Back in the day, we were left to speculate. Of course, there were these things called “newspapers” (anyone remember them?) that got your hands full of gray ink that would publish movie reviews. And sometimes they would say whether or not there was nudity in them. Presumably this was a warning for parents, but come on, we know who the real intended audience was. The problem was that “nudity” is a term that is not nearly as specific as one might think. A person could technically be naked but somehow covered by a well placed prop, yet the listing would still call that “nudity.”
In those days, we had no choice but to see the movie in question ourselves, in a theater, for our scientific research. Or, we could wait for the movie to show up a year or so later on this new thing called “cable TV.” Or maybe even rent or buy a tape of the movie from a “Video Store” in either VHS or yes, this story goes back this far, “Beta.”
Norm and I lived in the L.A. area but he travelled a lot for his work. He would frequently be on the road for a week at a time. He had a lot of free time in the evenings (remember, there was no internet!) so he’d sometimes see a movie while travelling. The good movies that we’d both wanted to see he’d save for when we got together. But if there was a movie out that merited the kind of research I’ve been talking about, he’d go see it while he was on the road, and report the results of his research back to me.
As I recall the story, on this particular trip, we had just arrived in town. Our main activities at this point when we went to Vegas were blackjack, craps, Pai Gow (when it was introduced) and food. And by food, we usually meant buffets. For many years, our favorite buffet was at the Golden Nugget, and I think that’s where this story took place, but am not 100% certain. Oh, and by the way, another thing we frequently did in Vegas was go to movies. Any old time Vegas folks remember the Red Rock theaters?
So we were enjoying a nice buffet lunch (and by “enjoying” I mean “pigging out on”) and we were catching up on what we’d been up to since the last time we’d gotten together. And Norm had just come back from a trip somewhere for work, and told me that he saw a particular movie that had just come out. It was definitely not an “A” movie. It was a movie that I knew instantly that he could have only seen as part of this research project—to see if the female star of it actually appeared in the buff in this film.
As an aside, I think I remember the actress in question, but am not sure. If I was right about the actress, I’d probably have to look up the movie cuz I sure can’t remember the title. But since it’s not necessary to the story and I could be wrong, I won’t mention who I think it might have been).
Anyway, Norm mentioned seeing this specific film and there was only question that needed to be asked. There we were, both with full plates of food in front of us, and I leaned in and asked Norm, “Was she naked?”
Well, at that precise moment, unseen by me, the waitress had come by to see if we needed anything (drink refills, most likely). My memory is that the waitress was this sweet, older woman. And there was no doubt in either of our minds that she heard exactly what I asked Norm.
Norm and I just stared at each in horror, and when she left, we did indeed confirm each other’s suspicions that she had heard this.
Now, in hindsight, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal. After all, this was Vegas, and no doubt the woman had heard and seen a lot worse. But keep in mind it was a different era. Since there was no internet, there was no internet porn. We were gentlemen who were taught to act respectfully around women. Yes there really was an era, and it wasn’t all that long ago, when a gentleman didn’t say the word “naked” around women.
I recall being very embarrassed and also that Norm was even more embarrassed to have been seen with me.
Anyway, eventually we had a good laugh or two over it, told our other friends about it, and it soon became a catch phrase. Now here’s the thing. This same scenario, in some variation, started repeating itself over and over. Frequently one of us would catch ourselves from saying some thing too embarrassing, or sleazy, or even just personal, just as a server was coming to take our order or check on us. We began using the code phrase, “Was she….?” as a warning, if one of our party noticed the waitress and sensed that the conversation was about to go risqué. Or if we were about to stop ourselves just in the nick of time, as soon as the server left, we’d say “Was she naked?” practically in unison. But sometimes, yeah, it would happen again, and one of us would be overheard saying something we sure didn’t want anyone not part of our group to overhear. And most of the time, when the speaker didn’t catch himself in time, it was me.