Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Don't Touch My Pizza, Dude"

I’ve spent almost every Christmas season in Vegas for more years than I care to admit.  So of course I’m spending the season in Vegas again this year.  Due to both professional and personal reasons, I arrived in Vegas for the season earlier than usual.  But that was fine, as it meant an extra weekend in Vegas.  An extra weekend of poker.  An extra weekend of enjoying what I lovingly refer to as The Slut Parade.

So there I was, on the Thursday night before Christmas, playing poker at the MGM, waiting for the young, engaging, minimally dressed young hotties to arrive.  But they didn’t. An investigation revealed that club was apparently not going to open that night.  WTF?  When I returned to my room, I checked their website.  The club was dark the entire weekend before Christmas.  Oh, the horror.  Don’t they know that nothing would bring me more Christmas joy than seeing the young attractive girls wearing dresses that are too short, too tight, and too low-cut to be allowed in public in any other locality than Vegas?

Bah humbug.

I shouldn’t have been surprised.  For years my pal Norm and I would go to Vegas every holiday season and we knew that for all its reputation as a 24-hour town, there would be certain things that would be closed until Christmas was in the rear view mirror. 

Of course certain things don’t close.  You can be sure that the casino itself and all its gaming operations are available 24/7.  No Christmas holiday for that!

But most if not all of the showrooms were dark the two weeks or so before Christmas.  Although I almost never go to a show these days, back in the day, Norm and I went to many a show.  In fact we saw almost all of the big shows on the Strip at one point or another.  And many headliners as well.  But when we went for Christmas, we were mostly out of luck.

We were even surprised to find that many of our favorite eateries were closed.  That was a shock but we sort of got used to it.  Some buffets actually closed, and our favorite dives as well.

We liked certain snack bars (this was before they all had food courts).  Frequently when in Vegas, we’d stuff ourselves to excess at a buffet for lunch and then would only need a light snack at night.  We found all the best places for a light nosh.

I recall one of our favorites was the snack bar at El Rancho.  Before it was El Rancho, this casino was known as the Thunderbird and the Silverbird (I forget which was first).  With El Rancho, they went with a western theme.  It was just south of the Sahara on the same side of the Strip.   It is long gone. 

One of the things we liked about the place was that they had lower limits for their table games than most of the places on the Strip.  We were cheap and really appreciated that.  Then they opened our favorite snack bar.  I’m not sure if the food was really that good or we loved the fact that they had a boatload of video games there that we enjoyed.  We were arcade game enthusiasts back in those days.  As I recall, after we got tired of Pac-Man, our favorite game became Burger Time.  We played an awful lot of Burger Time at that snack bar at El Rancho.

There was one time when we had to wait to play Burger Time.  There was a kid there playing it, with his buddy watching, urging him on.  I do mean kid—I’m thinking he was probably too young to be in the casino itself.  He had a slice of pizza on a nearby machine or a stool or something that he couldn’t eat because his hands were busy playing the game.  He was breaking the high score for the machine and was quite proud of that fact.

Still, he was worried about his slice of pizza.  He kept telling his friend, “Don’t touch my pizza, dude.”  There was just something about the way he said that, the tone in his voice, the use of the word “dude”—which was not a particularly popular word back at this time—that totally cracked Norm and I up.  He repeated it a few times as he continued to play the game--one eye toward the pizza to make sure his friend wasn't helping himself to it--and it got funnier every time he said it. We started quoting, “Don’t touch my pizza, dude” to each other the rest of the trip.  It became a long running catch-phrase between us.  We never missed a chance to quote this phrase, whether it fit in our current context or not.

So the Christmas after the pizza dude, we were bitterly disappointed to go to El Rancho and see that our favorite snack bar was closed for the holidays, and would not reopen until we were back in Los Angeles.  Rats.

The arcade games were still there and working, and I think we played them, but it just wasn’t the same.  We both commiserated that there was no chance of hearing that kid once again warn his buddy, “Don’t Touch My Pizza, Dude” even if he did somehow miraculously show up while we were there. Besides, we had to find another place for our much needed snack.

On my current visit, of course, it isn’t just Hakassan that was closed for Christmas.  I was surprised to see that MGM’s signature restaurant, Craftsteak, is also closed until after Christmas.  This is not an issue for me, because the place is so expensive I couldn’t afford to eat there anyway even with my comps.

And when I went downtown last weekend to play in that Binion’s weekend Deepstack (a very good decision, see here), I saw a big sign at the Fremont that their buffet was closed until Christmas.  Fortunately for me, I remembered that the deli right next to the poker room at Binion’s was closed the last two years I played in the tournament before Christmas.  I made sure I ate lunch before I got there, and I had food with me in case I needed to eat during the tournament.

So I was pleasantly surprised that this year, they remained opened.  That was really nice for me, because I was able to eat a couple of hot dogs from there for dinner, instead of just a bunch of nuts I had with me.  I might not have made it all 11-1/2 hours in the tournament without that Deli being surprisingly open!

But that was a lucky break, and as I’ll eventually reveal, I had a few lucky breaks during the tournament.  Be warned if you plan to visit Vegas right before Christmas—Vegas does somewhat close down a little bit this time of the year. 

And that’s why that, unlike for Halloween, there’ll be no post entitled “The Christmas Slut Parade" to follow.


  1. Many moons ago long before I started to play poker, I had my first big slots score at El Rancho. I hit two big pots back to back on the dollar slots. I got scared that the machine was somehow rigged and got out of the place ASAP. A return trip the next day, unfortunately, showed that the machine had cooled off.

    1. Nice story, Lightning. As I recall, the cocktail waitresses there wore rather sexy cowgirl outfits that were easy on the eyes.

  2. load up on those fried twinkies and oreos

    1. Let me check with my cardiologist and get back to you.....

  3. Replies
    1. the dude abides. u r mr lebowski i am the dude

    2. Thanks for the link, BuzzedSaw....interesting. of these days I'll have to watch that flick.

    3. it is an awesome movie. funny dialogue

  4. Rob, have you already done a post of your favorite places to eat in Vegas?

    1. Thanks Daniel. I've never done that post, and never really considered doing it. My tastes are so mundane and also I'm so cheap that I think it would be embarrassing. On the other, hand my friends just treated me to a ridiculously expense Vegas meal, maybe I'll talk about that one day. We'll see.

      My favorite meal in Vegas tho is a a hot dog and a slice of pizza. Really.

  5. I always had heard that pizza was actually invented here in the US by Italian immigrants. Interesting.