The Office of Morty Klineman
Morty Klineman, professional talent agent, sat at his desk and once again scowled at his telephone. This time his telephone was annoying him by producing no shortage of opportunities to headline a showroom on the Las Vegas Strip.
A few months ago he couldn’t get a decent Strip offer for his clients; now, with his clients under contract once again at The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas, he had offers coming in left and right.
Before accepting The Golden Nugget offer, Morty had considered a couple of Las Vegas Strip opportunities for his clients, however Morty didn’t really feel the love at either place. One wanted The Regular Guys to play a lounge, and while they were willing to pay top dollar for a lounge act, a lounge was not a showroom. Another hotel had a showroom open but wanted his clients to work for significantly less than they had been paid for their original Golden Nugget gig.
After discussing it with Lenny and Larry, they had decided not to take that offer, with Lenny surprising him by being the one most adamant about working for less than they thought they were worth. He knew Larry wouldn’t go for it, but it would not have surprised him had Lenny, in his haste to headline a strip showroom, argued for taking the lowball offer.
And this time the offers Morty was fielding were for money commensurate with The Regular Guys’ talents.
Morty’s phone rang.
“Morty, listen,” said some whiny, nasally voice on the other end. It was some flunky who worked for an entertainment director at a Strip hotel. “Your guys should come work for me. We’ll take care of them. And you.”
“They’ve already got a contract. What do you want me to do, have them walk out on it? They aren’t college football coaches, for Pete’s sake; they’re honorable men, they’re comedians.”
“We can buy them out,” the voice on the other end said.
“Where were you guys six months ago? We were free and looking to sign then.”
“We weren’t interested six months ago. We’re interested now.”
Morty Klineman, professional talent agent, sighed audibly.
“Morty, this is your chance to get back on The Strip. You want your boys to be branded as only downtown material?”
Morty laughed; this guy was sounding like a used car salesman trying to pitch him a Chevy Nova or an AMC Gremlin. He thought the analogy was pretty apt; the guy was probably told to go out and find a headlining act PDQ, and he was just following orders. Morty was also chuckling at the thought of what Lenny and Larry’s reaction would be to something like this.
“Look, The Regular Guys are committed to The Golden Nugget for six months. After that they will probably want to go on vacation for a month or maybe even two months; they like their rest. After that though, they are free and I would be pleased to discuss that with you.”
“They like their rest; listen to you. Change their name to The Rip Van Winkle’s then. I’m offering a showroom on The Strip, do they want it or not?”
Morty chuckled. “What, if I say no? Will they never work in this town again?”
“Sheesh,” the voice said. “You try to do a guy a favor…”
And that wasn’t even the only Strip hotel that had called him, though it was the only one who invited him to have The Regular Guys break their Golden Nugget contract.
Morty didn’t have to wait long to find out what Lenny and Larry’s reaction would be. They discussed it the following afternoon.
Lenny was ecstatic; Larry, not easily given to ecstasy, settled for a high degree of interest.
Morty was surprised at Lenny’s reaction; he had expected Lenny to be disappointed.
“Morty, this is great!” Lenny said. “This means we’re on our way. If they’re interested now, they’ll certainly be interested later.”
Larry nodded his agreement.
“Also, The Golden Nugget is highly interested in signing you to a long-term contract. In fact, they’re kicking themselves for not offering you a longer contract this time.”
“How long a contract,” Larry asked.
“If I took them to the mat tomorrow, I could have a multi-year deal for you in fairly short order.”
Lenny whistled. A multi-year deal to headline in Vegas was his life’s dream. He looked at Larry.
“That’s actually fairly tempting, partner,” Lenny said.
“Yeah, it is,” he agreed. “I think there are bigger things in store for us though. I don’t think The Golden Nugget is our finish line.”
“I don’t either,” Morty said. “If we can get The Golden Nugget to offer Strip-type dollars, or something close to it, it will catch The Strip’s attention. There is a lot of money floating around out there; if somebody wants you, they’ll pay for you.”
“You make The Strip sound like a brothel.”
Morty leaned over, rested his elbows on his knees and peered at Larry over the gold reading glasses resting on the bridge of his nose.
“The world often exhibits brothel-like traits, Larry,” Morty said. “Sometimes your role is all that needs to be determined. Are you the madam, lady of the evening or john?”
“The Golden Nugget has been great to us over the years,” Larry said. “We don’t want to drag this out in public. If we do leave there, we want it on the very best of terms.”
“And they like you, too,” Morty said. “They understand, however, your desire to work The Strip and are resigned to the fact this will probably be your last tour with them.”
“Well, we don’t want to go closing any doors before we’ve opened another one, but they’re probably right,” Larry said.
“So what do we do now?” Lenny asked.
“We wait a little bit,” Morty said. “We’re not even a month into this contract. I will certainly earn my keep over the next few months, but this may well work itself out with a little patience.”
Morty was right. Toward the end of their gig The Golden Nugget did, in fact, offer The Regular Guys a blockbuster deal. Even considering Morty’s cut, and splitting the amount between Lenny and Larry, it was a phenomenal amount of money, more than they’d ever made before, though for the past couple of years each Regular Guy had been leading comfortable, if not extravagant lives.
It was more than they would make at all but the biggest Strip hotels.
The offers caused no small amount of conflict within The Regular Guys, with most of the conflict between Lenny and himself. Larry would find himself playing devils’ advocate for whatever position Lenny was inclined to take, which sometimes changed by the minute.
“Larry, we’re talking a lot of money,” Lenny would point out.
“Lenny, you didn’t come all this way to play downtown, did you?”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Lenny would say, truly exasperated. “We didn’t come all this way just to play downtown.”
“Downtown pays more, Lenny. We are professional entertainers; we don’t work for free.”
“How do I get this through your thick skull, Larry, we do NOT work for free!”
Larry would usually start laughing then.
“What do we do?”
“Well, granting there will probably be a twinge of regret no matter what we do, I say we wait. Muddy waters clear if you let them sit for a while.”
The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
There came a time, of course, when The Regular Guys had to make a decision; the offers would not remain on the table forever.
Lenny and Larry waited for a couple of weeks during which they hardly discussed any of their offers. And after giving the cloudy skies time to clear, The Regular Guys found the decision was actually rather easy.
“My own personal advice,” Morty said. “Is to consider everything but the money. If all things are equal, then we can consider the money.”
“That’s strange coming from somebody whose only source of income is a percentage of what we make,” Lenny said, smiling.
“True, that,” Morty said. “Remember, I did say it was a personal recommendation and not one made as your bottom-line thinking agent. Don’t worry about me; I’ll get a second job to pay for mom’s kidney operation.”
Morty paused to allow his joke to be laughed at.
“We gotta think big picture here, though, men,” he said, continuing. “We did not come all this way to spend the rest of our careers downtown. Eventually, you want to work regularly on The Strip. You now have that opportunity. And as you two rascals know from experience, once a door is open, you don’t know where it will lead.”
“A point our careers have illustrated from the start,” he said. “Plus, we start spending too much time downtown we’re going to be labeled a downtown only act. Downtown is – and Lord knows you share this opinion with me Lenny – very nice, and The Golden Nugget has been the best of hosts, but The Strip is The Strip after all; let’s not fool ourselves.
Lenny looked at both of them. What had once caused him worry and confusion had now been simplified and made clear in a couple of sentences.
“Well, that would seem to settle it, then,” he said confidently. “I’m with Larry.”
“Good,” Morty said, not at all surprised with how this worked out, though he didn’t think it would’ve taken this long. “Now all we have to do is determine which strip offer to take. A couple of offers are particularly intriguing…”