Chapter 15

Opening Night
The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino
Southwest Corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, Nevada

Following their triumphant second tour at The Golden Nugget, the bidding for The Regular Guys talents had been, if not completely out of hand, competitive enough to keep Morty fairly busy and eventually resulted in a four-year deal at the brand new The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino at a ridiculously high salary.

And the opening of The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino was done up pretty much like you would expect a Las Vegas hotel opening to be done up: there were a dozen floodlights criss-crossing above the 50-story hotel tower and a large fireworks show just before the 8 p.m. opening. There were celebrities out the wazoo scheduled to appear, and a red carpet from the limo area to the front entrance just for them.

And though The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino went to great lengths to give the impression the celebrities were coming from someplace else, in reality, most had been checked in earlier in the day and would be taken to a staging area out back and where their limos were waiting. They would then be driven around to the front entrance, exit their limousine and – accompanied by showgirls, of course – walk down the red carpet to the entrance while being fawned over by photographers, cameramen and fans.

The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino cost $1.8 billion to build, had 50 floors, 4,200 rooms, 13 restaurants, a 15,000-seat arena, two show-rooms and the requisite games of chance the Great State of Nevada allowed its casinos to offer customers.

In their role as resident headliners, Lenny and Larry were scheduled to have their limousine pull up to the entrance at 7:58 p.m., where they would then cut a ribbon that would mark the official opening. They would then get out of the way as 20,000 or so people stormed the entrance eager to drop the money needed to pay the obscenely high salaries that Vegas headliners received.

“Are we about ready to go?” Larry asked, pretending to be exasperated.

Larry was standing in the living room of the suite, along with Ann Shelton and Larry’s date for the evening, a singer named Ayesha who was currently starring in her own show on The Strip. Larry, still single after declining to marry Rachel Rachmaninov and failing to lure Lynn Miles, had been unwilling to find a date, so Ray Evans, who knew who was single and who wasn’t, had brokered Larry’s date for the evening.

This was not Larry and Ayesha’s first date, though. They had gone out a couple of times, quiet affairs so Larry could be sure the night wouldn’t be a complete fiasco. They had not been Dates of the Year, but they had gone well enough and Larry found Ayesha to be a charming companion, though he suspected, correctly, that Ayesha was not completely averse to being Larry’s date for opening night and was more or less auditioning for the part.

Originally from Afghanistan, Ayesha’s family had moved to India when she was quite young before settling in the United States. She was rather short, not anorexically thin and dark skinned and was universally recognized as one of the planet’s most beautiful women. Ayesha had parlayed those looks, plus her solid, if not great singing voice, and a commanding stage presence into a nice entertainment career. She led a louder life than Larry preferred, and was younger than he was looking for, but even Larry acknowledged if you couldn’t produce a real date for the evening, a Vegas headliner – or any member of the male species, for that matter – would have a tough time topping Ayesha for a date.

Everyone was waiting for Lenny.

Larry checked his watch; they actually had time, about a half-hour before they had to be at the limousine staging area at the back of the hotel, and there were two Las VegasUSA security officers waiting to escort them in case they lost their way.

“Yes!” Lenny said, sliding on the carpet out the bedroom door and into the living room. Like Larry he was wearing black tie. Ann looked positively stunning in a black knee-length dress; her blonde hair was a little longer than usual and as always she combined athleticism and beauty like no one else while simultaneously looking like she could both kill you as well as seduce you. Ayesha was dressed like a peacock.

Lenny waltzed over to the curtains and opened them. Both Regular Guy suites were on the 50th floor and faced The Strip, which offered a spectacular view.

“Oh yeah, bay-bee! Look at that!” he said, smiling broadly.

“The biggest night of your life and all you can manage is ‘Oh, yeah, bay-bee’?” Larry asked.

“All right, Francis Bacon, you find something.”

Larry stroked his chin.

“How about ‘History is largely concerned with arranging good entrances for people.’?”

“Who said that?”

“Heywood Braun. American sportswriter.”

“That nails it pretty well,” Ann said. “You have the entrance of a lifetime with two gorgeous women. What more could you ask for?”

“Four gorgeous women?” Larry asked. This earned a laugh from Ayesha, who didn’t seem particularly disturbed by the prospect, and a punch in the arm from Ann.

The Regular Guys’ limousine had exited the Las VegasUSA rear parking lot, turned right on Sahara Boulevard then right at The Strip before working its way into the front entrance. The fireworks show had been in progress and even through the closed doors of the limo it had sounded like armageddon.

To get to this point, The Regular Guys had been through an insanely busy week. There were promotional appearances for both the hotel and their show, both in Vegas and elsewhere, and there were final preparations on The All-American Theater that would house The Regular Guys’ show. Lenny and Larry had even done a show especially for their fellow Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino employees and their families in the arena a couple of nights before the opening. The demands on their time had been considerable, especially for two men who were not accustomed to having a whole lot of demands on their time

The Regular Guys, though, went about all of it graciously and with typical good humor; Lenny, after all, hadn’t waited a lifetime for this limousine ride only to be ornery while Larry figured this whole week would be a sight they would never see again and he was determined to enjoy it even if he had spent the entire week talking to Las Vegas Herald gossip columnist Ray Evans and that he was sometimes going in seventeen different directions at once.

Their limousine pulled up right on schedule, where a uniformed valet opened the door. There was even a public address announcer to announce their arrival in case anyone in the crowd had missed The Regular Guys sign on the side of the limousine door.

Ladies and gentlemen, now exiting their official limousine and here to officially open the casino, the headliners at Las VegasUSA, and last year’s Las Vegas Magicians of the Year, from someplace funny, The Regular Guys!

The Regular Guys and their ladies exited to loud applause and cheers.

Lenny was the last one out of the limousine. He stood up and took in the red carpet, the crowd and the ornate, elegant entrance and almost passed out.

“Holy crap, partner; look at this!”

Larry smiled at him.

“This means we gotta be really funny tonight, doesn’t it?”

Larry said something, but Lenny couldn’t hear it due to the crowd.

The four of them walked to the entrance where they were met by several showgirls and an Elvis impersonator. There was a large red ribbon tied to the door and a microphone stand with a microphone on it; Lenny walked up to the microphone and tapped on it a couple times. The thud reverberated through the crowd and for some reason the crowd thought this funny and laughed.

“Wow, we don’t even have to say anything and they laugh, Larry.”

That got a few more laughs.

“Ladies and gentlemen, since you all have large amounts of cash burning holes in your wallet, I know the last thing you want is a long speech from some two-bit headliner, so I’ve only prepared a few light remarks,” Lenny said seriously.

Lenny looked off to the side, where a valet appeared and gave Lenny a briefcase from which Lenny pulled a large, bound leather book which could’ve been volume one of A History of the Western World.

This was greeted by more laughter.

“Seriously, welcome to the grand opening to the latest monument in this great city to capitalism, avarice and free booze, The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino!”

More cheers. Larry joined Lenny, bringing with him an exaggeratedly large pair of scissors with him.

Lenny had one final benediction to the masses:

“Go in peace, all of you, and serve The Regular Guys!”

To even louder cheers The Regular Guys then cut the ribbon officially opening the casino and got the hell out of the way.

The All-American Theater
The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada

“You going to deal after the show?” Larry asked Lenny.

They were standing backstage a few minutes before their first show as Las Vegas Strip headliners. In the past, moments before big shows like this had – on occasion – been passed by reflection on what they had accomplished or a conversation of some substance. Not this time; Lenny and Larry had spent the past 20 minutes or so either quiet or chatting about nothing in particular. In fact, if either were particularly nervous at a time that almost by definition should be fairly nerve-wracking, neither was showing it.

Lenny laughed and said no, he probably wouldn’t be dealing blackjack tonight even though Lenny could, in fact, legally deal a hand of blackjack had he wanted to.

To keep his options open in this matter, he had actually attended one of the local dealer schools in town and upon successful completion of their prescribed course of instruction had gone through the same employment interview and audition every other potential table games dealer who wanted to work at The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino went through. After he had been ‘hired’ Larry accompanied him to an authorized fingerprinting business where he had had his fingerprints taken and sent electronically to the Nevada Gaming Commission. After a background check, he would be certified by the commission as being not a complete reprobate, or at least not any bigger a reprobate than anyone else who dealt cards for a living in town and fit for casino duty.

Just then Morty walked up. He was wearing black tie with a cape and had his usual half-glasses perched on the end of his nose.

“You get your cat dry cleaned for tonight?” Larry asked while patting the top of Morty’s head.

“Really, it looks great, Morty,” Lenny said. “It looks like it just came back from a session at the Kitty Spa.”

“If you guys were half as funny on stage as you were backstage you might actually make something of yourselves instead of playing the same dives all the time,” Morty said smiling.

“Well,” Larry said. “If we got some decent-paying gigs, you could then afford something that looks remotely like human hair and not something from an animal shelter.”

“Look,” Morty said. “Everybody and their mother is out there tonight. Casino bigwigs, celebrities, gossip columnists, fellow Vegas headliners, the comp list reads like a Who’s Who. Whatever you do, don’t munch it tonight. You can munch any other night, but not tonight.”

Morty pinched the thumb and index finger of his right hand at the upper part of his nose and snorted.

“I can’t take this; I’m going to go drink some Drano.”

“Lenny, give Morty your cyanide capsule,” Larry directed.

“I don’t have it anymore, partner. I just took it.”

Morty laughed. His troops had met every challenge thrown their way, and there was no doubt they would meet this one as well.

The stage manager came up to them and told them there was one minute to showtime. Larry looked at his watch as if to verify this.

“I know this is redundant, but go get ‘em, men.”

Morty turned and left.

Just then the lights went down in the theater and a drum roll started. A cheer went up from the crowd of 1,000.

Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening and welcome to opening night at the All-American Theater at The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino! And now, from someplace funny, please welcome the resident misfits here at Las VegasUSA, Lenny and Larry, The Regular Guys!

Lenny and Larry entered through curtains at the rear of the stage, or, more accurately, Larry entered the stage through the curtains at the rear of the stage, Lenny, despite having practiced the maneuver a dozen times, had trouble finding the slit and tried to enter through the curtain itself as if he could magically transport his way through it and when he finally did find the slit he stumbled somewhat, which got laughs because everyone thought it was staged.

Larry looked down and joined the crowd in giving Lenny a round of applause. Lenny recovered with aplomb and, as usual, began distributing money to the crowd, this time actual dollar gaming tokens to those sitting in the front row while Larry got out a very expensive digital camera he had just bought and, again as usual, began taking pictures of the audience. He even sat down next to a drop-dead gorgeous young lady and had her boyfriend take a picture of them.

Their first ovation was loud and long. And while a good portion of the tickets had gone to various high rollers, or, more accurately, since the hotel had just opened, those it was hoped would be high rollers, there were enough people who had seen The Regular Guys before to make the ovation as warm as it was loud.

“Did you bring the material, partner?” Lenny asked once the ovation had died down.

“Me? You were the one in charge of material tonight!”

It was a line they hadn’t used for a while, and it got the good laughs it had always received.

“Well,” Lenny said. “Either way we’re going to have to produce some comedy. They’re expecting laughs tonight.” As if to confirm this Lenny extended a hand out, taking in the crowd.

“Here? They’re expecting comedy here?” Larry said as if he thought the audience had actually expected to get beaten.

“I’m afraid so, partner. In fact, I think it’s in our contract that we have to provide comedy.”

“Okay,” Larry said. “Knock, knock…”

This too, got a good laugh, and Larry realized tonight was a lot like New Year’s Eve, a night where everybody was already incredibly predisposed to having a good time, not to mention half-snookered, and Lenny and Larry’s real job was merely to keep them laughing. They could probably do that by farting.

Far from farting though, The Regular Guys delivered one of their best shows ever.  Bad Magic, which Lenny had lost interest in for a year or two, returned with a vengeance, and it evolved into a blackjack game where a man from Michigan actually lost his wife to Lenny, who graciously, after some consideration, returned her to the husband who, after some consideration on his part, agreed to take her back.

Lenny also tried to give magic tips to a very famous magician who headlined at another hotel.

He fished through his pockets for some props he had bought for just this circumstance and found some red foam balls. He had the magician stand up and handed him two of the balls.

“Careful, friends,” Larry cautioned. “This is The Amazing Lenny you are watching. Please, we implore you, do not try this at home.”

“Oh, you’re doing this trick, partner. This is far too dangerous for me to attempt.”

With that, Lenny pulled a blindfold from another pocket and with a flourish tied it around Larry’s head.

Larry had no idea what the hell was going on; Lenny had never blindfolded him during a show before, or at any other time for that matter.

“OK, Larry, stick your arms out with your hands open.”

Larry did so; for added effect, he turned his head away.

“Now, Famous Headlining Strip Magician,” Lenny commanded. “Place one ball in each of my lovely assistant’s hands!”

The Famous Strip Headlining Magician followed his instructions. He was laughing slightly.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Lenny said. “What is to follow is an incredible feat of magic. Again, I must warn you: do not attempt to duplicate this in the privacy of your own home!”

He directed the magician to close his eyes. The magician did so.

Lenny stood there and regarded Larry, who was standing blindfolded and looking away with his arms extended holding a red foam rubber ball in each hand, and the Famous Strip Headlining Magician, who was standing there with his eyes closed, apparently enjoying having his life’s work mocked.

Lenny really had no idea what he was going to do. Like virtually all of what he and Larry did, they had simply followed their instincts. They had been doing so since they first stumbled on stage together at Amateur Night years ago and they were doing it now, their first show as headliners on the Las Vegas Strip. Lenny had had the foresight to purchase a few odd magic implements earlier in the week, knowing there would be fellow Strip headliners at the first show, but he had no idea they would actually be used, much less what context they would be used in.

Lenny waved a hand in front of the magician’s face to verify his eyes were still closed.

He leaned over to Larry as if he were whispering in his ear; he had his microphone with him, so the audience could listen in.

“OK, here, give me the balls,” he said, trying to sound clandestine.

Larry opened his hands and let Lenny take the red foam balls.

“OK, close your hands again,” Lenny said, to much laugher, especially from the magician.

Lenny removed Larry’s blindfold and commanded the magician to open his eyes, instinctively Larry threw his hands open.

“Now, at no time did Larry’s blindfold leave his face!” Lenny shouted triumphantly. “So, Mister Magician, where did the red foam balls disappear to?”

The magician laughed, reached behind Lenny’s ear, and produced two red foam balls of his own; he then made that wavy move that magicians make with their hands and the red foam balls disappeared and were replaced by an egg. The magician then pulled a rather long multi-colored scarf from the egg, returned the scarf to the egg, made some really professional magical wavy motions, reproduced the egg, cracked the egg on a nearby martini glass, and dropped the egg yolk into the glass. He gave the cracked eggshell to Lenny, who had watched it all with a dumbfounded look on his face.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” proclaimed Larry. “The Amazing Lenny!

The show ended with Larry, who can’t sing, and Lenny, who can, sending the audience out the doors singing the chorus to Viva Las Vegas.

Backstage was a madhouse; Morty, assisted by the PR brigade at The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino, had gone through great pains to ensure that anyone who was anybody and wanted to get backstage was allowed backstage, and it seemed that criteria was met by half the town.

After what seemed like an hour of greeting people Larry ran into Jerry the Universal Groupie. They shook hands.

“How’d you get in here,” Larry asked smiling. He wasn’t particularly disturbed by Jerry’s presence, but genuinely curious. The last time he had seen Jerry he had assumed he was part of Toby Flotsam’s entourage. And even though Toby Flotsam was playing in the arena that night, the laminates needed for backstage access were completely different.

Jerry sensed, correctly, that a truthful answer was in his best interest because if Larry didn’t like his answer he could have him thrown out with the riff-raff and Jerry spent most of his time trying to avoid doing anything with the riff-raff except hire them to clean his pool.

“I know somebody in the PR department here,” he said truthfully and somewhat repentantly. “I showed them my laminates from your New Year’s Eve show with Toby and convinced them I must’ve been left off the list somehow.”

Larry, far from angry, found he actually liked that kind of assertiveness and nodded approvingly.

Just then Lenny walked up; the crowd was starting to disperse, most heading off to a party at the ultra-hip lounge at The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino. Jerry, not wanting to miss out on that, and wanting to avoid Lenny who may or may not blow the whistle on him, quietly began walking away.

“Hey, Jerry,” Lenny said. “What’s up, man?”

Jerry stopped nervously.

“Oh, hey Lenny,” he said as if caught by surprise. “A great show tonight. The best I’ve ever seen.”

“Thanks,” Lenny said. “We were pretty good. Good thing, too. The lights were pretty bright tonight.”

Jerry breathed a mental sigh of relief. Lenny, evidently, was assuming Jerry was here at Larry’s invitation; Jerry would do nothing to disabuse Lenny of that notion.

“They’ll get brighter, don’t worry. You’ll be knocking them dead here for years.”

Jerry really had to leave; the main entourage was making its way to the club, and he didn’t want to have to talk his way in. He could if he had to; he had his backstage credential after all, and, even if he didn’t, he was experienced enough in these matters so that he could probably talk himself in with only a Costco card and a couple of C notes. But it would be a lot easier to be waved in with the first group.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Jerry said, raising a hand slightly. “Larry, as always. Lenny, I’ll see you next time?” Jerry made it sound like they could expect to run into each other as a matter of course.

“Sure, you bet,” Lenny said.

Jerry waved and then turned and left.

“Who the hell is that, again?” Lenny wondered.

“A friend we’ve made along the way,” Larry said as if it were unimportant. He smiled and took in a large amount of air and let it out again.

“Wasn’t tonight great, partner?” Larry asked, his tone wondering if it had really happened.

“Oh, baby, it was the very best of nights, my friend. A million and one candlelights. This was worth the work and the wait.”

The two stood there enjoying a moment of quiet after what had been a hectic week and before the cacophony of whatever else the future might bring.

“You heading to the party, partner?” Lenny asked.

“I don’t know,” Larry said in the manner of a Lutheran man who had already made up his mind to turn down a night’s revelry to go to bed early. “I’m really beat. Ayesha will want to go though.”

“You know, you two actually don’t make too bad a couple…”

Larry showed Lenny a palm.

“Don’t even start,” Larry said smiling.

Lenny waved a hand dismissively.

“It doesn’t matter. You’re still on the mend from Rachel marrying the goddamned vice-president of the United States and the whole Lynn Miles fiasco. But remember, we’re famous comedians now. Marrying Ayesha would be right in step with what’s expected of us.”

Just then Ann and Ayesha walked up.

“There they are, Ayesha,” Ann was heard saying.

Ann had a hug and a kiss for Lenny, and an affectionate hug and peck on the cheek for her dear friend Larry. Ayesha smiled mischievously at Ann before giving Lenny a deep French kiss. Larry got one, too.

“Men, that was incredible, your best show ever,” Ann said with a smile that produced more candlepower than the floodlights dancing above the hotel tower. “If I may say so, exactly what I thought you were capable of oh so long ago.”

“She’s right. Everybody’s right,” Ayesha said. “It was fabulous.”

“Ayesha, will you join us at the party,” Lenny asked.

Ayesha indicated she would be joining them at the official after-party. Larry indicated he would be making a token appearance, but had already announced he would be exhausted and leaving as soon as he decently could.

Chapter 14
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