Las Vegas, Nevada
Another year passed. The Regular Guys indeed became full time, part time performers at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, their schedule adjusted so that they did 100 shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace and 100 shows at the All-American Theater at The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino.
The Caesars shows sold out most nights for the first few months and then sold out in advance after that, and Ray Evans had been right it had been a license to print money from the start. The show grossed almost $50 million, and, even considering Caesars Palace cut and that they had an agent to pay for and now required a handful of employees to take care of things like correspondence and their bills and whatnot, they were still making phenomenal amounts of money.
Regular Guy merchandise even sold briskly, though Larry refused to allow anything with his picture on it to be manufactured. Lenny, in a show of comedian solidarity, also refused to have his likeness on anything, even though Lenny’s countenance by itself on, say, a t-shirt was rather useless without his partner’s.
But there were golf shirts in assorted colors and hats and pullover windbreakers. They weren’t cheap, but to The Regular Guys credit they were, at both Lenny and Larry’s insistence, very high-quality items. The biggest sellers were the Regular Guy coffee mugs.
The Regular Guys were, not for the first time in their careers, content with what they had carved out for themselves. Lenny was in the interesting position of having now accomplished more than he had ever wanted as an entertainer. He had been perfectly content headlining at Las VegasUSA and looked at every Caesars Palace show as icing on the cake, while Larry was pleased to note The Regular Guys kept getting better and better on stage. The money confused him every now and then, but he didn’t worry about it too much. He invested most everything he made in safe, income-producing investments and lived off the interest. He would worry about the awesome amounts he was accumulating at a later date.
Then one day the world woke up to the tragic news that Caesars Palace headliner Celine Dion had died. She had been at a birthday party at a Vegas restaurant for a tiger that headlined a local magic show and walked into a large freezer, inadvertently stumbled, and hit her head on a side of brisket, and froze to death. Her body wasn’t found until after midnight when some cooks were taking stuff out of the freezer that needed to thaw before being used that night.
It was not immediately clear why she had seen fit to walk in the freezer in the first place, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Caesars Palace needed a new headliner.
The Rio Vegas Golf Club
Las Vegas, Nevada
Lenny, Larry, Ray Evans and Jerry the Groupie exited the clubhouse at the Rio Vegas Golf Club, met their caddies, and headed to the first tee.
Larry had taken up golf because his status as a Strip headliner got him into the handful of very private golf clubs in town. He could play in privacy by himself or with a guest or, every now and then, with Lenny, who had been a regular and lousy golfer for years. As The Regular Guys got more popular Larry was finding it hard to have any privacy when he left his apartment. The Regular Guys were well known around town and golf was a good way for Larry to get some exercise and fresh air without being bothered.
Lenny, who hadn’t spent a lifetime working to be a Vegas headliner so he could have privacy, found it difficult to golf regularly because he usually slept past noon was often out running around Vegas attending openings or charity events as if he got prizes for signing autographs. He golfed when he could, which wasn’t often, but made a point to golf once a month with Larry. Morty had been invited once, but a long time ago in another place, he had been denied a round of golf because of his Jewish-ness, and had not seen fit to favor the links with his presence since then.
Jerry had gone from Fortunate Hanger-On to Golfing Partner of The Regular Guys with surprisingly little effort. In short order, he had become a rather familiar face backstage with The Regular Guys. He didn’t show up all the time, but often enough so that no one ever had to wonder too often where he was. And he never missed the big weekends; and while he seldom showed up with a woman, he frequently left with one – and sometimes two – and some who were famous as well since he was assumed to be close to The Regular Guys – a notion he did nothing to disabuse – and was, therefore, a Somebody.
He was the perfect groupie. He made no demands and gladly took whatever came his way. When The Regular Guys started working Caesars Palace, he didn’t even have to scurry for a backstage pass. Larry, by now accustomed to having him show up even if Lenny still wondered who the hell he was from time to time, had personally given him his own backstage laminate. And when Jerry needed tickets to see The Regular Guys all he had to do was call their secretary and as many comps as he needed would be waiting for him. Since he wished to remain in favor he never abused this privilege and seldom asked for more than two.
Jerry began golfing with Larry – like everything else – by fortunate accident. He was backstage after a show about a month or two after Las VegasUSA had opened and he overheard Larry talking to someone about a golf game, and Larry said something about having never played but wouldn’t mind taking some lessons.
Jerry, an accomplished golfer and not without contacts, told Larry he could introduce him to a pro and the next thing you know Jerry, a man of no significant accomplishment save his ability to blend in, was golfing with The Regular Guys.
For today’s round, Jerry was, as always, appropriate, the key to any party crasher. He looked like he was about to tee off at the Masters. Larry had introduced him to Ray Evans as his friend Jerry, and Ray, who had spent a career filtering his way through people just like Jerry, appeared to take that at face value. Jerry didn’t have that wanna-be bearing that Ray’s built-in groupie radar picked up just like that.
Larry had turned out to be a pretty good golfer. He had taken the expert instruction Jerry had arranged and learned his lessons well. He could go around 18 holes and regularly break 90 and more often than not 85. The closer he got to the hole, the better he became. He seldom three-putted, but his tee shots could be brutal.
Caesars Palace and The Regular Guys had just announced The Regular Guys would be the new headliners at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Their schedule would be the same as it had been at Las VegasUSA: five shows a week for 40 weeks a year. The money would be completely insane.
“Are you guys ever going to earn anything on your own,” Ray Evans said as they approached the first tee. “You sneak into town when Bertie Higgins, God rest his soul, gets eaten by a gaggle of oysters, hook up with Toby Flotsam – which may well have been your big break – when another comedian gets caught in bed with a boy and now your headlining Caesars Palace because Celine Dion forgot to wear rubber-soled shoes in a walk-in freezer! Jesus is lucky you guys weren’t around when he was crucified; Morty would’ve had you headlining The Resurrection!”
“The Resurrection would’ve been a tough crowd, Ray. Those Romans could be murder,” Lenny said.
“Earning things on your own is overrated anyway,” Larry said. “It’s easier to wait around till somebody’s so desperate they have to hire you.”
“Well, if I’m Wayne Newton I’m watching my back, that’s all I’ve got to say,” Ray Evans said.
“We’re bigger than Wayne Newton now,” Larry said.
Lenny gasped audibly, as if Larry had taken the Lord’s name in vain.
“Careful, partner, that’s the Big Guy we’re talking about,” Lenny said. “Mr. Vegas.”
Larry crossed himself in apology.
“Forgive me, Father Lenny.”
“That’s all right, my son. Go in peace, serve Wayne Newton,” Lenny said.
“Will one of you tee up,” Ray Evans said, exasperatedly.
“Old men, first,” Lenny said, his right arm out, leaning on his driver. “You have the honor, sir.”
Ray Evans teed up a ball and hit it onto a neighboring green. He swung like a buxom Russian peasant woman carrying a sack of potatoes might swing a golf club.
“Pretty good, Ray,” Larry said.
“Caddy, what green is that?” Ray Evans asked.
“Probably the ninth,” Larry said. “But it could be the tenth. Why, you going to go birdie it?”
Lenny, the caddies, and even Ray Evans were laughing.
“Shut up. Give me another ball please.”
“Ray, this course doesn’t have lights,” Larry said. “We don’t have all day.” Larry took his ball and threw it down the fairway.
“That’s about as good as you’re going to get,” he said, smiling.
“I’d take it Ray; there are women and children on the course today,” Lenny said.
Ray Evans laughed and graciously stepped aside. He was not a good golfer, nor did he particularly enjoy golfing, but you’d be surprised what being a friend of The Regular Guys did for his reputation. Accepting their semi-regular golf invitations was a small price to pay. Plus, it gave him an excuse to wear his favorite lime green slacks.
“Lenny, this movie stuff isn’t going to hurt the show is it?” Ray asked.
Lenny had spent some of his off time the past couple of years appearing in movies, and he had rather enjoyed the experience. Similar opportunities existed for Larry, but he wasn’t interested, though he did show up on the set once just to see what was going on.
“No, no,” Lenny said as they approached their second shots on the second tee. “Nothing could ever do that. Twelve weeks off a year is a lot though. I only need four. Killing a couple of months making movies isn’t anything to get too worked up about.”
“Larry, what do you think about that?”
“Lenny’s wrong, as usual,” Larry said. “12 weeks off a year isn’t enough. I could use 20 or 30.”
“Well, more offers are probably going to come your way. Are you prepared for them?”
“Yes,” Larry said. “I am prepared to turn all of them down.”
Lenny laughed, right as Larry was about to tee off. Regardless, his drive easily landed on the fairway, though it didn’t go more than 150 yards.
“Yeah, and I only do the ones I can easily fit into our off time,” Lenny said. “And, don’t tell Larry this, but we’ll probably end up producing them one day.”
“We’ll have the money for it,” Larry said.
“Producing movies? Really. Very interesting.” This was the first time either had mentioned this to him.
“We’ll see,” Larry said. “Life is a series of cycles, and this one is far from over.”
“Well, I just don’t want something to come between you two. You’re too funny together. Plus, do you realize that every woman I take backstage to meet you sleeps with me?”
Ray Evans was known for bringing various women with him to the show, which he saw a couple of times a week. Invariably he brought them backstage. Most were young enough to be his daughter and it was doubtful they’d be able to spell ‘I’ if you spotted them the ‘I’.
“Every one? Even your sister?”
“Well, almost everyone. I’m surprised you weren’t all over her, Larry; she’s only 70.”
Jerry sent his tee shot two hundred yards right down Broadway. He hadn’t said much for a couple of reasons; one, groupies were best seen and not heard and two, he enjoyed golfing, was very good at it, and, despite his own personal wealth, seldom got to play private, world-class courses like this on his own, and he wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and knock out a great round.
Lenny, who hadn’t played for a while, followed with a mighty swing; the ball dribbled a few feet in front of the tee.
“Don’t sweat it, partner” Larry said, picking up the ball and throwing it down the fairway. “You can probably three-putt from there.”
“You know Ray, it’s good that Lenny is expanding his horizons. We’re nowhere near writing our final chapter, but there will come a time when we’ll call it a career. He’ll need another job.”
“You think so? You don’t see yourselves dying on stage or hanging on so long you’re doing free shows at The Sahara again?”
“I couldn’t handle The Casbar Room again,” Lenny said. “God was I nervous. It would kill me.”
They were walking off the ninth green, headed to the tenth tee. There was no waiting and they weren’t holding anybody up. The golf club was pleased to keep the half-hour before and the half-hour after The Regular Guys’ tee time clear. They could play at leisure and, more importantly, carry on conversations without whispering and bothering similarly VIP’d golfers. The Regular Guys paid well for this privilege, however since they never saw their bills anymore, they had no idea how much. One of their accountants had brought it to Larry’s attention once; however, he had glanced at the bill, thought it rather reasonable actually, and the accountant never bothered Larry with it again.
Larry smiled at the recollection of Lenny in his room before that first night; he had been visibly nervous and Larry still fondly remembered Lenny standing by the window, one hand on a hip and the other pointing out the window towards the Vegas skyline.
“There could come a time when we do our last show,” Lenny continued. “I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll know it when the time comes though. Our intuition has served us well so far.”
“Lenny’s right,” Larry said. “We’ll know when it’s time, just like we’ve both known what to do in the past.”
The quartet walked off the green at the 18th hole and tallied their scores. Lenny announced he had shot a 112, about average for him; Larry had gone around in 89 and Jerry had shot a 78, which was very good but about average for Jerry, who had tried to golf competitively years ago but could never muster good rounds when they mattered.
Larry, who had also been keeping Ray Evans’ scorecard, announced that the gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Herald had gone around in just 73 strokes, just one over par.
“Wow, I must’ve had quite a handicap.”
“Actually, you’re too terrible for a handicap. Most handicaps you simply subtract the handicap from your actual score to get a score somewhere near par. However, the number needed to subtract from your usual score to produce a score near par is so high only NASA computers could figure it out. So I am introducing the Ray Evans Lousy Factor, where you simply multiply your real score by a factor of point five and voila, you have a respectable score.”
“Hell, I think we might even owe you some money,” Lenny said.
“So where do you know Larry from?” Ray Evans asked Jerry as they were walking to their cars.
Uh-oh, Jerry thought. The jig is up; I am going to be blown wide open. It was all over: backstage passes, babes comps, babes; tomorrow, no tonight, he would be a nobody again. I’ve been reading his column since I was a kid. He can recognize types like me in his sleep.
“We met when they were working with Toby Flotsam. I go back a ways with Toby’s band.”
It pleased Jerry to note that both statements were true enough, as far as they went. Perhaps not the whole truth, but the parking lot of the Rio Vegas Golf Club wasn’t a court of law.
“Well, you’re the first person he’s introduced to me who he actually referred to as a friend. I was just curious. I don’t think he gets out much.”
“He’s a private person,” Jerry said, nodding his head as if he’d known Larry for years.
Ray Evans said he agreed and they shook hands and went their separate ways. Jerry let out a sigh of relief.