The first nine (9) chapters of The Regular Guys are free.
Top Floor Suite
The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Toby Flotsam, Rock Star, sat leisurely in a comfortable chair while a young lady gave him a manicure and surveyed his gracious, luxurious suite at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas.
Toby Flotsam liked what he saw: a lavishly appointed suite staffed with people whose sole purpose was to make his life comfortable and easy. Not only was the manicurist in the room, but his suite was also staffed with two personal valets, a chef, a personal trainer, a masseuse and a butler to keep all them out of sight until their services were required. His suite was so generously staffed his own personal valet, an illegal Salvadoran immigrant named Roberto, was not needed, and, while he was in town with his employer, was off visiting dozens of the hundreds of relatives he had around the country.
Such staff were provided free of charge to Toby Flotsam, Rock Star, by the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas because Toby Flotsam, Rock Star, was staying at The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino prior to playing a New Year’s Eve gig at the adjacent Fremont Street Experience. The Golden Nugget had let it get out, off the record, of course, that Toby Flotsam was staying with them and were doing a brisk business despite the fact Toby Flotsam didn’t gamble and would at no time be anywhere near the casino.
As jobs went, Toby Flotsam generally found Rock Star to his liking. He was insanely well paid and the work was easy, not terribly time-consuming and usually performed in front of thousands of screaming, adoring fans. And the skill sets required to be a Rock Star – playing the guitar and various other instruments, singing and writing songs and performing these songs in public, usually in front of thousands of screaming, adoring fans – called for talents Toby Flotsam had in abundance. Playing the guitar, singing and songwriting had come naturally to him, particularly the guitar-playing part, though long ago Toby Flotsam had decided that being a rock star was more important than being a serious guitarist. And while the two weren’t completely mutually exclusive, Toby Flotsam found the work required to be a world-class guitarist tedious and preferred to be merely as good as he had to be to be a rock star.
Rock Star was certainly better than the last job he had, which had been Dishwasher at a Denny’s in Hollywood, which was low-paying, took up a minimum of eight hours of his day, sometimes more, and was seldom, if ever, done in front of screaming, adoring fans.
After a few years of struggling, Toby Flotsam had hit it big in his early 20’s as frontman for the group Toby Flotsam and Bellique. Though Toby Flotsam and Bellique specialized in music that could scare a hyena at a half-mile, there was enough genius in those early albums to establish Toby Flotsam and Bellique as a commercial and somewhat critical success. Their first album, Hole in the Head went to number one before the CD covers were dry and their first single, Warning Shot, wasn’t far behind. Their next four albums, and seven of their ten singles, all went number one as well.
Toby Flotsam adapted to the rock star life quite well. While the rock star life was known to cause some to spend lavishly on homes, cars and drugs, Toby settled for a modest 45-room mansion in Bel-Air, with a garage large enough to handle his modest fleet of fifteen classic sports cars all of which were useful to Toby Flotsam only if he wanted to stare at them because the state of California had revoked his driving privileges after Mr. Flotsam had shown a propensity to run into stationary, inanimate objects with these vehicles.
He had also managed to avoid the drug problems that sometimes plagued his co-workers.
Toby Flotsam and Bellique were very big for four years or so, but then Toby Flotsam grew up and the music they had been making – and the music their record company wanted them to make because it sold records and concert tickets – didn’t appeal to Toby Flotsam anymore, and the music that did interest Toby Flotsam didn’t appeal to anyone, band mates or record company executives, and Toby Flotsam and Bellique broke up.
After a couple of years of exile Toby Flotsam returned with a new group, The Emoticons, and Toby found not only had his music matured, but his fans had as well, and the Emoticons’ first album, Rock and Roll had gone to number one and the next three albums all sold well and went Top 5, and Toby Flotsam found that Rock Star was still a pleasing way to make a living – and the only way he had of making obscenely large sums of money. He found he had to work a little harder to make the songs he wanted, but the work was still pleasing and wasn’t all that hard for Pete’s sake, because Rock Star was hardly like being a debt-bondage slave making bricks in a Pakistani kiln.
As he sat and enjoyed his manicure, Toby Flotsam was pleased to take in the sight of his old friend Neil Foster sitting nearby. Neil wasn’t getting a manicure today, though Neil certainly appreciated the benefits of sharp-looking fingernails; he was sitting in a very luxurious chair reading a book.
Toby Flotsam and Neil Foster were each other’s oldest friends. They had met in kindergarten when Toby Flotsam, then going by the handle of Jimmy Norton, had helped Neil learn to tie his shoes – a concept Neil had been having trouble grasping. They were best friends from then until fifth grade when Jimmy had gotten a guitar for Christmas. From then on his guitar was Jimmy Norton’s best friend, so Neil became Jimmy’s biggest fan and, in fact, was his first drummer, an experiment that lasted until sixth grade when it became apparent Neil had no musical talent whatsoever. They ended up going to school together for 13 years and both decided that theirs was a bond neither wanted to sever.
Neil remembered visiting Toby once in Los Angeles before he hit it big. Neil was in the Navy, and Toby was living with what seemed like 17 others in a rathole apartment that was both around the corner and a million miles away from Hollywood. Neil had crashed on an old couch, breakfast had been pancakes made from that just-add-water mix, and lunch had been baloney sandwiches on really cheap white bread and dinner was looking like the same thing until Neil took his friend out to dinner before their show that night.
And though neither knew it, both had saved a picture of themselves taken at that time. Toby, never husky to begin with, looked like a refugee while Neil, accustomed to the three squares a day the Navy provided, looked fat by comparison.
Back then Toby was playing in a band called Crotch Bandits with most of his roommates, only one of whom, the drummer, would be around to cash in with Toby Flotsam and Bellique. Crotch Bandits specialized in playing dive bars that smelled like urine, though occasionally they’d upgrade to a homeless shelter or maybe a frat party.
Toby liked Neil because, even though he insisted on being called Toby, Neil still treated him like Jimmy Norton; Neil had always found Toby’s ambition curious and had always liked the fact that Toby called Neil’s mom on Mother’s Day, Toby’s own mother having died years ago.
Neil was there when Toby signed his first record contract and was there when he played Madison Square Garden for the first time.
For his part Toby was going to be the best man at Neil’s wedding, had he actually gotten married which he didn’t, having called it off a month before the ceremony.
So there they were, two old friends. Toby, still a rock star and Neil, currently unemployed. After a couple of hitches in the US Navy, Neil had decided he had enjoyed his time in the service but two hitches had been enough and after bumming around for a while he had settled in Vegas, where he made a modest living as a sports official while shacking up with his extremely cute, extremely younger girlfriend, the lovely Sara Miles, who happened to be down in the spa being treated like a queen.
The spa treatment had been a gift from Toby Flotsam, who enjoyed pampering Neil’s girlfriends over the years.
Toby had some questions he wanted to ask Neil concerning these two rapscallions known as The Regular Guys who were going to open for him on New Year’s Eve. He had never heard of them, which didn’t really mean anything since Toby Flotsam was not known for keeping close tabs on his fellow humans. Neil, however, was reading, and Toby knew from long experience that Neil preferred not to be disturbed while he was reading.
It was one of the reasons Toby liked Neil; as a Rock Star, Toby could interrupt virtually anyone with impunity, but he liked the fact he couldn’t do that to Neil. Neil, who was beginning to do some writing, took the written word seriously and did not like interruptions. The songwriter in Toby Flotsam could understand that.
After a few minutes, Neil finished the chapter he was reading, put his book down and stretched his arms.
“How’s His Majesty’s manicure coming?” Neil said, getting up and walking to the young lady who was finishing doing Toby’s nails. Neil thought it was funny to refuse to speak directly to Toby when the help was present. Toby thought it was funny too and stuck his nose up in the air while inspecting his freshly manicured nails.
“All done, sir,” the girl said tentatively as she packed up her stuff. She had been under instructions not to speak to Mr. Flotsam unless he said something first, but her instructions had not covered being addressed by anyone else and she felt safe in answering since Neil seemed like a nice guy. Toby seemed like a nice guy, too, but outside of small talk at the outset, he hadn’t said anything and instructions were instructions after all.
“Most excellent!” Neil exclaimed. “We can’t have Mr. Flotsam with dirty nails, now can we?”
“Uh, I suppose not, sir,” the girl said.
Neil walked over to a desk near the door where Toby kept a stack of bills, peeled off a C note and gave it to her.
“Here, this is for you,” Neil said. The bills were kept there for the purpose of tipping and bribing people. After years of being waited on, Toby sometimes forgot details like this, and Neil rather enjoyed tipping extravagantly since it wasn’t his money.
“Neil,” Toby said once the manicure girl had left. “What do we know about these Regular Guys that are opening for me?”
“The Regular Guys? They’re pretty funny, Toby. Sara and I have seen them a couple of times here.”
Toby wasn’t altogether sure what he was getting himself into playing with The Regular Guys, whoever the hell they were. The original opening act was a comedian who had currently had a part in a television series but an unfortunate, after-hours incident at a zoo had more or less deep-sixed his career. Toby had seen this show and while he hadn’t particularly liked the show, he was comfortable in knowing who he was. There was no comfort factor with The Regular Guys; however, that really didn’t matter; he was Toby Flotsam paid to deliver a couple of hours of rock and roll, which he did better than most anyone on the planet. There would be about 40,000 people on Fremont Street; it would be a good night.
“You know Neil,” Toby said, changing the subject, which he had a tendency to do. Besides, if they had the Neil and Sara seal of approval, they were all right. “I like this child-lady you are currently with. She compliments you well. I highly approve.”
Neil laughed. He got a kick of gaining Toby’s approval, as if it actually meant something to him, which it didn’t. Sara was not quite twenty, though she had an ID card issued by the Great State of Nevada indicating she was 22.
“I like her better than the other one, Deborah, who tended to be bossy.”
Neil didn’t quite agree with that assessment, but they had had this discussion before. Deborah had been dynamic and outspoken, traits that Neil liked but which Toby found dangerous in women.
Right then the door to the suite entered and the butler announced Sara’s arrival. She was wearing a pair of jeans, a black sweater and clogs. Her black hair was shoulder length and parted down the middle. As always, Neil thought she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, even more so now that she had just completed four hours of world-class pampering. She greeted Toby with a high five and kissed Neil.
“Sara, Neil reports you’ve seen these Regular Guys I will be sharing a stage with?”
“Indeed I have Your Highness,” she replied while curtseying. She wondered if she was breaking an etiquette rule by speaking while curtseying, but she was a girl of simple, though tasteful, upbringing, and wasn’t completely sure. “While no one is worthy of sharing a stage with Your Immortalness, I think you will find them as worthy as anyone.”
“Think, Miss Miles?” Toby scolded regally. “We are talking about Toby Flotsam and The Emoticons here, not some cheap Elvis impersonator! We can’t be ‘thinking’.”
Sara laughed while feigning humility, not an easy combination. She looked at Neil.
“Better try again, Princess.”
Sara laughed; so did Toby. If The Regular Guys met Sara’s approval, they were officially authorized to open for The Emoticons.
Hotel Room of Morty J. Klineman
The Golden Nugget Hotel And Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
At that moment The Regular Guys were in Morty’s room at the Golden Nugget, a couple of floors beneath the Toby Flotsam Suite. The Regular Guys had spent most of the holidays on the road and were settling down for a couple of days off before their New Year’s Eve gig opening for The Emoticons.
Each member of The Regular Guys was spending this New Year’s holiday with his best girl. Ann was not about to miss main squeeze Lenny and her dear friend Larry playing, if not headlining, one of the best New Year’s Eve parties on the planet, and after spending a month on the road seeing Lenny every night, Larry was looking forward to seeing Rachel again.
It almost didn’t happen, though. Rachel was not entirely pleased with Larry. Though they saw each other when he was in town, they had gotten together only once outside of Las Vegas, a midweek rendezvous in New Orleans shortly after their triumphant first gig in Las Vegas.
Larry had to admit New Orleans had been a lot of fun. He had only been there once previously when he and Lenny had played there. He and Rachel had stayed at the Hotel Monteleone, had had drinks at the rotating bar every night and enjoyed lots of quality time in the sack.
And Rachel had let it be known that The Regular Guys didn’t exactly have to be in town for Larry to enjoy further the pleasures of her company, but Larry had always managed to talk his way out of it. He liked Rachel – a lot – and Lord knows he was attracted to her, but he was happy being a bachelor had never gotten used to the chatter and general commotion of a relationship and rather enjoyed being alone.
Plus, he had to admit, The Regular Guys were exactly what he had been looking for in life – the opportunity to do something really well. He’d tried being good at several things over the course of his life, usually without success. Larry thought a man content with himself and his life’s work sometimes does not a good mate make. Larry enjoyed the work involved in being a Regular Guy, and he didn’t want anything to come between him and his being really good at something, especially since he hadn’t been particularly good at anything in the past.
Rachel, however, had not been altogether pleased with Larry the last time they had been in town and had kept her distance. They had seen each other, but Rachel did not go out of her way to make Larry the center of her life while they were in town. She had been hurt he had not wanted to spend his last vacation with her.
Larry had done his best to make up for this neglect with flowers the week before his arrival in town, dinner at Picasso and a lake view suite at Bellagio, plus a post-New Year’s return trip to New Orleans while the Regular Guys took the month of January off.
Rachel, while acknowledging that Larry was still a scoundrel, admitted he was more handsome than most, funnier than everyone and really great in the sack besides, which, in his role as Younger Man, he should be.
She forgave him.
The Regular Guys had been busy enough over the holidays so that Morty hadn’t yet told them about the complete details of the gig yet. Up till now Lenny and Larry had been content to know they would be doing two shows New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas for a really nice fee.
“We’re playing with who?” Lenny asked, not too successfully hiding his glee.
“Uh, The Emoticons,” Morty repeated.
Lenny threw his arms up triumphantly, as if he had accomplished something.
“You approve of opening for The Emoticons?”
“Indeed I do,” Lenny said, getting out of his chair. He moved to the middle of the room, stood like a rock star holding a microphone and started singing The Emoticons latest hit, You’re My Sun, I’m Your Planet, Let’s Rotate My Axis. Lenny could sing a little, and it wasn’t all that bad a rendition. It wasn’t all that great a rendition either, but it had both Larry and Morty laughing and not covering their ears.
“Looks like it’s okay with him,” Larry said. “The Emoticons completely rule, Morty.”
“Really?” Morty asked, as if he had never heard of Toby Flotsam or The Emoticons. He had, of course. He’s an agent who’s been around the block a few times, he’d heard of everybody.
“Oh, no doubt,” Lenny said. “They utterly and completely rule.”
“You want me to tell them you’ll work for free, it’s such an honor?”
Lenny and Larry both laughed.
“Well, let’s not be silly, here,” Larry said.
“You will actually do two shows on New Year’s Eve,” Morty said, finishing up a laugh. “You will do one show at 7 pm on the Third Street Stage, and then you will do a 10 pm show on the First Street Stage. The Emoticons will follow.”
Lenny and Larry nodded.
“Now, remember,” Morty said. “This is an outdoor, public area. They will have a backstage area at both sites and it will be roped off and staffed, but it’s also right there in the open; there are no secure passageways. You are going to have to hoof it with the riff-raff, I’m afraid. There will be a trailer specifically for you two behind each stage, that will have a stocked frig, restrooms and even beds.”
Lenny let out a sigh of relief. “Whew. You know how the riff-raff can get sometimes.”
“Tell me about it,” Morty said, looking right at Lenny solemnly. Larry saw that and laughed.
Morty went on to tell The Regular Guys what their fee would be; both Lenny and Larry nodded approvingly. The money was important to both of them, though for different reasons.
For Lenny, money was one way you kept score. Being an entertainer was, in some respects, similar to being a professional golfer. Golfers only made money when they earned it on the golf course; as a professional entertainer, Lenny only made money when he worked. He enjoyed spending money, though he and Larry were on the road enough so that he really didn’t have much time to spend it.
Larry didn’t particularly care how much money The Regular Guys made, but it was important to him he and Lenny be paid fairly, and, as their career progressed, Larry had to admit he was pleased to see their income was rising as well. He had grown up in a nice, middle-class house, though, as an adult, not every job he’d had was as well-paying as comedian and he had eaten his share of macaroni and cheese.
“Not only that,” Morty continued. “There’s the DVD deal as well. Most of it, of course, will focus on The Emoticons. Actually, most of it will focus on Toby Flotsam. Its working title is New Year’s Eve with Toby Flotsam and The Emoticons. However, I negotiated a segment for you as well, assuming you don’t fall completely on your faces and can manage to actually make someone laugh,” Morty said, winking at them.
Lenny and Larry laughed. They were both reasonably certain they would be able to make some people laugh New Year’s Eve. It would be a little different than a regular gig, though. Usually, The Regular Guys appeared before people who were there for the express purpose of seeing them. On Fremont Street, the audience would New Year’s Eve revelers there for the purpose of having a good time. The wild card of 40,000 people with access to virtually unlimited booze was an exciting prospect.
Morty, though, knew there was no way Lenny and Larry would flat on their faces New Year’s Eve. They had responded to every challenge so far, and he saw no reason for them to stop doing so now. They had stuck with it early on when their brilliance was more theoretical than practical and after they had gotten their sea legs and bigger rooms had opened up they had answered that challenge by being even funnier and when they got their shot at Las Vegas they responded in spades. Sure, there was that bad show the last time in Las Vegas, but that happens to all performers and Lenny and Larry had fewer nights like that than most others. There was no doubt in Morty’s mind his clients would completely blow everyone away.
His only real fear, which he expressed to nobody, was that his boys would completely upstage The Emoticons.
New Year’s Eve
The Fremont Street Experience
Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada
New Year’s Eve for The Regular Guys had started early. Relatively. Lenny, unaccustomed to getting up before noon – much less having to be anywhere by 2 pm – actually had to set his alarm clock for the gawd-awful hour of 11 am to make their 2 pm production meeting and sound check.
Not only that, cameramen working for the production company producing the DVD were following Lenny and Larry everywhere except the can. Ninety-nine percent of what they filmed wouldn’t be used, maybe more if they didn’t stop filming Lenny at the buffet. The Regular Guys weren’t the focus of the DVD after all, but they would be featured, and you never knew when something useable – a ‘DVD moment’, as Larry called it – would pop up, so consequently, a camera had been following Lenny and Larry around from the production meeting to their soundcheck and would’ve followed Larry into the gym had he let them.
Lenny, a ham at all times, rather enjoyed it, and both he and Morty were surprised and pleased at how accommodating, even expansive, Larry had been with the crew. Both had expected Larry to shy away from it or do as little as he could possibly get away with without violating the terms of their contract. Larry had completely taken to this however and found himself chatting amiably with the camera while doing such mundane things as walking down a hall or having coffee with Ann Shelton. He even copped a feel of Rachel with the cameras rolling which had caused Rachel to blush.
The Fremont Street experience was opened in 1995. The project consisted of closing Fremont Street to traffic from First Street to Fourth Street and enclosing it with a canopy 90 feet high and four blocks long that contains 2.1 million light bulbs capable of over 65,000 color combinations. At night there were light shows set to various types of music every hour. The entire light canopy was remodeled in 2004.
Fremont Street was as old as Las Vegas itself. In May of 1905, the city was parceled out where Fremont Street began at Main Street, where the Plaza Hotel now stands, and the first hotels started popping up shortly thereafter because only hotels on Fremont Street were allowed to serve booze, so bars would throw some cots into a couple of storage rooms and call themselves a hotel. Gambling, legal since 1869, was outlawed in 1908 and legalized again in 1931.
The weather on New Year’s Eve was perfect. Cool but not cold and, importantly in Las Vegas – which could make Amundsen-Scott Station seem calm by comparison at times – not windy at all.
The Regular Guys 7 pm set on the Third Street stage had gone splendidly, one of their best ever in Larry’s opinion, and while Lenny wasn’t ready to go that far, he did acknowledge that it had been pretty darn good.
It had taken them a couple of minutes to get going, but the set had been great. Since there were no seats at the Fremont Street Experience, no one was really waiting for The Regular Guys to take the stage despite a sign announcing the event in front of the stage and the fact the entire entertainment lineup had been announced to anyone who cared well in advance. Consequently, it took a little bit to get people realizing what was happening and warmed up, but once they had them, the crowd continued to form until they left the stage to a thunderous ovation.
“Oh, baby,” Larry said, getting his breath backstage. “That was what this is all about, my friend. That completely ruled.”
Lenny was pleased, of course. He was a professional entertainer and was always pleased to turn in a good show. But he didn’t really want it to completely rule. A 7 pm show that completely ruled might be hard to top at 10 pm.
“Careful, partner,” Lenny said, patting Larry on the back. “We don’t want to peak too soon. There’s still one more to go.”
Larry looked at Lenny. “Oh my, there is, isn’t there.”
Lenny shook his head dismissively. “It’s not that important, only New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas opening for The Emoticons.”
Larry laughed and they made their way down Third Street, taking the back way to their trailer at the First Street Stage.
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to top it, won’t we,” Larry said smiling.
Though the party was behind them on Fremont Street, there were enough stragglers and drunks on Third Street to make the walk memorable. Not quite the bacchanalia that was going on on Fremont Street, but a pretty good show nonetheless.
At Carson Street, they headed west until it dead-ended at the Golden Nugget. Then they worked their way through the casino – itself no easy task – and out to First Street.
Just outside their trailer, they ran into Neil and Sara, whom they had met at the soundcheck earlier that day. Sara looked a tad flustered and her hair wasn’t perfect, indicating that some of her time recently might have been spent on her back. Neil looked pleased, as you would expect a man in his early 30’s to look who had just enjoyed carnal knowledge of a young lady.
“Oh, hey, The Regular Guys!” Neil said. “Look, Sara, it’s The Regular Guys. Hi Regular Guys!”
Neil had a cake-eating grin on his face.
“Well, Neil and Sara. Good evening,” Larry said.
They exchanged greetings. Larry told them about how well their 7pm show had gone.
“You guys did a 7pm show?” Neil asked guiltily.
Lenny hit Larry on his upper arm with the back of his hand.
“You slave and slave and this is what you get,” he said, feigning exasperation.
“We were, uh, well, you know, occupied,” Neil muttered.
“Oh really,” Lenny said. “Something more important than a performance by The Regular Guys? I wonder what that could be.” Lenny was rocking on his heels and rubbing his hands together to emphasize his wonderment at what exactly that could be. For his part, Larry stood with his arms crossed, lips pursed and his head nodding.
“I think they may have been playing that game where you bet on the plastic horses going around the track,” Larry said. “That game rules.”
Sara started to laugh; so did Neil.
“Uh, no, actually, we were…we weren’t playing that game where you bet on horses going around the track,” Neil said.
“Were you…reading?” Lenny asked.
Neil and Sara looked at each other, then looked at Lenny and Larry and shook their heads to indicate they had not been reading.
“Were you, let’s see…discussing the socio-economic situation in Mongolia vis-à-vis the new custom of the use of Mongolian surnames?”
Sara was laughing pretty hard now. Neil was biting his lip, trying to look like a schoolboy in trouble; he pursed his lips together, glanced from side to side, and nodded his head, indicating that no, in fact, they had not been engaged in either of those activities.
“Were you…enjoying carnal knowledge of this child?”
Sara spit up and Neil started laughing, too.
“I think you nailed it, there, partner,” Larry said.
“Well, something certainly has been nailed, that’s for sure.”
Just then Morty pulled up beside them.
“Hey you two, that was a hell of a show. The best you’ve ever been, really. Good thing you’re topping it later tonight. You have a ten o’clock show, you know.”
“Well, it couldn’t have been that good,” Larry said. “It couldn’t get these two out of the sack.”
Morty looked the pair of young lovers over. He hadn’t met Neil or Sara, but if Lenny and Larry were talking with them had to be important, so Morty assumed they were VIPs, a status that was confirmed by the All Access laminates from the Toby Flotsam crew hanging around their necks.
“Well, now, Larry, given the choice…” Morty let the sentence die.
Everyone laughed, and Sara blushed.
Larry introduced them, mentioning they were friends of Toby. After everyone greeted everyone else, Morty asked if he could steal Lenny and Larry for a while and soon they were in The Regular Guys trailer behind the First Street Stage. Morty had hot coffee for both of them.
“We’ve got some autograph requests, my friends.”
Morty nodded “Lots of stuff, mostly Golden Nugget logo stuff for Nugget bigwigs and others it is in our best interest to have on our good side. It’s good PR, even though you may never meet them. Some are also for Toby Flotsam and his gang. They will, of course, reciprocate in kind.”
“How much time do we have? Larry asked, consulting his watch.
Nobody answered because Larry would soon produce the answer.
“It’s 8:30. We have an hour and a half. We could sign some things for a while, I suppose.”
Morty produced some Golden Nugget logo stuff, shirts and hats and whatnot.
Lenny and Larry looked at the items.
“This seems harmless enough,” Larry said.
“Now, this brings up the larger issue, for the future, of whether or not we want to charge for things like this.”
Morty explained it would be a simple matter to have shirts, hats and whatnot made up with The Regular Guys logo not that they had a logo, because they didn’t yet – and have Lenny and Larry sign various articles and sell them at ridiculously high prices.
The two sat for a moment and considered the matter. Lenny personally had no philosophical qualms with charging for an autograph. Years ago autographs had ceased becoming things kids collected at ballgames to show off to their friends and save for their children and crossed into the realm of memorabilia, to be bought low and sold high like stocks or soybeans. Lenny wasn’t entirely sure he approved of that, but he didn’t want to go undercutting the market and bucking trends and generally behaving like a misfit. He and Morty and actually discussed this earlier and Lenny was committed to not making a big deal out of it. If Larry didn’t have strong feelings on the matter, Lenny would casually deliver a lecture on the state of the memorabilia business and the good money that could possibly be made. If Larry was dead set against selling their autograph, well, that would be that and The Regular Guys wouldn’t do it. Lenny had done okay sticking with Larry, and this was a battle that wasn’t worth fighting.
“You know,” Larry said. “I’ve been thinking we should have shirts and stuff made up. Something tasteful. We don’t need football jerseys or anything but, you know, maybe some golf shirts and caps would be nice.”
Morty nodded. “Easy. Piece of cake. We can do that. Consider it done, in fact.”
“But charging for our signature, though. I know stuff like that sells now, but won’t we be gouging them enough for the shirts as it is?”
“There is a certain profit in these, yes, Larry,” Morty said nodding.
“I don’t think we need to gouge them too much,” Larry said, looking at Lenny. “Partner?”
Lenny wasn’t completely against gouging them too much, but here he was playing Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve with Larry, which was a lot farther than he had gotten in comedy without Larry, so he, too, voted against gouging.
At a few minutes before ten, The Regular Guys were standing behind the First Street Stage at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas, ready to entertain. They were actually standing in a small walkway between the stage and several trailers that had been set up for them and The Emoticons and the whole area was cordoned off from the general public so while there were 40,000 people in their immediate vicinity, Lenny and Larry were pretty much alone.
They walked over to the sidewalk and stood. Off to their left down First Street were a couple of pawnshops, a liquor store and a clothing store specializing in gaudy clothes no man should be caught dead in, though which fit right in in downtown Las Vegas. Off to the right, Lenny and Larry had a look at part of the crowd.
“Good gracious look at those people, my friend,” Larry said. “They are packed like sardines.”
“I know, partner. Our biggest crowd yet.”
Larry threw his hands up triumphantly. Just then Morty showed up.
“We ready to go?”
“What’s this ‘we’ stuff, shorty?” Lenny said. “You got a mouse in your pocket?”
“Look, don’t munch it tonight guys,” Morty said. “You can munch it any other night but tonight. Be funny tonight. Really funny.”
“Have we ever not been funny?” Lenny asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You’re right, actually. You were funnier than hell three hours ago.”
Lenny nodded condescendingly.
“And if it wasn’t for us you’d still be repping the Hand Puppet Brigade,” he added.
“I’d have them in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve though. Probably playing a souvenir stand down the street.”
“Where are our women?” Larry wondered. Ann and Rachel had run off late in the afternoon, each knowing how Lenny and Larry would rather be alone before a show.
“They’re out there somewhere. They wanted to take in the atmosphere. Backstage all the time gets old, they said.”
Morty checked his watch; there were only a couple of minutes till showtime.
“Okay, you two. I know this is a mere formality, but break a leg.” Morty departed.
“Boy, that first crowd was great,” Larry said.
“Yeah. And now they’re two hours drunker.”
“I hope they’re friendly drunks.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to the Fremont Street Experience, downtown Las Vegas, USA!”
The crowd roared its approval at being in Las Vegas, USA on New Year’s Eve.
“And now, from someplace funny, ladies and gentlemen, The Regular Guys!”