I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

I Get Paid For This - book review.

I just finished, I Get Paid for This: Kicking Ass and Taking Notes in Vegas, by Rick Lax. Okay, it isn't a gambling book, but it is about Vegas. Rick Lax works at The Las Vegas Weekly, and most of the material in the book appeared as articles in that paper. Rick does what he calls "stunt journalism." When George Plimpton joined training camp with the Detroit Lions football team, or when Hunter Thompson rode with the Hells Angels, that was stunt journalism. This? Not so much.

When I started the book Lax talked about being known for his piece about Town Square. Town Square is a shopping area in Vegas that sounds sort of like Stepford Land. Everything there is perfect, and the grass is always greener (because it's Astro Turf). People would stop Lax sometimes and say things like, "You're the guy who lived in the bathroom." His stunt journalism idea was that Town Square was so perfect he would move into a bathroom and live there. Good idea for a story right? Well he lasted all of about 10 minutes in the bathroom before being escorted out by security. You want living in a bathroom try reading, The Man With the $100,000 Breasts And Other Gambling Stories. Brian Zembic actually lived in a bathroom for a month to win a bet. And the guy who bet him was sending large men with gastric problems into the bathroom to try to stink him out.

Some of his other stunts include wearing a suit that makes him look like he is a huge body builder, getting elevator shoes, and stealing one of those pads in the urinals at Wynn to see if they actually prevented urine from bouncing back at you. They were all mildly entertaining, but very little substance. Urine pads are just for jokes, but I think he definitely could have gotten more depth out of how people treated him differently when he was 3 inches taller, or when people thought he was a huge body builder. By the way, this body builder suit looks really good under clothes, and professional Advantage Players may want to consider it.  A couple people have tried fat suits, so why not this?

One article that caught my eye was Casino Executive for a Day in which Lax got to follow around Felix Rappaport, president of The Mirage. Periodically Rappaport has a meeting with people representing all the different departments to listen to concerns, complaints, ideas etc. This is a great idea, and business school 101, but often executives don't take the time or don't listen. In the meeting Lax brings up the fact that he plays poker at The Mirage.  If he plays table games someone is always asking for a players card, and if the player doesn't have one they offer to get him one.  When he plays poker they ask for a card, and when he doesn't have one they tell him he should go get one. He points out that the last thing a poker player wants after waiting to get a seat is to leave the table, and go hunt down some player's club booth. Someone in the poker room should do this for him. I thought this was a really good point.  It has probably been a year since this meeting took place, and I would love to know if this policy has been implemented at the Mirage.  Any poker players out there? Also, to employees at The Mirage - Did the espresso machine in the employee dining room ever get fixed?

I don't want to offend Rick Lax, but there is one piece in this book that is actually a kick-ass piece of investigative journalism. A guy named Scott Ashjian ran for senate in 2010 as the candidate for The Tea Party of Nevada.  I found the article online so you can read it here - article. But what is truly amazing about this is that in Nevada you can make up a name of a party, and get on the ballot for senate, and all it requires is 250 signatures. Man, I may have a future in politics with the Mom, Apple Pie, and the Flag party. And for those of you with a larcenous bent, did you notice that no one knows anything about where his campaign contributions went?

I hope I haven't given you the impression that I didn't like this book. It is perfect bathroom material, each article the perfect length for taking a healthy dump. The stories are light, and airy, and many read like Facebook posts, which I think some of them were. There is one really annoying feature in this book.*

It is riddled with footnotes in a tiny font, for no reason.*

And sometimes there are footnotes within footnotes. Do you see any reason why all of this couldn't have just been part of the preceding paragraph?

If I lived in Vegas, and had access to the Las Vegas Weekly I would turn to Lax's articles first. He's a bit of a smart ass, and writes about the quirky side of Vegas. (Is there a non-quirky side of Vegas?)  See Rick, parenthesis, not footnotes. I give the book... 3 aces.

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