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Slumming it in Vegas

There’s something about reading Vegas reports, especially in early December when college football ends and cloudy season starts. For those of you in the east, it’s dark at 4 p.m. and it’s not much better for us here around Lake Erie where days can feel like nights as the clouds roll in.

We can use things like Vegas dispatches to take us to a better place.

• Brad M. writes:

Coffee compelled me to produce a mini-book. Excerpt as desired. Cheers.

Some of these are admittedly fake-slumming. The last one is decidedly anti-slumming but was still amazing.

1-Carryout pizza from the vendor in the NYNY ‘village’ of fake little streets was semi-slumming in the days of fancy restaurants elsewhere on the property.  The NYNY was only a couple of years old when I first visited and it was regarded as clever and buzzworthy. The pizza was amazing. A return visit about a decade later showed the NYNY to be showing its age, badly. The streets were empty, as it were. And the pizza from the same place was nearly inedible.

2-For many years Rio did its damnedest to entice people to visit, gamble and/or stay off-strip with its then-famous seafood buffet. It was $40-50 (probably the equivalent of $100 now) but worth it in every respect except, perhaps, dealing with the wait and the crowds.

And then there was the Show In The Sky. Not worth the commute alone but impressive enough if you were there and, er, easily impressed. This writer, young and spry, trying to save a buck, and fed up with queues for cabs on the Strip, decided to walk back to his room at the Rio (during the Rio’s prime). According to the map it’s only 4/5 of a mile from the corner of Flamingo Rd & Las Vegas Blvd.

The problem: at that time there was no sidewalk along Flamingo Rd, especially on the elevated sections over I-15. And maybe 2 ft between the painted line on the road and the barrier over the highway. Cue a harrowing and dangerous journey on foot as vehicles and oblivious drivers whizzed past inches away along a stretch of road with no street lights – in the most illuminated city on the planet. Ironic.

3-As with the NYNY, a return visit to Rio about a decade later revealed that it had become another ‘grind joint’ barely keeping the lights on with a skeleton crew. I am only half-joking when I say the person who opened our cab door seemed to be the same person tending bar and the same person dealing blackjack inside.

The Show In The Sky was long gone although the tracks in the ceiling for the gondolas were still in place. But that entire wing of the casino (leading to the buffet) was dark and idle. Gaming tables dutifully covered but unlikely to ever operate again. The little upstairs village that once housed restaurants including a decent Mexican place were all empty. It was the stuff of Deadmalls.com.

4-This is the anti-slum: in 2006, a delayed flight and being long hauled to the not-yet-infamous Mandalay Bay (which is across the street from the airport) meant we arrived around 11 PM. The desk clerk announced the hotel was sold out, no rooms available.

Scenes of Jerry Seinfeld battling the rental car agent over reservations played in my mind. But we didn’t scream, we didn’t yell, we didn’t get high and mighty. We looked at each other and quietly tried to formulate what plan B might be at that late hour. Maybe the clerk was relieved that we didn’t throw a tantrum. Maybe we looked worthy of sympathy – at least the petite, fetching missus did/does.

He said, ‘Here – I have a Coral Suite available but only for tonight. After that we’ll move you to the standard room you booked.’ In Vegas – and now everywhere else – the definition of ‘suite’ varies wildly. It can often simply mean there’s a couch or a desk in the room. So I was grateful but skeptical. No money changed hands. But it certainly should have.

As we got our keys and rolled our bags toward the elevator, he said ‘No – your elevator is down that little hallway.’ A smallish single elevator door opened. And there were only three buttons for floors 31-33. But us rubes still hadn’t worked it out.

It was, of course, where the whales (high rollers) stay. As we opened the door, the penny finally dropped along with our jaws. Opulent doesn’t begin to describe the Coral Suite. This was Jordan/Woods/Barkley territory. It was massive.

Incredibly appointed.

Huge flat panel TVs which, at that time, were rare and wildly expensive. Four-poster beds. Dining tables, kitchens, bars, seating areas. An elaborate mosaic tile entry. And, outdoor balconies with a view of the Strip and the airport. The details are all on YouTube by now. Bad luck there had turned into a jackpot here. Gambling seemed superfluous at that point.

We passed a pleasant evening but the clerk rang at 11 AM sharp as promised – a Cinderella-punctual end to our fairy tale and the only time the house edge worked in our favor.

• Brett G. has advice for those looking to get loaded on the cheap:

Hey, Joe. I knew Vegas was dead to me when the wife dragged me to the Michael Jackson show. I went to the bar and ordered a vodka & Red Bull. The bartender asked if I wanted Grey Goose. Stupidly, I said “why not”? He makes the drink, I slide him my card, and he rings up a $33 8oz cocktail.

I think that Vegas still has value for poker players and sports gamblers. You can jump in a $1-$2 or $2-$5 game at the Aria and they’ll still treat you well with basically unlimited options for drink service. If you play tight enough, you can basically play all day and hopefully run good.

When it comes to blackjack, $15 is the new $5 and it’s all 6/5. Now, that’s not a big deal to me since I am a recreational player, but I can understand the math involved that make 6/5 a much better game for the house. There are cheaper games still, but you’ll have to travel downtown or out to Summerlin/Henderson.

Everything about Vegas now is just nickel & dime grift. Resort fees, rental cars, parking fees, etc… 5-star restaurants that are too expensive to eat at without filling out a credit app, Wynn has a golf course that’s over a $1000 to play. Vegas as we know it is dead, and it’s still packed every weekend. Viva Las Vegas!

• M.J. in Westfield, IN writes:

Best deal in Vegas is (or was, been a few years since I was in Vegas), Casino Royale. Dollar Michelobs and margs, and had cheap table games.

I went to grad school at UNLV (note- visit Vegas, never live there). The best thing we would do is get a group together to go to the piano bar in Harrah’s, and get a table tucked into the corner. Everyone would order 1 drink. Two of us would then go next door to Casino Royale and get all the Michelobs we could carry and take them back to the piano bar.

We would wait for the waitress to leave the area and walk in, just setting down all the beer. Empties would go on the ground under the tables to not be too obvious. This would usually happen 3-4 times, until nobody was willing to try and make the trek of carrying back too many glass bottles. Between free parking and no cover charge, nobody was ever out more than $10. When we were ready to go, we would pick up all the bottles from the ground, and we did leave a fair tip for sitting there and not ordering much from the waitress. We weren’t total monsters.

By the time I moved away, they had changed the entrance to the piano bar to where you could no longer freely walk in and out. You had to go to the hostess to be let in. So our game was over. I think we ruined it for everyone else. Totally worth it.

• Bill in Buford, GA (that’s right, another Bill to keep track of) writes:

Bill W here in Georgia – living in the Golden years of UGA football – 27-1 so far the last 2 seasons and OSU up next which is tough for me – born outside Cleveland in 1975 but graduated Georgia in 2000 so still some ties to the Bucks and of course the Browns, anyway, I digress.

(UGA will beat Ohio State by 21)

Also, happen to be in first place in our Gauntlet league but still 5 weeks to go – anything can happen with 4 of us in the running including Wyn in CO

But this is about Vegas – many many nights slumming it on $5 BJ – mainly at the HO ($.99 hot dogs and Shrimp cocktail !), also Stardust (I really did well there, my first big run and made over a grand and paid cash for a steak dinner with my dad), and my personal favorite for strip slumming – Barbary Coast. So many times I tried to turn 4 little red chips into one black chips just grinding it out guzzling down free beers (I promise I’ll get you next time hun).

Anyway great times and sad to see them go for sure. Also, the only casino I have ever been thrown out of was the sister property of Barbary the Gold Coast next to Rio.  The night before a bachelor party my buddy Chris and I gave a pit boss named Troy some crap because he was being a douche or we were just really wasted – anyway, we were escorted out of that fine establishment and I have never been back. I still love Vegas and try and go twice a year but it has definitely changed! 6 to 5 sucks!

Have a great day – love SC and the whole community.

Boy, real Christmas trees sure aren’t cheap these days

• Wyn in Colorado has an inflation report that shouldn’t shock any of us:

Well, per the receipt below, not even the Christmas tree market is safe from Joey B’s inflation. Bought the same tree type and height last year at the orange-themed hardware store for $85. Refuse to be a Scrooge and go fake tree so it’ll be Clark Griswold style next year and  trip with my chainsaw to a nearby National forest. 

Congratulations to OutKick writer Grayson Weir

It’s always a relief when they say ‘yes.’

Congrats to Bob in Oklahoma

I had to check in with Bob in Oklahoma on Tuesday. His son got a D1 football head coaching job this week and in true Bob in OK fashion he was obviously thrilled for his son and happy to spend time with another son who was on the college football recruiting circuit, but Bob remains just a country boy from Oklahoma.

Bob replied:

Some day I’ll send y’all some real Thursday Night Mowing League pictures( the way the country boys do it). Keep up the good work. We like “the things guys like”.

I need more reports from Bob this winter. Salt of the earth kind of guy. Bob is the kind of guy you run into at a coffee shop and become friends with the rest of your life.

Life on Bob’s property:

U.S. adults love Great Value Cream Cheese?

Mark J. Burns of Morning Consult is a friend of Screencaps, so I’m not going to bang on him too much over this “Fastest Growing Brands of 2022” list, but I definitely have questions that I will address with him how Walmart’s cream cheese makes this list.

Are you guys using Great Value Cream Cheese to produce mass quantities of buffalo chicken dip? Is it the only cream cheese you guys will use to stuff in jalapenos? You’re damn right I’m confused.

Also, is it great news that Celsius is growing faster than MLB? Baseball might want to hire more IG influencers.

Marion’s pizza & more pizza reheating advice

• Brad M., who shared his Vegas stories above, also wants to address Marion’s Pizza in Dayton, OH.

Yes, Marion’s is a famous institution with a doggedly loyal following. Yes, the no-tipping policy is refreshing and increasingly rare.

But founder Marion Glass was notorious for his penny-pinching ways and strict rules. Bartenders were issued dire warnings about any waste (eg pouring off foam) of draft beer. Only recently has Marion’s agreed to take credit cards as a form of payment due to longstanding resistance to merchant fees.

Many years ago, when standard cabinet video games were everywhere, we visited Marion’s one day to play Donkey Kong. An older man appeared and got down on his hands and knees to collect the coins from the gumball machines next to us. That older man was…Marion Glass, who apparently didn’t trust anyone else to handle literal pennies & dimes. Smart business practice or paranoia? You make the call.

Kinsey:

Now for the reheating advice from Mig, whom I would trust on this subject. This is my Bengals-Steelers game drinking partner. He knows a thing or two about the pizza reheating lifestyle.

Mig writes:

Not sure about a whole pie but my air fryer is excellent for 2-3 slices of leftovers.  Keeps the crust crunchy (if that’s your thing) and cheese gets nice and melty.  I’ve had a pie or two.

• Gerard W. has a more detailed option:

Kevin’s method to reheat pizza is close.  You can either use cast iron or a regular non stick pan.  Get it to medium high heat, put your pizza in with out any oil, put a few drops of water in the pan and cover.  The water steams the cheese and melts it and the hot pan gives you a nice crisp crust.  Be careful not to add too much water.  I usually keep adding small drops at a time as it “cooks”.  This works with any type of leftover pizza. 

Rookies is owned by a sports fanatic that also owns the biggest shoe star in the Midwest called the Shoe Box.  https://theshoebox.com/  This sits just down the road from Rookies in Black Earth population 1400.  We used to stop by here every year to get our kid’s yearly allotment of shoes on our way to the “Water Park Capital of the World”.  You walk in and there are 20 people in there waiting to help you.  They have everything from work boots to pricey running shoes.  Sports paraphernalia everywhere.    It’s crazy this place exists is in such a small town.

Black Earth is also less than 30 miles from New Glarus Brewing Company famous for Spotted Cow.  The brewery sits up on a hill on the edge of town. (New Glarus has a population of 2300)  They have an awesome beer garden with a view.  You also don’t have to take a 2-hour tour.  It’s totally self-guided so you can walk through in 10 minutes and get back to the beer garden.  (You also can bring your children.)   Spotted Cow is delicious but Two Women is my favorite beer from there. 

Kinsey:

This is why you show up every morning. That’s an email I like to see out of Gerard, who has provided dozens of incredible pieces of email over the last year or so. Guys, take screenshots of all this advice. Tell your wife the family is going to Wisconsin in 2023.

Do you believe him?

American manufacturing is back, folks,” President Biden said Tuesday during a trip to Arizona for a visit to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s plant where they will allegedly create 10,000 high-paying jobs to make chips for Apple and Nvidia.

Are we about to see Nike producing Jordans at factories along the Texas-Mexico border?

How to take an outdoor leak in France

• Mike T. knows what I want to see out of his European vacation.

This is a pissor, it’s standard in France when you have a Toilettes ( toilet) that men use the outside Pissor to pee!

Pearl Harbor Day

• Mike T. might be in France, but back home is on his mind today:

Both my parents talked to me every December 7 about WW11 and asked that I never forget.

And with that, let’s have a great day across this incredible country we get to call home.

To those of you who’ve buried the email inbox with material, I see you. We’ll get to it. Thank you to each and every one of you who make this job so enjoyable.

Email: joekinsey@gmail.com

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Written by Joe Kinsey

I'm an Ohio guy, born in Dayton, who roots for Ohio State and can handle you guys destroying the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer and everything associated with Columbus.

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