Sunday, September 30, 2007

Las Vegas; "Oh," and French Canadian Clowns


Okay, I'll have to admit, I started with a view of Cirque du Soleil that was a tad bit prejudice. I mean, the French and clowns, could it get any worse? And, when Cirque du Soleil first came to Portland I remember thinking, "Hey, it's like the circus, I'll take the kids." This worked until I called for reservations and got the ticket prices, deciding I'd send my kids to a good college instead.

So, imagine my excitement when Karen said "We have tickets to see "O" by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas!" I was speechless, which, curiously, I have often found to be the preferred response at moments like this.

So, we met friends Jim and Carol at the Bellagio (about 30 minutes late, after driving on the famed Las Vegas "'parking' Strip"), had a marvelous steak dinner and then went to the show.

It started with clowns squirting people with water. At this point, you consider leaving. I mean, after all, even if they are from Montreal, these are the heirs of people who think Jerry Lewis is the ultimate comedian. These are the people who think hairy arm pits are sexy and it's okay to eat slugs.

And then, "funny clown" moment, they take someone from the audience. You begin to suspect that he might be a plant when he climbs a ladder about 70 or 80 feet to the ceiling. Had they chosen me for that particular act, there would have been a colorful monologue added to the performance.

The plot (SPOILER ALERT): I think it's something about a guy with a baseball cap being guided by a tall skinny skeleton-like guy through a maze of people who spend their time acrobatting and diving into the water, but never actually breathing, while a nymph-like girl (or possibly an attractive boy) appears and disappears periodically. There are some French-type Dragoons who might be Coachmen, or gay waiters, who swoop in and around, while a cast member from Showboat reads a newspaper while being burned alive. In the meantime, a Polynesian fire eater dances around with a couple of clown refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Throughout it all, three girls from China, or the Philippines, or Omaha, Nebraska, twist their bodies into shapes that boggle the mind (to the constant refrain of "stop staring, Gary" from what I think was somewhere off stage).

But I'll admit it, in spite of the French heritage, in spite of the clowns, in spite of the dearth of plot and the total absence of dialogue, I LOVED THE SHOW.

I felt guilty any number of times, when I wasn't applauding, I was just sitting there amazed, wondering, "What did I just see?" "Did I just see what I thought I saw?" "How the hell do they do that?" "What the hell are they doing?" Oh, and "Can you please move that Clown?"

Apart from the plot line (see above), this show is indescribable!

I'd see it again and again (well, if I could afford it), just to see what I missed and then to see the stuff I saw but didn't believe!!!

Perfect weather in Vegas:

Vegas Palm Trees & Sunshine!

The "Strip" (in the distance) from our balcony.

The JW Marriott Pool

Dessert at Wynn Las Vegas with good friends, Jim & Carol

"O" My God!! Cirque du Soleil's "O" at the Bellagio

Celebrity Sighting at the Bellagio

Love those Arnold Palmers!

Playing a "friendly" game of Canasta, in which Carol and Gary, through skill, grim determination, dueling table talk and divine providence (who is the patron saint of amateur card players, anyway?), emerged victorious, in a humble sort of way.

Canasta in the Cabana! Gary & Carol won!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Clowns and DJs, Is It Just Me? Oh, and Trapped by John Denver

I am missing the "clown" gene.

I don't like them, so far as I know, I never have. I don't know if my Mom dressed me up in a clown suit as a baby, or if I was terrorized by a clown, but I don't trust them, I don't think they're funny and they actually make me uncomfortable. I used to think I was the only person who didn't like clowns, but none of my kids like them either. Perhaps because I'd say things like "stay away from that clown, you don't know where he's been".

In movies or TV shows, when the clown is the bad guy, presumably because it is "ironic" that something so friendly could go bad, I sit back thinking, "I knew that guy was a bad'un".

I hate them in parades, when you're trapped on the curb and they come up menacingly. During the "clown portion" of circuses I think it's a good time to go to bathroom or get a snack. I couldn't imagine inviting one to a birthday party unless I was trying to drive my children from the house.

And it's not just the "fake" sad ones, I don't like the happy ones, the doctor clowns with the big feet, the big baby clown in diapers, the bunch of clowns in the little car. I don't like their trying to make me happy when I'm just being uncomfortable. Oh, and little kids who squeal with delight irritate me, it only encourages the clowns.

I don't like them trying to make me happy and the fact is, while they may not be quite as scary as "Howdy Doody Dolls" (which I have been terrified of, even before "Chucky"), they bother me, like coming across some congressman loitering in a bathroom.

So, why am I ranting about clowns? Because, right now, across the water from our house, someone is having an overly loud party with a DJ, which, in my book, is a modern-day clown with a record player. The music is loud, but that doesn't bother me, crank it up, drown out the clown. However, the DJ is talking and talking and talking, loudly over a microphone. I'm sure he has a big smile and, while I cannot see him, I can clearly hear him (from several hundred yards away) constantly cajoling everyone to "be Happy!!!" "Is every one having fun?" "rah" "I can't hear anyone!! Is everyone having FUN!!!????" "rah" "I STILL CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!!! IS EVERYONE HAVING FUN!!!!!???'

Too bad DJ's aren't in season.

I don't understand parties or functions that have to hire someone from the outside so that we'll have fun. I mean, aren't we grownups? Can't we just sit around and have a good time? Do we really need someone to try and get us out on the dance floor and dance the Hokey Pokey? The only time that sounds remotely appealing is when you've had too much to drink and, even then, you'll probably wake up and go "Oh my God! Did I do that last night!!"

We'll see if he shuts up soon, I may have to get my Daisy rifle and head out in the canoe . . .

While we're on the clown/DJ thing, we were recently in Newport (separate post). Karen was attending a conference of the County Clerks Association ("OCCA"). I joined her for a couple of evenings at the Newport Hallmark, which was actually a pretty nice hotel. The weather was gorgeous, we actually caught the lunar eclipse at 3 a.m. (which was incredible), had a killer Kobe Burger at the Rogue Ale Brewery and generally enjoyed ourselves.

One of the evenings, we went to a dinner - awards meeting for the association. Karen was receiving a number of accreditations (basically, she can now register you, take your vote, apply for passports, record your life and property and, in some jurisdictions, has even married people - well, too each other, she is already taken).

Okay, here we are, right on the beautiful Oregon coast on an incredible sunny day and, where is the banquet? In the basement. I was already approaching this event with some trepidation, "OCC official motto - 'we're funnier than the Oregon DMV". So, we sat back in the counter, I was busy being "Mister Karen Barnum". The meal passed and the entertainment section started.

I WAS AMAZED. If you have the chance to catch a traveling performance of the County Clerks of Linn and Jackson County, GO!! They did a great send-up of the Blues Brothers as county clerks!!

Had the evening ended there, seriously, I would have called it a good time and worth the trip.

Of course, it didn't end there.

We were sitting, blithely unaware that we were shortly going to be trapped for the rest of the evening. The association had apparently found an outside entertainer to entertain us. He wasn't a clown or a DJ, but he could have been. He had the microphone. This guy was a singer with a guitar and some kind of electronic music thing that performed as his back up (I'm thinking it's because no real person could work with this guy for an extended period).

Anyway, he played, and played and played. He tried to show us that he knew music from all eras, "Anyone want to hear something from the 60's?" "How about those 50's?" "Anyone interested in the Roman Empire?" "How about the Dark Ages?"

He did a number of impressions as well, and they all sounded amazingly like this guy trying to do an impression of someone we were trying to recognize, "was that Johnny Cash or Dick Van Patten?" But his real specialty was doing John Denver, he even looked like a seedy version of John Denver who never quite got out of the bar. Of course, John Denver is dead, so we thought it was a little odd that he was still having a Rocky Mountain High and hopping up and down on Granny's Feather Bed, but this guy just marched on.

Even that would have been fine except, when one poor schmuck tried to leave the crowded banquet room to go to the bathroom, this Singing Yokel yelled out that he was leaving, got his name, and made fun of him when he returned. Of course, the rest of us just sat there, legs crossed, stopped drinking liquids and hoping we wouldn't wet our pants before this guy was through.

Eventually, our bladders won over our fear of being publicly embarassed by John Denver, so we made a run for it.

We made it to our room, went out on the deck with a glass of wine and gazed at the ocean.

I still hate clowns.