You know how it is-life drags by and you get older and older. You sit home alone, thinking you'll never find a mate, much less a soul mate. True, same-sex marriage has greatly enlarged the dating pool, but still . . . like so many of us over 50, you're a big loser.
Then, out of the blue, at some fund raiser for an arts group, you meet someone. An exotic stranger from out of town. So different from the local dogs you long ago rejected-and were rejected by. You exchange phone numbers. You begin to chat long distance. Luckily you both have excellent phone plans. Something starts to click. You both can feel it.
What do you do next?
Well, there's only one answer to that question. Go to Las Vegas, or Vegas, baby, as I now call it. That's what I recently did. There's something about that intensity, that desert heat that will make or break any budding relationship immediately. Here are some pointers to clip n' save for the next time it happens to you.
1) Bring drugs. If you haven't seen the person since that fateful wine and cheese party, seeing him or her again in a Las Vegas hotel room can be a bit of a shock. I recommend Valium on the plane. Keep in mind that once over the half- century mark, the human body isn't quite what it used to be; and that if you're smart, you'll make allowances. My new potential beloved, for example, walked with a limp, suffered from ringworm, and lacked a valid driver's license. And in my circles that's considered a good catch.
2) The hotel is crucial. We stayed at the MGM Grand; and, frankly, I was a bit worried because I'd stayed there last summer, while I was attending a Suzanne Somers' fan club meeting-1,000 overweight women who are the core consumers of her jewelry, clothes and diet books. Frankly, I found their company a little wearying. And then there was that awful scuffle over the low-carb candy. No, I wanted somewhere else, a hotel without baggage, so to speak.
Unfortunately all the other hotels seemed to be full, but I'm glad to report that the MGM has actually gone uphill in the past year and is now excellent for our purposes. It has a bunch of y fancy new restaurants; and, I noted for future reference, several excellent dark and moody bars, perfect for going off and sulking when the other person just gets to be too much.
The room itself was spacious and vaguely art deco. The first thing I checked was the lighting. Very dim, thank God. At night a greenish glow seeps in, but if you pull the sheers a subdued, golden light permeates everything. It's about as flattering as you're going to get considering what you've got to work with. And if it's still not flattering, pull the blackout drapes.
The bathrooms at the MGM are great, big enough for a family of four. But please-only one person in the tub at a time. Otherwise all the water sloshes out.
3. There are plenty of high-end restaurants in Vegas, which means lots of dating opportunities for us older folks. Who wants to be gyrating in a disco or watching some stupid action movie when you can be cosseted in luxury and brought sumptuous foods, all the while getting progressively drunker?
We chose Picasso, possibly the top place in town, where George Clooney and Julia Roberts trysted in Ocean's Eleven. In addition to wonderful food and service, Picasso has a dozen or so real Picassos on the walls. The other diners seemed incredibly blasé about this gold mine and barely glanced their way; but I wanted my money's worth, so I carefully examined each one, getting people to shove over on their banquettes and dragging my tie in their soup.
You can really get to know somebody while dining with them. You get to study their eating likes and dislikes, their table manners, their alcohol intake, their conversational skills, they way they treat the help. And if you're lucky, there will come that magic moment when you watch them sop up the last bit of sauce with the last piece of bread, and you realize they have an even bigger eating problem than you do.
4) Nighttime activities are fantastic. And, no, I don't mean sex. But as long as sex has come up, I confess I've gotten to the age where anything is worth a try. Any drug (prescription, of course), any lotion, any herb, any unguent. Nowadays I offer full disclosure beforehand, mostly of things that just aren't going to happen. And to this list I've noticed that I've started adding, "need frequent breaks."
That's why it's great to report that Vegas is turning "adult" again, and they're trying to get rid of those pesky families by offering racy entertainments. The most unique of these is undoubtedly Zumanity, the erotic version of Cirque de Soleil. It has a cast of 25 or so and takes place in a Broadway-sized theater. It's part cabaret, part circus, part fancy strip club; and, yes, there is copious nudity and audience participation. A drag queen sings Billie Holliday, two female contortionists make out in a giant champagne glass, a midget and a gorgeous blonde soar through the air on silken cords. But don't worry-there are also bondage, wrestling and plain old S&M. All of this is designed to stimulate the libido, and believe me, it does. As the show finally drew to a close, the audience rose en masse and stampeded back to their hotel rooms.
5) Save time for the old Vegas. No city tears down and rebuilds like Las Vegas. Every five years it looks completely different. So seek out at least one of its traditions. Like the Liberace Museum. The costumes and cars and jewelry are beyond tacky, I'm glad to report, but what is ultimately more intriguing is the strange role Liberace played in American culture. His look screamed gay but he insisted he wasn't. This gave his career a comic tension that turned tragic when he came down with AIDS. He claimed the whole thing was the result of a watermelon diet. In retrospect his life has the grandeur of a Broadway musical, like Evita. After all, how many dead entertainers have their own museums?
With their own tribute show! Yes, most afternoons around one a guy named Wes Winters does his Liberace tribute show (not to be confused with a Liberace impersonator show), in which he illustrates Liberace's various musical styles with as much energy as, if not more than, Liberace himself. Wes, in fact, won last year's Liberace Play-a-Like Contest. I found him brilliant, even while performing under difficult circumstances-the theater was a concrete block storage room with plastic lawn chairs and 15 people in the audience.
As Wes launched into the Liberace rendition of the Sabre Dance in boogie-woogie tempo, I stole a peek at my companion, who was dozing lightly, head slumped on chest, feet splayed outward. Gee, I never noticed those clogs before. Will this last? Who knows? One thing's for certain-we'll always have Vegas, baby.