Things To Do In Las Vegas When You’re Dead


Broke, that is. Dead broke. I think we are all familiar enough with Sin City’s over-the-top entertainment torrent to know that there is no end to the list of stuff to do in Las Vegas. If the people in front of me in line at the Rio’s World’s Largest Buffet are any indication, this gambler’s paradise provides boundless entertainment even after you have shuffled off this mortal coil.

Here are a few suggestions for the Las Vegas visitor who might have bellowed her final, drunken command of “Let it all ride on fifteen black WOOO HOOO where’s that wait-tail cocktress bring me another Captain and Red Bull less GOOOO!!!” Or words to that effect.

Wandering down the crowded sidewalk of Las Vegas Boulevard without a shekel to your name, wondering how you’re going to pony up the money for a bus ticket back to Round Corners, Texas, or wherever you’re visiting from, is a sobering, depressing experience, especially in the blazing morning sunlight, after you’ve thrown up your 99¢ breakfast on a sea of Captain and Red Bull, and your tongue feels like it’s wearing a fur coat.

But after you’ve cadged a couple of Advils off a tourist (you can trust elderly women with big purses and support hose and giant visors—no one else), find some shade to ride out your headache and consider engaging in one of Las Vegas’ cheap or free attractions that are off the beaten path. You’ll forget about your cares and woes, and it might even take your mind off the $300 charged to your Visa card to pay for the damage caused by all that maraschino cherry syrup and Hershey’s chocolate sauce you splattered all over your hotel room when you brought that drunk, one-legged baccarat dealer up to your room and tried to make a “human banana split.” (I’m not sure that one’s going to stay in Vegas.)


Beware of offers to attend a “free horse race.”

One thing you can do for free is to work your way east out Tropicana Boulevard to the Pinball Hall of Fame. It may be a little difficult to spot, with its bomb shelter architecture and “Mattress Warehouse Inventory Reduction Sale”-style sign above the door. (By the way, isn’t “inventory reduction” kind of the raison d’être for every retail enterprise? Just sayin’.) Admission is free.

Let’s hope Grandma Walker’s Advils have worked their magic on your brain by now, because the deafening cacophonous jangle of the hundreds of pinball machines will assault your senses like an ice cream truck crashing into a carnival midway. Bells, sirens, whoops, dings, chings, changs, bongs, dongs—every cheesy alert sound in the world fills the air as crowds of people shuffle in slow motion up and down the aisles between all the beautifully restored, vintage pinball machines.

The games cost a quarter, but you’re not here to play. If you spent your last dollar tipping the restroom attendant who held your hair back last night while you sold a Buick to the toilet, you’ll need some money. Here’s what you do: wad up a ball of newspaper and get it a little wet. Then when no one’s looking, shove it up into the coin dispenser of the change machine. Hang back and let a few tourists insert bills, pound on the machine and move to the next one. If they leave to go find a pinhead to get a refund, you’ll have to act quickly. Pull out the paper, collect your jackpot (try to resist yelling “Jackpot!”) and get the hell out of there.

Your next move will be to get on a bus and buy a 24-hour pass on the RTC. This will cost you $8.00, and take you throughout most of Las Vegas, including residential areas and the dreaded Strip. You did manage to get $8.00 out of that change machine, right? Okay. Take a bus to the nearest Jack in the Crack or In-N-Out, buy yourself a hangover-eradicating gut bomb, and get on with your day.

At this point you probably need something to help you feel better about yourself. Seriously, you just robbed the Pinball Hall of Fame; how much lower can you sink? You need a tour of the Neon Museum. Located at 770 Las Vegas Blvd., just north of the Strip, this is where all the old-school Las Vegas signs came to die. Daytime tours are $12.00, or 48 quarters.


$3 will get you into Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, if you’re on foot. You can do it. Lewis and Clark did it, right?

The Museum is a non-profit organization that has managed, over the last several years, to restore several of the sheet metal and neon signs of Las Vegas to their former gaudy glory. Those are the old school beauties you see on Fremont Street. Like the $2.99 buffet and the non-tattooed sword swallower, they harken back to a simpler, more cleanly atavistic Las Vegas that pulled in gamblers from all over the world, held them up by their ankles and shook every last nickel out of their pockets before releasing them, destitute and demoralized, back into the wild.

The Boneyard, just up the street, is the centerpiece of the Museum. It’s a fenced-in lot, covering half a city block, where a (hopefully) Las Vegas native guides tours and expounds on the short but colorful history of this city that has undergone so many facelifts and iterations that it takes an archaeologist and forensics expert to suss out the Real Las Vegas. And what better way to do that than to explore some of the old signs that used to blaze into the desert night, adding to the glow that promised glitz, glamour, jackpots and thrills. When that glow comes into view from sixty miles away, you can’t help but step on the gas a little harder.

Wander through the dusty rows between these dismantled behemoths and you’ll recognize several of the iconic designs from the Rat Pack era. There’s an E from Caesar’s Palace, in that unmistakable Little Caesar’s Pizza Greek typeface. Over there, leaning against a pile of historic rubble, the Jetsons-style letters from the original Stardust sign are lined up. There was more than a mile of neon in that thing. Here’s the giant silver slipper from the Silver Slipper Dance Hall. There’s the golden lamp that stood atop the sign for the Aladdin Hotel, where Elvis married Priscilla (after getting up on one knee to propose).

Speaking of Elvis, you can catch a free lounge show featuring the twitchy gyrations and vocal stylings of Big Elvis at Harrah’s piano bar most weekday afternoons. One good way to score some free food and libations while the ersatz King croons to the Early Bird crowd is to grab a stool at the bar next to an old timer who’s had a couple of bourbons. Strike up a conversation, then casually drop the phrase “Dubya dubya two the big one” in there and watch the man’s eyes light up. Here come the stories. In order to detain his young audience, he will proceed to buy you drinks and maybe even a shrimp cocktail.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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