Diary of the Diceman or Viva Las Vegas Baby!Well yours truly The Diceman packed up the wife, kits and a good supply of Model Maniacs Magazine for our first excursion to that other coast. OK so we didn't make it all the way to the coast. We landed in Sin City Bugsy's Town Vegas Baby! All for the first ever Imagine Nation Expo. And what a week it was! If you were one of the unlucky ones who didn't attend, well shame on you! But lucky for you another one is planned for next year. So read on you modeling maniacs and take a gander on how yer ole Unca Ed and Auntie Sue spent their first time to the city that NEVER sleeps!.
Day 1 5:15 AM ESTOur flight out of Newark landed an hour ahead of time at McCarran airport in Las Vegas around noon on Wednesday Aug 1st. Quickly grabbed a few smokes after the 4 hour flight and you just knew that even in the smoking lounge at the airport slot machines were waiting! The wife immediately donated 20 bucks to it before I could cart her out to grab our luggage; gladly this didn't set the tone for the rest of our stay. We decided to get a rental car for a couple of days so we could check out the town on our own, a quick stop at Budget Rent a Car, a shuttle bus to our nice shiny Red Neon, a punch in the face by 102 degree heat and we were off to the Orleans Hotel.
A quick 5 minute drive from the airport and some rubbernecking as we drove past The Strip, we were in the Orleans parking lot. Did I happen to mention that it was 102 degree's outside? Needless to say we hustled our butts into the Hotel and got our room. I must say that for a paltry $49.00 Sunday to Thursday and $89.00 Friday and Saturday you get one sweet room! Ours was on the 6Th floor of the 21-floor hotel. From our window we could see the MGM Grand, New York/New York and the Rio clear as a bell. The room had a nice cozy decor a HUGE King size bed, color TV with remote, a separate sitting reading area with a sofa and chair set and lamp, a desk area to do whatever paperwork you had to do, an area for the sink and sundries and a decent size tub, shower and toilet area AKA Bathroom where the showerhead was actually built for people taller then 5 foot high!.
The real star of the room was the AC unit, which I had set at 62 degrees and it stayed at that for the entire time we stayed in Vegas! The wife unpacked our bags as I made a few phone calls back home to let everyone know we arrived safely, called the Imagine Nation Expo's show promoters to let em know we we're in town, called to make sure the stock I shipped ahead of time made it to Vegas and then it was time for the wife and I to lay out our plan of attack! DonÕt make the mistake that I made and forget your camera at home! If ever there was a vacation spot that begs for a camera Vegas is it!.
We decided to do a quick walk through of the casino to get our bearings since this would be home base for the next 5 days, after which we headed out to the car for a journey onto the infamous Strip. I watched Godfather 1 and 2 about 5 times on AMC prior to leaving and I'll be damned if that music they played in the movie when they first hit the strip in Vegas wasn't blasting in my head everytime we were on Las Vegas Blvd.
Talk about a city of excess! Gaudy is putting it mildly. Lights, bells, whistles, escalators on the streets, HUGE displays, events happening on every single block, Giant video screens on every hotel facade showing clips of the Stars that we're appearing or coming soon. I mean it's amazing that I didn't get into an accident, or at the very least whiplash the way my head was spinning to check out everything that was going on! Yes it was my First trip to Vegas and I was like a little kid sue me! I was enjoying the heck outta this and this was in the afternoon! I couldn't wait to check it out at night when all the lights were a flickering and what have you. We drove the entire length of the strip and even kept going down to the seedy part known as Old Las Vegas. I wanted to see it all! I have recently been informed that we actually didn't see everything that you come to expect from Old Las Vegas but next year weÕll make the excursion down to Fremont St. where it REALLY gets seedy! I can hardly wait!
By this time we were both a bit hungry so we pulled into Harrah's and decided to hit the first of many buffets we would eat at this week. Harrah's has a kick butt buffet for $13.99.Prime Rib, Shrimp, and Crab Legs were the main items of interest for me. Sure they had tons of other food but this was what I came to town for and I wasn't disappointed. After 5 slabs of Prime Rib, 30 fried Shrimp, 5 Shrimp Cocktails and about 20 Snow Crab legs it was time for dessert! Yes being a diabetic I'm suppose to shy away from desserts but they had a killer line up and even a big section of sugar free desserts! But of course I had to try stuff that I had heard about but never ate before, so it was a nice plate of Cherries Jubilee with hand made whipped cream and Banana's Forster with a nice drizzle of caramel sauce for me. By now I was stuffed! Moving ever so slowly I spied a Addams Family slot machine and donated $10.00 into it before heading out the door to the Madame Tussaude's Wax Museum which was just up the block.
Madame Tussaude's is right next store to the Casino Royale.I think it cost us like $18.00 each to get in, but the majority of the sculpts in here are AMAZING! We bought a disposable camera and took a few pics of the more eye catching ones on display. Sure there were a few klunkers but I'd say 95% of them were spot on which isn't bad considering there are over 100 pieces on display. I mean where else is someone like me gonna be able to hug Elle MacPhearson, cop a feel on Marilyn Monroe, dance with Sammy Davis Jr., square off with Arnold or hang with Jean Luc Picard? Well besides Chiller that is.
By now the temp was at 108 degree's and our bodies were still on East Coast time, so we decided to grab some soda and munchies and head back to the Orleans. We dropped off our munchies and a few things we bought in our room and headed back down to the casino for a bit.
Sue headed to the slots and I headed for the blackjack tables. I ended up playing on the $3.00 table for about 2 hours and came out about $25.00 ahead while Sue lost about $40.00.It was about 9PM now and we were really beat so we called it a night and hit the sack. Not a bad first day in Vegas I figgered. But I didn't know that within the next couple days it would get even better!
Day 2 5:00 AM PSTMy body is still on East Coast time so I'm up bright and early. I didn't want to wake up SueAnn so I hopped in the shower and read a magazine in the sitting area for a bit when I started to get hungry. So of course I opened up the curtains in the room and let in all that bright light which didn’t budge her! So I turned on the TV that only made her grumble and turn over. I finally resorted to what works best Jump on top of her!
That did the trick. Having a 6’2” 240 pound hairball such as myself jump on top of a sleeping body works wonders for the cardiovascular system. After peeling my wife’s nails out of my neck and back she proceeded to wake up, shower and get dressed for breakfast…we left the mess she made for the maid to clean up.We WERE in a hotel after all.So by 8:30AM we were out the door and into the stifling HOT 102-degree heat. We decided to go to the Gold Coast Casino for breakfast buffet for 2 reasons: 1) they had Bingo, which my wife is addicted to and 2) it only cost $2.99.Sure it was cheap but you get what you pay for. If the casinos have eaten up all your cash or you’re a bit on the frugal side, which a lot of the styrene model guys seem to be, then this buffet is custom made for you. It’s not really all that bad, but it’s not exactly what we came to Vegas for regarding food. BUT this casino had 1 redeeming value. A Creature from the Black Lagoon slot machine! Anyone who knows me knows I’m a Creature Nut/Fanatic/Fanboy to the EXTREME.I didn’t even know such a machine existed and came to later find out that they even have a Mummy, Mr. Hyde, Munsters and coming soon a Frankenstein and Dracula machines! Talk about covering all your bases! I was DYING to get a pic of me at the Creature machine but as you may know there are NO photo’s allowed in the casino’s and they have security out the ying yang at them. So I donated a $20 and sulked back to The Strip for some early morning shopping.
We went to the MGM Grand where I proceeded to win $10.00 and checked out the Lion Habitat.This is a SWEET glass enclosed “cage” which houses some beautiful Bengal Tigers, Lion’s and those Rare White Tigers.The way they have it set up is just off to one side of the casino and you enter and have the “cage” surrounding you at roughly 350 degrees. Makes for a weird sensation let me tell ya! You could also wait in line and have your pic taken with a couple lion and tiger cubs, but there was more on the Strip I wanted to check out so it was out the door for us into the now 104 degree heat. Have I mentioned that it gets HOT in Vegas?
First stop ended up at M&M’s World.It’s pretty much a 4 floor M&M’s store with every conceivable promo they have or make PLUS 24 DIFFERENT color M&M candies. You heard me! Needless to say we bought up these new fangled color delicacies in mass, spending about $18.00 on M&M’s…but it WAS cool having them in black, gold, silver, different shades of gray, blue, greens and pinks and I’m not talking the kinds they have out during certain holidays either. We grabbed some gifts for our neighbors who were watching Sheba while we were on vacation as well.
Next up was Coyote Joe’s or some such nonsense. It’s a souvenir shop with a Western/South Western motiff. Had a few cool items like REAL Scorpions in candy and stuff like that. I picked up a present fer a buddy of mine while I was there and my wife grabbed a few Piggie magnets (her addiction). We crossed the street and headed over to the New York/New York Casino.As you can tell it has a New York Motiff except VERY clean! I didn’t have a chance to ride the Roller Coaster that goes all around the outside of the casino but we’ll hit that next year. Instead we walked around the casino; played some slots and checked out Houdini’s Magic Shop.It has the look and feel of those old time magic stores complete with salespersons in Tuxedos demonstrating various tricks that they have for sale. Before you ask, YES one of them caught my eye and I dropped $20.00 on it! Maybe by the time next year’s WF comes around I’ll be using it to startle
And amaze ya’s…yeah right! Across from the shop was…TaDa…a Krispy Crème Shop! We grabbed up a dozen and headed back to the Orleans to beat the heat and so Sue could go try her luck at Bingo back at the Gold Coast.So we dropped off our goodies, kissed and she headed out to Bingo while I lounged in the room for a bit. That part didn’t take too long as the blackjack table started calling my name! I tried to throw the blackjack god’s a curve by heading out to the HUGE outdoor pool that the Orleans boasts, but their call was just too strong for me. After about 20 minutes of standing around waiting for a seat to open at the $3.00 table I finally got a spot and proceeded to lose all the cash I allotted myself to gamble for that day. But at least it took about 2 hours to happen. I headed back up to the room and made a few more calls and just basically lounged around eating Krispy Kreme’s until Sue came back.
By now it’s around 4PM and I wanted to hit the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton.But first I had to check out the pirate battle at Treasure Island.This little vindette goes on about every 2 hours out in front of the Treasure Island Casino/hotel. It costs nothing and is packed with people checking it out. They put on a nice little show with Pirates battling some snooty British Fleet Captain and his crew. It has 2 ships in a lagoon in front with “full” crews on both sides. The battle rages on with cannonballs being exchanged with the British Fleet getting the better of the Pirates.But soon the tide turns and the Pirates get the better of her Majesty’s Fleet and sinks her nemesis into the murky depths with the stoic British Captain proudly going down with the ship to the cheers of the Pirates and mass of humanity that watch the proceedings. It’s great fun for the whole family even if a few of the explosions generate enough heat to singe your eyebrows when the pirate’s armory gets blown to smithereens!
Now onto something I was REALLY looking forward to The Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and Casino.We had the Buffet at the hotel and it was good, not great, but good for the $15.00 it costs. More Prime Rib and Shrimp find their way into my ever-widening gullet. I still think Harrahs had the BEST Buffet for the price so far. I must warn ya’s one thing about the Casino/Hotel’s in Vegas.They are EASY to get lost in! They are like GIANT Hotel/Casino/Malls inside. It’s real easy to lose your bearings. BUT we finally found our destination and guess who forgot the disposable camera he just bought yesterday! Yep! You guessed! I DID buy a few post cards so you can see a small portion of what they have here. But you REALLY owe in to yourself if your into SCI Fi kits or Star Trek to check it out.
The ride, which is at the end of the “tour”, is a bit dated considering what Universal and Disney have been doing at their theme parks, but it’s still pretty cool. The BEST part of it all is the Prop displays.
HIGHLY detailed props from every version of the TV Shows and Movies are on hand. Klingon/Borg/Cardassion…TOS, Next Gen./DS 9/Voyager…it’s all there! I know for a fact that the guys on Cult TV Man’s BB’s would not leave the place! And luckily you don’t have to! It’s a pay one-price check out everything as many times, as you like til 11PM display/ride. I’m not really a Trek geek so the names of all the ships on display escape me, but those guy’s will know them by heart. And they are VERY well done. EXTREMELEY detailed and painted to perfection. I was VERY impressed by the craftsmanship on display.
They even have screens showing small clips from the different series and movies going on continusiouly. It is a SCI Fi Geeks Nirvana! They have an EXCELLENT Trek gift shop that is just outside the ride itself. The prices were a bit on the VERY high side for everything! Even those $2.00 kits they have at all the close out stores were selling for $20.00!But I did pick up a few postcards and a talking Tribble.We stopped into Quarks Bar and it looked WILD! Keep in mind neither my wife nor I drink so we didn’t partake of any of the beverages the place is noted for, but I did manage to pay for the few items I bought in the gift shop with the $20.00 I won on a Star Trek Slot Machine.
We hung around til about 10:30 and then headed back to the hotel, driving down the Strip.I just HAD to see this place lit up! And man what a show that is in itself! All the lights, I’d hate to have to pay those electric bills. But it was cool as hell and yes that damn song from the Godfather was popping up in my head as we headed back. Back at the Orleans my wife and I parted ways…she went to the slots and I went back to the blackjack tables. Walking through the casino I spotted Greg Nicotero, Terry Webb and Timmi and a few other people I knew were in town for the show. I have a funny story about a jinx that happened to me too many times to just be a coincidence, which is too long to write about here, but catch me at a show, and I’ll relate the story to you. Anyway as luck would have it, after about 2 _ hours of playing at the tables I was up maybe $10-15.00.By now it was 2AM and I was pretty much out of it so I went up to our room to get ready for tomorrow’s first day of the show. My wife joined me in the room about 5 minutes later, we chatted for a bit, did a little of the husband and wife thang and fell asleep.
Day 3 10 AM PST
Well the show starts in less then 8 hours with dealer set up in 5.We wake up; shower and both have a bad case of morning hungries. We hit the Buffet for brunch in the hotel and it’s pretty damn good. Matter of fact for $6.99 it’s outstanding! Omelet’s made to order, pancakes, bacon by the truckload and everything in-between PLUS a lot of stuff you wouldn’t even think about eating for breakfast! We see a pretty nice contingent of people we know will be at the show on line for the buffet and after stuffing their collective faces none seem too happy to have to walk around without loosening their waistbands. With a few hours to kill before dealer set up the 2 of us went our separate ways. Wife to the slots, me to the blackjack table. Suffice to say this wasn’t a good morning for gambling cause we both lost! But as they say,”Lose in the Casino…Jack up the prices at the Dealer’s tables!” Just kidding, though I DID say that to the dealer at the table and a few people who were in earshot of me in the Casino.I decided to take a walk upstairs to the dealer’s room and see what I could see. There I met show promoter Joe Ferilli’s wife, WHPratt from the EZ Board BB and a few fans waiting in line hours before the show opened. A few minutes went by and I spied Jeff Taylor and Robb Rontondi of Taylor Designs and Needful Things respectively. We went into the HUGE Decatur Ballroom, which played, host to the Imagine Nation Expo.It’s a VERY spacious room with GREAT ventilation and AC, Something I was VERY happy about.
The room was well lit and lined up with nice BIG 8’ tables covered with black sheets.another nice surprise. I HATE white sheets on tables personally. I asked if I could check and see if my boxes had indeed arrived and was pleased to find them, granted not in the condition that I sent them in. Good OLE UPS strikes again folks! How UPS can mangle 3 bags of replacement heads that are in the MIDDLE of a box with stuff all around them is too much for me to comprehend, but they found a way to do it! All in all 1 destroyed box out of 5 sent cross-country ain’t all that bad I guess. I had a chance to happen upon Tony Aranjo and Frank Orlando about this time as well as Paul from AMOK, Don Bowman from Ygor’s Toys and noted sculptor Dave Grant.We all sat around and shot the breeze for a bit when Don, myself and another person whom I can'’ remember all started sharing anecdotes on dealing with Terry Fitton.After about 20 minutes of this non stop laff fest we all went on our way to let the guys bringing the boxes to the dealers tables have some room to work without us being in their way.
Once again the call of the casino proved to be too much for me and hey…I needed to try and get even right? I stood around and watched 2 tables that looked promising and it looked as if only 1 player on each was having a rough go of it. Once she left I hopped in. I bet the min for a bit until I saw how the cards were playing and saw how that critical last player was playing the decks. He knew what he was doing so I started up in a good way. I got on a nice roll and won the money I had lost previously the first couple days plus about $35.00,by this time it was time to go upstairs to set up, so I cashed out and hit the bricks. Better to walk away with some of their cash in my pocket instead of the other way around.
Dealer set up is always a joy to watch. It’s like if you lived in NYC, turned on a light in the kitchen and watch the cockroach’s scramble. It’s really a sight to behold. Good OLE Barsom (insert EXTREMELY sarcastic tone here) canceled out at the last minute because he had a widdle toothache and him’s girlfriend broke up with him…poor baby. Bad for him but good for me. The show promoter’s graciously allowed me to spread out my table so I was able to display the 3 issues of Model Maniacs Magazine, several different Issues of SPFX Magazine and the latest Chiller Theatre Magazine.Set up didn’t take long at all, so I was able to go walk around the room and meet folks I haven’t seen in a few weeks and some I never met before in my life other then online, but STILL consider to be good friends. The doors for the show opened early and the throng of people bolted in. I saw MANY a contest entry in hand so I was a bit envious, cause the number of kits entered looked like it was going to be impressive and the quality was top notch. I was right on both counts! Sales were a bit slow to start. I met A LOT of people who are fans of Model Maniacs Magazine and that always makes me feel good. Sales for the mags were pretty steady all weekend long. I answered a bunch of questions about the Creature head I did for the last issue and met a lot of really nice folks. Sadly sales stayed slow the rest of the night and my wife looked to be a bit bored so around 9:30 I told her to get lost but be back by 10:00.She returned in like 10 or 15 minutes I remember saying “Boy you lost that money fast!” and chuckling about it to a fellow I was talking to at the table. When he left she told me to sit down and I was floored to hear she won some decent cash on the slots! I won’t go into the numbers since she blew my doors off all weekend long. But it kept getting better. The first day closed at 10:00 PM and we were both hungry so we hit one of the hotel café’s since the buffet was closed already. We were too pooped to go out so we just ate and went up to the room to crash by midnight.
Day 4 7:15 AM PSTNeither my wife or I wanted to get out of bed this morning, but knowing full well that this was going to be the first “full” day of the show was enough to make us kick it into gear. Dealer’s room set up started at 9 and the show opened to the public at 11, this gave us enough time to have the breakfast buffet at the hotel. We got through the line VERY quick and spied show promoter Robb Rotondi standing behind us, I wanted to thank Robb for letting me spread out the Model Maniacs table so I bought his breakfast, just a small token of thanks to ole “Handsome Robb”. The Breakfast Buffet at the Orleans is HIGHLY recommended! Great price and even better food! So far the Breakfast and Brunch buffet’s at the Orleans have been impressive so I knew the dinner Buffet had to makes it’s way onto the schedule at some point.
Sue wanted to get a cup of tea, another addiction of hers, so I headed up to the dealer’s room. A line had already begun to form. I headed inside to “open” the table, taking my time and BSing with a few folks in the process. Well next thing I know some folks are wanting to buy copies of the magazines, guess who got the hours mixed up! You guessed! The show opened at 10 not 11. Suffice to say Model Maniacs issue’s #1 and 2 BOTH sold out pretty early on, which always warms my heart. I got a chance to meet up with several friends I have only ever “spoken” to online like SteeleFrogs, Jim Bertege’s and his son of MR fame, Hilber Graf also of MR, Joel Tavaras from Cult’s BB, Buffalo Joe and his wife from my Creature club, Plastic Monster and his wife from the GK club. I got reacquainted with Johnny Gilbert, who got a haircut and completely threw me off, Bob Burns, actor Dan Roebuck who should be joining the Creature club very soon, Jim Groman who for a change I actually got a chance to hang around with AND I must admit that seeing his Pebbles sculpt in person, well it IS a great looking piece! I told Jim to smack who ever did the build up for his ads and whomever took the pic cause neither do the sculpt justice! True to my word Jim, I’ll admit when I make a mistake! I also have to admit that MiM’s Julie Strain and Phantom kits look OUTSTANDING in person. What is it with these pics not doing the actual kits justice anyways!
By now Sue returned so this gave me a chance to wander around a bit and check out the kits for sale and the model contest. I took the cup of “X-Tea” Sue bought me and started off. Oh? What’s “X-Tea”? It’s a frozen caffeine fruit drink that Seattle’s Best makes and it’s GREAT! Check it out, I suggest the strawberry one. Anyway, Just over from me was Ant Mestas and his Attar kit sculpted by Bob Bagy. This kit ROCKS! If you’re a fan of the new POTA’s film GET IT! I stopped by Skyhook Models table and these guys have a line, I think its called “Pocket Model’s” that you HAVE to get. Their all priced VERY cheap and are VERY cool. I grabbed their base for the PL Robby the Robot kit, a pocket model of the scene where the flying saucer crashed into the Washington Monument. Yes I know I should of grabbed the Day the Earth stood still one too and their War of the World’s one too, but those made it onto my must have list so fear not. Remember I’m not much of a SF kit kinda guy, but these kits are too cool! I grabbed another Robby base and a Futura batmobile conversion part kit for Scott J and hit the road before Skyhook would have gotten ALL my cash! I grabbed another Creature head from Posthumous Prod for Scott, that boy is gonna owe me his life soon! Hilber Graf kindly brought me one of the Creature replacement heads he sculpted for the Aurora kit and I have to say I LOVE it! John from Pinkerton FX got me another Punkenstein kit since the one he gave me for the magazine was sent to one of the writers, I just HAD to have one of these babies for myself and was VERY happy to hear that the next “punk” will be a Creature one! Suffice to say John knows that I get one of those immediately! At the AFM table I got a chance to shoot the breeze with Terry and Timmi along with Dave and Cindy. I happened to notice that they have a new Godzilla X-Acto knife holder now, which wasn’t at WF. It’s pretty cool looking! But I have to say that their Kong one is on my must have list. The Kong is too sweet! A few of the dealers at the show were one’s that I had seen at either the previous Chiller or WF so I won’t go into those here. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard what they have by now. But I got to see MBP’s stuff in person and GEEZ! What a display they had! AMAZING stuff and priced to sell! They had this Velociraptor that was like 8 foot long and GORGEOUS! And for the size I think it had a price like $700.00, which ain’t too shabby. Ygor’s Toys has a VERY sweet Bela Dracula kit and a Frankenstein tribute piece with Frankenstein kneeling at Karloff’s grave. Both kits are in my possession now! Kick Ass studio’s, a newcomer to the hobby as far as I can tell had a cool Godzilla type lizard on steroids wielding a battle-ax that was pretty sweet. Look for an article on this kit in issue #4 of MM. Blue Radish Studio’s Houdini is a kit I must have and they even sell a prepaint now and it’s done VERY well! One of the BEST prepaints I have ever seen. They also have a few new pieces in the works so keep yer eyes open.
By now I knew I was away from the table too long so I did a quick run through the model contest area and headed back. A few glares from Sue and I decided to let her head to the casino for a bit to give her a break and save my hide. I noticed that behind my table now was a guy sculpting a 1-1 scale Wolfman head. I remembered hearing Handsome Robb tell me that Rob Ortiz, who sculpted the Creature bust I did for the cover of MM #2, was sculpting a Wolfman head. So I walked over and asked if he was indeed Rob Ortiz and was delighted when he said he was. Being a man of my word I shook his hand and noted a startled expression on his face. I relayed the fact that I LOVED his Creature bust and said that if I ever met him in person that I had to shake his hand. He looked puzzled but relieved so I handed him a copy of MM #2 with his sculpt on the cover. This perked him up. It seems this was his first exposure in any magazine other then an ad and to say he was delighted was an understatement. He commented on how he loved the way Steve Riojas’s build up on the cover looked, which in turn made me chuckle and feel honored! I told him that I had painted it, which made him blush and apologize. I thanked him for thinking my paint job compared favorably to Steve’s and let him have a comp copy of the mag. He immediately asked if he could buy 2 more copies. 1 to frame and 1 to stash away, who am I to say no LOL! Sue returned to the table by now with another shit eating grin so I could tell she won again. This gave her a chance to shoot the breeze with Frank Orlando whom by now was asking for tips on winning at the slot machines and with Donnie from Janus who as it turns out knows a thing or 2 about Bingo. Knowing Sue was in good hands this gave me a chance to head over to the model contest room.
OK let me start off with the fact that I have seen NUMEROUS model contests in my lifetime as a modeler. I knew that with the pro category Imagine Nation was having and the $1,000.00 grand prize that it would draw some of the biggest names and best talent the hobby has to offer. To put it mildly I was blown away! And NOT just by the pro category! Bob “Phantom” Maxwell did a bang up job setting up the model contest room and the display areas. Which included the original armatures of King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, props from KNB FX and a host of other eye popping movie related material which included a 1-1 scale Flesh eater from Dawn of the Dead…but the entries in the contest. My God! What can I say!?! These were some of the BEST works I have ever seen in my life! I mean new takes on old kits, scratch build’s out the yin yang. There was an entry by a 14-year-old kid that makes me wanna hang up my airbrush! This was too much eye candy for me. It was hard to concentrate. I’d be checking out 1 kit and barely glance over and the next kit was one that I needed to look at. My back was killing me from being stooped over so long checking out this stuff. Luckily we have A LOT of pics that people have taken for the model contest so look for yourself and see if I’m lying. And yes even the pics don’t do the kits justice. Congrats goes to Steve Riojas who walked away with Top honors in the pro category with his Dino-Rama. It was a commissioned piece that Steve sold too cheap IMHO and I’ve been calling him an a$$hole for doing so. BTW did anyone else notice that Steve’s wife looks A LOT like a blonde Renee Russo? OK…I’ll stop before I get into trouble here. I have to say that Robb Company dropped the ball here. How so? Well this would have been a PERFECT opportunity for a commercial to be used for next year’s show. All they needed was a guy with a microphone to say, “Steve Riojas! You’ve just won the Grand Prize at the Imagine Nation Expo Model Contest! What are you gonna do next?” To which Steve would have replied. “I’m going to Disneyland!” Which was the truth since he WAS going to Disneyland! Ahhh woulda/shoulda/coulda. But Kudos to ALL the people who entered kits in the model contest. I’d like to have gotten one of those Bob Burns Awards for my trophy case. Maybe next year.
Back to the table. John from Posthumous was being his normal pain in the butt borrowing everything and anything from my model fix up case, so I sent the wife away to get some munchies from our room and get me another “X-Tea” of course I knew this meant another trip to the casino for her, but the way she was doing I wasn’t gonna stop her. As I sat behind the table doing “something” I heard a few voices praising a few of my kits. I didn’t think anything of it and continued searching through the box for a few kits I had earmarked for AFM and MR for review. Finally I could tell that whomever it was really knew what they were talking about with the scene’s represented by the kits and looked up. To my astonishment it was John Landis and Jim Danforth. Well ya could have knocked me over with a feather! We chatted awhile and I gave them each copies of the latest issue of MM and Chiller Theatre. OK it was a fanboy moment for me. But come on, you’d be impressed too! By now Sue returned with the munchies and another grin on her face, no need to ask. Dan Roebuck stopped by to say that he was leaving so I introduced him to Sue who drew a blank. A bit of an ego burster for Dan but he took it well as I explained that my wife isn’t a movie or TV hound like most everyone in the planet is. I’ll have to grab one of the DVD’s that Dan is in and play it for her so she’ll know who she “dissed”. The day was drawing to a close so I did another walk through the dealer’s room before it was time to pack it in for Saturday. I met up with Tony McVey and chatted with him for awhile. He’s a very quiet sort of guy. Looks Italian but has a British accent but talented as all get out, which is no news to you out there. I saw that Jeff Taylor had the Silverback 2 sculpt on display. I HAD to let Jeff know that he MUST be insane to which he totally agreed. He informed me that he had resculpted sections 2 and 3 times that he wasn’t pleased with and that the kit “should” be ready by Fall Chiller. I REALLY am surprised that Jeff isn’t blind with all the detail he puts on those apes that he loves to sculpt so much. And to have to resculpt sections over a few times? Not in this lifetime buddy! But it just goes to show what a stickler for detail he is and it shows!
With the show closing for the day my wife and I wanted to check out a show. I mean we’re in Vegas. Ya gotta check out a show! It’s a law I think. I had heard people talk about the Blue Man Group and Seigfreid and Roy and what have you, but those shows were a bit pricey. I knew that I wanted to go to the Rio hotel and check out their buffet, which boasts as being the BIGGEST in Vegas. Scanning the magazines they have in all hotel rooms in Vegas for what’s going on in town, I saw that Penn and Teller were appearing at the Rio. Hmmm and the Rio was right across the street from the Gold Coast. This could work out perfect since we didn’t have the rental car anymore. Back in the room I called the Rio to find out if there was a dress restriction and they said it was casual attire, which is all I own. OK so I DID buy a suit this year, but that was only because I had to go to my godfather’s funeral and I haven’t seen anyone from my family in like 8 years and a lot more that I haven’t seen in 30! But I digress. I reserved tickets for the show, which cost like $45.00 a piece, not too bad. Showered again, changed clothes and went into the casino to grab a shuttle for the Gold Coast.
Let me explain this part. Most all the Casinos/hotels in Vegas have “sister” casinos somewhere else on the strip or in town. They provide free shuttle buses to said sister sites for people who want a change of pace from where ever they may be staying. The Orleans sister sites are the Gold Coast, which is right across the street from the Rio and the Barbary Coast, which in located on “the Strip”. With a little fancy finagling it is VERY easy to get around Vegas without renting a car. Sure you may have to do a little bit of walking around but if you work it right you can get around the city pretty easily without renting a car. All you need to know is where the casino’s shuttles leave from and what their sister hotels are. Not as hard as you might think, and it can save ya a nice hunk of change to spend on kits. So sock away this info for next years show.
After hopping on the wrong shuttle bus that took us to the Barbary instead of the Gold Coast we waited about 5-10 minutes for the next shuttle to arrive and take us to our proper destination. Note: READ the sides of the shuttles and get on the RIGHT bus. Anyway we made it to the Rio and walked around to find the Buffet. The Line was HUGE! It looked like a line for a ride at Disneyland. After being on line for about 15-20 minutes I decided to go see where the theater was that the show was going to be in and pick up our tickets. The show started at 9 and it was already 7:45, so I knew timing was everything. After securing our tickets I saw that the line made HUGE progress and we we’re almost towards the front. After paying the $15.99 and being seated we hit the buffet with a vengeance. Having not eaten all day except for some chips and M&M candies we were both famished. The Buffet at the Rio is good and it IS huge with a diverse selection but it still wasn’t as good as Harrah’s or the Orleans. But it was worth the money. I got to chitchat with John Tucky and Larry Burbridge who both had the same idea’s as we did where it came to eating and then I got lost trying to find the damn table I was sitting at! It IS a huge buffet folks! I scarfed down the prerequired 5 slabs of Prime Rib and 30 fried shrimp. Their cocktail sauce was excellent but their peel and eat shrimp was under cooked. The Mahi Mahi was on the money as was BBQ beef and pork ribs. The Beef one’s sauce was better but too messy. After having some fruit for dessert it was time to hit the show.
If you have ever seen Penn and Teller on TV then go see them in person. They’re much better live! The show ran about an hour and a half and there is some audience participation. It is a VERY enjoyable show and thought provoking as well. My wife never heard of them but enjoyed herself immensely. I won’t give away anything that went on cause..Well… Penn asked everyone to “Shut the Hell up” so I’ll give him that much. If they are ever in your area check em out. After the show both performers are in the theater lobby signing autographs and taking pics with the people. Very nice guys who are very willing to pose and say a few words. I picked up their latest book and had it signed by both and Sue got them to sign both our ticket stubs. Can anyone say E Bay fodder? By now our butts were dragging so we took a shuttle back to the Orleans and were pretty sure we would be hitting the hay. Yeah Right! We weren’t at the hotel 2 minutes when Sue went her way and I went to the room to drop off the book and a few other items we picked up before I headed back down to the casino and my blackjack table. Notice how it’s now “My” black jack table? I found a chair and sat at a table with some elderly Asian and Philippine women. This one woman was bombed and making some of the oddest bets. But she would win some and lose some. Her friend was a bit more conservative, but not really up on the game. But she started to get the idea after awhile. Both players were eating up cards and hitting where they shouldn’t. This was wreaking havoc when it came to my turn to hit. I proceeded to lose and lose FAST! I was down to my last $6.00 when another player came aboard and the woman playing 1 hand at a time started playing 2. This changed the cards drastically. In MY favor for a change! The older gent next to me was losing big but so was the dealer. Yes! Finally! The elder gent left and a middle age African American gent sat in. He knew what he was doing and the roll continued. I hit a few hard double 21’s on 12 which impressed my new sidekick to where he gave me a tip saying it was the first time he’s seen that hit twice in a row in his life. I left his tip for the dealer to play on my hand and got a black jack. I returned the favor by placing a dealer play on HIS hand and we BOTH hit black jack. Granted he was betting $25.00 a pop compared to my $7.00, but money’s money folks! It got to a point where I was losing about 1 hand out of 12 with some “pushes” tossed in. I started putting a bunch of chips in my pocket and kept “X” amount in front of me on the table. After awhile gamblers get to be VERY superstitious, Gotta keep that flow going. I had to have been at the table for about 2 _ hours now, when Sue, who unbeknownst to me was sitting at a slot machine behind where I was playing, came over and said she was heading up to the room. OK I WAS on a good roll but decided to “cash in” and join her. All she thought I had was the chips that were on the table, so when I emptied the chips out of my pocket it was my turn to have that shit eating grin. I had won back the $65.00 I lost earlier on in the day, the $59.00 I was down for awhile that evening and ended up with $134.00 of the casino’s money to boot! Let me tell ya’s it was HARD to walk away from that table, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
We got into bed about 2:30 AM and chatted a bit, we were both exhausted and knew that the 8:15 wake up call would be here before ya know it and we still had 1 day of the show left. Like I said. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!
Day 5 8:30 AM PST
Talk about a morning where we were dragging ass! It wasn’t easy getting out of bed this morning. But, duty calls! The show opened to the dealers at 10AM today and to the public at 11. We took advantage of this by really moving in slow gear. I mean we didn’t even make it downstairs for Brunch today! Even the casino held zero interest this morning. Sue, as usual, was moving slower then I was so I went straight up to the dealers room and she went to Seattle’s Best to fill us up on caffeine drinks. We were REALLY gonna need em today!
The last day of any show is mass hysteria with dealers trading amongst themselves, bargain hunting by customers, dealer’s doing wholesale, mag editors “working” for ads or review kits. It’s a thing of beauty to behold. Quite a few dealers who wanted to get tables for the Fall Chiller Expo approached me. I had to sadly inform them that the show has been sold out for months already. But I gave them a few clues on how to get their foot in the door for next springs show. Let’s see how many of them paid attention!
Sales were better this last day of the show, not much in the way of wholesale but it was OK. Sure it wasn’t Chiller type sales and with having a HUGE nut to cover, I STILL wasn’t all that depressed! I fully understand how it is for a first time show to get off the ground. At the beginning things are a bit rocky…baby steps need to be taken. I made enough money to cover our airfare and the rental car for the 2 days, which is better then nothing. I ate the hotel cost and the shipping to and from the show, but it’s all a write off anyways at the end of the year! I know some dealers did great and some not so good. But I look at it as it’s gonna get better! That big west coast contingent of modelers that didn’t show up this year will slowly start seeing the light and make their way to Vegas soon enough. I mean they’ll have to! What are they gonna do? Just go to SCAHMS? LOL! Kind of amusing that a 4-hour drive from LA to Vegas would put people off coming to a new show. Go Figger! But that’s their loss as I see it! Dealers who were new to the West Coast shows were in attendance and the only person I wholesale to in Ca. is Monster Cellar. It may take a couple years but Imagine Nation has a better then even chance on making an impact as far as I see it! And I’ll be at EVERY one they hold until it does! There’s still A LOT of stuff Sue and I didn’t see in Vegas and with its growth there will be a lot more by the time next year’s show rolls around!
Well like I said, Sunday was a regular Sunday at shows. Sales were OK and the trading and last minute hooks ups were the main stay of the day. Nothing really exciting asides from the seminars that were held both days, which I missed out on all of them. And they had the model contest awards ceremony…again, something I missed out on. But I had fun chatting it up with “the guys”. I know I’ll see a good number of them in a couple months at the Oct Chiller Expo and to those who I won’t there’s always the Spring Chiller. Or WF or even next years Imagine Nation. Yes I talked to a couple of the show’s promoters and there WILL be an Imagine Nation next year! The wife and I are already saving up for it.
As the show day drew to a close the fact that our trip was about to end finally caught up with us. Our last night in Vegas. Bummer! Al AKA Plastic Monster and his wife and Sue and I finally hooked up to spend an evening together just hanging and what not. Al lives in Ca. and had been to Vegas a few times with his wife prior to the show. Since he had a truck we figgered this would be a good last night to hit the strip. But first…you guessed it! Dinner Buffet at the Orleans. Price was like $8.99. One of the less expensive dinner buffets’s but not where it came to the food. They didn’t have any Prime Rib, but they had Roast Beef and all the other trapping of a Vegas Buffet. Even some tasty buffalo wings! The 4 of us chowed down for awhile before we headed out to the “Strip” for the last time. Allen filled us in that even if you have a rental car, Valet parking wasn’t a bad idea. It’ll cost ya a buck each time as a tip, but it’s better then parking way out in the lot and walking through that “dry heat” I socked away that info for myself for next year’s trip back.
After a little back/side road trip we made it to the “Strip” We drove around for a few to check out the lights and watched a bit of the music/water show at Bellagio'’. This was pretty swift looking. Another item I’ll be checking out next year. Al parked in Bellagio'’ and mentioned that it was one of those fancy pansy type casino’s. The boy wasn’t lying! This Casino had flowers EVERYWHERE! It looked like a clash between Princess Di’s wedding and Al Capone’s funeral procession with all the flowers ending up in one place. Needless to say the Diceman wasn’t gonna stay here very long. Out the door we went. We crossed the street and headed in Bally’s. I spotted and “Wheel of Fortune” another weakness of mine. Luckily I won about $20.00 before we wandered around. One thing I noticed about the Casino’s on the Strip, none of them have $3.00 black jack tables. All are a $5.00 minimum. Next stop was the Paris. As you can tell from the name it had a French décor. The exterior sported this HUGE Eiffel Tower that had enough lights on it to actually be seen in France. The “waitresses” at this casino were dressed interesting, but you couldn’t get a “butt shot”. I liked the interior of this Casino. It was very well lit and looked as if you were outside in Paris. But still a bit too fancy for my low brow budget. BUT they too had a wheel of Fortune and I won another $15.00, so it wasn’t a total waste. They DID have a shop inside that sold lithographs and there were quite a few from the Horror Genre. The prices were VERY steep, and the colors were way off on a few. But for _ sheets from Tarantula, 3 sheets of King Kong, Frankenstein “B” 1 sheets and a lot more on display it was just pretty cool to see “our” kinda stuff on display in such a fancy schmancy Hotel/Casino. So after both our wives found us and wondered where the hell we vanished to we headed out once again, this time to the newly refurbished Aladdin. I have to admit that this Ali Baba décor did nothing for me at all. I won $10.00 in a Draw Poker machine but by now my back was aching from being on my feet all day. Plus we had to get up early in the morning to check out and get ready to head back home.
We all headed back to the Orleans where both Al’s wife and mine scattered. They didn’t want to be around us as we put our plan into action. What plan? Well didn’t I tell ya’s early on that they had a Creature from the Black Lagoon slot machine in the casino? You think that I wouldn’t be able to devise a plan to get a picture of that baby? My Creature club on Yahoo depended on me. I’m the founder of it fer Christ’s sake! Our plan was simple. Al has a digital camera, we both have cajones, and if all goes well the pic could be taken and Al would be able to head back to his room before the Casino security was any the wiser. I mean we weren’t going to steal secret documents or break the bank. I just wanted a pic of me with that damn slot machine! Between Sue and 1 we dropped about $60.00 in the damn thing. It’s the least I could ask for. As luck would have it, this old biddy that was at the machine before we left for the strip was still at the machine. Being that the casino only had one of em we had to act now. Al warmed up his digital and on his mark I walked over to the machine, leaning against it while Al snapped a couple pics of me and the newest grail for my Creature collection. We got the pic while granny looked up at me like I was some kinda mutant; little did she realize how correct she was. After taking the pic Al and I shook hands and knew we would keep in touch online. He’s a nice guy even if he is a cop! LOL! We said our good-bye’s as I went looking for Sue. Of course in my journey to find her I still had some chips in my burning a hole in my pocket. To my surprise the same dealer from the other night was once again at the black jack table. Would lightening strike twice for the Diceman? Hell No! She took the money I won at the other casino’s on the strip and added another $25.00 out of my stash. I knew enough to leave the table. Ya don’t have to hit me in the noggin with a baseball bat. Sue faired better by breaking even. I met up with Steve Riojas and his wife Renee on my way up to the room when Steve wanted me to join them for cocktails. Why not! We all chit chatted a bit…his wife loves my accent. I hated to tell her that I don’t have one, but I digress. We shot the breeze for awhile and talked about the show, his winning the model contest grand prize and a bit about the state of the hobby. I was yawning like mad now, not because of the company but because I was beat! I wished them a safe trip to Disneyland, reminded Steve was an @$$hole he was for selling that kit so cheap and headed up to my room.
Our flight home was scheduled to leave at 12:40PM PST. I knew we had to check out, grab a quick bite and get some last minute gifts downstairs for the neighbors, so I decided to start doing some packing up that evening so we could sleep a little later. Sue showed up and we both started to pack up what we had and bought so far and left out some clean clothes for the trip home. We hit the sack about 1:30 AM as the depression that we had to leave finally started to sink in.
Day 6 8AM PST
Bummer. We have to get ready to leave. We took our time showering and getting dressed. Did the last minute packing we had left to do and gave the entire room a double check to make sure we had everything. I grabbed the complementary mags that the hotels leave in your room so I would have something to read on the flight back. I gave the wonderful AC unit a kiss goodbye and headed out the door.
On the elevator down I recognized the guy in the maroon baseball cap as being Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Bros. He was appearing at the hotel during the weekend. Not being a big country western fan I just said a quick “Howdy” as we headed for the hotel gift shop. Earlier during our stay we went to the “Fashion Mall” on the Strip. It’s a pretty boring mall as far as malls go, but they had a stand with some WILDLY named Hot Sauces. I meant to go back and grab a few different bottles but par for the course I forgot. Luckily they had a few in the gift shop. Granted that the names weren’t as vulgar and crude like the ones at the mall but I WAS able to find a bottle of “Ass In Space” hot sauce. My wife got the neighbors a bunch of New Orleans style Mardi Gras beads, a stuffed Gator doll which is the hotels mascot, for their daughter and a tee shirt. We still had at least an hour to kill before check in at the airport, so we grabbed some Seattle’s Best X- Tea and regular Tea for Sue while we waited for the shuttle that was coming to take us to the airport. This gave Sue a chance to get her last licks in on the slot machines. She dropped about $20.00 by the time she returned so I made her watch the bags while I checked us out of the hotel and hit a few slots for myself. I actually won like $12.00. Not to be outdone, Sue ended up winning about $150.00! Bitch! At this point I grabbed her by the arm and yanked her outside before we missed our ride to the airport. The shuttle never showed up so we took a taxi, in the long run it ended up costing the exact same thing weither we took the shuttle or a cab. As the taxi passed Las Vegas Blvd. we gave a sullen wave and said ALA Arnold Schwartzenegger “We’ll Be Bach!”
Epilogue August 15,2001
Well I just unpacked the stock I sent home from the show this afternoon. Everything is accounted for. Check was sent to my partner for his share of the show money. All the build-ups are back in the display case after being carted all over the country this year. We came home to find that the cat, Sheba, was still alive and well. A transformer outside blew up while we were away and it fried the small TV in the kitchen and the answering machine with 23 messages on it that came while we were away. The few days after we returned home the weather was brutal! We had a mean ass heat wave hit and ya know something? They’re right! The heat actually IS different in Vegas compared to it with the humidity here in Joisey. Both the wife and I REALLY miss those buffets. And we REALLY miss Vegas. I’m sure Sue winning that cash helped make it a lot better then it actually was, but I’ll take that. Going to Vegas and doing the Imagine Nation show made this one of the top 2 vacations the wife and I have ever had. We had a few rebate checks come while we were away. Not a whole lot of money, but Sue stashed it away so we can have it for next Year’s Imagine Nation.
Sure Diceman Creations sales weren’t huge, but they weren’t bad enough to warrant not going back again next year. Like I had said. The trip will end up being a write off, we had A LOT of fun, and we met up with good people, made a few dollars and saw the sights and sounds of Las Vegas. Our plans for next year is to go 2 days before the show again but stay 2 days later next time. As long as Robb, Jeff, Paul, Joe and Dave put on the show you’ll find me there showing my support and having a grand old time.
Maybe YOU might wanna come hang with us next year. It’s worth the trip.