Pedley: Las Vegas Maturing As A Banquet Site
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
At hand is Year No. 3 of the Sprint Cup Series’ awards banquet’s move to Las Vegas and I’m still trying to figure out which is better: Holding the annual event in New York, where it was laughingly out of place but oddly appealing, or in Vegas, which is culturally perfect but lost in the desert.
Maybe it was the square peg/round hole thing which made holding the banquet in New York City so much fun. Kind of in an Ernest Goes to the Big Apple kind of way.
The site of those colorful duPont and DeWalt jackets walking down Broadway hand in hand with little Home Depot in tow was a howl. You can only smile as you wonder how many fake Rolex’s were sold on Midtown side streets when the Gomers were in town.
And seeing Jeff Burton in a tuxedo? Priceless.
But it wasn’t just the local pseudo sophisticates and street rabble of NYC who represented crazy stuff at which to derisively laugh.
Like Narcsisus , that town loves itself so much that it often fails to see its inner ugliness, which is there in embarrassing abundance.
Nothing like having a condescending “between-projects actor” (read: loser) shove a dry $24 hamburger (cheese extra) and a $9 beer at you and then stand there staring and mumbling at you when you opt to
only tip him $5.
If you can’t squeeze a laugh out of that scene, try carrying you own bag to your room at the Marriott on Times Square.
Yet there were very good things about holding the banquet in New York.
The holiday season in the city is special. The lights, the store windows, Rockefeller Center, the lobby at the Waldorf.
Ah, the Waldorf. When you walked into the ballroom on banquet night, you did so with Gable and Goodman and Cole Porter and The Babe and Berle and Lucky Lucky Luciano and Joe Louis. You feel like you’re in a Woody Allen movie. You expect Fred and Ginger to clear the dance floor. Love that place.
Yep, during NASCAR week in New York City, everybody – locals and yokels – had a good time.
And it was particularly satisfying to piss off the natives by blocking the busy Manhattan streets off with Sprint Cup cars.
Now, there’s Las Vegas.
The first year, the scene there – which witnessed even from afar – seemed kind of hollow. Like, just another crazy event event in a town which inhales and exhales crazy events. NASCAR’s arrival seemed to be greeted like just another sucker on The Strip.
Contrary to what the chamber of commerce and glossy magazine ads would have you believe, Vegas is not that glamorous. The people filling the casinos are not beautiful. It’s the absurdity of beer commercials – gorgeous young chicks and hiply handsome young monied men drinking St. Louis swill – in macrocosm. It is common working folk who end up paying for the fake pyramid and Eiffel Tower.
But then, that became the beauty of holding NASCAR’s banquet there. Partying with the peeps. Laughing with the locals rather than being laughed at by gilded fakes. Maybe even getting a little bit naughty.
There will not be one NASCAR fan or driver or team member – nor even a team owner – who will feel out of place in Las Vegas this week: New York specialized in making people feel out of place while Vegas specializes in being a comfy overstuffed chair.
Little gambling, little buffet, plenty of cold Buds and even a round of golf or two. All pretty much without fear of getting mugged or maced.
I don’t gamble at all, and a shot and beer is a wild night these days, but Vegas once or twice a year still holds some charm. For those who do gamble, it has got to be more fun handing your 10s and 20s over to a smiling, winking black jack dealer than snarling, smelly cab drivers.
Last year in Year 2 at the Wynn, NASCAR seemed to have settled in. The edges had been explored and the limits defined.
Should be fun this week.
(Though it would have been kind of entertaining hearing Tony Stewart carve up a NYC media corps that isn’t nearly as quick and cleaver as it thinks it is.)
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.com Comments