My friend Matt had called me about two weeks ago asking what my plans were on Halloween night. Matt�s one of the coolest people I know. He works at Wynn and we naturally hit it off because I loved picking his brain about the hotel business, the nitty-gritty of the hotels he�s worked in, etc. Good stuff.
As it has always been throughout my teenage years and into adult-hood, I was expecting a mighty fun Halloween filled with studying, sleep, and downright depression thinking I was the only one at home without an invitation to a party. Well, maybe the invitation Matt gave me was make-up for those years and years of crappy Halloweens. His plans: costume party in NTS Limo�s �Goliath� (the largest limo in Vegas) that would later spill into a two-bedroom, 3200 square foot Skyloft. Booze, girls, the works...
(more after the jump)
Call me an idiot for giving it a second thought, but after all, Halloween was on a Tuesday night this year. I work until 7:30pm on Tuesdays so if I decided to go, it would mean I�d have to floor it over to the airport straight from work for just a 50/50 chance at making the 8:30 flight and then I�d have to take the first flight home the next day to make an 11am class. Fortunately for me, my last couple Tuesday night appointments cancelled ahead of time and I was able to make-up the class assignments. I�m headed to Vegas, baby!
Then I started thinking about my costume. I was literally set to be in town for 15 hours so I didn�t want to pack anything but the absolute essentials. I even wanted to be able to pass in and out of the airport in my costume and not have to pack any clothes other than a change of undies. Well, you can�t exactly dress up as the grim reaper on an airplane so I went out costume shopping and found the perfect outfit: an eye-patch and a black shirt that said �Pirate� on it. If there were an award for least effort put into a costume, I would have won hands down.
Fast forward a couple of days and I�m at the airport way early for my flight. I figure I�m going to be the only one sober by the time I land at 9:30pm so I already get my drink on at the airport bar. Apparently, ordering a Bombay Sapphire martini and specifying three olives at an airport bar makes people think you�re some kind of frequent flying, international playboy Bond-type who wouldn�t be caught dead in coach and has business deals all around the country. The opposite couldn�t be truer. Hell, I was flying Southwest where they pretty much treat you like cattle. The price was right though, so I�m not complaining. Anyway, the stares I�m getting among the Bud Light drinkers are getting a little annoying so I down the martini quickly and just wait at the gate, board a flight that�s maybe a third full and am on my way.
I�ve driven to Vegas dozens of time both day and night, but only flown in during the day so I was really looking forward to seeing the strip all lit up as I was landing. Maybe it�s the approach the plane takes from Southern California, but I�m sort of disappointed because at night from a distance, the strip actually blends in with the rest of the lights in the surrounding communities. It looked like flying into any other major metropolis until just before landing.
I head over to Southwest baggage claim to meet my driver. Since most the �loft guests are locals, Matt is kind enough to arrange for the �Maybach based on availability�. Well, it wasn�t available. In fact, the limos were so busy that night that none of MGM�s Lincoln stretches were available either so they sent a stretch and driver from Mandalay Bay. I know they�re under the same company, but I had no idea they cross employees and services so much; the Mandalay driver said this was actually very common.
Last time I stayed at Skylofts, the arrival was like I had stepped into a dream. In short: concierge meet and greet, straight to the �loft, butler waiting at your door, welcome beverage, in-suite check-in, etc. Maybe it was because that time I was the one who made a reservation, but this time it was a different story. The driver tells me to walk into VIP and tell them who I am so I do. The receptionist takes me to the elevator, swipes her key to activate the Skylofts floor, and jams out saying, �You�re in Skyloft 23. Goodnight!� as the door�s closing. It�s a disappointing start to what I believe is the best service experience you can receive in Vegas without being a whale.
I don�t let it irk me and walk up to Sherman, a concierge I recognize from my last stay. Keep in mind, I�ve got my eye-patch and �costume� going and I explain that I�m a registered guest and would like my key to Skyloft 23. He doesn�t give me a key and says someone is already in there and I can knock. Okay� After a couple minutes of knocking and no answers, I brave MGM�s six mile long hallways again and say nobody is answering. Sherman starts typing away while I call Matt who is in Aladdin at the time. Matt tells me to give the phone to Sherman and while he�s explaining everything, I take my eye-patch off. Immediately, Sherman recognizes me from my last stay and suddenly the attitude is different�two keys printed to me and grave apologies for the miscommunication. I assume he thought I was trying to bum extra keys from him as an unregistered guest.
I walk in and of course am blown away. Entry foyer with dining room to the left, pool table and guest bathroom to the right, beyond that is a media room lined with sofas. Further into the suite are two�yes ladies and gentlemen�two sunken living rooms surrounded with sofas divided by a bar in the center. Up the stairs you�re greeted with an awesome abstract mural that spans the hallway. To the left is one bedroom with two queen beds, bathroom with that incredible steam shower and infinity tub, and two walk-in closets. Over on the other side of the hallway is the same set-up with one king bed. It should go without saying that you�re practically surrounded with the latest in technology. You can�t stand anywhere in the suite without seeing a plasma or LCD television; I didn�t bother counting how many sets, but it�s more than anyone will ever need. I think my favorite part of the suite is all the nooks and crannies. Tony Chi left no open or vast spaces. Despite its 3200 square feet, every space is quite cozy.
Music is playing and I can hear people upstairs. I almost feel like I�m on The Real World meeting my roommates for the first time. Despite all caution, I startle two beautiful women who are getting dressed for the night. The rest of our party is over at Aladdin so I jump in that heavenly steam shower and then the ladies and myself are off.
I go to bug Sherman again asking if someone would be able to escort us to the front of the cab line. I don�t know what�s happened to the �Certainly, sir!� attitude Skylofts used to embody, but Sherman asks, �Are you sure there�s a line-up down there?� I was positive and sure enough, it must have been at least an hour long. Fortunately, Sherman hails the very next cab, I tip accordingly, and we�re on our way.
We meet the rest of our party outside P.F. Chang�s inside Aladdin. The thirty of us are a walking freak-show as nobody else in the hotel is dressed for Halloween. Aladdin has always had a mess of a floor plan and the construction only makes it worse, but to their credit, I really like what I�m seeing. Very THEhotelesque I thought.
So �Goliath� meets us at the main entrance at 11pm. We�ve got the limo until 1am but we�re already running about 20 minutes late trying to herd everyone together. From there we�re off to MGM so that Matt can grab his car with its backseat of booze galore and we can load it onto the limo. The whole process takes us into 12am and then we�re finally riding.
At this point it just gets ridiculous. Sure there are cups and sure there are mixers but we�re just passing around bottles of Goose, Jack, Jose, and Jaegar between people we have only known for an hour and taking swig after swig. I�m surprised I didn�t get sick.
Now, I�m going to change things up a bit; since I know some of the guilty themselves will be reading this very report, I�m going to go ahead and for the sake of anonymity, call them by their costumed characters.
The back of the limo where I�m sitting is by far the loudest and causing the most commotion. I start grinding with Naughty Nurse and Mrs. Firefighter, but we�re keeping it innocent for the most part. The booze keeps flowing and I give my salute to the Stardust on its last night as we drive by. We make a U-turn and stop at the New Frontier for a bathroom break and I go outside to get some fresh air. I walk in only to find Superman having a major make-out session with Naughty Nurse while across from him, Sumo Wrestler and Angel are having a session of their own.
Someone yells, �Hey Superman! Just how naughty is this nurse?!� and Superman yells out with the quote of the trip:
�OH, SHE AIN�T NO NURSE! SHE�S LOIS LANE TONIGHT!!�
I start laughing until tears start coming out of my eyes.
So it�s 1am and we�re back at MGM. There�s plenty of booze left over and we get the bellhops to bring it up. Think two carts full of kegs, half bottles of Goose, and a beer bong hanging off one of them�only in Vegas. We try to organize a way to get up to Skylofts without getting security suspicious of 30-something people storming the hallways. Fortunately, it seemed like there was music blasting from every couple �lofts and they were relaxed on the policies that night. So this one elevator of freaks opens to a unison, �Holy shit!� from everyone. Of course, when we open the doors to our suite, the gasps and jaws hitting the floor are even greater. The upstairs bedrooms go immediately �occupied�, some play pool, some take advantage of those �cozy spaces� I was talking about, and most of us are taking shots around the dining room table.
So at this point, things start to get a little hazy. I do know I drunk-dialed Hunter�s Worst Las Vegas Podcast line as well as Tim and Michele�s Five Hundy By Midnight. Be on the lookout because I know they�re going to play them on the air. I�m actually curious because I don�t remember what I said.
Lots of Red Bulls later and I�m buzzing. Being the hyper social-bee that I am, I think I spoke to every guy in the party and hit on every single girl. By around 4am or so, several head for Drai�s Afterhours over at Barbary Coast. Some others stick around and some overstay their welcome. I slowly turn on the bright lights, turn the music down, and set the air conditioning to cold�old trick I learned to send subtle messages that the party�s over. It takes a while, but it works. I�m the last soul in the Skyloft who�s still awake and while the room was supposed to be split maybe a dozen or more ways, only five of us actually wind up spending the night.
�No gambling for me this trip!� I�d keep saying to myself. What a load� It�s maybe around 4:30am and The Mansion casino is calling my name. I kept hearing good things about it and wanted to check it out myself. I walk out onto the main casino floor on my own and there are jackhammers drilling behind curtains near The Mansion. I think to myself that it�s not going to be a very pleasing experience with the noise but continue on. There is a small sign amidst the construction that says, �The Mansion is open� with arrows pointing down a hallway. I follow that path. The jackhammer noise fades and I turn the corner�
My gawd this place is gorgeous! It�s truly like you�ve stepped into a private casino in Monte Carlo or London. Art adorns the walls, everyone friendly as ever, but the best part is that it�s so setback and private. This is to me the nicest high limit room in Las Vegas; shame it�s in a hotel whose idea of �Maximum Vegas� is maximum mediocrity. Can�t say they�re not rapidly improving though.
I pony up to a $100 baccarat table and pull out a sheet to keep track. The Asian gentleman next me asks if I�d like to know the score and I just ask for the last five hands. Him and I immediately hit it off. By far the coolest person I�ve ever met at the tables. He�d bet from $100 to $5000, give me pointers since it was really only my second time playing, etc. He tells me how nice it is to see some young players into the game and not intimidated by the high limits. In a way, and I hope this doesn�t sound too assuming or anything, but I think he saw a little bit of himself in me telling by his generosity (seen a little later).
Fortunately, my $100 money plays bet hits a streak and I�m officially in the game. At one point, the gentleman next to me puts $5000 on player and I put a measly $100 on banker. There are six players, but we are the only two playing that hand. He looks at me and says, �Good luck to you, sir!� and I wish him the same. Really cool that he�s betting 50 times more against me and still wishes me good luck. Player cards are dealt to him. He peaks under, looks at me, apologizes, and flips over a natural nine. I�m handed the banker cards, take a peak and say, �No apologies necessary,� and also flip over a natural nine. We both laugh about it and touch fists.
�Mr. Pirate, would you like a drink?� the pitboss asks me. I had forgotten I was still wearing my �costume�. The cocktail waitress is rushed over and I order a Stoli martini. This is my only fault with The Mansion itself and that is that the cocktail service was quite slow after I made the order. Anyway, I get my drink and am down to $95 (would have been $100, but $5 went to the cocktail waitress). I ask if I�d be allowed to play out the $95 and the croupier apologetically reminds me of the commission I owe. Suddenly, my newfound friend protests, takes my $95, give me a black chip, and tells the croupier to put my $60 in commission on his. How freakin� cool is that?!
So I�m back in the game for a bit more. After a while, I�m down to $75 and get up to leave. My buddy had kept the $95 on the side and insisted I take it. I thanked him profusely and said he had done so much for me, but I cannot accept that. We actually make a big commotion. I understand that $95 is probably nothing to a player that bets $5000 occasionally, but I can�t allow myself to accept it and don�t want to come off to the other players and personnel that I�m some bum in a high-limit room taking every free hand-down I can get. My friend insists so we finally agree to put a red on there for an even $100 and play it out on player. The winnings go to me and he�ll pay himself back. Banker comes up, unfortunately.
I loved the whole experience. I saw chants sung, cards getting blown on, bent, ripped, and all those other superstitions the big table is famous for. Sure, I had lost something like $300 (actually not too bad considering the time I gave them), but I felt so lucky to receive the kind of generosity I did that rather than cash out the $75 I had left, I just gave it all to the dealers.
After a quick bathroom break, my fascination with ultra high-end accommodations takes charge and I �accidentally� stumble into the hallway that leads to the The Mansion Villas. It�s really interesting because when the hallway begins, the d�cor blends with The Mansion casino, but as you walk further in, the furnishings become richer, the artwork looks more priceless, and the walls get upholstery treatment that you could stick your hand six inches into. I see a gentleman sitting at the end of the hallway and the whole time I�m thinking that I need to come up with the most bullshit story to try and get a tour of the grounds or maybe even a suite. I get a taste of Mansion Villa services as he stands when I�m about 100 feet from approaching so that he can speak directly to me.
�Good morning! I�m getting married in March and would like to hold a reception in one of your villas I�ve heard such great things about. Would it be possible to arrange a tour?� I don�t think I�ve ever pulled so much crap out of my ass than in those few seconds. I�m informed that it would only be possible through a host. Bummer. Not all is lost though�I get to see the infamous indoor-outdoor air-conditioned atrium that I�ve heard so much about just past him. Too bad it�s still dark, but from what I can see, the grounds are absolutely stunning.
I�m starving so I have some rock hard cookies at the little buffet they�ve got set-up in The Mansion and then head back to the room. I sit down in the media room and am watching a little TV when Superman comes down at around 6am to join me. We head back out, Superman in his robe and slippers, and just chat about life over coffee while at the concierge desk in the Skylofts hallway. It was a bit a strange why we felt so comfortable right there of all places. Then we hit the Studio Caf� for some pancakes and called it a �night� at 7:30am.
Damn Red Bull. I could hardly sleep. At 9am, Matt wakes me up: �Mikey, come join us for breakfast,� so I did. Our �breakfast� was the cantaloupe welcome beverage they serve to Skyloft guests while watching Spongebob Squarepants in the media room. The moment was a bit surreal. Everyone was just quiet and I was hardly registering anything going on around me. I hit the couch for another half hour or so of sleep. In my half-asleep/half-awake state, I hear Spongebob in the distance with his high-pitched voice, but then that same high-pitched voice turns into a high-pitched female grunt� and not the kind of grunt appropriate for a children�s cartoon.
Spongebob? Nah� It�s coming from upstairs along with lots of pounding noises. What a trip it�s been...
I�m up again and hit the steam shower�the quickest remedy for a hangover that ever existed. I give my share to Matt, say my good-byes, and arrange for the Maybach back. Funny the way life works and how things like this that you�d never expect come about.
I pass out on the plane. Orange County airport�s runway is perpendicular to the 16-lane 405 freeway that�s raised higher so the planes have to dodge it and then swoop down for what�s always a rough landing. I wish someone would have woken me up before we touched down. We smacked that runway so hard that for just a moment, I thought the plane had crashed.
But no, it was worse. I was back home.
Skylofts: service wasn�t bad, just not mind-blowing like last time, especially when the room�s costing $1500. I�d stay again, but only if I want to impress the heck out of people who�ve never been. Butler, technology, Maybachs and whatnot�you get used to that stuff pretty quickly and truthfully, the novelty is gone by the second stay. I love modern, but modern can leave you cold sometimes. That�s why the residential feeling Wynn Tower Suites will always be my home.
Apparently, I�m not the only one who feels this way about the modern vs. classic style. I asked about the Skylofts with their own balconies and the concierge told me that there is still a demand for the d�cor of MGM�s old penthouses. While advertised as Skylofts, the ones with the balconies remain unrenovated. You can see a picture of one falsely advertised as a �Terrace Suite� on MGM�s website.
The Mansion: I�d play there exclusively if it were in a nicer property.
I averaged a limo ride every five hours�ridiculous.
I made some amazing friends this trip. Special thanks to Superman, Chris, the Clown, Naughty Nurse, Satan, the two Devilish Lady Bugs, Emo Kid, and of course, Matt. Apologies if I�m missing anybody. They might be reading this and if they are, then let me just say, you guys are all the more reason I love this city.