We were outnumbered 3 to 1 by a spirogyra of working girls. Otis, Nigel, and myself sat at one end of the bar when no less than nine of them had taken up refuge at the other end. Sounds like the beginning to a crude joke... Otis, a British journalist, and Pauly sat in the Hooker Bar... Alas, it was just another day in the life.
As the Nevada sun slowly crept over the mountains, we were lost in a supernatural time warp with a distorted concept of time and space. We sat in the darkness of the Rio wanting to be left alone. We sipped moderately chilled beers and shared stories about our exotic travels (Otis in Costa Rica, Nigel in Barcelona, and my drunken escapades in Budapest) while several classic rock tunes cranked out on the sound system. In the blink of an eye, they appeared. First one, then two, and a couple of more. We only had a few minutes before they pounced on us. After all, we were the only marks left standing at that time of the morning.
The prostitution industry felt the full force of the credit crunch and quality tricks were few and far between. It's a numbers game. Less conventioneers meant less potential clients. The hookers at the Rio were a combination of famished vultures and parched vampires ready to pick apart any carcass. Any john. Any drunk. Anybody in their path. They were evil personified and depending on who you talked to, they were the absolutely best/worst thing about Las Vegas.
We were their imminent prey and in the vernacular of Otis, we were illequipped.
We had a hurricane a brewing on the western front. The torrential downpour and relentless winds sprang up as soon as they spotted the trio of us. After all, we were drinking at the bar named for them. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. We had to endure the tantalizing menagerie for a couple of hours. Luckily, we all lived to tell about it. No one got rolled. No one got a rash. But there might be a hooker's rotting corpse stuffed in a utility closest somewhere in the Rio.
Within an hour after Peter Eastgate won the 2008 WSOP, I was ready to officially celebrate the completion of that ersatz assignment. The post-final table festivities were extremely tame compared to previous main event final tables. A smaller group of poker media covered the November Nine. Instead of the army of reporters that some sites had deployed this summer, they only sent out an elite unit of one or two at the most to cover the final table. And with this press corp, most of them had to catch early flights or were on rigid deadlines. Even the free-wheeling Michalski was swamped with work. He headed home instead staying out to the wee hours.
Jen sat at the corner of the Hooker Bar and I joined her along with Change100, Matt, Otis, and Nigel. The rest of the bar was empty aside from two people who sat next to Jen. For sake of simplicity, we'll refer to them as Hemingway and the old hooker.
The portly guy was in his early 50s with thick glasses and a scruffy white beard, which reminded me a bit of Ernest Hemingway. The tourist happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time because a working girl latched herself onto him. She was way past Judy Garland drunk and her prime years as a prostitute were long gone.
The tipsy old whore wore a black satin corset with tight black pants, but it was the standard hooker heels that gave her away. If a chick wore those in Soho, you knew right away that she was part of the bridge and tunnel crowd. If you saw those heels on Sunset Strip, then you were dealing with a Valley girl. And when you saw those garish heels in Vegas and were certain that she didn't have a New Jersey accent, well all the clues suggested that she was a pro.
Our group thinned when the only females in our party, Jen and Change100, crashed for the night. Matt went home to write. Only Nigel, Otis, and myself remained. I figured that I'd be good for one more beer. Well, one beer turned into three more hours of pure hooker hijinks.
The barkeep consistently served Hemingway a fruity drink, either a Greyhound or some sort rum and pineapple concoction. The old hooker slammed Jagermeister like a Florida frat boy on the morning of Gator Growl. She was drunk. Plastered. Crunked. Shitfaced. Tanked. Loaded. Fucked up. Hammered. Toasted. Wrecked. Blitzed. Luggage. Sloshed. As the liquor seeped into her bloodstream, the volume of her voice grew louder and louder while her level of friskiness increased. She took off her heels and Hemingway massaged her wrinkled feet.
Within minutes, he kissed her bare left foot then the right one before he inserted three toes into his mouth. He sucked on those for a few seconds and licked the bottom of her feet. A spume of sexual invigoration seized his better judgment and they began making out. And it wasn't erotic like two sizzling hot lesbians sucking face with one another. Their public display of affection was rather awkward and ungraceful and outright pathetic. Hemingway had not 'made out with a chick' since the Watergate days. We watched in amazement as he slobbered over a soused old hooker juiced up on Jager.
In disbelief, I uttered a quote from National Lampoon's European Vacation. Without even breaking stride, Otis quickly returned the lines from one of my favorite comedies.
Rusty Griswold: [Rusty still watching the couple] ... Dad, I think he's gonna pork her.
Clark Griswold: He's not gonna pork her, Russ.
Rusty Griswold: I think he's gonna.
Clark Griswold: He may pork her.
"I think he can do better, which is saying a lot because he's a fat bald guy," mentioned Nigel.
"She had a woman's body that looks like she had a kid six years ago," said Otis.
Six? More like sixteen years. She had a couple of C-Section scars and started out on the pole in 1993.
She stood up and almost fell over. We've all been that drunk before. So drunk that you barely notice it when slumped on a bar stool until the excess booze hits you like a ton of bricks as soon as you stand up to go take a leak. Your legs disappear and you spin around like a weeble wobble hoping to get lucky and gain your balance before you smash your face into the edge of the bar. The old hooker stumbled back and twirled around a few times as she nearly collided with the electronic roulette table.
"She's going to get 86'd," said Otis.
I nodded but there was not one security guard in sight. The Rio was abandoned. I had never seen it that unpopulated before. Even our barkeep would disappear for ten minutes at a time. A couple of bluehairs were hidden away behind a row of slot machines. We were on our own.
Hemingway eventually realized the gravity of the situation and decided it was time to call it a night. The old hooker could no longer speak and was reduced to babbling incoherent words. She lost all motor functions and crashed to the ground. Hemingway was a little snookered himself and had a tough time picking her up off the Rio's carpet.
One of the security supervisors walked by the bar. Otis nodded at the guy and suggested that he might want to take care of the incredulous situation. He pointed to his lapel where his name tag and badge used to be. He was off the clock and handed off the responsibility to a thuggy looking security guard who looked half asleep. The guard reluctantly stopped Hemingway. The old hooker leaned up against Hemingway, but her sedentary body slowly slid down to the floor as the security guard asked her for some identification. This all went down about five feet from where we sat.
The security guard scribbled down her name and address on a piece of paper. He avoided all eye contact and didn't even ask Hemingway for an ID. He let them both go.
"This shows the boundless nature of Las Vegas," explained Otis while Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin blasted on the speakers. "All Vegas does is look at it and write it down, just in case there is a lawsuit or the cops come when she shows up dead. And lets it go on."
Hemingway dragged the old hooker back to his room. We speculated if she puked all over his bed, or passed out on the shitter, or most likely she was sodomized with a remote control and then her throat slashed in fourteen different places. Dead hookers are a dime a dozen in Las Vegas, especially on a Tuesday morning.
An obese necrophiliac dragging a comatose hooker back to his room is the type of degradation that shoves Otis over the edge. He spirals into the depths of mega-tilt because of the omnipresent cycle of endless perversion.
"This is a depraved and soulless city. And this shit goes on all the time," lamented Otis. "After you spend five weeks here, that becomes real. It becomes your reality. And when you start to except that is reality, you are living in a world where no one should actually live."
And out of nowhere, Peter Eastgate appeared as he walked down the corridor. Only a couple of hours earlier, the 22-year old Scandi smashed Phil Hellmuth's record for the youngest WSOP champion and won $9 million in the process. The biggest swinging dick in Las Vegas walked around by himself, while in a room somewhere in the Rio, the corpse of an old hooker was covered in glops of semen and she may or may not choked to death on her own bile.
One middle-age guy in an orange Texas Longorns hat sat down at the end of the bar and shoved $20 into a video poker machine. An attractive young woman with Halle Berry looks slid into the stool next to him. She pulled out a cigarette and asked him for a light. I started to wonder if those were assigned seats for johns and working girls.
Just as we took note of the latest harlot, a gaggle of them showed up at the other end of the bar. First one, then two, and a couple of more. We only had a few minutes before they pounced on us. After all, we were the only marks left standing at that time of the morning. The hookers at the Rio were a combination of famished vultures and parched vampires ready to pick apart any carcass. Any john. Any drunk. Anybody in their path. They were evil personified.
Three of them sat near by Otis and ordered drinks. Two of them broke off from the larger pack and made a beeline towards us. They flashed seductive glances with every step. They always operated in pairs. One did the stroking while the other one did the talking.
"You guys looking for a little fun?" she said which was the standard opening line from the local strumpets.
I played hardball. "Umm, that's what we were doing before you arrived."
"So where are you from?"
I pointed to Nigel. He's a proper Englishman who resides in London but I blurted out, "He's Irish and I'm from Colorado."
"What's your name?"
"Steve," I said. "I'm Steve from Colorado. I sell propane and propane accessories."
"What's his name?" she said as she pointed at Otis who had his head down, tucked way down that it looked like he was sleeping on the bar.
"Cameron," muttered Otis.
"Have you ever been with a black girl, Cam?"
Otis instantly raised his left hand and practically shoved his wedding ring into her face.
"I have," I said in order to rescue Otis.
"Well how about we have some fun?" she cooed.
"How much does fun cost?" I inquired.
"Depends. What do you want to do?"
At that point, both slags stroked various parts of Nigel's paralyzed body. Dogs, bees, and hookers can smell fear, but Nigel eschewed all of their advances.
"How much for a threesome? I want to videotape both you and her tag-teaming my Irish friend."
"What's his name?"
Nigel remained still and silent.
"This my friend Bartley," chimed in Otis.
"We'd both do him, but you can't videotape us," she demanded.
Before I can retort with a counter offer, she instantly changed her mind.
"O.K., you can tape us, but no faces!" she said. "I don't wanna see you getting fuckin' rich by putting that shit up on the internet."
At that precise moment, Otis noted that we were dealing with a hooker who had a keen business acumen. She demanded that I sign a contract. We suspected that she let a previous john tape her and it ended up on YouPorn. Otis offered up his services as a choreographer and that's when the negotiations broke down.
"You want a fuckin' cut? You get 10%. What's my cut?" she demanded.
"Umm, 3%," I said.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Tela," she said.
Wow, that's was a peculiar coincidence. Tela was the name of a Phish song and she had never heard of that band before. No shocker there. The only other Tela that I came across was a cat. My ex-girlfriend had a Siamese cat named Tela. (Later that morning, I'd send my ex-girlfriend a text that said, "u named your cat after a vegas hooker." She's a third grade teacher at a parochial school in Dallas and was not exactly thrilled when she received my drunken text.)
I steered the conversation towards economics. I wanted to know how the credit crunch and the collapse of the hyper-risky subprime-mortgage market affected the average Las Vegas working girl.
"It sucks," she said. "Business is bad. No one has money. Shit, I might have to actually get a real job."
The Joker had emailed me a couple of questions that he wanted me to ask any hookers or strippers that I came across. He was curious to find out if working girls were benefiting from the popularity of a president elect or if they look up to Michelle Obama.
"Did you vote for Obama?"
"I would have but I didn't vote."
"I'm from Oregon."
"Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't know too many black people from Oregon, unless you count the guys playing basketball for the Portland Trailblazers."
"No shit. That's why I'm here. So do you guys wanna have fun or what?"
I sipped a bottle of Amstel Light as four hooker hands continued to stroke Nigel.
"What the hell is that?" Tela asked.
"Amstel," I said and she proceeded to give me guff about drinking a beer that she never heard of before.
A steady stream of conventioneers, with name tags dangling around their necks, walked by us every couple of minutes while on their way to breakfast. Some of them stopped and leered at the maudlin skanks hovering around us.
Tela didn't mess around and switched to lewder tactics as she unleashed an aggressive sales pitch.
"Don't you want a blow job? All guys want their cocks sucked. Let's go up to your room," she cajoled.
"We can't go up to my room. My girlfriend is sleeping there."
"Girlfriend? Who the hell brings sand to the beach?" said Tela.
That was actually a funny line but the banter ended right there. The hoochies knew when to fold a losing hand and finally gave up especially since Otis kept flashing his wedding ring and I constantly reminded them about my extremely understanding and wonderful girlfriend who was fast asleep upstairs. They were also worn down by Nigel's icy demeanor in the heat of battle. Nigel was as cool and smooth as a John Coltrane solo. He admirably displayed nerves of steel and did not blink once, nor did he utter a single word, or move an inch as the frisky hookers molested him.
"They fancied me," said Nigel once the storm had subsided and the harlots retreated. "I think we could have had a non-commercial relationship."
We managed to mollify the foul temptresses. We were unattainable and no longer on their radar. They left us alone and we ordered another round.
One of the working girls seated next to Otis received a phone call. She quickly wrote down an address and two of them scurried off. The last of hussies had bailed. It was time for us to document our experiences and we recorded a future episode of Tao of Pokerati. As we finished taping one installment, Nigel nudged me.
Tela and her friend returned. She thought that my mini-recorder was a phone and snatched it out of my hand. She sang along to a pop song that blasted on the speakers. She freaked out when she realized that it was not a phone.
"You're not videotaping me are you? I'll sue your ass if you're fuckin' videotaping me!" she screamed. I forcibly grabbed my recorder from her hand and she stormed away.
Tela and her friend returned for a third and final time to hawk their goodies. They looked fidgety and solicited themselves one last time before they darted towards the cashier's window.
"I wanna know where they've been?" asked Nigel.
"Doing blow?" was my quick answer.
"They're going to the cage. Why else would they be going there?" Otis said.
He theorized that they held a couple of $100 black chips that they acquired after turning a quick trick. I suggested that they went on a heater at the blackjack tables and were cashing out their winnings. Otis was not convinced with that theory. They were not gamblers, rather they business women and were paid for their services in chips. They were not like those dumbass Bellagio hookers who were duped by johns when they got paid with tournament chips from the Bellagio poker room that had no cash value.
Tela and the other working girls at the Rio were savvy veterans. They earned their MBAs in whoring and hustling. With cash in hand, they disappeared into a sea of conventioneers. We never saw them again.
Otis polished off his Corona and motioned to the barkeep for another round of beers. He dug into his jeans pocket and pulled out a crisp $100 bill.
"This is just a semi-horseshoed bar in a no name casino in a barely named city in a fuckin' country that's barely anything in the world," said Otis. "There is a reason why this bar is named the Hooker Bar. And we saw it tonight."
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