The talking statues at the Forum Shops are incomprehensible. Not the Fall of Atlantis statues by the 50,000-gallon aquarium in back—those I understand just fine. I’m referring to the statues in the Festival Fountain show, closer to the Boulevard. These animatronic dinosaurs have been stammering on since 1992, and honestly, they should have hung up their togas and retired years ago.
For years I assumed the pudgy, seated figure in the center of the action was Caesar. He’s sitting on a throne; he’s wearing an olive-leaf crown; he resembles the Little Caesars Pizza mascot. Turns out he’s not Caesar; he’s Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. It took me multiple viewings to realize this, and no, the fact that Bacchus begins the show by declaring “I am Bacchus! God of wine!” in a booming voice is not a giveaway. Bacchus’ boom completely overtakes his diction, to the point of unintelligibility. He sounds like Santa Claus after nine too many cups of eggnog.
In Bacchus’ defense: The guy is made of marble, which probably makes speaking difficult. Remember how the Tin Man sounded before Dorothy put oil to his mouth? Plus, Bacchus is the God of wine, so he’s probably wasted. He’s probably pissed that he used to be a respected demigod but is now reduced to performing the same five-minute skit, 14 times a day, seven days a week, year after year, before uninterested Midwestern tourists. If you were in Bacchus’ position, you’d be an alcoholic too.
A few minutes into the wine god’s incoherent monologue, he cries, “Let the festivities begin!” That’s when things get really confusing. The fountain rotates, and the other three statues (Venus, Apollo and Pluto) join the conversation. Unlike Bacchus’, these gods’ voices can’t compete with the overpowering Copland-esque soundtrack. Fortunately they’ve got visual tricks: Apollo plays the lyre, and Venus creates a meteor shower. Then a couple of laser-powered horses gallop across the sky, and before you know it, the show is done.
I watched the Festival Fountain show last week, and when it was through, I asked a group of four Texan women what they thought the show was about. Two of them admitted they didn’t know (“I couldn’t really understand what they were saying”; “I stopped paying attention and just kinda zoned out”), but the other two had their own hypotheses: “Caesar was having some kind of party—like a birthday party, maybe? And the other statutes were entertaining him?”; “No, it was Zeus, and he was punishing the other gods for something.”
As best I can tell, the Festival Fountain Show has no plot. (It took me years to realize this, because the show’s music implies a dramatic narrative. Its mood moves from anticipatory to revelatory to dangerous to triumphant.) But in terms of story, the Festival Fountain show is less like the Fall of Atlantis show at the back of the Forum Shops (in which King Atlas’ children fight over who should get to control Atlantis, and then the gods step in, stop the fighting and sink the city), and more like Disney’s Hall of Presidents (in which the American presidents introduce themselves and say what they’re famous for [i.e., “Hi there! I’m Benjamin Harrison! I passed the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Antitrust Act!”]).
I submit Caesars Palace should keep the fountain, but cut off the show. Remember what stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg said about a broken escalator: “An escalator can never break; it can only become stairs. You would never see an ‘Escalator temporarily out of order’ sign, just ‘Escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.’” Well, a non-talking statue fountain is still a statue fountain, and that’s nothing to apologize for.
Caesars could also take a page from the O’Sheas playbook and promote the statues as a Roman freak show of sorts (i.e., “Come see the world’s only stuttering demigods! They can control the heavens and the earth, but they can’t control their own diction!”).
If Caesars doesn’t do something about this animatronic embarrassment soon, Bacchus and the gang are going to unchain the FAO Schwarz Trojan horse, band together with Atlas’ children and seek revenge for the years of humiliation they’ve been forced to endure. And when they do, not even the Knights of Excalibur and the pirates of Treasure Island will be able to save us.