There are certain bars on Charleston where it’s just not advisable to dress slutty. I find that quality endearing. But how do you explain to two best girlfriends visiting from Outtastate that it’s in the best interest of their personal safety to cover up? While I pondered tactful statements, they were donning clothes-minus-one: a shirt as a dress and a vest as a shirt, respectively. I stashed an extra outfit to split among the two and devoted my persuasive powers to hurrying them.
We were headed to Fong’s Garden, a place so un-touristy I wasn’t sure it followed regular hours: “It’s already midnight. If we don’t get there soon, I’m afraid it’ll be closed.”
“Pshaw!” Rachel stabbed me in the head with a curling iron. “If a bar is closed before we get there, it’s not worth going to.”
“Exactly what I’m afraid of!”
My friends hugged their skimpies as the Strip faded to black. So dark was the night that I nearly passed the giant, palace-like sign for Fong’s Garden. It was dark and the parking lot empty.
“See, look what you’ve done! It’s already closed!” I exclaimed.
“Exactly!” they countered
We three felt vindicated.
I sighed and turned the car in the direction of the Hard Rock Center Bar. To a place where their slutfits were appropriate, and my T-shirt was frumpy.
My friend Rachel was in her element. Free drink after free drink, she worked her way around the circle … until I warned her that if she took another step she’d be flirting with the first guy again.
After all these years, Center Bar on a Friday night still excites me. Hot rock ’n’ rollers! The backstage crew from Collective Soul! But as the night wore on into nightlife, the bar grew stale with people hip enough to hit the cool casino, but not cool enough to do anything with it.
Inevitably, Rachel got an invite from some dudes to go to the strip club across the street, and my friend Chase found some dude at the bar. I assessed which friend needed the most protection and said goodbye to the Hard Rock.
Saturday night. Due to no small effort, we arrived at Fong’s by 8 p.m. It was closed. My friends cheered, and I turned the car around.
We arrived at the Hard Rock’s poker bar by 10 p.m. (after a detour to South Point to grab a drink at the Showroom and watch Tower of Power’s encore). Just in time to ease into the table nearest the hallway and watch the Great Clubgoer Migration. Sipping a dirty vodka martini with a guitar swizzle stick and watching the free-show freak show is one of my favorite things to do in Vegas. The beautiful, the cool, the wannabes: It’s all there.
Inevitably, the night ended at the Joint’s backstage bar post-Santana. Where my friend cried about a $15 drink, and I counseled one of the musicians on how it was more “rock ’n’ roll” to buy John Varvatos than Affliction.
Sunday afternoon. I Googled Fong’s Garden. Its website had the cheesy-yet-lively HTML of a local joint and boasted the credentials of being around forever. I called. The number was disconnected.
My friends had to be at the airport by 4:30 p.m. Since I couldn’t take them to Fong’s, I took them to Fremont. We wandered the tacky street until I saw Hogs & Heifers in the distance. It’s one of those bars I’ve always heard about but never visited.
We entered the saloon, and a line of hot “cowboys” in the darkness rubbernecked. Before we go further, let me say that bar-dancing is one of those things you regret not doing when you’re old. But in real life, when the bikini bartender with a bullhorn is calling your name and the bar is as high as your chest and your friend took your shot because you’re driving her to the airport, then the days of staring out the window of age are gone and you want to keep your feet on the ground. But it’s Vegas, my friends reminded me. So yeah, I gave a little shimmy. But after, I was happy to not be the one sending this text:
“I’m wearing Hogs & Heifers stickers on my nipples that the bar wench put on me while I was dancing on the bar.”
Sad you missed it? Don’t be. Judging from the electronic enthusiasm of the crowd, I’m sure you can catch it on YouTube. Hint: Two names and two boobs were fake.