By Mark E. Smith
So, I’m drinking at Tao in Las Vegas, parked in my power chair sideways against the bar, so I can sip my vodka and Red Bull through a straw. Whoopi Goldberg and Rod Stewart are with me – no, not the real Whoopi and Rod, but impersonators.
Prior to several hours ago, none of us knew each other. My plan was to go to Vegas alone as an adventure, but then my buddy was to meet me there. However, as the world is meant to be I suppose, my buddy opted not to meet me after all, leaving me on my own in Vegas for four days. So, after checking into my hotel, I headed to Tao – a top Vegas club that’s hard to get into unless you’re a hot chick, a dude with a hot chick, or a celeb – and I was ushered right in, skirting the line of smoking hot chicks and their steroid-strutting dudes, not even a cover charge for me.
What I’ve learned is that as a guy with a disability, using a power chair, in a suit and tie, with a big smile and gregarious personality, I can go into virtually any scene and immediately find great conversation – or have it find me. A lone guy at a bar is typically seen as creepy, where if he says hi to people walking by, they’re probably going to keep on walking – and, they certainly won’t approach him. However, I find that the novelty of my disability and inherently nonthreatening nature – along with a super-outgoing personality – really attracts people, where I can very quickly build rapport, becoming immediately engaged in great conversations, making fast friends, where even if I just park somewhere, someone will ultimately come up and start a conversation. In these ways, I get by very well, able to get into any club, quickly fitting into the scene. So, I end up in Tao within hours of landing in Vegas, surrounded by barely-dressed super-model type chicks and buffed bozos – rock-starring it on my own, one might say.
Now, vodka and Red Bull isn’t my drink of choice – that would be Southern Comfort, straight, by the double-shot. However, unbeknown to me when booking the trip, I picked spring break week, when all of the mid- and southwest college kids flock to Vegas. And, in a brilliant – and deviant – marketing ploy, Red Bull is the official sponsor, where at virtually any bar or club for the week, one can get a house vodka and Red Bull mixer for $6, whereas a double shot of Southern Comfort averages $15, so I opted to drink on the cheap (plus, being alone and looking to meet people, I had no interest in getting hammered drunk, but remaining sober while socially sipping a single drink much of the night).
So, I’m sipping my cheap drink at Tao, checking out the countless chicks who, on average, must be 19 years younger than me, when Whoopi Goldberg walks up and joins me at the bar. I immediately comment that she’s the striking image of Oprah, and she laughs – and we get to chatting. It turns out that she is, of course, Berndottea, a Whoopi Goldberg impersonator, complete with SAG card and all. However, the drunk college kids don’t know any better, so I’m in theory sitting at the bar with Whoopi Goldberg, with everyone wanting to take pictures with Whoopi.
And, then in walks Rod Stewart. No, not the real Rod Stewart, but Clyde, a chef who’s been in Vegas for seven months, and just so happens to be an exact image of a younger Rod Stewart, ’80s vintage, dressing the part and teasing his hair, no less. He immediately joins Bernodettae and me, likely because we’re a fitting lot, a bit of character and age to us compared to the young, hot bodies who fill the club with alcohol-fueled hormones running wild.
Sipping my vodka and Red Bull, I swap life stories with Bernodettae and Clyde, who are among the sincerest, kindest folks I’ve met, and we’re constantly interrupted by party-seekers who only see Whoopi, Rod, and a guy in a wheelchair at the bar – a spectacle that draws a non-stop crowd.
With the night in full swing, I end up with a drunk chick next to me, who knocks my drink off of the bar, spilling it all over my power chair, and she immediately apologizes, telling me that she’ll make it up to me. With all watching, she kisses me on the cheek, takes my hand, and gently slides it up her top, placing it on her bare breast. This, however, is little consolation to me, as having to clean vodka and Red Bull out of every crack of my power chair and losing my $6 drink is no price to pay to feel a chick’s boob – been there, done that, don’t care, over it – so while the surrealism of having my hand up a chick’s top with Whoopie Goldberg and Rod Stewart watching me isn’t lost in the moment, I’m really just perturbed that this drunk chick spilled my drink all over my power chair. Boobs are just boobs – they’re everywhere. It’s my custom-finished, carbon fiber power chair that I care about!
With my hand still on her breast, I look up and realize that she’s wearing a tiara that says, Bachelorette. I pull my hand out of her top, and ask loudly, “Can I get your fiancé’s phone number?”
“Why?” she asks.
“I want to tell him not to marry a hot mess like you,” I say.
Without hesitation or even a blink, she hauls off and slaps me across the face – hard. And, people grab her, pulling her into the crowd, away from me.
I turn to the bartender like, Did you see that?, and the bartender has already served me up a fresh drink, on the house.
Rod Stewart walks around and puts his arm around me.
“You know, Mark,” Rod says, “I’ve put my hands on women’s breasts and been slapped, but never have I had a woman place my hand on her own breast, then slap me for it. You’re a champ in my book.”
“Welcome to Vegas, Marko!” Whoopi says, holding up her drink.