Boy, last month was weird.
Practically every one of my falls for 35 years—falls meaning autumn, not some drunken stumbling—has revolved around a trip to Las Vegas for the Global Gaming Expo or one of its predecessor shows. As I’m writing this in early October, it occurs to me that any other year, I’d be wrapping up the last day of the trade show and getting ready to go out to dinner, gamble, go to bed, and get on a plane back East.
Not necessarily in that order, mind you.
Instead, I’m sitting in my office in the East the second week of October, and I get to actually witness leaves turning color. On trees.
I hadn’t realized what a fixture of my year G2E was. It’s when I get to chat with all of my industry colleagues, hobnob with executives, and wander around wearing a suit and tie and a name badge, like in the old days.
Back when I went to my first gaming trade show in 1985, we all wore suits and ties, even just going to the office. These days, you can walk into an office in a T-shirt and faded jeans and no one raises an eyebrow. (Not that I do that.) Or, more recently, you work from home, where the most formal thing you wear is a biz-casual shirt over your pajama bottoms for a
Microsoft Teams meeting. (Not that I do that, either. Pajama bottoms are optional.)
The fall trade show has always been the professional center of my year. In the early days, everyone in the industry knew each other. There were, like, five companies, and around 30 people we’d see once a year. (OK, maybe more than that.) We’d walk around a trade show floor that was pretty much solid concrete all day, and then, beginning at, say, 4 p.m., we’d rest our swollen feet, have a beverage and talk to the showgirls that were invariably at every booth.
I know, I know. It was an improper way to sell gaming widgets, relying on scantily clad women in peacock feathers to draw men—and back then, it was mostly men—to one booth over another. But these women also were bona fide entertainers, trained in their feathery craft. We greeted a few by name every year.
Heck, I remember that my former magazine had Marilyn Monroe in the booth every year. It was always the same Marilyn, too. We all got to know her, even though none of us knew her real name. She never broke character. You’d ask her if the guy from the printer company had come looking for you, and she’d answer you in that breathy voice, right out of Some Like It Hot, “Oooh, yes. Here’s his card. His name’s Maaaahhhhhrvin. (Giggle!)”
OK, I admit that was a little disturbing.
I also remember all the celebrities I got to meet at the big trade shows. Even before slot machines created celeb slot themes and invited the stars to their booths to promote them, there always were some celebrities, invited by vendors to serve as their booth ambassadors.
That’s how I met Spanky McFarland from The Little Rascals, in fact. He was at the booth of some company selling coin mechanisms or sheet steel for cabinets or something, but there he was, the Spankster.
In any event, I hope they let us come out to play in a physical trade show next year. I really missed the autumn trade show vibe this year—playing in tournaments, going to keynotes, the parties… the whole schmear.
As we went to press with this issue, the G2E producers were set to stage a “Virtual G2E,” starting on October 27, my birthday. (Though I don’t think that’s why they they planned that date.) I’m certainly going to take all that in. (Or, as you’re reading this there in the future, I already did.) I’ll attend the seminars, and if I find one dull or uninteresting, I’ll even fake getting a call on my smartphone before I leave the computer, so as not to offend the presenter.
Of course, it’s going to be hard to feign interest in a product being demonstrated virtually. Before I wrote mainly about slots, I covered everything from fake trees to ashtray design to light-bulb technology. I still remember mustering up fascination at the latest in incandescent light-bulb technology, presented by someone whose entire life was light bulbs. In fact, I heard the guy was a light-bulb legend. I tried to show some respect.
I wonder what ever happened to Marilyn. I’d look her up, but someone told me she actually had her name legally changed to Marilyn Monroe.
Like I said before, a little disturbing.