A couple of weeks ago, I got back from Las Vegas, where, as you can imagine, I was reveling in returning to something I had taken for granted over the years.
That’s right, The Rat Pack Is Back at Tuscany Suites.
No, I’m talking about human contact. A physical, in-person trade show. With Vanna White, no less. The Global Gaming Expo. Live.
There also was the nostalgia of a solid concrete trade show pathway. Remember those, from the 1980s? I do. There was never a carpet, no matter how thin, in the path between the booths in those days. It was like walking across a giant basement, seven hours a day for three days. But at least I got to meet celebs back then.
Well, not the 1980s back-then. That was before the TV-themed slots came along, after which I’d get to meet Gilligan, the Professor and Mary Anne, straight off their 20-year, three-hour cruise.
Back in the ’80s, I got to meet people like Little Rascals star Spanky McFarland, who was paid by some cash-gadget manufacturers to hawk widgets at their booth. He was in his late 50s at the time, but he still looked like Spanky. Put him in a striped jacket and a beanie cap, and there would be no doubt: It was the Spankster.
He was in a suit and tie. So it wasn’t the same. But I digress.
The thing about schlepping around trade show floors on hard concrete in the 1980s was this: I was still in my 20s. I could hump magazines around in a rock quarry with little or no physical discomfort. (And I often did, just for the sheer fun of it.)
I’m in my 60s now. I need a rug. Even if it’s just a thin layer of fuzz. Dress shoes on hard concrete? For four straight days? Just. Shoot. Me.
After four days, I was walking like Walter Brennan as Stumpy in Rio Bravo.
Still, there was always the heavily carpeted foyer leading to the ballrooms and the meeting rooms, so I could make wide swings between slot manufacturer booths and rest my feet a bit. And I was exaggerating the dress-shoe bit. I actually wear my officially sanctioned trade-show footwear for these events: Hush Puppies, with the insoles you get at the podiatrist. I could walk across Death Valley in those shoes.
(And I often do, just for the sheer fun of it.)
But still, if the G2E people are seeking my input, my feedback as an exhibitor, this is my first suggestion, my first “bullet point,” if you will:
Put back the damn rug next year.
I’m dying here.
Aside from that, it was sort of an unusual G2E show. Everybody had masks on. People you haven’t seen for two years would say, “Hey, Frank!,” and you have to try to recognize them by their hairline. (OK, not a big task in my case.) You stammer, and then you say, “Oh, great to see you, Larry!” But of course, it’s not Larry. It’s Phil. Larry’s the guy you called Phil 10 minutes ago.
And while all of us industry colleagues were happy to gather in person after two years, it was still a little weird. Some didn’t know whether to shake hands or fist-bump, or some weird conglomeration of fist, elbow and hand. It appears we’ve forgotten how to greet industry colleagues while we’ve been away. Let’s work on that.
No doubt, this is all symptomatic of what we’ve been through collectively for the past year and a half. We’re not sure about human contact. Not just yet.
All in all, it was a boffo G2E week, and I thoroughly enjoyed being back in the game, in the moment, in person, grinning for award-presenting photos, visiting everyone’s booths, and playing new slot machines for free. As trade shows go, it’s hard to beat this one.
Oh, and about that The Rat Pack Is Back at the Tuscany, it’s a real show. Singer/impersonators dress up like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. and run through all the stale off-color ’50s wisecracks, and stand up there and croon, just like in the old days at the Sands.
All due respect, enough with the Rat Pack stuff, OK? We’re to the point where we can put on shows like Zappa Is Back. Or, Emerson, Lake & Palmer And Kansas Are Both Back. I’d buy tickets to either of those shows before any Rat Pack shtick. It’s time for the nostalgia to shift to the generations of people who are, you know, still alive.