I decided to take another look at casino entertainment this month, since I get player’s club offers all the time including tickets to things like Legends In Concert, a sort of dead-superstar revue. Looking around the industry, comedy shows are still great, with Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno now trying to squeeze in around Sebastian Maniscalco shows, which now cost, like, $400.
But music is a mixed bag these days. There are aging mainstays, like The Who’s residency at Caesars Palace, titled Who’s Breathing?—well, that’s what I heard, anyway—and Elton John making his latest farewell tour, Goodbye, Yellow Brick Rest Home—or is it Honky Chateau with Walk-In Bathtub?
There are other struggling oldies—Grand Funk Railroad is all over the casino industry, but it’s not really Grand Funk because they canned leader Mark Farner a while back. The Backstreet Boys are still around, although by now they’re pretty much the Backstreet Middle-Aged Guys.
Then there are the endless tribute acts. Later this year at Mystic Lake Casino in Minnesota will be the Australian Pink Floyd Show. Does that mean there’s a British Bee Gees Show somewhere?
Well, there’s one new tribute act I’ve got to see. It’s at the Riverside in Laughlin, Nevada, the casino founded by the same guy who founded the town, Don Laughlin. Laughlin, 88, still lives part-time at the Riverside, in a penthouse suite. But on Sundays, I’m guessing the lifelong Catholic goes down to Don’s Celebrity Theatre, at which the marquee includes space not only for Australian Thunder from Down Under and a Karen Carpenter impersonator (oh, boy), but with Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church and its headliner, Rev. Charles Urnick, aka Father Charlie.
“I’m on stage three times a weekend,” the 71-year-old Father Charlie once said.
Father Charlie preaches in front of a stage where you can see the drum set in the dark. Don’t worry. No one’s injecting rim-shots into the Catholic Mass. (Sorry, Sister Aurelia. I couldn’t resist.) From what I can see, there isn’t even a band. But I’d like to attend, if only to see the bigger picture—Father Charlie leading the procession into the showroom to give Communion in front of a huge “Skyy Vodka” banner and a picture of Elvis, the celebrant jokingly reminding the congregation that they’re praying to “God the King,” as opposed to Elvis the King.
Father Charlie’s operation is similar to one on the Vegas Strip in the old days. Back in the ’80s, my wife and I would sometimes attend Mass at the Roman Catholic church that was next to the old Sands, where they would gladly accept casino gaming chips in the collection basket. I’m happy to say the collection basket at Don’s Riverside Theatre/church also accepts gaming chips, along with a more modern twist, slot cash-out tickets.
I’m definitely going to visit Father Charlie’s church. I could certainly use a little grace on the casino floor these days. But instead of Father Charlie, I’m going to use his other nickname, which is way cooler: the “Chip Monk.”
(By the way, Sister Aurelia was my eighth-grade teacher at Saint Joan of Arc parochial school in suburban Pittsburgh, who would not have liked my rim-shot crack at all. Again, mea culpa.)
Finally, I had to comment on this next news nugget, because it involves my home base of Atlantic City. In January, hundreds of users of the Waze navigation app plugged “Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City” into their smartphones and, as we all do, slavishly followed the voice of the GPS lady to their destination, which they assumed would be the most popular casino resort in Atlantic City.
Only where they ended up was a place where there were mammals that were not valet attendants, or even humans, and they were accompanied by various reptiles and amphibians. The Borgata casino-goers and clubbers ended up in the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area, near Lake Success in Jackson Township, about 45 miles north of Atlantic City in Middle Of Nowhere, New Jersey.
But believe it or not, that’s not even the weird part. Jackson Township Police reported a “tremendous increase” in disabled vehicles in the wildlife area concurrent with this Waze snafu.
That instantly reminded me that all those flying saucers in the 1950s sci-fi movies landed in New Jersey, up in the Pine Barrens.
That’s why all the misguided vehicles suddenly broke down. For all we know, their drivers will show up 50 years from now, wandering around the Pine Barrens all confused.
Personally, I’m waiting to see whether confused wildlife researchers suddenly show up at the Borgata.