Saturday, April 22, 2017

Frankie Goes To Vegas: The Rockabilly Edition

This was the fourth trip to Las Vegas over the past just about 10 years, the second in just two, and marks the first that was for an actual event, and not just Vegas for the sake of Vegas.

The Official Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Cruiser
That event was Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, the longest running music festival in Vegas, where every cool cat - who loves to brandish a pompadour, or a greased doo, a fedora (or Trilby) [hat] or a porkpie [hat]; a wallet with a big chain and cuffed jeans with a white t-shirt, or big collared dress shirts, sports jackets with textured lapels and cuff-links, or bowling shirts (think Charlie Sheen in 'Two and a Half Men' with pinup ladies or tiki themed imagery); and pointed dress shoes, or saddle shoes, or suede loafers, even stylized cowboy boots - can just chill and hang loose. Viva is where gals who love anything decorated with skulls, little black sparrows, boat ankers, tiki themes, poodles, and don't forget the cherries...or the polka dots. Sweet Baby Jesus, the polka dots; from tight pinup dresses - pencil, wiggle, bell - with slits up to there; and then there's cardigans and big skirts, tight off the shoulder tops, corsets with hot pants, tiny shorts; and petticoats and garters (all manner of structural undergarments) with outrageous high heeled shoes, understated flats, or saddles for her...topping it all off with big hair, all colors, pin-curls, bouffants and victory rolls achieving impressive volume, Betty bangs, ponytails sitting high and proud, all coiffed to perfection with bows, or without, maybe spiked with giant flowers, sheer hair-scarfs (that also work as a neck adornment in a pinch, and also a ponytail adornment), perhaps a snood - and the makeup. Oh the makeup. Don't get us started (yet) on the makeup...all come together in one glorious show of fashion, and style.
It's Rockabilly, meets Psychobilly, meets Greaser, meets Pinup, meets "50s Housewife"...meets anything goes; it's Grease and Crybaby and Rebel Without A Cause, with a splash of Pleasantville, all coming to life under the hot April Vegas sun.
(Want to know more about the styles? Check out Vintage Dancer, What IS Rockabilly? Wiki It Here)

Not hip enough to dress up? Don't wanna be a hep cat? Squares are welcome too.
After all, everybody who has invested hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, not to mention massive amounts of time, need and want an audience.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the event and It. Was. Massive.
Massive because not only has it has grown in popularity (people literally come from all over the world to attend), but also massive because, according to Tom Ingram, the diligent gentleman who started the event and keeps it thriving, along with a modest office staff, this year there was measurable wristband fraud. This means some group of assholes made counterfeit wristbands and attended events, events that are limited to a set number of attendees to prevent burdensome lines and overwhelming crowds. And the crowds were indeed overwhelming. And the lines, burdensome.

A little about wristbands. Wristbands are what those who purchase High-Roller Tickets wear, at $140 (US) a pop, in order to have unfettered access to all events, which includes, but is not limited to: all music acts - music acts that come from around the globe, first access to vendors - who also come from all corners, the car show, the burlesque shows - this year included much coveted tickets to see Dita Von Teese perform (some people started waiting for the tickets, which didn't become available on the day of access until 9am, as early as 4am), workshops and classes - such as hair and makeup, and dance, and the pool parties and swimsuit contests. You get the picture. High-Roller Tickets are the bees knees. And some utter tits went ahead and tainted the event. It definitely had an impact on us and the gentleman that accompanied us to the event. But it was still one of the best experiences, non-event activities included, in a long time.

Now a direction shift...
You can't talk Vegas without covering some basics.

Accommodations. The event takes place at The Orleans (just off strip). We didn't stay there because the rooms set aside for attendees booked fast and we didn't even plan on going to Viva until mid-September. The week Viva #20 started they opened up room booking for next year's Viva #21. While people were definitely able to snag rooms even the week of the event, it was more of a gamble than some would probably like. We opted for the Tropicana, it was not only retro, staying within the general 50s theme of the weekend, but also not that far away (though definitely not walk-able).

A word about the Tropicana. The weeks leading up to it meant obsessively reading reviews, both because of excitement and being weary of an older hotel in Vegas and wanting to see what people were saying about their stays. Previous Vegas trips had us staying at the MGM (twice) and the Aria, both generally solid quality establishments.
People seemed to be complaining a lot about the Tropicana, but personally it was better than last year at the MGM - we'd take this year's room over last year's MGM room in a dice roll. The room was spacious and looked true to the picture (A King bungalow room with a balcony). The view was great.
Evening view from the balcony of
a Tropicana bungalow room
It was clean and in better condition than one would expect, given that the room isn't in the part of the hotel that they have upgraded.
People just bitch too fucking much.
Look. If you go to Vegas and are shocked and upset that there is no coffee maker or refrigerator in the room, to the level you are going to complain in a review, you are not thinking logically about where you are. A Vegas hotel isn't like other hotels, first of all, they usually try to make themselves as self contained as possible and strive for profits. Of course they aren't going to have these items (unless you get a room at a higher price point) - they want you to use the coffee shop that pays them to be there, and the food courts and restaurants that also pay fees to be in their establishment. They want you down on the floor listening to the slots and the excitement, not hold up in your room drinking your disgusting self-brewed coffee (P.S. They don't clean those machines in hotels very often, if ever. Enjoy your moldy poor quality coffee, you fucking cheapskate) eating leftovers from Denny's. Because, look, if you're concerned about there not being a fridge and a coffee maker in your Vegas hotel room and feel the need to post a negative review because of it...let's be honest, you're probably the kind of person patronizing a fucking [international] chain restaurant like Denny's, on the Vegas Strip.

We digress.

The Tropicana was a solid pick. Yes, the halls smelled of stale cigarettes, but most everything does in Vegas unless it's a few years new or they are pumping perfume through the building (like at the Aria).

The Slut from Eggslut
Food. That being said. The Tropicana does not offer much, compared to other properties, in the way of food. Not that we tried anything, opting for coffee on the go.
We tried Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan. The Slut (a cage-free coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée, poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt and chives, served with slices of baguette) was delicious. Smooth, creamy, and full of what you need after a night (or day) of drinking: carbs, protein, and fat.
Croque Madam from Payard
We'll be honest, like with hydration (outside of the obvious alcohol), we failed to eat as much as we should (more about that soon). We did have breakfast another day, at Payard Patisserie & Bistro in Caesars Palace where we enjoyed Croque Madams (smoked ham, rich and creamy Béchamel sauce, Swiss cheese topped with a sunny-side up egg, and oven roasted tomato and mixed green salad) and shared a house smoked salmon plate. All very fresh and tasty.

Then of course there was brunch at Mandalay Bay's Bayside Buffet. Always a solid choice both when considering price and quality.

The Prime Rib Loft at The Orleans was surprisingly good for a restaurant that hadn't made the itinerary, or even showed up in any of the hours of reviews and lists that were poured over prior to the trip (try the Tempura Vegetables).
Also good at The Orleans was Big Al's Oyster Bar where we split a dozen delicious oysters on the half shell with our traveling companion and had an oyster shooter.
If you find yourself at The Orleans during meal time for whatever reason, both of these are worth a try.

The best meal, however, was at Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan. True to fashion we arrived late. At 9:15 pm. A mere 45 minutes before they started pulling the food (more time is optimal when buffeting, don't you think?), so it was an plate-filling and eating bonanza. Not only that, but all parties involved realized that they had not eaten at all that day so as we piled food onto plates, hoofing them back to the table one by one, as the minutes counted down, the server pulled up another table on which we could place our bounty. Ultimately we got a little of everything we desired. Some dishes left us wanting more, and more time. Not a single thing was disappointing.
While the price tag is a little steep, this buffet is definitely worth it for true foodies. Forget the "famed" buffet at the Bellagio, while it is a very good choice for the meat and potatoes crowd, Wicked Spoon is a culinary adventure. And isn't that what you're in Vegas for? Adventure?
So Much Food at the Wicked Spoon
Okay, so now were down to the tips. <insert just the tip joke here>

6.5" Demonia PIXIE-17
Platform Spike Heart
Vegan Leather Heels
Tips. Our tips on Vegas in last year's blog post involved a lot of info about footwear choice. So obviously we didn't follow our own advice and instead, because of all the fabulous new this pair of Demonias, got creative with workarounds on how to wear uncomfortable virgin shoes.
While the pair pictured may look like hell. They were not as uncomfortable as the pair of 5" Pleaser SEDUCE-17 Peep Toe Ankle Wrap Sandal (black with red pipping). While sexy when standing and sitting (or, you know, on your back, probably) walking in them is akin to what a dying Savanna animal must look like, and feel like.

So we used a combination of gel inserts, Dr Scholl's Active Series Blister Defense Anti-Friction Stick (wicked product!), not wearing the same pair of heels twice in a row, wishing for a bone-saw, and at one point, for the second time in life, ending up barefoot on hot Vegas pavement.

Would we do it all again, footwear wise? You bet your sweet ass (though a cute pair of slides might make it into the mix for next time). Why? If you do it right you only end up with a few blisters by the end if that, unless you are used to this kind of footwear, and sore feet...and honestly your feet will be sore anyway. Plus, you'll look great (pack a pair of slides in your purse just in case).

Also, we broke our ride-share cherry and used Lyft everywhere possible, which was really a foot saver, and we loved it. The people were interesting and diverse, they were quick and friendly. After taking a cab a time or two, because the data connection in certain parts of The Orleans is complete crap and therefore the app has a difficult time connecting, it was clear that it's not all that much cheaper than the traditional cab - unless you get a promo deal like we did. More convenient? Definitely. Will we use Lyft for future vacations? Absolutely.

Always hydrate with water. Pure as fresh as you can get water. You're in the fucking desert.
We failed big time on this.
And eat.
You're not a super hero. You're not a camel. You can get sick and die.

Not only did we fail when it came to hydration and steady nutrition. We failed at taking OTC allergy mediation. How? Here is the equation:

Lack of Sleep + Alcohol + Dehydration + Malnutrition + 4 Claritins in less than 4 hours [apparently you're not supposed to take more than 1 in a 24 hour period and it actually says, when you Google Claritin, to "Avoid [alcohol]. Very serious interactions can occur" They are right] now mix all of that with sensory overload = will completely wreck you mentally.

Like brain melting, in a bad way.
Like an anxiety attack on crack.
Like you're crying uncontrollably, freaking our your (blessing of a) travel companion. And you are uncertain why this is happening.
And if you're dumb (*looks in mirror*), and don't realize that you are experiencing a twisted equation of doom and perhaps a mild overdose of OTC will be all the more terrified about what is happening.
Yeah. We should have read the package. But we were drunk and just on the cusp of an anxiety episode already (big crowds, too many people, lots of lights, noise, for too long of a time - we don't get out much).
Who wants to be all responsible and logical when dehydrated, starving, tired, drunk and overwhelmed. Pshaw.

OKAY. Enough of recounting that harrowing experience. Onward and upward!

Two final FUN things...maybe three: Fremont Experience, which in the past 10 years has transformed Fremont into...a lesser experience for someone who yearns for the days they could still find a smoke filled casino with old school Vegas slots. They have taken all the seedy out and have replaced it with more of what you're used to seeing on the Strip. Meh.
Still not terrible though, especially if you venture off and are lucky enough to get some photo shots of the old old old hotel properties turned  guerilla art installations that are soon to be no longer for this world. 

Oh Snap at Oak & Ivy
Fly Me To The Moon at Therapy
Bars to Try: 
Oak & Ivy, a craft whiskey and cocktail bar at the Container Park down the street from Fremont Experience
Therapy right off Fremont Experience (have a Fly Me to the Moon)
Park on Fremont, a gastopub across the street from Fremont Experience (their bathrooms/decor are very cool. Try a drink called Pillow Talk)

Cigar and Whiskey at Davidoff
Also worth a stop, back on the Strip, is Davidoff of Geneva for cigars and whiskey on a Vegas patio. If you're into that kind of thing.
Souvenir cup from
Frankie's Tiki Room

And don't forget about Frankie's Tiki Room, a quick Lyft ride from the strip and definitely the most authentic Tiki bar we've been to. Plus we got this wicked souvenir cup (which contained a drink called the Bearded Clam!

Now Back to VLV The Rockabilly Festival!

It was stellar.
There was so much to do and we only scratched the surface. It's clear why people come back year after year.
The music was great, we didn't catch as much as would have been preferred, but we did catch the sets of two of the important ones and got to listen to the sultry voice of Ms. Brenda Lee, and the rockin' stylings of Reverend Horton Heat (there was video, but Blogger is being a douche - needless to say, their performances were magical).

There were a handful of performers we caught a song or two from just by default of milling from room to room on the second floor of The Orleans, yet none of them were among the handful that was put into the itinerary...But there's always next year.

The pool party, while a brief visit, was a fun place to gaze upon the flesh of all assortments of people
while listening to yet more rockabilly music. This year they had a pool party each day, adding to the
big one they have always had on the last day (Sunday)...which the lines were too long for this year. We never did get to brandish our high waist two-piece with the bottoms that had little white skulls on black background, paired with a red bikini top. But there's always next year. 

Photo credit goes to travel companion,
Instagrams @synthesis
Being part of breaking the Guinness World Record for The Most People Jive Dancing on a Dance Floor at Once was an obvious highlight. However, a truly excruciating experience if you didn't eat and find yourself hungry, are a smoker, or have to pee. The first thing we heard as we walked through the door, after registering, and joining the growing crowd, was "If you have to pee you're screwed. Grab a garbage can if you have to"...because once you're in, you're in, as per official World Record Rules. But once the dance starts, and you get your rhythm (and you must, because you cannot stop, you
cannot improvise, it has to be pure jive for 5 straight minutes), it's amazing. And when you can finally stop and it's announced that it's official, you were just one of 520 people to become part of record breaking history, it's exciting.
It even gave pause to a hardcore smoker who had been trapped in that ballroom for hours itching for a smoke (that was not us!🙂)

Unfortunately we didn't get to go to any of the record hops (aka sock hops) and dance more, an activity we were very much looking forward to...But there's always next year.

Photo credit goes to travel companion,
Instagrams @synthesis
Then there's the car show, beautiful restored and maintained cars, shinny colors and chrome with fun hood ornaments and pin-stripping, just radiating under the hot sun. We managed to only see about 1/5th of the cars, if that, whole sections went unexplored (it was hot, shoes needed to be removed, bobby socks needed to found in vendor tents)...But there's always next year.

Do you see a theme yet?

And finally, we splurged and got our hair done up by Vegas' Heads Will Roll Beauty Salon on Saturday. Best money spent on hair ever. Highly recommend these ladies for any event. Will certainly be returning next year, maybe for two appointments...

So, that's the latest trip. And that's Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. There are probably some things missing.
We got the clothes and the shoes and the makeup...all ready to try it again next year.


This is all the way down here and out of the way because it's for a very select audience.
Okay ladies (and some gentlemen) here are some products we found useful in trying to create vintage makeup look, accessible, and at a low price for a starter. Things we never dreamt of purchasing and using, some are going to be incorporated into any day looks.

  • Rimmel London Scandal Eye Gel Eyeliner - good for a thick cat eye, or wing
  • e.l.f. Eyeliner pen (super inexpensive from Target) - good for a thin wing
  • Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Super Curling & Lifting Mascara (available in a mini travel size)
  • **Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer - GAME CHANGER. Never used primer before. Love this product. It does unbelievable things.
  • **Ulta Matte Makeup Setting Spray - there are probably better products, but this is a first for this kind of product and it's pretty impressive if you need your makeup to get you through long days.
  • Ulta Contour Kit - also a first. It's pretty cool. And inexpensive if you want to play with contouring. 
If you're looking for clothes, Amazon. So inexpensive. Lots to choose from in everything from a Small to a 2-3XL. Use search words like pinup, rockabilly, and retro. Also there are loads of other retailers at your fingertips with the same words in a Google search, providers of lush dresses in the hundreds of dollars range. Totally worth looking at for the lust factor.
Same goes for shoes, especially for you larger footed ladies...they have a good selection for size 11-12. But also don't ignore merchants online who cater to cross-dressers and the transgender community!

Hopefully some of this has been useful. Feel free to leave comments, questions, suggestions.
If you see spelling or grammar errors please contact us directly on Twitter @JustCallMeFrank or Facebook: Frank E Ly

As always, harassing and rude comments will be removed at the discretion of this writer. So be an adult.