News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

Desert Companion

Bar tales: So I'm at this bar ...


Evel Knievel was at the bar.

It was the old Maxim Hotel. There was a rumor he lived there, and it may have been true, for his memorabilia was on a shelf — one shelf — in the gift shop.

A comedian, I was working Comedy Max pretty regularly back in the ’90s, and he was the hotel’s Joe Louis.

We didn’t know each other well; we nodded a lot.

“What’s up?” he asked, as I came to the bar after the show. An Elton John cover band was setting up.

“What a day. My girlfriend from Germany called. Eight hours we talked. It’s over.”

“Wait here,” he said. I noticed he limped. Of course he limped.

When Knievel returned, he had a large, thin box, which he put on the bar and opened.

“Huh?” he asked with a flourish.

Before me was a line of skin-care products — lotions, creams, cologne — all with an EK logo.

“Wow,” I said, because what else do you say?

“It’s my entire line of skin-care products for men … going to be huge.”

“Wow. Just … just wow.”

Knievel opened up a jar of lotion, poured some on his hand, rubbed his palms together, and then applied it to … my face.

“Feel better?” he asked.

Within 90 minutes of hearing Es tut mir Leid, mein teurer Schatz. Ich liebe dich, a guy in a wig, doing a pretty good Elton, was singing, “I remember when rock was young/Me and Suzie had so much fun,” and Evel Knievel was massaging my cheeks.

Support comes from

And all seemed right in Vegas. — Barry Friedman



The most ADD-addled spot I’ve visited in ADD-everywhere Vegas is Tony Hsieh’s Gold Spike bar. It’s an odd place, a casual workspace by day and a watering hotel by night, where people are prone to distractions and having the creative “collisions” that Hsieh values so much.

If Vegas celebrates the fact that you don’t have to care or commit about things, Gold Spike is where you can not care or commit while underdressed.

I visited one night with magazine writer Michael Kaplan. Hsieh recognized me and asked if we wanted Fireball shots. Sure, I replied. Then I noticed a familiar face with a crazy story: Lenny Barshack was once declared dead after a heart attack, but was resuscitated. He was very much alive when I met him in New York, and he crushed the poker game I played in for weeks.

He’s a fun guy who was in Vegas to see about maybe investing downtown, and seeing him was the kind of chance occurrence to celebrate. But after a quick conversation, I was over it. I saw other friends, we went to a different bar and I came back without anybody at Gold Spike even noticing.

Barshack was telling Kaplan about some story idea. I didn’t see anybody else I recognized, so I went back to my hotel, after another happy night of not believing in fate.

Oh, and minutes after Hsieh saw me, he got sidetracked and walked outside with somebody else. He never bought those shots. — Andy Wang



To protect the guilty, I will not speak of what is my most prominent Vegas bar moment: a now legendary morning where, without the benefit of last call, the line between early morning and late evening blurs when two abundantly attractive young ladies coerced themselves into unspeakable acts with one another to the surprise of the mostly sober onlookers. Instead, I’ll reminisce of how we won our daughter in pure Las Vegas fashion — gambling at a local’s bar.

You see, NYE weekend 2006 we were supposed to bring home our baby bulldog; however, when the breeder wouldn’t accept our check, we battled ATM limits and limited holiday weekend bank access trying to scrounge up the cash. We eventually ended up at the gone-but-not-forgotten Winner’s Circle where, as a semi-regular, I thought they’d easily extend me a line. Alas, because of the holiday they were short-stacked, too.

Sticking around for Jäger and beers, I took a foray into Caveman Keno, with the hopes of a jackpot. Losses accumulated until, toward the tail end of the run, when, with little money left to gamble, it happened: a 6-spot with two eggs. Not a life-altering win, but more than enough to bankroll the puppy pick-up. And while it’s the only time I’ve ever hit on Caveman, it certainly couldn’t have been more timely with the greatest win ever — our daughter Dixie. — Jim Begley



It was a Saturday night at the Double Down Saloon — busy, noisy, more tourists than locals. This was six or seven years ago — which is important, because the Commander’s Palace Las Vegas was still open. Which is important because the essential, animating prop for the prank came from the kitchen of this legendary restaurant: a pig’s head.

Well, more like a pig’s face, but, regardless, it was an object out of a nightmare. One of the bartenders worked in the CP kitchen and had taken it with him at shift’s end, figuring he’d find some use for it. And so for an hour or two, several of us sat at the far end of the bar, and with each round the more imperative it became that we not leave the horrifying potential of this object unexploited. But what to do? Prop it up behind the bar? Too simple. Throw it at the band? Too unpredictable. Parade it through the bar like Lord of the Flies? Too referential and too removed. This thing needed something up close, with the element of surprise.

And that’s how we decided to put it in the ladies’ room toilet. We cased the bathroom line for the right target — out-of-town twentysomething with a designer purse and “I’m so slumming” aura — and put our decoy (one of the roller derby girls) into the line behind her. We arranged for one of the gentlemen in our party to pass by on his way to the men’s and hand off the head (wrapped in a T-shirt) at just the right time. I stood behind the pig-ee, waited for the woman to go in and … 

… A scream cut through the din of the hardcore band as the woman hurled herself out of the bathroom door! “It’s — my God! Ewwww!” I put on my best concerned face and soothing tone.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“A — pig! You’ve gotta — ” She waved me in and pointed toward the toilet, refusing to move closer or even look at it. Dear lord, it was horrible. The awful red snout, the sharp fangs sticking out one side of the mouth, the beady eyes staring up out of the white porcelain bowl. I made sure to wipe the smile off of my face before I looked back up at the woman, who was wringing her hands by the door. “You’d better go tell the bartender what you found in here …” — Lissa Townsend Rodgers

More from

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!