Ooookay people...Las Vegas...as I have already said is a place of contrasts all of which co-exist in a relatively confined space along the sunset strip.
During my time there the searing heat of the Nevada desert reached 117 degrees which prompted the state governors to issue an 'excessive heat' warning...and me to seek out increasing numbers of ways to avoid it momentarily.
Eureka! The perfect antidote to boiling point is freezing point right? Or even minus 5 below...which is the name of the bar I discovered nestling in a quiet corner of the Mandalay Bay hotel on the strip. The bar is made entirely of ice, even the seating is carved from huge blocks of it and covered in animal pelts to prevent the freezing of your assets, whilst large glass like sculptures drop sharply from the ceiling and the walls are adorned with crystal figures hewn intricately into the glacial walls.
The somewhat hefty sum of $150.00 was the price tag attached to our potential artic adventure though to be fair did include the use of two cossack fur coats and hats...the hats would be ours to keep though we were warned not to wear them in the outside heat...???. and we were also issued with gloves designed to prevent the glasses made from ice from becoming permanent extensions of our fingers, though they proved pretty ineffective however, when we raised the said glasses to our top lips, and...IF... we thought we could drink 2 of them, complimentary cocktails were also included in our ice bar VIP package.
Now to save anyone who knows me the trouble of commenting on this article in this respect, I freely admit that if the consumption of cocktails had been an Olympic sport...I would not only have made team GB but would have, without any doubt whatsoever taken Gold for my country...so to be asked If I could manage a measly 2 was bordering on rude.
The decision to proceed regardless of cost was swiftly made and as we had spotted an Irish bar directly opposite Minus 5, and from which we could hear some pretty decent live music...we figured that we had the makings of a reasonably decent evening on our hands.
We were soon ensconced in synthetic fur...but there was no way I was attaching the bloody hat to my hair which is less than obedient at the best of times, the prospect of brain freeze was no worse at all than flat hair, so having ordered our first drink we made our first mistake. Placing glasses made of ice onto a table made of the same, is somewhat of a misnomer, the flippin' things took off like Torvill and Dean, and were rescued only because of the skill of my companion, who can add the words 'former goalkeeper' to his impressive sporting CV.
Now the coats were a help, and maybe not wearing the hat was a mistake, but essentially underneath our impressive coats we were still dressed more fittingly for searing heat, a fact which the below freezing temperature in the ice bar was fairly adept at exposing, and within 10 minutes I was no longer sure my feet were still where I had left them, and I didn't dare scratch my ears in case they snapped off.
As I fought to release my face from the block of ice in my hand, I noted that people who had arrived after us...were leaving before us. It suddenly dawned on me that the 2 cocktail offer was not made on the basis of consumptive ability...but on one's capacity to ward off hypothermia long enough to drink it.
Through jaws which by now were clattering together completely involuntarily and at some speed, we narrowly avoided needing the services of a dental surgeon, as we fought to force the second of our cocktails through the orrifices in our faces which were now barely open enough to allow the intake of oxygen on any significant level let alone accomodate liquid.
As we finally achieved our objective I was then rendered completely unable to decide whether or not the gibberish coming from my clenched jaws, and replicated by that coming from the mouth of my companion was because of the speed at which we had quaffed the cocktails, or because in my case it was due to the effects of hypothermia on my hatless and therefore, unprotected cerebellum.
We lasted 35 minutes in total...which apparently is somewhat of a record but after which point we were begging to be released from the confines of our icy environment back into the somewhat less savage air conditioned area outside of the ice bar.
I did have a fairly decent tan at this stage of the holiday...but when my grinning companion who himself looked like a piano keyboard in the dark, commented that I know looked like a smurf with jaundice...I consoled myself with the fact that if he had had access to a mirror of his own he may well have elected to have witheld his little witicism.
We walked over to the Irish bar having both assumed a gait that would not have looked out of place in Hitler's third Reich...such was the inflexibility of our extremities at this point, before gratefully sinking our first pint of Guinness a piece from a glass which thankfully this time, released our faces from it pretty much on demand.
On my way to the rest room...I stopped to listen for a minute to the guys in the band who were very accomplished musicians... and as often happens to me in this type of scenario I was soon getting nearer and nearer to the stage...throwing in a couple of harmonising vocals and sufficiently buoyed now by the heady effects of retreating hypothermia, two cocktails and several pints of the black stuff.
My unashamed showboating did not go unoticed and before long I had made it onto the stage and was soon helping the guys in my new band to deliver a particularly stunning version of 'when Irish eyes are smiling' though... I couldn't help but note that despite the fact that my Liverpuddlian travelling companion has his own ancestral roots somewhere in Dublin... his Irish eyes were rolling, rather than reaching the creases at their sides. Despite his obvious dissaproval, my musical contribution was recieved enthusiatically enough for me to want to risk a rendtition of Danny boy, but on seeing the dark clouds gathering over the river Mersey, decided swiftlyagainst it.
Fully aware that to the uninitiated my behaviour can sometimes be a bit of a culture shock, I made a mental note self to modify my antics into something loosely described as dignified, and reluctantly followed my companion out of the Irish bar with fond memories, and wobbly shoes, which we now pointed in the direction of food.
The extensive Thai menu at the smart restaurant we chose to patronise was soon being described to us at some length by our server whose lack of a candelabra made him look no less like Liberace because of it. His camp as Christmas 'New Yoick' sense of humour is right up my street and before long we were batting comments back and forth like a regular comedy machine gun, I am also ashamed to say that some of this was at the cost of my Liverpuddlian buddy...I mean who orders sausage with duck right? Thankfully the banter was well recived and my dinner date looked happy and relaxed again...I knew I could behave and still have fun...and this knowledge delivered me decisively slap bang into the centre of the smug zone.
The wine continued to flow as Liberace attended our every need...I totally appreciate a server who works hard for his gratuities...and this guy was good...I mean real good. Another glass of wine however, tripped the switch.. and put paid to my attempts at dignified behaviour, despite the changing expression on the face looking back at me over the table I could no longer resist the call of the dark side.
'What the hell are you doing now?' he asked as he listened slack jawed to me explain to Liberace that back in the UK I was a kitchen inspector...and not only this, but one in talks with a major TV network in respect of my own show. To be honest at this point I was pretty aghast myself...but unfortunately I don't have any brakes...well none that work anyway since I lost Kenny and having committed myself had no real choice but to get into character on a wholesale basis.
Liberace was now not only convinced that a decent tip was a certainty but that he was onto something with much bigger potential. He scurried back to the kitchen only to return with the head chef...who in broken English invited me to have a look around his kitchen to see if it would stand up to the scrutiny of a kitchen inspector from the UK... and a soon to be celebrity one at that.
'Jesus Christ' was the retort I heard as I confirmed to Chef that Gordon Ramsay and I were not only close personal friends but had dated briefly at catering college in the UK...and that my dinner date and he had also played football together at a club called Boiled Ham United.
'No San...' the pleas of my companion fell on deaf ears as I responded positively to the invitation to go backstage in oder to provide them with the benefits of my professional opinion ...'I won't be long darling..' I smiled sweetly ' you can eat my half of the sausage if you like...you know how I struggle'.
'No mouse droppings here sweet cheeks' Liberace was by now convulsed as I inspected the areas beneath huge expanses of gleaming stainless steel tressles, before explaining UK storage temperatures and stock rotation methods all mixed in with quotes from my favourite recipe books, mostly by Nigella Lawson but delivered in a pseudo scientific manner which seemed to successfully disguise the fact that I was talking absolute bollocks!
The head chef handed me a piece of paper and a bank of servers applauded as I drafted a missive which basically gave their kitchen a clean bill of health...photographs were taken, which I suspect may well appear on you tube... on a computer near you real soon.
On my return to the table my companion was visibly shaken...'You can do serious time for impersonating an official over here' he hissed. I quickly noted that despite his obvious distress my sausage offer had been taken up, indicating that the thought of being incarcerated as an accomplice in a federal case was not as worrying to him as he would have me believe, given that his appetite had not been affected in my absence. But in the interests of balance...this may equally have been because he really did think that his chances of eating well again in the near future had been restricted by my criminal behaviour.
Liberace was soon back at our table...this time asking me to sample the contents of a complimentary bottle of wine...provided by a grateful head Chef...who has probably realised by now that I have not actually shagged Gordon Ramsay...though I guess most of us know someone who has.
'What do you think honey?' Lee asked (Google it people!!)...despite the fact that at this point I could not have reasonably identified the difference between a fine Merlot and anti freeze, I adopted what I hoped where the expressions common to that of professional wine tasters...though once the vino had made it past my teeth there was no way it was going any way but down baby.
'That my darling' I offered... after what I hoped was a convincing performance 'Is a wine of exceptional quality...you must thank chef from me for his generosity.'
I tried hard to ignore the frantic waving coming from across the table...'Are you too warm sweetheart ?' I enquired as Liberace disappeared to check out his chances of a casting call on my up and coming TV show...in the toilet mirror.. If I really did have the power to do give him a part in anything at all... it would have been a slam dunk.
'I swear to God San...that was a $200.00 dollar bottle of wine' came the unrelated answer to my question...again I noticed that the proceeds of my ill gotten gains were proceeding down his complaining gullet at the time of his protest.
'If you carry on at this rate...the wedding is off...and your totally dumped'
'More wine?' I enquired...seeing that his glass was empty.. my offer was not refused...nor was the wedding off...and nor did I get dumped...I have the pictures to prove it too. Watch this space people ... xxxx