By Jim Phillips, Senior Editor
The love of the road and yearning for adventure has always been ingrained in me, as far back as I can remember. While some may look to the destination, it’s the traveling that I love. The never knowing where the road would take you was one of the things that drew me to drive a big rig for a few years. That unpredictability can be found whirring like a gyroscope in Sin City, and no matter how you turn it on its head, it just keeps coming atcha.
The flight in from Denver always offers up great views, and coming into the city in the afternoon is my preference, as you get a great shot of the Grand Canyon out the plane window, just before you see Las Vegas rise out of the flatness of the desert. Minutes later, it’s wheels down at McCarran International Airport, and the pulse of it all hits you as soon as you enter the gate, like the ush-ush-ush of a rave driving you into it’s waiting embrace.
I hopped an Uber and headed to my second home for the week, and the best place to stay as far as price and ease of access to the Strip; Bally’s. They always take good care of me there and, in short order I was standing in front of the floor to ceiling windows looking out on the Paris Tower, and Bellagio Fountains. I checked in, bopped up to my room, and got ready to hit the strip.
The week held a more special meaning this year, as I was helping a dear friend celebrate her birthday in true Las Vegas High Hat style with a trip to Gordon Ramsey Burger for starters. I love that place like a fat kids loves cake, or in this case, a gourmet burger. Every time I gamble on my wallet I lose, but gambling on my gut is always a safe bet. We had duck confit poppers, and I chose the Stout Burger, with a great Guinness reduction sauce and wild mushrooms, and loaded up with some gooey melted cheese. I wish I had one again now thinking about it. The Queen of all Heels, or your Heelness, as I like to call her had the Hog Burger, which is a BBQ’d burger feast. As I tend to do, right after dinner I slid off into the night to enjoy the city on my own. While I do love my Bruthas and Sistas, it’s the life of the solitude that calls to me and I prefer to be out on my own lobo adventures most of the time.
It’s easy to get lost in the masses on Las Vegas Blvd, but by the end of you kinda feel like that pinball in the old Sesame Street bit going through the 1-2-3-4-5 gimmick as you’re bounced around the blank faced sea of gambling denizens as they flock from one slot-machine perch to another, tapping their lives away and spending the savings that they squandered together toiling away at the nine to five gauntlet for a lifetime. I’m thankful that I was never afflicted with the weakness of gambling, or left with that great emptiness to “go one more time” and lose it all when the chance to walk away unscathed had already presented itself.
I did see something that left me holding my sides and laughing uncontrollably as I strode down the front of the Mirage, as I was headed to see the volcano go off. I was walking behind a young couple with three boys waking just behind them that were probably between the ages of ten and thirteen. Two of the Flamingo showgirls that routinely mosey down the strip half naked, asking to take your picture, passed us. Those three boys turned their heads like they were doing an owl imitation. They never stopped walking forwards, but all three of them got two eyes full each of what their mama have gave them. They saw me looking at them, and then their Dad, who naturally had done the same neck crane, also saw them looking at me looking at them and I about died laughing. The Dad fell out, and all three boys got red as beets when Mom turned around to see the shenanigans that were unfolding. It was like watching a younger version of myself and friends, and gave me one of my fondest memories of this trip.
The Gold Coast Hotel and Casino has been the host venue for the event for many years now, and though I have only attended the last few, from what I have seen it welcomes the CAC family with open arms. People from all walks of the wrestling business descend up on the destination, and even with all that, and it’s regular flow of patrons, the Gold Coast gives you that feeling of intimacy that can be lost in the big tourist spots on the strip. That being said, I choose to stay at Bally’s because of it’s centrality, and it allows me to be close to the CAC action without being immersed in it entirely. Next year I plan to say there for a couple days and take the experience full on.
The brotherhood amongst the veteran generation of this business is one of the things that drew me towards it, when both they and I were much younger. The action grabbed my attention, the story lines then captured it and wound it up in a ball, casting me under it’s siren song, but it was and always be the banding of brothers and sisters that took to the roads to live the raucous lifestyle, logging countless miles in the search to earn a living with the hopes of bringing us a few hours of entertainment six nights a week.
Rip Rogers is one of the men that came up during those years, and is maybe one of the best examples of old school professional wrestling and the credo that it exemplifies. We both came from the center of the country, hailing from Illinois and Indiana, and have the attitude that “life is tough, so get off your ass and get it for yourself. No one is going to give you anything.” I also grew up on the Poffo’s ICW promotion that the Hustler, was a huge part of. So for me, Rip Rogers, and Randy Savage WERE professional wrestling, and that standard has seldom been reached since then for me. When I started my Breaking In series, he was specifically the first person I reached out to, and the only one I wanted to represent that brand for me, for this very reason. That, Bruthas and Sistas is the difference between being a mark, and showing the proper respect to someone that has earned it. In light of recent developments with today’s younger, spoiled as hell, rotten little kids on the roster of the WWE today, let me just say that I would carry Rip Rogers bags, drive him around, or any other damn thing he needed because he’s earned that right. That’s all I’m going to say about that, because it boils my blood when I see this younger generation expecting things to be given to them.
I caught up with Rip on a few occasions during this past CAC, and he was kind enough to stop and talk with me about his book, and cut a short promo for it, and lay a few good chops in on me as well. I could have stood there all day and took em for as long as he wanted, because it was an honor to take the same stiff shots that the greatest workers in this business received by those same hands. Those of you who understand, will appreciate that. I wanna add special thank you to The Hustler, not only for what he’s done for me, but for all he’s given this business. Even if he is a mean ole bastard! (I had to fella!)
There were two other moments that really stood out for me this year. The first being when I got to the Gold Coast on the second morning and brought my copy of David Schultz’s biography, Don’t Call Me Fake, by he and John Cosper. John is a friend and told me that if I brought it back with me that Dr. D would sign it, since he was already gone the previous day when I bought it. When I got upstairs, he told me: “Dr. D is downstairs looking for you.”
Now Bruthas and Sistas the little kid in me about died when I heard that one of my favorites of all time was not only going to sign this book, but was looking for me too. I hustled downstairs and met him at the bottom of the escalator, where we shared a nice chat, which was soon joined by Brian Blair, and then about five minutes later by Kevin Sullivan. Dr. D had me laughing at his conversation with the group, and after a few minutes, we all meandered off on our ways. It was a very cool moment, but the second was right around the corner from there.
I caught up with Nyah again as she and Canadian female wrestler Raven Lake were headed to TGI Friday’s to grab a bite to eat, so I joined them for a drink. I was sitting with my back to the bar when Nyah said that she just saw Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler sit down at the bar. I figured she was ribbing me and I quipped some off hand comeback, but when I turned around, there they were. It was a moment in time that I was not about to let pass me by and I got up, and walked over to introduce myself. I treated them with the earned respect that should be given and did not ask for an autograph or picture, because that is their free and personal time. I gave them both one of my business cards and we talked about the Gorilla Position and 350 Days for a few moments, before I thanked them again for all they’ve done for the business, and walked away. It was surreal to have J.R. on my left and the King to my right, if even for a few fleeting moments. They were both very kind to me, but I believe that had alot to do with the professional in which I presented myself, instead of acting like a rude fan-boy just wanting a fast selfie and nothing else.
Moments later ex WCW wrestler and another unsung worker that helped to advance the cause of women in wrestling, Malia Hosaka. She, Nyah, and Raven began to discuss the women’s wrestling scene and how it differed from the time when they were coming up. They are a part of a generation of women wrestlers that seem to have been forgotten, and that makes me sad. I hope to do exclusive interviews with a few of the ladies I met at the CAC and shine a light on some incredible careers that need not be lost to time or the newly re-written history of women’s competition by the WWE.
The core of the CAC mission statement is about the family of the wrestling business and helping those in need, as such. I must say that a few merch hawkers withstanding, it indeed felt like a family affair, as I saw many friends there that have become close with me over the last few years as I’ve undertaken this little writing adventure. All my G.L.O.W. family, Roxy Astor, Sunny, and Miss Hollywood who have all went above and beyond for me in interviews, and given me some of the best stuff that I’ve stamped out on the keys. Thank you ladies!!
That evening I gave Nyah the second half of her birthday present and took her up on the High Roller wheel, with a few of her friends that joined us. At it’s five hundred and fifty feet zenith, the most amazing views of the strip are laid out below you, 360 degrees around. It is breathtaking during the day, but at night when the neon wilderness comes to life, and the twinkle lights dancing leave your eyes darting in every direction, to try and take them all in. I was glad she overcame her fear of heights long enough to enjoy this bucket list item in Las Vegas.
I took off on my own once again to enjoy the heartbeat of the city on my own terms, just like I do everything else. I look forward to next year, and getting to see more of the CAC festivities, as I will be joining the organization this year, and hope to see all my Bruthas and Sisters out there once again, along with a few of them that weren’t able to make it this time around. I’ll catch ya back her next week, as we take on another subject, and fondly look back over our shoulder at the history of the business that we students, fans, lovers, and caretakers of this business are charged to do. I’ll see you soon. Peace!