Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What Happened In Vegas...The Summit

January, 1960. The Sands in Las Vegas. Sinatra, Martin, Davis, Lawford, Bishop. The entire Pack (although Frank hated the name). Assembled in one place to shoot the original Oceans' Eleven. And to perform at the Sands' Copa Room after cocktail hour. Epitomizing in the words of Playboy's reporter "cohesiveness in work, friendship, fun--and a wild iconoclasm that millions envy secretly or even unconsciously--which makes them in the public eye, the innest in-group in the world". Wouldn't we all like someone to apply that combination of words to our work?

Tell me, do these guys look like they are working?

Yet, they were. They worked all day on the movie set, then changed to custom made tuxedos and took to the stage to relax. Enjoy each other's company. Ply their craft. Inspired by their example, I took to the skies to rediscover the spirt of what they called their alchemal mixture of work, friendship and play. The Summit.

After concentrated study, I determined that the essence of The Summit consisted of friends, work, play and great environment. First, the location. There are certain towns people love. Or hate. No middle ground. New Orleans. Key West. Las Vegas. I happen to love all these places. But Vegas was the only place for The Summit. I am recently returned. This is my report of what happened. None of which will stay there.

Frank would say "first and foremost--friends". I was attending a conference with some of my best friends. Who happen to be my best clients. A nice combination if you can get it. Pretty rare in my business. Maybe in any business. Plus, my friends do not tend to be shrinking violet types. Fun in abundance is guaranteed. So it was a good bet that I would have the friends, work, and play elements of The Summit well covered. Which left the proper environment. Abundant in January of 1960. Not so easy in Vegas circa 2008. Post the failed attempt to convert a perfect playground for grownups into Disney Orlando. Luckily, a failed attempt. But many vestiges remain to be avoided. I have nothing against Orlando. Love going there. But when you want Las Vegas you don't want Orlando. And there is no recorded instance of The Summit breaking out in Orlando. Case closed.

Now, it is well known I am a Caesars guy. I love Caesars. But for whatever reason, the rates there were astronomical. So I was "forced" to stay at the Venetian. Poor me. I have been privileged to stay at a lot of swanky places but I cannot name one nicer than the Venetian, pictured here:

Plus, for my purposes, it was the perfect physical location. Occupying as it does the spot of the original Summit. The Sands Hotel was taken down to build the Venetian. In fact, if you come up the escalator to Tao restaurant in the Venetian, you are where the Copa Room used to be. The actual ground of the Summit. The campanile at the right of the photo is just about exactly where the sign for The Sands stood when these pictures were taken:

So this was it. There was no better place for me to be.

It is well established that you cannot have a Summit-worthy locale without great hotel rooms. Rooms that make you feel like one of the Pack. The Venetian has these in abundance. Look at my regular, run of the mill room:

The sunken living room of my room, that is. The bed room (unmade bed unfortunately...I tried putting pillows under the covers like in the spy movies to look like someone else sleeping there but then thought MUCH better of it):

A very, very cool bureau in the bed room (the white center panel lit up when you touched a small switch on the side):

A dimly lit view of the sunken living room taken from the bed room:

As ought to be the case, you had a remote control next to the bed that opened the drapes and blinds. VERY Summit-worthy. Finally, to prepare for the evening a well appointed bath is a MUST:

Do I have to add that the robes and towels are perfect? I thought not. As if all this were not enough...they always park my car right up front...

After an arduous day of work, one retreats to the sanctuary of his room to have a bath, slip into a thick terry robe, open and shut the remote control curtains, and other such preparatory activities for ..... cocktails. Sauce time. Fueling hour. And this is where Las Vegas excels. There aren't many authentic Sinatra endorsed bars left in Vegas these days, but one is the Galleria Bar, just off the lobby at Caesars. Another is at the Golden Steer Steakhouse. But more of that later. First, you have to view the late afternoon sky....

Five o' clock Vegas blue. The Chairman said you have to see it to know it. Always makes me thirsty. So, off to the Galleria (after passing by the Frank Sinatra fountains lying before Caesars) for a pre-Summit martini. Appetizer. To whet the whistle. Get the blood flowing the right way. Or perhaps the right speed. Anyhow, the first night's dining was at the legendary chef Thomas Keller's place Bouchon at the Venetian. It was Catherine Deneuve's birthday so our party had Kir Royale cocktails as a starter. Then we moved on to a marvelous meal with service so good you did not want to leave, even when the last profiterole was just a memory. As much as I love my readers, I could NOT kill the mood by snapping photos there. Not the thing to do.

What WAS the thing to do was to make the scene at the Playboy Club. With the unanimous agreement of my Summit pals. Off to the Palms Casino we went and up to the only such establishment left on Earth. Gorgeous bunnies. Gorgeous view. Nice intimate casino, in-house. Good music. A very cool fireplace stretching the length of one wall in the lounge. Just about perfect. After this, the show at the Fontana Lounge at Bellagio. A great, intimate showroom of the old style enhanced by the 180 degree view of the legendary Bellagio lake and fountains.

After seeing a few more sights, a long travel day took its toll. Back for another bout of bathing, curtain opening and closing, and lounging in my Venetian robe in my sunken living room. Listening to the late night jazz on Sirius. Another of my take-along necessities.

The first highlight of the next day was a cocktail in Havana. Or as close as Las Vegas can bring you. Casa Fuente is a fantastic little bar and cigar club where the atmosphere is warm and inviting, the drinks very good, and the air system so advanced you can enjoy yourself in perfect comfort even if you are not smoking one of the top flight cigars from their walk-in humidor. Take a look for yourself:

I had two other fantastic dining experiences with my great friends and clients during this trip. You have to go to a steak joint when in Vegas. As in New York. There are many good ones. AJ's at the Hard Rock Hotel was my favorite until I discovered the Golden Steer. Up on Sahara road. All the cab drivers know where it is. Not many people from out of town do. An unassuming location but as soon as you go inside....a time portal to 1960. Piano bar....GREAT cocktails...very good food...and best of all.....the people at the Golden Steer treat you like SOMEBODY. Every time you go. Ask for Frank's booth. Or Dean's. Or Mario Andretti's. They knew how to dine and how to have a good time while doing so. And I doubt that anything essential about the place has changed since their time. Here is the GS sign with the Sahara in the background:

The booths in the background (I have said it before and I say it again...I love semi-circular banquettes like these...they make you feel important just sitting down to dine) are Frank's and Dean's...

The last evening in Vegas I went to a favorite seafood place. Bartolotta at the Wynn Casino. This photo of the entry does not do the place justice:

This is simply one of the great seafood restaurants I have found. In the company of Aquavit in New York. And Norman's in.....Orlando. The appetizer was a cocotte di parmigiano-reggiano with sautee of wild mushrooms. One of the finest dishes I have ever had. A second course of tiny ravioli superbly done with a perfect amount of sauce. Just the right amount for a second course. All the fish is brought in from the Mediterranean daily. My main course of pink snapper (Pagello) simply broiled with olive oil and lemon was amazing. The weather was actually a bit cold for Las Vegas that night, but if you have more typical weather, reserve one of the tables in a gauzy cabana beside the lake outside the ground floor. They have silver orbs in the lake that catch rays of light from the candles on the tables. Combined with the food a marvelous experience. Take some pals there. You can buy me a drink sometime to thank me. See Bartolotta for yourself here.

I would say our Summit was a smashing success. I think all involved cannot wait for the next such occasion. But all great trips must come to an end. After a last martini at the Galleria Bar, there was only one thing left to do. Head down the strip to the Bellagio fountains. Street side. Very late at night. Just like at the end of the Clooney remake of Oceans Eleven. Stand there like they did. Clair de Lune playing. Fountains dancing. Just the right level of imbibery. Pondering what to do with the riches I had gathered about me that day. Friends. Business. Play. Luxury. Riches, indeed. At the conclusion of Clair de Lune I turned and strolled down the sidewalk toward the Venetian. The Summit concluded. For now.


Ben said...

I enjoyed every paragraph of this post! It would've been perfect for OnceWereBachelors. Luckily, I've got a Christmas weekend coming up that should out-Epic you.

Here's to the upcoming holidays. The perfect time to live the Epic life!

Turling said...

Excellent post. We used to have our quarterly company meetings in Las Vegas. This brings back those memories. Thanks.

M.Lane said...

Ben, I cannot wait for this one!

Turling, thanks as always for your visits and comments! Glad I could bring that back for you.


Petunia said...

Wow, sounds like an incredible trip! The Venetian is beautiful. I have only been to Vegas once, but of course New Orleans and Key West both many times. I prefer New Orleans! ;-)
I think it was good that you decided not to snap a pic of the pillows under the sheets after that trip to The Palms! You may have had some explaining to do.

M.Lane said...

Petunia, you are SO right. About New Orleans. And about the pillows!!!


CashmereLibrarian said...

I'm-a-thinkin' I need to head to Las Vegas in February. Your itinerary sounds good, too, but I think I'll skip the Playboy club (even though I admire Hef, fellow alumnus of the University of Illinois...)
I would also need to work on my cigar-smoking technique beforehand. An occasional cigarette smoker, I always try to inhale. :-(

M.Lane said...

CL, ladies of my group liked the Playboy Club quite a bit...I wouldn't pass up a unique opportunity if I were you. Heck....you may see me there. I'll buy you a drink.

And, I think you are up to the cigar challenge. You DO have the best name in blogland...


tintin said...

Great post and the pictures help... Help convince me that my bizarre and life long ambition of never setting foot in "Vegas" is a noble one. Sometimes one can be proud of things never done. On my tomb stone I want it written, "He never had a Big Mac, watched Titanic or went to Las Vegas.

I read where a German exchange student visiting a US family asked what Vegas was like. The father told a story of the family dog getting into one of those really big boxes of Crayola crayons--the one with the sharpner on the back--and for days afterwards they found muli-colored dog poop in the backyard..."That's Vegas.", said the father... Multi-colored dog poop.

M.Lane said...

Tintin, I am still laughing! I said, "people either hate it or love it...no middle ground".