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Thursday, April 23, 2009


I’m still here in Vegas, watching pirate ships explode outside my window and looking at the red rocks in the distance. (Perhaps you’ve been following my reports on Twitter? What did I do before Twitter?)

Without further ado, part four of The Tiger Diaries—my never-before-seen report from a week I spent working in Las Vegas as a graduate student. (Heavily edited for clarity and brevity.) The final installment comes tomorrow, and after that, I have MANY OTHER THINGS to talk to you about. Let us waste NO MORE TIME.


When my alarm clock rang on the last morning, I actually woke up with a scream. Four thirty AM. Two hours sleep. Much to do. I had at least five presentations left to finish before manning the monitor at nine for the first presentations.

No one wanted to look at our slides. All the reps either had their noses in their Jaguar manuals, mentally combining exterior and interior colors, or they were so hung over that they slumped in their chairs and slept. Our announcer was bored that afternoon. He sat next to me for a while as I was working, asking me about myself. I told him that I was a grad student and that I was studying writing.

“I’m a writer too,” he nodded. “My book just came out.”

I congratulated him.

“I spend a lot of time working with children,” he said. “I work with children who can see auras. I wrote a book on their visions of God. Would you like to see it?”

He was already fishing it out of his bag. I don’t remember what it was called. Something like God Through the Eyes of a Child. It was a book of pictures that children had drawn. The children had written captions for the pictures. There was no other writing in the book.

“Good job,” I said. “Do you have any food?”

He didn’t.

Around three in the afternoon, I had a ten minute break. I ran to a small conference room that someone told me had been abadonded. There were sandwiches there, I heard. Just a few hours old, in excellent condition. I ran there as fast I as could. What I found instead were ten members of Cirque du Soliel assembling a harness and a set of green silk wings that spanned the width of the room.

I apologized. They nodded, not really caring that I had intruded. They were intent on the wings.

“Have you seen any sandwiches?” I asked. “I was told there were sandwiches in here.”

They shook their heads.

“Can I ask what you’re doing?” I said.

“I leeeeeeve to fly,” the man in the bird outfit said to me.

I shut the door and went across the hall to our main stage room, only to find that a wall of massive balloons—each about three feet high and wide—had been put up on our stage. The wall extended the full length of the stage and went all the way to the ceiling. A crew was examining it minutely. My boss was mutely watching this procedure.

“They’re wiring the balloons with explosives,” he said, before I could even ask anything.

“Explosives? What for?”

“I have no idea,” he said.

“I just saw them putting together a bird costume in the other room,” I said. “It must have had a wingspan of twenty-five feet.”

“Oh,” he nodded, looking up. “That must be what that’s for.”

There was a cable strung across the ceiling, which led right up to the balloon wall.

“Do you have any idea what they’re doing?” I asked.


“Then how are you going to call the show? How are you going to call all of the light and sound cues?”

He shrugged.

I went on to the next room. It was filled with large, round dinner tables, draped in purple, blue, green, black, and gold. Each one had a unique, twisting, towering centerpiece made of fabric, wire, and flowers, maybe three or four feet high. Each place was set with multicolored checkered plates. In the back, someone was test-lighting a centerpiece. Flames shot up.

“What’s this?” I said to the people there.

“Dinner,” one of them replied.

“Do you have any food?”


“I’m just to leave and pretend I never saw any of this.”

He nodded. I gave up and went back to my station. My break was over.

Around five, still hungry and so tired I was shaking, I pounded out the last presentations on a laptop and the crew made the last minute preparations for the evening. I pulled on my headphones and got ready for the start of the show. Crew filled the room now, and many of us had never met one another—we were all employed by different groups. There were probably fifteen of us, maybe more.

“All right,” my boss said. “Who are all of you? Everybody identify yourselves.”

Voices from every part of the room. People in headsets, somewhere out there.

“Teleprompter op.”






“Presentation op,” I chimed in.

“All right,” my boss said slowly, “aside from the first fifteen minutes and the end of the show, I have no idea what’s supposed to be happening tonight. If any of you see anything that’s part of the show, let me know, and . . . %^@#%! Will someone move that @#$&#? The guy with the wine. He’s sitting on the spinning wheel. That’s pyrotechnics. That thing’s going to go off in a minute!”

I heard an affirmative sound and heard a muffled conversation as the aforementioned @#$&# was removed from the exploding wheel. A minute later the crackling sparks were heard coming from a spot just in front of the screens and gold and silver.

“Birdman is rising,” my boss yelled. “We have liftoff.”

We watched through the monitor as the 25 feet of silk wingspan slowly rose to the ceiling—slowly, slowly, so slowly, like a piano being hoisted up into a apartment building. He crept across the ceiling and flew into the wall of balloons.

“Balloons, go,” someone said over the headset.

All of the balloons exploded, basically in Birdman’s face. This didn’t seem to phase him. He drifted contentedly to the stage on his wire, took his bow, and left.

“Maureen!” my boss screamed. “You’re next! Someone . . . one of your people . . .”

I scrambled and outright guessed what I was supposed to put up the screen. While I did this, a lithe young man, naked except for a small pair of briefs, and painted head to toe in gold, came and stood behind me. He had a hula-hoop. I glanced at him nervously, but he did not speak. He was intent on the monitor that showed what was going on on stage. A random guy came and sat next to me and started noodling away on a computer. I decided it was best to assume he worked for us.

“Did you hear who we got for the main act tonight?” he asked.

“No,” I answered, looking over at the golden boy again. “Who?”

“[An extremely famous person]*,” he answered.

“[An extremely famous person]? How the hell did they do that?”

“They wired [a very large sum of money] into his bank account this afternoon.”

“Oh.” I said.

“We should tell your boss about . . .” He indicated the golden boy, who was now leaping in place to warm himself up.

“Right. We probably should.”

I switched on my headset and explained that someone had arrived backstage, probably to do something in the show.

“What’s he do?” my boss asked.

I looked over my shoulder and saw the golden naked boy leaping around for no apparent reason.

“I couldn’t tell you,” I answered honestly.

“How long is his act? Nevermind. Nevermind. When he walks on, I guess I’ll try to figure out what lights or audio he needs. Whatever. This is #$^&ing insane. Has anyone seen [the famous person]?”

Replies to the negative.

“All right,” my boss said, “tell whoever you’ve got back there to go.”

I told the golden boy that he was on, and he silently leapt up the stairs to the stage. My random friend and I watched him on the monitor as he began an astonishing series of balancing acts, all the while undulating and keeping the hula-hoop spinning. He jumped and dashed around the stage, completely absorbed in his act, not caring that the room had gone deadly quiet, or that he had just followed a sales manager’s speech.

“What the #$@ am I looking at?” my boss groaned after a moment or two of trying to suss out some impromptu lighting cues. “Oh my God. Has anyone seen [the famous person] yet?”

A chorus of no’s.

When I turned again, ten dancers, their bodies painted black and silver and wound all over with copper tubing were coming in through the kitchen entrance to stand behind us.

“Maureen!” my boss snapped. “What’s going on? What do you see?”

I looked at the dancers for a moment.

“Um . . .”

“Go find [the famous person]!” he said, probably deciding he didn’t want the answer to his last question. “Now!”

An order is an order. I pulled off my headset and went to look for [the famous person]. I checked around the corridors, looked into the kitchen, scanned the loading dock. Nothing. I started trying random doors. After looking into a few empty board rooms, I opened the door on a gathering of the company bigwigs. They looked startled for a moment, then one of them pulled me inside.

“Come on, Maureen,” he said. “Have your picture taken.”

I walked up to [the famous person]. He was [a description was here that would make the famous person very easy to identify, so I had to leave it out]. He held out his arm in a friendly fashion, although he never shifted his gaze from the carpet.

“Yeah—come here Maureen,” said [the famous person]. “Nice to meet you.”

It wasn’t nice to meet me; it was tedious, obviously. But it was all a part of the large sum that had rippled down the wire the day before and was now happily nesting in his bank account. I was embraced by an arm draped in a very expensive sleeve of a very expensive suit. There we were, with nothing in common except that we were both being paid by these people, and if they wanted to take our picture, then they could take it. When that was done, [the famous person] went back to talking, and his assistant—a supremely hassled-looking woman with a clipboard and a stack of paper—ejected me from the room.

“He’s supposed to be on in a minute or so,” I told her.

“I’ll tell him,” she said, making it clear to me that she was the only one here who was to speak to [the famous person].

I returned to my seat to find that people were screaming my name frantically over the headset. In the three minutes that I was away, three minutes out of twenty hours in that chair, something had finally gone radically wrong and I was needed. My new friend was on his belly, crawling along the back of the stage, trying to repair one of the projector cables.

“We’ve got nothing! Give us a graphic! Something!”

I clicked on a likely-looking file and threw a pretty picture up on the screen.

“Never leave your post,” my boss shouted. “Never!”

“But you said . . .”

“Forget what I said! Is [the famous person] back there?”

“He’s in the hall.”

“He’d better get his ass on stage! Go get him!”

“But you just said . . .”

“Do it!”


Tune in tomorrow for THE CONCLUSION! And SOME OTHER STUFF!

* It’s fair to call him a major celebrity and television personality. I saw a massive billboard for him just today, here, on the Vegas strip.

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Blogger Jordan said...

Was the famous person Conan O'Brien? Something deep inside me wants it to be Conan O'Brien. I likes him.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Travis said...

Something is screaming Robin Williams at me. I don't know what...

Also, my CAPTCHA code is "harade". Harade: A parade of things that make you laugh.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Mush said...

This is such a great story. I'm addicted :) And I really want to know who the famous person is and who the former president was :)

1:35 PM  
Blogger delightfully mediocre said...

This is all making me want to go to Vegas... never. Even if I wasn't a temp, which sounds miserable!

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AAAAAH! The suspense is KILLING me!

8:51 PM  
Blogger Georgiana said...

Wow. You poor thing. Thank goodness this is all in the past so I don't have to WORRY about your well-being, both physical and mental.

Classic frazzled supervisor behavior - tells you to do something then yells at you for doing it.

Travis - I was wondering Robin Williams also but a) he's way too manic and I think would have made Maureen feel welcomed and b) his clothes are not fancy.

2:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Find the best online Modern Lighting India from theurbandecor.com.It has more varieties to choose.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Kayli said...

I still think it was Elvis.

3:56 AM  

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