2010-06-23 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

How Wayne Brady ruined my relationship

My affair with Brian had been doomed from the start, but the death knell finally came in Las Vegas. We were never compatible. Him: pragmatic, businessminded, conservative (i.e. boring. And did I mention stingy?). Me: freethinking, adventuresome, a culture lover.

Our relationship stumbled along for several months, sustained by the fact that he was the only game in town. Toward the end, when Brian sensed that we had long since run out of things to say and my interest was turning elsewhere, he planned a surprise vacation for the two of us. To Las Vegas. Which ranks on my list of favorite places slightly below Angola and only a smidge above Des Moines.

Did I mention I had to buy my own plane ticket?

Brian booked us for three nights at one of the mid-grade hotels off the Strip. He had received a promotional deal through his credit card, and the price of the room was comped.

By the second night, I was already weary of Vegas, of its faux luxury, its seediness, its outrageous prices. But Brian promised a special outing — the reason for the entire trip, he called it — a surprise evening that he confessed would involve a Vegas show.

Now, that I could get behind.

Las Vegas may be steeped in camp, with a thin veneer of sparkle over the city’s shady origins, but it does live theater well. Among the many Vegas shows, however, the spectacular Cirque du Soleil performances have come to dominate the scene. I had never seen Cirque, but I was dying to go, to experience the sensuality and world-class performers live. I was sure that’s where the night would take us, to Cirque’s “O” at the Bellagio or “Mystère” at Treasure Island.

Instead, we went to the Venetian, a kitschy complex with indoor canals that in no way approximates the magical splendor of the real Venice. Still, I had high hopes.

We walked through the lobby where sad women in mini-dresses circulated with cocktail trays and sadder patrons sat glass-eyed in front of slot machines that spit out printed receipts of winnings instead of letting loose a great jangle of falling quarters. We took steps down to the theater area, where a poster for “Phantom of the Opera” hung above the stairwell. My heart gave an excited lurch.

We stood in line to pick up the tickets, Brian tense and excited about his surprise. I glowed at the thought of seeing “Phantom.”

While we waited, I pointed to a poster advertising a comedy show starring Wayne Brady. I made an offhand joke asking if that was who we were going to see.

Brian smiled. “How’d you guess?” he said.

I laughed.

We were next in the ticket line, and Brian stepped forward. He handed the woman his credit card.

She passed him an envelope. “Two tickets for Wayne Brady,” she said.

Brian turned to me, triumphant, brandishing the tickets as if he had discovered the key to my heart. He hadn’t, of course. If he had known me — really known me — he would have realized that my heart could never be unlocked in Las Vegas. And certainly not by Wayne Brady. 

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