One of my deepest character flaws is my inability to say "no."
You need someone to pick you up at the airport at 2 a.m. on a weeknight? You need help moving? Or a pint of A positive for some nonessential surgery?
I'm your girl. And my boss knows this.
That's the only way to explain the look in his eye when he asked me to take on a task that no sane local would try.
"Can you see seven shows in two days?" he asked me last month.
"Uh, yeah. But why would I?" is what I think. What I say is, "Of course."
Truthfully, I'd rather help someone move. I'm not big on sitting still for hours on end unless there's an Xbox controller in my hand.
Caesars Entertainment recently began selling the All Stage Pass, a $99 ticket that enables its holder to see as many of the company's 17 local shows as possible within a 48-hour time frame. Among the offerings: Mac King. Vinnie Favorito. Matt Goss. Magic shows, drag shows, musical performances and showgirls.
Clearly my boss knew I would agree to his request as he came to our meeting prepared with a list of shows, their days, times and locations. If I ever thought I was the office sucker, that confirmed it.
My task: to purchase the All Stage Pass and use it to see "Mac King: The Comedy Show"; "Nathan Burton: Comedy Magic"; "Jubilee!"; George Wallace; "Matsuri"; "Divas Las Vegas"; and, for a $40 surcharge, Donny and Marie Osmond. Hotel representatives said that three was the highest number of shows a guest had seen using the pass. My boss, who loves live entertainment and a good deal, thought that number was low. He believed people could squeeze in as many as seven shows if they scheduled it just right. And he wanted me to test his theory.
I learned that, yes, you can see seven shows in two days, if the stars align just right. They didn't for me, but not for a lack of trying. I ended up seeing five shows and learning some valuable lessons in a most frustrating way, but I'm somewhat mollified knowing that -- perhaps -- someone else can benefit from my mistakes.
The pass, $99 for rewards card holders and $119 for nonmembers, comes with a few caveats. It can be purchased only at Planet Hollywood, at a kiosk in the middle of the casino. The 48-hour clock starts the moment the pass is activated. It is nontransferrable and doesn't guarantee a ticket to any particular show. Tickets can be picked up no more than two hours in advance at the box office in the hotel where the show is playing. And it all depends on availability.
If you decide to try this, plan well. And then make another plan as a backup for when you encounter an obstacle. Obviously, the more shows you see, the better the deal. For the five shows I saw, it cost an average of $23, a significant savings compared to regular prices for most of them.
My assignment started on a Thursday at noon, when I arrived at Planet Hollywood to purchase my pass. First, I signed up for the rewards card to get the discount. The ticket clerk was helpful, explaining how to use the pass and what my time frame was: I had until noon Saturday. She activated my rewards card, which I used at each box office like a credit card. I came armed with a printout of the show list, with times and locations, from the website, harrahs.com/allstagepass.
First up, "Mac King: The Comedy Show" at 1 p.m. in Harrah's Las Vegas. My car was in Planet Hollywood's garage and I had 45 minutes to get to the theater. I walked, thinking it was less stressful than fighting Strip traffic. But I discovered that walking on the Strip can be just as maddening as driving it. Tourists still stop to gawk or fail to pay attention to their surroundings and navigating the crowd requires patience. I also discovered that I am not very patient.
Once I arrived at the theater, using my pass was easy. The clerk asked for photo identification then swiped my rewards card. I had to sign a receipt for a complimentary ticket and then I was in the theater. That's it.
There was no seat assignment on the ticket but seating was plentiful and the usher took me to an aisle seat on the seventh row where I had full view of the stage. The show lasted 90 hilarious and amazing minutes with King greeting guests afterward.
When you do this, be prepared to kill a couple of hours between each show, either hanging out at a casino or hanging out in front of a casino. I had 90 minutes to kill before the 4 p.m. Nathan Burton show at the Flamingo Las Vegas, which was not enough time to leave the Strip. Again, picking up the ticket was no problem. The process was identical to that at the Harrah's box office: present rewards card, show ID, sit down.
In this theater, seating is traditional Las Vegas showroom style, with six chairs around a rectangular table or high-backed booths. I balked when the usher tried to seat me next to the stage. I know what tends to happen to people who sit next to stages : They end up on them. So I asked for a seat in the middle of the theater. He seated me at a table with four others who groused that they had a stranger among them.
A little lecture: I suppose it's possible to come to Las Vegas or live here and not know the seating design of most showrooms. But if you're going to see a performer on the Strip, you should expect to share your booth or table with people you don't know. So mind your manners. Don't hem and haw and roll your eyes because you have to take your purse or foot out of that empty seat. End lecture.
I ended up moving to the adjacent table where two nice couples were more than happy to follow the rules. The table wasn't far from the stage and provided a complete view. From my vantage point, I could even see what was happening backstage, which is not necessarily a good thing. The show ran for just more than an hour, leaving me two and a half hours before Bally's "Jubilee!" at 7:30 p.m.
Prepare to do a lot of walking between properties. The hotels I went to are clustered nearby on the east side of the Strip, but I still walked a couple of miles on both days. Wear comfortable shoes.
When I picked up my tickets at the "Jubilee!" box office, the process varied for the first time. I didn't have to present my photo ID and I received two tickets instead of one.
The agent showed me a seating chart and pointed out my seats: against the back wall by the door. He told me even though it's the last row, "there are no bad seats at 'Jubilee!' " It sounded like a line and a lame one, at that. But it turns out, he was partially right. I had a perfect view of the stage and of the walkway that dropped down over the audience. The seat was still bad because it was in a corner against the wall. I had only four inches between my knees and the seat in front of me and I'm no leggy blonde. Some late arrivals climbed over me to get to their seats. After the show, I left feeling like I would have had less body contact during a TSA pat-down than sitting in the last row of the "Jubilee!" theater.
I had less than an hour to get back to the Flamingo to catch George Wallace at 10 p.m.
The seat assignment was for the balcony, but the usher put me at the back of the theater in a booth with yet more people who grumbled that they had to share their space with another human being. And then I started to take exception to the attitude. It was late. I was tired and that's when I start suffering from a condition that a friend calls "bluntitis." Meaning I tend to tell people what's on my mind, which can be a good or bad thing. But I took a deep breath and decided that the good Southern manners my mother taught me would be more useful than telling them off so I smiled and asked, "Won't y'all make room for little old me?" Or something like that.
I had already been in that theater earlier in the day and I know the sightlines are better from other seats. But those seats sufficed. A pair of binoculars would have been handy, though.
The next day, Friday, was an easier one. I had only three shows scheduled: "Matsuri," at 4 p.m., at the Imperial Palace; Donny and Marie Osmond at 7:30 p.m. at the Flamingo; and back to the Imperial Palace at 10 p.m. for "Divas Las Vegas." Did I see any of those? No.
I ended up seeing Nathan Burton again, not by choice but because none of my scheduled shows were staged that day. "Matsuri" is dark on Fridays, even though the official schedule I had listed a 4 p.m. Friday show. "Divas Las Vegas" also is dark. The show listing is confusing and reads as though there is a Friday show available.
And Donny and Marie canceled, two days in a row, although I didn't find out until I waited around to get my tickets two hours in advance.
This is where the backup plan is useful. I was on the Strip with no Internet access, a list of shows that might or might not be accurate and a sinking feeling that I wouldn't get to see seven shows. Well, maybe not a sinking feeling. More like a giddy feeling. Remember, this was my boss' idea of fun, not mine.
Determined to make something out of this mess, I ran down to the Flamingo and got in line at the box office. I could see Nathan Burton at 4 p.m. the clerk said.
OK, I saw that the day before but sometimes, people love a show so much, they want to see it again and again and again. For the record, you can do that with the All Stage Pass.
That night, as I drove to my suburban home far from the Strip, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed. I had sort of been looking forward to wearing the invisible badge of honor for completing my task. Sure, others have done equally or more impressive things, although I can't think of what off the top of my head. Does this mean I want to try it again to see if I can, indeed, squeeze seven shows into 48 hours?
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@review journal.com or 702-380-4564.