Politicians used to vilify “intellectuals” as joyless snobs. But the pendulum has swung in America, and entertainers such as Jon Stewart and Tina Fey have convinced mainstreamers that intellectuals aren’t just provocative, they’re fun.
Here in Vegas, intellectuals in the entertainment scene also defy the political stereotype that smartypants are just bookish, dull and prone to jibber-jabbering in blah-blah drones.
Look at James Woodbridge. He’s an assistant professor of philosophy at UNLV. He’s taught at Yale and written papers titled “Truth as a Pretense” and “A Neglected Dimension of Semantic Pathology.”
But Woodbridge also puts together indie-music concerts at the Beauty Bar under the moniker MetaMetaProductions, and he regards “cocktails and shooting the (expletive)” as “rewarding.”
When he moved here a year and a half ago, Woodbridge discovered our city is rife with big brains who can deconstruct the social relevance of burlesque one second, then raise a toast to a burlesque dancer the next, and maybe even let out a little “woo-hoo,” or whatever.
“These guys talk art, theater, music — all kinds of stuff like that,” Woodbridge says of nightlife intellectuals. “They’re fun … and thinky … and silly.”
My own personal go-to nightlife intellectual is Dayvid Figler, the noted lawyer, local poet, KNPR commentator and occasional indie-band promoter.
Figler tells an instructive story. The other day, he went to the Downtown Cocktail Lounge and overheard intellectuals discussing German philosophers and mathematicians. But they also were boozing it up in there and partying.
“There’s a perception there’s no hotbed of intellectual radioactivity here,” but that is false, Figler says.
Hubs where you find smarties are often cozy, independent joints off the Strip, but not always.
The Griffin is a prime locale. The downtown lounge looks like a faux-Parisian bar, with low lighting, fireplaces, comfy seats, indie music you can talk over, and a crowd that mingles working-intellectuals with laid-back 20-somethings.
At the Griffin on Thursday, I saw a girl wearing short-shorts and striped athletic socks, scanning phone pictures with her date. A dude played ukulele for friends. And swing-dance-looking college kids were looking pretty.
Meanwhile, I was debating a table of intellectuals about the writings of Christopher Hitchens and George Will.
Other places nightlife intellectuals rally around:
• The Downtown Cocktail Lounge and Beauty Bar. Notably, the Bunkhouse hosts indie music and movie nights, recently double-billing “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs.”
• Sometimes, smarties hit the Freakin’ Frog, the Double Down Saloon, the House of Blues and the Joint at the Hard Rock, depending on the quality of an indie band on the bill.
• Revolution Lounge at The Mirage has hosted indie music and alternative dance music on Tuesdays.
• The Onyx Theatre is staging improvisation on Mondays and currently is running “Cannibal! The Musical.”
Other pockets of fun-smart outings range from boozy art galleries during First Friday to pub quiz contests in bars such as McMullan’s Irish Pub.
Figler says you obviously can run into intellectuals anywhere in Vegas, though. You just have to keep your ears open at the unlikeliest places, as basic as poker tables on the Strip.
“Poker players can be cutthroat psychopaths. But they can also be Ph.D.s talking about didactic this-and-that, and it’s fairly weird,” Figler says. “Then again, there’s no Mensa poker tournament.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 383-0391 or e-mail him at email@example.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.