Over the years, I’ve been to a number of benefit dances for the purpose of raising money to finance research to fight the deadly women’s lung disease known as LAM. There are four of us who usually party together at these functions. Marianne, Geralyn, Maria, and I have partied in a wide assortment of places for a wide variety of causes, but the “LAM Dances” are always special to us. The disease killed young women we know.
One special couple we met at the LAM Dances were Maureen and Richie. Maureen’s sister Dawn died of LAM. Her other sister Pam Matteson is a famous comedienne and impressionist, and she performed at the very first LAM benefit. When we read on Facebook that Pam is now fighting brain cancer and her fellow comedians were having a benefit show to help her with the medical bills, we thought we should be there. When we heard it was in Las Vegas, we were sure.
I had never been to Las Vegas before. The ladies had, and we were all eagerly looking forward to the trip. When we told our mutual friend Sabrina, who lives in Chicago, that we had to change planes there, she decided that she would go too.
The main purpose of the trip was to be there for Pam and Maureen, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time while we were there. It added to it. We met Maureen, her husband Richie, and her Brother-in-law Brian the night before the benefit. We went to the Buca de something Restaurant and feasted in the Pope room. There was a big bust of the new Pope as the centerpiece of the table and the walls were covered with Vatican memorabilia and photographs. As an Agnostic I felt a little uncomfortable surrounded by all these religious articles, until the wine started flowing. We had wine, pasta, more wine, chicken, more wine, spaghetti and meatballs, more wine, some more food, and more wine. I think we even had wine with dessert. Then we went to watch the fountain show at the Bellagio and we were almost drunk enough to go for a swim in the fountain. Actually, we were drunk enough, it was just too cold for skinny dipping. Fortunately, we were getting around town by taxi, so nobody had to remain sober.
The next night at the benefit was amazing. The Coasters opened the show singing Charlie Brown and a few other hits. They were followed by a string of comedians who all knew Pam, as they had performed at many of the same clubs. Rich Little was there doing his imitations. Gallagher was there, and fortunately he didn’t smash any watermelons, because we were all sitting near the stage at Pam’s table. Bud Freeman flew in from Los Angeles to be there. Pia Zadora was there, and knowing her she probably paid to perform. She was followed by about a dozen Vegas comics.
On the long flight to Vegas, I told the group about a time when I was taking ballroom dance classes and my partner was late. There was a Chinese woman in the class whose partner was also missing. So, when the class began, I went over and asked her if she would like to dance. She shook her head no and, in a thick Chinese accent, said, “Maybe rater.”
So, the show was going on and at one point the performer was getting people from the audience to come on stage and be part of the act. He approached a Chinese woman and she declined the invitation. In unison, we all yelled out, “Maybe rater.”
The rest of the weekend was spent doing the usual Vegas things, drinking, gambling, dancing in the street, but Vegas law prohibits me from giving out the details. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” It’s the law.
The flight back to New York started out okay. We left on time and had a smooth flight to Houston. Then they announced that our flight to New York was delayed. We sat in the terminal for about 6 hours. The crowd was starting to resemble the pitchfork group who stormed Dr. Frankenstein’s castle, and I quoted the movie. “A riot is an ugly thing….but I think it is just about time we had one.” I could see the supervisor talking to the clerk at the desk, as the mob closed in around them. “Houston, we have a problem.”
They started handing out $200 vouchers to anyone who complained, so everyone complained. Then the plane finally arrived and they switched the gate to disperse the crowd. They gave away free booze on the plane, but there was so much turbulence that the flight attendants could hardly get down the aisle to distribute the drinks.
When we finally landed in New York at 3 a.m. our luggage was wet from sitting on the tarmac in the rain at Houston. We were too tired to complain, but the next morning Geralyn called the airline and got us each another $150 in vouchers, thus covering almost the entire cost of the round trip air fare. Viva Las Vegas!
Get well soon Pam, because we’re all looking forward to returning to Vegas to see you doing your incredible imitation of Cher.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,