Las Vegas: A Chronology AND The Infamous Las Vegas Stripper Donut Story

If you are new to this blog of the upcoming book Viking Funeral, celebrating the life of Dave Linane with booze, words, and fire, welcome.  The timeline above shows you where we are in the book. While each chapter can stand on its own if you wish to read from the beginning, click here.  More info is available, About Dave or the FAQ section explains the arc of the storyline. If you found me through a grief group, this page of my perspective of why we are all here in this place right now may be helpful. XO M
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My time with Jim, hearing these funny stories again from his perspective where more of that fun I theorized Dave would have had if he were writing this himself. But here I am, and here we go to cover the history of how their annual Las Vegas trips came about.   

Back to Jim in his recliner in his living room, he began by reminding me of Dave hosting poker parties every few months a hundred years ago. I remembered them occurring but never participated, so I only envisioned them in my mind’s eye. Dave hosted them, not because he was into gambling all that much, mostly he loved having any excuse for fun; a group of guys over to eat salty snacky foods, AND drink beer AND talk a big game of shit AND laugh and sometimes—even smoke cigars. Of his group of friends, I can’t envision anyone actually smoking other than Dave, which I assume he did as more of a silly joke that had to occur simultaneously with playing cards for some sort of film noir ambiance. This is one of my favorite and very rare photos of Dave with a stogie in his mouth, taken just a few weeks before he left the building. It is hilarious as he pretended to be very serious when I snapped the shot-for the record; he was not smoking in this photo, nor was he a regular smoker of anything.

Dave had a poker table and invited a wide range of guys into the poker party fold of five players over the years, my cousins Jim and John attended many many games, any one of a number of friends playes, but a consistent core group of players was Jim, Brian, his brother Dave P and my brother-in-law (Anne’s husband) Randy. Sometimes the games were hosted in our living room with Dave up in his wheelchair sitting at the table, which is definitely what he preferred, but it meant late-night hard work for our parents getting him back to bed after everyone left, so usually he remained in bed, the table moved into his bedroom, the rest of the furniture shifted in his room to accommodate four guys around the table in chairs imported from our dining room. I mentioned he had a big bedroom before.

The poker parties were nothing more than guys getting together having fun-just as it sounded from upstairs. Nothing earth-shattering came from any of these parties, surprising or extraordinary; they were just poker party, card game, fun.

My favorite blip on the EKG of the history of Dave’s poker parlor showed up in the last year of writing this book. My friend Dena from high school and I reconnected after decades away due to life directions. This book, me sharing unedited chapters online, led to Dena’s sister-in-law seeing it and telling Dena about it. Dena’s husband Malcolm has spent the last 30 years hearing all about Dave, and he insisted she tell me her stories of her time with Dave.

I never knew that Dena had a friendship with Dave and my family completely independent of her time and friendship with me. At the age of 18, I was dating a guy and spent the majority of my time out with him like young people in stupid infatuation do. Dena would stop by to hang out with me, learn I wasn’t home, then asked if alternately she could hang out with Dave. Of course, our door was always open to everyone, and she and Dave grew their own friendship, which made me so happy to learn about. Of course, I was surprised, but then not, because that is the kind of person Dave was, very easy to pass the time with.  

On one Friday evening, she arrived just to enjoy a beer with Dave and found a poker party underway. Someone had to hold Dave’s cards since he was…paralyzed. Whoever sat next to Dave just held them for him-without looking.

Having held Dave’s cards myself while playing against him at Gin or other card games we played was a hilarious bit of a lesson in following instructions; it always felt like trying to organize something from a long-distance by way of a mirror. He would say, “Ok…(as he briefly scanned his cards) move the end card two spaces to the left, (instructions would be followed) NOT my left, YOUR left.” Sometimes he would forget and give directions based on HIS left after previously giving them based on YOUR left. The entire game would be me (or whoever was holding his cards) clarifying, “My left? Or YOUR left?” Either of our inattentiveness to the consistency of how he gave instructions was a hilarious aspect of playing cards with Dave and the cause of much laughter as he repeatedly, patiently, explained one more time, “My left.” Which meant, I had to think, my other left.

On this occasion, Dave asked Dena to hold his cards, which she was happy to do. She described sitting so that both she and Dave could see what his cards were- the easiest way of holding and organizing them by far. 

They were playing a game of five-card draw where for those of you who may not know, you are dealt five cards. You can toss up to four of those initial five cards back to obtain a total of five cards with the hope of collecting a winning combination of a hand as the rules of poker define. They had played several rounds, Dena had had a few beers when Dave was dealt a great hand in the first round of five cards with two or more aces-she can’t remember exactly how many at this point-but two or more aces are a good hand. Dena excitedly pointed at his cards and remarked, “Oh, you’re definitely gonna want to hold on to those aces.” She instantly killed the play as everyone at the table immediately folded, abruptly ending her career as a professional cardholder for a paralyzed poker player in the process. The room erupted in laughter and groans from Dave. Someone else resumed the task of holding his cards for him blind as she was shamed out of the room. She accepted her faux pas but clarified as she slinked out, “But I can keep my beer, right?” They were all still laughing. “Just GOOOOO!”

I never was invited to or attended any of Dave’s poker parties. It was a men’s game when I think back-it is possible that his friend Laura may have played occasionally. I didn’t have any desire to attend but, growing up the youngest of five; you learn early that your much older siblings don’t want to hang out with you and their friends. When I was older, I was never asked to hold his cards for him, but then again, I suppose after the Dena “I’d keep those Aces.” debacle, he knew me well enough to know I had a much worse poker face than Dena. I would have known to have kept my mouth shut, but my face…would have given away everything.

***

The next gambling foray extended to Arcadia, California; Jim started driving Dave to the Santa Anita Race Track to watch horse races-play the ponies, as real gamblers call it. You may recall Jim mentioned in his eulogy that Dave met him at the off-track betting facility after it opened in San Bernardino (at the Orange Show). It was way easier meeting Dave there than driving his shitty van, parking, navigating the venue of many stairs, and standing crowds at Santa Anita that completely blocked the view of anyone in a wheelchair. I doubt that Dave gambled more than 20 bucks; It wasn’t about winning anything, which of course would be awesome, but for Dave, it was about doing something fun with someone out in the world more than anything; he understood that it isn’t about the destination or the outcome, it is about everything along the way.

Discussions of a trip to Vegas began in hushed voices at first, growing to reality based on the knowledge that Dave had already had that one successful road trip with Brian to the Sequoia for two days. A turnaround, not staying the night, but pushing the limits of exhaustion for sure going to Vegas and back to San Bernardino within 24 hours could work.

Dave borrowed a motorhome from another friend, and with Jim, Brian, Dave P, and Randy, they muscled him into the coach and headed to all that Sin City holds. Once a year, the same group of guys made the trip to Vegas in one shitty van or another. There were loads of smack-talk and laughter, beer and farts from overindulging at the .99 cent, all you can eat buffet-or at least that was the excuse—a good group of guys for any adventure for sure.

Jim reflected on some of the high and low lights of those trips to Vegas-which were at the fuzzy edges of my memory. For example, they hadn’t thought about the fact that it gets colder in Las Vegas than it does in Southern California in winter. So their plan to take breaks sleeping in the motor home through the night was not that comfortable for any of them as it was cold as hell without running the generator all night, which either they didn’t have or simply didn’t use because they hadn’t thought of it.

The many trips taken to Las Vegas could have gone so far awry given Dave’s myriad crappy vans. They endured both miserably hot and bitingly cold weather. Lots of crappy snacks. Wins and losses. Plenty of indigestion from eating too much at the cheapass buffets.

They had a breakdown on one of the trips, Jim couldn’t remember which vehicle, but for those of you who have never made the road trip between Southern California and Las Vegas, it is a barren desert for the majority of the 225-mile trip. Not a hospitable place to break down.

I had to interview my (B-I-L) Randy for clarity on the details of some of these challenges of just getting to Las Vegas because, as you know, Jim is permanently unavailable to ask at this point. Randy immediately ran a list off the top of his head of the best lowlights that make the chronology much more salacious.  

He started with his personal least favorite breakdown, the time that they borrowed that motorhome, they had a blowout. Randy was nominated to replace the tire, which, thankfully, a spare was available. He is a mechanical guy but was dressed for Las Vegas baby, not vehicle repair. He further enlightened me that it wasn’t just a flat tire, but this was a large motorhome that had a rear axle with four tires to accommodate the extra weight-called a dually, and the flat was an INSIDE back tire. He said “You know what that means, right? (he didn’t wait for me to guess) You get FILTHY DIRTY, changing an inside back flat tire because you have to take the outside tire off, then get under there for access to that inside tire.” He added, “I had to take off my shirt-but I still got FILTHY dirty.”

Then there was the breakdown in the Cluny. I CANNOT believe they took that Piece of Shit on the road further than the city limits, but they did. It had to be a combination of being amazing friends wanting to create and participate in an adventure with Dave and a bit of Dave’s infectious persuasiveness for the said adventure that got them on board. All I can say is those guys were such good sports. As a reminder, it had neither heat nor air conditioning. It also didn’t have seats beyond the two front seats. It could barely go above 55 without shaking, and the headlights were pathetically dim, like a child’s plastic flashlight would have been about as bright for reference. What I didn’t mention in the earlier chapter when I outlined what a POS it was, that the floor of the Cluny was basically sheet metal. I remember there were a few holes the size of a quarter in a few places where you could see the road! The guys slept on that sheet metal on the return “flight” from Vegas, cold and with that motor situated between the driver and passenger upfront with an uninsulated metal cover, made the ride loud as hell too… for FOUR hours. Mysteriously, the radiant heat from the motor did nothing to warm the ride in the winter and somehow roasted everyone out in summer, the POS.

They took this van at least three times that Randy remembered. On one of those occasions that he didn’t go, the Cluny crapped out. Jim offered to stay back with Dave while the other guys figured out what to do. He joked to me, “I don’t know the first thing about fixing cars, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be walking out in the desert heat.” Dave and Jim remained in the van that was parked in the shade of a rare overpass. The rest of the guys took off on foot to quote figure something out. They obviously did figure something out because they made it to Vegas and home by the next morning.

According to Randy, the guys had to walk to the closest nearby garage. They bought some gas, thinking that possibly the float was cracked, which is part of the mechanism that tells you the status of how full your tank is-or how empty. They walked back to the Cluny, put in the gas but still could not start the van. So they had to walk BACK to the gas station, have a discussion with the mechanic who suggested they buy a new fuel pump. They walked back with the new fuel pump, managed to replace it with what tools I have no idea, but that solved the problem, and they were back in the business of getting to Las Vegas, baby.

When they returned, the first conversation they had with Randy was about the breakdown. When they described the “symptoms” Randy, theorized, “Sounds like it needed a new fuel pump.” The guys were disappointed as you can imagine that he wasn’t with him to help troubleshoot the first time.

There was the time they took Dave P’s fifth wheel, and Dave spent the ride in the back on the bed. The guys had walkie talkies to communicate between the truck that Dave P drove and the guys in the fifth wheel. It turns out that the ride in a fifth wheel is pretty bouncy, especially at the very back. Dave had to repeatedly get the guys’ attention at the front of the rig, where the only other seats were to push him back further on the bed because he had bounced his way to the edge…a couple of times. “Guys! Hey GUYS!” When he got their attention because it is apparently also loud in a fifth wheel, they shouted, “Oh shit buddy!” and quickly moved him away from the edge. Randy wanted me to mention there was NO alcohol involved in any aspect of the travel in the fifth wheel on the way to Vegas, just really bouncy.  

In an earlier chapter, I explained how Dave got very cold on a train ride, being exposed to the elements, and went into a state of dysreflexia-which I can only describe as something like a state of shock that people with spinal cord injuries may experience in very hot or very cold weather. The worst part of dysreflexia is that they cannot pee because that aspect of their autonomic nervous system gets completely locked out. So it is bad. Randy reminded me that Dave got overheated one time when they were in Vegas, and the only thing they could think to do to help him was to pour his two-gallon jug of ice water that he drank from over the top of him-with his agreement, of course. When they did, onlookers thought they were torturing him, and they could not help but laugh at the stares of horror they received. The good news is that the cold water worked, and Dave recovered.  

Speaking of peeing…Dave, for most of his time as a paralyzed man, used an external catheter that looks very much like a condom with a special tube fitting at the end that connects to a hose that runs to a collection bag. Well. Dave announced that he needed his catheter checked because apparently, in certain situations, it could come off. Randy said, “When Dave made that announcement, Brian looked at me and said, ‘Wel…You’re family.’ Basically, volunteering me to check.” All of these guys had to either help Dave pee into a bucket in the really early days or checked his catheter at some point, so it really wasn’t a big deal. All I could think of was, “Ya, but did you tap it?” Because I am still not really sure how that works.

***

Over the years, their trip fell into a successful lather, rinse, repeat rhythm that worked for everyone, and they plugged and played the routine each time. They left early Saturday morning from our house around 7 a.m. The drive from San Bernardino to Las Vegas would take at least four hours in any of Dave’s slow-motion vans. They packed food and drinks to consume along the way, pastry stuff for the morning, famous bear claws from Noyes bakery down the street from our house just off the corner of Arrowhead on Highland Avenue, or donuts, water, sodas, and other snacky foods like chips. They parked at the Circus Circus parking lot and headed into any one of the nearby casinos to start their adventure.

Once inside, they split up; some guys played the slot machines, some played the tables, but Dave headed to the strip club because he loved the ladies. The career girls recognized Dave over time and were always very kind and fawned all over him, a reality that he thoroughly enjoyed through and through.  

The ladies flirted with him, danced with him, sat on him, kissed him, held drinks for him. At some point during his visit, one or more of the ladies among them engaged in something more than a light conversation with Dave. They really opened up and talked about their lives like everyone else did with him. They exchanged numbers with him and spoke on the phone throughout the year because Dave was that easy to talk to. They were lovely.

Their time was not in any way a bachelor party, nor was it a time of infidelity or a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” outing of any sort. The guys loved the adventure, loved to tease him mercilessly, and enjoyed watching him have such a great time being so doted on by the ladies. Dave loved being teased by them almost as much as being fawned over by the ladies. Almost. It was during one of those Vegas trips, the mantra came to Dave, and he repeated the desire often, that he wanted to be reincarnated as a pole in a Las Vegas strip club in his next life.

Late into the night-early morning hours of the right now, tomorrow or today-however you look at the passage of time; after everyone was sufficiently stuffed, broke, or flush- after a good time was had by all, they headed back to the motor home or whatever van to make their return to San Bernardino. The only two people who were awake for the drive home early Sunday morning were whoever was driving and Dave, who always sat in the middle of the ride (except that fifth wheel that one time), somewhere near the front where he could see both the driver and the road. Everyone else was flat on their back snoring.

Jim described exhaustedly driving, falling asleep, and being awakened over and over again by Dave saying JIM!! You awake? Jim responded with YA, BUDDY! I’M AWAKE! As he was awakened by Dave and corrected the course of the cruising vessel–again. He said they would never have made it home safely from any of those trips had it not been for Dave remaining awake to keep the driver company and awake.

***

THE Las Vegas Stripper Donut Story

I received so many hilarious comments following the last chapter, as everyone tried to surmise in quite a tizzy of anticipation what The Las Vegas Stripper Donut Story is going to be about, and as hilarious as those comments were, for the record; No, there are no hookers in this story, and no one is going to be eating a donut off Dave’s wiener, or off of any stripper’s nipples either, Thank God. Your imaginations have run wild, and you should write books with that creative energy, and sorry to disappoint those of you who had to go there.

Back to the Las Vegas Stripper Donut Story. Brian had been married to a woman who, for legal reasons, we will call V, not that that was her name, but that is what we are going to call her. They had apparently had a disagreement before the guys arrived to pick him up. At this point in our story timeline of events, many Las Vegas trips had taken place, but Brian no longer lived .04 of a mile from my parents’ house, but in Apple Valley, which is about 40 minutes from SB and on the way to Vegas. The guys just picked up Brian on the way.

On this occasion, they arrived at Brian’s house. They knocked on the door, but Brian was not quite ready to go. V was definitely not happy that he was heading to Vegas with his friends. She was new to life with this group of guys, and whatever her past experiences were, they did not peer favorably on a group of men going to Vegas for any reason, taking their crippled friend or no.

Brian didn’t reveal any of this to the guys, only that he would be out in a minute. Jim did not size up the situation accurately. He recognized that they were going to be waiting a few minutes and as was his generous nature, he decided to hop out of the van, take a box of donuts he had purchased into the house to share with V and her preteen daughter. Jim described knocking on the door, which was ajar, and heading inside. He made a face reenacting raised eyebrows of curiosity he held as he headed into the quiet unknown and empty entry area of no one seemingly home, not Brian or his wife or her daughter. He began to head down the main hall toward the bedrooms and announced himself and his intentions as he went-to offer Brian’s wife and daughter donuts. THAT was his ONLY intention. What he specifically said was, again, with a signature pink pastry box of donuts in hand, lid open to feature the sweet offerings like ya do, “Do you think the girls would like some donuts?” Sounds innocent enough to me. Then again, I know all of these guys.

From somewhere in the back of the house, he heard V scream at the top of her lungs, “You brought donuts for the strippers? FOR. THE. STRIPPERS?” She came unhinged. Again, something was already on fire before they arrived because she was obviously on the edge of oblivion already about something.

When Jim heard her, he got more than a hint of why Brian wasn’t quite ready to leave, because he stepped into the middle of something. He quickly snapped the signature pink pastry box closed and hauled ass back to the van. He felt terrible for starting what sounded like WWIII brewing somewhere in the back bedroom of Brian’s house. He quickly got in the van and shut the door in almost a protective response, repeating himself to the waiting guys at the top of his lungs in a bit of panic, “I don’t know what I did! I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DID!!! I just asked if the girls would like some donuts, and V got SOOOOOOOO mad. Seriously, I don’t know what I did!” The guys waited in uncomfortable silence for Brian to join them, wondering what in the hell?

Brian joined them after several more uncomfortable minutes for Jim for sure. They drove off while Brian explained that V was not happy about him going to Vegas at all-in general. Whatever her former life held in her memory of any men going to Vegas was negative. Even though she knew all these guys, great guys, she loved Brian for loving Dave so very much, but her love did not extend to the Las Vegas Strip apparently. She truly believed the donuts were for the strippers, that the guys were heading to Vegas JUST for a stripper adventure with women they must know if they were going to the effort of taking them donuts.

Brian could, under no circumstances, convince her that the donuts were NOT in any way, shape, or form for strippers in Vegas. He left without resolving her fears because, of course, there was nothing to resolve other than his marriage shortly thereafter.

Jim repeated his incredulous tone as he relived that story in his mind to me in the present, “How could she possibly have thought that I would walk into Brian’s house with a box of donuts for strippers in Las Vegas? That makes NO SENSE!” He then outlined what a smooth guy he would have been at being deceitful if that had been his plan all along-none of which I was buying because he is not that guy, and I could not stop laughing at envisioning his alter-ego smooth-talking Stripper Donut James Bond. “First of all, if you know anything about donuts at all, you would know they would have grown dry and stale by the time we got to Vegas. If that was my move, I would not have impressed any stripper at all. I mean, that would call for a fresh box of donuts bought in Vegas-where donut places are everywhere-so that would have been the first thing I would have acquired, fresh donuts. AND further, if that WAS my true intent, why would I create drama for Brian like that? Wouldn’t we want a fast and seamless getaway? I mean, I would like to think I would have been WAY more smooth.” I could not stop laughing at his incredulousness at V’s assumptions of him being mostly so unsmooth. For the record, Jim nor any of the guys were making sexual advances anywhere as the James Bond of Las Vegas stripper donut boys.   

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020

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