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The Unbridled Party:
A Vegas Wedding

Bill and Jacqueline Get Married, Etc., March 29-April 7, 2000

By Bill Walsh

DAY 3 (Friday, March 31): The Day Before

My wedding garb was ready weeks ahead of time (I bought, like the guy in the credit-card commercial), but renting made more sense for my groomsmen as well as my stepfather and new brother-in-law, who didn't want to be left out of the "black tie optional" fun. And so I was quite proud of having found, on the Web, a tuxedo shop not far from the Strip that would provide free limousine service when it came time to pick up the suits. (I don't say limo, and I don't say tux.) Timing, however, would be an issue. One groomsman -- my friend Paul, whom I met in seventh grade back in Madison Heights, Mich. -- would not be arriving in Las Vegas until late this afternoon, and so, bolstered by Name Withheld for Fear of Lawsuit Formal Wear's assurances that nothing could go wrong, I had argued vociferously for waiting until the morning of The Big Day to make the trip. But common sense, in the embodiment of the bride and the mother thereof, persuaded me to reconsider, and weeks in advance I set up an 11 a.m. Thursday pickup for the gang, minus Paul, at Monte Carlo.

So a quorum of the groomal party -- my brothers, Terence and Kenneth, and Jacqueline's brother, Jamie -- met me in the lobby at 11, give or take five minutes, as did stepdad Gary and sister Jenn's husband, Anthony. Also on hand was the bride, armed with the super-deluxe palm-size Sony video camera we had chosen as a self-serve wedding gift. On this cool and blustery morning Jacqueline rolled the tape as we stood outside and limousine after limousine pulled up, none of them ours. Never lacking for technology, she offered me a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher -- oops -- wrong gadget -- and then her cellular phone, and I placed a call to the tuxedo place, whereupon the nice lady who had been helping me all these weeks turned curt and wondered why I hadn't called at 10:45 to confirm. Confirmation or no confirmation, the driver was running late and wouldn't make it there till 11:45, she told me, advising us all to go get lunch or something.

So we all got lunch or something. For my brothers and me, that meant coffee in the Monte Carlo's food court. Jamie, Gary and Anthony went their separate ways and thus were not around at 11:20 when the cell phone rang and I was told the driver would be right there. I'm afraid that won't work, I told my formerly competent formal-wear contact, because we all did what we were told and went to lunch. She agreed, not without some grumbling, to return to the 11:45 timetable, and the driver more or less met us there at that time. The driver called on us to board in a location that for some reason enraged the Monte Carlo bellhop flunkies, and in the first of many moments of near-fisticuffs in conjunction with this seemingly simple wardrobe event, Jamie told the flunky where he could stick his traffic-cop dreams.

The map on the Web site indicated that this tuxedo shop was just a mile or two off the Strip, but the drive seemed longer. A lot longer. And my hopes of making the 2 p.m. rehearsal at Bellagio were not buoyed by the scene that greeted us when the finally reached its destination: another party -- apparently another wedding -- and a staff that did its best to ignore our presence. I've heard of your normal, everyday friendly-neighborhood textile-type people staging nude weddings for the fun of it, but we seemed to be witnessing the opposite. A bunch of guys who had never worn clothes before in their lives were being outfitted with tuxedos for their big event. Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions, but these dudes needed help with evewy wittle detail of getting dwessed. This took a non-short amount of time.

While we're waiting, a fashion interlude: When this whole Vegas-wedding story first broke, Jacqueline set the tone for the groomal garb when she suggested a white dinner jacket with black bow tie and black pants. Paralyzed by my fear of the word "tux," I liked the sound of that. The white evolved into ivory when she saw just how white "white" could be and chose an ivory dress, and I took things from there pretty quickly. I've loved the idea of white and gold ever since my amateur-boxing days (record: 0 wins, 1 loss), when those were my dream colors for a set of Everlast trunks, a dream I only recently fulfilled -- albeit one or six sizes larger than I would have worn at the time. (I was no Joe Frazier fan, but as it happens Smokin' Joe was wearing precisely those trunks when he was hammered to the canvas six times in two rounds by George Foreman in the infamous "Down goes Frazier!" fight.) So my plan was to augment my outfit not with a cummerbund (No, it's not "cumber bun." Repeat after me: Cummerbund. Cummerbund.), but with a shiny gold vest. Jacqueline didn't say no, but she expressed skepticism about gold and ivory together in the contrast department, and I began to think she was right after trying on my first attempt at such a combo. The vest wasn't perfect, but it was close -- and it looked awful with the jacket. I kept looking.

Meanwhile, my plan for the groomsmen was men in black -- and by that I mean "Reservoir Dogs," from which "Men in Black" shamelessly ripped off its haberdashery visuals. My own shameless rip-off, to provide a link to the groom's attire, would substitute a shiny gold tie of conventional width for the Dogs' skinny black ties, a detail that also took care of the traditional groomsmen's gift. I started out thinking of finding a black suit that each groomsman could buy, but eventually it became clear that a rentable tuxedo would be the ticket, albeit a risky one. The tuxedo suit with a regular old (non-bow) tie and no vest or cummerbund could flop in a major way at a shindig where conventional black tie is commonplace.

In both cases I would be glad I stuck with my artistic vision. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, after a lot of stomping and seething and pouting from the groom, the formal-wear flunkies g r a d u a l l y started to produce hangers bearing our vestments. Their first order of business: Paul! Must. Dress. Paul. Paul was the one tuxedo renter who was not arriving in time to make this trip, I explained, but this did not compute. Well, I'm told, he has to be here. He has to try on his suit. I did my best to explain the improbable logistics of intercepting a Northwest Airlines jetliner in the time frame allotted (where's that rocket-propelled-grenade launcher when you need it?), logging my first and probably second uses of the word "moron" for this afternoon, and they finally dropped the matter.

Next they would dress Terence, making especially sure to spend an hour or two each on the tie and the cummerbund, two items I specifically told them would not be needed.

As each of the renters suited up, the reason for the rancor over Paul's absence became clear: This tuxedo place pays no attention to the measurements they're given. For most of my party, the measurements they dictated over the phone, the measurements the tuxedo flunkies wrote down and the measurements of the supplied garments were three different things.

I did not fail to take note of this, and I did not fail to mention it. Possibly a bit louder than necessary. I was greeted with a flat denial that anything wrong with the measurements (as other flunkies replaced suit after suit in the background) and an amused observation that grooms are always nervous like this.

I'm not nervous because I'm a groom, I offer, I'm enraged because you're incompetent. All this nervousness makes a restroom break necessary. (Or maybe it was the fact that I generally tend to use a restroom once or twice in any six-hour period.) I'm invited to walk to the other end of the strip mall and relieve myself at the Target store. At least they don't say "Tar-zhay," as trendy idiots everywhere do.

As rehearsal time approaches, the driver finally starts to acquire a sense of urgency and hustles us and some of the suits into the limousine. Some of the suits. On the way to Bellagio, the driver's cell phone rings and she is informed that two of our suits are hanging in the shop, right where she left them. She does offer to make another trip to deliver them, and we accept. One will go to the Monte Carlo, we inform her, and one to the Barbary Coast. She thinks better of objecting to making two stops.

We get to The Wedding Chapels at Bellagio for the rehearsal, barely in time. Here, the matrimonial aura brings into focus one of those truisms that keep Rob "Defending the Caveman" Becker and John "Men Are From Mars, I'm a Ferret-Like Creature Who Should Be Stomped to Death" Gray in business. Males and females, you see, are different. Mumble some choreographical directions to a man and the man will say "What?" The same mumbling to a group of women instantly stamps every step and gesture onto their very fabric. Women listen to the wedding planner and hear Roy Scheider as Bob Fosse in "All That Jazz"; men hear Roy Scheider as the sheriff in "Jaws." We need a bigger boat.

(If this event had been held a year later, the men would be thinking, "She's not Jennifer Lopez. What a rip-off!")

We ask for another run-through, but things are no clearer to the male side of the party. I learn one thing and one thing only: See that spot on the carpet? That's your spot. Do not move away from it.

It really seems as though I should be a neurotic person, but whenever I find myself leaning toward that diagnosis I feel like a big poseur. I do have one very strange phobia, though, and that's being anywhere near matchbooks. It's not a fear of fire; it's just something about that kind of cardboard, that smell -- I don't know. I can't stand cigarettes, but I'd rather be in a phone booth with a nervous Suzanne Pleshette, two cartons of Lucky Strikes and a lighter than sit at one end of a conference table knowing that matches were at the other end.

The "unity candle" is a big deal in weddings these days, and Jacqueline and I fought the good fight to keep it out of ours. We lost. The wedding planner was oddly insistent, and we did need (a) something to get the moms involved and (b) something to fill the time. Hate to bring 100-plus people across the country for a two-minute ceremony. I had to put my foot down, though, when I learned that this candle would be lighted with matches. Long wooden matches, fine, but I would not let my own private kryptonite spoil the most important occasion of my life. Heck, even if I didn't have this little problem, wouldn't you think such a classy joint would provide a gold lighter, or maybe a pre-lighted starter candle, rather than the same five-cent white-trash accessory you get when you yell, "Hey, Flo, got a light?" As the rehearsal breaks up, I express these concerns to the un-Jennifer Lopez. I don't think she or anybody else quite understood what I was trying to say, but eventually one of those plastic longer-than-a-flicked-Bic barbecue-grill torches (classier, but not by much) is produced and we get on with our lives.

Next on the agenda is the first big organized event of the weekend, a meet-and-greet at the Monte Carlo's brewpub. In my only big tactical mistake of the Blessed Event, I arrive at the bride's parents quarters in a black blazer, a turtleneck and -- gasp -- jeans. I love the feel of that look, but the mother of the bride expresses her disapproval with an elegant economy of words. I'm not happy about it, but she's right, and I dutifully don khakis.

Here, the blur begins. It doesn't help that I'm writing this report nearly a year later (marriage can make a man lazy). I remember the catwalk-like upper level of the Monte Carlo Pub & Brewery (very industrial, very cool) being very sunny as things started in late afternoon. I remember being detailed to procure a drink for the grandmother of the bride upon arrival, effectively delaying my real arrival. I remember the bartenders being so good and so friendly that I immediately concluded not "Great service -- how refreshing!" but rather "Hustling for tips -- how disgusting!" But there were taps upstairs (I had been worried that the brewpub would get chintzy on us in the brewpub department) and, again, it's a breathtaking space.

Once the sun goes down, the atmosphere is even better. I pace myself with the drinks (there's still a rehearsal dinner ahead, plus whatever we come up with after that), and I mingle. Jacqueline is beautiful in her little black dress. Best line of the evening: David Sheridan, better known as Coach, the father of Jacqueline's friend Brian, says to Jacqueline (better known to him as Spike): "We weren't sure we were in the right place, but then I saw all these women who looked exactly like your mother." Those would be the Spice Girls. More about them later.

A quick walk across Las Vegas Boulevard is the local branch of Smith & Wollensky, the legendary Manhattan steakhouse that has recently branched out. This is the rehearsal-dinner location we picked in the trip chronicles in "It's All About the Abrahams." My stepfather, Gary Chilinski, graciously agreed to pay a not-so-reasonable tab for the festivities, so I am on edge from the get-go. No draft beer? Bastards! Bottled water? That's included, right? The "Trainspotting"-looking waiter assures me that there's no extra charge for the water.

I've had Smith & Wollensky steak before, so this time I go for the "crackling pork shank with firecracker applesauce." It's good, and the Merlot is good, and the New York cheesecake is good. It's all good. My sister, Jennifer Chilinski Jaurigue (married to Anthony Jaurigue a month earlier), comes up with two of the best lines of the evening. She coins "Walsh & Chilinski" for "Smith & Wollensky," and during Gary's toast to Jacqueline and Bill, she mutters "Jackie and Will" under her breath, a sly allusion to Jacqueline's aversion to "Jackie" (and perhaps Jennifer/Jenn's aversion to "Jenny"?). Gary, as Jacqueline would later point out in captioning the official event video, is a heck of a toaster, and my mom and Jacqueline's mom and Jacqueline's dad and our collective brothers are also in good form. Best man Terence and groomsman Paul (he of the ill-fitting tuxedo, which I later learned had to be returned) are good for a few "Monty Python" routines, and Len Freedman, husband of bridesmaid Gilya, stands out as one of the table's star conversationalists despite his arrival in Las Vegas just hours before amid a hectic traveling schedule.

As this party breaks up, Paul, my friend of longest standing, is game for more fun (in Las Vegas?); Terence is gamely holding on, though the drinks are catching up; and my new brother-in-law, Anthony, is taking in hurriedly whispered instructions from my sister. I think I know where this is headed, but when I'm asked to name a destination I simply say we should head downtown to play some blackjack at the Golden Gate. We do just that, to varied degrees of success, and the Golden Gate is just as I promised: $3 tables with enough empty seats, quick cocktail service, and a guy at the piano playing standards (as opposed to speakers blaring generic rock 'n' roll). Terence's bets start getting a little reckless, and I realize he's not long for this excursion. He hastily excuses himself to find a taxi back to the Barbary Coast. We play a little longer, and then Paul suggests a visit to the Girls of Glitter Gulch, the slot joint-turned-strip club across the street.

Now, I've been to a few strip clubs in my time (a time that would end later this day), but I've always regarded the experience as a solitary one. If you're a woman, or perhaps a Mormon, reading this, you must understand that those images of whooping and hollering strip-club patrons that you've seen on TV and in the movies could not be further from the truth. Usually the obnoxious master of ceremonies needs to prod the patrons for so much as a round of applause. A wise man once wrote that the best thing about strip clubs is that they're the only kind of bar where it's completely acceptable for a man to drink alone. I'm not a yukking-it-up-with-the-boys kind of guy (I know, for instance, that the groomal party will not be involved in any of the pre-ceremony dressing-each-other rituals that I've seen several dozen times on cable TV's "A Wedding Story"), but I'm not complaining when Paul puts into motion what is no doubt the plan that Jenn was imparting to Anthony. Heck, I like these places, for both the reason stated above and the obvious one.

We walk in, past the souvenir stand, and are shown to our table. This place has a two-drink minimum, and that policy is pursued to comical extremes in that you are charged for and brought two copies of your order immediately. So there we are, three guys with six drinks on our tiny table. Our view of the stage or stages is not horribly obstructed, as I recall, but neither is it memorable, and a year later I cannot tell you how many topless girls were visible at any one time. Not long after we're seated a moderately attractive and nice-smelling dancer whispers in my ear to ask whether I'd like a private dance. I quickly answer "No, thanks," because I'm not sure I want to immerse myself quite that far in the experience and I'm not particularly wowed by this chick as a last-fling candidate, no matter how minor a key in which this flingishness would be played. So we sit, awkwardly, and almost all of the attention henceforth goes to Anthony. That's understandable, as he's younger and bigger and more handsome than Paul or I, but it's extremely uncomfortable, as the guy is married to my little sister. So all he can do is smile and shake his head. I'm not particularly interested in special attention either, but I'm a distant second in dancer visits. Paul, whose chick-magnet strength far exceeds mine, is stuck in the seat most removed from the action and is largely out of luck, even though he's the only one who could indulge in a mostly guilt-free experience.

Now, this experience isn't exactly torture. Drinking beer and watching women take off their tops is (was) OK in my book. But after an hour or so we're into a repeat loop of the not-all-that-attractive dancers and, as much as I hate The Whoop Culture, this quasi-bachelor party is lacking a certain degree of whoop-osity. Maybe it was just the two-drink minimum talking, but I decided my last quasi-fling should at least, uh, exist, and so I march off on unsteady legs to seek out this "special" dance. The first woman is nowhere to be seen, and so I seek out the least unattractive of the three or four dancers who have offered their tableside services. "Uh, I'm kind of busy right now," the not-as-unattractive-as-the-others-but-still-rather-unattractive one announces, and I march back to the table and announce, "We're outta here!"

Back at the Monte Carlo, sleep comes easy.

NEXT: The Bride Wore High-Tops